Mersey roads 24-hour trike TT

Trike 589km. Mersey Roads (National) 24-hour time trial

DNF at 19h48/366.9 miles

Course map: 24Map3

We were all packed and off down the road at 9:15am, ready for the National 24-hour time trial. My initial target was John Gill’s club record of exactly 400.o miles, but I also had a target to get a national VTTA age record, by beating 417.30 miles. Based on my performance at the Icknield 12-hour I’d set a schedule for 423 miles. Jules was going to be supporting me, handing up drinks and clothes etc. so on the way up I gave her a quick tour around the course and the various feed stations, etc.

At the HQ we didn’t have a whole lot of time to get ready – most of the other competitors had already arrived, but we got on with pinning numbers on and I rolled out to the start. The first few miles passed steadily. There was a southerly breeze, but it wasn’t too bad. I probably went a bit too hard for the opening miles to Prees Island, but once I was on this large circuit I settled into a good rythym. My right hip was feeling rather odd, numb almost, but I think I’d trapped a nerve in it on my last long ride a couple of weeks ago and that was it – it’s a feeling I’ve had in it on and off since I was a teenager and skateboarding would bring it on. The numbness passed after an hour or two (or maybe other bits of me hurt more and I forgot it!). Our drinks stops were brief, and it was great to have Jules at the side of the road handing up to me, rather than having to carry so much myself, as I have done in the past.

After two laps of the Prees/Hodnet circuit, we were transfered to the smaller Quina Brook one, so that we’d be able to pick up lights and so on quickly as dusk fell. There was a horrible section of B-road around the back of this circuit that was very lumpy and covered in tar-and-chippings – hard work on a trike. I was going well though, lapping it in 38/39 minutes, bang on schedule, and passing 6 hours with 196km/122miles on the clock (schedule = 189km). I stopped on the third lap here for my lights and an extra shirt and arm-warmers. Then, after three more laps, we went back out on to the big Hodnet lap for the rest of the night.

As I came through Press Island at midnight, Jules gave me a camelbak as well as my bottles so that I could do a double lap and she could get some sleep in the car. The wind had dropped completely, and although it was getting quite cold I was comfortable. My solidlight front light was providing brilliant light (I had a Cateye spare battery light) and I had  a couple of Smart half-watt rear lights. I passed the 12-hour point with 376km/233miles, still going well, and slightly ahead of my schedule (365km) – having Jules at the side of the road was making the going much easier for me.

At 4:30am, Jules was up again and rang me (I had my old rubber mobile with me in case we needed to get in touch), and soon I got my next feed – cold, sweet, peppermint tea and a bottle of carbo. I felt good, dawn was coming up and was looking forward to riding to the finish. I did one more night lap of the large Hodnet circuit before being one of the first riders to be turned back on to the smaller Quina Brook circuit for the morning laps. That didn’t worry me too much – the wind was starting to get up and the most southerly section of the Hodnet lap was becoming hard work. Somewhere around this first small lap, at almost exactly 7am, rain started falling. Not much at first but soon becoming heavy, and I stopped to pick up a rain jacket and a cap next time through Prees Island. I was aware that I was quite weak now, and also getting cold quickly. 18 hours passed with 542km/336miles (schedule = 529km). Normally, a few hours of rain wouldn’t bother me, but, unable to raise my pace much to keep warm, I quickly started to feel the cold. I suffer slightly with Reynaud’s, which means that any cold or vibration can leave my hands and feet white, numb and painful. I was finding it difficult to reach into my back pocket for food, and slowly the fingers on my left hand (the one I use less because it only operates the front gear changer) became painful and immobile. I was having to reach across with my right hand to change chainrings on the one large hill on this lap.

One more lap gone, and I stopped for a bottle and a chocolate croissant. Jules said I looked drawn and pale, and I was slurring my speech. I was finding it difficult to steer the trike on the sharper corners – leaning over and holding on to the bars was a struggle. I came through to the end of that lap and climbed off. Initially for a stretch and for Jules to see if I’d left some long-fingered gloves in the bottom of my race kit-bag (I hadn’t). I then decided I couldn’t face another 4 hours in the rain and called it a day. I had a spring-weight jacket and some leg warmers in the kit-bag, but I knew I was already too cold for wearing them to make much difference. I sat down in the Prees feed marquee and had a couple of cups of tea to warm me and my fingers before we re-packed the trike into the car (I noticed here that I’d worn the drive-side tyre nearly to the canvas in places, oops!) and I handed my numbers in and got changed into something dry.

My bike computer says I did 588.9km (365.9miles), and I’ve worked out from the course description that I actually did 366.99miles. It would be easy with hindsight to wonder why didn’t I just trundle along for a bit in-between long feed stops for the remaining 4 hours and try to beat my club 400-mile record, if nothing else, but in truth I needed to get out of that weather quickly. It would’ve been dangerous for me to have done any more riding on the open road in that state. I’d managed 2½ hours in the cold and rain and that’d been enough. I should, perhaps, had carried more thicker, warmer gear, but I wasn’t expecting it to get that cold in July, and last time I’d ridden a 24 I’d almost been too hot in the night!

I drove the first few miles to Birmingham but started to get dozy, so Jules did the rest of the drive while I slept. It had been great to have her at the side of the road supporting me, it made a huge difference to how the event went, although ultimately my poor circulation and the fact that I’d lost quite a bit of body fat for the triathlons I’ve been doing (despite trying to put on a bit of weight this week) was no match for the vagaries of the weather.

It felt great to sink into a warm bath, followed by a beer or two watching the Tour de France highlights. My fingers and toes felt very odd, and will do for a few days yet, no doubt. I may return to this challenge in a couple of years – next year I have Roth Ironman in July and will probably do a 12-hour in August – there will be no time to fit anything else in between, so another trike 24-hour will likely have to wait until 2011…