Nick Latimer sends us his first blog post about his forthcoming LeJog later this year:
"So, now that things are beginning to appear in various places on the internet it seems like there’s no way out – from June 13th until June 19th this year my friend Simon and I will be riding from Lands End to John O’Groats. 1,000 miles in 7 days, about 140 miles per day. Could be a bit of a stretch, but now it’s definitely happening! In truth, quite soon after the first time I said I’d quite like to do it – back in September last year – I knew that I’d have to, because once I’d said it I couldn’t not. So, now that we’re well into 2010 we’ve got our fund raising well underway (http://www.justgiving.com/SimonandNick) and I got in touch with Blood Sweat and Tyres to let them know about our ride.
Within 3 days of my initial email to BST I have received a huge box of energy related cycling supplements posted to me by special delivery, two (very nice purple) Haemophilia Society t-shirts, and now I have my first ever blog! It’s amazing what progress can be made when you get the efficient people at BST and the Haemophilia Society involved.
Anyway, a bit of background as to what I’m doing on the BST website and why I’m doing LeJog. I’m 28 and I was diagnosed with haemophilia at birth, as was my twin brother, Rich. We were tested because my Grandpa was a haemophiliac so my Mum knew that she might be a carrier. My brother and I took turns to have problems as we grew up, one of us helping the other along on crutches or accidentally tipping him out of a wheelchair one week, the other getting revenge the next (funny how that happens. I can’t remember both of us ever being seriously out of action at the same time). In general though, we got along fine and were lucky. Having originally been diagnosed as having 1% or less clotting factor, over time tests have changed and our levels have varied. Currently one test says I have 1%, whereas another says I have 4.5%. To all intents and purposes 4.5% seems realistic as I don’t need to treat myself very regularly (although I always have a batch of Factor VIII in the fridge just in case).
At least partially I put that down to keeping fit and active throughout my life. I plan on having an exercise bike to keep my muscles protecting my joints well into old age. Sometimes against doctors’ advice Rich and I played football a lot at school, and we both did a lot of running, representing our county on various occasions. The only sport we missed out on was rugby, which neither of us were too bothered about. When we were about 18 we both started having quite a few hip problems, probably due to running training. The time came to give up running and I soon took up cycling which gave my joints a rest.
So since then I’ve been cycling, gradually doing more and more, competing in a few races here and there. I’ve ridden in the French and Italian Alps as well as the Pyrenees, and have ridden over most of the Tour de France cols. With my haemophilia in the back of my mind I don’t go quite as fast as my friends on the descents though!
Last year my Dad got cancer. He’s doing really well, but it made me think and one thing that came into my mind is that I haven’t really done much for charity since my days in the Scouts. But if I was going to do something for charity, it had to be something hard, something worthy of sponsorship. For a keen cyclist, LeJog seemed the obvious choice, so plans were made. I spoke to my Mum and Dad, and they were very keen that we should collect money for the Haemophilia Society, which has done great work for my family in the past and which, as a small charity, needs as much support as possible for the future. Given Dad’s situation we’re collecting for a cancer charity too, but it was important to us to try to help out the Haemophilia Society.
We’ve planned a route for LeJog, which is a good start. We think we’ll probably have to invest in a Garmin thing though, as otherwise we’ll spend most of the 7 days getting lost and will end up riding about 4,000 miles! I’m not sure I could do that in 7 days. The next job is to start booking up B&Bs. We’re very lucky that Simon’s wife Suzie, and my wife Lizzy are going to follow us in a car. Hopefully my Mum and Dad’ll come along too. Not having to carry all our kit will make things a lot easier (although I daresay still quite a challenge).
Of course the most important thing for us to be doing now is training. I’m quite pleased with myself today as last night I totted up how many hours I’d spent on my bike so far in 2010. My maths tell me that I’ve done 48 hours, which is pretty much double what I’d done by mid-February in 2009 (yep, I have a training log, so I know these things). This hasn’t been easy, what with work, the snow we’ve been having recently, and because I live on the edge of the Peak District which is pretty icey at this time of year. However, in November I invested in a stationary turbo trainer which links up to a computer, allowing me to ‘virtually’ ride all sorts of real life routes, including famous alpine climbs. So I can do a lot of my riding from the comfort of my own conservatory! I highly recommend this. I read Alex Dowsett’s blog (which is great, and very inspiring for a fellow haemophiliac) a few days ago, in which he said that he couldn’t stand riding on his turbo trainer – I see his point, but I reckon he might change his mind if he was trying to beat his best time up Passo Stelvio (the highest mountain pass in Italy) – much better than just looking at the wall!
