31st March 2020
#FastFar | Malin Head to Mizen Head Q&A With Jason Black
On 6th March 2020, our good friend Jason Black set a new World Ultra Cycling Assocation record being the fastest person by bicycle from Malin head to Mizen head non stop in a record time of 22hrs and 59min.
You can check out Jason's race summary HERE.
Under the careful eye of two WUCA judges, Jason Black left Malin Head, Ireland’s most Northerly tip on Friday 6th feb at 12.14pm and ripped through Ireland in tough headwinds and extreme wet winter cold conditions to arrive in Mizen head the most Southerly tip of Ireland the very next day.
He was supported by his family and friends as crew led by his wife Sharon, daughter Laura, son Billy, Sister Dervla Terry Mc Gill, Martin Irwin and nutritionist Dr Fionn Mc Swiney.
We caught up with Jason to find out some more about what it takes to make a record breaking ride.
Is it a well known route in Ireland?
Riding End2End of the Island of Ireland and like most countries is a great attraction to ultra endurance athletes, the challenge to race non-stop and be deemed the fasted in history is such a powerful accolade to hold. As a young boy and keen cyclist I dreamed of a day that I could make it possible. I've followed all the previous attempts down through the years and was in awe of the staggering times and avg. speeds been set, but to now hold the World record myself is simply mind-boggling.
What were the conditions like? From what we could tell, very wet and very windy!
Conditions started out very good, wet and light winds 'typical Ireland'. I was able to ride the first 250km at over 32/35kph avg., after the first 10 hours a strong head wind developed and made the second half of the attempt very difficult, but I just dug in and got on with powering on for the next 12hrs.
To what extent do you have 'control' during this sort of thing? Do you let go and allow what happens, to happen?
Yes. Look, you go into an attempt like this with a fairly thought out plan based on your training, your ability, however as we know in the ultra & extreme endurance world that the best laid plans can so quickly go out the window and you've got to be so able physically, but more importantly, mentally adapted to over come, change and then believe in your own inner ability that through endurance we can achieve.
What work do you do off the bike to prepare?
I do a good standard of core work and muscle development waist down to avoid any top heavy muscle gain. I'd train in the Gym 3 days a week for one hour at a time.
I try to jump into the odd core class to feel normal as most if not all of the time as an endurance athlete I train on my own.
How do you monitor your progress during the attempt e.g. are you maintaining a certain HR, speed, power?
Time and heart rate - not overly bothered about my watts, even though I do monitor them I focus more on my Heart rate. I've this process in my head while riding and it's coloured: Green - Amber - Red zones and in order to be effective and efficient I must work with in the lower intensity factors of green and amber mostly and at best avoid long stints in the red zone. I've developed this internally, my body now knows the pros and cons, the rewards and carnage of getting this right or wrong.
In a long intense ride like this do you go through stages of emotions, feelings? Do you break the ride down into sections? What I'm asking is, how does it feel emotionally and do you have ocping mechanisms?
It's a roller coaster. You're up, you're down, you're happy, you're giving out internally, you're questioning the why and what's it for. But it passes and by hanging in the rewards are so worth it, not only the result but the personal development. Experience is the only way to hone this craft, you've got to have the courage to step up to the start line at times against the odds and back yourself; yes I've got it wrong more times than I got it right, but that's where the magic lays within. The learning from falling down and getting back in the saddle, stronger, fitter and faster, more capable and armed with the fear of defeat is such a powerful tool in your ability kit.
Fear is something I really embrace and I seek it out, it's in this zone I feel the most alive.
What are the similarities / differences between this and other ultra races?
I mainly race unsupported which is my first love. I love setting off with no support team and find your food, find your water, sleep as you will and navigate the shortest point to point checkpoint. My background is I'm a keen high altitude mountaineer and have been on a 8000mtr mountain expedition for months on end in the most remote location in the planet with zero backup - bikepacking ultra long race distances gives me the same isolated exposed feeling however with a reduced risk. These records are supported with a team and it's nice to share that magic with my children as my crew. However, my heart lays in the unsupported world of ultra endurance racing.
