Despite not really doing much preparation for this, I wasn’t too apprehensive of a 12-hour ride. I’d managed three or four 200km DIY audaxes over the summer, but only one really decent long ride in August. I figured I was just riding for a finish and decided to use my road bike with some decent wheels and clip-on tribars, for comfort and maybe a bit of speed.
I had a mid-afternoon pasta meal and then drove out to Kent and around the course to put out my supplies of spare bottles and food, hidden in hedgerows in bin bags. It was reassuring to see quite a bit of course direction signage had been put out, although I was reasonably confident I knew where the circuits would go having sussed it all out on google streetview in the week before. I retired to my travelodge room with a beer and a snack to watch some mindless TV before a 4:45am alarm call.
Next morning was very cold, but with little wind. With zero need to do a warm up it was just a question of getting my bike out, putting on bottles and filling my bento box with flapjack before a 1km trundle to the startline. Early starters needed lights, but by 6:45am it was just about light enough that I didn’t need them. I was working to a rough idea of what my power should be for a 12-hour, 70-75% FTP, and interested to see if this easy start would pay dividends later in the day.
The first few hours were on a large circuit. I was finding it OK apart from the westerly wind that was rising, and making my quads ache a bit, which wasn’t a good sign. I stopped at 4h20 for my first re-fill of bottles and camelbak and so on. I’d been averaging slight more than my target power, but it still felt easy. At this point a few of the faster seeded riders behind me came through and as I got going from my stop I got into a bit of a tussle with nos. 50 and 61. I think this distracted me a little – I really needed to be riding at my own pace – but I felt they were going perhaps a little too slowly, after all, they’d only really caught me because of my stop. l steadily pulled away from them into the windy sections and then a lap or so later pulled level with no. 8, a young lad on a road bike (without tribars). He was riding pretty steadily and it took me a while, and some effort, to get past him, before finally I thought I was probably trying too hard and let him get a bit of a lead. He stopped for drinks soon afterwards so as we were turning on to the link section to the next circuit I was on my own at last. I’d been leapfrogging no.60, Nick Stagg, here too. We’d not crossed paths for a few years (we had a 5km pursuit final in 2001 at Palmer Park track league that I maintain he only won because I’d ridden the Hounslow 100 TT the day before!), so it was good to see Nick riding his first 12-hour.
My back and shoulders were getting sore when I rode on the tribars and I was regretting not fitting a shorter-reach stem. The second camelbak I was using was floating about on my back and didn’t help – next time I’m going to sew a waist strap on to it. I spent quite a bit of the next few hours sitting up “on the hoods” in an effort to take some of the pressure off my back, and had a quick stretch at my second fuel stop, after about 8 hours. My feet were getting quite sore and I loosened the straps off my shoes, which had an immediate effect, much more comfortable. I wasn’t enjoying the middle circuit – it was rougher and exposed to the wind – and it was good to know that the last bit was just around the corner. My power was drifting off my earlier conservative estimate, which was a little disappointing. Maybe I’d have held it better if I done some better long distance rides? We had one last link section to ride, up a long drag back, and then we were on the finish circuit. I ditched the pesky camelbak as I knew I had some emergency spare bottles planted out on this circuit.
The finish circuit, although a little hillier than the rest of the course, was at least quite sheltered and it was better to ride as all the supporters had gathered around the 10-mile circuit – you were never far from a cheer. I did wonder whether I’d beat 240 miles, but trundled around, eating the last of my flapjack and a few chunks of Kendal Mint Cake I’d saved as a sugary treat for this last section. Finally I was on my last lap of the finishing circuit and then freewheeling to a timekeeper, just 35 seconds past the 12-hour point. Relief! After a few minutes chatting to no.42 who’d also stopped here, we made our way slowly back to the HQ.
I think I’ve done about 239.7miles. My least 12-hour mileage ever, but not too bad I guess. It was interesting to see how my power faded away despite the steady start – part of that must surely be due to my lack of hard miles this year. On reflection I’m wondering whether I’d have been better off ignoring my PM and just riding on feel as usual, but it was a good experiment. The ride is here on Strava.
I got changed and had a few cups of tea and sausage rolls in the HQ over a bit of banter with the other finishers. I had to push off before the provisional results went up on the board to go out and pick up my empties from around the circuit. After the last pickup I grabbed an americano from a nearby garage and headed back to the M20 and a steady drive home. Hopefully some results and pictures will appear soon.
Provisional results: KCA 12 hour news. 240.265 miles, sounds OK!