Congratulation to James MacDonald for breaking the current 500 km and 300 Mile indoor track record in the 50-59 Age group on a Standard Bike.

Distance Event KilometersTimeAvg Sp (Km)Avg Sp (Miles) Existing records : male 50-59 standard bikenew record
500 Km Indoor Velodrome13:52:13.0036.0522.40 16:43:21 Jose Manuel Diaz 2019-06-01 (GWR: 12:24:52 Strasser)yes
Distance Event MilesTimeAvg Sp (Miles)Avg Sp (Km) Existing records : male 50-59 standard bikenew record
300 Mile Indoor Velodrome13:24:19.1122.3836.02 16:08:32 Jose Manuel Diaz 2019-06-01 (GWR 11:58:03 Strasser)yes

James MacDonald 24 hour Indoor Velodrome Rider Report

This 24 hour indoor velodrome record attempt has been in the making ever since the previous attempt in 2019. I had always expected to try this record again after the first time and was anticipating that to happen around Sept 2020 but before I could get that arranged COVID hit (both the world and me – twice) and so May 2023 was literally the first time we could arrange it for again. After getting COVID the second time it wiped me out for 4 months all through the summer of 2022 so once I was healthy again (August 2022) I started crawling my way back to fitness again. Throughout the whole 2022/2023 Scottish winter I trained for this attempt, it was grim in extreme. The winter was one of the worst we have had recently and January/February was especially difficult trying to balance the boredom of indoor training with the harsh and dangerous weather outside however with a final push I was as ready as I ever would be given I am an amateur and my job regularly takes its toll in time and travel. My fitness numbers were the best ever and that’s saying something at 52 years old.

The days before the attempt were used for testing the track timing, setup and equipment and for a great chill-out ride that lasted about 5 hours in the sun the day before with Tim Wade. The morning of the attempt was quite relaxed actually, I had GCN+ following me for the last 2+ years and they were in Newport to document the final prep, filming me packing my suitcase and such like. It’s still a bit weird to be filmed doing normal tasks like walking to a car and getting into it. 

We had a strict timetable for pre ride fuelling and also where we all needed to be as the attempt was to start at noon exactly. Given it was being streamed live online we needed to be on time, it also made subsequent time checks easier.

The ride itself was full of activities. Every 15 minutes I would take a bottle of energy drink (not a full one) and drink it within one lap and throw it back, so there straight away was a schedule to follow. Ride in the aero position for 15 mins, sit up, drink throw bottle back, settle back into aero position. I was using a Supersapiens glucose monitor and my phone was trackside and picked up most of the data, Jill Mooney, an ultra cycling sports nutritionist was watching my levels remotely from Ireland, the team did need to make adjustments to the hydration levels on the fly but once those were adjusted they were perfect. The fuelling was also amazing, no dips or over feeding. No stomach cramps etc. Amazing.

Initially we had to sort a comfort issue out on my aero bars but a little on the go installation of an additional piece of padding sorted that out, also made it an interesting first half an hour.

Toby Ellis was on the radio the whole time, we discussed music, fuelling, pacing and all sorts. Overall the whole 20 hours went really quickly, people have asked me if this sort of riding is boring, it’s not, that’s one thing I don’t suffer from when doing this is boredom. 

For this ride we had technical support again from Tim Wade from Twinlabs for live physiological telemetry, the team could see my heart rate, power, cadence and speed all live via the embedded ANT+ sensors under the track. We installed them back in 2019 for the first attempt with Cisco and NTT.  I didn’t need to look at my Wahoo computer at all, although I did sometimes and of course it was recording the ride for analysis later.

We also had the team from Appsbroker providing an automated secondary timing system as required by WUCA rules. They created a laser and live image recognition system that counted laps, the visual recognition system detected “a cyclist” and counted a lap using Google Vision API technology. Very cool – and meant the team didn’t need to manually count laps like before. Appsbroker also provided the livestream website for remote viewers to see what was happening.

In terms of the ride itself I was told to pace conservatively for the first 12 hours so that the second 12 hours would be more manageable but this constant feathering of pace was really hard to do and made my contact points really sore. Doing 200 watts instead of 220 meant the pressure on my saddle area was more and the balance was all wrong. It was also very hard mentally to not ride at a comfortable pace. It also meant that I wasn’t in the running to break my own age group WUCA records in this timeframe, something we had always anticipated being a great motivator but my coach Gary Hand had explained I would need this buffer for later.

