With what feels like a season so far of sick note excuses and missed/ half arsed races I felt like the backend of the year was particularly important for salvaging some good outings on the bike. A particular low-light of the sick-noting was a recent trip to the hospital where I was asked “can we listen to your hand nerves”, no problem I said when the doc asked if they could do this imagining a stethoscope being gently place on my hand. I didn’t realise that listening would be done through the end of a needle that was lodged in my hand whilst being electrocuted!

After a decent outing at BikeFest and the promise of 200 miles on the Isle of Man at the end of the July I was ready to get back in the swing when I came down with some awful stomach virus the week before. I’ve never been so ill in my life but felt my self pity was vilified when an immediate hospital referral direct from the doctors led to a swift queue jump at A&E and being wheel-chaired into the ward for immediate treatment! They hooked me up to a drip and sorted out some low blood pressure issues which revived me a bit. Generally I felt like I had the mother of all hangovers constantly for two weeks and didn’t leave the house in a week! Needless to say I was pissed at not only the impact on riding and ability to function in general but couldn’t travel to the Isle of Man to tackle the Manx 200. Maybe I dodged a bullet on that one though as the furthest rider only got about six hours in before the weather conditions decimated the entire field.

For the last few months I’ve been self coaching but I decided I preferred having someone help with planning training as it’s just one less thing on my mind which helps with headspace for me. So I gave buddy and fellow Team JMCer Lee Eaton a shout at Transition Cycle Coaching and had a chat about working together and after a few weeks seeing how things go I’m pleased to say that Transition will be helping me going forward fitting in some time crunched training and achieving goals. Lee was clear that really I should start working with power which I hadn’t done before so a quick Facebook marketplace search found me a smart power trainer to get me started. We’ll see how the change to a more scientific approach wrapped around very detailed two way feedback plays out, but I definitely appreciate the level of feedback and insights provided to date.

So back to the racing. After the disappointment of missing the Manx 200 I entered Torq ‘lite’ 6-hour which is now one of two major stepping stones before the UK 24hr Champs in October. The second of which is the Kielder 100 in September. After only a couple of weeks back on the bike since the black death I was keen to get a solid hard race under the belt.

From the first days of barely being able to breath when I first got back on the bike to a flat out sweltering sufferfest was going to be dicey whether or not the body would tell me to bugger off or not. Lee has been very careful in looking at progress over the last couple of weeks and slowly introducing some harder sessions. We hadn’t really done any super high end stuff though to aid recovery so the first hour went much as I expected, outright pain cave and my lungs rejecting the effort. I was finding it hard to breath not least with the baking heat but also the unfamiliarity of the high intensity race effort. I had arrived a little later to the grid and found it packed with people in front and in a valley with no way to politely position oneself in the rough area you think you might finish. I don’t really get why people with a backpack full of sandwiches ready for a chilled day out position themselves on row two of a marathon event?! Needless to say when the trigger went it was like Star Trek when they punch it and the stars flash past such was the mismatch between a few people mispositioning and those coming through lycra’d up!

After a short climb it was straight into a very long section of ace but narrow singletrack. I just sat up and conserved the energy knowing it would spread out eventually but that those at the sharp end would be putting a couple of minutes into me on lap one alone. As it turned out with the hot conditions it was probably helpful for me to have a bit of a warm up (ha) on lap 1 as some would undoubtedly blow their brains out early doors. Plus I was warmed up from my random last minute change of plan journey to the race involving car, train and pedalling!

So back to the racing, did I mention it was bloody hot! At the hour mark I was really struggling to adapt to the high intensity work, my body simply just hadn’t done that effort in such a long time it didn’t know what to do. I was also getting fatigued from the surge efforts required to clear the M25 like traffic whilst the leaders disappeared. I tried to reign the effort back in to the ticking over range as quickly as I could and slowly I started to feel like I could breathe again. The course was tough but brilliant with endless twisty stuff and a couple of punchy climbs. The dirt was like sand in places and I took a couple of lame tumbles whilst I tried to figure out where the grip was! Some cool bombhole launches kept things interesting and I really started to enjoy the course on the new whip. Full sussers for the win I think is my first conclusion about the new bike!

Rach Eaton very kindly was handing up bottles and boy was I going through them. I think I drank well over 1 litre per hour which from past experience is what I knew I would need in heat like this. That meant I didn’t really need to have many Torq gels just the powder which made it easier on the stomach.

Having Rach on hand meant some rare race position info which when she said I was third in cat I thought I had misheard but sure enough same response second time round. Just after that point I came across a lady laid out on course. She like many including myself had fallen foul of the slidey loam and found herself in an awkward position stuck amidst her bike. I stopped and she didn’t look in too good a way so it wasn’t a quick check in and crack on affair. Once we got the paramedic within site I left the scene as others had arrived so I could push on. Having a little break actually for a bit was helpful as my heart rate and body temperature managed to drop down a little bit.

Towards the back end of the race it wasn’t possible to get position info so in those situations it’s just a head down and push to the end affair which I did and fortunately avoided any cramps which others were suffering with. As it turned out I had moved up to second after super quick marathon racer Paddy had had a bit of a sit down after overheating and despite taking chunks of time back didn’t have long enough left in the race to catch me (I wasn’t aware anyways!). Joe of the Torq Fitness stable lapped me just before the end but I’ll take that given he recently got 2nd at the National Marathon Champs.

Very nice surprise to be on the podium and a decent finish overall I think when I was just looking to get round and get a solid training effort it. So good initial signs from working with Transition coaching to get me firing from a standing start. Onward now to the next stepping stone before the UK 24hr Champs at the classic Kielder 100.