Lots of planning must go into this, how long does it take to prepare? Both body & organisation
You never stop, you're always preparing. If you're not training, you're planing or you're trying to put deals together to open doors into the world circuit, it's non stop and it can be all consuming. I've been a racing amateur since I was 12 years of age now at 48 I'm still turning the pedals and possibly stronger and certainly wiser than ever. But all that aside I love my bike, I dont see it mostly as a pain in fact the opposite. I love the silence, the remoteness the human ability on two wheels to travel the world in a very limited manner... it's humbling and very grounding.
Is this sort of thing easy for you?
Honestly, I love it. Do I suffer...yes I'm human like everyone else, but it's learning to have the ability to suffer just that little bit longer than the rest, that's the difference between winning and finishing. The harder the event the better the longer and more remote, better again...I love silencing my dream stealers.
This is a major achievement in itself yet just one milestone towards RAAM. How do you go from here to RAAM?
It's just an other chapter in this wonder book of my life. It's a continuous journey of self belief - mile after mile, day after day keeping as much as I can consistantly moving forward. It's never been more challenging as it is at the moment with the global - Covid 19 virus. It's hard daily to be putting 4/5 hrs on a turbo. But needs must.
What equipment will you be using for RAAM?
I'll be riding the new Mason Definition, I'm super proud to have partnered with Mason and they have developed the fastest Mason built at the Barn, this top end bike has been custom painted in a beautiful Green and decals in a mixed orange white and light blue. The kit spec is the super efficient sram red etap, and proudly i'll be racing the new Hunt 48 limitless ceramic speed wheel set and perched on an Infinity saddle. I've been training on the bike and it's magic, the ride is stiff and very lively in it's mobility yet supple with a comfort to allow me stay going for days with little to zero wrist, neck, back. feet or bum issues, which as any endurance athlete understands these are the key limiting factors in ultra racing.
Will your race plan for RAAM be similar to the End to End record?
No, it will have elements, but it's very different. RAAM is 9 days long and mostly non-stop racing hard for 20hrs a day non stop and 4hrs or less off - if I can - to sleep, eat, repair and recover. I did the North-cape 4000 last August on a Mason Bokeh which as 4300km, again unsupported from Italy's Turin to the Northcapp through 10 countries and it was marvellous. Dealing with a bad crash after falling asleep at the handle bars and hitting a roundabout, but the bike was super strong and the Hunt carbon wheel set was unbreakable, and trust me I tried. So RAAM will present a whole different bag of challenges, from savage high altitude in the Rockies and Sierra mountain range to the winds of kansas, the 5000km RAAM will be possibly the toughest ultra bike race I've ever undertaken.
What are the main challenges for RAAM that you cannot prepare for? If any.
Lack of sleep to day after day practically zero... The heat: I'm irish, it's going to hurt...
It's all up in the air right now...if RAAM doesn't go ahead what else are you thinking about?
For now the RAAM organisers are pressing ahead and monitoring the situation, I've been training for two years solely for this like all the other athletes, teams, crews and organisers. It will be heart breaking if it's pulled but under the current circumstances totally respectful. What lays beyond a non RAAM, i'll continue to race on whatever global endurance races are OK to proceed, honestly it's all in the air.
Please tell us more about your work with the red cross? How did the relationship come about?
It's something that means alot to me - I'm a global ambassador for the Red Cross. Bringing online awareness to highlight the wonderful humanitarian work done around the world to class rooms with kids, filling them with hope through my adventure photos and videos and stories from the dizzy heights of the mountains to the long winding endurance cycling road. Growing up I've had my fair share of lows & losses in this life. But my resilience to stand up each time I've been knocked down hopefully shows my real strength. I have a deep rooted belief in life and I passionately share it in classrooms globally and in motivational workshops, encouraging kids “Not to be afraid of setting new goals, to silence dream stealers, visualise and deliver your dreams and ambitions”. I echo proudly that having a dream in life and finding a way to achieving it (at times against all the odds) is the greatest summit success you will ever achieve. I always believe I present my life story honestly and encourage and show others through my actions on a bike or by foot and as a simple person, identify what you really want to achieve in life, identify opportunities, handle risk, find the good in conflict and apply the right positive attitude that serves to unlock and find your true purpose in life.