Three ultracyclists explain how and why they do it

18th July 2022

The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast

EPISODE 302: Three ultracyclists explain how and why

SPONSOR: Tern Bicycles

HOST: Carlton Reid

GUESTS: Kabir Rachure, Josh Reid, Ruth Sutherland

TOPICS: Kabir Rachure was the first Asian to podium at the Race Across America, or RAAM, which finished a couple of weeks back. Ruth Sutherland was a rookie rider at this year’s 620 mile All Points North race in northern England. Josh Reid also rode All Points North but in preparation for the Transcontinental, a 2500 mile unsupported race across Europe from the cobbles of Flanders to the shores of the Black Sea.


Kabir’s RAAM podium result


All Points North


Giant Revolt

Luchos Dillitos banana leaves wrapped energy food (use code “JR25” for 25% discount)

Specialized Ruby

Arkel bags

76 Projects 3D-printed Garmin mount

Hutchinson tyres

Robens mountain bivvy

Stages computer

Exposure lights


Carlton Reid 0:13
Welcome to Episode 302 of the spokesmen cycling podcast. This show is published on Monday 18th July 2022.

David Bernstein 0:28
The Spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast is brought to you by Tern bicycles. The good people at Tern are committed to building bikes that are useful enough to ride every day, and dependable enough to carry the people you love. In other words, they make the kind of bikes that they want to ride. Tern has e bikes for every type of rider. Whether you’re commuting, taking your kids to school, or even caring another adult, visit www.tern That’s t e r n to learn more.

Carlton Reid 1:02
Pain, sleep deprivation, hallucinations, why to ultra distance cyclists do it. I’m Carlton Reid. And on this episode of The spokesmen, I talked to three ultra cyclists including my son, Josh, he’s preparing for the transContinental, a 2500 mile unsupported race across Europe from the cobbles of Flanders to the shores of the Black Sea. I talk with Josh, along with Ruth Sutherland, both of them were first timers on last month’s 620 mile all points north race in northern England. But I start with a conversation I had with Indian lawyer Kabir Rachure, who recently came third in the solo men’s category at the Race Across America, making Kabir the first Asian to podium at RAAM. Well done on on your achievement at the race across America RAM.

Carlton Reid 2:11
This isn’t wasn’t your first attempt, was it? This was your second ride.

Kabir Rachure 2:15
This was my second this was my second.

Carlton Reid 2:17
So the obvious question is gonna be why?

Kabir Rachure 2:21
Yeah, because I was not satisfied with my 2019 attempt. Because I knew I can do better. I was trained properly, to do it and good timing. But you know, there are always mistakes when you do it for the first time. And you learn from those mistakes. So the first thing that I was not satisfied with my own performance. And the same day when I finished the RAAM, I told officials that I’m gonna come next year, but the next year was COVID. Then thereafter things were a bit dicey. So we went for 2020 to attempt

Carlton Reid 3:07
And tell me how long does it take? I’ve got here written how long it’s taken you but tell tell the listeners how long it took you to ride across.

Kabir Rachure 3:18
So it took 11 days 20 hours 43 minutes. And the cutoff time is exactly 12 days. So when when when I 15 minutes before the cutoff time.

Carlton Reid 3:33
My question before was was when I said why it wasn’t so much why’d you come back and do it again a second time. Although that was that was a good answer. It was why do these events anyway. So why can you Why are you a long distance endurance cyclist? Why are you doing that? Why are you pushing yourself like this?

Kabir Rachure 3:53
Maybe this is kind of an addiction. When we get a chance to test our own limits, that how much we can push as a human body. Okay? Normally, we are not going to stay awake for the entire day and do cycling without any event. So these events are a platform for us to test our own limits. It’s like someone is doing F1 The goal is to test their speeds test their equipment is the science behind all the machines and all. So it is platform for endurance cyclists to test ourself and to try to do better and always try to unlock ourself when we do it for the next time.

Carlton Reid 4:41
There are many ways of doing Race Across America. So you can do it in a pair. You can do it in a team, you take it in turns and somebody slips how were you doing it?

Kabir Rachure 4:51
I was doing in solo, so I was riding solo. So yeah, I feel the solo. attempt is the most difficult one, because the clock is still ticking when you are, you’re taking a sleeve break, or you’re taking some short break or something like that. So the in pair, somebody is on the bike when some other guys taking some break. But in solo attempts, your clock is not going to stop for you

Carlton Reid 5:23
and tell me your sleep strategy, because 11 days, how much sleep were you getting? And what were you? What were you getting?

Kabir Rachure 5:32
So last in my last attempt, I was suffering with a lot of sleep deprivation issues a lot of hallucinations. So this year, my main motto was to take ample sleep from day one. So I used to sleep after every 24 hours of riding for around two eyes. And thereafter, I used to guide for like 24 to 23 to maximum 27 hours until I feel tired and until I feel sleepy. So that was the strategy to guide 24 hours and to sleep for two hours and

Carlton Reid 6:11
tell me the navigation did because in many ultra endurance events, you can choose your route. But I’m presuming in the race across America, you’re not choosing your route. You’re you’re following a route.

Kabir Rachure 6:24
Yeah, exactly. So we get the proper route book before the gays it has like two months back the case, we get GPX files, that is also beautiful task for this case, because your team has to be super accurate with the navigation. Okay, you miss a turn and you go off Route for like entire 1520 kilometres maybe, and you lose time. So the route is planned route is fixed, and we have to follow that exact route. And then maybe we get some D detours in between if there is a flood or they get some construction going, or they get some forest fire or something like that. So we get detours. But yeah, it is pretty planned.

Carlton Reid 7:13
So whereabouts are you in India right now?

Kabir Rachure 7:18
So I’m from Mumbai.

Carlton Reid 7:19
And basically you ride like events in India? So you’re doing long distance events there too? How are you? How are you training for this?

Kabir Rachure 7:29
So yeah, you mostly I do entertaining because traffic in India, not that cycling friendly. Okay, so I can’t do vo to max session, so maybe sweet spot sessions on the road, because that becomes difficult or maybe dangerous. So I do most of the training indoors. And we do attempt a lot of endurance races down here. Because the crew needs that the touch, I need that pressure of racing, and we need that practice sessions. So we do attempt a lot of cases here.

