In March of last year, whilst I was 6 months pregnant, I attended a talk by Graeme Obree at Athlete Service, my local bike shop. I came out utterly in awe of this man who was not only revolutionized our sport but has repeatedly pushed his body to its absolute limits multiple in his bid for the Hour Record. It was impossible to resist his enthusiasm and I left wondering if I could ever anything like that.
Fast forward to October 18th 2015. David, a 3-month-old Zoe and I are driving back from my very lacklustre debut at the National Closed Circuit Champs.
D: Maybe you should do some track stuff
Me: No, I’m not buying another bike
D: But there’d be no cars and you can’t get lost
Me: No, I’m not buying another bike
D: You could be good! You could win medals at the Masters. Oh my god, you could do the Masters Hour Record. Go on, look it up, what is it?
If nothing else David is persistent and I knew I wouldn’t have a moments peace for the rest of the journey home… Slow mobile internet be damned, I Googled whilst D tried to contain his excitement — Adelia Reyneke, 41.386km.
Given my 25mile PB of just under 56 minutes, this wasn’t totally outside the realms of possibility. I just needed to do it without a massive downhill start, traffic assistance and on a fixed wheel bike…. Nooooo problem!
And so it was that on New Years Eve, despite being so unfit that I couldn’t finish a club training session the day before at Newport, I’d bought a bike and was putting together a power/speed spreadsheet whilst everyone else was getting merry.
It was a simple enough plan, I had to find 20 watts, get my CdA back down to pre pregnancy best on a UCI legal bike and spend as much time in the velodrome as possible.As for equipment, I took articles on Molly Van Houweling and Bradley Wiggins to be the start of a shopping list and happily found that David and I hadn’t done badly with our purchases over the past few years!
- Cervelo T4 – on order
- Dash saddle – check
- USE Tula bars – check
- Mavic Comete wheels – an old club mate agreed to lend us a set as spares but I would use a prototype Revolver disc front from Harry Walker (previous owner, one Dame Sarah Storey, if its good enough for her…)
- Speedplay zero pedals – check
- Giro Empire shoes – check
- S-works helmet – yup, though it was not designed for comfort
- Skinsuit – a Nopinz/Aerocoach tripsuit in team colours, of course
- Cranks – I had a set of Infocranks on loan from Verve Cycling which Athlete Service had arranged for me.
I had Bob Tobin on my side so the improvement in power was never going to be an issue, especially given my previously lax approach to training. The problem was whether or not I could do it in the time we had and without getting ill.
Finances meant that I was only able to get 3 private sessions at Newport, the last of which was for the attempt itself. Luckily I had a very understanding club in GS Henley who let me gatecrash their training session and made time for me to do individual efforts. Being on maternity leave also meant that I was able to ‘pop’ over to Wales for a few drop in sessions and I made the most of living near an outdoor velodrome to learn the art of a fixie. I finally got the hang of ‘sagging’ my head and watched as my CdA dropped and dropped with every tweak we made. Things were looking good and I was clocking 42.5km/h consistently
Once we had lined up the UCI officials in April, we were ready to announce the attempt to the world and by that I mean, the poor folk who ‘follow’ me on social media. Almost as soon as we went public, the plan began to unravel. I had cold after cold after cold, training was erratic but we were hopeful that with some final tweaks from Xav and Aerocoach, my CdA was low enough that we could break the record without being at full fitness.
But, like I said, things didn’t exactly go to plan! The helmet that Xav had recommended arrived 2 days before the attempt missing the aerodynamically vital front cover! There was a mad scramble to find another in stock and delivered. The rear Mavic disc we’d borrowed didn’t fit my T4, which was massively confusing given the number of people who claim to be using this combination. A track conversion kit was hastily fitted to our Zipp disc and the glue in the new super thin tub was barely dry.
And so the 14th of May came by quicker than I could have imagined. I had a brand new custom made CFD Tripsuit from Nopinz, I knew this suit would be fast, I just didn’t know how fast. That, coupled with my lingering cold, meant that there was a bit of uncertainty around what power I would need to break the record and what speeds I was capable of. With Xav’s wise parting words of “Your first priority is to break the record, your second is to do a good record. Too many people get the priorities the wrong way round”, we settled on a target of 42km.
Even as I arrived at Newport with many thousands of pounds worth of carbon fibre in the car, things didn’t seem real. It wasn’t until I introduced myself to the UCI commissaire Julie Rodman that it began to dawn on me what was going on.
