Ironwoman Christina MacKenzie eyeing long standing cycle record
Christina Mackenzie has never been the kind of athlete to do things by halves. After all she is the Stornoway Ironwoman. An endurance athlete who enjoys the kind of physical challenges which would make even the most fearless of athletes wince and shudder.
She is a collector of national records and a regular podium collecting cyclist and triathlete.
Now Christina is sizing up one of her most epic endurance challenges to date and claiming a record which has stood for 17-years.
“I’m going to cycle from Lands End to John O’Groats in August,” smiled Christina.
“The current womens record is 52-hours and 45-minutes and was set in 2002 but I am going to attempt to break that myself.”
Christina’s two-wheeled CV is littered with epic endurance records and notable leg-sapping, mindbogglingly rides of 24-hours and even 27-hours but she is looking to more than double her previous longest ride with her forthcoming record attempt.
“This all began because of my regular 24-hour rides which I always enjoy and wanting to do something new in endurance cycling,” she explained.
“Lejog is something that came up in endurance cycle circles. So many people attempted including a guy who broke the mens record last year. I looked into that and there was actually a girl I raced in my 24 hour races who attempted it twice so it was something I was watching on the live tracker throughout her attempts to see her progress.
“That captured my interest and I was hooked and I knew then I would be trying it. I have had my eye on this for a while.”
She continued: “I’ve done 27-hours in Donegal a few years ago across a hilly course. But this is 52-hours non-stop and more than double of anything that I’ve ever done before.
“My plan is to get in consistent training for next six months between turbo, roads and hills. The winter weather hasn’t been great recently but still been able to get out and get miles.
“There are a few difficult points over the 839 miles and almost 9,000 m of climbing. “Apparently it is the Drumochter Pass which is the hardest part and this is where most people fail.
“It is on the A9 but I’ve driven it many times so I know what’s ahead of me so hopefully when I get to that I will know what to expect and maybe for me it will feel like it is the home straight when I get across the border and up to there.
“Thinking about the ride there is a lovely descent into Inverness and I look forward to that which will keep me going over the Kessock Bridge before having to take on another uphill again to Wick - which is a brutal climb.”
Although Christina will be taking on the full might of the 800+ miles of tarmac alone, she won’t be alone on the journey as she will be supported by colleagues from Stirling Bike Club and a number of adjudicators from the official record keepers.
“I have a really good support team from Stirling Bike Club and others will support us along the way and people from the records will be with us to observe the record attempt,” continued Christina.
“There will also be around 70 spot checkers along the route making sure and verifying we are not drafting in other riders and doing the attempt genuinely.”
Attempting to propel yourself from one end of the country to another purely by the power of your legs is not a challenge for the faint hearted but Christina is confident and on previous form, few would bet against the Stornoway cyclist from pedalling into the record books later this year.
“My plan is just to keep it consistent. In the past people have gone out too fast and have then blown up exhausted by Perth,” she said.
“I think I will try and ride at an average of 16.6 mph which will allow for occasional ten minute breaks over the course for a maximum of two-hours over the entire journey.
“That would make my total ride time 50 and a half hours and adding the two hour breaks would total 52 and a half hours and would break the record by around 15-minutes.
“So there will definitely be no sleeping, just changing wheels, lights, checking the bike over, getting changed etc quickly.
“The attempt is non-stop and it is just you against the clock which is actually the hardest part as you have no physical competitor you are trying to beat.”
This gruelling record attempt will take up all of Christina’s time and training until she sets off in the saddle which means she has had to put all her other sports and training on the back burner.
“Oh yeah everything else is off the radar,” she continued.
“There is no time for swimming or running so there are no triathlons this year. This is it. I’m already training 15 hours a week at the moment and that’s just the beginning and I will be building that up.
“This is my focus this year and so many others giving up their time to support me so I have to give it 100 per cent.
“If I didn’t think I could do it I wouldn’t attempt it. But having so many uncontrollables is the daunting thing. The weather could change and be an impact and it is absolutely crucial we try and avoid a head wind.
“With the bikes we will have spare parts, spare bikes but road works and traffic are uncontrollable and concerns as we cant afford to lose any time even falling ten minutes behind could ruin it.
“I am really looking forward to it and it’s something completely different but it might put me off cycling for good,” she added with a laugh.