Carlton Reid 8:08
And that’s, that’s, I’m kind of like sitting here thinking that’s amazing. So you’re doing an awful lot of the training for this indoors on a static bike. Yeah.

Kabir Rachure 8:21
That’s yeah, yeah. So 95% of the time.

Carlton Reid 8:26
When in previous, you know, Paris-Roubaix riders aren’t, you know, famously, you know, just come into the race and I’ve just done indoor training, but what you’re doing is endurance. How long are you spending on a bike indoors if you’re training for this?

Kabir Rachure 8:43
so usually, I train for 10 to 12 hours a week. One of out of that when riders endurance ride like four guys for maybe three hours on weekends. And most of the sessions are pretty planned like some of them are sweetspot sessions. Some of them are highly paid some of them are vo two Max maybe twice a month I go outdoors to keep my bike reflexes alive. I go downhill practice I do downhill practice I go some climbing practice. So that is how I do it.

Carlton Reid 9:26
That is so amazing. They are doing quite so much indoors. So it was quite a shock to be paid you riding outdoors for so long.

Kabir Rachure 9:37
Yeah, so I have done 24 times while also indoors and which I covered accounts 762 kilometres and I was off the bike for around eight minutes out of 24 hours. So yeah, I do like to ride indoors because there is always some entertainment in front of me like I can watch. Net lakes, I can watch some motivational series or maybe some movie, I can regulate the temperature. So body’s less fatigued because I do train in AC. So yeah, that that becomes easy to recover for the next session when I do training.

Carlton Reid 10:18
Now I’ve interviewed Mark Beaumont, who he’s told me about, he’s using glucose monitoring, to. So this is normally diabetes control, normally, but now athletes are using glucose monitoring. So I believe you’re using glucose monitoring, in the same way that Mark is used for performance.

Kabir Rachure 10:43
Yeah, of course. So we have seen lots of athletes like Jan Frodeno, you know, or maybe a lot of triathletes who use glucose monitors to get some gain in their performance. So I use it to keep my glucose levels and proper numbers so that I can perform well. I can recover well. And and, and I find I take care that I’m not training when I’m not fueled myself, well. Okay, so I use it to perform better and to recover properly overnight. So that is that has become super important gadget for my training. So yeah, I have been using it from last seven months,

Carlton Reid 11:35
I guess. So you didn’t use it in your first attempt, but you have used it in this attempt. So what is the diff differences? That is? Because you’re using ultrahuman? Yes.

Kabir Rachure 11:47
Yeah, yeah, I’m using Ultrahuman. And so on my first attempt, I was like a raw rider. I didn’t pay attention on these micro gains, like to be aerodynamic or to, to pay attention on your weaker. We saw on this attempt, I was pretty much technical about these things. So I used it in this attempt. And I can say that I was very much I had a very strong finish. Maybe I was the the winner of the guider who was vague if looking very fresh at the finish line, even after guiding 5000 kilometres. That was because I was fueling myself properly. I never under fueled myself, we were keeping tabs on our glucose level. When I was on higher range we used to take off for an hour, I used to concentrate on my hydration. So that was a big difference compared to 2019.

Carlton Reid 12:54
So you’re saying “we” there? So you obviously have a support team? And they’re helping you with a navigation and that they’re helping you with the glucose monitoring? Are they like, are they looking at your statistics as you’re riding along?

Kabir Rachure 13:07
Yeah, exactly. So that sensor is connected via Bluetooth on the mobile. So somebody from the following cycle. So there is always 24/7 Follow a call which follows me to keep me secure. And we are always connected with the Bluetooth system. So there used to be someone who used to check my glucose levels every arc to see how my body is doing with the nutrition. And they used to do all micro corrections when according to the heat, according to the cold weather. So yeah.

Carlton Reid 13:47
So in my wife’s a diabetes specialist, she’s a hospital paediatrician so I actually quite know quite a bit about diabetes, just from picking it up from her. So So an awful lot of the modern ways of of monitoring and coping with diabetes is there are pumps on your body that that feed you the insulin when you need it. So the equipment that you’re talking about here doesn’t do that. It just monitors how much you need and then you’ve got to physically put in the right amount of food is that right?

Kabir Rachure 14:20
Exactly. So how it works is there is a small carbon needle which goes into your skin and it gives you real time glucose levels, okay. So you have to train with it. You have to know your accurate levels. If I feel strong in 120 to 140 MG DL that that is not same with some other person. Okay, you have to know your own graph. Okay, sometimes I feel that I am pretty I’m riding strong when I’m my glucose is above 120 So I used to keep my glucose levels above 120 When I’m writing in RAM, okay, so we have to train with it, and we have to know our body. And thereafter we can do all these changes.

Carlton Reid 15:16
Do you find that using this in your everyday life as well? Or is this purely performance?

Kabir Rachure 15:22
No, actually, I use it in my everyday life, because as an athlete, and when you’re planning to do RAAM and all, you have to be fit 24/7. So I used to the habit 24/7, I used to monitor my glucose level, because I always do gym, yoga, even I’m working as a lawyer. So I have to pay attention to these glucose levels. So yeah, 24/7, I used to use it.

Carlton Reid 15:57
So you mentioned that you’re a lawyer that says an advocate in India. So I’m assuming your training has got to fit in with what I presume is a very, very busy job. And your training, there’s got to be quality, not always quantity, would that be right?

Kabir Rachure 16:15
Exactly. So a lot of people have understanding that. If you want to do RAM, you have to train for like 25 hours a week, or maybe 30 hours a week. But I always felt that it is always quality, what matters, not the quantity, because when you train more, you have to pay attention on your recovery. And if you don’t recover, well, then you’re going to damage your body. So I used to pay attention or my quality of the training.