My crack team of Carl Whitwell and Justin Layne put my bikes together and through the bike check without any issue and then it was on the rollers (facing away from the spectator area for my sanity) to warm up. Not that I needed it as we’d cranked the heating to some 27 degrees. Actually, the hugely experienced Julie (she’d worked on the Boardman, Dowsett and Wiggins attempts but this was obviously going to be the highlight of her career!?) advised that we had the heating turned off midway so that I didn’t get too sweaty.
Bike in gate, Clarry on bike, no no gate in wrong place, Clarry gets off, gate moved and repeat 3 times. I keep looking at the clock, so much for my 7.15 kick off. Oh well, at least I’m getting lots of practice clipping in.
With a ‘Good Luck’, Julie leaves me and 25 seconds later I hear the ominous beep beep beep. It’s been over a month since I was last in a start gate and I’m not sure I remember what to do. I move my bum up and back but keep as much of my weight as I can on my front foot, ready to push down hard as soon as that last pip goes.
And we’re off. I’m in the saddle far far too early but I tell myself it’s OK. Better that than lose control and fall off. As I pass Justin for the first time, I hear a ‘four’. Shit, that must have been a really slow 34 second lap so I kick hard. Turns out that was a 24 second lap, over 3 seconds faster than I’d expected and completely threw off the timing spreadsheet I’d given Bob and Carl. Then with a 46km/h Lap 2, I was basically on target speed of 42km/h already.
From then on, we were aiming for a 21.4 second lap. Sometimes I’d hear a ‘One Four, perfect’ but more often than not I’d fluctuate wildly between ‘Oh Nine, calm down’ and ‘One Nine, pick it up’.
I completely lost track of time. Any attempt to look up at the big screen took almost 4 laps of mental preparation but it was a pointless exercise, as I didn’t know what time I’d started and I couldn’t read the whiteboard that was displaying my average speed and time. All I could do was keep reminding myself to breathe and stay on top of the pedals. Finally, I heard David’s voice on the back straight “Halfway, you’re smashing it”. From then on, I can hear the crowd get more and more animated. They’ve started to spread round the velodrome making the back straight a far less lonely place. I can actually identify some of the voices now and it’s a pretty welcome distraction.
10 minutes and I try to wind the pace up again. 30 laps to go and I count them down. Not long until I can use my favourite ever phrase ‘3 minutes! You can do anything for 3 minutes!’ It was a stalwart of my rowing career and I do like to use it at every opportunity. (You can see where that kicks in on my pacing chart!!)
I’m in the very fortunate position that the record is broken with a minute to spare so everything after that is pure bonus. The bell rings but I’m not actually sure if that means I have one more lap to go or I just finish the lap I’m on. Better safe than sorry so I put my head down and carry on until I’m absolutely sure. 42.116km, not quite what I thought I could do but a record’s a record.
Massive hug from David, I put my head in between my knees until the sicky feeling passes then I’m coerced into posing for the spectators. You want me to lift the bike above my head, are you kidding? Awkward photos done and I’m onto the much more awkward issue of drugs testing. Sadly, by the time that’s done the velodrome is shutting up for the night and most people have gone home before I’ve really had a chance to thank them for coming all the way to watch. I never expected that many people would come and I’m truly blessed that I have so many great family, friends, teammates who are willing to give up their weekend for me. Thank you all!!!
Thanks again to the fabulous people who’ve made this attempt possible and successful!
My team and sponsors, SSLL (I have a massive banner with my name on it!! Dreams do come true!)
Blake at Nopinz and Xav at Aerocoach for the custom tripsuit.
Verve Cycling for lending me the super accurate and hassle free Infocranks
Harry at Revolver Wheels for a truly beautiful front disc
OTE for the very yummy mint choc protein bar that I look forward to after every hard session
Bob Tobin at CyclePowerMeters for agreeing to coach me (I bet he regrets that now he knows how much of a drama queen I am)
Rob and Laurence at Athlete Service for all their hard work putting Beryl together for me
My lovely club mates at GS Henley especially Ryan and Bex for their brilliant photos
Carl and Justin who’s support, wise words and calming influence have been second to none
And of course my punch bag, oops I mean husband, David Woodhouse, who has always had more faith in my abilities than I do and is the reason I actually get off the sofa to do something with my life.