With less than two weeks to go now until the start of my ElliptiGO 2,100KM Wild Atlantic Way Audax ride I thought I would provide a little more information about the ride, my approach and what to expect.
I'll take that last one first. I expect this ride to be the toughest challenge I have undertaken to date either by ElliptiGO or on foot. I've completed the Western States Endurance Run and UTMB trail races, and completed the 1000KM 3 day Audax Mille Cymru in Wales on my ElliptiGO. But this challenge scares me way more than those three put together. Why?
I think for three reasons:
1- The total distance and hence the continuous nature of this ride over 7 days and 7 hours is clearly more than I've ever subjected myself to before. Both physically and mentally this is a step into the unknown. Although I much prefer to think of it as a leap of Faith. And it is my Faith in God and my Church (for which I am fundraising) that has given me a tremendous amount of confidence going into this ride. It certainly isn't the physical preparation which because of a new job role and working pattern I'm unable to commute to work nearly as often as I did in the past. Hence all my training has really been squished into a number of long weekend training rides.
Nevertheless I'm still fairly happy with my training all things considered. Longest rides completed since March are 150KM, 300, two 400s and a 600KM. But I know hand on heart that I'm not as fit as I was when completing Mille Cymru in 2014, and I think that ride with its 16,000 metres of climbing is the closest comparison to WAWA which has around 22,000 metres of ascent but over twice the distance. So metre for metre WAWA has less climbing which is stretched out over 7 days. However the combination of the distance, ascent, and the time on my feet per day (20hrs) certainly has my complete undivided attention.
2 - The second reason for apprehension about WAWA is the weather. The Irish west coast will throw everything at us. We might strike it lucky and get 7 days of glorious sunshine and warm nights, however its far more likely that we will have to brace ourselves for driving rain, wind, cold nights and general unpleasantness at some point. But this is not something in my control and hence I can not let it worry me. Instead all I can do is be prepared with a combination of layers and good clothing for all eventualities and I've certainly done this.
3 - The third and final reason and my biggest uncertainty is sleep deprivation. This is something beyond my control in many ways but also to some extent in my control. What is largely out of my control is the time it will take me to complete the required distance each day. The distance is fixed and hence so is the place where I will eventually sleep each night. The longest days are also the first two days each at 325KM. These are also the hilliest!! So there is no easy warm up!! Its straight into this one. I will cover my planned approach to riding the WAWA below. All I will say here is that sleep deprivation will play a major factor and I just need to find a way to cope with this aspect once on the ride one day at a time.
So to my approach. My strategy for this ride and in fact any Audax ride is exactly the same - its all about your average speed and minimising the amount of stopping time that you are stationary for. Not moving has the biggest effect on your average speed. This sounds really obvious I know but on an ElliptiGO this is even more important than on a standard road bike. The average moving speed on an ElliptiGO is dictated by the terrain you are riding, road conditions and wind. Hills, wind and rough roads all have a major effect. How fit you are and how fast you ride have a much lesser effect on overall pace and its almost possible to make up time or dramatically change the average pace. Hence all you can do is ride what's in front of you and see what the average speed turns out to be.
My expectation for each day on WAWA if it goes well is to ride for approximately 18 hours per day at what I hope will be an average moving speed of 17KPH. If the conditions allow this then I'll have the luxury of 6hrs of total breaks during each 24hr period. This 6hrs will be roughly split into 3hrs of total stops during the day ( 6 x 15 mins and 3 x 30 mins), and 3hrs at the end of each day once the required distance is complete to eat main meal, shower (if needed), sleep (2hrs), eat again and then get back out for the next day of riding, and repeat.
If my average moving pace is less than 17KPH which it might well be, then the only thing I can do is to have fewer and/or shorter breaks. And this is why a focus on constantly moving forward is so important on the ElliptiGO. There is almost no margin for error or comfort on this ride whatsoever. One incident, major mechanical or just a slower than expected average moving speed caused by any combination of the above conditions will massively impact the chances of successfully completing the WAWA.
What else to say.... At this point my training is done, the ElliptiGO will be serviced next weekend, and I've pretty much listed everything I will be taking with me. All that remains is to mentally prepare and get as much sleep as possible in the next 12 days. And with that I bid you good night.