Carlton Reid 16:50
So let’s hope for all of us we can ran just by running an hour,

Kabir Rachure 16:54
actually, because I just think that you have to do some long races, some good experience with it. And at the end of the day, Ram is all about your mental strength, and how do you cope up with your sleep? And how do you train because if you have good FTP, if you have good experience with the ultra day events, then your body knows how to survive with it.

Carlton Reid 17:22
Because it’s got to be you’re right about the mental stuff. And this is this is what I’m imagining is physical is one thing, but it’s it’s I’m just thinking of these hugely long roads in the Midwest, where they go on forever. They’re very straight, and it must be incredibly boring. So how do you how do you get past the stretches of America that are incredibly boring, long, long, neverending stretches.

Kabir Rachure 17:49
So I just wanted to share a very good incident what I encountered this time. So Arizona was pretty hot and 2019. So the temperature was about 55 degrees centigrade. And this year, I was mentally prepared for it. But this time I was on I was pretty pleasant like it went till 41 degrees Celsius maximum. And I knew in a long race like cram, nothing is going to be permanent. So if I’m getting a favourable condition at the start, there is something will go wrong on later part or maybe in mid part, and we finally got super strong crosswind in Kansas, and those patches are pretty straight. If it’s a crosswind, then it’s gonna be a crosswind for like 400 kilometres or maybe 200 kilometres and the crosswind was so strong, I was not able to guide beyond 1718 km pH on a flat route that is gradually down actually. So, so mentally I was prepared that it is going to happen and it is all about hanging there. So I knew that this is not even this is again not like permanent, okay, it is going to be changed the text will change and all but you have to train your mind accordingly that this is just going to be a face and it is going to pass. So yeah, this all is about keeping your head strong. And pushing till the finish line.

Carlton Reid 19:26
And hallucinations. You had no hallucinations this time compared to the first

Kabir Rachure 19:30
time exactly this time. I didn’t have any hallucinations. I was sleeping well. The feeling was proper. I was hydrating properly. I took proper sleep. And last times attempt in 2019 I literally forgot how to cycle and last 200 kilometres because you develop your mental fatigue and my who used to tell me that you have to pedal down and pedal you have To keep your balance, so it goes to that extent. And what you will do when you forget how to cycle in a bicycle guys, so that was pretty awkward. And luckily, I got my senses back when it was just 70 kilometres from the finish line. And I did my best average for that last 70 kilometre patch.

Carlton Reid 20:28
And tell me because the when there’s long stretches of nothing in Arizona, that 55 degree heat is like, it sounds incredible. But there’s no real huge worries about other vehicles and anybody running you off the road. But when you’re coming through cities, and you say the beginning and the end, I guess you’re then having to go through through traffic. So so how are you coping with that?

Kabir Rachure 20:57
There are a few states who are not cycle friendly. I think and the rest of the states are pretty helpful. I experienced a lot of vehicles were guiding, driving behind me and diving, diving for like 1010 minutes to get a sick, safe pass. Okay, so luckily, I get friendly people around me work not that the only trouble what we face is riding through the city in a daytime, you have to encounter a lot of traffic signals. So that breaks your momentum because you have to stop and you have to start again. And it is not something a training right? When we are bodies superfresh it is like you are guiding from last 10 days you are feeling sleepy, you don’t want to get out of your bike because your body will go go into rest mode. So that is the most irritating part. What I feel that encountering a lot of traffic signals.

Carlton Reid 22:09
Contrast as well. Because if you’ve if you’ve come from Arizona, and you’ve come through Kansas, where there’s just as long roads, and then you’ve suddenly got quite busy stuff, so you’re seeing literally the whole of America in one trip. So it must be a culture shock for anybody, not the fact that you come from India, but anybody would find that to be quite a big culture shock.

Kabir Rachure 22:33
Exactly. So I was even reading about the USA, and any US citizen visits 11 state states in his entire life average 11 states, and we crossed 13 states when we do RAM. So we actually cross more states than any US citizen. So that is huge. And as you said that the culture, of course that you can say it like Arizona that is entirely looks empty, like there are no homes for like 100 100 kilometres, everything is isolated, then you goes to Utah. That is pretty beautiful. It has some historical values. Then we entered into Colorado’s that is pretty cold. I climbed Wolf Creek pass and rain full time rain. So it was pretty enjoyable for me. Because riding in cold weather, I always enjoy it because I can push my body to some extent. And I don’t develop that fatigue. So I was enjoying that. And again, we enter into cancers and also everything changes like the landscape, the people. So yeah,

Carlton Reid 23:59
so tell me what are your plans? What are your next events? And are you going to be doing RAM again,

Kabir Rachure 24:04
of course, I’m going to do RAAM again in 2024 I’m planning to do it because this time I saw want to win it. And I can see that that is possible after doing for two times I know my negative points where I can improve where team can improve. And I have a lot of time and in 2023 I’m planning to do Race Around Austria, because that is very good guys. If we see at its climbing graph, so I still want to do the Race around Austria and 2023 and then RAAM in 2024

Carlton Reid 24:53
Thanks to Kabir Rachure there and now before I introduce Ruth Sutherland and my son Josh Here’s my co host David, with a message from our sponsor.

David Bernstein 25:05
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Carlton Reid 29:40
Thanks, David. And now over to Ruth Sutherland and Josh Reid.

Ruth Sutherland 29:47
Okay, it would it would it be possible to kind of have just a little three way warm up chat. So because you you might know a bit about me, but I don’t know anything at all about you Josh, apart from the fact that you’re a civil engineer but not for much longer and you like riding your bike? Yeah, just just so so so that we can feel comfortable with chatting instead of going in cold. Would that be okay? Yeah, of course.

Carlton Reid 30:11
Well, let’s let’s, let’s let’s go for that we can we can do that for everybody here, Ruth. So So Josh, tell us about yourself then.

