It struck me yesterday that two thirds, of the year and a half I had allowed for preperation, has now gone!! In six months, I’ll be leaving for 4 months on the road, just me and the bike/trailer. It all seemed to become VERY real. What do I mean by that?
Well, in the beginning I stated, quite publicly that I was going to do this long journey. It seemed resonable and possible, as long as I looked after myself and trained well. There were markers to reach that built steadily towards departure, and I could tick them one by one. Actually leaving seemed a zillion miles away from where I stood, so I could always back out if I really needed to.
That distant horiizon is now much closer. I have lots more experience and knowledge of what the ride involves, and how I cope on the road. I have sponsors, and some people have already donated, so I’m really commited.
All of us can handle the nice days. It’s the crap ones you prepare for. As somebody else said, “better a bad day on the bike than a good day in the office”. I couldnt agree more, but you have to acknowledge the loneliness, hardwork, fatigue, rain etc and have some idea of how to deal with them without going bonkers (it’s debatable whether I already am bonkers!!)
I’ve done allsorts of things on my prep’ rides. Focus on the effort, focus on something else, sing, stop and eat, take in the view, and, stay in bed until tommorow (one of my favourites, but not too good for mileage!!) slow right down and remember why I’m there. There are many more and they all have a place to play in a four month journey.
The thing is, that as time starts to ‘squeeze’, I have a million things to do. Shirts to buy and print, banners to make, flags to find, friends to send parcels, fundraising to do etc etc. I try to do at least one or two things a day. I’ve also stopped trying to find perfect solutions!! Maps, yep, 1-250, 000 OS, that’ll do. Distance each day, yep 4 hours or so on the bike and find a site, less if that’s how I feel (with a little pre-planned knowledge). Route, yep, turn left when you want and right when you want, if it’s on the map you should be able to find it!!! If I don’t do this, I will go bonkers before starting.
That’s why the planning takes so long for me (and you?) It begins with an idea, all the maps come out, websites are visited and digested, what to take, where to go, when to leave, what to carry, when to stop, how far to go etc etc. It’s very exciting too. Then as experience is gained, you grow in confidence to do your own thing, do it ‘your way’, regardless of the opinion of others, which is, let’s face it, quite strong in the cycling world.
So, as a consequence of what I’ve learned so far I’ll be ‘winging it’ route wise, I’m riding the coast so that sort of limits where I go a bit (barring excursions that is). The gear I’ve used to date works and isnt heavy, bonus. The trailer works well and I love it, and a new, updated, Teepee is soon to be winging it’s way from the States & food will be bought ‘en route’ and I’m leaving (possibly!!) on 2nd May 2011, a Monday.
Internally, things are different. I’m slowly building up the natural turmoil that is needed to believe you can do this type of thing. Yes I’m already nervous. Can I do this, will I run out of time, steam, money, etc, will people donate?. This is the ‘big fear’, the fear of failure, not doing it and feeling let down by myself, fear of not starting!! From my days climbing and flying paragliders, I know this fear well. It’s needed and neccesary, I can’t perform without it. Even in these ‘jelly headed’ days I rely on this to know where I really am in my preperation, to know I can relax and not cycle, to know I’m not being too intense or too relaxed. It’s perfeclty natural and if I didnt feel it, I wouldnt go, simples!!
Mentally, this year has been better, why should next year be worse? I have lots of strategies for managing this too, but lets face it, it’s better to be on the road than stuck at home. I naturally relax when I go camping, it isnt stressful for me. Combine that with being on the bike, solo and i can pretty much do as I please. I am learning to listen to and recognise signals from my body better, where before I would plough on regardless, I will now stop and rest, slow down, eat and drink and generally take it all a little less seriously.
My mind is like a shape shifter, I never know day to day where it will be, but I do know that unless I’m really fatigued, I can ride 3-4 times a week and maintain it, because that’s what I’ve done for the last year. I also know that when I need to rest, it’s ok, I can stop, where, when and as long as I like. To not do so would threaten my health hugely, so that dictates my life patterns on the road.
So, it’s getting closer and closer. It’ll be Christmas soon and then New Year. I’ll be a year older, and a year fitter. Some of the things I ‘have to do’, will get done and some will be dumped or passed on to others who are kindly helping in the wings. I shall keep riding, writing and planning, dreaming and thinking, right up until the day I leave. I have no idea how I will feel then, as I’ve never been there before!!
Please remember, you can donate at www.justgiving.com/Graeme-Willgress