It was a complete venture into the unknown was the Newbury 12hr TT. I had no intention of riding a 12hr until a month or so ago when the thought of a BAR certificate entered my thoughts. Although I’ve been training for long distance triathlon for some time I’ve never been on a bike for anything remotely like 12 hours. The longest I’ve ridden on a road bike was around 7 hours and that was a social day with a couple of coffee stops, certainly not at any sort of intensity and the longest time I’ve spent on a TT bike was the 5:27 I rode at IM Mallorca which included some significant climbing so was by no means all in the aero bars.
So, with no real long rides aside from the Hounslow and District Wheelers 100 which I rode in 3:58 a 12hr was an obvious choice, no?
I was relatively confident in my TT position being sustainable, I’d made a few changes over the winter including lopping an inch or so off the integrated seat post of my ADR frame which has seemingly had the dual benefit of making me more aerodynamic and much more comfortable than last year.
However with a longest ride this year on the road bike a 5hr easy effort and the 100 mile TT effort specific long ride training for the 12hr was pretty much zero!
Of course with no specific training I also has half an eye on the club record for 12hrs – 266.57 miles. Looking online at realistic targets for a 12hr a rider with the time I did on the same course could expect around 268 miles for the time, tantalisingly close the the HRC club record. Whether that was realistic I had absolutely no idea.
For the Hounslow 100 I had started cautiously and upped the effort at halfway for a decent negative split, essentially riding 2hrs for the first 50 and 1:58 for the second and the plan was similar for the first few loops of the 12hr.
I was always going to ride the first 20 mile loop really easily and use it as a warm up. After that I was intending to aim for between 180-190W and see what sort of speed that would get me and whether the record was realistic or not.
The weather at the start was foul. Rain had been forecast but not as heavy as it seemed and it wasn’t supposed to feel as cold as it did. As it turned out several riders dropped out because of the cold and I messed up my first food exchange with my wife who was helping me on the day as my hands were frozen!
I rode the first loop easily at 170W at an average speed of 22.7mph. The second loop passed at a slightly higher power of 176W, average speed now 22.9mph. The third at 175W and the average speed after 2hrs and 36 minutes was now 23mph and still rising. At that effort level the 266 miles was on.
At that point I decided that there was no need to increase the effort level. I was feeling OK as I should do after only that distance of a 12hr, the effort was good enough for what I wanted and there was absolutely no need to push harder and risk anything. After all there was still a nearly 10 hours to go and I had no idea how the majority of it would feel!
I had persuaded my wife that standing by the A31 handing me drinks and food was a really exciting way to spend a Sunday and we ended up with a good system of getting me food and drink. Each time I passed the Hen and Chicken Pub where most of the support crews were based I would ask for (shout!) what I wanted on the next pass, either sports drink, flapjack or water and that was what I got handed up on the opposite side of the road.
The road surface itself was as awful as ever on the A31, particularly the stretch to the Chawton roundabout but I spent as much time as I could on the downhills coasting with my backside off the saddle the minimise the jarring.
Two more loops took me to 100 miles in 4h 17 min, well inside the the 4hr 28mins that was the 266 miles and it was time to just keep on trucking. I was still feeling pretty good and maintaining good speed for the effort level.
At around the halfway mark the flapjack I was taking was becoming more and more unpalatable and I decide to stick with liquid calories each loop. The only issue with that was I was very well hydrated and peeing like a racehorse. It felt like I had to go on most of the downhills but as long as there wasn’t anybody behind me that wasn’t too much of an problem!
It’s not often you look at a Garmin with 6 hours of effort on it and realise that you’ve just passed halfway! However that was really the first time I though that the target was possible. 6 hours in and I had done 139.4 miles at 173W.
The weather forecast, aside from the cold morning was pretty accurate. It rained for the first 3-4 hours and then the wind began to get up late morning before feeling like it dropped a little in the afternoon. The afternoon itself was punctuated by some brief sunshine and a couple more heavy showers. There was also a definite flow to the traffic as it started to build mid morning, drop off during the hours around lunchtime, pick up again mid afternoon and then die towards the evening time.
I ate a few of the jelly babies I had in my top tube bento box however the rain had got to the caffeine pills I also had which made everything taste bitter. Lovely. Best laid plans and all that.
The next milestone was being moved onto the finishing circuit which cut off the worst of the road surface. It just about coincided with the 200 mile mark and bizarrely I began to feel that with still 3.5 hours to go I was ‘nearly there’. I had a quiet laugh at myself at that point!
Despite the obvious sore bits though I was still feeling as OK as you can feel after 8.5 hours solid riding on a TT bike. I had ridden 200 miles still averaging 23.2mph off 172W and began to think that all I had to do was finish at a half reasonable effort and I would achieve the goal of 267 miles. I began to pass the time by trying to work out the average speed I needed to hit for that distance. I also tried to coast more on the downhills. Save as much energy as possible to make sure I finished.
I also began to think in terms of distance rather that time. At this speed I’ll hit 267 in 2 hours, anything after that is a bonus. It certainly made me feel like there was less time to go than the full 12 hours. My speed was dropping, but but less than 0.1mph each time I passed the chief timekeeper.
The 10 hour mark passed, 231 miles done at 23.1mph. I only need to average 18mph for the final 2 hours. I prayed for the puncture fairy to stay away. Unsurprisingly I was hurting a lot by that point. Aside from my undercarriage my forearms were bruised, my neck and shoulders were stiff and sore and my shins and ankles were swollen and painful. Barring a mechanical at no point did I think I wouldn’t finish though. I still felt fairly strong and maintaining the same power felt comfortable.
One hour to go. 253.2 miles done. I could sit up and soft pedal from here and still do it. Surprisingly though I was still fairly comfortable in the aero position. Perhaps slightly less so than at the start but was still OK, bargaining with myself that if I stayed on the aerobars I could sit up for a short break on a hill and take a drink.
As I eventually passed the club record at 11hr 35mins I shouted out loud, punched the air and resolved to keep going for the final 25 mins!! Fortunately my final few minutes were on the largely downhill, downwind leg and I felt l could push a little harder and I eventually saw my Garmin tick over to the 12 hours with 276 miles on the clock. Finally it was over.
Fairly stupidly I had told my wife to wait at the Hen and Chicken for me rather than pick me up and of course I was at the farthest part of the course from her than I could have been so I had an extra 9km to ride back largely uphill and into the wind to get back to her. Just what I needed!
I was however ecstatic. I had a goal of 266.57 miles and thought it was just about doable. To go nearly 10 miles further was far more than I thought I could do. I had stayed controlled on the bike at an easier level of effort than I thought I would have to manage and still felt fairly strong at the end of the 12 hours. Perhaps more importantly for the speed I needed to maintain I had managed to spend virtually all of the 12 hours on the aerobars.
My Garmin 520 didn’t appear to handle the elevation very well for the first few hours but the Strava file of the ride is here.
276 miles for a first attempt at a 12 hour with no real specific training and while it went better than I expected I have no intention of doing another one anytime soon. With my 50 and 100 times on the A31 it gives me a BAR average speed of around 24.85mph and I’d really like to get that over 25mph so I need to find 0.3mph somewhere over the year on some of the faster 50 and 100’s to hit that goal. The way my legs have felt this week though maybe that won’t happen on the E2 this Sunday!
All photo credits to kinesis.ttwo