Josh Reid 30:19
Well, I’ve ridden my bike almost all my life pretty much as I could walk I was I was put on a bike on my dad. And then we’ve been on the cycling holidays as kids and started racing, did a lot of racing when I was a kid, what kinda did a lot of road racing, as I was moving through the youth, and then the junior ranks, did some of the national series. And then after my A levels, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. So I left the country and I went on a working holiday visa in Canada for two years, planted trees in the summer and was a ski instructor in the winter. And that, like allowed me to, like with a tree planting anyway, the ski instructing didn’t make any money. But the tree planting allowed me to save a bit of money. So I was able to travel afterwards did a bit of bike touring, and then went on a on a big trip from with some friends around Southeast Asia and but my plan was to cycle home. So everything with me that I needed to, to ride a bike back from Asia. With me, it’s all upon us. Almost I can get all my tools, everything on my back. So I was like a turtle?

Ruth Sutherland 31:39
Did you take spare tires?

Josh Reid 31:41
Not spare tires. Pretty much everything else I’d need.

Carlton Reid 31:47
And what sort of price point you didn’t have a bike at this point did you, Josh?

Josh Reid 31:50
I didn’t know where I was getting from. Then, like I was gonna think in Cambodia, but the brands out there don’t really take products off the product line all the time. They’re not they’re like more batches. So I got in contact with Giant and they helped me out massively and went to their factory in Shanghai and cycled home from Shanghai.

Ruth Sutherland 32:14

Carlton Reid 32:18
And then you’ve got a very, very popular video of that trip. Haven’t you? A YouTube video?

Josh Reid 32:24
Yeah, it’s doing doing very well. Over 2 million now.

Ruth Sutherland 32:28

Josh Reid 32:30
So yeah, then want to try and make that a thing and do more trips and see if I can fund myself by by going on these trips.

Carlton Reid 32:42
So Ruth, same same questions to you then. Pub chat. Who are you? What do you do? And how do you get into cycling?

Ruth Sutherland 32:50
I’m just searching for Josh’s video. So I’m I’m at the opposite end of my of my career, I suppose Josh, because I I’ve got four grown up children who will be your sort of age, who started to do exactly the sort of things you were doing and going across the world having adventures that hadn’t really been an option for me when I was their age. And so I became quite envious. And my husband took early retirement. And it seemed a bit silly for me to be going out to work every day while he was home. And we both wanted to ride our bikes. So I took a gap year later in my life. And that was the start of over long periods of riding bikes. We we went off travelling we did we hadn’t been riding bikes, we’ve always I’ve always written a bike, but like you I kind of grew up with a bike. But I never did any competitive cycling or any sort of really serious cycling and I just had a functional bike and never really a bike was a bike to me in the in the old days. And now I have a shed full of bikes for every purpose as you probably identify with that my husband’s always been very competitive and he got into cyclocross racing. And after a couple of seasons pitting for him, I thought, Well, I’m here every weekend, I might as well ride. I might as well race myself, I might as well do this. And it wasn’t really for me about racing. It was just about having a having a workout, having a bit of fun having a ride of my bike instead of hanging around all day. But then I sort of got the bug and started, you know, seriously being interested in the race because I was in the veteran women’s category. So I found as I moved into a new age category, I was actually quite competitive in my in my category. So cyclocross kind of was something I did for a couple of years before locked down, but I wouldn’t say that it was a love of mine and I’m not really a competitive person in the same way you sound to be Josh. I I’m more sort of interested in competing with myself or challenging myself. I was never any good at sport when I was at school. And I used to always be the last one to be picked for teams and I was really slow runner. And so I’ve always had this sort of perception of myself as not really being an athlete. And these things, these things live with you. Anyway, we joined the gap year went off to New Zealand and we cycled an event called the TA which starts at the north tip of New Zealand and goes down to the southern South tip of New Zealand, it’s a brevet. And when it was the first time we’ve really done any serious bike packing, with some borrowed and some bought equipment, it was very much a sort of try it out and work out how it works. And that was so enjoyable and so successful that we came back to the UK and I decided to take another gap year or just to extend my gap year. And to cut a long story short, I’ve never actually been back to full time paid works. Just cycling is taking over my life. So I became I became a cycling coach. We both started doing some ride leading for British Cycling in the days when they had sky rides, and then Leps rides. And we joined a cycling club. And we I became, we both became mountain bike leaders and to take people out sort of on more wilderness trips. And we took part in quite a lot of organised by holidays and bike trips, we went to Chile, we went to Nepal. And then we went back to New Zealand and we did another long brevet, which was an inaugural event from east to west cape of the North Island. And then then, we ended up in Tasmania, just before lockdown, we went there for a race, a mountain bike race, a three day race called the dragon race. And as we landed, we were told the race was cancelled. And there was a global pandemic. And we’ve kind of been in the, in the back of beyond and hadn’t really been aware of the World News at that point. And that was the start of the of the COVID pandemic. So we eventually made our way back to the UK. And during locked down, we got involved with local cycling, we set up a community cycling group we opened a pop up bike shed my husband’s a good mechanic. And we’ve been sort of cycling from home with our local immediate community ever since then.

Carlton Reid 37:26
You’re both living the dream, but from different. You’re different ages. So you kind of like you’re gonna meet in the middle at some point. You’re both living the dream?

Ruth Sutherland 37:36
Yeah. Precisely.

Carlton Reid 37:41
Based on that, and the dream, there are better clarify that is lots and lots of cycling, because you’re clearly both doing tonnes and tonnes of cycling.

Ruth Sutherland 37:49
Yeah, indeed. Yes. The

Carlton Reid 37:51
So that kind of brings me into and the reason why we’re talking today apart from that sounds fascinating. That bit of all that background, I know that. But because you’re you’re a rookie, in a race that both of you did so. So All Points North, so just tell me what All Points North is.

Josh Reid 38:12
Ultra distance bike packing race. We all start in Sheffield. And there’s 10 checkpoints, you need to get to all over the north of England. And you’ve got them all on a Brevet card. And then you you go to all these checkpoints, take a timestamp photo, and then make your way back to Sheffield. And this is the first first one back wins, or? Well, it’s not always a race. But that’s pretty much the gist of the event.

Carlton Reid 38:43
So how long did it take basically

Josh Reid 38:47
took me 70 hours, I believe.

Carlton Reid 38:50
With you not sleeping much.

Josh Reid 38:52
I slept for an hour in total to half an hour now. But then, in my time was about 56 hours. So it’s it’s crazy how much time you you stop and don’t realise you’re stopping.

