I glance down wearily at the time on the laptop and once again it’s nearing 1am. I feel nauseous from anxiety and tiredness, but it’s nothing new. Before a marathon you’d be getting a special early night kip to be fully rested, yet to pull this thing off I’ve found myself working around the clock to finalise logistics, deal with obstacles and generally get ready for the biggest challenge of the EPIC7 yet.
That’s right- tomorrow (in a few hours time) I’ll be departing Chester Town Hall for the French Alps, to Chamonix. After a hellishly frenetic few weeks I’m finally ready to go, or as ready as I can be, but wanted to get a blog up before I head South. Balancing the training with the organisation, two jobs and general project manager for my ambitions is no easy feat. This is where I’m grateful to have support from Westgrove as their Young Ambassador, as if I’d also had to manage the fundraising alone in such a short space of time I’d have been cycling to nowhere but the nearest mental institute…
And what a week it’s been! First of all, I’m really glad to announce the Edge Cycleworks of Chester as my official bike sponsor for EPIC7/Everest. As a result, the bike (Specialized Allez Sport 2014) is now cleaned, serviced superbly by the Edge, riding smoothly and the panniers loaded scrupulously- an overall weight of 18kg (with bike) to drag up the Alpine passes. But unlike the Welsh 3000’s- this is where the law of Physics pays dividends on the down hills!
But not all went plain sailing, and I was fully expecting a call from the BBC to cast me in the upcoming ”Mr Bean’s Holiday 2”. The headset bearings on my bike were found to be cracked during a routine service. Being such a specialist part and Specialized being awkward buggers, a new headset bearing proved to be as elusive as the Snow Leopard. With my stammer, I usually refuse stubbornly to make phone calls, but was ringing every shop in the North West. Most told me they could get me one for Thursday this week- some were unsure if they had the right part. Panic set in and problem solving mode took over! So with 4 days before the ride- I was without a set of wheels and the skateboard in the shed was about to make an appearance. However my dad then couriered the part from a shop in Dunstable on special overnight delivery. A sigh of relief but sadly still the wrong size. So a last minute emergency drive to Mollington and one particular shop saved the day. They have probably never seen someone so excited to buy a circular piece of metal that had ensued days of chaos.
Then, my Garmin software was problematic and I had to replot my entire route all over again. The more I do these challenges, I learn that things go wrong, but I haven’t quite cracked how to stop this happening yet… But all sorted now. I’ll be navigating primarily using my Garmin Forerunner navigation system with set courses, with a back-up system of the route onto MapMyRide and Cyclemeter apps on two different mobile phones.
This week I sunk into true burnout- or the ‘grey zone’ as it’s often called, where my thought processes became as mashed as my grans’ potatoes and stress begins to cause physical symptoms. A phenomena I last experienced the week prior to Everest. So I’m looking forward to getting on the bike and letting it all blow into the wind. Nothing worth fighting for is ever easy- except coffee.
So- what is this gruesome challenge?! I’m cycling from my hometown Chester to Chamonix, because I can. It’s great conditioning for Everest- both mental and physical, as I cycle on average 125 miles a day. I imagine the 840 mile distance will likely extend as I make various navigational errors. I will be carrying all my own gear in panniers on the bike, staying in Youth Hostels kindly provided free of charge with free meals and low-budget hostels when in France (apart from Weds night when I’m wild camping with my photographer buddy Giles nr Portsmouth- hope he’s brought deodorant for the tent!!) and mostly unsupported. Everest summiteer Becky Bellworthy, who played a huge part in inspiring this Everest dream, will be joining me for a section and likely to have a few others joining in parts too- which is epic. The 4 days alone in France will be the most difficult, but regular stops for patisserie will make it more bearable. Physically, I think I can manage it. Two 100 mile rides in consecutive days last week was fine albeit mentally dull and depressingly Autumnal, but the key with these big endurance events is just to go slowly and eat plenty- no matter how many concerned looks I get off experienced cyclists when I tell them my plans!
My itinerary is something like this:
Day 1- The send off! Depart Chester Town hall- officially started by Lord Mayor of Chester about 8:30am. Ride to Youth Hostel Association: Stratford-upon-Avon- 123 miles- catching up on sleep at last!
Day 2- YHA Stratford-upon-Avon to Rowlands Castle, 136 miles
Day 3- Rowlands Castle to Newhaven- kip at YHA South Downs then sail to Dieppe at 23:00
Day 4- Arrive Dieppe 04:00. Start cycling to Soissons. 125 miles
Day 5- Soissons to Auxerre- 137.5 miles
Day 6- Auxerre to Lons-le-Saunier 139 miles
Day 7- Lons-le-Saunier to Chamonix- 114.7 miles but 10,000ft of ascent- the final push!
Days 8-9- Sleep, hobble, eat, coffee, repeat
Days 10-17- EPIC7 challenge #4!
Am I nervous? Yes. There’s a lot at stake, a huge amount that could go wrong, and I’m sure my planning isn’t as meticulous as it could be. Although, Through Adversity to Everest, any obstacles will be dealt with accordingly. It’s not epic without a bit of drama. During my burnout, my close friend Chris assured me, ”mate, even if you don’t have a route, just get on the bike and keep heading South”. I love the concept!
Why am I doing this? Well, this was the first challenge I came up with after Everest- the birthplace of the whole EPIC7 around it. It’s amazing how inspiring being confined to a grotty Kathmandu hotel room alone with Salmonella poisoning can be. I know if I can pull it off, I will surprise myself and learn more about my limits, bringing the cause and the supporters along the way. It’s about turning obstacles into opportunities. For example, if it wasn’t for the wally who stole my mountain bike last Summer- I’d likely not have got into road cycling, and hence never contrived this idea! Things happen for a reason…
My blood pressure is receding. I’ve done the best I can with the given time and I’ll be glad to get back. Once I’m on the go tomorrow I’ll slip into the routine and cruise in the winds. It’s not a race- as long as I keep on moving- I will get there. Better late, than never.
Right… bed!!!! Bonne nuit!
Btw if you missed my EPIC7 Welsh 3000’s video, take a peek.