South West London DA: Sou' Wester Archive
Mersey Roads 24 hour, 2005

Mersey Roads 24 hour 2005 - (Jan/Feb 2007)

My first 24 hour, many asked why?

The idea started when I found out that no woman in my club's 68 year history had ever done one. I'd only been doing time trialling for six years - but I'm up for a challenge. I joined the 24 hour Fellowship and enjoyed reading the back journals they sent. But I started getting nervous when I read another woman's first attempt - she had nine helpers, I was only planning on having one!

I really only started serious long distance mileages from May and averaged about 250 -300 miles weekly. I started riding out and back to time trials, although 34 miles before a '50' didn't do much for my time! My longest ride was home to Lyme Regis on my road bike which is set up identically to my racing bike. I had panniers holding all my food and drink and spare clothes. It was 163 miles and I left at 4:00am, practicing using my new Enduro lights. I'd forgotten there was a 15% mile long hill at 160 miles which was certainly character building!

Then the day drew nearer, my partner and I booked into a Good Beer Guide Pub at the HQ at Farndon two nights before. We checked out Lynn's café at Prees Island. I had already decided that my one treat during the 24 hours was to have one shortish midnight café stop. We also planned where the car would be left for the majority of the race, parked at Prees Island. It is an estate and Steve would sleep in it while I did the night's 39 mile circuits, otherwise he would be too sleepy to drive us home to Surrey on Sunday evening. I would carry a phone for emergencies, and a spare car key, so I could get into the car when he was having a curry or enjoying some local real ale.

On the Friday I prepared the food and drink and filled up several chill-boxes - in retrospect I made far too much! Friday evening we had a short walk across a river into Wales, and I had a huge pasta meal and two puddings.

I slept very well both nights and I was off at 1:10pm on Saturday. It was a relief to get on the bike again and I was very excited. I was just determined to finish, but how many miles should I try to expect to do? My secret aim was to try and do 368 and get a National Age Record but I was pretty sure this would be out of reach on my first attempt, as it would be such a steep learning curve. I used my lightweight steel Roberts bike, but no tri bars, and we had put a mud-guard on the back as rain was forecast.

The weather was quite cool but it was very pleasant after the heatwave six days before in the National 100, where I got awful cramps at mile 97. I carried a camel-back and had a goodie bag that sits on the top tube: filled with various snacks including small savoury sandwiches. The time seemed to go quickly and the marshals and spectators were very encouraging. I stopped at the car to pick up more supplies, then it was off onto the shorter 12 mile Quina Brook circuit. I really liked this circuit as you couldn't get bored, and then after a few circuits it was back to the car to put on my night jacket, change camel-backs and off on the 39 mile circuit again.

There were feed stations at Prees and then 10 miles down the road at Hodnet so you were never more than 20 miles from food and drink. As it got darker, I enjoyed seeing the sun set. I have always enjoyed cycling at night for some strange reason, so was actually looking forward to the night cycling. The marshals continued being so encouraging and cheerful, it seemed amazing to have so many out there all night. Then it was pitch dark, some of the roads didn't even have a white line on the left hand side but my lights were amazing, and I also wore a light-weight head lamp which was very useful as I could see my speedo, distance covered and heart rate monitor.

It was great seeing other riders on the road and their helpers parked in lay-bys. My jacket was not quite warm enough and there was some rain, but I didn't end up changing it. As you approached Prees Island at the end of each circuit, the lights got brighter and brighter and then you were there with all the people cheering you on - it was amazing. They were even shouting out "come on Ann" or "come on Phoenix" even when my club jersey was covered up by my night jacket!

Back to the car and this time Steve wasn't there - he was in the pub as planned and then having a curry. So I stocked up on more food and drink and off again. Then after 11½ hours it was decision time - stop now for my midnight café stop or go on another 39 mile circuit? Decided to stop - wonderful crumble and custard and a coffee, but in retrospect I lost 35 minutes and also if I'd stopped later my 12 hour time would have been more than 186 miles.