For the record, I insisted that Simon tot up his hours in 2010 too – he’s on 33 hours. Needless to say, I will not let him forget this until he catches me up!
So now that I’ve given you a bit of background, in the coming weeks and months I’ll update you on how preparation is going for LeJog and in the meantime, please donate to the Haemophilia Society! I’m off to ride up Mont Ventoux… "
"Today went well, although I was worried as there was a bit more wind than previous days.
I almost made the break but did a typical me and hesitated that made me sit in no mans land for a while and then miss it completely. One of our Ben Kings (aussie) was in it though so that was good, they stayed away till inside a few km to go so I'd have been gutted had I missed it.
We came into the Doha town centre bit on the coast and did 7 laps of that, was pretty much a motorway width and up and down between two roundabouts and one in between if you know what I mean!
Anyway I stayed really well positioned throughout, 3 of the boys got tailed off on the circuits in the crosswinds, then there was a split right at the end. I stayed up there right to the finish. The difference between today's finish and previous days was it was a lot faster - we were hitting 70kph regularly on the straights.
At the finish I just kept the pressure on and was going around a lot of people sitting up from leadouts or not bothering, Taylor included and I wound up 22nd which is pretty good. I thought I may have snuck inside the top 20 if I was lucky but it wasn't to be.
Either way it's opened up my 2010 CV
Also finshed 70th overall, just the 13 minutes down but with names like Cancellara, Wiggins and Pozzato behind me which again will go on the CV!
As a note, the whole 700km of the race was run at 44kph, around 27-28mph.
I've got a day of travelling/rest/an easy spin tomorrow before the Tour of Oman kicks off with a twilight 60km (6pm start) crit, 4 road stages and finishes with a 20km TT on road bikes, normal wheels and normal helmets which will be brutal!"
Started off in a crosswind so was very fast and a break just managed to get itself away right at the end of this 25k section.
I didnt get out of my top 2 gears for 25k and the top speed on the flat was 72kph!
But we were pretty much over 55 the whole time. I had a few goes at getting away but it wasn't to be, so I was in the bunch for the majority of the race it was run at a decent pace and then ramped up at the end, with a crosswind.
I helped Taylor out a bit but it was so hectic there wasn't a lot I could do.
With 25k to go in a crosswind the bunch split. It's annoying because I was too far back by about 5 places and missed it, was then caught in between the split with 5 other guys and rode flat out to try and get back on.
We got caught by the group behind and I was gassed...really gave too much when I was in no mans land. I should have known better here really.
Went out the back of the second group but got into the cars, recovered and made my way back into the second group and finished there.
Another big learning day.
It's annoying though at the finish when I'm not going to sprint. I feel like I get in the way of the bigger teams who are sprinting so I have no reason to be there. I'd rather just stay out of trouble, yet today staying out of trouble resulted in me getting into all sorts of trouble and it looks bad when I'm in the second group yet I feel I might have been capable of being in the front group.
Light winds again so things followed a routine format. The break went from the gun, was crazy, 3 guys went then O'grady got to the front and put his hands up to stop everyone as if to say 'I've decided this is the break everyone now respects that and lets it go.'
Which is exactly what happened!
We had Jesse in it so another good show for the team. Vacansoleil rode on the front all day to keep the break at a safe distance so the pace was just decent all day.
Was nuts at times...these guys fight so hard to be at the front for each roundabout and turn in case the wind has an effect on the riding, then sit up straight after because there is barely any wind.
Taylor can't ride a bunch to save his life so I got on the front and rode in the wind for him for 5km from 20-15k to go till the bigger teams took over.
I got in the early break of just 3 riders after a couple of k - they went then I jumped across. The bunch held us at about 10-15s for 5km and I did most of the work keeping us away.
