Don’t worry… I very much doubt I’ll keep up the rate of blog posts over the next 18months! But a long ride yesterday gave me plenty of time to think:
Why on earth do we bother? This is a question I get asked a lot when I confess what crazy idea I have next or what we did at the weekend, but our ambition to circumnavigate the globe seems to have struck a chord with most. People can see the attraction of breaking a Guinness World Record while travelling through many countries at the speed of a bicycle, hopefully raising a significant amount of money for our amazing charities along the way. But apparently not everybody. Whilst asking for some route advice on a long-distance cyclists Facebook page recently I was surprise by the amount of criticism that we were going too fast, we should forget about records and we should be more “zen” and take 7 years.
Whilst this sounds like a lovely existence, it would somewhat defeat the point. I have no doubt of the validity of these people that have chosen to travel more slowly and take it all in, and hope we will do it ourselves one day as we will undoubtedly miss so much of the places we travel through on our challenge. But that is what it is: a challenge.
I have become a bit addicted to Podcasts since starting planning in earnest and am working through a back catalogue of Worldwide adventures, my favourites being: Everything Endurance, Endurance by Mark Beaumont, Tough Girl Podcast and Living Adventurously and the Doorstep Mile by Alastair Humphreys. As Mark Beaumont says “We can all go further” and Alastair Humphreys is inspirations in his ideas to choose a life less ordinary (https://alastairhumphreys.com/choosing-life-ordinary/) . And it is the buzz, the thrill, the sense of accomplishment we get from pushing our limits that we strive for.
We went out yesterday on our 3rd 200km ride of 12 of our Randonneurs Round the Year challenge, knowing that we would also be riding 7miles there and back, it would rain and we would be riding a long long time in the dark. Most of you probably can’t think of a worse way to spend the day, and on the face of it I can’t blame you!
But we planned and we prepped, we fuelled up on hot porridge and steaming tea and wrapped up in layers. We charged our lights, assessed the route and picked our refuelling stops. We packed our saddlebags with Christmas treats, samsomas and honey and peanut butter sandwiches and Stevie fitted me a new fishy mudflap.
The alarm went off a 6am, and I was still knackered less than 48hrs after finishing night shifts with an 11hour day at work in between, but two cups of tea later and we were off. the morning was dawning and it was warmer than I expected, my legs actually felt good and I was looking forward to a day where all I have to do is turn the pedals! We rolled into a drizzly mist or a misty rain and Ste robed up, whereas I risked it; knowing it would dry up later and not wanted to sweat into my layers.
The unmistakable waft of greasy spoon in Rugely lured us into a breakfast van and bacon and egg cobs tasted amazing in the rain, knowing we were fuelling for the long miles to go. A bit of unexpected off roading took us through Cannock Chase, and allowed a different perspective from speeding along asphalt, the rain had eased and the views improved. Wending our way up through Staffordshire, glimmers of sunshine started to appear through the clouds- it feels so long since I’ve seen the sun and I turned my head to try and get the sunbeams onto my face.
My legs still felt good and I was enjoying riding my bike, and after all if that is what I enjoy what better thing to do than spend the whole day doing it? I also enjoy eating and our next target was Broken Cross where we had already strategically planned our next “fuel” stop at their award winning chippy. It started to feel like a long way but the lure of chips spurred us on at the terrain got decidedly lumpier. Chips rarely taste so good as when eating during epic bike rides and we had a smug feeling watching other people collect their to slink back to their centrally heated houses and box sets on a winter’s Friday night. We however, were cycling off into the night with about 70miles still to go and the day already dusking… Lights went on and we saddled up to start the “real” climbs of the ride.
The battle out of the evening rush hour left us feeling like we had entered different world as we entered the dark on the tops in the Peak, the lights of a handful of farmhouses twinkled across the valley and the silence and peace was beautiful, empty roads, barely any cars and blissful silence. Many people balk at the thought of riding at night; but if you chose the right roads and the right lights it can be the best time to ride. The sharp climb up to Flash, the highest village in the country, had me puffing and panting though and the darkness concealing the impending gradient both a blessing and a curse! We were soon rolling above the sparkling lights below again though and gliding down to the Monsal Trail, an old railway line now a bridleway. Usually packed with families and holidaymakers it was serenely quiet in the dark and we chugged along like the steam trains of old, flying past tiny hamlets on the gravelled surface almost able to hear the ghostly whistles of the locomotives of the past.
After a surreal ride through the past we dropped into beautifully Christmassy Bakewell where a unanimous decision for hot chocolate was made! The sugar rush go us all the way back up to Youlgreave and we knew the technical section was to come. My legs were tired, but now it was simple: break it down into sections and take one step at a time, don’t overthink things. My audax experience help strong. Youlgreave to Elton: solid climb, Elton to Kniveton: more climbs techincal, Kniveton to Hole in the Wall (yes, that is a place): last of the meaningful hills, Hole in the Wall- Hatton: flat ride in, Hatton: Arrivee (finish official ride) and cycle 7miles home!
Stevie bemoaned that this was our neck of the woods and we knew much fast, flatter and better surfaced ways in. But that was not the aim of the game today, we must follow the route and we must get to the ride finish point to complete. Our total time for the official ride had to be under 14hrs34 and we were on the cusp. Finally the roads flattened our, the gravel and grass down the center disappeared and we flew down to the Salt Box at Hatton. Delighted to have made it, serious nearly there syndrome reduced my legs to jelly for the last 7 miles but walking into our warm house at 11pm felt amazing: hungry, tired and accompalished. Hot showers, warm food and cosy bed all well earnt. We had done it, against the odds and through preparing, experience and a good mindset and it had been a fabulous ride. The official verdict on our GPS is still to come but we know what we have achieved and know it was something special something a bit out of the ordinary.
So I hope that goes some small way to describing why: just for the sound of the silence of the tops of the peak I would do it all again. But, it’s not for everyone. I get that.
However, everyone can go further, it just doesn’t need to be far. Why not take a hour and go an extra few mile? Step outside the door in the cold and rain well wrapped up? Breathe the fresh air and seeing the weather and seasons change around you. It is all about adventure and challenge, no matter how big or small they are; it is the sense of accomplishment at the end, that you have done something that was a bit more than ordinary!
#wintercycling #audax #audaxuk #nightriding #markbeaumont #endurance #alastairhumphreys #doorstepmile #gofurther