A year ago today I was taking part on the most challenging bike rides there is in the UK…..Lands End To John O Groats.
On the 30th August 2016 I began my journey from Lands End – The most southern tip in the United Kingdom. From there I cycled the whole length of the island of Great Britain to John O’Groats in Scotland. This is a journey of 1000 miles with over 10 days in the saddle.
The reason I decided to take on this challenge as it was going to take me out of my comfort zone. I have played sport all of my life, and I am a personal trainer, so I have relatively good fitness levels however I am more of a high intensity, low duration athlete used for my short bursts of pace. I am most certainly NOT an endurance athlete in any way.
Along with my lack of endurance, I am also not a cyclist. I had purchased my first road bike from Evans Cycles 6 months before the big challenge, and it was time to get training. After I had purchased all the equipment needed and could be classed as the guy with all the gear but no idea!
I found the training tough as most of the time I was cycling on my own. Living in a relatively flat area, hills were hard to come by. My first target was to complete a 100 mile continuous ride and I signed up for a sportive in Cheshire.
The training began with the view to build up my distance on a bike. In February 2016 I ventured out on my first ride and was proud that I cycled a grand total of 19 miles. My average speed was 14mph which would mean it would take me over 7 hours to complete a 100 mile ride.
A few weeks later I realised that I was terrible cycling up hills. It was time to find some hills and see what I was made of. I can safely say that this did not go according to plan. I had to stop over 10 times to get to the top of my first hill, my legs were burning, and I was puffing and panting. A demoralising day, yet one that taught me many things.
- I need to pull my finger out and get training more
- My fitness levels on a bike are terrible
- Hills are going to make or break me
- Fitness levels vary significantly from one activity to another
My first 100 mile ride
The first major challenge of my training (after those dreaded hills) was my first ever 100 mile ride. Before this ride my biggest distance was just 60 miles, so it was going to be a big task to do 100 miles of riding in one go.
I woke up early one Sunday morning in the month of May. The sun was out and although I was a little sleepy eyed, I was ready to take on the challenge. Starting off at 8am I began the ride. It was a piece of cake for the first 20 miles, having chats with other riders, and enjoying the nice weather. The only negative was when I stopped at a junction and couldn’t unclip my shoes from the pedals which meant I almost pushed another rider over. Tip – Learn how to get your feet out the pedals before riding.
At 30 miles the journey into the hills of the peak district began. The hills separate the men from the boys, and I can safely say I was a boy. I was determined not to stop however the hills got the best of me and I had to stop numerous times. That being said I eventually made it to the peak and was looking pretty fresh.
It was now midday and the lack of food intake was slowing me down along with the beaming sun. Although the hard work had been done (the hills), it was challenging to stay on the bike and 80 miles in I was struggling too much that I had to stop and lie under a tree for 30 minutes. Just after 5pm I made it to the finish with a time of 9 hours. Pretty shocking on the time but a fantastic achievement at the same time.
After the terrible 100 mile event, I had put in the hard work for 3 months and actually became pretty good on a bike. I was tackling greater distances and bigger climbs and started to enjoy my long rides at the weekend. My average speed increased by over 2mph and I was climbing hills without stopping.
The main event – Lands End to John O Groats
A team of 14 set off at the famous landmark of Lands End in Cornwall. After signing the visitors book, we set off on the first day of our journey. The first two days were rather hilly and would be the biggest climbs I have ever done. If I could make it through these days then I would be on track to complete it all.
Although I wasn’t the quickest over the two days, I managed to make it over the dreaded hills without stopping and actually enjoyed it. As I wasn’t doing the same cycle routes during my training, my mind was taken off the challenge and onto the amazing new scenery. Although sometimes it was a little foggy.
Over the challenge I was finding I was getting fitter each day and when making it to the top of the hill, I had time for a photo or two. Enjoying it more each day, especially in Scotland as the scenery was amazing and it was so peaceful riding on quiet roads.
10 days on I managed to make it to the finish at the most northern point of the mainland – John O Groats. After making it to the end and thinking about how far I had travelled using my body as the engine, it was overwhelming. Taking everything in and looking at the map at the hotel, I felt proud, a great sense of achievement, and motivated to think what can I do next.
Morale of the story
I knew that this would be challenging which is why I did it. I purposely selected a challenge that I knew I would have to work hard to achieve. It got me to focus on a task and push my fitness levels. As I am not a endurance athlete I managed to improve my endurance through training and the event itself.
No matter what you are looking to achieve, whether it be an event, weight loss, or improving your fitness. You must set goals and entering an event is a great way to do this.
You must learn from your mistakes and focus on kicking that negative out of the way. At the start I thought I had bitten off more than I could chew, yet 6 months down the line I achieved my goal. Don’t give up on your goals, dreams, and aspirations!
Anything can be achieved if you put your mind to it. If you believe that something is impossible then it will be. If you focus on doing better with a positive attitude then you will achieve the goals you set for yourself. A challenge can be overwhelming so you must make small changes and concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other.
Achieving things feels amazing, especially when there are many highs and lows on your journey. Get out there and achieve things, it creates a positive attitude and you will be amazed with what your body can do.