Some of the most enjoyable cycling I do, is inspired by people who challenge themselves to ride what seem huge distances, cycle across mountain ranges, or both! This may take place in the form of an event, or solo ride.
Learning about such accomplishments has certainly encouraged both myself and partner Emma, to increase the distance of our rides, or add extra climbs, Cols, or Passos when cycling in the hills or mountains.
I came to know of Chris Beattie, through his role as an ambassador for Q36.5, who produce high performance cycling clothing. Whilst learning about their products, I was also able to gain an insight into Chris’s cycling exploits, which range from riding fast time trials, placing high in various Gran Fondos and more.
On reading that Chris was racing in the 2017 Donegal Atlantic Way Ultra, I was keen to find out about his experience, and was really pleased when he agreed to a Q&A.
The Donegal Atlantic Way Ultra is an event in which either solo riders or teams take on a course which is 555 km in length. The participants have up to 40 hours to complete the distance, but some of the riders are finishing in approximately half this time. Chris is one of these people.
1) The setting of Donegal Atlantic Way Ultra looks extremely picturesque, but very challenging. When did you decide this was an event you would like to participate in, and what were the features that drew you to this race?
A large portion of Donegal is still untouched when away from towns and villages and is stunning on a clear, sunny day! The roads are undulating and indeed relentless even between the climbs! Traffic is normally light and therefore a perfect place to ride!
This year was the second running of the Donegal Atlantic Way Ultra 555 race, and I became aware of the event about one week before the first edition. After seeing the quality of the riders lining up, the parcours and the finishing times, I knew straight away I had to tackle the event in 2017! I had ridden long rides in the past, but I knew this event was really going to challenge me physically and mentally, and that it would also be a challenge logistically. The professionalism of the event organisers and the chip timing with live tracking was a big bonus and I knew this event was going to be world class. I was committed!
2) On choosing this event, what adjustments did you make to your training to be both physically and mentally prepared?
The main focus for me was maintaining pace over distance in training. During the last couple of years my focus had been Gran Fondo events so around 100/110 miles, and about 7500 ft of climbing. This event would multiply that by three! The distance in my long training rides would increase regularly, but interval work and hill repeats were still included to raise the threshold and keep the high end topped up for the efforts on the climbs. On these long rides efficiency is key but recovery is essential. Mentally I break the ride down into segments so instead of thinking 180 miles today I say 60 miles x 3 and I know 120 miles is fine so only the last section dwells on your mind! Sleep deprivation comes into play when pushing for quick times in ultra events, and I did blocks of training on greatly reduced sleep, so the body would adapt, and not want to shut down after long durations on the bike.
3) Passionate sports people frequently juggle the challenge of working full time and training for events. How did you go about achieving this?
My 9 to 5 is based at a University Campus which has its benefits! Firstly, holidays are good, so I get time to do big training blocks and to travel for big climbs and good weather! On a day-to-day basis, I commute to work on the bike, which is a bare minimum of 10 miles each way (but typically around 20 each way on average). The commute negates wasted time in the daily routine and maximizes riding time so even with an extended evening training session I can still be home with enough time to eat and rest….just! I am currently logging around 18,000 miles a year, so anything is possible when you plan your schedule.