Transcontinental 2017 – sorry, what?

The most terrifying moment of this year has just happened to me. I willingly entered The Transcontinental Race and I’m struggling to find adjectives to describe how I feel.

 

The Transcontinental Race begins on Friday 28th July at 22:00 (CET) from Geraardsbergen in Belgium. Those into their cycling will know of a hill that exists in this quaint little town called The Muur. It’s cobbled, it’s steep, it’s quintessentially Belgian. It’s the start of things to come.

There are four checkpoints en route to the finish in Meteora, Greece:

  1. Lichtenstein Castle, Germany – I’ll be practicing my German en route
  2. Monte Grappa, Italy – is this the part where the hills are proper?
  3. High Tatras Mountains, Slovakia – sounds like more proper hills…
  4. Transfagarasan Highway, Romania – sounds fast

At the moment, it definitely feels like I’ve bitten off more than I can chew but with around seven months ahead of me before the trip to Belgium, I feel like I can at least train for a while. Cue back-to-back big days in the saddle, experiments with nutrition, navigation practice, learning the parts of my bike inside out.

Talking to a friend of mine recently, I realised I’ve got a habit of living outside my comfort zone. For example, I entered an ultra-marathon (56km off-road) with barely any training and I ended up withdrawing at 33km. Another example is applying for a job in England on a whim. I didn’t always live in Manchester, you know! I lived in Adelaide for 10 years before making the grand expedition to this northern powerhouse having applied for a job I didn’t think I’d get. After moving here just two weeks after I accepted the job and having never been here before, I didn’t know a soul: I was a girl with a bike in what felt like a foreign city.

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I’m not sure my two subtle examples of throwing myself out there mean I can now suddenly enter a ~4,000km race with 38,000m of climbing so there a probably a few burning questions you’re all anchoring to have answered and I have a feeling I’ll have asked them of myself in the last week too.

“Are you ok?”

I think so. I mean, I don’t know that many of you will agree with that statement. Not many people I know, cyclist or not, would volunteer themselves to ride 250km+ a day for two weeks.

“Have you ever done this kind of thing before?”

In short, no. Medium-length answer, kind of. I went to Bergen in May earlier this year and caught the train to a town called Vos then rode all the way back to Bergen. It was only 100 miles/160km but I was in a foreign country, I didn’t speak the language, I wasn’t familiar with any of the roads I was cycling on and I was on my own.

“Why have you entered then?”

If I don’t scratch this itch, the itch might never subside. I don’t know what will happen tomorrow let alone next year so it’s important I do what I want while I can. In a way, it’s a bit morbid to think that way but it’s a realistic way of thinking and I figure I’ve always been one to go after everything I want so there’s no difference with this.

My main motto for this adventure is “what’s the worst that could happen?” and the reality is, I scratch and come back home. I’m doing it with Laura Scott so between the two of us, we’ll help each other along whether that’s mechanically, physically, mentally or otherwise. We’re determined to finish in time for the leaving party – the day before my 27th birthday.

I also think the right person has chosen me – did we choose each other? – because we’ve already discussed feminine hygiene, sleeping arrangements, goals and kit so I have no doubt that this is a great start for the adventure ahead.

So between now and Friday 28th July 2016, you’ll find me sweating on a turbo in an attempt to boost my endurance, riding aimlessly on the weekends practicing different combinations of kit and nutrition, building up a new/existing bike as the ultimate long-distance race machine, planning routes between checkpoints (carefully dodging as many hills as I can!) and entering plenty of audaxes.

As soon as I have confirmation of a place, you’ll be the first to know.

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GraceQOM

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