In September 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.
Hi Jasmijn, why have you set your sights on these records?
The current records are held by my team mate Lynne Biddulph (nee Taylor), but once upon a time they were held by Eileen Sheridan, a hero of mine who, at age 94, spoke so eloquently and enthusiastically about her End to End record that I became inspired to challenge my own limits and give this record a go.
I like pushing my mental and physical boundaries, enjoy the adventure and sense of achievement of A-B rides and love the romantic notion that, if successful, my record will be added to those of all the other men and women who have set out since 1929 to test themselves against the clock and the elements over the ultimate point-to-point challenge the UK has to offer! My dream is to break Lynne's records while Eileen is still alive and hopefully have the opportunity to celebrate our achievements together.
While the physical and mental challenge of breaking the record is my main motivation, I also want to use the attempt as an opportunity to raise funds for Cancer Research UK. I first fundraised for them in 2010 when I didn't even know how to use clipless pedals and had never cycled a 100 miles in one day before. Now that I'm upping the challenge yet further, I feel that I can justify asking all my friends and family for donations once more :-)
What does a LEJOG attempt involve?
Both record attempts will be done as solo, non-drafting records and have stood unchallenged since 2002, at 52 hours 45 minutes and 64 hours 38 minutes respectively. It won't be easy to beat Lynne's record. The fact that no other woman has tried since 2002 says a lot I think.
There's over 37,000 feet of climbing on the LEJOG route and 43,000+ feet of climbing for the 1,000 mile record. Even if I get lucky with a nice tail wind, the route does twist and turn quite a bit. There are lovely smooth sections of road, but some very rough sections too and saddle sores are a real concern after so many miles in the saddle.
Traffic volumes on the big A-roads I will be riding on have increased a lot since 2002, which can at times help by giving a bit of a drafting effect, but generally just cause a lot of stress, especially as the sleep deprivation starts to take its toll!
An average speed of 16 miles per hour for the LEJOG record sounds achievable until you factor in the fact that the clock will keep running during food, comfort and sleep stops, so my average moving speed will have to be considerably faster than 16 miles per hour.
Unlike any 12- and 24-hour challenges I have done in the past, sleep deprivation will be a real issue during this record attempt as, because the current record is so competitive, sleep really is a luxury. At best I will get a few 15 minutes power naps. Ask anyone if they would drive a car non-stop for nearly 3 days and nights, and they would tell you 'are you crazy?!'. Now contemplate doing that on a bicycle, solo...and you may start to appreciate the enormity of the challenge!
What does a typical training week look like for you right now? And how will that change over the next 9 months?
I don't really have a typical training week as my work is project and deadline driven, which can disrupt my training schedule a bit.
I tend to do 3 shorter and harder turbo sessions (1-1.5 hrs) during the week and one or two longer sessions (6+ hrs) at the weekend, either on the turbo or on the road.
I commute to work by bike (30 mile round trip) when the weather isn't too bad and try to fit in yoga and Pilates sessions for core stability and flexibility.
My training will change somewhat over the next 9 months as I hope to achieve a better work/life balance and include more long events as part of my training. The challenge will be to fine-tune my taper prior to the record attempt as the exact date of the attempt will be dependent on the weather/wind forecast. In August I will likely be doing some shorter, harder sessions just to sharpen up ahead of the big day.
What challenges/events will you be doing this year to build up to the record attempt?
I started planning for the End to End record attempt as far in advance as early 2016, but a Deep Vein Thrombosis in summer 2016 saw many of my plans for 2016 be pushed back to 2017.
The first big challenge in the build up to the LEJOG & 1000 mile world record attempt will be in February when I plan to challenge the Zwift Distance Record, an indoor record on a stationary smart turbo trainer in the virtual Zwift Watopia world.
The current record is held by Chris Hopkinson, one of the strongest male ultra endurance cyclists in the UK. I will try to get as close as possible to his 1010 miles within 72 hours and 36 minutes, and hopefully push the record a little further still.
I strongly believe that men and women are not too dissimilar when it comes to ultra endurance. If I fail to beat his record, it will still give me important insight into my strengths and particularly the weaknesses I need to work on over the next half year or so.
I am particularly curious to see how my body (and mind) will respond to sleep deprivation, nutrition, saddle sores etc beyond the 24 hours I have raced to date. It will be good to test all of this in a controlled and safe indoor environment before heading out on the road.
