I had decided I wanted to ride this year's Exposure 24hr solo championships 'stronger' and 'harder' than last. This would be dead easy of course, all I needed to do was improve on my fitness, skill and some of the more shabby areas of my performance from last year and I'd be able to go faster than before. So easy in fact, even a two year old could tell you...
Number one - training
I've trained harder this winter than I did last year. Given that last year's training competed with a long commute, full-time work alongside a PhD, moving house and other various life events it wasn't actually that difficult to improve things. Plus I had Kate Potter of AQR guiding me through my training, after all if you want to do well in a 24hr race you should chose an expert 24hr-racer-turned-coach to guide you. Training goal completed (well, there's nothing wrong starting with a nice and easy goal to make yourself feel good).
So onto the race itself:
Number two - the start
Whereas last year I pootled start to finish, this year I wanted to see if I could get off to a stronger start. I did reasonably well with this and a couple of practice laps proved useful in hitting the right lines from the off. It didn't quite all go to plan though and on my first lap I nearly got taken out by two deer running across the trail and burped a front tyre which was accompanied with a small tumble over the bars. In my defense I felt I needed to leave myself something to improve on in the next 23+ hours.
Three - consistent laps
I had worked out by what percentage my lap times had increased through the race last year and was aiming to keep this down. The huge deluge around 8pm put pay to that as the course turned into thick mud but having seen that I did laps 3-8 in exactly the same time and haven't yet seen my lap times for the rest of the race I've decided to give myself this one anyway.
Four - pits
I wanted to make sure my pit stops were as efficient as possible: rolling changes for bottles and gels as much as I could and take longer if needed but no languishing. With the pit crew that was there to support me and fellow Cotic-AQR team mate Martin, it was hard not to get this one right. So good were the crew that they were only slightly flummoxed when the gazebo tried to take off in the wind and rain amid a soggy kit change. Not bad you lot, not bad at all...
|Cotic - AQR HQ|
With shorter laps and a wandering mind I was finding it hard to remember whether I'd had my requisite gels and bars on some of the laps. Energy levels were ok so if I did I can't have missed too many. Once it started to rain and I donned the thicker waterproof gloves and rain jacket remembering became the least of my problems as I couldn't really get into my pocket for my gels. Luckily whilst ferreting around I did find a Lipsil so I was able to ensure my lips didn't get chapped mid-lap. Handy. Given the lap wasn't that long I could get away with eating just once a lap and my pit crew took to squirting a gel into my mouth and sending me out chewing a bar each time I went through. I just made sure my lips were kept well conditioned.
Finally, number six - ride efficiently
This course was not my friend - it had none of the bits I'm any good on and lots of bits I'm rather shady at. Long, mind-bending slogs and techy descents I'm your girl; rooty, muddy, twisty, uppy-downy trails - no ta. Although bizarrely I enjoyed it, well, most of it most of the time. The fact that the course played to all my weaknesses made it harder but more important for me to ride efficiently. I think I did pretty well until the rain and mud came. Then for 12 hours I didn't make a single lap without at least one unplanned dismount. My personal favourites were the backward somersault with clean double-footed landing and when I managed to take out pit-mate Rob mid fall. That'll teach him to ride alongside me.
|Last lap glory|
And that was it. Despite a few hiccups I think things went rather well. I can definitely say that I did what I set out to do and rode harder, stronger and 'faster-faster' than I did last year. Throughout the race I held onto second place with first never far out of sight. I've retained my national 24hr champion jersey which is a nice way to celebrate me achieving what I set out to.
It should go without saying the massive thanks I owe my pit crew for their support before, during and after the race. It might be solo racing, but I couldn't have done it without them all. Also thanks to SIP for another great event, it's a shame it doesn't attract the number of entries it deserves.