A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.
Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.
How do you explain what it feels like to wake up, through choice, on a bench or under a bush in a country you carry no currency for, don’t speak the language, and if truth be told, you are not 100% sure even what country you are in!
How do you convey the scale and majesty of Big Hole in Montana, yet even whilst you do so, you have to explain that no you didn’t stay, you just carried on through with your ride.
When you cycle through a country you get a truer sense for that place than when going via car or train, you earn your views, your breakfasts, and you get a sense of appreciation and awe that comes from exertion.
A single ride may take a year of preparation, months of hard slog through winter and into the summer months, a singular focus, possibly to the detriment of the relationships around you – at times your partner will feel they are operating a hotel, restaurant, and laundry service for this perpetually tired person that wanders in at all hours, mutters about protein and compression, then heads to bed.
One of the reasons i wanted to write these 10 blogs was to be able to convey some of the things I’ve picked-up along the way, maybe to help others, but also to verbalise the gratitude i feel in my life.
Whether it’s LeJogLe, Tcr, TransAm, or even a casual jaunt to Germany, none of these adventures can happen in isolation, behind the person pushing the pedals is an equally determined support network, of wives, husbands, partners, mums and dads, of dot watchers (yes, and brothers).
They all play a role in helping the rider to achieve their goals, and this carries through to your mate who steps in to drive the van for a week, and see the countryside along the way.
As the rider, I feel it is my duty to acknowledge the support and dedication that I am the recipient of, from food to laundry, to ensuring that my recovery drink is ready when I pedal through the back gate – and yes, to picking me up when i fall down physically and emotionally.
I was lucky enough to be able to provide support for Chris ‘Hoppo’ Hopkinson on RAAM a few years ago. Being in a position to support a racer in their dreams is a fantastic opportunity, I can thoroughly recommend it, you will learn about racing, and about yourself more than you realise.
In return for the support I receive it’s also my duty to reciprocate that support as best as possible, to enable my wife to run when, and where, she wants, to help her out of the door even when she is trying to get the washing up done, to take on more chores when I am able, because for months I’ll do next to nothing, I’ll just ride.
And it doesn’t end when the ride ends, for months after there will be anecdotes, incessant story-telling about this adventure or that, humble-bragging about an amazing surreal breakfast, or a lightning storm, or just a sunrise that was spent in solitude. You will become a bore.
Dale Carnegie said that if you want to be friends with people then you need to listen to them, don’t be the one who is always talking (this was also frequently told to me by my wife…)
Good advice, but so hard to achieve when you are frequently asked about your adventures!
This fits with what I mentioned about labels yesterday, just because you have ridden across a continent, it doesn’t give you the right to overlook the person who has done their first 25mile ride, they too need encouragement and validation, and will be put off by the ultra-cyclist hogging the light.
Be interested in others, listen to their stories, because it wasn’t that long ago you were being picked up from a ride you were ill-prepared for. We were all newbies once, and there will always be someone better than you.
Offer advice if appropriate, shut up when that’s better, share but don’t overshare.
Find joy in the achievements of others, because one day there will come a time you won’t be the one doing it, you’ll be the one asking the questions!