Yesterday was the Gorrick Summer Monkey, the race that introduced me to endurance racing last year. I was excited about going back to Ceasars camp and trying out my new endurance legs on the course!
On Saturday I had a long ride with Michelle and then went home to prepare for race day. I packed my snacks making sure I had 60g of carbohydrate per hour. I was trying a new snack my dietitian had mentioned taking which were pretzels instead of peanuts as peanuts high fat content can affect my performance. I also packed bananas, dates, malt loaf and some Torq energy gels.
Race day started at 6am getting up to have porridge before packing the car and setting off. I didn’t ride the course but instead spent my time making sure my feed so was stocked with water and snacks in an easy to reach place. I also had my second breakfast of mixed berries and Greek yogurt.
The race started at 9 and the new course was full of surprises, starting with a long drag uphill on fire road it soon turned back into the forest, where a bumpy downhill section dislodged my water bottle from the reverse rack, with riders behind me stopping was not an option, so I continued making a plan of how I would survive on small water bottles.
The course climbed further this time up to a high point near the reservoir, this was for me the hardest part of the course the sharp left bend at the bottom of a bumpy descent before a sharp climb up seemed to give me gearing issues every lap!
After this was my favourite part of the course as the singletrack twisted through the tress with loads of great corners, jumps and long descents, my top speed was 26.5mph.
Although the lap had been shortened it was really good fun because you would notice something new or find a new favourite section each time which you could look forward to next lap. Thanks guys for a brilliant course!
Eating every 45 minutes was hard as you could never guarantee whether you would be on a trail section where eating was possible, I think this led me to have a little energy dip at around 4 hours, as well as physiologically being around lunch time it is always slightly harder to focus.
I had an energy gel which seemed to cause me more issues than giving me needed energy. Instead I just got stomach cramps, I made a decision to slow down slightly which seemed to relieve my issues and then picked it back up again on the next lap.
All laps had to be completed within the 6 hours, I came through after my 9th lap on 5 hours 22 and felt like another lap was impossible, let along a fast one (I had been thinking my lap times were around 45 mins, turned out they were faster) But I had set out to ride for 6 hours so that is what I was going to do I started my tenth lap steady but soon was being overtaken by people clearly trying to fit their last lap in, this spurred me on to do the same, I was delighted to finish at 5 hours 55 just getting my tenth lap in. I had to really dig deep for this last lap and was proud to have achieved it.
I lost time having to faff around with re-filling water bottles after I ran out of small ones; this is something I need to work out before the Trans Alp! I also found out that pretzels are no good as they suck all the moisture out of your mouth, new savoury snack hut begins!
Altogether I did 59.69 miles over 5 hours 55. My average heart rate was 149 and max was 180. I think what yesterday showed me is, when I feel like there is nothing left in the tank its always worth having a deeper look, because I found the strength and speed to turn out another fast lap, as fast as my third lap of the day when I was at the beginning of my race.
Thank you so much to Bike FixersBike Fixers for getting my bike ready for the race, thanks to Specialized for my amazing Era and to Grip Grab for the most comfortable gloves I’ve ever worn over 6 hours.
- Lap 1 00:33:31
- Lap 2 00:33:56
- Lap 3 00:34:31
- Lap 4 00:35:25
- Lap 5 00:35:43
- Lap 6 00:36:04
- Lap 7 00:36:41
- Lap 8 00:37:48
- Lap 9 00:37:02
- Lap 10 00:34:19
On Sunday I went to the Gorrick 100 bike race, a 100km endurance cycling event.
I had really been looking forward to this race as I felt it would be a good indicator on where my fitness levels are and how my preparation is going for the Alps.
Frustratingly I have had a stomach bug and generally not been feeling on top form so didn’t decide to race until Saturday afternoon when I was feeling moderately better.
I have done 100km a few times on the road on my mountain bike and find it hard but I was not prepared for how hard 100km off road was going to be!
I laid out my snacks and water bottles in the feed zone and lined up at the start at 8.30. My strategy was to pace myself stay steady and enjoy it.
The course was a lengthened cross country course a great mix of singletrack and fire road. There was not a great deal of climbing but the course was relentless there was no recovery periods apart from two road sections the rest of the time you were having to push the bike hard.
The first three laps I felt good and able to push hard where I needed too. It was a lovely hot day and I was drinking plenty. When I came back round to the feed zone for lap 4, I had run out of small water bottles so had to spend time re filling them. This is something I then had to do for the rest of the laps wasting valuable time!
The 4th lap was good I was trying to stick to around 15km per hour on the flat, my heart rate was in a good place roughly around 150/160 so I knew I could keep pushing.
