It’s one month ’til Transcon so I thought I’d let you know how I’m feeling both physically and mentally and how the next few weeks look as we edge ever closer to The Muur.
Let’s get physical.
I’ve done so much training this year and I’ve made no secret of it, in fact I’ve invited people along a lot of the time. I trained over winter, long before the distance set in: I laboured on the turbo trainer with Zwift being a slave to my power meter and it’s paid dividends. My coach, Dean Downing, has been so helpful and has given me direction when I often felt lost in all the data. My threshold has increased significantly since I started training with Dean, which I’ll be forever grateful for when I’m climbing hills.
I soon began to feel a lot stronger during rides which I’d previously felt weak. I was getting a lot of personal records on Strava, coming home from my rides a lot happier with what I’d accomplished and just pleased with my general fitness. Once I started Audaxing, I was even more in my element. I completed my first Super Randonneur Award which involves completing a 200km, 300km, 400km and 600km in one season, something I polished off earlier this month on my way to Copenhagen. I went camping for the first time in my life and I did it alone. I actually bivvied under the stars because I didn’t know how to set up a tarp!
I work a full-time job Monday to Friday so I’ve got a similar amount of time to a lot of other people. I’ve been out a few times after work but my training has mainly been at weekends through the Peak District, over in Wales, utilising long weekends with friends on bikes. It’s been a great six months to be honest and one I’ll look at replicating and improving on next year.
As I write this, I feel confident that I’ll be physically able to complete the circa 4000km challenge but it’s not something I can truly prepare my body for. The most amount of kilometres I’ve done in a 7 day period before now is about 1000. I need to double that and do it again the following week!
Preparation for this race has been so tough mentally. I’ve thankfully had a great support network in a few key people who’ve got me through some rough patches both on rides and when I’m at home poring over maps, Ride With GPS and Strava Heatmaps. It’s been emotional, I won’t lie. This race has sapped a lot of my mental energy before I’ve even started! I’ve done rides where I’ve struggled through the night, got fed up of trying to find water in the heat, had personality failures up hills where I’ve had to tell those riding with me that I just couldn’t talk at that moment.
It’s been tough on my “normal” life too. I get home and I’m knackered, I don’t want to do laundry or cook dinner. I want to lie down, eat crisps and watch 24 Hours in A&E. I’ve seen my bank account drained within a week of it getting topped up because I’ve needed to replace tyres, a spoke, buy camping kit, spend yet more money on food. Seriously, my appetite has been out of control! I’ve been anti-social when I probably should’ve gone out, but the truth is I’ve had to prioritise and it’s hard to justify spending money on the more fleeting things in life when I’ve got so much expense towards the race and my bike. I’ve also needed to limit the number of hangovers in favour of riding for a long time the very next day.
Just today I went into a shop in town and thought I’d treat myself to some new work clothes. Instead, I put everything back and walked out because I realised that in a month’s time, I’ll regret buying them when I’m scraping about to feed myself in who-knows-what country. It’s tough. I absolutely love riding bikes and I’ve loved surrounding myself in this world of endurance but it does take its toll sometimes and I’ve felt like binning the whole lot and finding something else to do with my time and money many times.
I’ve got you.
The few people who have kept me going are my family who are always ridiculously encouraging and strangely proud of my stupid bike adventures. I sometimes think how hard it must be for them when I’m off doing relatively crazy stuff in the UK and Europe when they’re in Australia waiting on their phones for the latest update. They will be my most loyal dot-watchers, I’m sure of it.
A few friends have helped out where they can too. I’ve begged and borrowed (not yet stolen!) kit when I’ve needed it and thankfully they’ve delivered on a lot of my requests. It’s not all about material things though and I’ve had such great support from one particularly great human who keeps me going with virtual pats on the back when I’m riding overnight or in other countries, talking me through the workings of my own mind when I get overwhelmed with everything but most of all, I get to talk shit a lot of the time which is really helpful in keeping me grounded and feeling normal.
I’ve ridden with some absolute corkers of people: mine and Lorna’s trip to Wales, our peloton of six audax wankers that stuck together during our 400, Andy Matthews who towed me a lot of the way to Copenhagen, my work colleagues who I swear are forever out to crucify me up hills whenever we have our stag weekends, my RCC clubmates who’ve let me hold their wheel on comparatively smaller rides because I’ve run out of legs and the familiar faces I’ve met on many audaxes now – it’s been great not feeling alone in this wacky world of mine.
I’ve met so many wonderful people through social media: ex-racers, fellow racers and downright generous people. I’m very much looking forward to putting faces to names on those famous cobbles.
I still have half a route to plot unfortunately so if any of you know Austria, Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria or Greece well, drop me a line! I also need to get a couple of bits of kit: an Apidura extended top tube pack, Apidura extended (obvs) food pouch. I need to firm up what clothing I’ll be wearing and whether or not to take this or that, whether to take a spare pair of bibs etc. I need to book a train down to London the night before my train to Brussels too, come to think of it. Oh and I’ve got a course of three rabies shots in the next 21 days at £40 per dose to stop me succumbing to potential dog bites. I need to make sure I’ve got enough money loaded on my Monzo card before I leave which therefore means limited spendies between now and then.
I feel excited, terrified, nervous, anxious, both prepared and underprepared, overwhelmed and incredibly lucky. Not many people get to experience what I will so I’ll look forward to it, embrace it and learn some invaluable lessons from it all. And probably end up having a quarter life crisis afterwards!
It’s just riding bikes. See you on The Muur.