It was Thursday, June 29, 2017, at 0915hrs when my plane touched down at Copenhagen Airport in Denmark, the 38-hour journey from the Camp in the Republic of Congo was coming to an end.
I looked at the countdown timer on my phone, a countdown timer I had started 322 days earlier when I was accepted to participate in a multiday race; the timer read 69 days, 19 hours and 45 minutes to race start.
With under 325km of running in my legs the previous six months, and the longest run (31km) being January 01, 2017 in Copenhagen, I felt the pressure of running +1,000km on tarmac with 18,000m elevation gain in 17 days slowly creeping in on me.
Better Call Nikolaj.
In the first week of June 2016, my activity buddy, Nikolaj again, emailed me an article about some reinvented bicycle thingy, it looked like a clone between a single-speed bicycle and a skateboard, it had three wheels and was called a Halfbike.
The following day, a couple of Halfbikes were ordered and they arrived a few days later. As we had no idea what it actually was, neither how addictive they would become over time, they were only assembled a couple of weeks later.
That same evening the Halfbikes were assembled, Nikolaj and I took them down in a nearby parking basement to learn the basics, and after 45 min we were completely busted. We both ended up with a thought that we might each have purchased a piece of somehow expensive toy.
Nevertheless, the next evening we were back in the same basement for another forty-five-minute session, starting to learn the tricks of the trade, but still had no idea what capacities laid within these bikes.
The third night in the basement and now able to cruise comfortable in this confined environment we started talking about taking them, the Halfbikes, “above ground level and into the real world”. That night we spent the last ten minutes on the street, in real traffic, and what a disaster that was. The dedicated bicycle lane had a slight slope against the road and our skills learned on the flat ground in the basement really weren’t enough to keep us in a straight safe line of movement.
However, having slept on previous night tragedy we discussed that we might pull the Halfbikes down to the waterfront side and ride them on the flat stretch in against Copenhagen. We have quite a hill, by Danish standards, to pass from our location to the waterfront and riding steep uphill seemed to be beyond possible with the Halfbikes.
We rode to the foot of the hill, looked at each other and decided to give it a shot, and what a positive surprise that was, very easy to control uphill and the single-speed gearing was perfect for same.
First break on the top of the hill, neither of us could really believe that it was that easy to ride uphill, second break was after riding down the hill on the other side, which again was a surprise as we had expected to constantly be applying the brakes. But the full-body wind resistance made the slight increased speed much more bearable.
That day we rode +23km into and around Copenhagen City, and took the train home. It wasn’t all pretty and show-off all of it, but it was still +23km. Not a single muscle, joint or part of the body were sore or fatigued, the whole body was just overall tired, not abused, just tired and used.
The next day we had expected to be able “to feel” the previous day workout, but nothing more than we had both slept very well. So, we met up and went out for a spin, just to pick up where we ended the day before.
+47km later we were on the train on the way home again, no soreness, just a general pleasant feeling of being tired. In the train none of us wanted to say it, but it was clear that we had found something that seemed to be much more than a toy, yet we still had no idea where these would take us. The company listed them as used for commuting and shorter rides, though if in shape they could be used for longer rides too; how far would determine long?
Two days after we did a +50km ride, we rounded 60km the day after, and on the twelfth day after we left the parking basement, we had our sixths ride outside; it was across the island of Sealand and ended at 112,9km. What initially drove us to taking it that far that fast, beside the average madness, was that both of us were ultra-marathon runners and both of us knew the feeling that came after a long run, tiredness and soreness. Both tiredness and soreness are directly related to the distance by the rule; the further you run, the more you feel.
With Halfbikes we could feel the exact same tiredness in the body as after running the same amount of km, but the soreness never surfaced, not even after the long ride. The traditional sounds when starting after a short break, sounds when bending down having to untie the shoes, sounds from getting up from the sofa etc., none of them, and neither any discomfort the following day.
The following weeks we regular rode trips ranging between 70-90km, and only once did I experience a kind of discomfort, but that was after a crash, so it really doesn’t count.
In August I had to go abroad to work, but enough seeds had been sawn for this toy to be explored much more thoroughly, Nikolaj on the other hand continued riding his Halfbike the rest of the year, and constantly fed me details from his rides.
As Nikolaj had kept me up to date with his achievement on his Halfbike, highlighting what it gave to him and how it could push him, it was clear that in my preparation to my multiday race in September 2017, I would include the Halfbike in some of my sessions. In January we ordered new Halfbikes, mostly meant as back-up, but when they arrived, they arrived with three gears. Nikolaj instantly parked his single-speed and started riding much smoother, and faster. I didn’t change, I was loyal to the single-speed, mostly because I was still abroad working and both my old and new Halfbike were parked at home.
