Me and Lowenna having tea and cake in the HQ after clocking 305.513 and 218.04 miles respectively in the CC Breckland 12 hour © Liz Hufton
305.513 miles in 12 hours in the CC Breckland event two weekends ago to break Andy Wilkinson's UK competition record (and very likely the world record for this sort of event) by 3.1 miles. Andy Bason also rode 302.75 miles to break it in the national championships on the same day, but unluckily for Andy, I'd got there a bit before him.
It was even about mile further than Sean Yates and the late Zak Carr managed (304.7 miles) when they set the tandem comp record in 2005. In fact, the only rider who's gone further in 12 hours is Glen Longland, who did 309.5 miles but didn't start and finish in the same place, so had the benefit of a tailwind. See the RRA for some insanely fast place to place records.
In kilometre terms, 305.5 miles is a shade under 492km. In speed terms, it's 25.46mph or 41km/h. In calorie terms it's well over 10,000. Which explains why I've lost a kilo and have been trying to get it back via means of pringles, snickers and beer.
Looking at the numbers as they are it's mind boggling, impossible for anyone to do that on their own, especially me! But strangely after the 50 I did the weekend previously, I had a feeling it might actually be on the cards. I did a lot of number crunching during the week and kept coming up with ridiculous distances: 305 miles was actually one of the more conservative estimates - some scenarios put it as high as 316 miles!
Basically I took the numbers from my 12hr last year (280.74 miles), plugged them into analyticcycling.com, added 15W due to extra fitness, tarted up the rolling resistance and drag estimates, allowed for the extra 123 miles of dual carriageway (probably worth 5-10 miles on its own) and crossed my fingers that it wasn't going to be as windy. Of course, as a theoretical chemist I know that in practice, things don't always turn out the way they do when calculated, so I crossed my other fingers.
I also tightened up the bolt under the nosecone of the Shiv so that the baseplate wasn't rubbing on the front wheel when I put weight on it. I'd only discovered this before the BDCA 50 and I think it might have made a difference. The creaking noise has gone at least!
Four of us piled into Mark and Lowenna's new car on Saturday to drive to somewhere near Norwich, where we had a noice B&B booked. The plan was that Mark and Liz would be supporting me and Lowenna (doing her fourth 12hr! Madness). I took it as a good omen that the race wasn't that far from where I was born and that it was a full moon. Also, without knowing the Beryl Burton story, my colleague John Whitney had offered me a liquorice allsort at work a few days previously. That's what I call a surfeit of good omens.
We also had a surfeit of food at a local pub. I think I had chili with rice, chips, bread and extra boiled potatoes all round. You can never have too many carbohydrates I say. No room for dessert, which should give you a sense of the portion size.
Half a day on the bike
Sunday dawned (well it didn't quite as it was 4am) and we got ourselves sorted for the big day, making energy drinks, having a bit of brekky and sorting out a feeding plan. Basically the first 236 miles of the course had a turnaround point every 20 miles or so, which meant Liz and Mark could just stay there and hand me a bottle/some food each lap. Simples!
Tim Davies (28) goes followed by Lowenna (29)
Lowe smiling in the morning © Liz Hufton
The start in Scoulton. Quiet except for a gaggle of oddly dressed people on bikes © Liz Hufton
I was getting ready almost right up until I was off at 6:30. No time to think about anything else, just focus on what I had to do in the race. The first 13 miles took us on minor roads from Scoulton to the A11, where we'd spend most of the day. I enjoyed the start, getting used to the pace and making sure nothing was loose. I passed Lowe (my minute woman) in under five minutes and gave her a shout. Then navigated my way along the back roads to the main part of the course.
I was trying to get a sense of what heart rate and power to ride at, but my power meter wasn't quite playing ball as (I found out after) the cones were a bit loose so it had problems zeroing. And my heart rate seemed to be high for the effort level, so in the end I just rode on feel and kept an eye on the distance/time. Even the distance turned out to be wrong, as it was over-reading by a small but annoying amount. Gadgets eh...
Onto the A11 and after about 20 miles total I caught my two minute man, Tim Davies. He also did the Icknield 12 last year and I've seen him at quite a few races, so we know each other. As I went past, he told me he reckoned 300 miles was doable and I hoped he was right. I continued, meeting the horrible endless dips in the concrete at the Wymondham end of the A11. Bump, bump, bump, bump. And again on the way back. This was actually the second circuit that we'd do later in the day, but had to do once first thing to make up the mileage.
Then it was back past what would be the turnaround point at the famous Eccles, before heading down towards Thetford and turning just before we got there. Back along the A11 to Eccles and voila, 52.86 miles completed in 2:03. By this stage I'd already caught Nick English, my five minute man after about 40 miles, and that surprised me a bit. He went on to do 290 miles to finish second, so obviously rode at a nice even pace. On the other hand there was Steve Berry, my 15 minute man, who I'd only put a minute or so into at this point - I figured he was either going well or too hard.
