Author Tim Press describes an epic off-road ride by Dave Buchanan and fully fueled by INFINIT Nutrition.
I was sitting in a dark and drizzly forest car-park in mid-Wales in the early hours of the morning fighting off midges and strong desire to sleep. Apart from waiting for a bunch of guys to arrive on bikes expecting to be fed and watered, I was whiling away the time planning a long distance pub crawl. An explanation is called for.
A few years ago, Wales-based endurance mountain bike rider Dave Buchanan created the Wales Coast-to-Coast off-road cycling route. This makes use of the superb man-made and natural trails that Wales has to offer. To publicize this and inspire others, Dave rode the route (which runs from Caernarfon Castle in North Wales to the Celtic Ring in Cardiff Bay in the South) non-stop in 22 hours 23 minutes.
Dave's objective of inspiring others was achieved. Rich Holmes has since ridden the route in 20 hours 10 minutes, and several other riders have completed it in different ways, solo and in groups, non-stop and as part of a tour. And Dave himself was inspired to ride the route again: twice; non-stop. Dave named this project "The Hobbit's Tale" in recognition of the sub-title of The Lord of the Rings: "...or there and back again".
Dave is good at inspiring people. Over time, the project team expanded to include not only Dave, his partner Jo and family, but a dozen or so friends and riding companions (which is where I come in). Such is the lure of a challenge; suddenly we were no longer supporters, but participants in the adventure.
The basic plan (devised by Dave, Jo and Mugtree the project manager) involved one vehicle and the technical support van leap-frogging the riders as they rode between 10 stopping points on the route, at which riding companions would swap and Dave's water bottles, clothing and bikes be changed as necessary. At the same time as they set off from the start on Friday morning, 13th July 2011, Jo, Rob Khoo (the team cook) and the northern support crew went directly to Coed-y-Brenin forest near Dolgellau to set up the base camp. This camp was the hub for the Northern half of the support operation.
Nutrition is key to any athletic activity, and Rob (who runs the Park View Café in Cardiff) kept the support team fully fueled with bacon, sausages, eggs, burgers and also a healthier option of pasta with chicken and roast vegetable sauce, as well as an endless supply of tea and coffee. For Dave the diet was simpler - a range of custom Infinit Nutrition mixtures which the support crew had to mix and provide - all specified in the schedule. The schedule allowed for changes in mixture depending on how Dave was feeling and there was the option of some solid food. In fact, Dave got through 13.5 (imperial) gallons of INFINIT Nutrition mixtures on the ride. Apart from a few Jaffa Cakes at 23 hours and a bit of Rob’s food, eaten out of feelings of guilt as it was thrust in his face, Dave "ate" nothing but INFINIT. It's easier for him to digest and made things easier for the support crew at 3am (both 3am's).
An adventure wouldn't be an adventure if you could plan it minutely. The main uncertainties in the Hobbit's Tale were the weather and Dave's endurance. Endurance races tend to last 24 hours, so beyond this mark abilities are untested. An ominous indication that the weather might not be the best came as I drove two friends to join the Northern support crew on Friday evening. As we approached Dolegellau the sound of rain on the car windscreen turned sharper and soon we were in the midst of a violent hailstorm. For a kilometre or so hailstones covered the road like snow. Not ideal conditions for staying warm and dry in the hills.
Despite having to brave the weather, the leg of the journey to Caernarfon proceeded smoothly in just under 24 hours, with Dave's "hello" as he arrived at each check point never changing in its cheeriness. However, the weather remained un co-operative. As we drove up and down Wales alongside the riders, a large black cloud which we named "Dave's Cloud" could always be seed lowering over the route.
Eventually the windy conditions did have an effect on Dave's spirits as he reached Corris on the return, but a change of clothes and some caffeinated protein free INFINIT saw him fired up, warmed up and on his way up the long climb to the ClimachX descent. Long climbs can cause him stomach problems so the protein was laid off for this and other long climbs.
As for Dave's powers of endurance, we found the answer to that question alongside Llyn Brianne in the Cambrian Mountains at 46 hours into the ride. Dave toppled over whilst riding his bike along a forestry track and lost conscious control. Scott Hodgskin, who was accompanying Dave at that point, had to leave him sleeping on a pile of logs and ride to the next point to bring back help. Eventually Dave was able to travel under his own steam and have a couple of hours more sleep in the van.
The 48 hour mark passed while Dave was asleep. Dave was attempting a world record and he has submitted his distance to that point (567Km with 20000m of ascent in 48hrs on a mountain bike) to Guinness World Records for verification. Good weather should see the whole distance completed in 48hours, one day.
Dave eventually returned to Cardiff Bay 59 hours after he started at 8.00 pm on Sunday. That is a total of 721Km and 22300m of ascent. An inspirational achievement, one that is way beyond my abilities. But I have been inspired to ride the coast-to-coast route, just differently: taking the time to enjoy the great trails, beautiful countryside, the friendship people offer to travelers and the hospitality of country pubs and guest houses along the way. A few pints of beer, steak suppers and fried breakfasts could well be involved. Whatever you are doing, getting the nutrition right is the key to a successful trip.
Copyright Tim Press 2011