There and Back Again
Or Bristol-Glasgow-Bristol May – June 2017
I’d had it in mind to ride up the west coast of the UK to Glasgow and back ever since I was unable to gain a place in the London-Edinburgh-London this year. So when I saw this route proposed by a local rider, I fairly jumped at it.
I was excited and a little nervous at the same time. To prepare, I had done some long rides earlier in the year, but nothing close to this. In the week before the ride, I rested as much as possible, ate plenty and slept lots. I knew that there would probably never be an ideal time to embark on such an adventure in terms of fitness and preparation, so I decided to just go anyway.
I had 136 hours and 15 minutes to complete the ride of 1635km which worked out at just under six days. My plan was to do around 300km a day so that I had a safety buffer to finish within the time limit. After the first day however, I realized that I was slightly out of touch with reality when it came to covering that distance with so many hills.
It seems that the organizer likes hills. I mean, really likes hills. For the first 1000+ km there were hardly any flat bits. The road was either going up or down constantly. It felt like I was on a roller coaster bobbing and weaving my way up the country. The novelty of climbing through high and bleak desolate moorlands soon wore off. My guess is that it took about half a day.
My first day took me through Wales which usually means two things: hills and rain. I certainly had many hills to climb, but the rain was only light.
I had a few sketchy moments. The first two involved me going down steep hills too quickly and skidding around wet corners. If I’m honest the third ‘moment’ was much the same but rather more dramatic. A sweeping left hand bend saw me scrub off a little speed but in hindsight, not enough. As the road was wet and liberally sprinkled with gravel, I was reluctant to lean into the corner as much as I should have.
The final straw came as I continued round the bend to find a rather large sheep standing in the road, just where I was hoping to point my bike.
Before I knew it, I was no longer following a graceful line around a smooth bend in the road. I was leaving the asphalt and taking a perfectly straight line across the heathland, tussock grass and a soft mossy carpet filled with bumps and holes big enough to swallow feet and front wheels.
It was indeed quite a ride, and I can only compare it to a kind of fair ground bucking bronco as I felt sure that at any second I would be pitched forward over the handlebars of my skinny carbon fibre road bike.
Somehow though, I remained upright and still clipped in to the pedals until I came to a graceful stop some distance from the road. I think the word is miraculous. Shaken slightly and disbelieving that I had got away with it, I walked back to the road and gingerly clipped back into my pedals and continued on my way. I think somewhere a sheep bleated with respect. After this, I took the descents a bit more carefully.
My plan was to ride the length of the Wales and stop for the night before pressing on (following the route on my gps was a requirement of my ride, I was not allowed any short cuts!).
By the time dusk descended on that first night, I found I hadn’t gone quite as far as I needed to, and so after raiding a small store for food, continued onwards until around 10 pm.
I across a small, deserted church around this time and tried to get some sleep. In my quest for a light weight set up, I had brought a bivvy bag and sleeping mat only, thinking that would be enough to keep me warm. After a couple of hours tossing and turning and generally not sleeping at all, I realised my set up was woefully inadequate and so decided the only thing to do was to ride through the night to warm up.
By riding at night, I was able to get through some built up areas that were wonderfully quiet and so I could breeze through without hardly stopping. There is always a pay off however to riding at night, and around 6am I was feeling very tired, wet and my stomach was starting to shut down.
I knew from previous rides that if I stopped to rest things would sort themselves out, and so I booked a hotel room for a short sleep. Luckily there was a restaurant attached and so I ate as much as (in)humanly possible before continuing a 4 hours later.
After my first fairly disastrous attempt at Bivvying, I decided not to sleep outdoors again and so used hotels and guest houses in places where I had nothing arranged.
One night in Scotland however, I came across a Visitors Centre located in the middle of a forest park. I had planned to be at this place in the day time and visit their café, but at this point I was well behind schedule, and it was late, dark and very, very closed.
Something prompted me to try the handle of their toilets and to my amazement, I found it to be unlocked. As it was clean, spacious and warmer than being outdoors, I locked myself inside and unpacked my sleeping gear. After tossing and turning for a few hours, I convinced myself I was fully rested and continued north to Glasgow.
In hindsight, I was grateful for the break as the next section was quite long and over desolate roads that I did not fancy riding in the dead of night in my tired state.
