Peter Halley’s Ride 24 Ride Report
Woke up early Friday morning after being away for 4 days in Italy with work. I hadn’t done any training since my ride from Inverness to Comrie the previous week (147 miles) and I felt fine – didn’t feel I had missed time on the bike and I just wanted to get to Newcastle now.
Friday am we packed the car with the items I had laid out prior to me leaving for Italy, loaded the bike and off to the station at Dunblane to catch the train to Newcastle.
First panic…..we had reserved seats on the first coach and the bike had to go right to the last coach so I had to leg it down the platform with little time to spare. Nicky wrestled with the pram, my daughter Emily and two large bags up front (minimal help from the staff!) while I secured the bike and returned to the front coach by walking back through the carriages – long train this one!
On arrival in Newcastle we checked into the Premier Inn quayside and settled into our room (bike and all) before going for a wander round the city centre. I was feeling relaxed and excited and I could see other fellow riders around the town too. The excitement was building……..
I had joined the Facebook page for R24 which was initially a good ideal but as the event grew closer people were clearly getting nervous and started discussing all the “what if scenarios” regarding what gels to use, the weather forecast, tyre choice, blah, blah blah…..and it began to annoy me I have to say, especially about the weather – it will be what it will be was my take on the situation and seeing as I spent over 80% of my training time in the pissing rain, wasn’t at all phased about the prospect of the odd downpour or two.
Friday night was spent with a few other riders in an Italian restaurant in the city centre and I had a pasta dish with beans, ragu and a beer. Got to bed around 10pm and slept well I have to say.
Saturday dawned and it was a lovely day despite what the forecast was to be. Breakfast at 0730, I ate well: porridge followed by beans on toast, a bacon sandwich, fried egg and a cup of coffee with croissant. I wasn’t due to ride until 11am so I filled my boots! I like to feed well in the morning and knew that this amount of food was right for me.
On returning to our room I packed the day bag. This was the bag that would travel the route in one of the support vans. 10KG was the max allowed but I didn’t even have 5KG’s and kept things to a minimum: Base layer, change of socks, shorts, top, high visibility gilet, hat, gloves, buff, spare cleat screws, various USB charging cables, car cigarette socket type charger and 3 pin charger for lights, phone and cycle computer and 8 x 4cmsq blocks of Nicky’s home made flapjack with raisins and nuts.
This bag would arrive ahead of me at the pre determined rest stops along the route ready for me to collect as I checked in after each stage. Once this bag was ready I then packed my little top tube bag mounted on the bike itself. This contained my phone, compact tool kit, bag of mixed nuts and raisins and a small USB power pack about the size and shape of a Cuban cigar. This proved to be very handy.
I got dressed wearing my bib shorts (3/4 length cycle shorts which come right up to my stomach). I like these types for long rides as they keep my knees and small of my back warm. Only down side is at comfort breaks – not the most practical but I decided that was a small price to pay for the comfort. On top I had my heart rate monitor and Parkinson’s UK cycle jersey and I was ready to go.
To the start
I decided to ride the 2 miles to the start to register and make final preparations. Nicky and Emily would follow a bit later in a Taxi. The ride was a good leg loosener and made me more at ease with what lay ahead. On approaching the start I got a real sense of the enormity of what I had taken on…..I parked the bike on the racks and went to register. No great dramas here and the atmosphere was building. There were lots of groups – Clubs and people in matching gear and looking like pros! The ride briefing was standard stuff. There would be three pace riders. Two lead riders would pace for a sub 24 hr. finish and the third rider would pace for a 24hr finish. This effectively created two groups to choose from at the start. I decided to pace somewhere in the middle of the two. It was a mass start funnelled through a “gate” and our timing chips were scanned at this point. Emily and Nicky were there to see me off which was great and gave me a huge boost. I was away with 400 other riders and happy to be on the road.
Stage 1 – Newcastle to Darlington 41 miles.
It was very stop start as you could imagine riding through the city and some people were quick out of the blocks! A large group formed and it was good to have numbers when the traffic was heavy. 20 miles in and I began to settle and my heart rate started to come down from around 160ish. I spent the whole stage thinking about what Karl had said about HR and how I wasn’t managing to stick to it….! I soon found rhythm towards the end of the stage and it went very quickly overall. Checked in after the first leg feeling fresh and happy to be riding. I wasn’t in long and when I hard the announcement over the tannoy that the lead pace rider would be leaving in 10 minutes. The pace riders have to stop for a minimum of 40 minutes at each stage and no one can leave before them. Quick calculation meant that I was about 20 minutes behind the lead group. I went for a comfort break and left the computer charging from the power pack on the bike (little and often was the charging plan as I knew it would only last around 10hrs ride time). I picked up two bananas and was off again.
