How not to Prepare for an Endurance Race

Hellrider veteran, James Merrey gives us a rundown on how to prepare to fail on race day.

James Merrey in the official HellRider jersey.

Racing on behalf of HellRider kit partner, Obsesso, 38 year old James Merrey was dressed for success at last year’s 8 hour trail-run/mountain bike team relay duathlon.

But, as they say, the road to hell is paved with good intentions and it certainly turned into a devilishly difficult day out. James gives us his ‘How Not To Prepare For An Endurance Race’ guide. Reading between the lines, the smarter of you may get some more tips on how to succeed at the HellRider…


    1. Pride goes before a fall

      I’m the founder of eventwear specialists ‘Obsesso’ and so we were racing in official HellRider merchandise. We were left looking less than impressive when one of our team of three pulled out on the morning of the event, leaving me and my mate Gerry competing as the only twosome.

    2. The devil is in the detail

      My preparation was woeful. Gerry had at least done quite a bit of training as he was doing the City to Summit triathlon as well but, to be honest, I was relying on a third person to make up for my lack of fitness.


      James Merrey on the bike stage of the 2013 HellRider.
    3. Learn from past sins

      The first and last event we’d competed in as a threesome back in 2002 was another of Paul Magner’s TrailPlus events – an Adventure Challenge in Sandhurst. We sank our inflatable canoe! This time round we were a lot older but obviously not any wiser.


      James Merrey getting some miles in on foot during the 2013 HellRider.
    4. Don’t bring a virgin steed

      Neither Gerry or I had been out on the mountain bike we were riding on the day. I really would advise you get out on the bike before the event, especially if, like me, you’re a road biker who hadn’t been on a mountain bike for 10 years. We just had to make the best of it. That said, the course isn’t hugely technical so if you’re cautious and take it easy, you’ll be fine. You might not want to be clipped in.

    5. The best laid plans…

      Our strategy was to alternate for the first few laps then get Gerry to double up as he was fitter than me, but I was overtaken by one of the solo competitors on my first run lap and Gerry split his tyre on his first circuit out on the bike. That meant he had to do a back-to-back bike/run while I fixed the puncture.


      The official HellRider jersey (from the back)
    6. Be resigned to your fate

      The run course wasn’t PB potential! It was very lumpy and there are some stupid hills. I remember some lovely bluebells in the woods at the start of the run which lulled me into a false sense of security. On the ride, accept that you’ll be in using your lowest gear on the granny ring on the steeper inclines. It’s uphill right from transition so your heart rate goes from 70 to 160 in several pedal strokes. It’s only 7k but my pulse was going bonkers the whole way round.

    7. Don’t listen to the devil on your shoulder

      I wasn’t mentally prepared for having to go every other lap. I remember one of the solo competitors striding past me on the first lap and thinking, ‘This is a poor show’.

    8. There are more than nine circles of hell at HellRider

      Dante’s Inferno may have only had nine circles of hell but at Hellrider you’re trying to do as many laps as possible in 8 hours. I was completely naïve and set out way too quickly because I wanted to get nice photos from the top of the course. That dream expired in the first 750m! Do your first lap as a recce – see what the course is like and pace yourself. Leave it to the loonies and the teams of fives to go all out.

    9. Take solace in the heavenly chorus of supporters

      It’s a great event because it’s so spectator friendly. The fact that you come back down into transition at the end of each lap means there’s lots of energy and people around cheering you on which really spurs you on.

    10. Give in gracefully

      Accept that you’re going to be beaten. That’s middle age. Fair play to the proper athletes. We managed about 17 laps in total so it wasn’t a total disgrace, which was a surprise. We did win the Team of Two category (though we were the only team of two!). We did our best to get round in a slightly haphazard way but we were proud!


The 2014 HellRider event takes place at the Hambledon Estate on the 7th June for more details head to

Check out the official HellRider gear at


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