In Glasgow I had arranged to stay with a friend. All the way there I had tried to tell him when I would be arriving, but I had to keep putting the time back further and further as I was quite down on my daily distance. By the time I finally arrived (9am), he had gone to work but kindly left the keys out.
I managed a couple of hours sleep on an air mattress, and after a shower and food, I set off to negotiate the city and finally head southwards.
Making the turn, like in an old fashioned time trial, I now encountered the wind in my face and tried not to think about the possibility of a 3 day headwind but to only deal with the moment in hand.
The subsequent day was very tough, as the headwind continued, the rain persisted and the very bumpy roads meant that my garmin gps device kept turning off. By now I realised that it wasn't recording my ride. This was worrying as I feared my effort might be called into question and would not be validated. Would the whole ride count for nothing? I decided to continue anyway and told myself that even if no one else believed I had done the ride, my body, heart and soul would certainly know.
After letting the organiser know of my predicament, I decided to keep taking more photos on the way to prove my passage as well as keeping hold of shop receipts.
On this day of doom, I needed a few ‘cry breaks’ en route.
(crying is optional, but an all-consuming tiredness and hopelessness compels you to stop for a moment, if nothing else to satisfy the mind and indulge the body).
I remember at one point crawling off the bike and lying down at the roadside between some small bushes where I could get out of the wind for a moment. I checked my bags for food and my phone for messages. I found both, and so got back on and continued riding.
I had planned to get to Gretna Green (just before the border between Scotland and England) that day but I was so wet and shattered by the time I reached Annan that I decided to look for a room there.
I got a pizza at 'Marios' which was lovely, and as I was explaining my situation to the girl at the counter, she seemed to take pity on me and left the pizzeria to try various pubs/hotels in the town to see if any had a room for the night. Such kindness was really touching and I am so grateful for such experiences.
To my huge relief, she found me a room just across the street for £42 and I checked in dripping wet, with half a pizza in my hand. Again I asked about an early check out (2am) as I realised I now had just 2 full days to do the 600km home. I felt this was achievable, but there would be no time for more setbacks or for falling behind schedule.
My brother was staying in Derbyshire 330km away, and so I planned to sleep there before completing the final 270km to Bristol on the final day. If I thought that the ride into Annan was hard, the next day nearly broke me.
My lasting memory of this day is of climbing a 5km hill at around 12.45 am and seeing car headlights ahead, high up in the night time blackness and tiny as dots moving in and out of view as they rounded the bends. It dawned on me, slowly, that there was only one road, and I would have to follow it and go where the dots were, way up high, and a long way away if I was to reach my bed that night.
All I could think about was sleep. The longer I rode, the later it got and the less sleep I would have that night. Three or more times, I stopped mid-climb at the side of the road, unclipped my feet from the pedals and just stood astride my bike, too tired to get off and too numb to go forwards. I remember resting my head on my handlebars as I was bent double, and with my eyes closed drifting into some kind of sleep-daze. The feeling was so overwhelming, of being so tired and wanting it all to end.
Somehow, after pulling out of this sleep-embrace you realise you are still on the side of a hill in the middle of nowhere. It is dark, and you still have a long way to go. It is not a happy place, but crying (again) won’t make it better. You need to clip in to your pedals and continue.
Around 1.30am I finally reached my bed for that night, peeled off my wet layers and slipped into bed. It took me longer than it should to get ready for bed in my tired state. Maybe it was an hour but I no longer cared. At any rate I needed to be awake and of the door within 3 hours if I was to have any chance of finishing the ride within the time limit.
The previous night I had fantasized about sleeping in, and how I would feel if I overslept on the last day. In the event however, I managed to rouse myself after 2 hours sleep and was out the door in good time.
Setting off for the last day, something was different, I felt great and could not account for it. Progress was fantastic to start with, I had a tailwind and flat roads meant I was flying along at high speed and was very confident of an early finish. However things changed later in the day when I ran out of flat roads and reached hills to the north of Bristol. I felt as if I was in the middle of a maze. No sooner would I crest one hill than I would look around to see myself surrounded on all sides by more and with no prospect of an easy escape.
