RTTC 12 hours, mens record on Tandem Tricycle
Here's the email that I sent out after the race : (link to photos at the end)
You won't catch this Bus !
Months ago, Dave Johnson had said that he was prepared to ride the Icknield Road Club 12 hour on the tandem tricycle (with me!). In many ways, it had actually been his idea. I'd mentioned that I'd like to do it, but it was definitely him who said "National Champs 12 hour on 18th August, followed by taking the tandem trike around the Icknield 12 two weeks later". It took me no time at all to accept the offer, and it was penned into the diary.
Therefore, with four weeks to go, I was quite alarmed to hear that he didn't think he could do it after all. We had a phone call with lots of long pauses, deep breaths, and general uncomfortableness. We agreed that he would "think about it". Thankfully, he decided to give it a go. A good thing really, as I wasn't looking forward to smashing all the windows in his house. It would have put our friendship under stress, I suspect.
We rode the Championship 12 hour on solo machines, with Dave taking an exceptional 5th place, and me getting 16th on my tricycle. All we had to do was recover. I also had to repair the damage done to the tandem when we had previously ridden it. With a week to go the transmission had been rebuilt, and the only problem was one jumping gear, which I made a hurried effort to sort out.
We started last, at 7:04 on Sunday 1st September. Certain members of my family felt that it was inappropriate to do a race on my son's second birthday, but I checked with Henry and he said it was okay as long as he got his presents a day early. Conditions were good (although Dave was uncontrollably shivering for the first few miles). We held our schedule at the first check, and were a couple of minutes ahead at the next.
The record for "two blokes and three wheels" was 257.47 miles. I had previously had a share in the record, as Gerry Lewis and I had clocked 251.25 m in 1997. We'd done this despite changing a puncture, riding 5 miles on a flat, and then losing 10 minutes with a potentially 'terminal' mechanical problem. Add to this the fact that Liz Milne and I had ridden 258.26m for the 'mixed' record, and you can see why I felt confident that I could retake the men's record. After much thought, I decided that Dave and I should target 275m, and so a schedule was devised ....
We were moving really well. At one point, when we were clocking over 30mph on the flat, Dave commented "this is almost embarrassing ...", because things just seemed so easy. We went through 50 miles in 1 hour 53 mins, which was about 6 minutes faster than scheduled for. Were we trying too hard? We had to hope not.
The first 80 miles were on the A1, which is usually quite a fast road. Things then became a little more difficult when we moved east, and onto rougher stuff. That said, we still went through 100 miles in 3 hours 55 mins, so hadn't slowed up much. We were very much in touch with the best of the riders in the solo event - Gethin Butler and Ian Cammish were only a few minutes ahead.
We then started the first lap of a 15 mile circuit. We were beginning to notice a breeze, which was an irritation at times. However, we held a seven minute advantage over schedule for the next few hours. 150 miles passed in 6 hours 9 mins, but by about 7 hours Dave was beginning to complain a bit. We had started to use lower gears after the first few hours (not least because I hadn't managed to fix that jumping gear!), and now we were seeming to slow down.
Curiously, however, we were still hanging onto our advantage. At the end of our fourth lap, the normal course was to head back west .... but any riders expected to beat 275 miles were sent on an extra lap. Dave was hoping to avoid this little "bonus", but he was disappointed, and so were ground our way around for a fifth time.
The standard fix for someone wilting in a 12 hour is to eat some food, drink plenty, and "concentrate on the pedalling". Eventually, you feel better (or the time runs out!). As we returned to Biggleswade, Dave was brightening up again, but we were down to just a five minute advantage on the schedule at the 200 mile point (8 hours 25 mins).
The next sections were a couple of detours near Bedford, and we were riding much better there. We dragged ourselves up to a 10 minute advantage, but were back to 8 when we started the Finishing Circuit at 235 miles. We had taken a 'natural break' at 101 miles, and took another at 243 miles. As a result, we completed the first lap with a five minute advantage.
For the first time, I felt confident enough to predict that our final mileage would be above 275. Until then, there was plenty of scope for things to crack up, like they had done for one of the other tandem pairings, who had started quite quickly, but were last seen travelling at about 10 mph after about 160 miles.
We rode a solid second lap, and had 36 minutes remaining when we started our third lap with 265.6 on the clock. We rode past the Event HQ with about 90 seconds remaining, having covered over 277 miles. And then we collapsed. Suddenly, we had nothing left.
But we had to continue to the next timekeeper after our time expired. We were around the twisting bends at Jordan's Mill, and were over the narrow bridge when the 12 hours came up. There was then an uphill section before a couple of right turns. The marshals had gone home rather prematurely (Paul and Nikki, you know who you are!), but we knew where to go. Then there was a rough stretch with a sharp bend before you could see the timekeeper.
Except we couldn't ! There had been a clear sign on previous laps, but suddenly it wasn't there. There were some cars, but no sign denoting a timekeeper. I continued, believing that it would be around the next bend (I've been deluded before, you know!). But there was nothing there, so we decided to cut our losses and retrace. We were, after all, over 3 minutes past our limit, and completely knackered.
Luckily, the timekeeper had actually been sitting in his car preparing to leave, and so by chance was able to record our time. I have a feeling, though, that if Tim (our backup / feeder / mechanic) hadn't stopped the car and alerted him..... well, who knows? But anyway, we were grateful to get an official time and hence credit for the last mile or so before 7:04 pm.
Back at the HQ things were a bit of a blur, and for a while we were credited with almost 279 miles. However, when the calculations were checked, we ended up with 277.92, which is just over 20 miles in excess of the previous mark. It's fair to say that we're pretty happy with that.
RD Sep 2002
Cool Pictures (by Tim)