Later this year, PH athlete Jasmijn Muller hopes to break two Guinness world records. She'll embark on the 840 mile-long Land's End to John O Groats journey with her sights on the solo cycling record and then continue on for the 1,000 mile record. We interviewed her about that a while back.
As part of her training for that epic challenge, she decided to challenge the Zwift Distance Record, an indoor record on a stationary smart turbo trainer in the virtual Zwift Watopia world. The current record was held by Chris Hopkinson, one of the strongest male ultra endurance cyclists in the UK, who managed 1010 miles within 72 hours and 36 minutes. No mean feat. But, if you haven't heard already, she smashed it! We caught up with Jasmijn shortly after her successful ride...
Hi Jasmijn. What was the hardest thing about the challenge? What was your low point? Was there a moment you thought the record was beyond you?
The hardest thing was managing the saddle sores. It was after about 24 hours of riding that a large saddle sore started to turn into an infected wound, a Staphylococcal infection to be precise, which effectively created a big hole in my groin.
I won’t describe it in too much detail but you can picture what the effect of another 46 hours of riding, sweat and chamois cream was. Ibuprofen kept the pain at bay for a while as did the good old ultra-cycling trick of double bibshorts (with the second pad inside-out). This can help to reduce the chafing and just gives a bit more comfort. I just wish I had adopted that trick from the beginning!
It's a funny thing with saddle sores, I have done lots of very long rides and races without any problems but, indoors on the turbo, the bike doesn't move with you and even using the same saddle, bibshorts and chamois cream, you can still have issues. Some people reckoned I should have changed bibshorts every hour, but frankly I don't have enough kit for that and it isn't very practical for a record attempt...
There wasn’t a single moment where I wanted to give up. Even at the end, I would have continued if it wasn’t for the saddle sores. But, with the record beaten by over 200km after 62 hours and 4 minutes in the saddle there was little left to strive for. My legs were still fine, my mind was still strong, but the infected sore had swollen substantially even going 10cm down into my upper leg, red, oozing and painful. It was enough.
How did you stay fuelled for the ride?
I tried to take in between 60 and 90 gram of carbohydrates per hour. Initally that worked out fine, but further into the attempt I fell a bit behind. I found a fluid diet the easiest way to stay fuelled. Initially I was still taking bottles of energy mix, but after 12 hours that all just became a bit too sickly and my stomach started to object.
We switched to Fresubin (a high-calorie meal replacement drink), which was tasty and much easier on the stomach. Diluted Ambrosia rice pudding and pumpkin soup also worked well.
Despite having the windows wide open day and night and having two fans blowing at me, I got quite hot and it was nice to also eat some juicy things like yellow bellpepper, grapes and cucumber. Special treats like a boiled egg, cheese, roasted sweet potato and pancakes also went down extremely well.
I didn’t take on many gels. I did have some caffeine pills, but only during my dozy spells. In total I had about 450mg of caffeine over the whole record attempt, which is about 4.5 cups of espresso, not a vast amount, but enough for someone like me who doesn’t regularly drink coffee.
Interestingly, your approach to carbs and caffeine matches our outlook on staying fuelled! So, how did you stay hydrated?
The amount of liquid I drank reduced a bit over time as my effort levels dropped and my sweat rate slowed. Even when I was no longer sweating much, I was still boiling hot, so we also used frozen sweatbands on my wrists and forehead to cool me down.
Meanwhile my crew was freezing cold wearing multiple layers and covering themselves in blankets!
How much did using Zwift help? The interactions with people and that feeling of progression surely made a difference?
I had only been riding on Zwift for 2 weeks prior to the record attempt. I hadn’t even unlocked the 100-mile achievement yet! I literally threw myself in at the deep end and was overwhelmed by the support I received from Zwifters all over the world. It really is a very welcoming and very supporting community. It was fantastic to have so many people getting on their bikes letting me draft, some that I knew, but many complete strangers.
Some people even changed their display names to 'J Muller Support' so it was easy for me to see who I could draft and who would wait for me if I needed a short toilet break.
