Tag Archives: trans alp

Day 7 – The final ascent

Today was a mixture of emotions standing on the start line I felt elated to have made it this far, with no serious mechanicals for both me and the bike! But unhappy that it was to be the last 54 km ride in this beautiful race.

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After a dry start leaving Trento, we started the gradual climb up from 200m to 1700m. The climb started on road turning to forest tracks and gravel paths as we steadily made it to the top. I was feeling great today, no aches and pains and was actually enjoying this demanding climb. (Clearly I’m getting used to the Alps!) Some sections were pretty steep and with all the rain over night rather slippy too and had to be walked. I joined a trail of silent cyclists pushing their bikes with a feeling of accomplishment that we all shared being there on the final day. Once the terrain was rideable I enjoyed the forest trails which were very like home in a way and the rain was certainly not dampening my state of mind as I looked for the lines ahead. The Era has been fantastic, apart from a few gearing issues caused by the 42t sprocket I put on for climbing. The low stand-over height and rear shock have given me confidence to try lines and go down singletrack which I know I would usually not do. I have relished in pushing myself out of my comfort zone and have found this whole week has been one long learning curve on bike handling, climbing, scrambling, nutrition and positive mental attitude!

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The rain soon set in hard and I was so glad to have my Gore Tex jacket. The feed station at 19km was full of chilly cyclists sipping hot soup still with smiles on their faces.

I didn’t stop for long just grabbing some pineapple and a drinks refill before continuing climbing to the summit at 24km.

When I reached the top I felt relieved that my last big hill climb was behind me, but sad that I was nearly half way through the final stage. During this race there has been many highs and lows and I have learnt so much about myself, met some wonderful people and have fully immersed myself in the adventure, one that I am already looking to replicate by taking on another stage race, these thoughts filled my head as I soaked up the downhill. The first part was grassy paths through steep sided gulley’s, which in the dry would have been great fun, but the rain had made them like ice rinks and together with a group I cautiously made my way down these steep parts. Once we hit fire road, I enjoyed the sweeping corners singing songs with the word rain in them, as I made my way down to try and keep my spirits high as the rain tumbled from the sky.

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The feed station at 32km came with a very welcome hot tea and waffles. I had two cups and carried on. Just up the road was my Dad, like a hot water bottle angel, he stood with dry gloves and arm warmers. I have never been so happy to pull on a cosy warm layer and this really helped get me up what was now my final climb in the Alps!

At the top of the climb Michelle was waiting huddled with Tom (her boyfriend). We finished the final downhill section together down some rocky singletrack which I really enjoyed. Now we were not as high, it was warm and damp, a little bit like a summer in Wales, so I felt really at home whizzing down the trails looking for the lines which avoided any slippy roots.

Racing into the back roads of the town, full of puddles and pot holes and through the final finishing archway was incredible, I felt like I was dreaming. After thinking of this moment for the last 10 months, visualising what it would feel like to have accomplished my dream it was difficult to describe how I felt, relieved to have finished climbing mountains for a while, exhilarated to have pushed my body out of the comfort zone both in descending and climbing and overwhelmed to now be able to say I completed the toughest Stage race in Europe! WE DID IT!

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Thank you to all my family and friends who supported me. Thank you to Specialized for letting me use the Era, Thanks to Bike Fixers, Grip Grab, Food for Thought and Dogtag for supporting us on this journey of a life-time.

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Day 6 – Team work, tunnels and thunderstorms

Day six started with some nerves, I was worried about how my back would be after yesterday and felt rather emotional about being so close to the finish line.

Luckily sleep, Pilates and painkillers seemed to work okay and after the congestion created by the downhill start the long climb was okay and I felt alright if I stayed at a steady pace. Michelle is a better climber than me and at this point had disappeared into the distance; it was nice to see her walking back down to help me with my bike on a steeper section when I was struggling to push up. In a team event it is these little moments of support that keep you going.

After the feed station the fun stuff began, with an enduro challenge section through the forest on steep woodland single-track it was challenging yet fun, you had to keep an eye on your line to avoid boulders hidden in the leaves.

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I enjoyed this section a lot and felt good by the end of it. Our path then stayed mainly off road and wiggled through valleys with short sharp climbs and descents, one of the highlights was riding through a very long dark tunnel where the temperature was so cold it took my breath away. It was really eerie riding from bright sunlight into such a dark place. It seemed to go on forever! A small group of us stayed close together and you could tell no one wanted to be alone in this tunnel!

The path then continued to wind through apple groves and vineyards until the last final descent which was more like a scramble than a bike track! We had to carefully make our way down the rock face with our bikes it was super steep!