I came round for the 5th lap and decided to up my snacks and had a malt loaf and more salted peanuts. I think in hindsight I should have had more snacks earlier on because during my 5th lap I started to feel tired. I slowed my pace slightly hoping that I could pick myself back up. I also had a few mechanical issues with my chain on this lap which slowed me down.
One of the hardest things about long distance bike racing is the lack of ability to pedal and chew at the same time. Even on flattish ground chewing, breathing and pedalling don’t mix! This was made harder during this race because the ground out of the feedzone was particularly bumpy and by the fact I had picked hard to chew salted peanuts and malt loaf both of which take some chew time.
These are my snacks of choice for training but struggling to eat them in this race brought up the need to find other snacks for the Trans Alp which can be eaten quicker and have the same energy hit that I am looking for.
The final stages.
Lap 6 was exhausting I had entered survival mode and didn’t know whether I could do another lap I kept pushing forward thinking it’s only another 12/15km, but I knew I was in trouble my heart rate was really low around 130bpm but my legs where giving everything they had I had hit the proverbial ‘wall’! I was relieved when I reached the long straight gravel section before the entrance to the arena this was my que that the lap was nearly over and I stuffed in another malt loaf for good measure!
Lap 7 was so hard my body was done in physically and I felt too tired to make it up some of the hills which earlier I had found easy. The bomb holes had also become hard and I found myself making silly mistakes another sign that my body was finished. It seemed like a life time before I reached the long gravel straight and I knew that this was probably my last lap.
I had a love hate relationship with this course, I loved the first section cornering through the trees and the big bomb holes and little jumps it was hard work but good fun, the second part of the course had lots of twists and turns doubling back on yourself all the time and the ground was loose making it tough going, I didn’t enjoy this so much!
This race was far tougher than I was expecting, I think I felt every emotion going in 6 hours 54 mins on my bike from enjoyment through to dread at the idea of doing another lap!
From the race.
I learnt a lot about my fuelling strategy which I need to work on over my next few long rides to make sure I’m eating enough and early enough for it to have an effect on my ability to keep going.
I need to also look at pacing and how I can improve this. I am really delighted with my first four laps as my timings were consistent. It is hard to tell my riding time from lap 5 as I had to stop to sort out water bottles and also had chain issues.
Overall I am super happy with my performance this is the longest I have ridden this year nonstop and after the past two weeks of feeling powerless and not being able to complete a cross country race this is a great turn around and has shown me that I need to really use my recovery days to recover properly.
No race would be complete without a bit of drama! Torq 12:12 was no exception. On Saturday my newly tubeless tyres decided they were not happy with this arrangement and both went flat! Mild panic set in as I considered getting a flat tyre in my first ever 12 hour solo race on Sunday. So I popped in some tubes to keep punctures at bay.
Arriving Sunday morning I was eager to ride the course and face the much talked about Minley bombhole! I was accompanied on my practice lap by super star of the hour Fred who won his race the previous day in the under 7’s and Seb, feeling the need to be talked through the A lines it was nice to have some company!
The course was brilliant, singletrack linked by fire roads. It was mainly flat with 3 good climbs, the first was a short sharp up, a long gravel road climb and the worst one of all was a grassy climb, which considering it was not steep or long seemed to suck energy out of my legs! Considering the level of rain there had been the course was pretty dry with a couple of ‘sticky’ patches. Arriving at the Minley bombhole I rode it twice and was happy with my line choice.
After rider briefing I was feeling nervous but had prepared well so tried to relax before the mass start. Karen and I lined up together and it soon was time to begin our epic ride!
I got a good start and was not caught in too much congestion going into the singletrack.
The first three laps were good fun I pushed it on the climbs recovered on the downhills and ate on the flats. The singletrack was really good fun, especially a section with some off camber turns through the trees.
After the third lap I had a pot noodle break, this was the wrong time to stop as I got held up behind the six hour race in the singletrack which was frustrating, as soon as we got out of the first section I worked hard to pass as many slower riders as I could before entering the second section, however this high burst of energy with a half digested pot noodle made me feel rather sick and I got bad stomach cramps afterwards.
Lap five and six passed quickly I rode consistently picking up a new bottle and small snack. After lap 7 I stopped again for a porridge pot, it had just started to rain. I then felt a bit better so had a slice on banana bread and a packet of marmite crisps as I was craving savoury after so many jelly babies and sweet energy drinks.
Riding at night was a really cool experience. Under the tree canopy with only my headlight beam in front of me I felt like I was the only one out on the course, with only the sound of the ground under my wheels for company. Every now and again a shimmer of light and the sound of others would catch me up and then usually over take! Other riders where so supportive giving me encouragement which kept me going. Sometimes I felt like I had been riding alone for nearly a whole lap and then in the distance a carving beam of light would appear, this was really uplifting and gave me a target to aim for and catch.
