Personal Challenge, Not a Race
“Forty miles afternoon cycle and I was exhausted.”
I took a test cycle ride around the area to see how I would do cycling longer than 10 miles. Ten minutes in, I realised that I had forgotten my helmet, so I had to go back home to get it. Shortly afterwards, I dropped my phone and ran over it with my bike. It really felt like the world was trying to stop me but I did not listen. I was surprised that I managed to cycle that distance without any big struggle along the way, and in just an afternoon. Although when I came back I was exhausted, I had a long stretch afterwards and was absolutely fine the next day. Scottish weather seems to have shaken the winter off completely so cycling is much more pleasant now with the occasional sunshine. My aim is to have fun. Cycling from Scotland to London is meant to be my personal challenge, not a race.
My first intent was to plan a rough route and places to stay whilst I am starting to get used to cycling longer distances. As I am doing a solo trip, I guess, knowing where and with who I am going to stay with makes me feel calmer. It also means that I can start planning my exact route.
KINDNESS OF A STRANGER
There are plenty of resources online when you type in long distance cycling tips. Although, I wanted some genuine advice from regular people who did something similar. I started with asking communities like Team52, YesTribe and Adventure Queens. I am incredibly grateful with the amount of kindness and help I got so far.
I also got offered places to stay on the way. All I asked for was a couch and a blanket and what I got was not only places to stay but offerings to stay there when they are away. Others have already started planning meals they have offered to cook for me. I am over the moon with people’s generosity to a stranger.
I am so excited to meet people on the way and make new relationships. I love camping, it would be awesome but my decision to stay with people has already been bringing me so many more connections than I expected.
My friend recommended me an app called ‘Komoot’. You can access it online and it is a wicked tool to plan a cycling or hiking route. Now that I have exact places where I am going to stay, I can plan more thoroughly. In terms of cycling, Komoot gives you different route options for Bike touring, Mountain biking and Road cycling. You can choose your fitness level from Couch potato to a Pro, and then it shows you the time it should take you, the distance, the elevation. It also gives you breakdown of waytypes and the surface of the route. Komoot tells you the average speed for your Fitness level and shows you a graph of the journey elevation.
I am in love with this app, you can plan your route online and if you want it offline you can either pay a few pounds for a certain region or pay a one off payment of about £30. This is a great tool to save your phone battery.
I have compared the differences between Bike touring and Road cycling and in general, road cycling is usually faster, sometimes by a few hours. My next stage is to study the roads closely and make decisions. At the moment, I am leaning towards staying mostly on the roads. If my day’s journey can take me 10 hours instead of 13, it certainly sounds more appealing to me.
The only thing that I am missing on Komoot is some sort of description of each fitness level to know which one you are. I think I am ‘Average’ or ‘Good shape’ but I am not really sure.
I have never trained for any challenge or a race so I am trying to figure this all out as I go. What I know for sure is that I want to have fun training. I do not want to force myself to cycle so many miles for the sake of getting it done. I have had a look at places around Aviemore to explore places I have not been to yet.
“Why not see more of Scotland whilst I am training for my journey?”
I planned a few different routes of various lengths to start with and I will be choosing them according to my schedule and slowly increasing the amount of mileage. Well, as slow as I can. I have 5 weeks to go. On days when I am busy with work I try to fit in at least a few minutes of strengthening exercises.
I am generally active person and since living in Scotland, activities like hiking, climbing, ski touring have become a part of my normal week. I just need to squeeze more cycling in now. The weather is looking good for training so hopefully it will stay that way.
Probably one of my biggest concerns is that I do not normally tend to race when I cycle. There is so much to see and I prefer giving myself time to take in the views and take photos over hitting a certain mileage. Although, I will have to cut those down to be able to cycle the distances I set to myself. This time the purpose of the cycle is a little different. I need to get to London and I have already committed to staying with people so I will have to follow my priorities.
There are a lot of resources for what and how often you should eat on the internet. Although it all seems to be about energy bars and supplements. But, I would like to try to eat less sugar and eat more food that actually gives you lasting energy, rather than throwing some short term sugar into my body and crashing once it has run out. I am in the process of planning snacks and food that will give me enough energy and testing it on my training rides. I am thinking boiled eggs, beef jerky, homemade muesli bars, nuts, and I will probably have some emergency chocolate bars, but would like to avoid those as much as I can.
The more research I do, the more it makes me want to go back to my personal instinct and try to go with what normally works for me. I do appreciate good advice from someone who has done something similar like a long distance race, but I am trying to be sensible with the information I find. Trying to match someone else’s training plan and nutrition seems overwhelming and stressful for me.
I would love if you could share my blog or social media post about this journey so I can inspire more people to set challenges for themselves without feeling like they have to be professionals.
If you have not read the first post for this challenge to cycle from Scotland to London, you can read it here ‘How and idea becomes a plan.’