Come on Ed veteran of many mayhem solo expeditions lets be having your top tips for us young virgins to survive the 24 hours
It's frightfully poor form to quote yourself but the advice given in 2011, while generic rather than solo specific, is as good a place to start as any.
Before launching into reams of sage advice I must offer the following two disclaimers:
- I am not criminally responsible for any actions you take as a result of reading on.
- I am a know nothing chump.
Now that the boring legal stuff is out of the way, here we go.
This is clearly anathema as gentlemen (for the rest of this piece 'ladies' can be used interchangeably) do not do anything as vulgar as training. Gentlemen ride. That said, your riding in the next 80 days can be tailored like a Saville Row suit so that you don't go to the line half cocked.
The approach to training is simple; if your riding already involves suffering, degradation and humiliation, preferably public, then you have little to learn. However if you don't return from every ride with a lingering sense of inadequacy then you really need to think about why you are bothering at all as you're doing no-one, not yourself and certainly not your teammates, any favours.
So, what to do if you currently ride with a smile on your face and a lightness of heart? Introspection is the jumping off point. Simply consider what you cannot do competently (if the answer is "I'm ok at everything" then please PM me and I'll put you straight). Then repeat it - I find reps of 10 consecutive failures at first should suffice. Obviously I don't wish to be prescriptive so feel free to adapt and adopt strategies that work for you. Want a concrete example? I am particularly hopeless at riding downhill. Time and ability to change are lacking. I am therefore practicing running nimbly down hill in stiff soled racing shoes with the added benefit that I then have to ride back up. Pure, personalised win.
Ok, so by now you should be feeling humble. The next step is to ride until you feel as if you have been expertly beaten up by the Stasi; there's not a mark on your body but your legs feel as if they have been hollowed out. Do this for the next few months and you can approach the start with the look of a man with hidden depths.
WARNING The following technique is only for the most advanced and involves a birch switch, a generous amount of woad and a full moon (aside: woad and blood look very similar in the moonlight but the former has the advantage that when your interfering neighbours call the police the charges won't stick. That said, if you want the full, unfettered experience, I can recommend mole blood). If you've read this far, I'm sure you know what to do.
Ok, so now you are honed and buffed within an inch, a taut mind in a taut body. At the level we are at however, nothing can be left to chance.
I'm not doing everything, so you can sort yourself out up until the day although I can particularly recommend the traditional Vallins Friday Night BBQ as the resultant food poisoning will leave you as hollow cheeked as a solo rider 23 hours in with the benefit that you still have 24 hours to go.
But on the day you need proper food. What follows may be contradictory (whatever) but follow it, to the letter, and you won't go far wrong. Use a supplement powder in your bidon such as Bikefood (is that suitably 'on message' JV?). Consistency is important and there are two basic approaches that you should try. The first involves a slurry thick enough to stand a titanium spoon in. The second involves a weaker brew looking, tasting and smelling like your partner's urine. I favour the latter. Sip this constantly throughout the 24 hours, pausing only if your stomach becomes especially distended in which case switch immediately to 440ml of full fat Red Bull every 20 minutes.
Liquids sorted, what about solids? This really is simple. 24 scotch party eggs, one an hour on the hour. Do not be tempted by large, whole eggs cut into quarters as the sausage to egg ratio is all to cock. I favour the party eggs with the minimum meat and egg content. Asda are particularly fine in this regard. For those who prefer to live dangerously, a few family pork pies left to sweat in the sun can be unusually effective motivational and nutritional tools. If you must then other processed meat products are acceptable if unnecessarily flamboyant.
What will I be ingesting in 2011? I'm currently experimenting with Red Bull, a microwave and a fistful of witchhazel and initial signs are good apart from several of my neighbours chickens having gone missing and mutterings in the village about Mr Hyde.
Although Dorian Ruddock with his portable spa takes it to extremes, I'll reluctantly concede that he has a point. Look after yourself and don't share or double dip the Assos Chamois Cream.
I'll leave you with two final thoughts..
1) Never underestimate the power of self loathing.
2) And, to quote the great Swiss Tony, "what is life without regret?".
Armed with those you will have a splendidly awful time in June, wallowing in introspection while surrounded by 2,000 smiling people who are loving every minute. Really, what more could a Gentleman Rider ask for?
That out of the way, what has riding solo 5 times taught me? Many, many things not suitable for a family audience but some that are include:
1) Prepare a plan that covers all eventualities. Be as specific and detailed as possible. Then misplace it until the day after the event.
2) No drinking of alcohol on Friday night. Not even a cheeky one. It’s not that consumption of alcohol will impair performance, just that not doing so when others are getting happily oiled will be frustrating. And you’ll need to tap into that at 3.47 a.m. when it’s raining and your gears don’t work. The only exception to the “no drinking alcohol on Friday night” is if you are teetotal, in which case tuck in merrily.
3) Under no circumstances pre-ride the course – if you are taking part properly you’ll see enough of it over 24 hours so no point getting bored before you start. The other downside of the pre-ride is that you might acquire The Fear on a recce lap and, unlike frustration, this should not be stored up in advance.
4) Only take one bike as any more is an indulgence (and as a Grim Faced Solo Rider you have no time for such frippery). Having one bike also focuses the mind – no need to think “if I was on the other bike it would have better tyres/suspension/gears/brakes”. Which brings us to tyres….
5) Fit some. Then forget about them and get on with it. If you need any guidance on which tyres to use, have a look at daj’s choice and do the exact opposite (I understand he currently has Wildslipper Sprints so a Panaracer Spike is indicated).
6) Nutrition is covered above but is worth repeating – scotch eggs, sweaty pork pies and Red Bull (faux or branded) is all that is needed. The well prepared, having been scanning the weather forecast for weeks, will have left the pork pies to mature in the sun last weekend, rather like seasoning a tub in a dark cellar.
7) Do not race. Repeat, do not race.
Ride every climb and every descent but not necessarily each lap (except when there is a photographer and you need to get your game face on. I can supply cardboard cut-out game face masks at very reasonable rates).
9) Do not stop for long unless sleeping. Do not chat or ‘enjoy the social’. You’ve paid £75 to ride your bike around muddy fields for 24 hours so get your moneys worth and wallow in the exquisite misery.
10) Clothing. Take spare sets but do not use them unless absolutely essential or you will lose the splendid exfoliating properties offered by sweaty muddy shorts. It obviously goes without saying that the latter are lycra bibs. Oh, and no freeride jerseys. Please feel free to waer any shoes you like as long as they are Sidis and any pedal system as long as it’s SPD.
11) Realise that, as bad as it may get, you really do deserve it.
12) Listen to ‘Hurt’ by Nine Inch Nails before the off as the opening line will be a useful mantra. The Johnny Cash version is particularly recommended. Other musical inspiration can be found in the sweet falsetto of La Timberlake’s “What Goes Around Comes Around” or indeed Daft Punk’s “Around The World”. “Inertia creeps” may not be so helpful though.
Good luck again to all, make it memorable.