Carlton Reid 39:07
And now I’m going to ask you your route in a second. I’ll go back to Ruth first. So Ruth, how long did it take you? And did you have that same amount of sleep deprivation? Or were you a bit more sensible?

Ruth Sutherland 39:17
Well, I for me it was sleep deprivation. But compared with Josh, it was it was a lot more sensible. I’d worked on the principle that I would need about five or six hours off every 24 hours. For me it was a it was a case of entering the all points north being on the start line and then getting to the finish line. And it was going to take me as long as it took me I had no illusions that I was racing or anything and for me it was just a personal challenge to to get to all the points in the shortest possible time and to and to make it over the finishing line. So I suppose I set off with slightly different no ambition to Josh. I was I would think I was back in about 102 hours. So substantially longer, you know, like, like a whole day longer than Josh.

Carlton Reid 40:14
But I’m guessing here that the fact you finished means you’re still way up ahead of how many people actually started because an enormous amount of people, I’m guessing here, just don’t finish these events.

Ruth Sutherland 40:24
Yes to that there were there were I think there were 29 rookies, rookie riders of the people who’ve never done an event like this before. And we applied for sort of special dispensation that there were 30 places available to people who were given an eight hour start Headstart. Our our time was still measured in real time. So my, my 102 hours started eight hours before Josh’s 52 hours. I think that’s how it worked. But I got an eight hour head start, essentially. And off those people that started with me, two of us were were vying for the finish. And we came back within about four minutes of each other, but the other rider beat me into fifth place. So I was the sixth finisher, in the rookies. And I was very happy about that.

Carlton Reid 41:14
I bet. Yeah. So just tell me about your route, and why you chose that route. And then route, I’m gonna ask you exactly the same question. And let’s see where you differ here, just in not in time. But in routes.

Josh Reid 41:29
Well, at the start line, a lot of people were thinking about going towards the Lake District first to get all the hills out of the way. And I was thinking of going that way. And then I looked at the weather forecast, and it was tipping down with rain. So I changed my route last minute. And when I went to the East Coast, first up to Horney Mare, Mere, and headed towards Bamburgh Castle, and I didn’t have a drop of rain until the last two hours in the race. And a lot of people dropped out with hypothermia from going the wrong way. I think. So.

Carlton Reid 42:07
So that was a choice you’ve made and you’re happy with that choice? Yeah. Yeah,

Josh Reid 42:11
very, very happy. Even though the climbing was very back ended, that meant I wasn’t like suffering from hypothermia or struggling with a lot of rain.

Carlton Reid 42:22
As you can imagine doing those because they’re massive, massive hills in the Lake District doing that after 60 hours,

Josh Reid 42:29
I’d rather be dry.

Ruth Sutherland 42:31
Josh, I think that’s really interesting. And I think, as a rookie, I have been writing up my experience, and it’s just a whole series of rookie errors. And I think possibly my first rookie error was choosing to go round the course the opposite way to you. So I went clockwise, I headed off into the Yorkshire Dales into the storm didn’t pay the price, I suppose, because I was actually able to find somewhere to sleep. I carried the the gear and I didn’t use it on the whole race. But it was a huge comfort to me, as I was sort of pedalling into the unknown and not having any idea where I was going to finish each day, it was a huge comfort to know that I did have a very good bit of a setup that I could use if I needed to. However, the rain was a huge problem. And the wind was unfortunate, because I had a very, very strong headwind as I went from west to east across the northern hills. I think I had no flexibility on that start line because my was, was rehearsed and embedded and imprinted in my mind. And it had never crossed my mind to veer from that. And it made me quite agitated at the start when I heard other riders talking about, oh, well, I might just tweak my route. I might just as thinking how can you possibly, you know, taking all my energy and emotions to hold myself together, knowing the route I’m going to do the thought of changing that at the 11th hour was was just, you know, unthinkable?

Carlton Reid 44:09
We might change. Sorry? So would you change that then in a any future race you would you be more flexible? Or do you think you would always want to have that route in your head?

Ruth Sutherland 44:19
No, I would definitely be more flexible. I you learn a whole lot of lessons when you do an event like this. And I’ve I was looking at Josh’s route. And the it doesn’t it isn’t clear from the map on the on the website, which way round Josh went and I haven’t looked at his splits. But I imagined that he’d gone the same way as me because he did the tech points in almost the exact same order, but in reverse. So yeah, I’d be interested Josh, did you did you plan and rehearse that route? Had you heard you were you wedded to it before you set off?

Josh Reid 44:56
Not completely, but then this would be my first one. Ultra distance bike back and races Well, I’ve never done one before. I’ve done a lot of bike touring. And a lot of racing I thought was like a happy medium between the two. And then I’d booked onto the transcontinental, like three years ago for all the lock downs, but it’s been cancelled three years on the trot. So I thought I needed to do something like old points north or an event like this prior to the transcontinental. So I make all the mistakes in this one. And then I’m got more of an idea for the transcontinental which is my main goal for the season.

Carlton Reid 45:31
What mistakes did you make Josh? Well, we’ll describe what the transcontinental is in a second, What mistakes did you make you change,

Josh Reid 45:39
I would look at my route a lot more. Like I looked at it. The first bit was was okay. But then the back end of it, like, I basically just pick the shortest route possible. And what I didn’t realise is Halifax has some incredibly steep 30% climbs. And instead of just going on, on the main road, and relatively flat, I’d chosen the shortest route, which happened to go up every 30% climbing in Halifax, and with 600 miles in the legs that kind of kills you. But then there’s this climbs in the Lake District way, you’re gonna have to go over anyway, like rhinos, and no matter when, whether you do that first or last, it’s always gonna be a grind, and it’s always gonna hurt. So I didn’t really think that was a didn’t really matter when I did it, it’s always gonna be

Carlton Reid 46:31
about equipment choice, because gloves would have helped wouldn’t a big gel gloves. So tell us about that.

