Cisco UK & Ireland Blog

The longest road lasts 24 hours – where technology meets physical endurance

May 22, 2019

22nd June marks the day of my next world record attempt, in a fusion of mad science, real science, elite-level endurance, technology – and teamwork

Where it all started

I’ve done my fair share of cycling out on the open road, traversing the UK on consecutive years (2011-2013) before graduating to the USA in 2016 with a 3080-mile non-stop solo race from California to Maryland. Taking 11 ½ days and finishing in 7th place overall, it was a proud – if exhausting – moment.

I became the 300th person to complete the Race Across America, the eighth UK cyclist to do so – and the first ever Scot to complete the particularly gruelling solo category.

Keen to see what I could achieve next, in 2017 I cycled non-stop from John O’Groats to Land’s End – and back, setting a new bicycle world record for the fastest solo ride; this in spite of inclement conditions, lack of sleep and multiple ailments thanks our nation’s uneven, pothole-ridden roads.

Riding to exhaustion for multiple days with little to no sleep and trying to consume 8-10,000 kcals per day is as much a mad science experiment as anything else. Add to that the sore feet, strapped up wrist and fingers that remained numb for weeks after, you might assume that by now, enough was enough.

On the contrary – this latest endeavour set me wondering what could be achieved next, given the right conditions from a health and nutrition perspective. Because there is always that urge to do more, do push a bit harder, cut times down a bit further.

However, the world of endurance cycle racing can be opinion-based rather than evidence-driven regarding what works and what doesn’t. So, this time, I wanted use ‘proper’ science by gathering empirical data as a guide rather than guesswork.

Which brings me to my next solo challenge…

Although of course, ‘solo’ is a misnomer. Nobody can complete such feats of endurance completely alone. I’m therefore very lucky to have a group of like-minded people who make up the Project Kansas team, readily volunteering their time and offering practical and psychological support.

Real science using real technology

And I’ll need all the help I can get on 22nd June when the team and I descend on the Geraint Thomas National Velodrome of Wales, Newport in an attempt to break the current indoor distance record of 941kms in 24 hours.

This is where the real science comes into play. Cisco Meraki infrastructure combined with partner company Dimension Data’s 3D mapping and telemetry technology has created a state-of-the-art test-bed, making Newport the most technologically advanced velodrome in the world.

Working for an organisation like Cisco has helped me get to this point, with a lot of help from Tim Wade from Dimension Data, who shared my vision and has helped transform aspiration into reality.

Here’s an earlier, mobile version of the technology in action, during our USA adventure:

On 22nd June, we’ll be using this very cool new tech that for a world record attempt like no other, with the team monitoring my vital signs – heart rate and calories burned – plus current and average power and speed, and that all important distance against the clock.  All in real-time.

I’m grateful to Tim and all the Project Kansas team for getting me this far – and to Newport Live, which runs the velodrome, for agreeing to host us and hopefully help us push the boundaries of strength and stamina just that bit further.

Long-term legacy – in Newport and beyond

What makes this attempt really special is that unlike previous implementations of this type, e.g. Tour de France, which are dismantled at the end of each event, this technology will remain in place as a lasting sports analytics legacy.

It’s particularly satisfying for me to know that generations to come – and Newport itself – will benefit from the technology in the long-term, and that it might support others who want to embark on similar crazy ventures in the future.

I’m also really pleased that the event offers us an opportunity to support Qhubeka, an amazing charity that helps change lives across South Africa by offering people the freedom and mobility of travelling by bike – hopefully resulting in a lasting legacy of their own.

The countdown starts here – more next time on my recent 12-hour test run at the velodrome.

Leave a comment