24 hours on a mountain bike!? Without a big desire for fast cars or lots of bling this may be interpreted as a mid-life crisis in my terms (I am 39 so almost qualify to use that excuse!) Maybe, but behind the rather random sounding decision there is a little bit of method in my madness.
For those that didn’t know me before running, my main hobby was always mountain bikes. In the early days it was racing cross country – short 1 to 2 hour races, even representing the army for a time before leaving. Then it was downhill racing, sounding like more of a buzz, I thought naively it would take less time to train for! It was great fun and I learnt a lot about going fast down stuff that I was shit scarred of so it challenged me mentally quite a lot. When I started running to help with my fitness, I met Kim who lured me into running a long way. I thought that was more fun so put the bikes away and the rest is history.
So the mountain bike thing is not uncharted territory, however this year I want to have a good crack at running a 100 mile race and it looks like that will be the Lakeland 100 in July. Now this is uncharted territory to a certain extent, I am happy that I have the legs for it, though my longest race so far has been the CCC in the Alps at 66 miles. With much more climbing than the LL100, it still took 15+ hours last time and to be honest I felt my best in the last two hours of the race after Ant Bethell plied me with coffee! So not a million miles away from time on my feet needed for a fast 100, but for me there are still a couple of areas which I would like to practice specific to the Lakeland 100 (or a lot of other 100s) but not wanting to trash myself by actually running 100 miles now I thought doing it on a bike may be the way forward.
Firstly, setting off at tea time, running through the night then into the next day, this can be pretty hard mentally, after all you have already been up all of the day before you even set off! It has been a while since my Commando days of being up all night and then doing dawn attacks (not a euphemism for raids on night clubs, well maybe in Norway in fancy dress on skis, but that is another story) so I want to practice that feeling, staying up all night, work hard, see the sun come up, keep working hard – you get the picture!
Next – pacing myself! Running wise I am not too bad at this, however there is always room for improvement and I know I will be bouncing off the walls ready to go by July, so holding myself in check will be so important, something I am working very hard on! The fact I only started riding my bike again 3 weeks ago means that there is no way I will be keeping up with the front riders in Kielder, I will have to let them go otherwise face a very hard time slogging out the 23 hours remaining after I blow up – so definitely a big one for me to just let people go and do my own thing.
Eating lots! I need to practice eating a lot! How much fun does that sound! Ok so there is a bit more to it than that, but it is a chance for me to practice eating some of things I will be trying or will be available in the Lakes, but the chances are I will need more of it and with it being colder it may need to be warmed up! But the main thing I will be doing is sticking to real food for as long as possible, lots of Chia charge flap jacks, chilli wraps, rice cakes and stoup!
I am very lucky that Garry Scott has volunteered to be support crew for me all weekend which is ace. He is an absolutely guru at supporting people in doing long hard events and of course he has done some amazing things himself with a planned attempt on the Bob Graham round this year. He even organizes the Trail Outlaws races, so I feel very privileged to have his company all weekend: he makes a great cup of coffee too so I know I am good for the last 2 hours!
As it is Kielder in February it will be a great chance to test out lots of kit, so I have pretty much every piece of Montane gear tested out and ready to layer up with. Hands and feet will be the main challenge with a few pieces of running kit to try and see if they cross over into biking as well! I may have the opportunity to use a very nice 29” wheel bike, however if not then I have brushed the cobwebs off my trusty 20 year old hardtail Rock Lobster Titanium bike and be spinning around on that (or probably both) – apparently that is retro now!
Maybe these all sound like me justifying in my mind a reason to why I just want to go out and scratch an itch that I have had for a while before it is too late (isn’t that a midlife crisis?!) I know it is not going to be pretty at all, I certainly don’t have the legs for it, the longest I have ever ridden my bike is for about 3 hours in one go, but I do enjoy being on my bike having a good blast along the trails! I am sure I will curse myself and my own words at some point next weekend. However I do plan to work hard and push myself. My strategy is just not to stop – how naive that is I will see. I believe it will help me with lots of things, be great endurance training and an opportunity to learn with variation. I love running but not 12 months of the year so doing different stuff is good. But to be honest I just have a feeling that it is something I need to go and do, just for the craic; 2017 is more about following my gut not my head, let’s see where it leads!