Stage 2 – Darlington to York 47 miles.
I left the rest stop on my own which wasn’t the best idea in hindsight but I didn’t want to hang about and wait for a group to leave. I decided to run with my decision and hopefully pick up or be picked up by other riders so we could form a small peloton and work the wind. This didn’t happen and I found my self working hard with a constant headwind. My resultant work rate was high and I knew this wasn’t sustainable – school boy error number 1!
I rode for about an hour into the stage on my own before a faster rider came along side – here was my opportunity. I stuck on his back wheel and my pace instantly increased by about 3mph. We were riding at about 20mph now and zipping along nicely. My heart rate was up in the late 150’s and off plan but I figured that it was better to work a little harder to keep with this guy than trudge along on my own battling the wind. It turns out that he was on a mission to catch the lead group as he had been held up in Newcastle and this made me nervous as to whether I would be able to sustain his pace. He was a man of small stature but I could tell he was a machine on the bike and I was faced with a dilemma. I thought bollocks to it, and rode with him for the next 30 or so miles passing many riders on the way, made excellent time into the next check point and arriving on the tail of the lead peloton on approach to the city of York.
On entering the check point I was “zapped” in and went to collect my bag, park the bike, computer on charge, shoes off, bottles filled with High5 and went for some food and a pee. Once rested, I would pick up a banana on the way out to eat on the next leg. This would be my rest stop routine for the next 6 rest stops.
I ate a hot meal of pasta, potatoes with a cream sauce and loads of spinach and beetroot slices (super foods that help fight against cramp). Also had a coffee and 750ml of water. I had a good rest here and was ready to leave with the lead group on the next leg.
Stage 3 – York to Scunthorpe 46 miles.
Before dropping my bag in the bag drop, I took out one of my Flapjack squares and put it into my shirt pocket ready for later.
I was now riding in the lead group and really enjoying the speed and the fact that my heart rate was now bang on plan (high Z1/low Z2). The peloton was requiring good levels of concentration as everybody (apart form the groups of friends and clubs) were strangers and riding styles were variable – you had to be on the ball. The group was running tight and fast and things were getting a little erratic up front and at about 2hrs in to the stage there was an accident and one of the pace riders was taken out! This was a relatively high speed accident that happened because someone had forgotten about ride etiquette. The Peloton continued with one pacer and the other in the support van. I was now nervous about riding in this group as I felt this wasn’t the last incident we were going to experience going into the night.
The remaining ride into the Scunthorpe rest stop was flat and fast and we were there literally just behind the support vans with the bags. I put my rest stop routine into action and was feeling good. I checked my phone and was told by my friends who were tracking me that I was riding in the top 20!!!
This was a huge boost but I had to calculate whether 1. – I could ride through the night at this pace and 2. – was I prepared to take the risk?
I decided to ride the next leg with the lead group and set off on stage 4 as dusk fell.
Stage 4 – Scunthorpe to Sleaford 41 miles.
We left for Sleaford and it was a warm night. The shenanigans up front continued because ego’s got in the way of having a fun time and enjoying the ride. 20 minutes in and accident No 2 occurred – sharp right turn at a junction but someone decided to go straight on right through the peloton……..my gut feeling was right and the onset of dilemma number 2 commenced. I knew that the group behind us was about 1-1hr:30 off our pace so If I was to drop back from this group I would be in “no mans land” and riding, potentially, through the night on my own. On the plus side, the wind had dropped so that variable was now out the equation. I continued for another hour at the back of the pack doing some mental gymnastics about what to do.
I was now in unchartered territory here in terms of mileage covered in one day and this was a point to consider regarding the current pace and my ability to maintain it. My legs were feeling great and they sort of went into “automatic pilot” mode – I felt this quite a few times in the latter stages of my training and during a few sportives that I rode – its hard to explain in words but its a good feeling where I’m not thinking about turning the crank , it just happens.
My heart rate had dropped into the low 140’s now, I was eating the flapjack (which is like rocket fuel), along with my bananas and small handfuls of mixed nuts and raisins. My nutrition plan was working and with this in mind I backed off the lead pack and prepared to ride on my own through the night.
