- 2008 CLIC 24 solo 2nd overall
- 2009 Iditarod Trail Invitational (350) 14th
- 2010 Tour Divide 3rd overall, 1st singlespeed, 1st rookie
- 2011 Iditarod Trail Invitational (1100) 2nd overall, 1st singlespeed (ever)
- 2011 Tour Divide 6th overall (serious mechanical cost 1 day)
- 2011 Singlespeed Worlds 14th (and had a good time!)
- 2011 Singlespeed UK organised it (had a stressful time!)
- 2012 Cairngorms Loop (190) 1st place (story here)
- 2012 Bristol Bikefest 12hr solo 1st place singlespeed
Notable past trips:
2007 – Pacific Crest Trail
In 2007, I made a vastly under-prepared attempt to walk the Pacific Crest Trail. The trail starts on the California/Mexico border and winds up along the crest that includes the Sierras and Mt Whitney. It usually takes months to complete and requires a lot of organisation.
On this trip, my ambitions far exceeded my ability. I gained some good experiences of long days and wild camping, but had not trained properly. With the arrogance of a mountain bike racer, I thought that walking would be easy. The plan was already in motion when I went for knee surgery only months before departure. I had little choice but to go and try, but I was in no way adapted for walking all day.
I managed 100 or so miles with my friend, Morgan. It was not far into that distance that my knee brought me to a limp that could only be supported by a sturdy tree-branch I had picked up along the way. In the end, I went home with my tail between my legs and Morgan finished the trail.
The PCT was the beginning of a lot of things. It moved the goal-posts. It made me determined not to fail for lack of preparation. It threw me into the deep-end of wilderness skills and confidence that help me to this day.
October 2007 – Swimming Malta/Gozo
The PCT had robbed my of the use of my knees. I could barely walk for some time, and it was months before I could ride a bike. Lack of exercise was driving me mad when I turned to swimming. It was something I had enjoyed at school and got some of the exercise endorphins moving again.
Swimming lacked the outdoors, though. I came across an article in the Guardian about Open Water swimming, and was soon booked on a Swimtrek holiday to Malta/Gozo.
Swimming in Gozo was amazing. Clear blue water below. High cliffs above. Fun people to share it with. And a certain swimming guide – Emily. Back in the UK, we got together and still share adventures today.
May 2008 – CLIC 24
As my ability to ride came, back so did ambition. A 24 hour solo mountain bike race seemed like a good goal. It was the kind of activity that my body was used to, just more of it. I loved riding anyway, so training should be fun.
I trained (what I thought was) hard, and the day itself was the most unhurried and measured ride that I had been on for months. I felt strong and steady. The race is held on bridleways, so remains open to the public – 10 hours in, my regular riding buddy Adam came along to say “hi”. We managed to talk him into riding a lap with me and it was a fantastic interlude. Just like a normal Tuesday night!
The small hours of the morning were dark, cold, and character-building. I’d never ridden through like that before, and it was a huge relief to see the sun come back. With the sun came an idea of where I was in the race: myself and Dave Powell were way out in front, with him leading me. I didn’t have the strength to challenge him, but I was going to keep on trudging in case he broke.
He didn’t break, and I finished second. For a first 24 solo, things went remarkably well. Emily kept me going from the pits; mind and body held together. All in, it was satisfying. Until the hunger began for more and further…
March 2009 – Iditarod Trail Invitational
The Iditarod Trail Invitational is as tough, remote, and beautiful as mountain bike racing can get. It’s not the sort of thing to enter into lightly. I wanted a bigger challenge after a 24 solo and Alaska could certainly be that. The main question was whether I was up to the task.
To find out if I could hack it, and to help make it more likely that I could, I signed up for one of Bill Merchant’s training camps. We spent a week out on the trail, with Bill sharing his wit and wisdom. I learned the techniques to ride and camp in temperatures that ranged from -10C to -25C. With my giant sleeping bag, I was always too warm at bed-time!
The race itself was crazy. Postal delays had meant my drop-bags didn’t make it to Alaska on time, so I had to carry supplies for the entire trip on the start-line. I was massively stressed about the race: scared that I wasn’t tough enough or prepared enough. Scared that I was ill and, in the night before the race, scared that I couldn’t sleep.
It came together in the end, though. Seasons in a single day. Indifferent, majestic beauty in all directions. A rag-tag line of other racers to chat with now and again.
The snow that year was as bad as it had ever been. The winning time was nearly double what it usually was. To get through Rainy Pass, I teamed up with Billy, Eric, and Lou. We took turns on the front, dragging a furrow through waist-deep snow. In one of the longest days of my life, we climbed up and stumbled down a mountain pass with our useless bikes.
From there on in, I became confident that I would finish. I had known that I wouldn’t give up lightly, but now I knew that I could make it. It took many more miles before McGrath, but finishing the Iditarod Trail Invitational was one of the greatest things I have ever done.
My original post-race blog ramblings:
Photos are on the Gallery page.
June 2010 – Tour Divide
Long, high, and great fun.
March 2011 – Iditarod Trail Invitational to Nome
The big one. The one I really cared about, and dreamed about. Fortunately, the weather smiled on myself and the other racers. I made it to Nome in 2nd place and the first rider to do so on a singlespeed. The fully story is in the following posts:
Shaktoolik To The End – To appear in The Ride Journal in February 2012