Josh Reid 46:37
So like, even like two weeks later, my hands still vibrating a little bit from not wearing any gloves and just the vibrations from the road. And so some of the shortcuts I took on that, that route, were a bit sketchy. So I’d go on like bridleways and trying to cut off little sections of road shortcuts, what weren’t always shortcuts, having to fall through rivers and stuff. Yeah, definitely a lot more route planning as needed for future events.

Carlton Reid 47:10
So Ruth, same same question to you, and especially about equipment, would you would you change equipment in future, right?

Ruth Sutherland 47:19
The only elements of my equipment that was worrying and and unsettling was a rim mounted Dynamo that I had been given as a present. And I had used it on training rides, and was confident with how it functioned. And that I knew, you know, I knew what to do with it. But my mistake was that I hadn’t really used in anger, I hadn’t gotten to the point where all of my power packs were empty, and all of my devices had lost charge. And I needed to get power from my Dynamo as my only option. And when I got to that point, partway around the ride in a really remote place, I discovered that the Dynamo had significant limitations in its ability to or my ability to pedal to make it generate power, because it only generates power above a certain speed, and it needs a certain distance at that speed to activate the the internal generator. So at a certain speed, I had to go two or three kilometres before anything happened. And then as soon as I hit a hill and my speed reduced, I lost that power. And I also lost the internal sort of generator power. And so on hilly terrain, my Dynamo really did not work to do what I needed it to do. It did work on long flat sections laterally in the ride, but at the time that I needed it, it was a real crisis. And so I had basically my my message here as to myself is that I needed to have pre tested my equipment better. But in terms of the equipment, I carried personal equipment, I was really well equipped. I had some really good lightweight kits used every single thing that I took with the exception of my bivvy bag or my bivvy gear which stayed packed in the bottom of my rear carrier bag for the entire trip but I wouldn’t have gone without it. And I was going to say to you Josh, what did you carry? Did you did if you intended not to sleep? Did you take anything for for an emergency or were you just relying on the foil blanket that they issued on the start line?

Josh Reid 49:41
Well, I definitely on the start line I was second guessing myself and thinking do I take my baby do I take my sleeping bag because that just looking at other people’s bikes you kind of second guess yourself and yeah, I did take my baby and took a sleeping bag and I’m very glad for it was a 30 hour 30 minute Kip In a bus stop, and a 30 minute kid on a park bench. So I rode through the first night, the whole way through and then the second and the third night had half an hour Kip in each one. And it’s like it without those sleeps I would have been struggling on the downhills just to stay upright, really, I needed I needed to get my head down for just those half an hour and helps massively.

Carlton Reid 50:21
And you set an alarm on your watch or something or you did say wake me up in half an hour.

Josh Reid 50:28
I did. But I tended to wake up before the alarm, you’ve just got so much adrenaline pumping through you and thinking I need to keep on writing that you just wake up anyway.

Ruth Sutherland 50:39
I’ve heard other people say that Josh, about the transcontinental and another really long races that actually you become able to just lie down in a ditch and take a power nap for 30 minutes and then get back on your bike. And I found even though I was I was sleeping for two hours, maybe once I slept for three hours. But I always set an alarm. And I always woke up before my alarm. And I was back on my bike before, you know before I’d planned to be back on it. So it is it’s amazing what your body can do. And it’s amazing how how that sleep wait pattern?

Josh Reid 51:15
Yeah, I feel like it’s very, very different in a race stitching up scenario where you think you need to keep on going. Yeah. But before before I did this event, and thinking of the trans content over here, and like you have three, four hours of sleep at night. I was like, wow, that’s that’s not very much and then doing this and only having half an hour in the second or third night, then it’s like opened my eyes as I realise this is this is okay, this is this is doable.

Carlton Reid 51:44
I did this go back, sorry, go back to light just because Ruth was talking about having dynamo, you didn’t go down that route. I know you’ve thought about that route. But did tell me about the power options you have.

Josh Reid 51:59
I’m using Exposure lights so that they last a long, long time. So my rear lasts 40 hours, and then the front lasts for 36. And then I’ve got a battery pack for the front as well. And Exposure one. And I didn’t like with that short amount of race, you’re not going to be riding for long enough that those would run out. So I just think by using a dynamo and it costing you some of your power. It’s just it’s not worth it. And then for stuff like the transcontinental I think you’re going to be going in hotels and being able to charge so I just think I’ve gone for the no Dynamo option.

Carlton Reid 52:41
And that same for your electronics, your charging from a removable Power Pack.

Josh Reid 52:46
Yeah, so yeah, just got two power packs and charge on my phone and the white computer with with those.

Carlton Reid 52:56
So tell me now, right. Yep, just about the trend. We’ve mentioned this a few times. What is the transcontinental? Where does it start? Where does it finish? How long will it take?

Josh Reid 53:04
So it starts in Belgium up the up the famous climbing in tour Flanders. it wiggles its way all the way to to Bulgaria, on the Black Sea coast through like four checkpoints. I think 2500 Miles should take 10 days to two weeks. But we’ll see. Got that in a month’s time.

Carlton Reid 53:36
That’s July. So that’s probably one of your it will be with the heat wave. And Ruth, what have you got planned next? Have you got any more now that you’ve done this and you’ve you’re the rookie rider, financing and really good place there? What’s your what’s your your your next potential event?

Ruth Sutherland 53:57
Well, when I got off my bike, first thing my husband said to me was, I hope you’re not going to acquire a taste for these events. And my reply was, I am doubting whether I’m ever going to get on a bike and then less than bone do another event. But that was that was two weeks ago now. And it’s funny, isn’t it? How? How your point of view changes. And I kind of feel it’s it’s my time because I’m not getting any younger. And I’m not going to you know, I haven’t I can’t put these things off and think oh, I might I might do that in five years time, because I might be in a bath chair in five years time. So I think I probably have to start thinking about what I might do next. But I haven’t actually started about that. I’m still a little bit like you Josh. I did wear gloves and I too have got really numb fingertips particularly on my right hand. And I still feel I’m feeling the effects and I think that’s possibly to do with being a bit older and probably to do with having been less fit than you to start with. But yeah, my legs stopped aching and my bodies sort of coming around. But I feel that the four days took a real toll on my on me physically. So I’ve not thought about what’s next. I don’t know if you’ve got any suggestions, Josh?