I wasn’t alone after all – another like minded soul had the same thoughts about the lead peloton as I and we rode into the night as a two ship. I spent the majority of the rest of the stage leading him as he had hit the wall. I let him draft me all the way into the rest stop at Sleaford and he was very thankful but I knew that I couldn’t pull him all through the night.
Sleaford rest stop, 180 miles in and dilemma No3.
I had basically averaged cycle club pace for the past 180 miles (about 19mph) and didn’t want my legs to blow up or hit the wall during the night so I decided to have a good rest here and re-adjust my pace so that I could recover slightly and have enough in the tank for sunrise. My new friend was anxious that I was going to crack on without him but I told him that I had a new plan – he was quite happy at the news and wanted to ride with me. I had a good feed here of sausage rolls , dark chocolate, ham sandwiches and coffee. Over half way was a good feeling and I knew that the approaching 200 mile mark would be a psychological boost.
Stage 5 – Sleaford to Peterborough 46 miles.
Once ready to leave the rest stop it was clear that we had gathered a few others from the lead peloton and now had our own small peloton of around 6 riders. We set off together and shared the work load at a slightly reduced pace that we could all work with. The night was relatively calm and very warm and this stage was pretty flat – 890ft of ascent. A few lights were running out at this point and we shared lights amongst us. At no point did I feel tired or wanted to sleep as there was too much going on – I was setting the pace on this leg and the others were happy to work together.
We arrived in Peterborough around 3am (can’t remember exactly) and I put my rest stop routine into action. I didn’t feel like eating but knew I had to get something down. Food here was a build your own burrito – beef mince, salsa, loads of green chillies, guacamole and a pile of grated cheese. I have to say it was very tasty……!
When we were ready to leave we lost one of the group – he had fallen fast asleep bolt up right! After various attempts to rouse him, the group decision was to leave with out him and crack on.
Stage 5 – Peterborough to Royston 41 miles.
This leg was really enjoyable as it was pretty flat and the sun was rising – another cracking day. It felt good to be riding into the sunrise having ridden through the night without any real mishaps! The group was becoming fragmented as legs tired and it was difficult keeping all together. In the last 25 or so miles I decided to go for it and make for Royston at my own pace. I was doing some calculations and wanted to arrive in London for around 9:30am so I knew I had to crack on and get to Royston for a quick and final stop. My legs went into automatic pilot mode again and I was motoring at around 20mph.
Rolled into Royston to a very quiet final rest stop around 6am and feeling surprisingly fresh. Rest stop routine then breakfast. Coffee, Porridge and a croissant. Considered changing my shorts and top for the final leg but I figured that I might somehow cause undue discomfort wearing a different pair. Decided I had to leave at 06:30 to arrive at around 09:30 in London, I knew that last leg was going to be a tough one……….
Stage 6 – Royston to London 46 miles.
Off on my own again, bright sunny Sunday morning with a killer climb in the first 5 miles. Managed this one and the subsequent climbs fine – my training on lots of hills had paid off and I was thankful I put the training miles in. The stage was quiet – little traffic on an early Sunday morning and few fellow competitors. I figured I must be about an hour behind the lead peloton and about 2-3 hours ahead of the slower one so was in a good place. I came across one or two other riders who had fallen off the back of the lead group and they were suffering bad – they had all hit the wall and weren’t even waning to draft me into London – I was glad I had made the decision at the start of the night to ease off so I had something left for the morning. I rode alone for a while before one Guy decided to draft me as we went over the M25 and began our final 10 miles to the finish.
This was the hardest part of the whole ride as we went into London – I was now tiring and the constant stop/start traffic was taking its toll on me – physically and mentally. It was at this point that I got paranoid about getting a puncture – I hadn’t had one mechanical or tyre problem for the past 300 odd miles and I thought it would be just my luck to get one now! I made a conscious effort not to ride in the middle of the road where any sharp things might be – I just wanted it to end now and the last 5 miles took forever!
Finally we turned the corner and into Smithfields Market to cross the finish line to where Nicky and Emily were waiting, I had done it and I felt fantastic.
22hrs 29 minutes total time
17hrs 43 minutes ride time
Avg Heart rate 147bpm
Avg speed 17.5mph
Thanks Karl for getting me over the line and in a good time………