Although the scenery was beautiful and the weather benign, I also realised that the wind had turned against me and I was no longer sure of finishing in time. Only as I approached the final 50 km with time in hand could I relax a little and anticipate my arrival at the organiser’s house.
At the finish, I arrived with just a little time in hand. My ‘prize’ was a glass of special whiskey that came from Scotland, but as I don’t drink, I settled for a cup of tea. After a pleasant chat and exchanging tales of my adventure with the organiser (the first and currently only other person to complete the route), I gingerly set off for the short ride back to my house, nursing everything that was sore (left achilles, both knees, raw rear end, swollen hands with inflamed nerves and a neck that could no longer support my head). My thoughts turned to gratitude for being able to complete the ride at all and then I looked forward to a good lie down, shower and food, in what ever order these things should present themselves, as I was past caring.
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An early season 400 km ride
By Vilas Silverton
23 April, 2017
By Vilas Silverton, Sri Chinmoy Cycling Team
Since entering this year's Mille Pennines Audax in July, I have looked for tough rides that would prepare me for the upcoming hill-fest that awaits later in the year. In preparation, I have tried to loose a little weight, and have sought to increase my monthly long ride by 100km a month. This meant doing 100 & 200 km rides in January, 200 & 300 km rides in February, 200 & 400 km rides in March and a 600km in April/May.
To this end, I have been very grateful for Colin Bezant’s Cambrian series of permanents. Living in Bristol means that I can ride out to quite a few of these though to date I have only tried the ones that pass through Chepstow.
At the time, doing the 4B in March seemed like a good idea. I completed Mark Rigby’s Rough Diamond 300 the month before and that went well (despite forgetting my lights and having to borrow someone else’s which was a bit stressful) I forgot my chamois cream too, but that is a whole other story.
This time I was using a dynamo front light for the first time, and what a revelation! I certainly needed it as much of the ride was in darkness. Leaving Bristol at 1.22am I headed for the Tesco Express ATM at Bulwark, Chepstow to start the ride proper. After a few hours of riding, I realised I was quite cold. Uncharacteristically, I was glad of the climbs as they helped maintain body heat. Descending into valleys was a whole different experience. The damp cold wind cut right through me sucking any hard earned warmth from my core. Feet were the first things to go, followed about 45 minutes later by fingers. Sanity was close behind. How could I be so stupid as to not pack enough clothes? Why was I only wearing a thin windproof jacket? Even though the forecast was for no rain, who in their right mind does a long ride in Wales without at least a Gore Tex jacket?
The sun was still a long way from appearing as I tried to encourage myself with such motivational gems as: "it’s always coldest before the dawn" and it will soon warm up and then you will be fine. I knew I was lying, but somehow didn’t care as I couldn’t face the alternative. With the first golden rays of sunshine somewhere along a random Welsh lane, I looked around and saw frost all around me, covering the fields and verges. ‘Ah ha!’, I thought to myself. I wasn’t imagining, it really was cold.
On long rides, it seems the mind can wander just as far as the body. For example, it is easy to try and predict where you expect to be at certain points of a ride, based on experience, expectations and bravado. It occupies the mind and gives a little sport. Sooner or later though, these projections usually come apart as reality kicks in. Such was the case on this ride. I had been feeling a bit ropey all day, quite why I am not sure. I needed many more natural breaks than normal and tiredness was a constant companion. Usually in the week before a long ride, when I know I will be going a bit short of sleep, I try and bank some good nights to see me through. This didn’t really happen this time and I was feeling the effects.
Even so, I was treated to some spectacular countryside on one of the warmest and sunniest days of the year thus far. Climbing through the Elan Valley in warm sunshine, I laughed to remember my cold weather struggles of the morning.
At around half distance, I also realized that time was getting on, and I was in deepest west Wales riding through places I had never been before and whose names I did not recognize. This can feel liberating or induce desperation depending on how the ride is going. Unfortunately, I wasn’t doing that well. There are some controls that seem to take a disproportionate amount of time to reach, even though they aren’t far away in distance. When you finally reach them the small victory is short lived and somewhat anti-climatic as you look for a receipt and push on to the next place. For me, Llandeilo was such a place that dangled like a carrot in front of my nose, always seeming to stay just a signpost away.
