I had several aims for the Month Record attempt. First, the obvious aim of beating the current record of 6679.8 miles by Adze Briscoe Frieze. It was also a test run for another go at HAMR rolled into part of my training for another attempt. Since my HAMR ride of 2015, I have started using a power meter for training and wanted some data to work with for planning another HAMR. My head wasn’t really in the right place for another go the HAMR before the month record and as well as test a few theories from training, collecting data and being part of my physical training, I thought that a good Month Record ride would put my head in the right place for another go at the HAMR. Last but not least, Amanda Coker is looking like she will push the overall HAMR record to over 80,000 miles. I wanted to see if another go at HAMR was even viable, given how well Amanda is doing. I set my target at 7000 miles for the 30 consecutive days, which I figured would be enough to do a few more miles than Amanda within 30 days, beat the current record, but still be within my reach.
I was only going to use one of my 3 Raleighs as used for my HAMR. I usualy ran a bike for about 2 months before a service and only one of the three has a power meter. The other two were ready to go just in case of any trouble. I rode the month pretty much without support. I stocked up my supplies before I set off and ordered food on line for home delivery during my attempt as well as bought food from gas stations when I stopped to buy food and water for the road.
I’d use the same routes that I found worked well during my HAMR ride. Mostly setting off at 9am to miss the rush hour traffic; get a tailwind across the flat, exposed fens; then turn with a crosswind through the sheltered woodlands of Thetford Forest and back into the wind in the evening when the wind drops and along more sheltered roads than the fens, unless the wind drops a lot, then I’d take a flatter but more exposed route back home.
I chose September because I have found that the wind tends to be lighter in September and October than the rest of the year and it can still be warm but not very hot without it getting especially cold. October is also a good month but can get cold at times and has fewer daylight hours. I was hoping that I’d get a run of days with low wind so I could spend more time on the flat Fenland roads without having to fight a strong wind, but that never happened.
The winds turned out to be stronger than I hoped for most of the month and there were a few pretty warm days.
Day 1 went well. I figured that starting at midnight would give me extra riding hours and I could still get to bed early for an extra long sleep before setting off the next day. Idai Makaya turned up to make a short film of my departure for You Tube.
I was pleased that I was going a bit faster than I expected and instead of getting my targeted 300 miles at 8pm as planned, I had hit my target by 6pm. I thought about doing another 2 hours, but my legs were a bit stiff so went for an earlier night.
Day 2, as I set off my GPS wasn’t showing my power output. At first I put that down to my GPS and power meter just taking time to talk to each other but after a minute or so I guessed that the power meter battery was dead, which it was. I carried on anyway as I still had my HR monitor.
Within a few days I’d gained around 100 miles on my required average of 233.3 miles per day. My walking was effected by stiff legs but after 4 days or so, they started to loosen up again. I felt that I might have built some muscle mass in the first few days as I started feeling stronger. In spite of feeling stronger, I wasn’t putting as much power out, so feelings can be desceptive. I’d also lost about 3 kilos in the first 4-5 days. I wasn’t eating as much as expected I would but within about a week I was starting to eat more and my weight became stable.
Once I’d settled in, my riding was stable for the first two weeks but some of my mileage gains that put me above my required average for 7000 miles were decaying a little bit. I had also noticed that Amanda had started to increase her mileage. I didn’t know if she was banking extra miles because of a forecast for storms or being sporting with me. As one of my reasons for riding was to see if I could at least match Amanda’s mileage for the month, I went along with it and decided to try and match her.
On 10th September I set off on Audax UK’s 600km Flatlands ride to gain my Super Randonneur status for the year. I have ridden at least 1 SR every year since I joined Audax UK in 1992, so wanted to keep it going. I rode a bit easier as I was going to start with a longer day than normal. I increased my effort for the last few hours and rode with Colin Bezant for the last few hours as we had both booked into the same hotel for sleep. I had to let him go 12 miles before we arrived as it was midnight and I needed to restart my GPS to split the days mileages but I caught him just as we both arrived at the hotel.
I finished the event then rode home the next day. The event probably cost a few miles because of the relatively frequent stops but it was nice to catch up and ride with a few friends.
On 16th September, I set off early to try for another 300 mile day. It started well as I’d done 91 miles into a light wind before a second breakfast of two 14oz steaks. Things took a turn for the worse as it started to rain as I was eating. After my steaks I set off wearing my waterproof jacket. But my waterproof jacket turned out to no longer be waterproof as I headed into the wind and rain. I turned around as planned so that my headwind would become a tailwind for the rest of the day. I never seemed to get much benefit from the wind and I started getting cold because of my failing waterproof jacket.
After a few hours I was finding it difficult to use my brakes because my hands and arms were so cold. I was also considering where I could buy a new jacket and dry clothes but couldn’t really think of anywhere nearby.
I knew that I had to warm up pretty soon. I thought about taking shelter but saw a large area of blue sky. I’d have to ride into the wind to get there but figured riding into a headwind would still give more miles than stopping, so I headed for blue sky and hoped I’d dry out and warm up.
I never warmed up very much and ended up taking shelter in a Mc Donalds. My hands weren’t working very well and it was difficult to eat because I had so little dexterity. Things gradualy improved as I got warmer and once I’d eaten and my hands were working again I set off and headed for home. Still a reasonable mileage with 263, but not the 300 I was after and it was a tough day so it weakened me for the next day meaning that I rode fewer miles than I’d have liked. I replaced my waterproof with another brand new one.