Steve then slept in the car again. Then I suddenly realised dawn was approaching and that was great - but for the first time I felt very slightly sleepy and made good use of the Hodnet feed to have a coffee and banana which did the trick. I had not long passed someone having a sleep at the roadside.

At Hodnet they were encouraging a sleepy tricyclist to get out of a chair and back on his bike! I just couldn't give the race less than 100% as the marshals were just so encouraging, I felt like a superstar all day and night! Lots of the top riders were giving encouragement and Lynne Taylor said "come on Ann" and I was really chuffed! Keith Coffey kept giving encouragement when he passed - he was our club guest speaker at our Awards evening in February and when he heard I was doing a 24 he said he may too - he did incredibly well to be second at his first attempt.

(to be continued... )


Mersey Roads 24 hour 2005 - part 2 - (Mar/April 2007)

I'd decided to have my usual cereal at around 7am and changed my shorts but kept long thin leggings on. Steve said I did seem to have a bit of a low patch during the night and seemed to spend too long choosing what to take with me, but strangely I didn't really notice it. I had started getting rather a sore behind, but I'd expected that, and it was foremost in my mind.

Then it was off back to the 12 mile Quina Brook circuit and Steve said I seemed to really pick up after breakfast - it was as if I'd started a new day of cycling, most strange! I felt really good on these circuits and was managing nearly 16mph. I realised I'd had far too much time off the bike to get anywhere near 368, but the main thing was that I was so enjoying the experience and the whole atmosphere of the event.

Amazingly, maybe due to spinning light gears as much as possible, my legs didn't feel too bad, and I didn't have any back ache. Getting cramp in the 100 taught me a huge lesson about not pushing heavy gears. But at about 21 hours I started to get a very painful left hand and found it difficult to keep it on the drops. Still, considering I didn't have any other major problems I felt I'd been pretty lucky in my first attempt.

I seemed to keep going round the Quina Brook circuit, what I didn't realise till later was that we had to wait for a huge slow load to go before going to the finishing circuit. Then off we were sent - and I knew the finish was in sight! Amazingly we seemed to have a lovely tail wind to the finishing circuit, just what was needed as a final morale booster.

The organisers were amazing as first the start had to be moved due to roadworks, then they had the slow load to contend with, then the finishing circuit had to be changed to a shorter one at the very last minute. It was a bit hilly with quite narrow roads in places, but just the thing to keep you on your guard and I found the concentrating on the twists and turns made the time go quickly. I couldn't believe that I felt better and stronger than on the finishing circuit of a "12".

The support and cheers were fantastic - but at one hour to go I'd run out of food and drink and didn't have an emergency gel, but in the end couldn't be bothered to stop, then my time was up, and there was Steve who had miraculously worked out which time-keeper I'd stop at! I was over the moon and it confirmed what many had said - that it is the best event on the time trial calendar.

I just felt very privileged to be part of it and indebted to all the marshals and others as their encouragement helped me achieve what I did. Back to headquarters and confirmed so quickly that I'd done 342 miles. Later I studied my heart rate graph and splits and realised I'd had over two hours off the bike - much more than I'd planned, I was very surprised how the minutes here and there added up. So next year will be very different, probably much harder!

So it was my turn to sleep in the back of the car going home, out like a light for about 5 hours. Home at 9pm then slept well again and off to work Monday with a big smile on my face! The buzz and feeling of achievement stayed with me for at least 2 weeks. Then after a few days off the bike and eating loads, the following weekend we went on a three day, 180 mile tour carrying tent and sleeping gear, so I was delighted at my fast recovery.

Putting in the extra miles in preparation just made me realise how much I love all aspects of cycling - whether it's leisure cycling, touring, racing, even just cycling to work or the shops. I really would recommend anyone having a go at the 24 hour as it really is such an amazing event. For the modest entry cost you are so well supported with food and drink if you want it, free food at Lynn's all night cafe, the priceless cheers and smiles all night long, and to cap it all a medal and 24 hour Mersey embossed individual photo.

So roll on 2006, when I really will try and do over 368 miles! Anyone who would like any more information or encouragement please contact me

Ann Bath

Picture of Ann Bath