Our man in the West of Scotland, Harry Tweed was out on his bike, t’other day, way down at Moffat in The Borders when he happened upon two riders heading north.
But not just any two riders, Christina Mackenzie (Stirling Bike Club) and her mentor, Ireland’s Joe Barr, bronze medallist in 100 kilometre TTT at the 1986 Commonwealth Games.
Christina is holder of the British ladies veteran [41 years-old] 24 hour record with 431.64 miles – and she’s preparing for an attempt on the End to End, or LEJOG (Lands End to John O’Groats), all 874 miles and 10,373 metres climbing of it.
Joe meanwhile is preparing for the Race Across America, it’s a wee bit longer at 5,000 kilometres plus – that’s around 3,125 miles…
We got in touch with Christina – who retains her lovely Lewis accent, she’s a Stornoway girl originally – to talk about her 24 hour record and her plans for covering the length of the nation.
You broke the record in the Mersey Roads ‘24’ but there were last minute course changes which meant more climbing for you?
“Yes, last minute road works meant that they had to use lumpier circuits which added around 2,000 metres of climbing giving a total of about 3,500 mettes.”
Was that your first ‘24’ and will you be back this year, seeking improvement?
“No, I rode one before and did 397 miles but had mechanicals and was inexperienced, I knew I was capable of much better.
“I won’t be riding one this year, all my focus is on the LEJOG.”
What’s the current record and what makes you want to go for it?
“The current record is held by Lynne Biddulph (nee Taylor) with 52 hours 45 minutes; I came late to the bike via triathlon and had competed in 24 hour ‘adventure’ races which involve running, biking and kayaking.
After the ‘24’ I was looking for another challenge so LEJOG seemed like a good option.”
How long has the idea been bubbling?
“In a serious way for about nine months, I got chatting to folks in the endurance community, in particular Michael Broadwith.”
[Michael has appeared in the pages of VeloVeritas in the past as triple 24 hour champion and after his successful end to end, last year, ed.]
“Michael is the current male LEJOG record holder with 43 hours 25 minutes, he’s a maths teacher and produced all these schedule spread sheets for me – he’s been great.
“I met him, his wife and some of his LEJOG team at the CTT [Cycling Time Trials formerly the RTTC, ed.] dinner and had a long chat with them, they gave me lots of invaluable advice.”
How much of the route have you recce-ed so far?
“Just the Moffat to Kirknewton section where we met Harry; I plan to ride other sections as part of my preparation, like the stretch from Lands End up to Bristol through Devon, which I believe is a bit tedious?
“There are other parts I’m familiar with, like the A9 from Perth to Inverness, I won’t need to ride that.”
Do you have a coach to advise you on training for a ride of this duration?
“Joe Barr who Harry saw me with at Moffat is my mentor, he rides endurance races in Ireland like the Donegal 555 kilometres Atlantic Way and won the 2018 Race Around Ireland.”
[That’s 2157 kilometres; his time was 104 hours 3 minutes – and I remember my teammates in GS Modena getting jumpy if we asked them to ride a ‘100’! Ed.]
“Joe is currently preparing for the Race Across America. He advises me on preparation and training – and his partner Jill advises me on nutrition.”
What’s your occupation and how do you fit training in?
“I’m a swimming development officer with Falkirk Community trust.
“Training takes up about 18 hours each week, I fit it in before and after work.
“I do back to back long miles in ‘zone 2’ at weekends; threshold turbo sessions and get out with the Stirling Bike Club chain gang.”
When do you plan to go?
“I’ve notified the RRA [Road Records Association, the body which governs place to place and ‘straight out’ records, ed.] of my intention to go during a window of one month commencing August 1st.
“Then it’s a case of waiting for the right wind direction.
“The RRA have been very helpful – they’ll have an observer in one of my following cars and a time keeper another.
“The rules are very strict as far as number of times the car can pass you to feed and all feeding has to come from roadside – no feeding from the car.”
Have you got your team together?
“I have a core team of five Stirling Bike Club members, the club has a long tradition of riding 12 hour races and they’re all preparing for the ’12.’
“The logistics as far as marshals and encouragement obviously gets easier once I get up to Queensferry in Scotland.”
Is it a Michael Broadwith ‘10 mile TT bike’ job as far as hardware goes?
“No, I’m riding my road bike with tri-bars and deep section rims but will have my time trial bike with me in case we get any nice fast sections.”
How much will the attempt cost?
“In the region of £10,000; you have accommodation for the team at Lands End before the start then after the finish at John O’Groats – then you have the fuel costs for four vehicles and the expenses of all the officials who have to get to the start then get home after.
“Leslie Bikes have been very helpful with equipment and Salici are providing helmets and glasses – we’ll be putting a presentation together to try to attract sponsors.
“‘lejogmack.co.uk’ is the attempt website, which we’re working on just now – also for Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.”
We’ve asked Christina to keep us abreast of developments and let us know when she ‘goes’ so as we can keep readers abreast of progress.
As the French might say, ‘Bon chance Christina.’
With thanks to Christina and Harry Tweed.