The next big challenge will be in early April when I plan to ride my LEJOG and 1000 mile route as a reconnaissance ride. I did my first recce ride last year in June over a leisurely 5 days of riding. This time I want to try and ride at the same average moving speed as Lynne's record, but done in a format of 24 hours of riding followed by up to 24 hours of rest, which will allow me to experience what the traffic will be like more or less around the same times as I will passing through during the actual record attempt.
Sending things ahead and staying at friends' houses will also allow me to ride without luggage this time. The only thing that will slow me down is water/food stops as I will be riding unsupported in April. But as long as I can hit Lynne's moving average speed (even if I face a cold headwind in April!) that should give me the confidence that I'm on the right track for September.
In the weekend immediately after my recce ride we will have a support crew training weekend, which will be a great opportunity to get everyone to fully embrace their roles and practise a number of 'what if' scenarios with the route and challenges along the way still fresh in my mind.
At the end of April I will ride two 400km Audax rides back to back. Apparently no other woman has ever done that. Well, a statement like that is like a red flag to a bull for me, so of course I have to give it a go!
Audax rides are non-competitive events, but because of the long distance they fit well with my record ambitions. On the 29th of April I will ride the 400 km London-Wales-London Audax, followed by another 400km Audax departing from Poole the day after. It is a good thing I have the Bank Holiday Monday to recover!
There are a number of 100-mile time trials I hope to ride in May, followed by a 12-hour time trial and 24-hour Le Mans style race in June. My key event for July will be the National 24-hour time trial championships, which are also an excellent opportunity for my LEJOG crew to fine-tune their support strategy.
After winning the 12-hour time trial championships in 2015, the 24-hour was my main target for 2016. With DVT putting an end to those dreams, I feel that I have some unfinished business...
It would be great to come away with a win, but the overall goal for 2017 is the LEJOG record. So learning from the race will be number 1; winning it will be a nice bonus. There are a few other 100-mile and 12-hour time trials during July and August that I may enter, but I will need to decide nearer the time what to prioritise. Depending on how I feel, I may enter a few shorter time trials over 10 or 25 miles too, be that mid-week to break away from the turbo training or at the weekend just to mix it up.
What's your typical hydration and nutrition strategy in different training and race scenarios?
During short easy turbo sessions (c. 1 hour) I only drink water and don't eat anything.
For longer harder turbo sessions I use Precision Hydration 1000. For long training rides on the road and very long turbo sessions (i.e. 4-6 hours) I use a combination of OTE vanilla flavoured energy mix topped up with Precision Hydration 1000, as I'm a heavy sweater and the sodium included within the OTE drink simply doesn't touch the sides for me.
Depending on the intensity and nature of the ride, I will also eat small bites of banana, energy bars or Clifbar shot blocks at regular intervals. On Audax rides I often go for chocolate milk, 'chicken on the stick' or a pain au raisin at stops. On group training rides it is coffee or hot chocolate with cake. I am starting to work with Renee McGregor, a nutritionist who has lots of experience working with endurance athletes soon. Parlty to loose a bit of weight and partly to nail my feed strategy for my LEJOG record attempt), so I may be advised to change some of these eating patterns...
For long races (12 and 24 hours) I tend to stick to a combination of OTE energy drinks, Precision Hydration 1500 and Ambrosia rice pudding diluted with a little water and mixed to make it easy to drink from a bidon.
I may also have a Coke at some point if I am struggling, or a chocolate milk as a bit of a reward. I used to really struggle with cramps in my hamstrings before I had my Sweat Test and started using Precision Hydration. It would be so debilitating that I couldn't even pedal anymore and sometimes I simply had to climb off the bike.
And how will you stay hydrated and fuelled during the attempt itself?
My hydration and nutrition strategy for the LEJOG and 1000 mile record attempt are still a work in progress. The Zwift Distance Record attempt and various 12- and 24-hour races this year will help to fine-tune that strategy.
I was recently given some Fresubin, a type of shake that contains 1,5 kcal per ml, contains all the carbs, protein, vitamins and minerals you could wish for and it's very easy on the stomach. I still need to try it out, but apparently other endurance cyclists swear by it.
I will need to take into consideration the intensity and duration of my challenge and work out whether a mostly fluid diet works best for me or whether I can include a few solid foods like chicken and avocado wraps etc.