As the ride went on however the violence of riding the track bike in the static environment was getting harder, my legs were fine, energy was fine but the constant G forces on 200psi tyres and dry warm air was getting to me. It’s hard to describe what it’s like but I couldn’t see far enough ahead to spot a point on the track with my eyes so the black line was a blur the whole time, this gets to you eventually. At the stops I could see just how “out of it” I was as I found it hard to focus and being still was like stepping onto land once you have found your sea legs. It’s quite disconcerting. Around 2am I was sleepy and struggling to focus mentally, I stopped for a short break, I fell asleep. Upon returning to the track I literally could barely see the track and I was frozen due to being covered up while lying down. All I could see was a faint blurry black line so I rode hard to wake up and hoped I could start to be more alert. I was shivering and I could hear my breathing was erratic. I settled down and got back into things however the neurological effect of the constant blurred line and leaning left, the G-forces and inability to move or adjust my arms was getting harder to cope with. 

I don’t remember that much about the whole ride really but I do remember the time I went across the line for the age group WUCA 300 mile record shortly followed by the 500km record. Toby had made sure any team member that was sleeping was woken and they were all there at the start/finish line cheering me on. I kind of knew that this was probably going to be the only celebrations that day, the 1000km age group record was getting out of reach even though the pace was fine, it was my battered head that was the weak link.

I was watching the lap counter on the big screen and remembered that I had done 2400 laps in 2019. I wanted to better that at least. However I was actually wrong, it was just over 2000 laps I had done before but never knew that until after. I rode to 2500 laps and said I needed to come in. I felt like I’d been in a boxing match, legs were ok although I was sleepy, fuelling was great, but I was battered. I slept. When I woke up the team were not dragging me back onto the track, I thought this was odd. I walked towards them and they said “thats it, we don’t want you to ride anymore” I had been a bit erratic on the track towards the end of the last stint and I knew it. I had to agree with them and we called it a day.

2500 laps, 19 ½ hours on track, 300 mile and 500 km records in the bag. Everyone seemed ok with this, personally I wasn’t as broken as I thought I should be but I never had Steve Thomson there to push me as far as possible, I think that’s the reality. He knew when to push me to my absolute limits and when to let me rest. So I finished relatively unharmed and I was ok with that really. It’s a brutal environment to ride a bike, especially a track bike (that I insisted on using for reasons I can’t quite explain!)

This report does not cover one percent of what went went into preparing for or doing this record attempt, it was at least 5 years in the making the last 2 or so were captured by GCN for an upcoming documentary they will release later this year (2023) Thanks to Hugh Farrow, Annie Wareham and Mike Griffiths from GCN for their interest in this project and for being so accommodating and for all the crazy, fun experiences I have had filming with them!

Thanks also so much to the Ride24 team, you guys were amazing, not only on the day but beforehand also. From all the calls, emails, messages to the days out on the road with me in the dark and in the rain, Toby you were a star!

Gary Hand – Cycling Coach

Toby Ellis – Race Engineer

Chris Edwards – Team manager/money man

Tim Wade – Technical guru

Sean Wratten – Mechanic 

Jayne Ellis – medical/first aider

Jill Mooney – Nutritionist

Steve Miller – Newport Track Coach/Timing

Gary Hand – Espresso Cycle Coaching

And to Appsbroker team for the technical solution

Mike Conner – CEO

Matt Penton – Head of data and analytics

Nav Randhawa Data Engineer

Sophie Owen Data Engineer

Tarik Rahal Data Engineer

Jack Kersley-Rooke Data Engineer

Damien St John – Head of Content/Podcast producer

Thanks also to my amazing sponsors without who I could (would) not have done this.

Endura – truly custom clothing – skinsuit was literally made for me alone. Special thanks for Jim McFarlane for believing in me from 2017

BMC – very cool bikes that I love riding

Appsbroker – technical geniuses

Drag2Zero – aero bars and windtunnel know-how

Wahoo – trick pedals, computers and indoor training gear

Supersapiens – biohacking know-how, fuelling for perfection

Supernatural fuel – gut and eco friendly ride fuel

Bisaddle – unique ergo saddles that you can adjust to perfection, I couldn’t ride so much without these!

Veloskin – the best chamois creme there is, honestly, I have tried them all.

Muscle Injury Clinic – Weekly sessions with Jason to make me able to do the training!

Also I am very grateful to the following for their expert guidance and help getting me ready for this attempt.

Phil Burt – Physiotherapist and bike fit expert

Dr Josie Perry – Sports Phycologist

Mic Hapgood – Biomechanical Podiatrist