In time, of course, the kilometres ticked by as I kept riding. I was aware however that my tiredness was still with me and would only get worse after the sun went down. I could not risk sleeping in the freezing cold after what I had experienced the previous night, and it was not long after that I found the solution. A little lane set at 90 degrees to a B road had everything: a grassy bank set high above the road so it was well drained and dry. It was in the sun, and would remain so for quite a while as there were no over hanging trees. Lastly, there was a hedge providing shelter from the wind. 40 blissful minutes later I awoke and continued my way eastwards towards Monmouth.
As the sun set and night time set it, the temperature inevitably plummeted and the appeal of negotiating small lanes in the dark waned considerably.
Normally. I would never ride along the A40 in South Wales. I would leave it for lorries, holiday makers with caravans and time triallists ;-)
However in the wee small hours of a Sunday morning, it was fairly deserted and I couldn’t face the alternative route. By now, fatigue meant I could not face the brutal changes of gradient found on the narrow Welsh lanes, and as this was a permanent ride, I was free to make my own way between controls. I was back in familiar territory which helped my mental state. I recognized some of the roads from the National 12 hour time trial championships the previous year when I handed up bottles to my clubmate Tejvan Pettinger who placed second.
After a good chunk of main road, it came time to return to my gps device and pick the smaller, familiar roads home. At this late hour, I was always glad to find places open where I could get a receipt. Riding along in the night time bubble of your own thoughts, it can be a shock to come across ‘civilisation’ and a struggle to re-engage in social exchanges. That is a polite way of describing my late night chip shop experiences with the drink fuelled Welsh youth. In any event, the chips were horrible and as my stomach was playing up by now, they went in the bin. I carefully kept hold of the receipt though.
I had a final attempt at sleep, after my ‘normal’ tiredness increased to what I felt was dangerous. I knew I was struggling, but after wobbling off my bike into deserted pub car park and desperately looking into my bag for sugared items I realized I had better do something more constructive than putting my head in my hands. Down the road I found a 5 star Audax hotel aka a Welsh Bus stop. One of those beautiful stone buildings that offers refuge and shelter to those waiting for a bus as well as late night long distance cyclists. This one had a carpet of dry wind blown leaves neatly arranged inside and I offered a prayer in praise of divine providence.
I need not have bothered to set my alarm however, as the temperature had plummeted once more so that any attempt at sleep was foiled by my violently shivering body. I remember making a pathetic attempt to keep myself warm by scooping dead leaves on top of myself as if they would act as a miracle duvet. It’s funny the things that seem like a good idea at the time. At least the 20 minute break had allowed my ‘dangerous’ tiredness to decrease to ‘just very’ tired and I felt safe to continue.
More cold descents followed as I rolled in to Chepstow and the rather ill advised climb to Penalt. I fantasized about how much warmer it would be once I got out of the forests and into built up areas but there wasn’t much difference really. I had long ago given up any idea of being warmer until I was in my bed. At one point I decided to buy some plastic bags from an all night garage so I could wrap my feet and maybe even get a bin bag for my body. My mind raced ahead with the strategy. I would put a carrier bag under each of my thin overshoes and put a bin bag on under my windproof. I would get a roll of 20 if necessary! If the bin bag wouldn’t fit under, I would wear it over my jacket, like a feeble attempt at a Halloween costume flapping in the freezing air with my reflective belt on top. It was, indeed all sorted in my mind.
Finally I found a late night garage open, and after shivering and shaking my way in, discovered that they had only one carrier bag on the premises! I felt like laughing as I wondered which foot to put it on… In the end I just stuffed it up my front and carried on. It helped a little and saw me through to the ride’s finish at Chepstow, and the second finish at 4.48am Bristol.
I couldn’t risk a warm shower initially as all the feeling had gone from my fingers and toes. I was taken back to my rides as a schoolboy, when it was quite possible to get things spectacularly wrong in terms of clothing, food and distance. It reminded me also of why I still love riding the bike.
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Experiences of self-transcendence
By Tejvan Pettingerauthor bio »
13 September, 2016
About the author:
Tejvan organises short-distance running and cycling races for the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team in his home city of Oxford. He is also a very good cyclist, having won the National hill climb championships in 2013 and finished 3rd in the National 100 Mile Time Trials in 2014.