Then they let us go and the gap went up to a min, so I thought that was it, but there was meant to be a 95k section of crosswind so the bunch got nervous and belted it into the roundabout before this crosswind section for good positioning. We got caught and then the there was no crosswind so the bunch sat up, which was a shame as we should've been out all day.
Either way I had a lot of reporters after me after the stage and Axel was pleased.
I just sat in for the rest of the race it was an easy day. The bunch sprint which i didn't get involved with, Jesse and I tried to help Justin out, but we were getting pushed around by the bigger team so much it wasnt worth it.
I'm feeling pretty good and it felt good going in the break and in the bunch.
Apparently there's not meant to be a lot of wind tomorrow either so it could be another easy day. If so, I will try and get in the break as it's much more fun!"
The first hour and a half was headwind and a break of two went away and built up a lead of 22mins!!
We were barely pedalling...my heart-rate didnt go over 100bpm for this leg.
Then though we turned into a crosswind and it went crazy, I was really well positioned...nicely tucked away from the wind and well up the front, but one thing led to another though and I got forced off the road into the dirt.
I got back on and back in ok and carried on and was seeming to cope ok, but then hit a cateye!
No joke, the road is littered with them and I'd already hit a fair few but this one managed to blowout my front tube!
I waited ages for the team car as it was right at the back of the convoy, and when I got going again I really struggled to make my way back up and by this time the bunch had split in two and then into three.
I eventually got into the 3rd group and stayed there.
The downside is I know I could have finished further up but this race is as much about positioning and avoiding stuff that's going to affect you i.e. the cateye.
As it is about form, the upside is that I had a reasonable 100 miles today so I should be good for tomorrow. I ate too much before the race and was bringing it up when I had to push after the puncture.
It's difficult getting back into racing knowing what to do in terms of food/drink/food on the bike etc.
Taylor finished one group ahead, maybe 2-3mins, two teammates in my group and four in the group behind.
Tomorrow may be all crosswinds though so it going to be tough.
Break did stay away I think but just; SKY had a terrible day, Arversen broke his collarbone before the race started, Wiggins, Downing and Nordhaug were in my group, Flecha in the group behind. Hagen punctured.
Im reasonably happy that nothing happened today and I'm not in bad shape for tomorrow."
I was pretty nervous as there was alot expected of me and I knew I hadn't put the work in for all sorts of reasons: uk weather; california weather; altitude problems, but I gave it my all.
We finished with 5 riders and I was about 3rd or 4th strongest. I maybe went out too hard and gave a lot in the headwind sections and struggled towards the end.
Although we finished last we were close and considering the average age of our team is 20 it isn't too bad.
We were only 2 seconds off ag2r which is a Tour de France team and 40 seconds off Team SKY who won it. 20 seconds off 5th and 6th place so although we were at the back, we were expected to be and were not too far behind.
"California was an interesting camp, good old sod’s law reared its head again as for the 6 days we’d be staying there the worst storm in 5 years hit!
This meant 1 day of fine weather riding, 1 day of wet weather riding and 4 days of my beloved turbo training ensued! Needless to say I cracked again on the last day!
Otherwise it was a good camp, was good to meet back up with the team, plus a few new faces and talking seriously about the year ahead - I’m pretty excited about it!!
Next stop was Boulder Colorado, my hometown for the season.
The first thing that hit me was the cold fresh air - at 5,430ft at altitude small hills became mountains and mountains were unrideable because of snow!
I prayed for a bedroom on the ground floor as a flight of stairs would leave me breathless, but it wasn’t to be! The team house is nice - Reed who is one of the team sauigneurs (carer) has sorted and kitted it out - the man is a legend!
I did have a few teething problems, setting up a bank account was easy but the bank managed to spell my name wrong which wasn’t ideal and buying a mobile phone was nothing short of a nightmare!
Basically it would’ve been easier to buy a gun than a phone but it’s done and I’m now the proud owner of a Blackberry and a fine dent in my new bank account!
On a more serious note I did come down with a bout of altitude sickness. After a reasonable steady 3 hour ride into the hills I came back feeling like I’d finished a Tour de France!
