2021 challenges (hoping it isn’t too optimistic to look that far ahead…)

Back to the White Horses in 2021 – view from the Uffington White Horse. Cycle up on the sportive and run close by on the ultra marathon

As we head into October, it’s time to think about next year’s challenges. Strangely, at the moment they look exactly like the ones I was planning for 2020 – how could that have happened?

Health, fitness and Covid willing, so far it looks like it’s the White Horse Challenge in April and in July it’s the Race To The Stones.

The Race to the Stones is a 50km ultra marathon (I’ll be doing the second day of the two day 100km event) along the Ridgeway from Wantage In Oxfordshire to the World Heritage site of Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments at Avebury in WIltshire. Something of an unknown but a proper challenge. I plan a 16 week training programme and think – at this stage – that completion of the run is the real target (although finishing with a six in the hours column would be target 2).

The WHC sportive is billed as 90 miles and 1400m of climbing (not frightened to mix their imperials and metrics, those folks). I agree with the distance (145km) but I’ve recorded it at over 1700m (5600 feet) of ascent.

Next year will be my 9th attempt in the 10 editions since I first did it in 2011. That first year I was just outside 6 hours – my best (2017) was 5h 05m (with one DNF in 2019 as my legs hadn’t recovered from the Rotterdam Marathon).

The 5 hour target is a bit of a monkey on my back – next year feels like it might be my final attempt at it, how do I go under 5 hours?

Of course, if the weather is foul, I won’t manage the target anyway, but assuming a reasonable day for the event, I need to start thinking about a plan to manage the necessary 18mph (29kph) average.

I can ride at the required average for shorter distances – it would be great if I could ride the whole route solo at the necessary speed (I’m sure I can’t) but I don’t need to if I can join, and stay with, a group going at the right speed. That means getting underway reasonably close to the opening of the starting gates (departure is any time within an hour’s window) so I have a chance of latching on to a faster group as it passes me.

The bike is good for the job and the new deep section carbon wheels have certainly made it faster through improved aerodynamics, without making it any heavier for the hills but the uncomfortable truth is that the main lever left for me to pull is to improve the engine.

I’ve rather neglected the cycling for nearly 2 years – when I everested (on the bike – glorious madness if you like to point the front wheel uphill) in 2017 and rode to the alps in 2018 (550 miles in 84 hours – I loved it) I was nearly a cyclist but now it’s time to pick it back up again and work on both speed and endurance.

Sadly, the bulk will have to be done through the winter (and, as I am a wimp with the cold weather, most likely it will be on the turbo) but I’d better have a plan for the early spring.

March and April look like fun as I try to train for both events – and what do I do after July?

13 thoughts on “2021 challenges (hoping it isn’t too optimistic to look that far ahead…)

  1. unironedman

    Alas the truth about the bike is just lots of training. Jim might be along at some point to offer better advice from a proper cyclist (I am not one of those, sadly), but it is down to lots of time in the saddle. But I suspect, as with running and marathon training, there is a cycling equivalent of speed work and hills, and junk miles, so perhaps avoid the risk of equating doing lots of miles with equivalent improvements. A 29k average over 90 miles is good going indeed.

    Missed your African proverbs though 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The Omil Post author

      Yes, 29kph is a bit quick (if you are not Jim) and may indeed be too fast for me for 90 miles. I’m sure you’re right about the quality of the miles as well as the quantity – my best WHC was the year I was training for my ‘everest’ and I’d done 68 reps of the climb up White Horse Hill by the time of the sportive in April.
      PS: Those married to thunder are never afraid of lightning.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. unironedman

        Well, don’t assume it’s not possible. It is. Half the battle is mental, but this assumes the physical bit has been taken care of first. Getting to a 30k average has always been my goal in triathlon, which I can usually sustain for about 40k. For a half ironman, I was doing 2min 10 sec kilometres. That was the good old days on the steel frame.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Graham

    The White Horse Challenge sounds amazing!

    I grew up in Wantage and when I was a teenager spent countless hours riding up and down the Ridgeway on my battered Kona Lava Dome. You can get some proper pace going on chalky trails along the top when it’s dry (at least you could in the 1990s!). Sounds like you’ll be on roads for the WHC though?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Graham

    The White Horse Challenge sounds amazing! I grew up in Wantage and when I was a teenager spent countless hours riding up and down the Ridgeway on my battered Kona Lava Dome. You can get some proper pace going on chalky trails along the top when it’s dry (at least you could in the 1990s!). However I never came close

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The Omil Post author

      Hello. Yes, happily the WHC is all on roads (with a trip up to the Uffington White Horse after 80+ miles) – but with the ultra marathon running along the Ridgeway I hope to be covering off both surfaces one way or another, in 2021.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. christcenteredruminations

    Great post here friend. It is good that you already have plans for 2021 regardless of how 2020 is currently looking. You are not being too optimistic. Yes, this year has had its trials and tribulations for sure, but the future is not yet known, 2021 might be a year full of blessings, you never know. The same way we did not know that there would be a global epidemic and lockdown, you just never know what the future holds. You seem to love biking, that is good. Are you really good at it? If you are, then that is good too. Nice picture too there.

    As far as optimism goes, I would leave you with some words from God himself here:
    God says in the Bible in Isaiah 41:10
    “So do not fear, for I am with you;
    do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
    I will strengthen you and help you;
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand”.

    The Bible says in 1 Peter 5:7
    “Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you”.

    The Bible says in Philippians 4:6
    “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God”.

    So do not worry just pray, do not grow weary just have hope.

    To anyone interested in strengthening their relationship with God, I have a post that can help here:


    You can check out the blog post above. If the information is too overwhelming for you, then you can start slow and work your way up gradually. If you want to stay updated and you want more posts from me, you can follow my blog. I post about God, faith and Christian Spirituality.

    If you ever need to talk, then send me a message on the “Contact” section of my page.

    May God’s blessing be with you, Amen. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person


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