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Paul Jackson - Race Across Italy Update

Coming up to six weeks before the event now and training has gone well and everything is in place for the trip, there was a new kit delivery arrived at the beginning of last month, which is always nice, and a bit like Christmas arriving early (or late, depending on your perspective).

With 10 weeks to go I finally succumbed to one of the winter bugs that are going around and picked up one of the worst cases of man-flu ever recorded by the medical profession. As soon as I told Gareth what was going on, my plan was amended and sets adapted to account for my illness. I get asthma and tend to suffer with this quite badly when I get a cold (oops, I mean man-flu), so need to be very conscious of my breathing and monitor it closely. Feeling like I was doing ok and not wanting to miss training, I fell into the rookie mistake of coming back too hard too early and did two long rides at the weekend, the second of which I quit after four hours when I stopped at home to collect more bottles. I started coughing really badly as soon as I walked in the door and, to cut a long story short, my wife “insisted” that I didn’t continue. Sometimes I need to be told what’s good for me as I’m the world’s worst for continuing training if I’m not well.

It does no harm to miss two or three days training to get yourself well again and I should’ve done that in the first place as I missed several sessions the following week after training hard again when I wasn’t recovered. I may have got away with it if I was doing shorter duration rides but I need more recovery time for the stuff that I’m doing. I would like to say that I’ve learned my lesson this time but I’m sure I’ll do it again the next time that I get a cold.

Despite this, training is generally still going well, duration of weekend rides is building up slowly and we’re now reaching a point where members of the support crew are coming out at certain times of the day to feed me and top me up with bottles, etc. This is quite easy for us to do in Guernsey as I can never be more than 5 miles from my own front door so even if I’m doing 150 miles on the road I can say to the team meet me at a specific place at a set time and they don’t need to go far. I try to avoid going home now as there’s always the temptation to get comfortable and spend too much time stopped and off of the bike before getting going again. It also helps the crew prepare their routine for food stops before the race itself.

The enormity of the task ahead does hit me on occasion though. I’ve mentioned previously about having goals that excite you and scare you in equal measure and although I’m definitely more excited than scared I do get moments where I think to myself “WTF are you doing?!” I’ve done endurance events before but this is the first time that I would’ve ventured into the world of ultra-endurance and it would be a lie to say that I 100% have no doubts with what I’m doing. It’s all uncharted territory for me and as much as I’m determined to achieve the initial goal of just completing the event, I also want to achieve a defined target and really don’t know if that’s possible for me or not. If all goes to plan and I hit my target then it means me riding for around ten hours more than I’ve ever done before and it will take me into new ground. On paper, ten hours doesn’t sound a lot but it’s a long time to be pedalling a bike and when you take into account riding through potentially one and half nights and climbing pretty much the equivalent of Mt Everest, it’s clear that the event needs to be treated with due respect.

My approach to the race will be to break it down into sections rather than to look at the enormity of the whole thing in one go. Initially and before I even start riding I will be thinking to myself “Only 34 hours to go. I’ve trained for months for this and it’s pretty much over now, just a day and half to go and I’ll be finished”. Once the race actually begins I’ll break it down into sections between the time-stations and rest stops. There are four official time-stations where each rider needs to check in and it will be mentally easier to think to myself that I’m aiming to reach the next stop rather than thinking I have 400+ miles to go to the finish. Each stop will allow for some decent food, a change of clothes if necessary and possibly a hot drink. Also it allows for working on the bike, cleaning it up, pumping up tyres, etc. and putting lights on for the mandatory duration of the night ride period. Each rider needs to be accompanied by his crew at each time station and is required to be in “close follow” between the hours of 18:00 – 07:00 which means that the rider must stay in the beam of the follow car’s headlights at all times which is going to be pretty stressful for the driver!!

When I write the next blog it will around four weeks before the race…….time is going very quickly...! Preparation is going well though and we’re in a good place right now. Thanks as ever to Matt Bottrill Performance Coaching, Gareth Pymm for my cycling coaching, Endura, Vanguard Power, HSS Hire, Cyclon Bike Care and Ian Browns Cycles for making this all possible.

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