… organised by The Mersey Roads Club, took place on 23rd July 2016 at 1300hrs and I was foolhardy enough to take part. It’s straightforward enough, the race starts at Farndon, just south of Chester and works it’s way south to the “Race HQ” at Prees Heath roundabout where most support crews make camp (including my crew of Tony and Mick who by the looks of the picture below were earning a quid on the side washing vehciles…), riders continue down the A49 to loop back to Prees Heath before going down a similar circuit on the A41 with another loop on back roads through to Quina Brook. The race continues in this manner till 2200hrs when the A49 loop is closed and all riders are on the A41. At dawn the route moves on to repeated laps of Quina Brook before finally heading back north to start loops around Farndon.
After much deliberating I chose to use my Kinesis GF Ti road bike with clip on aero bars extended higher to provide comfort and a Swiss Side HADRON 800 rear wheel, it looked an odd set up but it’s an odd race and, although quite a few riders did, I wouldn’t be able to sit on a pure TT bike for 24hrs (not least because I don’t own one!).
I made most of my food, I make my own rice cakes and energy bars and took a selection of other bits and bobs, Prees Heath has a 24hr garage, a truckers cafe and a fish and chip shop so most of your bizarre mid ride cravings can be satisfied and the support crews are well catered for.
I’ve ridden for 24hrs a few times but always on my own and never in a race, I found myself signing up for it following a chat and a few beers with Robert Palmer from The Talbot in Settle, a veteran of Audax he told me about “The Mersey Roads” and it seemed a good idea, as most things do after a few ales…….
The weather on the start line was good and the forecast couldn’t have been better, I started well, the roads were busy although I soon grew to quite enjoy the HGVs going past, their draft giving you a gentle shove. I felt good through the afternoon, I’d planned on a 30 second food grab stop, as and when I needed it as I passed my support crew at Prees with longer stops planned at every 100 mile point. I’d decided to treat myself to a battered fish from the chippy after a 100 miles, there’s not many Time Trials where you can do this.(******
I attached my lights and carried on, I was averaging about 19-20 mph at this stage, I wasn’t wearing my HRM strap as I thought it would get uncomfortable and I was riding by feel anyway. The night section went well, eating a little and often and learning every inch of the A41. I found it easier not being able to see my Garmin, the race is all about the distance but you can’t focus on the numbers, they’re just too big and silly and if you start thinking about 400 miles when your Garmin is only showing 150 you’ll lose the will to live.
All went well till just after the half way point, I was at 215 miles at 12hrs so I was well on target for a 400+ but my stomach started playing up and I found it progressively harder to eat or drink, it’s a problem I’ve suffered from before so I took some tablets which ease the symptoms, unfortunately the lack of food led to a slowing of my pace and just before dawn I found myself in a near bonked state struggling to stay awake, I pulled over into a gateway and had some pretty strong words with myself before setting off again, as I got back to my support vehicle Tony had just cooked breakfast, a double espresso and a bacon butty went down and transformed me, even the voices in my head were happy after that. We were then on to the Quina Brook circuit which only took about 45 minutes a lap and was quite pleasant before we headed north, this road suited me with rolling hills and I was able to tap on quite happily before we dropped onto the finishing circuit. As one of the first starters I was going to be one of the first finishers which suited me as the final loop was awful, blistered roads and a long drag of a hill, after the first loop I was in bits but a can of coke and some motivational support from the crew spurred me on, the numbers ticked round agonizingly slowly, it seemed to take an age for the 23hr point to come round but eventually it did, after that it flew by. The 400 mile point came up and I powered on to eventually get an official distance of 402.49 miles, 26th overall.
A huge thanks to Tony Flanagan and Mick Waplington for supporting me, they were great and were so positive for the whole race, cheers guys!
Next year? I don’t know, I won’t say “never again” but there’s plenty of other daft things I’d like to have a shot at. Strava details of my ride are here. And yes, my bum did hurt!