My body is handling the long days well so far as long as I stick to a steady pace and refuelling regularly before I came away i asked Sally Bigham for advice which has been absolutely brillaint as I have been eating little and often fuelling with between 70 and 90g carbohydrate an hour to keep my energy levels high.

So far my bike had been amazing I changed my brake pads yesterday but apart from that no mechanical issues bar a few jumpy gears. Thanks Specialized.

The climbing has been a lot tougher than I expected but having never bike more than 4 days in a row before and the fact I live in such a flat country its been hard to train for such monster climbs, I am really pleased to make it to day 6! Bring on the final stage I can almost taste Lake Garda and Prossecco!

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Distance: 88.24 km
Metres of climbing: 2,364 m
Saddles: Passo le Fraine (1,705 m)

Day 5 – 3,000m of climbing

Today was tough! I didn’t get the best start as my chain jammed 800m from the start once I had fixed it took ages for me to get going again because of the sheer number of bikers squeezing down this small Italian road.

This bad luck continued throughout the day, my back which has been fine for the last four days, really hurt sending pains down my leg and into my foot, not ideal on a day when you have 3,000m to climb!

I kept it steady and tried to break the day down into sections. I would not think further than the next water point or saddle summit this helped a little but it was one of those days when both mentally and physically I felt pushed to the extreme and had to dig deep to just keep going in the right direction.

By the top of Passo Gavia at 2,600m I was really struggling and there still seemed so much left in front of me. I got off and stretched out my back while Michelle kindly waited this seemed to ease the pain in my leg and foot.

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Michelle and I then descended down the road to the Enduro challenge which was a mixture of dusty steep trail and rock gardens. I have been really enjoying the singletrack its been such good fun and pushed me out of my comfort zone. Today I got over confident at one point and ended scrapping my ankle down the rock which was not pleasant and reminded me that I needed to go careful with two days left to complete the race.

After the enduro challenge the route climbed steeply once more. By the feed station at 45km I was again in a lot of pain and felt overwhelmed by the fact there was still over 40km to go until the finish, I just didn’t see how I could keep going. It is in these moments we all find out the strength of our character, it was a lonely climb to the top of the pass and I battled a lot of negative feelings in those 5km!

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I was relieved to see Michelle at the top who then helped me with my bike up a few steep climbs as she could tell I was in trouble.

The path was undulating and continued to climb further we passed a emergency helicopter and then were rather shocked when we turned the next corner to see a cyclist ready to be air lifted out, it put into perspective how even though my body was hurting I was still able to ride.

We pushed on once more every kilometre seemed to go by so slowly I was relieved to see the finish!

Distance: 86.32 km
Metres of climbing: 3,073 m
Saddles: Passo Gavia (2,621 m), Alta Via Camuna (2,393 m)

Day 3 – The picturesque stage

Day three – The picturesque stage

Today has to be my favourite stage so far! Yes the climbs were brutal and steep but this was compensated in the most stunning single-track I think I have ever ridden!

The race started with a climb (something I am getting used to!) for 23km it was tough work but mainly on road so it was a case of getting in a good gear and keeping a rhythm.

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The route followed the river and climbed gently to start with before getting steeper, the descent from the top was steep and rocky but good fun and led to a well-earned watermelon stop!

The next section was a brutal climb so steep that in places I felt like I was going backwards, I had to hop off and walk on several occasions.

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This gruelling uphill effort when on for what felt like an age, waiting at the top was my Dad with a much needed water bottle refill before the fun stuff began!

The enduro section today was rocky to start with wooded single-track, I loved it apart from the scraping of my hand against the rock which was not much fun.

One of the best parts of today was riding along the side of the reservoir up high through a waterfall and through wooded singletrack it was brilliant fun and the views were out of this world!

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I really enjoyed today the climbs were challenging but the singletrack was brilliant and made up for the pain I felt climbing.

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Today was the hottest day so far and the heat is starting to drain my energy!

The final preparation week

Anyone who knows me well by now will probably be aware that I am racing across the Alps with team mate Michelle. If you’re unlucky enough to have seen me recently you’re probably bored of hearing about the wave of different emotions that hit me on a daily basis about how I feel about it being so close…

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Since starting this journey in October the idea that I actually have to haul myself and my bike up Everest twice has been far on the horizon, a blip in the distance. Well now it’s only a week away that blip is in full focus in my mind and all around me consuming most of my days with thought’s on whether ive done enough training, having I got my nutrition right, what if I brake a spoke have I packed enough brake pads and so the carousel of thoughts goes on…

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Last week was a huge training week for me as I crammed in vital miles on the bike around work and play (play being one fun ride with my Dad). I covered 185 miles (one of my biggest weeks) in 15 hours and felt super happy with how everything went.