It will depend on whatever is easy to hand up and grab (even when I am tired) and how my body reacts to the nutrition strategy beyond 24 hours as that is still a journey into the unknown for me. One thing is for sure: Precision Hydration will form a very important part of that strategy...
What made you reach out with an interest in taking our Sweat Test last year?
When I did my first recce of my LEJOG route last June, I got food poisoning after the 3rd day, but then still continued cycling for 2 more days. It was quite hot and I'm a heavy sweater, so I lost a lot of fluid. The doctors reckoned that the cause of the DVT I had shortly after was a combination of extreme dehydration (exacerbated by the food poisoning) and a prolonged period of inactivity afterwards (sitting on trains and behind my desk for long hours catching up with work).
That health scare really made me review my lifestyle (e.g. standing desk, no more mad working hours) and encouraged me to do the Precision Hydration Advanced Sweat Test. The results showed that not only am I a heavy sweater, I also loose quite a lot of sodium per litre of sweat, more than most and certainly more than I had been replenishing with the weak electrolytes I was using up to that point.
Since I started using Precision Hydration I haven't had a single episode of cramp. It has been such a relief to go into a race without the fear that my race may be cut short or negatively effected by cramp.
I also tend to drink a lot more now. For example, in my last 12-hour race I consumed a staggering amount: 2x800ml of Precision Hydration 1500 in my camelback vest, 8x800ml bidons of either energy mix + Precision Hydration 1000 electrolytes or just Precision Hydration 1500 electrolytes, 1x 500ml of flat coke, 1x 600ml of chocolate milk, 3x500ml of Ambrosia rice pudding, 3 bananas, 6 Clifbar shot block gels and 2 energy bars. At the end of the race my skinsuit was still caked in salt. I didn't need the toilet once and it wasn't even a hot day!
What gear/kit do you find most useful on a long ride? Have you/will you add any gear/kit specifically for the LEJOG attempt?
The two pieces of kit that I find most useful on a long ride are a comfortable pair of bibshorts and a good saddle. Comfort really is key. Without being comfortable, I cannot go fast either (over distance).
There are quite a few specific kit/gear considerations for the LEJOG and 1000 miles record attempt. I will be the first woman to try and break this record on a time trial bike. In the past other women have added clip-on aerobars to their roadbikes, but as far as I am aware no other woman has ever done it on a time trial bike.
I think the developments in terms of aerodynamics of bikes and kit over recent years could make a huge difference over such a long distance, providing it doesn't compromise my comfort. For example, an aero helmet may make sense for a 100 mile time trial, but isn't great on a hot day and is heavier than a road helmet which may potentially cause Schermers neck.
An aero bottle may be great in a short time trial, but not so easy to grab once I'm tired. A time trial bike is theoretically faster on the flat sections of the route, but harder to handle in the hills and too aggressive a position may become uncomfortable after a while.
For that reason I will also bring my road bike and I have a spare time trial bike too in case the main one breaks down. Other specific considerations include bibshorts which allow for easy toilet breaks (so as not to loose too much time or get too cold undressing by the side of the road), very strong lights and lots of reflective pieces of kit to make sure car drivers will see me on the busy A-roads, reliable bike computers and lots of spares and power packs to keep all my electronics running for the duration of the attempt.
I may also be using a 2-way communications system so I can stay in touch with my support crew in the follow cars for safety and navigation reasons.
Finally I will be carrying a GPS tracker which is linked to an event specific website (which in turn is linked to social media), so people at home can follow where I am, what the weather conditions are like and how far ahead or behind the current record I am. My support crew will combine that with a live report, photos and videos (both of me and what goes on in the follow cars), which will be great for anyone following the record attempt, but will also be a great souvenir and potentially a learning source afterwards.
During the LEJOG record attempt I won't be allowed any riding company, but this way people can still be part of the event. Better still of course would be if some would cheer me on on my route if I happen to pass through their area :-)
What athletes inspire you and why?
Athletes who inspire me are those who really embrace the power of positivity and those who inspire others to test their limits.
The people who have inspired my End to End record attempt are Eileen Sheridan, Lynne Biddulph, Andy Wilkinson and all those other heroes who have set out on the same challenge before me.
I hope my record attempt (irrespective of whether I succeed or not) will inspire other people in the same way, be that to have a go at a long distance record (after all, records are there to be broken...) or simply to ride a little bit further than they have previously done and enjoy the great sense of achievement of riding from place to place, and enjoying all the great scenery in between.