Self-transcendence simply means seeking to try and better yourself. Sport gives us an opportunity - whatever our current standard - to transcend our previous physical achievements.
One of my earliest experiences of self-transcendence was competing in a four mile village fun run aged 7. It seemed a great adventure to run four miles, which in those days seemed to go on forever.
I remember that during the run, I stopped outside my house because my number was flapping in my face, so my Dad pinned it on the back. I paid dearly for this delay, getting pipped on the line by another under-7, finishing in second place.
The next year, I didn’t stop to rearrange my race number and won the coveted Menston under 7 boys prize, with corresponding bar of Yorkie chocolate. The joy of self-transcendence was great, even if I couldn’t walk for several days after. Four miles was a long way when you’re seven. It is probably banned for health and safety reasons these days, but I was glad to be able to do it.
There were no athletic talent spotters at Menston fun-run though, and my initial break through moment never materialised into anything more substantial. It wasn’t until several years later, I reluctantly took up running again; specifically, cross-country for my school. It wasn’t with any noble aim of individual self-transcendence; it was more that running seemed less bad than having to play rugby with lads who weighed twice as much as me. After a few years of underwhelming enthusiasm, lack of training and thinking of other things, my running career ended with a personal worst of finishing last in a race. I took this as a cue to slink away, blame poor athletic genes on my parents, and do something else more interesting for a 16-year-old teenager.
It wasn’t until joining Sri Chinmoy’s path, aged 22, I thought again of running. On joining the path, I was most interested in the possibility of spiritual self-transcendence through meditation. But Sri Chinmoy encouraged running as part of an integral spiritual path, so I gave it a go. This mainly involved running further and further each day, getting up to 13 mile training runs. There was a sense of achievement in re-finding running, and unlike earlier years, the running gave me more joy as I was running with a different motivation.
An injury curtailed further running, but at the age of 27, I took up cycling - something I had done and off throughout my life, though without any particular focus. In the first season of racing, I entered a few time trials - races where you compete against the clock, trying to cover a set distance (e.g. 25 miles) as quick as you can. Time trials are a great opportunity to practise self-transcendence. It is not just about keeping physically fit, but also getting together all the different aspects of performance - equipment, mental state, focus and enthusiasm.
To my surprise, I did better than expected. My first 25 mile time trial was 1.00.25 - not a bad average speed for a first time. However, the really encouraging thing was how I was able to reduce this personal best for 25 miles over the next year. Each race I entered, I seemed to take one minute off from this personal best time. By, the end of 2005, I had reduced my PB to 52.54 for 25 miles, which at one time had seemed an impossibility. There was a real sense of self-transcendence and it was very encouraging.
“Self-transcendence-joy unmistakably knows no equal.”
- Sri Chinmoy
With this kind of progress - getting a minute quicker with each race - I thought there was no limit to my cycling career, but alas, this golden period of ‘easily’ reducing times came to a temporary end. Rather than going quicker, I posted a few slower times, a potent reminder that self-transcendence requires patience and perseverance. It also reminds you that there is more to self-transcendence than going quicker. I now wanted to try and learn to get joy from the performance, whatever the outcome. This was a different type of self-transcendence; improving the inner attitude and dealing with disappointment as a way to help achieve satisfaction.
After a few years of setting no personal bests, I was finally able to go faster and reduced my PB to below the magic 30 mph barrier - 49.34 (2011). I was also able to set a 30mph 50 mile time trial of 1.39.30 (2014). This year, aged 39, I reduced my 25 mile pb to 49.11.
However, my overwhelming goal in cycling was to try and win the national hill climb championship. Hills are my speciality because I am quite light. For quite a few years (2005-2012), I came close - I regularly finished in the top 10 and top five, but never quite managed to make the final improvement to get on the podium and top place.
In 2013, after nine years of trying, I felt this was the best chance to finally achieve the goal of winning a national championship. Rather than leave things to chance and hope for the best, I sought to make training and preparation as careful and focused as I could. I also read Sport and Meditation by Sri Chinmoy to garner any spiritual tips for physical self-transcendence. One thing that struck me was Sri Chinmoy’s advice to be in a happy frame of mind. If you enjoy what you do, you gain an added strength.