Josh Reid 55:24
Not sure, I’m pretty … there’s a lot of a lot of events like coming out the interesting ones but not really thought about anything after the Transcontinental I’ve just been so focused on that for the last three years basically.

Ruth Sutherland 55:38
Did you ever need to did you read Ian Walker’s endless perfect circles? No, he describes the Transcontinental race, it’s an extremely good read, I really strongly recommend it. And that was, that was one of the things that inspired me to do the all points north.

Carlton Reid 55:56
It’s been on the show. He’s a he’s a good friend of the show in his he’s a fabulous athlete as well, again, another person who just sleeps for half an hour in a bus stop. Yes, and and then gets back back on his bike.

Ruth Sutherland 56:10
And in his book, he describes the the, the process of becoming, sort of refining his technique of going from being a rookie himself, being a beginner and making all the mistakes and learning from them and doing it differently next time. So he described a series of different races. And it’s very, very readable. And yeah, I’d love to meet him, huh?

Carlton Reid 56:34
Yes. Ian’s a nice guy, and a fabulous athlete, and a great psychologist as well, of course. So you don’t know exactly what you’re going to be doing next, Ruth, but you haven’t dragged your husband into doing one of these events. He’s definitely not going to , by the sound of it, he’s not going to join you.

Ruth Sutherland 56:53
He’s, he’s fond of his sleep. And the thoughts that we’ve in the past done, we’ve done 24 hour races together like the the mountain mayhem, and he’s hated every every lap that he’s had to drag himself out of bed to ride in the middle of the night. Still written really well. But I think I think I think it’s unlikely that I’ll persuade him. Who knows?

Carlton Reid 57:19
See, I’ve done the mountain mayhem. And I’ve done the 24 hour events and my logic there. This is what I told Josh, when he was doing this event that you’ve you’ve both done is just finish, that’s got to be your goal. Just finish. Because when you’re doing a long distance event, and I found this with the 24 hour mountain bike event is if you finish you basically place because so many people just overcook. You know, they they you can see they’re so the adrenaline kicks in, you go faster, you try and keep up with people. And it’s like, Be not really racing against other people. In many respects, you are just trying to just finish the event. And that that, to me was always the goal. And I always found that actually came up relatively high in the rankings, just because so many people just overcook themselves. So that must be an incredible temptation, you must but the question to both of you, you must have to really bring back your competitive spirit. Because you can’t be chasing after people who, for instance, in a 24 hour mountain bike event, it could be a team for so it can be one person who’s actually relatively fresh, and it’s not a solo rider. So you mustn’t go chasing after people is what I’m trying to say. Is that something that you physically have to stop yourself doing, Ruth and then just the same question.

Ruth Sutherland 58:41
It is, but the All Points North is quite a lonely event. Because I don’t know about you, Josh, but I didn’t really encounter many other riders. And although I was very keen to be dot watching to see what was going on in the overall event and around me, I became very anxious about the amount of power that I had left. So I spent a lot of time with my devices all switched off, because I wanted to preserve what power I had. So I wasn’t really able to watch what other people were doing. The times that I was aware that the only time really that I was aware that I was neck and neck with someone was as I was coming into the finish for the last for the last sort of five hours. There was somebody who had been riding overnight and was closing in on me a much younger, faster seeming rider. And that did really spur me on because I think I would have I think I would have been like a snail otherwise getting back from home and the mere. It’s the most tedious straight section of writing that you could possibly imagine. And my legs were were finished and I was very hungry. I was exhausted. I fell off my bike at Horsey Mere just turning round an 880 degree turn from the control I just literally fell off and I couldn’t unclip and I just burst into tears and thought I’m never going to finish this race. And then it was the knowledge that someone was worth close that made me think guesser get back on your bike, you can do it, you can do it. And so yes, it is a motivating thing.

Carlton Reid 1:00:12
And Josh, what about you? Were you were you dot watching? Were you looking at other people when when you met them on the course? Maybe you met more than the room? Did you go faster? Do you always thinking No, I’ve got to stay with my own limits. Forget other people.

Josh Reid 1:00:25
Oh, no, I’m very bad at getting egged on by other people. The first like, it was so much fun. It was like an Alleycat race. The first little bit like people weaving in and out of different routes, you’d be riding on a road and then someone else’s swing onto your road. And you’d be egged on by them to carry on to try and chase them down. Yeah, it was so much fun that that first little bit. And then you just got to get your head down. And I would I would be watching the dots and seeing where other people were.

Carlton Reid 1:00:58
But would you then go faster to try and catch up? Or would that demotivate you what was the dot watching doing to your head?

Josh Reid 1:01:06
Oh, it was definitely motivating to start with and then through the night, you’d see your red lights in the distance and you’d chase after those. Yeah, that really helped. And then then I started getting punctures on my on my rear tire and I couldn’t couldn’t see that with the, the sealant so I had to put a tube in, in my rear tire. But because I couldn’t resist the tubeless I couldn’t get the valve out of my wheel. So luckily a kind guy in a recumbent came past and lent me some tools to take off. But then

Carlton Reid 1:01:45
you disqualified yourself basically. Yeah. You’re not allowed to you’re not allowed to get help.

Josh Reid 1:01:50
No. So I rang the organisers and told them what happened basically disqualify myself. But I still wanted to finish the race and see what time I could get it all preparation for the transcontinental ready

Carlton Reid 1:02:05
and let’s let’s talk about food. Because you mentioned a walker before and the conversation I had with him he he’s said on on his his long distance rides. He’s done the one from Norway as well. He just went into and this turns out a lot of riders were doing it they would go into the service stations and buy these crappy crappy croissants filled with with gloop. And he said he would never eat this normally, but they’re incredibly calorific. And he would just eat you know, loads of them and read them sickened himself by these these these horrible, horrible Garriage kuasa croissants? Are there any food options? Because obviously you join one, obviously, but Josh, you’re vegan. So you’re kind of like giving yourself an extra bit of a hill to climb. They’re just on your food choices. So what did you eat? How did you eat? And would you change anything? And I’ll ask the same question in a second.