At the end of the 52.86 miles I saw my helpers for the first time. I reached out to grab a bottle from Liz but was going too fast and missed it. Curse. I made sure I got one from Mark a little further up the road. I didn't need food at this stage, my shorts and sleeves were stuffed with gels and energy bars. I made a note to slow down through the feed next time, as there wasn't really much of a hill coming up from the underpass to dull the speed. You never want to use your brakes in a TT but it's better than running out of gas.
There were four more laps up to Thetford and back and my main aim was to keep the speed up without going too hard. It wasn't easy as the wind was getting stronger, so it was a bit of a batle into the headwind up to the far turn, then a nice cruise back with the tailwind. After two more laps (94 miles total) I'd put maybe another minute or so into Steve Berry and I was still thinking I was going too hard. I also thought I should stop for a toilet break but I didn't as I didn't want to stop. A mistake.
Me on one of the many laps up and down the A11 © Stephen Penney
Lowenna en route, looking good © Stephen Penney
On lap three things changed. I was still riding at an even pace but Steve had dropped from two minutes to four minutes down. I think the 100 mile mark is critical in a 12 hour, as once you reach it your body has worked out how much glycogen you've used and will down-regulate you to something sustainable for the remainder. So it's really important not to overcook it. Easier said than done when it feels like you're not even racing up until that point. I certainly lost a bit of power but it didn't bother me - as long as it wasn't too much.
After four laps (136 miles) it was straight on towards Wymondham to start circuit 2, so no chance to see Liz and Mark until I got to the turn at the far end. This was actually a nice stretch as it was 20 miles of tailwind so a further chance to take it easy while keeping on top of the gear. At the Browick turn I grabbed a gel and a bottle and got ready for the tough return leg back to Eccles - at least it was only 10 miles. I reached the turn with 156 miles on the clock in just under six hours. That's 26mph or nearly 42km/h in the new money, pretty much bang on what I needed to do. Halfway!!!
Steve was now only five minutes ahead of me and I ended up catching him the second time back from Browick. As I passed he said something like "go for the record!" and I gave him the thumbs up. Unfortunately he was obviously suffering badly at this point and told me afterwards he'd nearly packed it in from cramps in his back. It's not your legs that give way in a 12, it's everything else. He persisted though, and eventually finished with a very creditable 284 miles.
Liz and Mark capture the sheer nerve wrenching excitement of doing support in a 12hour TT
I had my own problems (yes I really should have stopped earlier). I was feeling ill from all the fluid I'd drunk and started to get quite bad mental downers. The first part of the return leg was quite tough and each time I'd think 'you idiot, what are you doing? You'll never hold this pace. <big pit of darkness>'. It wasn't good. The only thing I could do was try to ignore it and keep going until it got easier on the way back to Eccles.
This continued for a few laps but eventually after eight hours I 'cracked', chucked my bike down and stopped for a much needed break. It felt like an hour but it probably wasn't much more than a minute. When I got going again it was amazing, I felt brand new and could even drink the sickly energy drink that I'd got on the last handup (they didn't give me that again, thankfully). 216 miles in 8:20, still just under 26mph with a mere 3:40 to go. One more lap up to Browick and back, then it was time to navigate my way to the finishing circuit.
My last lap on the A11 was good, around 46:30 for the 20 miles and I reached the end of the fifth lap with 236.2 miles completed in 9:06. The dark periods had gone although I knew I was running a bit low on fuel and really needed a couple of close feeds to stock up on bars and gels. I also knew I probably wouldn't get them as Liz and Mark had to look after Lowe as well, so I was on my own for at least the first lap of the finishing circuit.
I did some calculations to keep myself occupied. I'd originally budgeted 23mph for the finishing circuit as it was obviously going to be slower than the dual carriageway. 69 miles in three hours. So a bit under 67 miles in 2hrs54, which was the time I had left. Add that to 236 and that was 303 miles. Just enough to break the record, provided I didn't blow...
The road to the finishing circuit was slightly uphill and it was hard work. I checked the clock when I got to mile 0 - 9:17 for what I knew was a bit over 240 miles. More calculations, each lap was 12.8 miles, I wanted to ride five laps (304 miles total), so I needed 32'30 a lap. That was all that mattered, to hit that or go under it.
The first lap wasn't too bad. The circuit wasn't overly hard, just a few ups and downs, not too many bends and some long straights. I rode past the cemetary at Hingham where I hoped Liz and Mark would be the next time. It had a nice little climb where I could slow down enough to collect a bottle and food. Not a problem. There were also small groups of people scattered around the circuits cheering as one by one, the knackered riders came past.
Lap 1, 32'26. That's cutting it fine. A bit over two hours to go and plenty of work to do. The cramps started now - my legs would just lock up for a short time and I had to get out of the saddle and rest them before they'd go again. Not good. I slowed right down at the cemetary and grabbed some energy drink and a gel when I saw Mark and Liz. I drank as much as I could and it helped. Lap 2, 32'20. Better than target pace. I needed to build in some insurance.
I started to pick up on the third lap and although the cramps kept getting me at odd times, I pushed it harder in other bits to compensate. I also picked up a bottle of Coke from Mark and even stopped briefly to grab a gel and a few swigs of water from Liz. That really turned things around and despite the halt I did the lap in around 32'00 (my data says 31'00 but I think that was because it was running out of memory).
