So far in our series of rider profiles we’ve heard from a top amateur road racer and a champion cyclocross racer and mountain bike rider. We’re straying out of most cyclists comfort zones now and talking to Paul Errington, a geotechnical engineer from the northeast, who specialises in ultra-endurance mountain bike racing.
Ultra-endurance events, races over hundreds of miles and often several days, aren’t common in England, so Paul travels widely to satisfy his racing bug. I asked what the best places are that he’s ridden his bike…
“I think racing in Nepal really blew me away … Not only was I faced with the immense beauty of the Himalayas but got to ride with Nepalese riders who are still to date the most friendly and warm people I have ever got to ride with … they are intensely passionate about their country and their sport and it was a real life changer to spend time with these people … I still stay in touch with them today and will at some point go back”
As for his worst, unfortunately it’s a UK event and one of the ever popular 24hr races, Sleepless in the Saddle 2009, Paul says….
I”m not a huge fan of racing in circles, I have a real mental block and struggle to really get engaged in these events .. the course was an oversized cross course without the challenge or intensity of a cross race and after 6 hours both myself and also a team mate racing solo quit … dull, dull, dull.”
So if racing in circles for 24 hours doesn’t do it for him, what is it about ultra-enduro adventure racing that’s different? Paul says…
“I’ve tried an still do most forms of cycle racing both on and offroad … the thing I like about ultra endurance racing is the combination of both physical and mental ability … I like the events and also rides that you start but have no idea if you can finish… that’s a true challenge …. I can usually physically complete most challenges but sometimes there is a real mental battle going on to keep going.”
So what big races does he have planned for next year? Paul say he’s aiming for achieving a level of fitness that he hasn’t reached for a few years. And he has big aims, 4 events are already planned out and it isn’t even the end of January. Paul says…
“the stand out event and my main target for this year is the Dirty Kanza 200, a 200 mile gravel road race in Kansas … this is a ‘Gravel Grinder’ style event .. raced primarily on cross bikes these events have not yet come to the UK and so I am travelling to experience one.
As well as the DK200 I will be racing at the TransALLgarve, I have entered La Marmotte and the 312km sportive in Mallorca … a lot of travelling for a man who said he wasn’t travelling in 2012!”
Many riders know the feeling of reaching the end of their tether and realising they’ve overdone it. However, that’s a bit more of a problem when you’re doing an ultra-enduro and may be a very long way away from home. I asked Paul if he’d ever properly overdone and regretted it. I’m amused that it wasn’t during one his foreign treks but actually much closer to home on roads that many of us ar familiar with…
“I did once ride from Manchester to Whitehaven overnight to meet friends, then rode the sustrans Whitehaven to Tynemouth ride with them … I think that day totalled 270 miles … I felt I had maybe pushed it a little far that day.”
Many riders would consider a century as a challenge to train for, so how does he go about training for 270 mile days?
“Since 2008 I worked with a coach who prescribed all my training, so that took a lot of the guess work out, recently that relationship ended so I am utilising the knowledge on training that he imparted on me.
I have over the years developed a decent base level of endurance so can turn my legs to most events. I tend to spend the weekends doing the long miles but then I like mid week to spend time on my turbo trainer doing interval sessions to build good leg strength.
Especially for the multi day events I do a lot of ‘shakedown’ rides with the bike fully loaded to get used to the feel and effort required.”
As a bit of an additional challenge, and for some additional training in the winter, Paul is also into his cyclocross. Paul says…
“I also like to ride my cross bike exclusively through the winter so bike handling improves .. the trails I would ride in summer on my mtb I ride in the winter on my cross bike … bike handling is a huge part of the sport.”
Paul’s interest in cyclocross is so great that he helped set up his own cycling club, “Cross Club”, dedicated to the riding of cyclocross. Paul explains his rationale behind setting up the club…
“Cross Club was the fruition of a concept I had to try and stay off the winter roads and take training to the trails and disused railways we have in the north east, It also gave an identity to a group of friends who were looking to get a better looking race kit and a little more organised. The kit design came from Duncan Astle of ‘Here Come the Belgians’ fame and I feel that that alone really helped pull together the club.”
He’s subsequently turned over responsibility for running the club to a teammate but hopes that “Cross Club continues to grow in numbers and promotes more widely the use of cross bikes, not just for racing but as fantastic training tools allowing much more varied training rides to be done”.
So how does he see cyclocross developing in the UK in the future? I mentioned the Rapha SupaCross series…
“I think the Rapha events really started cyclocross in a new direction, instead of the underdog ‘dirty’ cousin of road racing it now can be seen as a sport in its own rights with more specialist Cross only riders … the atmosphere needs to change at events and Rapha are taking it in the right direction … cross in Belgium is a day out for the family … more music, frites and beers needed I think .. make it into a more sociable event.”
As we’ve seen Paul is a dedicated racer, but he’s also turning his hand to helping organise and promote events. Last year he helped organise the Black Mountains 3 Day. I asked him what he’d got out of the experience?
“Working with David Warren, Bearded Man, on the BM3D was a huge eye opener … for me prior to this events started when I signed on and collected my number hours before racing …. Events on the scale of BM3D are a year in the making .. huge effort in time and resources .. I will never grumble about costly entry fees again after being involved in this event … the event was very well received and all down to the hard work of one man, David Warren. Without people like David the diversity of events to enter would be poor … I am very grateful that I get to work on events with him.”
He’s also got some plans for expanding his organising efforts on to some more events…
“I am already taking the experience of the first year of BM3D and helping to promote the TransALLgarve 5 day stage race in Portugal, another first year event organised by riders so am hoping this will be as well received as the BM3D.
I think working on BM3D showed that although I am a great ideas man that really isn’t enough. I have a few ideas for some unique UK based events but they are heavily reliant on Bearded Man to make them happen ….
Looking at the US we are still a few years behind what is going on there.. for instance we still only have one 100 mile race in the UK… they have enough to formulate a 10 race plus national series!!
There are definitely some ‘styles’ of events I want to see happen and hopefully with the right industry backing they will J”
With that grand view of what the future might be like we have to bid Paul goodbye for now. However, Ed Rollason Photography will be seeing Paul again at Hit the North 3 in the spring and at the second edition of the Black Mountains 3 Day at the end of June. Until then we wish him good luck in his various crazy exploits.
For anyone interested in following Paul’s race accounts, he maintains a blog at http://shoestring-racing.blogspot.com/.