I suppose I should to tell a little bit about myself, maybe that’ll give you a little insight into the beast within that’s now driving me to spend hours riding my bike long and unsupported, in a manner that most people think is excessive!
I live in Windsor, Berkshire although I originate from Lancashire. I spent 22 years in the army in my local Infantry Regiment. Over the years as an Infantryman I built up this tendency to do things to the extreme, mainly due to the nature of the job but also a simple hankering to do things big, all long left behind when I finished my time over 16 years ago. I’m 56 years of age, not exactly a spring chicken but I’ve never seen age as a barrier when it comes to simply racking up miles. One thing I will need to be to have reasonable success is to be both robust in mind and body and be a little feral in nature. I know I have it, its just a question of resurrecting it from its dormant state to help me take on these challenges.
Running and my Army days
In the army I was an avid sportsman and in particular keen on running and very competitive. I simply trained and raced all the time. I think the picture speaks for itself.
I was pretty good at the shorter distances but the half marathons and marathons were the distances I specialized in, PB’s of just outside 1hour 10mins for the half and 2hrs 38mins for the full marathon are pretty respectable in anybody’s book. Still that wasn’t enough for me and in time I morphed into an ultra distance runner and progressed onto the more fruitcake events and distances, mountain marathons and super marathons, distances that most folk would think ridiculous. My running excesses culminated in finishing the Marathon des Sables, a race equivalent to running five and a half marathons consecutively in 6 days across the Sahara desert. A race described by many as the toughest footrace on earth. Nowhere else to go after finishing that, I felt I could walk on water, albeit with sore feet!
Cycling takes over
The cycling lark started around five years ago, my employers dragged me by the scruff of the neck down to the local bike shop then press-ganged me into getting a bike on the ‘cycle to work scheme’. The turmoil I’ve put my family through since then lies 100% with them. Yes Tim Stephen…it was you!!!! Since then it’s grown into a passion, I tell everybody I’m just trying to recapture my youth, but on a bike. It wasn’t long before I was looking for a cycling club and eventually joined Thames Velo, a Windsor and Maidenhead based local cycling club, for my sins I’m now the club ride leader. Over time this group of like minded cyclist became friends and it’s due to their camaraderie and encouragement I am where I am today. I initially tried out sportives, the longer supported rides before my competitive instinct took hold and for the last couple of years I’ve been racing both on the circuits and roads. I progressed to 3rd Cat a couple of years ago and then the following year got halfway to 2nd Cat. That same year I raced my first 3 day stage race, albeit on circuits, I also raced in the National Veterans Champs in my age group and came 6th.
I’ve been a regular on the clubs training camps in Spain and this year also ventured out to tackle Mont Ventoux, rode the three ascents in one day thereby joining that strange group of riders within the Club des Cingle’s. The same year I rode across the Swiss Alps over the course of a week in weather that can only be described as horrendous. As racers will tell you, racing can be fraught with crashes which really tests your resolve especially when your unfortunate enough to be caught up in them. I’ve been involved in a number, broken ribs, a punctured lung, a blood clot and a leg that swelled to the size of a tree trunk which Sir Chris Hoy would have been proud of. They say your not a proper racer until you’ve broken your collar bone, done that, I have a plate and six screws.
Time to change direction
It was in August 2014 that I finally came to my senses on the start line of a local race, I looked round and clearly I was the oldest person there, I thought ‘what am I doing here’. That was the point I decided I needed to find a new motivation. So the appeal of the hustle and bustle of group racing waned, I decided its time to ‘go long’ and check out that thing called ‘personal limit’ and the Transcontinental Road Race was the inspiration. Nothing like taking the bull by the horns and hitting the extreme head on!!
Since September 2014 I’ve been dabbling in Audax events learning the unsupported trade. For those uninitiated these are shoestring events, long rides, some with consecutive days riding long distances all unsupported. These are not races, entrants simply battle against the clock and personal pride. A different breed of riders but what they all have in common is determination, stamina and the refusal to give up. There be the next challenges!
Looking forward to 2016
In 2015 I took on the third edition of the Transcontinental Road Race. I didn’t quite finish it, struck down by a virus a mere 300 miles short of the finish. I’m back again in 2016 and I look forward to the challenge once again. The build up I’ve scheduled to prepare me for this race is challenging once gain, you can view it here. Last years race I learned many valuable lessons and with the experience gained I’m confident I can get through this next race and at the same time be much more competitive.
In terms of the blog, its here to track my journey. If your interested in following me then this is the place to come. Nearer the race I’ll be posting all the information on here so you can follow my journey, preparation and ultimately follow my race across the whole social media spectrum.
Happy and safe riding folks!