I tried to improve my physical preparations, and at the same time, tried to be more receptive to the inner strength. I hoped that the intangible inner motivation and inner grace could be the difference in this world of marginal gains.
The inner and outer preparations paid off, and on a cold, wet, windy day I finally finished first. It was great to win, after finishing 4th and 5th on so many occasions.
In recent years, younger riders have got faster and it has been harder to maintain the dominance of the hill climb season. Despite making great efforts at continued self-transcendence, you can’t always remain the fastest in the country. But that doesn’t bring self-transcendence to an end. The next year, defending the title, I finished 4th, but still felt that in the race I had experienced a form of self-transcendence - pulling out a good performance, doing the best I can. They say finishing 4th is the worst, but I disagree. Getting joy, no matter what the result, feels like a type of progress. (See article: reflections on 4th place)
This year, I tried in different direction. Rather than short ‘punchy’ hill climbs which require fast twitch muscle fibres, I tried my first 12 hour time trial. Despite back pain, I finished 2nd in the national 12 hour championship with 284 miles. The hardest point of the race was at two hours, but I was really committed to finishing the 12 hours - whatever the distance. This helped to relax and get in a flow; for the middle part of the race, I got into a good rhythm. When you think about cycling continuously for 12 hours it seems really difficult, but it was great to be able to do it and find the experience different to what you imagine it would be like.
Next year I hit 40, which moves me into something called a ‘veteran category’. An excuse to go slower. or opportunities for different kinds of transcendence - trying to maintain the form and effort, despite advancing physical years. Sri Chinmoy took up weightlifting in his mid 50s, so there is still plenty of time to do something worthwhile.
My first Audax ride: 35 hours and 600km through the Welsh countryside
By Vilas Silverton
16 June, 2016
Vilas Silverton from the Sri Chinmoy Cycling Team took part for the first time in a 600km Audax ride, a long-distance cycling challenge also known as a Brevet or Randonee. Although they are not races, they do have time limits (in this case 40 hours) and require riders to pass through certain checkpoints en route to prove passage. Below is Vilas' entertaining account of what transpired:
The ride started from a small village hall near Tewksbury in England at 5.00am and headed into South Wales before crossing over to the west coast, heading northwards towards the top of Wales before returning back to the start in England. The ride contained 10,000 metres of climbing which, I discovered, is rather a lot!
Before the event I was excited and a little nervous, my longest ride to date had been 220km with Sri Chinmoy Cycling Team colleague Garga Chamberlain, which was made very difficult by poor weather conditions (ie non stop rain, and winds strong enough to blow you off your bike). However, since that ride in February, I had done other long rides that felt much better. After struggling to follow paper maps on my first Audax ride, I quickly bought a garmin which massively cut down the time I lost at road junctions etc where I was not always sure which way to go (directions are not my strong point!). This device had my route loaded onto it, so I could follow a little arrow on the screen which told me what roads to take.
After checking all my equipment the week before, studying the route, and carbo loading for 3 days, I felt really thrilled to be able to start at dawn with about 40 other riders on the day itself. To begin with, we rode easily as a pack to the first checkpoint at Monmouth, which was 50 km away and got receipts from an ATM to prove we had got there. I was happy to ride with others at this point, as I couldn’t get my garmin to work at the start.
After the easy first section, we started heading into the hills of Wales where the group broke into pieces and people rode in small groups of 3-4 or just solo. By this time I had figured out my garmin and so was perfectly happy to ride at my own pace. Quite often, this did mean I enjoyed riding in the company of others, but I was also not worried about riding alone.
It rained gently most of the first day but it was warm also, so I rode in shorts, short sleeved jersey, gilet and arm warmers. It was a bit too warm for a rain jacket - for now. My plan was to err on the side of being too warm rather than too cold, as I didn’t want to use up energy by getting cold/keeping warm. In a long ride such as this, I kept the pace very easy on the hills and rode steadily on the flatter sections. This was to keep my heart rate low and stay as far as possible in the ‘fat burning zone’.
In training, I had some difficulty with digestion, and was a bit worried about getting through the event if nothing would stay down. I need not have worried however, and ate well at cafes and supermarkets en route. I also took a number of energy bars etc with me as some sections of the route (up to 100kms) passed through isolated and exposed countryside where there was nothing to eat (unless you are a sheep).