Lap 4 saw me pass 280 miles - what I did last year - with over an hour to go! I took on more fuel from Liz and Mark, knowing I'd only need them one more time. The cramps were still visiting me but they weren't getting any worse. I didn't exactly feel euphoric but I did have the bit between my teeth for the last hour. 31'48. One more lap and I was now looking at 305 miles...
Final lap, time to let loose. I was very tired but I had enough in the tank to go faster when it mattered. I was still right on the edge of cramping but I'd kept it at bay. I really wanted to finish it off in style but with a couple of miles to go before the end of the lap, my neck muscles refused to work any more and I could no longer hold the TT position at all. I had to sit up and keep going on the tops. It was disappointing, albeit no surprise at all!
Passing 304.228 miles with around three minutes to go
I finished the lap in my best time, 31'20, and I knew I'd make it to the next time keeper at one mile too. That was well over 305 miles. I passed Lowe along the way and knew she would get to stop there, lucky thing! I got to the time keeper and asked if I could stop but he told me to keep going. Argh! I really really didn't want to at this point. My neck was making it impossible to ride fast so I just trundled along at the best pace I could manage until I got to Hingham (3 miles in). No-one there to tell me to stop. Argh! I knew there was someone at 5 miles and kept it going until then, wishing it would finish. I still had the power to turn the pedals OK but I also knew the race had finished. Stop it now!
I did finally reach the time keeper after what felt like an age, having covered nearly 310 miles/499km in total. That's just stupid as I still think 200km is a very very long way to ride in a day. I stopped and the time keeper took my time. We exchanged a few words and I waited for Liz and Mark to come and find me. It was only a few hundred metres to the HQ where we started but I did not want to ride any more.
That was hard © Liz Hufton
Did it and can still stand up! © Liz Hufton
Lowe and Mark still smiling afterwards © Liz Hufton
Me interviewed by Liz
Lowenna interviewed by Liz
By the time I did get back to the HQ, they'd already posted some provisional distances. Mine was 305.69 miles (later revised to 305.513) and I was absolutely delighted as well as being completely shattered. However I didn't know what was going on in the national 12. I found out that Andy Wilkinson had done 3:47 for his first 100, but then DNFd. Then as we were on our way home, a friend texted me to say Andy Bason had done 304 miles (actually 302.75, still a fantastic ride on a slower course). So I had it! Burger King has never tasted so good.
At the time it was hard to appreciate, as I was so completely drained physically and mentally, that nothing much was registering. The mental challenge of concentrating on something completely for 12 hours is formidable. You can relax occasionally but if you switch off, your race is over. And you have to keep that focus right until the last mile. It's what makes these events so demanding and, I suppose, rewarding.
In the week after the ride, I've slowly been coming to terms with it and I mean slowly. I got a round of applause from the office when I staggered in on Monday, John Whitney wrote a nice article - it was quite easy to interview me as we sit about 1m apart - then I spent much of the rest of the week in a trance while I regained my energies. I received congratulations from lots of people (including Andy Bason) and am still getting them. When Hutch tells you it was rather impressive (he's done a few 12s in his time) it's really something.
Of course coach Ric was over the moon and he was mightily impressed at how even my power and speed were. I've posted some rough splits below to illustrate. If I scale the distance on my computer to what I think it should be, I did the first 100 miles in ~3:54, the second 100 in ~3:52 including the stop, the next 100 in ~4:01, which left me another 13 minutes to do 5.51 miles. So my pacing was pretty even I'd say.
Rough splits recorded by Liz
miles km Time
52.86 85.07 02:03
73.56 118.39 02:51
94.26 151.70 03:38
114.97 185.04 04:26
146.00 234.97 05:33
155.91 250.92 05:59
175.98 283.22 06:45
196.06 315.53 07:32
216.13 347.84 08:20
236.21 380.15 09:06
240.35 386.83 09:17
256.00 412.01 09:56
268.90 432.77 10:28
281.60 453.21 11:00
294.45 473.89 11:32
305.51 491.69 12:00
I've got one more big race this season, the BDCA 100 this Saturday. It's on the same course that I did my 50 in 1:39:03 on, just two laps instead of one. If the weather holds up, it will be very very fast, according to my Analytic Cycling reckoner.
My main aim is to lower my 100 time from 3:39:43 to whatever I can manage. Why? Because currently I'm leading the British Best All Rounder competition, which is based on the average of the average speeds of your best 50, 100, and 12hr TTs in a season, finishing at the end of September. It's a long distance competition for sure, but it's also the most popular national series in the UK. At this stage, I think Bason and Jenkinson have the best chance of beating me, but if I can improve my 100 time then it will be difficult, as there are only a few fast 50s left - no more 100s and only one more 12hr, which none of the BBAR contenders are doing.
I also want to try to get five rides done in the Rudy Project series, which is actually the national TT series. Bottrill has already wrapped it up but with a couple of half decent rides I could finish second. Unfortunately that means no Journo Worlds title defence this year, but "you can't do everything".