The in-game messages of support were really encouraging (both from riders and non-riders including my mum and my sister who had logged into the game) and I think I set a new record for most 'ride ons' received in one Zwift ride.
Those interactions were really important. Even if I wasn't able to directly respond, I noticed all the messages and they really lifted my spirits. Because I only joined Zwift so recently, I still had a lot of levels to unlock before I would get access to a faster bike and faster wheels, so those were great interim goals to aim for.
Looks like you took some powernaps during the challenge, how did that work?
I rode straight through the whole first 6 hours, then took a short 5-10 minute toilet break and repeated more or less the same pattern for the next 3 blocks of 6 hours.
After 24 hours I took a 30 minutes break to have a quick shower and change my clothes. After 34 hours I took my first powernap of just 25 minutes. The logistics of this were all very easy as I did the record attempt in my own home, so the shower was about 10 steps away and my bed (an army camp bed), no less than a meter away in the corner of the room.
I found a 25-minute powernap to be just the right length of time, enough to recover a little, but not so much that you actually are no longer interested in continuing with the record attempt as you have become just a bit too comfortable in your bed.
My crew did a great job of waking me up and giving me motivation to get going again (there were angry birds costumes, blow up dolphins and loud music). After 51 hours I had a second power nap, initially just for 10 minutes but then prolonged with another 25 minutes. My final powernap was once I had beaten the previous record set by Chris of 1010 miles. I allowed myself a 90-minute sleep there!
What did you do to celebrate?
The initial celebrations were still during the record attempt, with the crew present as well as Danielle the editor of Casquette (a new and exciting women's cycling magazine), who was there to hand me a special #JFDI (Just F**kin Do It) cap, which was a real honour. I know few other women who have been given this gap, but two of them are Emily Chappell (one of my crew members and a huge force in getting more women into long distance cycling) and Nicole Cooke (who has done so much for women's cycling at the highest levels).
After the record attempt my husband and I flew out to Spain for a short holiday. It should have been an active walking holiday, but seeing that I wasn't very mobile (I shuffled around with so much difficulty that they even let us use the assisted security gate at Gatwick Airport!), it became more of a relaxing and eating holiday...
How long did it take to recover after you finished?
It didn't take very long to recover as it was all done at a fairly low intensity. My legs felt perfectly fine just one or two days after the ride and I managed to catch up on sleep pretty quickly too.
Unfortunately the infected saddle sore took a bit longer to heal! After 5 days of strong Spanish antibiotics the hole in my groin finally closed and the swelling was reduced enough so I could at least sit normally on the plane home.
A week later I did my first easy club ride and although everything else was fine, I managed to give myself a new saddle sore almost immediately as the skin was only newly healed and very sensitive. Meanwhile, I have resumed my normal training again and everything is going well; the biggest challenge is to motivate my body to do high-intensity intervals again having spent so much time in 'diesel mode'.
What an amazing achievement, well done. So, onwards to the LEJOG attempt in September then?
Yes. The Zwift record was good fun, but for now my goals are firmly on the road. I did the attempt as training and preparation for my solo record attempt from Land's End to John O' Groats (and to continue on for the 1,000 mile record).
Both records have stood unchallenged since 2002 at 52 hours and 45 minutes and 64 hours and 38 minutes respectively (both held by the amazing Lynne Biddulph).
I know equipment, training and nutrition has changed since then, but so has the traffic situation. It is going to be huge challenge, but not impossible. The Zwift record has given me a lot of confidence and was a great learning event both for me and for my crew. Hopefully we can apply some of those lessons in September and secure two new records.
For more details about the upcoming LEJOG & 1000 miles record, please do visit my site. I'm still looking for financial contributions towards all the logistics for the event as it isn't cheap to pay for petrol, car hire, motor home hire, accommodation and food for crew and officials for nearly a week and any support from the Precision Hydration community would be much appreciated. Also, 50% of any contributions will be donated to Cancer Research UK. You can support me here. Or, if you would rather see 100% of your donation go to Cancer Research, please donate here.