Race day. I didn’t sleep particularly well, but have been so rested all week that I felt fine when I got up. I had decided to ride out to the track, so left at 3:50 for the 14 mile ride; that got me there at 4:40, and the convoy of cars arrived about ten minutes later. I was feeling pretty nervous, but people seemed to realise to just leave me alone, which was good. Once we got out to the track, I got in the bike to do a lap without the top – I wanted to see what the bumps were like before I hit them at 50mph….. Fairly rough, but the bike held it’s line okay. Dave then got the bike set up on the line whilst I got changed and sat in the air conditioned van with ice packs in an attempt to cool down before starting. Then it was just a question of deciding I was ready and getting loaded in. I could have done without the volume of people standing around watching, and the press cameras coming right up close, but just shut my eyes and tried to relax whilst the shell and canopy were taped on. And then it was time to go. We had a nice smooth launch, and I started pedalling. The start was on the (slight) uphill straight (0.2%), not much, but enough to make it hard work in a 60lb bike, plus there was a light headwind to ride into too. It took me two miles to get to 50mph, but then I hit the corresponding downhill straight and the bike picked up to 55. The North corner was the bumpiest, with several nasty ruts close together in the middle. But although it wasn’t great hitting them, it didn’t seem to hinder the speed. My second lap was done at an average of 54mph, and it seemed like the bike was going pretty well. And indeed it was, with my third lap fast too. But then, at 20 minutes, the heat started kicking in. The temperature had been close to 30 degrees when I started, and riding in a carbon box is not conducive to cooling at the best of times. I didn’t actually feel that hot, but the speed just started to drop. And from that 20 minute point on, all I wanted to do was stop and get out – it was so tempting to just flick up into the second lane (the signal to the following car that you want out) and freewheel, but I had to keep going.
At 30 minutes my computer said 26 miles, so I figured that although I was now dropping away from record pace, if I could just average 48mph for the next half hour, then I’d break 50 miles. Then when the speed dropped some more – I was down to 46mph at one point – my motivation was that as long as I finished I would get the British record (previously just under 47 miles). At any rate, I somehow managed to convince myself to keep going as best I could. I did manage to lift the pace back up to 53mph for the last five minutes, and at the hour my speedo said 50.4 miles. Fortunately I had finished just before the pits, so was able to pull in soon after finishing the hour, and get pulled from the bike. Becky said it was like opening an oven when they took the top off. I was lifted out of the bike and laid out on the ground, and covered in ice, and it still took over 15 minutes for my temperature to start approaching anything normal. We had got lucky with the weather – the sun had remained obscured by cloud for the duration of the hour. Eventually I was able to sit, and then stand, with assistance. Duncan said he had never seen me in that bad a state after a race! My final official distance was 49.84 miles; frustratingly close to 50, but a new British record and not bad for my first ever hour, especially with it being only my second ride in the bike!
While I was recovering, Steve Delaire (who had arrived at some point after the previous day’s meeting) set out for his run. He was running in the 40’s, but quit after 40 minutes with overheating.
So, a good learning day – I got solid experience of handling the bike, we learnt that it is capable of running at record pace, but that we need to really think about cooling the engine! I’m used to racing in Europe, where fogging inside the bike is a problem, and so you can’t really introduce more water into the bike for cooling. But here in Arizona it is so hot and dry that that is not an issue – I never even had any sweat running down my face. We spent some time discussing various possible solutions, and Dave and Becky implemented some of the them in the afternoon. The plan is to make another attempt on Sunday (yes I am that mad – I think my mind must have blocked out just how horrible it was today!); if we can keep me cool then there’s a good chance of adding a couple of miles I think.
Saturday 1st July