Lessons Learned Cycling from Land End to John OGroats
“Easy saying you’re going to do it. Then the reality of what you said you’re going to do kicks in!”
At certain times in your life, you need to push yourself. Set yourself a challenge that takes you out of your comfort zone, which was what Strings decided to do. He wanted to mark 10 years of PrettyGreen with his own Pilgrimage, to get off the coal face and do something quite memorable and monumental.
So he decided to cycle from John OGroats to Lands End over 9 days to create his own “A Life Defining Moment”.
So we asked him a few questions about the ride and why.
What made you decide to do this particular challenge?
We’re marking our 10 years with a year of activities and I wanted something very personal that was both physically and mentally challenging, but that was also not actually in or around the office. To give me time away, to give me time to reflect. And what better challenge than cycling the length of Britain. It’s one of those challenges you hear about, so thought “why not”.
Where you a cyclist?
No. I only started really cycling in May, being honest when I asked a good friend Jamie, if he was wanted to do it, and who said yes. I actually thought I was signing up to doing 100km’s a day – Not 180km per day for 9 consecutive days. In early May with the absolute fear and decided I better start cycling properly.
Did you do a lot of training
I started cycling to work and extended my commute so that I was doing 40-60km runs into the office, and a longer 120km cycle on a weekend, and stopped going to gym. Whenever I could I rode. But I’d never actually gone further than 125km in a day, and never hit the magical 100-mile “sportive” distance until the first day. My main focus was doing as many days back to back, to get used to a 9-day multi-day challenge
What were you most nervous about
Not being able to complete it. Would my body just fail? As a non-cyclist I was incredibly worried I’d signed up to something that was physically more demanding than I was capable of doing. My classic “I’m quite fit, can’t be that hard”.
How did your body (backside survive)
You put your body through immense stresses cycling 7-8 hours every day and doing 180km every day, with a lot of hill climbing. But the reality is that in relative terms it’s only for a short period of time. Yes, everything ached, and it was screaming for me to stop. And my mind was a complete mush, your cognitive skills are that of an amoeba. But you just get on the bike and spin the peddles.
On the ride itself did you have any dark moments
Very few dark moments actually. The main one was a 2 hour period where we’d slowed down to help someone who we saw having a really tough time, the weather turned, and we had a headwind, vertical rain and it was really cold. And I just wanted it to end. But I knew it was a moment in time, so just kept going. Also trying to pack up your sleeping bag, and kit every morning becomes a challenge just purely due to how tired you are, and I remember one morning wanting to cry after about the 3rd attempt of failing to simply roll my sleeping bag up and get it into its cover. It was also tough being away from the family for 9 days. But every day we did a video chat, which helped me stay connected.
What were your highlights
Being humbled by the beauty of our country. Particularly up in Scotland. So stunning. Also how strong the human mind is. So much stronger than the human body. Plus that even through physical turmoil and adversity how much laughter you can have. Maybe it was hysteria induced but I have so many fond memories of nearly dying from not being able to breathe whilst cycling from laughter. But I met some brilliant people and inspiring people along the way.
Anything you’ve learned that you’ll be taking back into the office
Success comes from having an uncluttered focus, combined with 3 things:-
- Hard work
As someone who is always online, what was it like being forced “off the grid”.
It was actually really refreshing. There was the odd text that I had to respond to. But virtually nothing, and being in areas with no coverage meant it was enforced. Combined with the fact that mentally I just didn’t have the capacity or ability to be affective, or make complex decisions.
What advice would you give to anyone thinking about it?
Just sign up. Commit to it, and find a way to do it. You’ll be a better person for challenging yourself and at least trying something. You’ll come back bizarrely re-energised about life and work.
I’m actually loving being back in the office and being able to dedicate my energy into PrettyGreen, without thinking about cycling. That said I’ve got my eye on a couple of really interesting physical challenges for 2019. I love pushing myself out of my comfort zone. To steal a quote I heard during my ride from Mack @ Threshold, who stole it from TS Elliot “If you’re not in over your head, how do you know how tall you are”
As ever my issue is that I’m slightly delusional and think that I’m 18, whereas my body at times feels like an 88 year old.