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The 28h Project: My Story

I sit here with very sore legs, shoulders, neck and of course, butt, and think there has to be a certain amount of sanity in the decision making process, and the subsequent actions, that is absent - but it is a lot of fun to push one's self beyond what one has previously done.

So what is The 28h Project, well to quote the website it is "a worldwide self-supported ultra cycling race designed to connect cyclists from communities across the world. Teams, Duo and Solo riders have 28h to ride the farthest and climb as much as they can choosing route and strategy, anywhere in the world". In many ways it peaked my interest, from being able to plan my own routes, test my own limitations, participate in a truly global event...and in essence, be in control of my own destiny (not that I have control issues). This year see's the event split in 2, with round one being targeted at elevation (7th/8th May) and round 2 distance (October 8th/9th), of which I am going to find the flattest route I can (potentially Netherlands or the Northern Territory).

You can complete this challenge either outside (on any type of bike), or inside on a direct drive trainer...I chose both and mapped a route through the Surrey Hills for the daytime element, then onto Zwift for the evening, night, and morning's festivities. Looking back through my Strava history, the biggest single day was 280km and around 2,500m of ascent - all my energy was to be directed to the vertical element, so distance wasn't to be factored in...although it was always going to be there. My target - 5,000m of ascent, and if I got there, perhaps even go for the aspirational "Everest" at 8,848m, either way, this was going to be my biggest climbing day ever, and I may not be able to walk for a day or two afterwards - but as I said, lots of fun either way.

As you can see from the images, it was pretty grey and overcast for the majority of the day, although I was lucky that it didn't rain whilst I was out on the road for ride number 1. After a brief halt to proceedings through Richmond park whilst I waited for the Deer to make up their minds whether they wanted to be on the left or right hand side of the road (definitely a Richmond Park issue), it was out for a relatively flat blast towards Box Hill (for the first time) - finally getting some elevation onto the leader board. I did potentially pick one of the worst days to ride around the Surrey Hills, as there was another mass-participation cycling and running event going on, but I did pass a lot of people, which is always good for morale.

From the above cross section, you can see several peaks that are relatively identical - these are the other ascents of Box Hill, in total 6 for the day before heading homewards. As this was an elevation challenge, there was circa 50km getting to, and back from, the hilly bit, but overall a lovely ride and a good start to the challenge.

For the uninitiated, Zwift is an "immersive indoor gaming experience producing real-life results that elevate fitness", or in other words, an online game (that is not giving it all its credit). Zwift (other cycling/training platforms are available) is a way to cycle in the comfort of your own home by hooking your bike up to a trainer and cycling around virtual worlds. These have taken off since lockdown (for obvious reasons), and there is now a myriad to chose from, but if you want to cycle around on your own, join a group, work through a training plan etc, then all the tools are at your disposal - and because they use "smart trainers", then it gives you a sense of the "real world" by producing greater resistance the steeper the slope, and releasing it on the down hill - I really like it, but only if the TV is on.

Watopia is the main world within Zwift, it is there every day together with two "guest" worlds for example: France, London, Yorkshire, New York City etc, on Saturday the two were Innsbruck and Yorkshire. As I had previously ridden all the Yorkshire routes, and Innsbruck is far from flat, it seemed like the obvious answer to the question "How can I ensure I wont be able to walk on Monday?". So on my bike I hopped, and on my virtual way I went, working my way through a couple of routes before literally stopping in my tracks, unable to pedal any further - i needed sleep...and food (i had burnt through around 8,500 calories).

After tackling Innsbruck until around 1am then going to bed, I was violently woken up by my 6am alarm - i needed sleep, but still had ascent to...umm...ascend (perhaps I am still a little tired). So a large bowl of porridge and a larger mug of coffee later, I hopped back on the trainer to tackle the "Four Horseman" which coves "all of Watopia’s timed climbs: the original Hilly KOM, Volcano KOM, Epic KOM, and Alpe du Zwift" (Alpe du Zwift is modelled after the iconic Alp d’Huez, and I'm guessing equally painful). This is the route, as outlined above, that would take in the most amount of elevation in the shortest distance - which meant lots of climbing and additional pain on the already tender legs (no pain no gain, as they say). I finished this last route with 5 minutes to spare, it had been a long 28 hours, but it was done and I am very proud of what I had achieved. So the summary of my rides for the 28 hour challenge are as follows:




Surrey Hills



Zwift: Innsbruck 1



Zwift: Innsbruck 2



Zwift: Innsbruck 3



Zwift: Watopia






So where did I end up? Not sure yet, results haven't been posted, but I will update when they are out (which should be shortly). There will be a couple of days of relaxing, and not sitting on a bike saddle (even though relatively speaking, mine is comfortable). I have some calories to make up on, so eating is a priority (and also a love mine, which is very handy).

Sleep now, for tomorrow I walk.

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