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My top takeaways from Transpyranees Race ultra cycle race 2022

Updated: Jun 14, 2023

TransPyrenees Race is a completely self-supported ultra bike race. You plan your own route through set check points, starting on the West coast, crossing the through the Pyrenees to get to the East coast, and then back again via the RAID Pyrenean route. In 2022 you had just under 7 days to complete the route, meaning it was about 230km a day and rather more significantly, 5000m of climbing per day (carrying all your own kit).

 

Training for Transpyranees or another race? I write training plans, accompanied by coaching, to help you achieve your goals.


As well as working on the physical side of training with you, I use my experience as a Mental Health and Exercise coach. This training and approach is absolutely invaluable for longer races where mindset is just as important as fitness.


 

The background: I last raced Transpyranees in 2019, my first ultra bike race. I finished just outside of GC (the time cut) and found it one of the 'biggest' experiences of my life - biggest fears, biggest emotions, biggest scenery, biggest joy and sense of accomplishment, biggest nagging feeling that it had beaten me and I wanted to go back and see what I could achieve...


So after a short interlude for Covid, I went back in 2022 to try again.


You can read my daily Instagram posts here, or here's my Top Takeaways:

Completed brevet card
Completed brevet card

This time I made the time cut with a good few hours to spare (despite the fact they'd brought it forwards considerably) and finished 3rd female. There was a vast difference between me and the first 2 females over the line who were properly racing, but I'm still really proud of my achievement.


Mindset is everything - every time I thought about the race (in the intervening 2 years, and at my lowest points when racing in 2022) I thought about my very worst moments (hours of descending at snails pace off the Peyresourde in freezing, wet, pitch black, unable to see, petrified about falling or getting a puncture). Once I realised I'd fallen into this negative hole, and helped my mind to focus on the wider experience and all the positive sides to the race, it became a whole lot more fun and less scary.


Audax is brilliant training and great 'fun' - Whilst I'd credit the work I did on understanding and changing my mindset as the main difference between 2019 and 2022, I had also got more riding experience after doing countless Audaxes. I kept up my RRTY (Ride Around the Year - doing at least 200km every month) for the last few years and got a lot more practice riding through the night which is essential giving how much riding there was in the dark (I'm still useless with a tendency to start to dose off on descents but now I know I just need to stop and lie down for 40 winks it's more manageable).

I mostly do DIYs (where you choose and submit your own route) but when I can, I love to do the organised events where you get a great camaraderie and mix of riders (including women!). The Audax system can be somewhat impenetrable if you're new so give me a shout if you have questions!


You can say no to events - Given Covid rollovers, in just over 3 months in 2022 I raced All Points North (1000km over Jubilee bank holiday weekend), Roth Ironman distance triathlon in July and TransPyranees (1600km and 35,000m of climbing, the first week of Oct). More significantly than the races themselves, this meant training for an Ironman and Ultras at the same time, and whilst they're both about long distance racing, it's actually pretty different training (there's no running in an ultra cycle race unless things have gone wrong, you eat whatever you can get from a garage rather than 'race food', there's far less logistical planning in IM once you're through transition, and you're not going to hold an aero position for 5000m of climbing a day!).


There's always the FOMO factor when deferring an event, and after the last few years of no racing, I was keen to get stuck back in, but it was too much. I did well at all the events, and miraculously avoided injuries, but I was mentally burnt out and losing my love for the training, and I've no doubt injury issues I've had this year are in part from overdoing it last year (combined with perimenopause kicking in). With hindsight, I should have focussed just on the ultra cycling or the Ironman.

The region is stunning, and even when things got really hard, I never stopped appreciating how lucky I was to be there. There's so many climbs outside of the famous RAID route which are well worth a visit, especially on the Spanish side where it is sooooo much easier to travel (hotels and food much more available and more flexible).

Bumping into Hector at the half way check point
Bumping into Hector at half way point

Me and my partner Hector ride at a very similar pace! Which is hardly surprising given how much training we do together. Despite not sharing our routes in advance, and making a massive effort not to ride together (we were not riding as a pair and therefore the rules on no outside support applied), we kept bumping into each other, getting to the turnaround point and finish line within less than half an hour of each other.


If you're small it's really worth finding kit that works for you. As I wrote about in 2019, my bags were too big for my bike and I spent half the time stopping to rearrange my kit to stop it rubbing on my wheels. This year, as well as reducing my kit a bit, I went for the Tailfin pack at the rear which worked brilliantly, supplemented by 2 big top tube bags and 2 'chalk bag' style food pouches up front. Not the prettiest or matchy matchy, but worked for me! Side entry bottle cages also help. Whilst I got one puncture on a gravel section, it was soon plugged by a 'bacon strip' and I was really happy with my tubeless set up.



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