Sunday, November 28, 2021
HomeInterviewsChristina Mackenzie - Land's End to John O'Groats Record Breaker!

Christina Mackenzie – Land’s End to John O’Groats Record Breaker!

-

It’s been two years since Christina Mackenzie’s unsuccessful Land’s End to John O’Groats attempt, but her coach, Gary Hand of Espresso Coaching looks at those 839 unforgiving miles not as a failure but as a ‘dry run.’

That’s what we call ‘positive mental attitude,’ Mr. Hand.

But this time, congratulations are in order as Christina became the fastest-ever woman to traverse the largest of the British Isles from it’s south western to north eastern tips.

Christina, originally from the Isle of Lewis but now Stirling-based took time to speak to VeloVeritas a day or two after her epic ride.

Christina Mackenzie
Christina Mackenzie and her support team. Photo©supplied

Congratulations, Christina, why go on the day you did?

“You have to post your ‘window of opportunity’ and ours was 25th July until the 5th August that was to fit in with my own and my support team’s work and holiday situations.

“Then there’s the weather, I spent all my time looking at weather apps and forecasts to see what would be most favourable; and you have to give the RRA [the Road Records Association, which is the governing body for all place to place records in the UK, ed.] 48 hours notice so that they can have observers and time keepers in place.

“In the event the wind wasn’t the best but it wasn’t the worst, the south westerly I had for the opening part of the ride gave me a good head start, we knew that later it would get wet and the wind wouldn’t be so favourable but it meant I was ahead of schedule from the start.”

By how much did you beat the existing record?

“One hour and forty minutes, Lynne Taylor’s old record was 52 hours and 45 minutes, I lowered that to 51 hours and five minutes.”

What lessons did you carry forward from your ride of two years ago?

“So many, one simple but important thing was to have a camper van with the support team, it made the logistics so much easier for feeding and changes of clothing.

“And I totally revised my training in conjunction with my coach, Gary Hand at Espresso Coaching; as well as endurance riding I did threshold work and spent time in the gym.

“And I lost 10 kilos, which was a big help for getting up the likes of Shap Summit and Berriedale Braes.” 

‘Bad patches’?

“From the first experience I anticipated that the A9, north out of Perth would be the hardest part but in the event that wasn’t too bad; because I was up on schedule I actually started that section in daylight rather than darkness.

“The worst section was from Gretna to Abingdon, it just seemed never ending and the surface was so bad, I could feel my pace dropping and with it my morale.

“But my team encouraged me that when I got to Edinburgh the wind would change and things would be better – and I knew that would be the case.

“The A9 actually wasn’t so bad after I cleared the road works north of Perth with passing cars who had heard about my attempt tooting encouragement; I had good lights on the bike but it was hard up the Drumochter Pass when you watch your power going up but speed going down.

“Once over the top and on the long descent I got so cold that I had to stop and put on more clothing.”

Christina Mackenzie
Christina Mackenzie on her TT machine. Photo©supplied

And you rode the whole distance on the low pro time trial bike?

“One of the conditions that the Guinness book of World Records imposes is that the whole ride must be done on the same machine.

“It’s a Giant Liv, I’ve spent a lot of time on it to get used to it and I felt comfortable; we made sure I had appropriate gearing in place to get over the hills I was going to encounter.

“I had no mechanical issues at all but had a mechanic and a van full of spares following me, just in case.

“The last 10 miles to John O’Groats though the road surface is really bad with lots of potholes and obviously my concentration wasn’t the best by that stage and I was thinking; “please don’t let me hit a hole and puncture now!””

How about navigation, I believe that some of the ring roads around the big towns in England can be problematic?

“On my first attempt that caused problems but we learned from it, the roads around Exeter and Bristol have these roundabouts with five or six exits but my support team got me through and the Bristol Cycling Club had folks out to help – the worst that happened was I had to do an extra circuit of a roundabout to get the correct exit.

“As Gary said, we learned from the, ‘dry run!’”

Who drew up your schedule?

“The present men’s end to end record holder, Mike Broadwith shared his schedule with me and Gary Hand and I adapted that.

“The first five or six hours I was cruising along at 20 mph on the A30 and that really did give me a good start; I knew I had to capitalise on it because the wind wouldn’t be so favourable further north.”

Christina Mackenzie
The support team get the lights on Christina Mackenzie’s bike for the ‘night shift’. Photo©supplied

How many of a support team did you have?

“I had six, which isn’t as big a team as some might have on the attempt, I think Mike had about a dozen support staff, four of my team were from the Stirling Bicycle Club, they know me really well and how to get me through the bad patches.”

Was there a ‘tipping point’ where you realised that the record was ‘on.’

“With the good start I made due to the favourable wind I was always up on schedule and failure would only be due to a major mechanical or my body giving up on me. 

“We’d planned for an hour stop near Penrith for a feed and 20/25 minute sleep but I didn’t feel tired and didn’t feel I needed to stop so kept going; that gave me more of a buffer.

“That decision could have hit me later but the team were watchful and we agreed that I’d come in later for a sleep if necessary.

“I was always aware of the slowest pace which would get me the record as the ride went on.”

Christina Mackenzie
Christina Mackenzie celebrates getting the record! Photo©supplied

The next morning?

“It was bizarre, I opened my eyes and thought to myself; “did that really happen ?

“Then I went to stand up and my legs felt like lead and I couldn’t sit down again!

“I guess my body was practically in shock?”

The ride aroused good media attention, didn’t it?

“It did, with the BBC and STV both reporting the ride and the level of roadside attention was great with banners, cow bells and a lot of support.

