A lot of people have been getting on their bikes more often during the coronavirus lockdown. Some people more than others. Some people, well, one person in particular, has decided to ride 100km every day for 100 days. Because, why not.
A few months ago, Russell Kelsey was preparing himself for the 2020 Race Across America, the self-explanatory 3,000-mile endurace event scheduled for mid-June. However, one coronavirus pandemic later and the race had been cancelled, while Kelsey also found himself furloughed from his job as a physiotherapist.
However, when he thought up the idea of riding 100km in 100 days in mid-March, the endurance event hadn’t yet been called off, so it would offer some continued training if RAAM still somehow managed to go ahead, while also providing a nice goal to stave off lockdown boredom.
“I hoped to encourage others to ride indoors rather than outside,” Kelsey told Cycling Weekly. “I was more apprehensive [than nervous], I wasn’t really sure how long it would take, food and time would also be an issue.”
Kelsey, who lives in Dulwich in London, has been doing all of his riding indoors, also getting involved with Mark Beaumont’s World In A Day event, which saw him riding more than 11 hours at a time and helping raise £231k for NHS Charities Together. During these efforts in particular, he says keeping saddle sores at bay was particularly tough, while the tiring and monotonous indoor miles, as well as juggling high intensity training sessions, have been the hardest parts of the 100km a day challenge.
Generally, he gets up early “to get it over and done”, with the ton taking him anywhere between two and a half to four hours to complete “depending on the Zwift route and how hard I push myself”.
Clocking up more than 7,500 miles in three months is quite the progression, as Kelsey only took up cycling five years ago. However, it was two months after starting that riding a bike ended up saving his life.
“In 2015 I was on holiday with my daughter when I collapsed, I had a pheochromocytoma, it’s an adrenal tumour which can be growing inside you without you knowing and will go off when it gets too big,” Kelsey explains.
“It releases large amounts of adrenalin into your body, often leading to death through coronary or cerebral hemorrhage. When I collapsed, my resting heart rate was 160 and my blood pressure was 150/120.
“I survived because I had a reasonable background in sport and I had just taken up cycling in the previous two months. I had joined the Trance challenge on Strava and got through that in the weeks before I collapsed. The cycling had stressed my body to point that the tumour could be detected and also meant I was strong enough to survive the release of adrenalin into my system.”
Kelsey considers himself lucky to be alive, and cycling continues to help him to this day, half a decade after it saved him.
“I still have a 10 per cent chance the tumour can return, I was lucky the first one was surgically removed, but it meant six months off work. I am very lucky to be alive, 90 per cent of all pheos are diagnosed after death. Cycling saved me and it is the place I now seek solace and serenity, it helps calm me a lot, something which after 10 years of adrenalin-fuelled life is much needed.”
He therefore set up a fundraising page to help the NHS during his 100km a day challenge, so far raising £1,500.
With only 10 days left, Kelsey’s next big goal is the virtual Race Across America, which he received a golden ticket entry for. Hurriedly acquiring a smart trainer at the 11th hour, having been completing his 100km on a Wattbike Pro, he says he doesn’t have any expectations but would like to finish within the 12-day time limit.
“I don’t really have any expectations for it. I don’t put myself in the same league as Chris Hopkinson, James Golding or Marko Baloh,” Kelsey says. “I won NCOM 2019, a 1,000 mile bike race in Texas last year, but it was only a small field. I’m not on the same level as these guys who can power round at silly w/kg and speeds.
“My weight is definitely against me. Saying that, I’m rather stubborn and I would hope to finish within the 12 days. It’s rather simple for me, rideable chunks of 4-5 hours with food and hydration during and after each block.
“I’ve still got home duties to perform so I’ll do the best I can in the time I can. I took 32 days to get round the virtual Race Across Europe which Chris Hopkinson won in 12 days. I still came 4th, so I was pretty pleased.”
Tagging on vRAAM to his 100km a day challenge may give a new definition to masochism, but Kelsey has already planned out how he will celebrate when it’s all over.
“A rather massive ice cream from Oddonos [a local Italian ice cream shop], I thought I’d lose weight during this, but I have been eating like a horse. So somehow despite sweating like a horse during rides, I have managed to put on weight.”
And at some point, Kelsey will also venture outside on the bike once more: “I’m hoping to get out soon,” he says. “But with more cars on the road then ever I’m still finding my way back to riding outside.”