After two weeks, my main GPS became full of data and was deleting my previous days ride then eventually stopped being any use. I didn’t try to fix it as I had a brand new device and my trusty Etrex as backup. I also had another tempromental device as further unreliable backup but my new device was going strong. I’ve been using an Etrex before I used cycling specific GPSs and find them more reliable but unfortunately don’t record power data. It does record HR data, so is still useful for verification of my rides. I doubted that my new device would let me down more than one or two occasions and it was fine for the rest of the month. I was carrying a power pack to recharge my Edge GPS because of their relatively short battery lives. My Etrex runs on AA batteries, so I carried a few spares, even though good rechargeables last over 24 hours.
In spite of feeling better my power output seemed to be dropping on the 3rd week. I was finding that it was taking me longer than I expected to get to bed and get out on the road each day.
One day I stayed in a hotel in Goole so I could take advantage of the wind, which would change direction the following day.
Finishing my day at around 11pm would mean no chance of a meal so I bought food from the 24 hour gas station next door to eat as I rode. Thereafter, I ended up eating my supper while on the bike and doing an extra hour of riding, but at a slower pace. This worked well because I was no longer rushing to eat food before I got to bed and meant that I could ride a bit easier and for a bit longer.
This developed into me deliberately slowing down and eating while riding at roughly every 60 miles, turning my days into some kind of interval sessions. I was still spending about an hour each day stopped as I had to stop at junctions, buy food and water, prepare food for my pockets to be eaten on the road which I usualy had to do twice for each feed because of the amount that I was eating. I did sometimes eat while stopped so that I could eat things like packaged fruit and other food that wouldn’t be practical to eat while riding and I did stop for a sit down meal on a few days.
I did have it mind to have another go at a 300 miler on the 3rd weekend but felt that I was too far behind with my sleep for an extra early start and my legs weren’t up to riding faster, so I maintained what I’d been doing, hoping that I’d make a recovery to finish the month with a good day’s mileage on the last day.
Around about that time I had a problem with internet connection on both my netbook and phone, so was uploading my rides to Strava via an old system running on the obsolete Windows XP. It was very slow, sometimes taking 10 minutes to upload a page. The poor internet connection pretty much made me incommunicado and unable to put anything out on Facebook and Twitter without it costing me a lot of time.
Instead of fighting to ride at a certain level, I rode steady and maintained my 60 mile intervals with rest riding and eating for the last week. As I was trying for a midnight start on the last day, I was trying to set off earlier each day so as to get to bed earlier each night but that never worked out.
Setting off earlier meant that I ended up further away from home before the wind would drop and I’d turn south. That in turn made my rides longer, which meant I actually did the opposite and was getting home after midnight. That wasn’t neseccarily a bad thing as the miles past midnight would count towards the following days mileage and if I could finish the penultimate day earlier, I could grab a short sleep late at night before setting off at midnight or in the small hours for a final long stretch.
One day in the last week I changed my route and rode SW to Malmaesbury in the Cotswolds because of my earlier start and wind conditions.
Setting myself up for a long final day was always going to be difficult without letting the miles drop. It was a matter of judging between effort and hours of sleep needed. I didn’t get it exactly right because I ended up needing to sleep until the early morning on the last day.But I did finish my last day with a better mileage than usual, so I think I had some success.
By the last day I had surpassed the record and was well on target for my 7000 miles. I wasn’t up to the 300 miles I wanted, but thought I’d try for a final day of 270 miles.
I’d ridden past midnight, so already had a few in the bank for my final day. I also arranged to meet Kajsa Tylen, who is riding a non WUCA version of the year record which is being verified by Guinness World Records at a cafe in Lincolnshire.
My recovery seemed to have worked very well as I was going stronger than I had all month. That could partly be down to taking caffeine pills and drinking a fair amount of coffee. I made my appointment on time but Kajsa was having a bit of a hard time and got there later than planned. I decided to enjoy my last day and wait for Kajsa as I had the record and reaching my target of 7000 miles would just be an easy ride away. It was good to chat and catch up with Kajsa and she is looking very good for record attempt.
I still wanted to ride further than Amanda and we were virtually level pegging, but figured that Amanda wouldn’t do anything extra special (other than ride at her usual extra special standard that is) and that I would just about manage if I kept up a reasonable pace to get back home.
For my finish, I advertised on Facebook that I’d do my last hour of the month riding laps of a 3 mile circuit which encircled the estate where I live and invited anyone interested out to join in or spectate. We also arranged the finishing venue to be a local 24 hour Mc Donalds and invited anyone interested to be there.
Nobody turned up on the circuit betwen 11pm and almost midnight and 6 people turned up to Mc Donalds including Idai Makaya, who made a very short movie clip of the occasion, Andy Morris, who helped me on my HAMR and Rich Forrest, who sourced the recumbent trike for me when I got my broken ankle on my HAMR.
I got home at 1:30am, fell asleep trying to order a food delivery on line via my slow computer, woke up the next morning and set off to ride a local sportive. I uploaded my final day’s miles when I got home from the sportive, finally stopping for a meal at a carvery on my way home.
Amanda seems to have reduced her mileage back to what it was before I started my month. I still don’t know if it was an effort to outdo me, but thought it was good sport. I wish Amanda good luck with the rest of the HAMR and making the WUCA record even harder for me to beat. I also hope that Amanda gets her 3 free entries in for month records during her HAMR as I think she would set a very good ladies record and could even beat what I did.
Also good luck to Alicia Searvogel and Kajsa Tylen and for that matter, anyone else who may take on the HAMR and month records.