Rat Race- The Final Chapter

Thursday night and a kit bag is packed full for every eventuality, as my Mum would say hope for the best, yet pack for the worst. I was SISFuelled to the max and my food stash weighed almost as much as my kit.

As I alluded to in my earlier blog, I started training in March this year and had clocked up 1100 miles, but in truth for an event like the Rat Race Road trip, even if you doubled this you never feel truly prepared.

ImageThat Friday night after a fantastic protein rich dinner at Bar Boulud, I asked Murch if he had set the alarm for 4.30am. I hadn’t envisaged the broken night’s sleep which followed; a 2am fire call, one of our fellow residents had been smoking in their hotel room and set off the alarm!  Ken in the next room, as the ever dutiful Lotus health and safety manager, was no doubt impressed by the two pronged safety alert of amber flashing room light and the 154 decibels!Image

Day one – Saturday 4th May – 220 miles to York.  First a double Espresso from Alan’s Nespresso machine with personalized demi tasse cups.

Now we were ready for launch from Tower Bridge at 5.30am. For years I have worked in the city as a chef, but to ride these roads as we headed north seemed surreal.  To pass 1km from where I live in Hertfordshire an hour later even more so!

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The weather was a mix of sun, rain and a 15-minute full-on hailstorm, but it was the strong wind that tested our resolve. We settled down and after 50 miles Alan and myself wanted to lift it a little, to use “Murch logic” the quicker we went the more rest we would get before day 2, sounded good to me.

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Andrew and Ken decided to knock it back a little and keep their powder dry for Sunday, so we pushed on with two new chums, Ben and Marcus.  Both strong guys, a quartet was not really big enough, however every group we caught couldn’t maintain our tempo.

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The last 20 miles seemed to take an age, maybe it was because a new personal distance record was being set. We arrived at York Racecourse with 220 miles in our legs just before 7pm.

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As we waited for Ken and Andrew at the finish, there were a couple of slots available for a massage. With my ongoing back problem I took advantage and rather than rub my tired legs I asked them to focus on my tender back.

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All afternoon after consuming complex carbs and sticky drinks we were lusting after steak and chips, however when the disappointing plate of food finally arrived at 9.30pm, I wondered why.

Bed at 11.30pm and up 6 hours later. Although the start was open from 4am, our previous quartet had planned to ride together again with a strategy of a little more rest and then to catch other groups on the road.

At the start we soon discovered there had been a handful of non-starters for day 2 and as with big challenges like this a few more non-finishers that evening.

A swift bacon roll from the rat race burger van which felt like a Michelin starred feast and we set off at 6.40 am with heavy legs. The sheer enormity of the next 12-13 hours in the saddle began to crystallise.

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The first 20 miles was a struggle and I was beginning to think my grasp was far greater than my reach.  An hour later my legs had settled in to the familiar rhythm as Alan, Ben, Marcus and myself- bedded in for another all day workout in the saddle.

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Some tough roads in Northumbria were to follow, with gradients of 17% and pitted road surfaces but worst of all the return of the most unwelcome nagging wind from the day before added another dimension of toughness.

At an average pace of 18.5mph the day before, we knew that with today’s terrain we would be hard pressed to match that again.

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Past some beautiful castles and stunning scenery; the organizers had picked a truly beautiful ‘Parcours’. There was the last demanding 30 mile segment into Scotland to complete but this time we were racing against the failing light.

At speed, just before the final check I hit a huge pothole, straight over the handlebars! Check the bike – bit of scuffing but all ok.  Check clothing – New Shoe covers, jersey and helmet took the brunt, luckily I was wearing mitts as these were shredded.  Check myself, the classic hip, elbow and knee combo but also my back got it on this occasion. The bits of raw flesh would heal, but there was worse my iPhone in its protective cover in my back pocket had a cracked screen!!

The crash had released a huge amount of adrenaline (a most welcome by-product for the final section).  That with a touch of anger that the surface was so bad. I was also annoyed with myself that a moment’s lack of concentration had caused my tumble.

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Two big climbs left up to an elevation of 1400ft and then for the remaining 20 miles we lost height to sea level.  All that was left was the finish up a slight drag to Holyrood park.

A huge relief in finishing and then a memorable sausage and vegetable casserole!

As this is my final Rat Race chapter, it would be amiss not to mention some heartfelt thanks

Specialized UK – The Roubaix sport was both comfortable and assured, your BG Shorts are the best I have ridden and with the helpful addition of a large dollop of Assos chamois cream I didn’t suffer a saddle sore.

Garmin – the 810 recorded all the miles, elevation and pain just in case I ever forget and need to look back and remind myself.

Science in Sport – your isotonic nutrition kept my fluid and energy levels well topped up and alongside Rob’s Cheese and ham baguette, I never ran out of fuel or had twinges of cramp.

And finally huge thanks to Cycling Plus Editor Rob Spedding and photographer Tom Simpson for the organization and encouragement.

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So what can you say about a cycle event that departs from London and in 440 miles ends in Edinburgh, climbs 20,000ft of elevation and all this over 2 days. One four-letter word sums it up…. EPIC!

The Rat Race road trip, whether you take on the 4 day or the full on 2 day is a testing, well marked and scenic route. If you love a challenge get the date in your cycling calendar for 2014 now!

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~ by theboxterboy on June 2, 2013.

3 Responses to “Rat Race- The Final Chapter”

  1. What an epic, epic ride Hayden. Beautifully written about too and the photos are stunning. Thanks for sharing and motivating us to get out there and give it a go…. definitely thinking about it! Keep it up and stay safe.

  2. […] 2013 when Alan Murchison and I took on a wee 448 mile 2 day ride from London to Edinburgh, link- https://itsnotaboutthegrouse.wordpress.com/2013/06/02/rat-race-the-final-chapter/  the reason being the National chef of the year win back in 2013 had presented more diary […]

  3. […] both for charity. Also cycling I had got myself ready to ride an incredible 440miles in 2 days from London to Edinburgh in just 8 […]

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