Around 12.30am I arrived at a control point that had beds and here many riders stopped to sleep. I felt quite good however, and decided to keep going. I did stop long enough for some pasta and a change of clothes (I had sent a bag on ahead). This meant I could change out of my wet shorts and socks - luxury! It also meant I could swap my leg warmers for full length tights for the night although the night time temperature probably didn’t get below 10 degrees centigrade.
I was really looking forward to riding in the night. The roads were very quiet, just a few cars now and then, but as I rode through the darkness, I had owls, bats and sheep for company. I couldn’t see the beautiful countryside at this point but I was happy to keep moving. Having helped at some multi-day running races in the past, I am acutely aware that night time is a special time for doing things. Most people can run or cycle in the day, but if you can forego sleep for a while to achieve an important task, it feels magical to me.
The consequences of riding for 24 hours with no sleep were starting to catch up with me however, as I started hallucinating at around 4.30 am. I saw people walking around in the road and cars coming towards me that did not really exist. I was also having a bit of trouble keeping my bike going where I wanted it to. I promised myself a sleep at the next control.
I was enjoying the night section though, particularly as the weather was dry. However, that changed after a few hours, and all my lovely dry clothes got soaked again, so I sat down on a deserted road, struggled to put on my waterproof jacket, shoe covers and neoprene gloves. About 6.5 hours after setting out from the previous checkpoint, I arrived cold, wet and uncontrollably shivering at the next one, a community centre/village hall in mid-Wales. A nice lady made me the classic dish of baked beans in tomato sauce on toast (she may have been an angel?) however, as my stomach was a bit sensitive, I couldn’t finish it, unfortunately.
Another rider was there too, and a few helpers asked me about Tejvan (Pettinger, Sri Chinmoy Cycling Team hill-climb champion) and his exploits. I was happy to have my mind distracted by other things at this point and very grateful to be wearing Sri Chinmoy’s name on my kit for all to see.
Spotting a blanket in a corner of the hall, I asked to borrow it and wrapped myself up and went to lie down, still wet and shivering. I awoke about an hour later, feeling warmer and better, so I put my wet shoes and socks back on and headed out of the door.
As the last section had been so hard, I foolishly thought the next one might be a bit easier. It was a bit shorter, certainly but the hills were very steep and relentless. They were very small lanes that went straight up hill sides rather than gently curving around. Since 150km however, I had pain in my right knee which meant I couldn’t really put much force through the pedals. As the pain was on the outer edge of my knee, I figured it was just the ITB that was tight and pulling on the joint, so I massaged it at every stop in order to keep moving. I was praying hard that this inconvenience would not stop me riding. I was very grateful that my knee pain would allow me to remember Guru too (Sri Chinmoy also was affected by knee pain during his considerable sporting career). The direct consequence of this situation is that I had to walk up the steeper slopes even though I had low gears on my bike. For a sporting cyclist, this is quite an ignominious position to be in, but here I was, limping up hill after hill in my slippery cycling shoes while pushing my bike. My focus at this time was to keep moving. If I couldn’t ride fast, I would ride slowly, if I couldn’t ride, I would walk, if I couldn’t walk, I would hobble and limp, and that was where I was right now.
At least I didn’t feel tired, the hour nap had done the trick, and I wasn’t cold. These were two big positives. In time, the rain eased, and the kilometres ticked away. Due to the steep, wet and gritty lanes however, I had a new problem, my brake blocks had worn down to such a degree that I no longer had a rear brake and my front was on borrowed time. Thankfully, the last stage of around 70 kms was on bigger, flatter roads that didn’t require me to use the brakes very much.
Before the event, I was concerned that I might not make the 40 hour cut off, but as it turned out, I rode the final stage feeling really good and riding strongly. With most of the ride behind me, I felt able to raise the pace, and gratefully, I finished in 35.5 hours.
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Highlights from British Time Trial Championships 2015
By Vilas Silverton
5 January, 2016
This video was taken at the British Time Trial Championship, June 2015. The footage was shown on British Cycling Live streaming and also British Eurosport. The event was held at Cadwell Motor Park and the Lincolnshire countryside.
There was a big startlist with other 300 riders, from different categories and many top British professional entering the race.
