Training for 24 hour solo races can be a lonely business as it's not often that your riding buddies want to get up at 6am for some pre work hill repeats in the depths of winter. Even if you do find someone who rides at your pace they are likely to be sticking to some sort of training plan making them dance away up the hills whilst you're on an easy one.
Last winter I dragged a couple of buddies along to some local XC races. Even though these were fun races for me I probably still take things far too seriously. Here's how preparation and on the day action plays out for myself and my good mate Ant. Ant is more known for kicking out laid back funky beats in between laps in some sort of fancy dress at Bristol Bikefest than his outright XC racing prowess.
Borrow rigid forks for get bike down to race weight. Score a MASSIVE slice of Stollen in the community cafe - win!
Riding: 5 miles
Wake up 6.15am. Walk dog in driving rain. Stand on scales, +5kg over race weight. Sigh. Check Training Peaks. Drink green tea and wait to eat breakfast after commute to work #fatburner. Eat a tiny square of xmas cake at community cafe, feel guilty.
Riding: 2.5hours ‘commuting’ around the city. Big gear all the way to act as strength workout as per training plan.
Jamie’s leaving do. Beer! Scotch eggs! Excitable conversations which leave my memory 30 seconds after having them!
Meetings until 9pm, plan to stop for quick pint (1 only) at Jamie’s leaving do. Get carried away and have 4. Pedal home sloshed at midnight. Down a pint of water in vain hope of undoing the badness #lightweight
Eat remainder of last night’s kebab for second breakfast. Put rigid forks on bike. Go for test ride. Note that forks are way too short and bike now handles like a terminally depressed donkey. Make note to put Pikes back on.
Riding: 3 miles
Wake up 7.30am. Head hurts (A LOT). Check Training Peaks: 1.5 hours of intervals, say URRGHHH loudly inside head. Stinking of booze, eat 2 rice cakes, mount obese commuter bike laden with panniers and work crap. Freezing windy rain, nearly puke, feel like death. Feel ok at end of ride as sweated out the beer.
Stare into space at desk, feeling tired. Eat big bowl of porridge. Recharge with epic ‘bring and share’ work lunch. Secure funds for new bike trails, yay.
Riding: 2.5 hours
Wine!!!! Stuffed squash for tea with lots of lovely lamb fat. Watch documentary about volunteers maintaining bothies in Scotland and note with relief that they’re all heavy drinkers too. Chocolate pudding is AMAZING.
Relax. Bike was prepped earlier in the week and is in good fettle due to local shop fettling (thanks god for sponsorship). Still full from recharge lunch so pate on toast for dins. Ponder thursday beers impact on sunday race whilst stretching achy limbs from hard training week.
Scales say not much impact on weight #dehydration
Breakfast, pancakes with bacon and Nutella. Way tastier than it sounds. Put bouncy forks back on bike. Lunch is salad… with mini pork and pickle pies. Phone Tim to arrange lift - he’s just about to head out on the lash. Matt keeps messaging me about stuff. Jeez he’s so uptight.
Riding: none. Gotta work on the taper!
Pre race rest day. Chat to Jon at E3 coaching, discuss xmas plans to nail some hard miles to soak up Turkey. Eat healthy, clean and lean. Lots of salad for the nitrates…
Clean bike using variety of specialist cleaning products. Every g counts.
Minor house chores catch up that gets abandoned during week with work/training.
Pack specific race day kit into specific compartments in bag. Anticipate potential weather conditions. Clothing sponsor means two of everything, perfect. Take second bottle cage off bike. Ponder what tyre pressure will be fastest by squeezing tyres repeatedly throughout the day.
Pack race food. Energy gels and a bar. Recovery powder for afterwards.
Riding: none (well apart from start line visualisation)
It’s 11pm and the port is out. This is not good preparation for a bike race.
On the other hand, it’s excellent training for Christmas.
Arrange transport and confirm family will be on hand to do bottle handouts at the race. Scoff at Ant’s plans to arrive anything other than too early at race HQ. Departure time adjusted accordingly, that’s better. Imagines start line, wonders if anyone ‘fast’ is going. Ensures early dinner to help clear the pipes early doors sunday AM.
Bake vat of flapjack for next week’s training ride fodder.
Early to bed.
Awake at ten to effing seven on Sunday feeling like I've been embalmed with alcohol and cheese mites. Hurriedly make bacon sandwich (to offset the misery of early start) and coffee. Drive to Matt’s, still hideously early in the grand scheme of things but panicking that I'll be late and awaken his inner punctuality nazi.
Suggest dropping Matt’s saddle to make his bike easier to load into the car, but he gives me a look that says he'd be unable to put it back up to the correct height without going for a professional bike fit. Finagle bikes into car and set off up the motorway.
Arrive at race venue horribly early and spend ages looking for loos. After taking care of business, head over to sign on. Note with grim resignation that even the fire road is a sea of sticky mud. Watch Tim smash a breakfast beefburger and wonder if he'll be sick in my car. Matt is dead keen to do a practice lap and it's a balmy 4°C so I don't have the strength to argue. Matt promptly disappears while I grovel round trying not to soak my one set of kit with acrid sweat.
Matt wastes some time pointlessly washing his bike before the race, then we all form up into a rather disorganised grid. I spot Matt at the front getting chummy with another rider in shop kit (while obviously sizing him up and wondering if he can elbow him into a tree).
After the longest 8 minutes ever the race starts. Naturally everyone wants to get to the singletrack before everyone else and there's a massive bunfight at the first corner. The race finally settles down and I promptly crash. Get back up and try for a bit before realising that I'm utterly knackered. Spend remaining 90 minutes riding as slowly as I can on 32:16. Just as I start my final lap I hear the commentator say that Matt has come second, and curse myself for being slightly too fast to get caught by the leaders.
Finally the horror ends. I catch up with Tim who has somehow finished top 10 despite racing in an old canoeing cagoule and crashing every lap. He buys me a soup and we drive home. Spend rest of the day feeling utterly spaced and wincing every time I have to use the stairs. Check results, confirm mid-pack mediocrity and start thinking of excuses for when Matt suggests doing the next one.
Wake up. Cup of green tea as quickly as possible to help with the movements. Sit on the pot for 10minutes praying for the drop to avoid dumping in the race portaloo’s. Package delivered, don race attire to avoid cold car park change. Porridge and Banana for breakie.
1minute past due collection time, tut’s at lateness of Ant.
Arrive at race HQ, glad to see proper toilets as second download is required (proper race weight achieved).
Practice lap. Make sure a few hard efforts are put in to wake up the legs. Smugly gloat at perfect clothing choice for the conditions.
Wash bike off before race #weightsaving. Become annoyed Ant has gone for an untimely second dump meaning chance to change in to second set of fresh kit is lost (he has the car keys in there and I’m not going in after him). Couple of sprints down the firetrack start before taking front row on the grid after judging those behind me to be likely to get in the way because a) they look like they are going out for a long ride in the hills with backpacks on etc and b) I look unusually skinny in comparison to them.
Race starts, full gas, 100% effort. 2nd place.
Warm down. Stretch, Protein shake. Cup of tea. Cup of soup. Enjoy post race chat with mates and newly found friends. Re-don sponsors race cap despite it being stinking and wet for the podium picture. Job done.