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?