Tejvan Pettinger of Sri Chinmoy Cycling Team finished 7th, in a time of 1.06. The winner was Alex Dowsett Movistar, who earlier in the year had broken the world hour record.
Top 10 Men
1 Alex Dowsett Movistar Team 01:00:11.13
2 Edmund Bradbury NFTO 01:03:42.25
3 Ryan Perry SportGrub KUOTA Cycling Team 01:04:02.28
4 Matthew Bottrill www.drag2zero.com 01:04:31.50
5 Lloyd Chapman Richardsons – Trek RT 01:05:43.02
6 Ashley Cox CC Luton 01:05:52.70
7 Tejvan Pettinger Sri Chinmoy Cycling Team 01:06:07.64
8 Jason Bouttell Velopro 01:06:15.57
9 Josh Williams Revolutions Racing 01:06:23.50
10 Gruffudd Lewis Pedal Heaven RT 01:06:31.07
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A Corinthian Endeavour - Story of the National Hill Climb Championship
By Vilas Silverton
2 November, 2015
A Corinthian Endeavour by Paul Jones tells the story of the UK National hill climb Championship from 1944 to 2014. The championship holds a unique place in the UK cycling calendar, always being held in the last weekend in October, marking the end of the domestic time trial season. It is a race that has, over the years, attracted some of the top professionals, such as Tour de France riders like Chris Boardman, Brian Robinson, and Malcolm Elliot - but also a breed of specialist hill climbers, such as Granville Sydney and Jim Henderson - riders who are ideally built for racing up steep hills.
In this book, the author Paul Jones, takes us on a humorous and informed journey through the diverse and sometimes quirky nature of the British hill climb season. As the title suggests, Jones is also interested in the amateur ethos and the fact that the race embodies some of the finest qualities of cycle racing.
For the uninitiated, Jones explains some of the fascinating aspects which go into a successful hill climber - a high power to weigh ratio, an ability to do repetitive, lung bursting hill climb intervals, meticulous attention to stripping weight from his bike, and the ability to ride at the very limit of physical and mental endurance.
Within the book, Jones devotes a chapter to Sri Chinmoy Cycling Team rider, Tejvan Pettinger. Pettinger won the event in 2013 - after ten years of trying and near misses. Jones examines those 10 years of near misses that characterised Tejvan’s previous attempts to win the title, but also has a look at the spiritual aspect of Tejvan’s cycling.
Writing in the book:
“And yet, there is another layer of spirituality to Pettinger. He doesn't hide it, it's emblazoned across the jersey of the 'club' he rides for, Sri Chinmoy CC (sic):” “p253
Quoting Pettinger in the book, he says:
“The spiritual life has to come first, but fortunately, cycling is very complimentary. (though) I never race on wednesday evenings because of meditation. I could never be a professional.”
“I’m not the kind of person who needs to win for my self-esteem. I just enjoy cycling and I enjoy cycling hard. The motivation to try to win the championship - it's more than an ego thing, it's an opportunity to achieve something; there is an inner element to it. Sri Chinmoy's philosophy is that a big thing is self-transcendence, trying to go beyond your limits, spiritually, mentally, physically. Trying to go faster is part of spirituality, of meditation. If you can be happy, in a good consciousness, you can bring a lot of energy to the fore. When you're abut to race it can be easy to be nervous or think about your competitors. That's an important challenge: to be in a better consciousness." p.254
Talking about the mental aspect of racing:
"Often when I'm doing a race," he says, "I'm trying to keep my mind quiet and not think. To help that I repeat a mantra, like 'Supreme'. It's just a mantra I use in meditation. I don't want any thoughts going through my mind, only the mantra, inwardly. The best experience is when you're in the zone, you've not got that 'did I go off too hard, too early, that spectator's looking at me funny.' You're absorbed in the effort. That's the real buzz of hill climbs; you can get into this state which you very rarely get into; you're so beyond the limit, you're way beyond your ordinary experience and it has some parallels to meditation, because in meditation you're trying to get away from your mind and the thought, everyday world, and here you're doing it in a very real way because you're pushing yourself so much. And it's torture physically, but you get some kind of joy from it, and you look back and you think, 'Wow, that was a real three minutes. I really lived in that three minutes. I don't quite know what went on but I was on the edge and experiencing something different.'