At one point the course opened up into a field and through the trees I could make out tiny lights shimmering through like stars.
Near the end of the lap through a dark section of forest the organisers had put loads of glow sticks in the trees it was really pretty, like entering a magical forest and with the music from the disco pumping in the background I had a surge of energy and felt happy with my progress.
As I went out for lap 9 I had a technical issue as my head torch stopped working, I cut off the track and picked up a new one but had to then re-do part of the course again, this cost me valuable time and I felt a bit flustered and came off on a silly root.
Going back out for my 10th lap was the hardest I was cold, my knees ached and I just wanted to curl up and sleep. Martyn was an amazing support and convinced me to do another lap or two! I managed to do one more getting in just after the mid night cut off.
I felt pretty overwhelmed with what I had achieved coming third in my first solo 12 hour race was something I had never expected.
I want to say a huge thank you to Martyn who was an amazing support keeping me going every lap.
Thank you to Mark my coach who has helped me with my training.
Thank you to Silverback for my amazing bike, Bike Fixers for keeping it in tip top condition and Grip Grab for keeping my hands and feet toasty in all conditions!
Read the Pedal 2 Pedal team race report here.
Yesterday was my first six hour endurance race, The Merida Summer Monkey, run by Gorrick.
I was quite nervous and not sure what to expect as I lined up with Karen ready for the mass start. I had in mind than I wanted to get a good position going into the singletrack. I got a good start passing other riders and going into the singletrack in a good position.
We were not allowed to pre ride the course which was something I wasn’t used to so I took the singletrack steadily to make sure I was ready for what was coming up!
The course was fantastic made up of twisty singletrack with lots of roots to tackle linked together by fire road, it seemed most of the climbs were fire road too which made them easier, but the chance of being overtaken was increased.
The weather was over cast and there were spots of rain at times, riding for such a long time I was glad for the shelter from the sun, it would of been a lot harder had the sun been out!
I had a plan for my nutrition which was too keep fuelling every 30 minutes, this worked really well I spent the first 3 hours eating real food (malt loaf and bananas) and then moved to energy gels this combination worked well and I felt strong through most of the six hours. I kept my bike bag fully stocked with jelly babies and munched them in between.
As I came into my second lap I had made good time, completing it in 44 minutes, but wondered whether I could sustain this pace. I decide to keep pushing and eating, keeping an eye on my heart rate. I had decided that as long as I stayed aerobic for the majority of the time I would be able to keep going.
The first 3 hours were good fun and I enjoyed learning the course, unlike a cross country course which are short and easy to remember this long circuit kept catching me out as to how much was left to go!
Hours 4 and 5 were hard I spent a long time without seeing any riders and when I would it would be passing them or them passing me too fast for me to stay with them! Having done most of my training alone I am used to my own company luckily. I always find it interesting the places your mind drifts to when you’re in that zone where your feet keep turning and the bike eats up the ground and yet your mind is in a totally different place.
Coming into the pit I was relieved to find out this would be my last lap as my body was starting to feel tired, I ate my remaining jelly babies and pushed on. Half way through the lap was a sharp right hand bend which had caused me no problems for the 7 previous laps but being tired a lapse in concentration sent me sliding along the bank, I didn’t hurt myself but it made me panic I felt sure that I was going to be over taken and after having worked so hard for the last 5 hours and stayed in the lead the last thing I wanted was to blow it now!
I pushed on composing myself, it was just after this I decided I wouldn’t have an energy gel because I was so close to the finish…. This was potentially the wrong move.
Just as I was approaching the last singletrack drop and hard uphill part, a girl came hurtling past me I shouted to find out what category she was in and thought she said 6 hour solo, my body filled with dread and suddenly my legs seemed to have been sapped of energy, I gave it everything I had left to stay with her and although I couldn’t over take her I did manage to stay with her, just about!
I finished the race really happy with my achievement but slightly annoyed at being pipped at the post with so little of the lap to complete. It was then that I found out she was in the 4 hour category solo so I had kept my win.
It wasn’t until podium that I found out I was the only girl in my category so had been competing with girls in other category’s but this didn’t matter, I had worked hard for 6 hours given it everything I could and had consistent lap times.
I came 2nd girl overall for the 6 hour race completing 8 laps which was a total of 56 miles in 6 hours 7 minutes.
A huge thank you to all my supporters including Silverback, Grip Grab, Bike Fixers Portsmouth and Dog Tag.
Lap 1: 44.56
Lap 2: 46.30
Lap 3: 46.27
Lap 4: 46.40
Lap 5: 45.12
Lap 6: 45.35
Lap 7: 47.17
Lap 8: 44.59