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Paul 'Jacko' Jackson takes on RAI

It’s going to happen….. It’s been a long held dream for me to compete in the Race Across Italy (RAI) and something that I’ve thought of a lot over the last few years particularly since I starting doing 24 hour races. But that’s all I’ve done, I’ve thought about it but not gone any further with it……..until now. The events of the last twelve months have given me a reminder that none of us are here forever and we need to take the chances to do the things we want to do while we can and while we’re still able to do them.

I bought my first bike when I hit forty years old because I was stacking on the weight, drinking too much, smoking up to 40 cigarettes a day and was seriously out of shape. The idea of getting a bike was for the commute to work and back to try and lose some weight and to get into better shape. This quickly snowballed as I developed a passion for cycling and for training and, to cut a long story short it wasn’t too long before I was cycling competitively where it soon became apparent that the longer the races, the better the results I was getting. This prompted me to enter an eight hour race which was then followed by a twelve hour and subsequently a twenty-four hour race of which I’ve now done four and completed three.

I mentioned above about events of the last twelve months giving me a reminder of my own mortality and this was an accident that occurred whist I was training on August 26th which left me with a broken hip, pelvis, collarbone, four ribs and subsequently a few weeks down the line, a brain hemorrhage or to give it its proper medical term, an acute subdural hematoma. he brain injury meant I was flown by Coastguard helicopter to Southampton hospital for emergency surgery without which I wouldn’t be here writing this.

With incredible support from family and friends my recovery has been pretty remarkable and I was back riding a bike again, albeit not for long and very slowly, by Christmas. With much patience and cycling coaching support from Gareth Pymm at Matt Bottrill Performance Coaching I’ve got back to racing this year and have completed a very successful twelve hour event covering 281 miles and a not so successful twenty-four where I covered “just” 407 miles, my worst result ever in a 24 but considering the lack of training I was happy just to complete it.

This now leads me to what is next. The RAI has been a long held dream and I realize now more than ever that we need to live life and do the things we want to whilst we’re able so I started looking into actually doing the race rather than just watching YouTube videos about it. The race takes place at the end of April next year, it’s a Race Across America qualifier and runs from the east coast of Italy to the West and back again over two big mountain ranges twice. I’ve wanted a step up from 24 hour racing and although the distance is something I’ve achieved before (480 miles) the terrain dictates that the target to finish would be somewhere around 34 hours with the ultimate goal being to qualify for the Race Across America. So with the support of the guys at Matt Bottrill Performance Coaching, Vanguard, HSS Hire, Cyclon Bike Care and Ian Brown’s Cycles we are entering the 2019 event.

As mentioned above, it’s an event that will take me beyond what I’ve ever done before, it runs from one side of Italy to the other and back again with a total ascent of approx 33,000ft in 480 miles and which I’ll be targeting to complete in around thirty-four hours. I’ll have a support crew of four people and one vehicle as per the race rules and they will accompany me for the duration of the race. Training has begun and with the aid of Gareth we’re looking at different ways to make sure I’m as prepared as I can be for next April working around the limitations of living on an island of 23 square miles. Being based in Guernsey training for big mountain climbs won’t be easy on the road as the longest climb we have here takes around four minutes to complete so I envisage a lot of time on the turbo with my front wheel propped up on a stack of telephone directories.

They say your goals should excite you and scare you in equal measure and RAI certainly ticks both of those boxes for me but I feel privileged that I’m able to do it and am looking forward to all of the planning, preparation and training over the next few months and pushing personal boundaries in Italy in April 2019. Many thanks to all at Team Bottrill, Matt Bottrill Performance Coaching, Vanguard Power, Cyclon Bike Care and Ian Brown’s Cycles for the opportunity and to Gareth for his coaching, I’m fairly sure I’ll be “testing” his boundaries in the coming months as well 😆.

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