I spent the afternoon in bed yet it wasn’t until that evening when I got up to make dinner it hit me - it felt like I was mildly suffocating on thin air as well as being nauseous and vomiting! Mum phoned the hospital to see if it could be Haemophilia related and Reed bought me some energy/electrolyte drinks round to get me re-hydrated as I’d dropped 3kgs in 12 hours!!
The hospital said it wasn’t related but I should have factor 8 due to possible stomach tears from vomiting. I took the following day off then gently eased myself back into training, keeping my routes very flat.
Otherwise I’m pretty well settled into the house and the city is nice, everywhere is very spaced out and I described it as feeling agoraphobic to my Mum and she seemed amused that I didn’t like all this space!"
In this post, Alex tells us about his winter training, Christmas and his first training camp with his new team:
Hope all your Christmas celebrations went well and a happy new year too, I spent the whole break with my family which was lovely!
I spend a lot of time away from home and I miss Mum & Dad and Lois tons so I guess that makes the festive season with them extra special. We used to go away on holiday but now that I spend most of my time away I personally prefer some time away from hotels/airports etc and although I’m reminded (in a light-hearted way of course) about what they sacrifice in terms of holidays so I have my own way I really appreciate it from them.
The camp in Tucson, Arizona in December went very well. It’s a pretty amazing setup within the new team and made even more inspiring by the fact that Lance Armstrong himself was there along with his team mates from the newly formed Radioshack Pro team. It became clear early on that the emphasis of this camp was more of a ‘meet and greet’ than actual training. We did ride everyday but not very long or hard.
Our days were far from empty though as there were always new sponsors to meet and hear them talk about their products. It was amazing to see each of them had the same thing in common: to give us whatever support they could and to encourage us to give them feedback on their product. These are some big companies and it’s an honour to be asked to help them let alone have them helping me!
We had a couple of nights out and I gelled well with the team. They found me pretty novel being the ‘Brit’ and I seemed to be able to make the guys laugh just by talking about nothing in particular!
Training at home over the winter was interrupted by the weather.
I spent a fair few hours on the mountain bike or on the turbo trainer which, for those who think this sounds cool I can assure you isn’t, it’s a static road where you can set the level of resistance and I also like to refer to it as an instrument of torture made worse by my sadistic nature of wanting to see bigger power and heart rate numbers each day!
Needless to say I cracked and couldn’t bear to see the sight of the thing, let alone ride it!
I’ll have you know I did in fact train on Christmas Day, although when I say training, I did an hour loop to the pub!
The first half of January went pretty quickly and before I knew it, it was time to leave good old England and head for the States, this time though for a long spell until June/July. I thought I was used to leaving and figured this would be no different. Although it’s further away from home, the way I see it is that away from home is away from home whether your in another county or another country, but this was different – it’s the longest spell I’ll be spending away and it did dawn on me then that America is quite a far away, not just from my family but from things like knowing I have the Royal London Hospital if I get into trouble or anything.
I put this to the back of my mind though, as a cyclist if you think things like crashes and punctures, they usually happen immediately so I try and put that negative stuff away into a small box labelled ‘sods law’ in the back of my mind and that’s where all this ‘what if’ stuff went!"
Next time Alex tells us about training in California and his home for the season: Boulder, Colarado!
I’d be lying if I said I was enjoying the experience though, but this is a notoriously gruelling 6-day race on pan-flat roads, in a sandy desert with raging winds!
To add insult to injury some of the best riders in the world are here and we are the lowest ranked team competing...but it is a chance in a lifetime against some of the Worlds current superstars in cycling: Bradley Wiggins, Fabian Cancellara and Tom Boonen to name just a few!
I’ll give it my all as always and hope for a shot at a result somewhere along the line but I think getting through it will be my first major concern!
After this we have a day off (which will be spent travelling, surprise-surprise) followed by another similarly tough level 6-day race in Oman: the Tour of Oman (the event names are incredibly original aren't they?!).
Given that I get through both events I’ll be taking a good week easy after these races I can assure you!!"
Don't forget you can get 'live' updates direct from the man himself by following Alex on Twitter: