My Rookie 24 by David Murphy

Next Saturday there’s an Audax Ireland event scheduled, offering a huge opening to all Audax Ireland members (and anyone else who meets the entry criteria) to ride for 24:00:00 hours, on an interesting circuit between Kilcullen and Athy Co Kildare, which I had the fun of trying out on Thursday evening for a couple of laps.

So I’m throwing down a challenge, and making an offer: A celebration drink of beer, alcoholic or non-alcoholic, on me, here, after the end of the event on Sunday, for any and all paid up Audax Ireland 24 hour TT debutante finishers who beat my distance (you’ll have to scan or preferably read my event report below to discover your target distance) set at the Mersey Roads 24 hour TT in 2013, where I too was a total beginner.

Here’s my report – as a support to Saturday’s event organiser, John O’Sullivan – on the 2013 event:

At a Sorrento CC club meeting in early 2013, I was regaled by Paul O’Donoghue and others with tales of various events that I could only dream of completing, given that up to that time I had completed maybe 6 to 8 200km events, a 300, and an Easter Flèche. In the Flèche I had covered an actual 395km with an official distance of 365km, so that was my distance PB until then. After several glasses of wine, on the way home I heard myself thinking, then saying “I’d love to do the UK 24hr TT this year”, and to their credit, POD, John O’Sullivan, and David Bayley were very open to the idea, and very welcoming. Plus, Clare and Susan came too, complete with camper van to make a mobile 24-hour support base and team.

My bike at the time was a somewhat adapted cyclo-cross frameset with decent wheels and tyres, adapted with some TT bars clamped to my usual drop bars. (You don’t need a special TT bike). Limited training was done – one 25 mile TT club event 9 days beforehand to be precise, and whatever gains acquired from the few Audax Ireland events I’d done. (You don’t need to have done a massive amount of specific training) Ultan Coyle had been the winner of the 2012 event, covering 488 miles or so, as I recall. Paul’s PB was close to Ultan’s, Dave and John weren’t far behind. I set a target of 400km, which felt do-able to me at the time.

The journey was very companionable and supportive, restful, and plenty of advice available. Four riders and two support crew feasted on various carb-loading goodies, some of which came in tall cool condensation-coated glasses (liquid bread, you understand).

The event day was warm and bright, becoming very hot as I remember it, and with breezes that seemed to come generally from the direction the rider was facing, most of the time. I was feeling good setting off as rider 28 (at 13:28) of about 98 entrants, with the known fast riders all going off at the end. Ultan Coyle was competing to retain his title; riders arrived on a wide array of machines; road bikes, extreme TT machines, tandems, trikes, a recumbent or two; I may be recalling hallucinations, but I’d nearly swear I saw a penny-farthing, a unicycle, and possibly also a velocipede, but don’t quote me on those.

I managed to generally stay on course almost all the time; by nightfall I had average speed in the high 20’s, managing some cramps with a mouthful (maybe just a McDonald’s sachet or two actually) of salt, and some water; that worked perfectly – no more cramps. Having food and drinks available in musettes handed off by running supporters was a massive support to most of the competitors; I settled for stopping to collect regular sandwiches and bottles, freshly made to my requirements – a total novelty, and a real treat for me.

Setting off on my first night-time loop on the longer 39-mile circuit, I was aware of my energy dropping off, it seemed my natural lull and energy drop-off came earlier than others; that loop was magical; traffic was quieter, a beautiful peaceful warm summer night, and an amazing sensation of watching myself riding along, virtually oblivious of any efforts or discomforts, as if my awareness had moved out of my body and I was witnessing it all from outside myself. Endorphins? Probably…!!!

The wonderful nocturnal sensation passed; I took time out at the most southerly point, at Shawbirch roundabout on the northern outskirts of Telford, Shropshire, and drank tea in the bemused company of the man serving in the late night shop. Back to the main hub, at Preese roundabout, in Cheshire I think. Into the camper van. Sandwiches, soft seating, a large bottle of non-alcoholic beer, tea – Heaven. Heaven passed quickly, as my kind support duo chucked me out into the now somewhat chilly night. Cycling form recovered and my distance was accumulating nicely, if quite a lot more slowly, and I began to wonder what could be achieved if I would just endure a bit more. By mid-morning I was back at Preese, rather sore and tired, determined not to undertake another 39-mile circuit, or even the more interesting but much rougher country 13-miler through some lovely Shropshire villages; I dug in my heels, got treated to egg and bacon butties by Clare and Susan, and waited for the organisers to send riders northwards, reversing the starting leg of the TT, and bringing us back to the short finishing circuit. So I had over 450km done, and rediscovered some competitive drive after rest and nourishment, heavily laced with kindness from Clare and Susan. And very soon I was doing a steady speed on the 35km back to the finishing circuit, and getting towards 500km; the last burst of joyous and surprising speed faded fast as I approached the finishing circuit. There were timekeepers at very frequent intervals, who knew by rider number exactly when they were due to finish, and there was huge encouragement to push to the last minute with all available energy. I hadn’t yet found a really comfortable saddle back in 2013, nor had I good shorts nor good hot-weather clothing for intensive efforts, and was really suffering as the end approached. (You might like, but you don’t NEED to have loads of high-end gear). I was unsure what distance I would be credited with, and I was hanging on, doing all I could to try to inch past the five hundred mark. In the end, it was five hundred and one point six four kilometres, but for many hours, I was just about awake or asleep, taking in the excitement around the more competitive finishers in my few lucid moments. Ultan topped his 2012 distance by about 26 miles, reaching 514 miles approx. In the end, another rider, perhaps Ishmael with whom we had breakfast on Saturday before starting, was the winner. Better heads than mine may clarify who actually won; the distance was 519 miles I think. The Audax Ireland Team placed third in the team event. (We won hands-down in the the best crew category with Susan and Clare).

I was passed a couple of times by a fit looking 60-something rider, as I guessed (wrongly, as it turned out). Peter Yates, from Ottley North Yorkshire I think, won the over 80s category. He was the only over 80 rider, but his distance and placing were considerably better than mine; I placed 62nd of the 68 finishers.

This is my first drafting of a report for the event, and while there may be typos and a memory lapse or two, I can assure you it lives vividly in the memory as an outstanding day in my cycling life to date, probably the actual most memorable I’ve had.

So I encourage any of you who might be willing to throw caution to the wind and enter this years inaugural Irish 24 hour TT. Go to the Audax Ireland event pages and see the details. There’s a well-designed circuit; not pan-flat, but with good to superb surfaces by Irish standards, lots of wide safe hard shoulder, but with some narrowish road too, and fairly quiet roads – late on Thursday afternoon and into the late evening anyway. Left turns only; 44km main circuit, 8km finishing circuit adjacent to the main circuit; two late opening shops on the circuit.

CLOSING DATE TOMORROW 16TH JULY.

ANY FIRST-TIME 24 HOUR TT ENTRANTS TAKING UP MY CHALLENGE AND INVITATION, EMAIL ME!

Hoping to have some of you to celebrate with at lunchtime on Sunday.

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