Unexpected Expedition

This”. I couldn’t quite help thinking, for better or worse “could only happen to me”. I have long since learnt that life has a unfortunate habit of throwing up surprises, both good and bad. Three days ago everything was going very smoothly, a month into my summer job I was due to receive my first pay check. Training for the September Half Ironman was finally back on track, the tendonitis in my right foot having resolved itself.

Well, cutting a long story short I was ‘let go’ from the job. I would cheerfully write a post all about that but fortunately this was always intended to be a Cycling blog so any readers will be spared my rant. A gaping hole was now left in my plans for the rest of the summer, nothing planned apart from a weeks holiday in August and of course that all important swim-bike-run thing in the middle of September.

Que the usual student worries. Getting together enough money for University, working out a career direction and deciding whether or not to go onto further study after my current degree was finished. That’s enough to give anyone a few sleepless nights. So bad was my mood that it wouldn’t have surprised me if I had turned into a version of the incredible hulk. “All I really want to do…” I thought to myself “…is escape”. Life is short, why not pack up and have a proper adventure. A chance to forget about the pressure and stress of modern life that was slowly driving me mad.

I’d recently read a couple of books by the well known adventurer Sean Conway. He who has cycled round the world and swum the length of Britain, just to name a couple. I’m not quite brave enough to suspend my education, buy a touring bike and set off to some far-flung destination just yet. To start with, why not follow in the footsteps of many Cyclists and ride the length of Britain? 1,000 Miles from Land’s End in Cornwall right up to John O’Groats in Scotland (LEJOG for short). Part of me would like to have found a few more good answers to that question.

At this point an unsupported attempt wouldn’t be a sensible idea. After all, anyone who knows me would probably tell you that I’m not exactly the adventurous type ordinarily. I’m the kind of person who will very happily order the same thing in a restaurant over and over again for fear of ending up with a meal I don’t like. As a child I always loathed camping holidays, though admittedly the weather did very little to help the cause from what I can remember. My life long lack of common sense could prove very dangerous if something were to go badly wrong.

Having almost talked myself out of the idea, fate intervened at precisely the right moment. Scrolling through the Facebook page of my local Cycling club I came across something about a LEJOG ride planned for the beginning of August. Several club members along with others from the local area, most raising money for one charity or another. Cutting a long story short I managed to get myself a place on the ride at the very last minute, big thank you to the organisers.

All of this happened within the space of the aforementioned three days, only now have I had the time to really think it all over and try to put the whirlwind experience into words. I can’t help but laugh at the fact that my summer plan of getting my head down and saving up some money for University has once again been thrown out the window, third time lucky I suppose. Instead I am now frantically trying to adapt my training plan so as to get fit for twelve consecutive days of long rides. Not that I’m going to complain.

I have a few talents but organisation is not one of them. It’s not a question of if I’ll forget to bring something on the trip but rather of how many items. and how critical they will be. Mechanical spares, nutritional aids, every piece of cycling kit I possess and of course living essentials will have to be packed. Knowing me it will be left to the last minute, resulting in a frantic dash to the local Bike Shop and / or to the supermarket. Then come the financial considerations, scraping every little bit of cash together and trying to be sensible when purchasing new equipment for the expedition (something at which I have previously proved utterly useless).

In terms of bike setup this is unknown territory. My machines have all been set up to go fast rather than to carry me over long distances in comfort. I could bring my trusty old Cannondale, sadly it’s in need of some mechanical work which might make it a flight risk. No point in taking the Race Bike, I’d spend the whole time worrying about getting it scratched. That leaves my Tarmac, the bike that has done just about everything in the time I’ve owned it.

Making a lot of position changes won’t be necessary, I’ve ridden consecutive century rides on this bike and know it won’t throw up any nasty surprises. The only alterations I plan on making are raising the stem by 20mm and installing a knee sparing 50/34 chainset. My experience in the Alps last year taught me that it’s best to play it safe and keep the ego out of it. For a 40 minute Crit a 53/39 chainset is perfect, for covering 1,000 miles on varying terrain it’s a recipe for injury.

At the moment I’m curiously optimistic about what lies ahead. New places, new people and a big breath of fresh air, all to the tune of two wheels. Another thing to tick off the Cycling bucket list. I could try and romanticise the idea, call it something horribly cliched like ‘a journey to find myself ‘ or ‘a life changing experience’. In reality it is what it is, a few days in which to forget about the responsibilities of adult life and ride my bike. When I get back, the problems I’ll have left behind will still be waiting – probably accompanied by a few more knowing my luck. Such is life as they say.

Thanks for reading.

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