This is my first stage race and one question I keep asking myself is, why did I pick a 7 day stage race as my first and not maybe 2 or 3! I have learnt so much this year from training and racing I have had some real highs and real lows but feel stronger both mentally and physically for it. I think this year has made me a stronger person all round and I am hoping that strength will help carry me through my first stage race.

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I have learnt a lot about myself and really learnt to listen to my body most importantly and I feel more in tune with what’s going on inside and how to get the best out of myself.

Training for an endurance event is a bit like rehearsing for a play, each time I set out I am rehearsing for the big event. Concentrating on my fuelling, listening to my body and improving my pacing.

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Having Rachel’s help on my nutrition has enabled me to get a lot more out of my training and improved my focus. She has helped me come up with a fuelling schedule that keeps me feeling on top form.

I feel physically ready for the Alps now, I have been working hard with my coach Mark to up the miles and feel myself getting stronger.

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This week I have started to taper off training and have been keeping a watchful eye on my nutrition and making sure I’m getting loads of good food!

Thank you to my coach Mark, Specialized, Bike Fixers, Food for Thought, Grip Grab and Dog Tag and of course all my friends and family keeping me going!

Now all I have to do is pack…

 

 

 

All great rides end with cake!

Today was the my long ride day. My ride was set to be 4 hours long in tempo heart rate for 220 mins (heart rate between 150 – 160 bpm).

I set out with Michelle my partner for the Trans Alp from Petersfield on a loop I had planned with as many hills in it as possible! Our first big ascent was Butser Hill, which usually has awesome views out to the sea from the top, today not so great!

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After climbing Butser we made our way down and around to Liss, I was keen to take my new full suspension bike off road so we headed to the wood to try out some of the single track around Liphook. Living in the South Downs we are really lucky to have such amazing riding all around.

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The new Era was such a comfortable ride, the 29er rolls smoothly over lumps and bumps once the bike is moving it just seems easier to maintain momentum.

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After our ‘playtime’ off road we headed back to the tarmac to finish our long ride.

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Altogether we clocked up 47 miles in 4 hours and 10 minutes, we climbed over a 1000m which was a great achievement but far off the 19,000m we will do over 7 days in the alps!

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As ever all great rides end with cake today we stopped at Madelines Delicatessen for a slice of Almond and apricot cake totally awesome worth checking out this place.

I am excited to be back training properly again and working hard towards my first race, Battle on the Beach in March.

This week I have done 9 hours training so far and clocked up just over 100 miles. I am  pleased with my progress and enjoying learning how to get the most out of my new bike.

My coach added a sprints interval session and a flat pedal technique session to my normal routine, it is good to have new challenges and goals to work towards. I have forgotten how tough sprints were so its nice to be out pushing my body to new limits.

End of season review

It seems a very long time ago that I was lining up at Battle on the Beach for my first race of the season.

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I went up to elite this year which was a bit of a baptism of fire! My first nationals were a real eye opener to the speed needed to be competitive in cross-country. Although the race was really hard I learnt a lot from the experience. I went away and worked on my technical skills.

Over the winter I had been doing some longer rides and found these suited me. I have always found the power and pace of cross-country a challenge but this year decided to try endurance racing.

My first six hour solo was tough but showed me that I could turn to endurance racing. I worked hard to improve my endurance building up from 3 hour nonstop rides to 5 hour nonstop rides. These were hard but I enjoyed pushing myself in a new direction and worked hard on my fitness.

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The next challenge was a 24 hour race with Martyn where we got an unexpected 3rd place.

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After Mountain Meyhem I had my own time of mayhem with buying our first house my training was disrupted. I decided to use this time when I was feeling rather stressed to concentrate on training and getting used to being on my bike for long periods of time and perfecting my nutrition during those rides.

I entered the last round of the Southern XC series and was happy that my training had paid off when I managed 3rd place.

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My next priority race was Torq in your Sleep, my first 12 hour solo. I didn’t really know what to expect but I had a plan which I stuck too and that paid off. I learnt so much from this race like make sure you eat little and often so that you don’t get stomach cramp, don’t take the dodgy head torch light out as coming back to change it costs a lot of time (20 mins to be precise).

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The next few months I will be working on my endurance and stamina clocking up the miles and building a good base over the winter.

My aim for 2016 is to race the Trans Alp and continue to improve on my endurance results from this year.

Thank you to my coach Mark at Velo coaching for your help with my training.

Thanks to my sponsors Grip Grab and Bike Fixers. Thanks to Silverback for my brilliant Syncra which has kept me competitive all year.

If you would be interested in supporting me in 2016 please contact hannah@peal2pedal.co.uk