“The previous record holder, Lynne Taylor phoned me in tears, after the ride to congratulate me, she was actually out on the route.

“I told her that I could see why her record had lasted 20 years, it’s just so hard; I have huge admiration for her, she broke the record twice in consecutive years, 2001 and 2002.” 

Christina Mackenzie
Christina Mackenzie enjoyed fantastic support from roadside spectators and from the media during and after her record ride. Photo©supplied

Next on the agenda – the Race Across America perhaps?

“I have a few things to ponder, first I want to rest then debrief with my coach, Gary Hand.

“The RAAM is a different proposition which requires a big training and funding commitment – and I’m still working full time…”

Here at VeloVeritas we look forward to reporting Christina’s next big adventure and would in closing mention that her ride, as well as breaking the record, raised a five figure sum for Alzheimer’s Scotland, a condition to which Christina’s mother sadly succumbed in 2014. 

CHAPEAU! Ms. Mackenzie.

Ed Hood
Ed's been involved in cycling for over 45 years. In that time he's been a successful time triallist, team manager, and sponsor of several teams and clubs. He's also a respected and successful coach, and during the winter months can often be found working in the cabins at the Six Days. Ed remains a massive fan of the sport and couples his extensive contacts with an inexhaustable enthusiasm for the minutiae and the history of our sport.

Related Articles

George Edwards – The Scot who was BLRC British Champion in 1946

George Edwards? The name might not mean much to you but along with Brian Smith, Robert Millar and David Miller he’s one of few Scotsmen who have won the British National Road Race Championship – in his case the BLRC version in 1946. George passed away in 1992 at the age of 68 but Harry Tweed connected us with George’s son who shares the same Christian name and now lives in the Netherlands. Here’s what George had to say to VeloVeritas, recently.

Alice Lethbridge – Breaking Records from 15 Miles to 12 Hours!

The other day we were congratulating ourselves on the fact that we’d spoken to every CTT competition record holder from 10 miles to 12 hours, including Stuart Travis’s recent blitzing of the ‘30’ record. However, we were reminded that all of those were men’s records and we should pay attention to the ladies. Enter Ms. Alice Lethbridge, competition record holder at 15 miles, 100 miles and 12 hours – not to mention a member of the record breaking teams at 15, 25, 50 and 100 miles.

Richard Davison – “Personalised coaching employing genomics is the coming thing”

It’s not often we have a professor in the pages of VeloVeritas but that’s exactly what Richard Davison is; as well as Assistant Dean (International) at the University of the West Coast of Scotland. He was also instrumental in the setting up of British Cycling’s current coaching system and does ‘one on one’ coaching with riders. Richard was also a successful rider on the Scottish scene a year or two back – and that’s where our interview starts...

Jonathan Shubert – 100 Miles in Under Three Hours!

Joshua Shubert, on a blowy Monday at the start of November under the strict conditions which apply to RRA record attempts, dipped under three hours for the RRA 100 mile ‘straight out’ time trial, averaging a staggering 2:57:38 - that’s 33.6 mph or 54 kph.

Evan Oliphant – Scottish Road Champion 2014

The Giro was a wonderful race, no question; but whilst it's charging across Italy everything else gets ignored - like the Scottish Road Race Championship, for example. The winner was - unsurprisingly - Raleigh's Evan Oliphant. VeloVeritas caught up with the man from Wick a few days after the race...

John Archibald – CTT 25 Mile TT Champion 2021

Once again the CTT 25 Mile TT honours came north for 2021, thanks to John Archibald’s (EOLO Kometa) successful defence of his 2020 title, this time on the L2529 Bassenthwaite Lake, Keswick to Cockermouth course. John kindly consented to speak to us just a day or two after his successful defence.

At Random

Bernie Burns – My Tribute to the 1964 Falcon Team

Bernard Burns got in touch with us recently to share a bit of cycling history and to comment on what today’s champions put back into a sport that has given them so much. But we felt that Bernard’s career both as a rider, manager and coach was also well worth looking at...

Jack Bauer – Tour Talk with Garmin’s Kiwi Star

Forget stories of barbed wire fences; that’s not what did the damage to our favourite Tour rider, Jack Bauer’s face. We know what really happened on stage 19 but gave our word to Jack that we’d keep schtum – suffice to say that it was a sore one and not his fault.

Wilfried Peeters – Deceuninck DS is a True Flandrien!

It must be the water in Mol in the Province of Antwerp, Belgium; not only is it Tom Boonen’s home town, it’s also the home town of the man who was in the team car behind him for so many of the ‘Tornado’s’ triumphs; Wilfried Peeters, sport director with the Deceuninck ‘Wolf Pack’ was a ‘Man of the Northern Classics’ in his own right.

Peter Junek – Designer and Builder of Perfect Tracks

Peter Junek is a designer and builder of perfect velodrome track surfaces and geometry, such as Cochabamba in Bolivia and Mexico’s Aguascalientes Velodrome. We thought a chat with Peter would be interesting...

Finn Crockett – Thrilled to be Racing for Ribble Weldtite Next Season

We always try to spotlight young Scotsmen who are ‘just doing it’ – especially if they come from one of our favourite parts of Scotland, The Brahan and wearing the Ribble Weldtite squad’s blue jersey – or perhaps it will be ‘Tour of Britain Splatter?’ - for 2022 will be Scotland’s Finn Crockett.

Joe Parkin – Still Racing, But Just For Fun!

"A Dog in a Hat," has to be one of the best books about pro cycling ever written. Author Joe Parkin took some time to talk to VeloVeritas about life, bike racing, his next book-yes, and Lance!