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900 Miles Across Britain

Emily B.

...it just is a whole different feeling of happiness.

I had been training for the “9 day ride + a marathon 3 weeks later” goal for about a year.  Truthfully, happy to have it behind me since it was very hard – both physically and mentally – and very time consuming (not a lot of wiggle room for poor nutrition, disruptions in sleep, poor stress management, etc.)!  Here’s the overview:

The Ride Across Britain was a 9 consecutive day bike ride that started at Lands End (the furthest south west point of England) and traveled north to the far northeast corner of Scotland called John O Groats.  All road cycling.  It was 980 miles and 60,000 feet of climbing.  In the end it took me 84 hours to complete.  It was put together by a company called Threshold Sports and just under 600 people started the event.  How it worked:  each daily stage moved across Britain (sort of like the Tour de France) and had a camp site for riders.  The moving “camp” had all the tents,  food, medics, showers, laundry, mechanics, therapists, etc. and every morning – we took off and made it to the next stop.  Usually 2 pit stops along the way / about 35 miles in and 70-75 miles in.  I went with 7 co-workers of mine from Deloitte Consulting.  Pretty solid cyclists who rode a lot faster than me – so I did find myself alone a lot but also meeting some great Brits along the way.

We had every form of weather you could imagine with 40mph wind gusts, rain, and sleet and mostly headwinds – no joke.  We went through cities, by rivers, through farm areas, major roads, forests, some killer mountains with 30% grades.  It was a massive lesson on proper layering, body prep, nutrition, bike maintenance, and just grit.

While it was just a ride, we did have daily time caps, and I am proud to say that I was #27 of 38 women who finished every mile under the time caps.  I have always enjoyed biking but was not a serious cyclist (I’ve been running for 25 years and with my 22 marathons under my belt always felt that was my “endurance sport”).  The challenge was physical, no doubt, but I’m most proud of the mental stamina to be on the bike on average of 9 hours a day and on our 120 mile day….about 11, in the rain.  It didn’t even make sense on paper – but it’s really amazing what the human body can do – in those conditions, for that length of time, and with very little day to day sleep and recovery.

I write all of this because I’ve trained for a lot of things in my life, but this was by far the hardest I’ve ever trained.  Before this, I had ridden 1 century ride (100 miles) – this past year, I did 3 in my training and lots of back to back 60-80 mile rides and then just turned around and did 9 centuries+ in a row in way harder conditions, then I came home and 3 weeks later I finished the Chicago Marathon in 4 hours 13 minutes.  Not a PR, but for where I was at – I’m really proud of all these moments.

A few pics attached and again, sorry for the long explanation, but this kind of reminds me of something David Goggins spoke about – we all tend to set goals we know that we can accomplish and then feel kind of unfilled when we do and wonder why is that?  You have to pick things that genuinely terrify yourself and then when you do it – it just is a whole different feeling of happiness!

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