Last weekend saw Revolve24 go virtual for the first time, normally held annually on Brands Hatch in the UK and on The Bend in Australia. The virtual event came in three flavours – a 24 hour challenge, a 12 hour track challenge and a 6 hour track challenge. You could ride as a soloist in all three or in teams of 2 or 4 depending on the event. The challenges took you around 6 iconic racing circuits – Nurburing (Germany), Monaco, Laguna Seca (US), Brand Hatch (UK), Silverstone (UK) and The Bend (Australia).
As part of my Road to RAAM ’22 I signed up for the 24hr challenge with the hopes of qualifying for Race Across America. How did I fare? Find out in my latest blog.
In order to qualify for RAAM I’d need to ride a minimum of 600km within the 24hrs. So, my plan was to try and stick to an average of 150w (1.95 W/kg – or my Zone 2) – this in theory being my all day pace and something that should be sustainable over a long period.
It was never about the race. I was only focused on getting over the 600km distance, I never really gave any thought to where I might place against the other riders, let along look at who I was up against.
On the target, this is something that no matter what the challenge I have a huge amount of internal discussion on, going over and over the expectations and the goals. I’m still new to this all, Revolve24 is only my second endurance event, and I’m still learning. I expect a lot of myself, I set high goals and I make them public – no one has ever put any expectations on me or made me feel pressured to hit something. I do that to myself. Surprisingly however, I arrived at the start line with a feeling of calm readiness, unusual but welcomed.
Plan locked, mind focused, it was just a case of getting out (in) there and riding this thing.
I started the day at 6am, eating a bowl of Power Porridge (a brilliant recipe from the Cycling Chef aka Allun Murchison – get the book, I recommend it highly) and a cup of Lemon and Ginger Tea. I wanted to make sure I ate a good 90 minutes before the 8am start to make sure my muscles were fuelled and my stomach was full.
I’d set everything up the night before – filling bottles, prepping food, getting my computer screens and bike in place – so when 7:45 rolled up I was ready to go.
At 8am we were waved off in Germany, taking on a single lap of the Nurburgring – a track with a steady start in to descent, the hard part comes with the 3 mile climb back out again. I set out strong, aiming to ride a little harder than my 150w plan, making the most of feeling fresh. From Germany it was on to 8 laps of the Monaco F1 circuit, one of my two eventual favourites of the 6 courses, a short lap with a single punchy climb and a fast decent in to the tunnel and around the harbour.
I’d worked it out that riding 19 and a half of these courses would see me over the 600km target, so ending each ride became a mental tick off the list and finishing the first run of each 6 was a big mental boost. But, at just over 6hrs in and it was hurting, my legs were sore, my stomach wasn’t happy and I was already doubting myself and whether I could hold this pace or even finish at all.
At 2pm, I took what would end up being my longest break off the bike – around 15 minutes – I was hurting and I needed to refill my own bottles, grab food and go to the toilet, sadly all of which are necessary but eat in to the time and therefore the total KMs I could accumulate. The break was needed, mentally, as after I was able to bring my power back up to where I had been riding.
After midnight, the dip and the struggle started. Fatigue began to bite and up until now I’d stayed away from caffeine for fear of tipping my delicate stomach over the edge. As someone who suffers from IBS, diet and endurance riding has providing its own challenges. As the bike descended the climb on Laguna Seca I jumped off the bike and grabbed a Mission Yerba Matte Tea and made a bidon full. It’s a smaller but more precise and sustainable boost than you get with a coffee, which is a big bang punch and a dip. It worked, the wobbly eyes was subsiding and my stomach stayed in tact.
The fatigue was strong and within a few hours, on brands hatch I found myself in a real hole – my head was all over the place, my legs had gone weak and I was draped across the bike feeling like I was barely turning the pedals. It was horrible, it’s like that feeling of falling asleep and waking up when you are in the car, when your eyes shut and your head snaps back waking you up, only for your eyes to close again. I stopped again, grabbing another Tea but supplementing it with a ProPlus this time. I couldn’t get off Brands Hatch soon enough, a course of many, many gear changes.
The sun was rising, we were virtually at least, riding out of the dark in to the final hours of this amazing challenge – this and the caffeine now coursing through my veins – was a welcome boost. Matt and I had discussed this on our 240 mile ride earlier in the year, how riding through the night and in to the rising sun can dramatically improve your mood. You’re tired, but its a new day and best of all breakfast is not far off. I’ve always kept that in mind and it helps, having breakfast as something to keep your focus on and to look forward to.
Over the 24hrs I rode Silverstone three times, the 3rd at 22hrs in was my ‘hot lap’, by this point I was desperately trying to make up ground, attempting to ride myself out of the hole. I knew it wasn’t going to be enough, but I wanted to at the very least keep a good placing on the track if nothing else now. Silverstone done, I only had around 50 minutes left to do what I could on Laguna Seca.
The finish line
I came agonisingly close to qualifying for Race Across America – over the 24hrs I’d ridden just over 580km, less than 20km short of my target. I was exhausted but for once I wasn’t disappointed with myself. I’d finished it and I’d come 4th out of the 24hr solo riders. I learnt a lot about myself, my ability and what I needed to do next time – that’s a lot of positives to walk away with. Of course there are some ‘what ifs’ – what if I’d have just had that coffee, what if I’d got off the bike less, what if I’d pushed harder earlier.
But if I sit and wonder ‘what if’, I’ll lose perspective on what this is – a success, an incredible learning experience and just the start…a door I finally feel that I’m pushing open.
I want to say a huge thank you to the teams at Revolve and Fulgaz – it was a great challenge and for me a faultless experience on the app. The ability to chat on the Zoom commentary, with the guys behind this challenge as well as other riders really helped. Kudos to you and I’ll be back for another for sure!!
“He who has a WHY to live for can bear almost any HOW”
While RAAM qualfication is a huge driver for me, it is my ultimate goal in all of this, I want it to mean something – to matter and make a difference.
That’s why as part of my Road to RAAM ’22 I’m supporting to Charities local to me here in Buckinghamshire;
PACE – Pace is a school in Aylesbury, dedicated to transforming the lives of children up to the age of 18 with motor disorders such as cerebral palsy. The charity is founded on the belief that every child has the ability to learn and make progress, whatever physical or sensory challenges they face. A group of specialist teachers and therapists create programmes to support each of the pupils and their families, helping them to unlock their potential.
Action4Youth – Action4Youth is a leading charity providing positive, often transformational experiences and activities to inspire children and young people. It delivers outstanding outdoor education though its adventure activity centre in Caldecotte, Milton Keynes, which offers a range of learning and adventure activities and exceptional facilities for these with additional needs.
And so my WHY is fairly simply. I just want to make more people aware that schools and organisations like this exist – that they change the lives of the children and young people they support, but that they need funding to keep doing this amazing work. So I’ll do what I can to help make sure they can change lives by maybe inspiring you enough to donate.
Thanks for reading.