I had aired for Nikolaj that I would take a bit over four months off work before the multiday race to prepare myself physically and mentally, at least that was my initial plan. While I was away from Denmark I also had a plan for how much I would daily run on tarmac for preparing my joints for the long-term pounding such a race would give me.
Neither of the plans worked out, not even close.
I had several hours driving to the nearest tarmac, I worked 24/7 throughout the period I was away, I did manage to run a couple of times across the savanna but only short trips and not regularly at all. As for arriving Denmark in time for four months preparation; circumstances beyond own control did I barely manage ten weeks.
Sometimes it is necessary to sacrifice the perfect to get the good; I really hoped the good would be good enough.
On my arrival in Denmark I did call Nikolaj and the same afternoon we had a run while talking about the following nine weeks, the tenth week would be used for travelling and rest before the race. We discussed what to do, the quantities to do it in, how often to do it; we never touched the diet as I was only doing the ultra-marathon running on a purely recreational level.
Based on Nikolaj’s great experience with long rides on the Halfbike we both agreed that the it should become a tool to use in the build-up of my stamina and it should be used more than in only some of my sessions.
The challenge ahead, which was actually a real problem, was preparing my body for the endless pounding from running on the tarmac, which I just didn’t have the time available to slowly build up. If I went out and did too many long runs on tarmac, I would end up getting injured, I needed to slowly build it up and then use the race itself to consolidate it.
I started with ten km slow running each morning, for a week, then added five km a day the second week and ending up with twenty km each morning on the third week, which I held the rest of the time. Twenty km daily doesn’t sound as much when the daily distance average nearly a marathon and a half for seventeen days in a row, but it kept me on the safe side in life.
That’s where the Halfbike came to save me; the core of riding a Halfbike is tied to the whole standing-up while actually doing the running motion, all while engaging the entire body in the balancing act. And the balancing is the added benefit when riding a Halfbike. No one think about balancing while running on flat ground, that’s so ingrown it’s natural, whereas on a Halfbike it takes time to master and it will keep looming in the back of your head.
The first ride on the Halfbike was a 30km “getting used to it again” kind of ride, and as the saying goes that you never forget how to ride a bicycle, it was the same with the Halfbike. And so, it fairly fast escalated up to 70km to 100km rides three times a week.
We had this route from home that circled the outer communities of Copenhagen and back home. Directly it was just below 70km and if we went further south and cruised a bit more in Copenhagen itself, we could easily take it beyond 100km, which we did.
Another beauty with the Halfbike is that it impossible to keep a high heart rate throughout a ride, let alone those rides that exceed four-five hours, so automatically the heart rate is kept within the range used for my type of ultra-marathon running speed. When running those longer distances, I survive mainly on the fat stored inside me, the fast calories for the brain mainly comes from assorted soft drinks served or bought in the race, the energy to move me is mainly from fat.
There’s only one way of getting the body accustomed to burn fat, that is by exercising in that specific heartrate range where fat is the main source of energy, and that’s what riding a Halfbike gives me.
We rode the Halfbikes regularly up to a week before the race, my endurance was developed beyond what was expected to be possible and the pounding from the tarmac that running so kindly gives you was nowhere to be felt.
If one keeps normal fit, the distance on a Halfbike becomes relative, same with time. Once it is consolidated, all one need is time available, to a certain extend of cause.
In 2018 I’ve only been in Denmark some few days and I’ve manage to do five rides on my Halfbike; one 90km, one 161km and three 100km, that’s all.
Of course the Halfbike can be used other purposes than riding ultra-long distances, the way we use them is what is appealing to us and work best for us. Shop yours today at www.halfbikes.com, ride it and find out what works best for you.
As for the multiday race; I ran conservatively the first seven days, constantly analysing how my body reacted to the pounding from the tarmac. I never looked at the daily race results, as my initial preparation plan had flushed down the drain, my wish was to finish the race and preferable finish without any issues.
On the eight day I clapped it, I could feel I had the energy and that my body would hold up, the same for the ninth day and every day that followed.
Before race start the last morning, I checked the race results and I saw that all I had to do that day was not to f*ck up anything, and I would end up overall third.
Without the Halfbike, that evolved from a toy to a tool, and Nikolaj of course, I would never have managed that achievement consider such a short preparation time, that’s conclusive.