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Pushing on through the night

22 April, 2011

Just how numb can your bum get? Christy Harris is more qualified to answer than most, finds Emma Clark.

“My whole body is aching as I hurtle around a sharp turn. Bleary-eyed, gripping the handlebars tightly, more mud spatters into my face. Legs are burning. My hand cramps as I reach for the water bottle. Midnight approaches. Almost halfway . . . only twelve more hours to go.”

Thought you’ve been on some tough rides? Try spending twenty-four hours on your mountain bike, riding from midday Saturday until midday Sunday, in appalling conditions on a tough course.

Christy Harris recently won the women’s Jeep 24-hour solo mountain bike race, where the goal is to complete as many laps as possible in the 24-hour time limit. She completed 19 laps (about 300km), won by five laps, and gained qualification for the World Championships. Despite questioning Christy’s sanity, Ride On asked how she did it.

Why this race?

I’d been thinking about doing a solo 24-hour race ever since my partner and I won a pairs race a few years ago. It did take a bit of encouragement from my riding buddies before I totally committed to the idea, but once I’d made the decision I knew there was no turning back.

Describe your training

I had an intensive three-month training plan leading up to the race, which included time on the bike as well as three inner-core sessions a week. As I work full-time, I did short high-intensity sessions during the week, and saved the longer rides for the weekends.

What did you eat on the ride?

I knew from doing a 12-hour solo ride that it is hard for me to consume food while racing, so we made sure I had enough carbs in my bottle to keep me going. I also had a gel every second lap and a bite-size snack every lap, which was either a piece of banana, a square of jam sandwich, fruit cake or salt and vinegar chips.

What breaks did you take?

For the first eight hours I didn’t get off the bike at all. My support crew ran alongside me, giving me a fresh bottle, gel/food and updated me as to how I was doing. After that, the longest time I stopped was six minutes.

 Did you ever think of quitting?

 The night laps were tough; it was hard to keep focussed and positive. When I was told that the girl in second place had retired around the 20-hour mark I did momentarily consider stopping, but I reminded myself that I’d signed up for 24-hours, so made the decision to keep going.

What got you through?

I had the most amazing support crew, which included my partner Darcy and my mum. I couldn’t have done it without them. Not only did they feed me and maintain my bike, but they encouraged me the whole way.

 Christy’s top tips for endurance riding

  • Make sure that all your equipment is in working order and organised, including your nutrition.
  • Try and do a similar race beforehand. Leading up to the race, I competed in quite a few shorter races, including the Surf Coast 12-hour solo race, which I also won.
  • Be nice and look after your support crew; you couldn’t do it without them!
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