Josh Reid 1:03:04
I set off with a lot of food. So I had my pocket stuffed I’d like three bananas, two blocks and marzipan. A couple of saurians gels and these banana leaf wrapped energy products from Colombia called Lucho Dillitos those I think and yeah so you just open them just pack for the sugar and then you check the banana leaf because it’s biodegradable and then that lasted me pretty much through the first two days really well the night and then the whole first day and then got to Carlisle basically stopped at my first place to stock up got a McDonald’s which I wouldn’t usually get a the vegan new vegan burger and then pack myself with four vegan sausage rolls and just kept on kept on going but yeah, I carried a lot of food start with probably weighed myself down quite a bit. I only really need to stop to to get water

Carlton Reid 1:04:07
and where do you think your food choices through the ride? were the right ones you did okay on food or did you did you run out of energy?

Josh Reid 1:04:15
I never run out of energy. I was I was eating constantly. I knew I knew I had to keep on eating. And I also like before the event started I had a lot I don’t mess about like 500 grammes of pasta. So off off the start line how I felt really sick. Like almost as if I was going to throw up for the first like four, four or five hours partly because of nerves. But I think in the long run it did me really well because even though I was digesting for those first five hours, like it made the blood sugar and kept my energy going the whole way through.

Carlton Reid 1:04:50
And Ruth, what was your your food strategy?

Ruth Sutherland 1:04:54
Um, I think I’ve had a lot of experience of feeding myself on a Long Distance and endurance events. And I feel that that’s something that I’m very, very comfortable with. And I know what works for me. And I don’t like eating junk and I don’t like eating sugars and gels. So I try and get my nutrients from natural products. I, I also set off with bananas, and two substantial granary, cheese and tomato sandwiches, one for eating that day and one potentially for eating through the night or for breakfast the next day. And I’d eyeballed where, and at what times a day I would be able to stop to pick up food. And it worked pretty well. I did have one desperate moment where I hate to admit this because I’ve never been in before but I went into a Burger King, which was the only thing that was open. And what I suppose I really prayed with was a bag of chips, just something faulty and something hot and comforting and filling. But I made the mistake of buying what I thought was an Aberdeen Angus steak in abundance. I think it was it was some terrible it was terrible thing I had I was so guilty and so ashamed of myself, I had to WhatsApp my family and confess. And that was a mistake because that didn’t go down well or stay down very well. But the rest of my food I managed to have I managed to have some hot soup somewhere. I’ve managed to have some decent pick up some decent sandwiches on Route. I didn’t ever go into a supermarket I didn’t want to leave my bike. So I just literally picked up what I could I had a good feast at a station cafe in oxen home. I think from for me the the eating and the feeding. Went well I didn’t carry on like you Josh. I didn’t go out laden, I didn’t carry an excess of food. And I did have I did have my obligatory emergency rations stuffed down with my beefy gear and I didn’t break into those. So I always knew that if the worst came to the worst, I had enough calories there to keep me going for a few more hours.

Carlton Reid 1:07:09
And what are you riding? Ruth? What’s What’s the bike that you’re riding, the type and the brand.

Unknown Speaker 1:07:16
It’s a Specialized Ruby, which is I think it’s a women’s specific version of the Roubaix. It’s a beautiful lightweight road bike with some suspension in the in the front stem and in the seat post.

Carlton Reid 1:07:34
Because Josh you were running a gravel bike so so so Ruth why are you riding a road bike? Do you have a gravel bike, do most people doing this on road k? What were people riding when you were starting on the start line?

Ruth Sutherland 1:07:49
I think there was a there was a complete mixture. Josh, would you agree with that? There was there was a really a really wide range of different bikes. I was surprised.

Josh Reid 1:07:57
Yeah, as people on really fast road bikes and people are on more of a touring setup.

Ruth Sutherland 1:08:03
And I saw one woman riding on a mountain bike.

Josh Reid 1:08:08
Oh, wow. That would have been tough.

Ruth Sutherland 1:08:09
Yes, it would have been tough. So I put I put tougher tires and higher volume tires on my road bike, the largest that would be accommodated by that by the fall. I have got two cyclocross bikes. I haven’t got a gravel bike. And my cyclocross bikes are not as comfortable to ride in this bike. I was really happy and I also had tri-bars. And that was one of the things that I don’t know whether I would do again, I didn’t really use them in anger until the very last day when I had that very long straight stretch. You can’t benefit I don’t think very much from resting on tri-bars when you’re in very hilly terrain. And it does put maybe 1.2 kilo kilos on the the weight of the bike I think so. It’s always a bit of a trade off isn’t it?

Carlton Reid 1:09:02
So just what are you riding and you were riding with tri-bar so describe how how much you use them?

Josh Reid 1:09:08
I use them quite a lot. I try and get into them as much as possible and more to just change the position and get the weight off the hands than anything. Yeah, I’m running a giant revolt. Gravel bikers just the same not the same bike but the same type of bike that I rode back from China and I’ve had great experiences with it. I’ve never really had any issues. And then I took the gravel tires off and put some Hutchinson sector road tires on so just the email. Still pretty wide but smooth to lower the rolling resistance and then running Arkel bags and so add a seat Packer on frame bag and then a top to your bag but that was pretty much it and stuff to Robens mountain bivvy with a sleeping bag and then your tri bars with the Exposure light and Giant computer Stages computer mountain to the top onto the tri bars using a I think it’s 76 Projects like 3d printed thing that goes on to the dry bars and you’re able to fit the exposure like on the computer onto onto one thing.

Ruth Sutherland 1:10:32
Oh, that’s really neat.

Carlton Reid 1:10:35
Thanks to Kabir Rachure, Josh Reid and Ruth Sutherland for joining me. And thanks to you for listening to episode 302 of the spokesmen cycling podcast, show notes and more can be found on The next episode is a chat with American urbanists Sara Studdard and Zoe Kircos, meanwhile get out there and ride.

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