1000 miles cycling from one end of this beautiful country to the other in 2 weeks, raising an amazing £4000 for charity. An incredible, exhausting but amazing experience.
At times I wondered whether I could do it. Tears of exhaustion and fear. Weeping by the roadside after 70 gruelling miles, with still more to go. Cursing the steep climbs and never-ending hills. Shaken by the wasp stings and tumbles. Bowed down by muscle aches and soreness. Lying awake at night, afraid I might not make the next day’s cycling and hills.
What an achievement! We really did feel that anything’s possible.
So how did we do it? In fact, how do we do anything that stretches our comfort zone beyond what we think might be possible? And what’s the learning?
How did we do it?
Our bodies are incredible. We have this amazing, complex power-house at our disposal. If we are lucky enough to be able-bodied, there are almost no ends to which our bodies can be pushed.
I would collapse, slumped over my bike at the side of the road, feeling I’d got to the end of the energy I had to get me up the next hill. Yet moments later I was able to start again (and sometimes again and again) to get up to the top.
Our minds are incredible too. This challenge wasn’t simply a physical challenge. Often it was a mind-over-matter feat too.
It would have been easy to give up. Several times! But that wasn’t an option for us. We’d set ourselves this challenge and were determined to succeed.
Then there was our sense of purpose. What made it all worthwhile for us was doing this in honour of our friends who’d lost their lives tragically young. Our muscles ached, our bottoms were sore and we faced many more miles before our day’s end. But our friends weren’t able to do this. We were. And each day we were raising more money for the two charities who support those fighting Myeloma or Pulmonary Fibrosis.
Likewise, the support we had along the way was incredible. The back-up team who carried our bags and provided much-needed sustenance and reassurance. Our fellow cyclists who cheered each other on. Our friends and family who sent messages of encouragement.
Portioning each day into manageable chunks helped. Instead of thinking about the 84 miles or 5000 feet of climbing that day, I aimed for the 20 miles and 2 hills to the next ‘tea break’ or lunch.
Spurring ourselves on along the way made a difference too. I recall one day when it was cold and wet (my shoes, socks and over-trousers were sodden). There were many more miles to go. So I repeatedly said to myself “I am enjoying this!” and “I can do this!”
Similarly, rewarding ourselves for our achievements was a motivator. A stiff climb or long slog of cycling was eased by the thought of a lovely lunch or warm shower awaiting us. In fact food and warm showers became treats to really savour and enjoy!
And we wanted to do this. Weird as it may seem, we’d been looking forward to the Land’s End to John O’Groats cycling challenge for many months. A few aches, pains, and hills were not going to stop us.
Visualising myself having already made it to John O’Groats, and the sense of personal pride and achievement that would result in, kept me going. I could imagine the euphoria of success and the satisfaction of raising money for our charities when we reached the end point.
The challenges of what we faced actually made the whole thing more enjoyable (in a masochistic sort of way). We knew what we were doing was hard. As a result that made the achieving of it so much more of a thrill.
What’s the learning?
- We are amazing. You are amazing. Your body is capable of far more than you might think. Put that together with the incredible power of your mind, and you are capable of almost anything.
- Having a sense of purpose makes a huge difference to sticking with something and enjoying it.
- Enjoying the support of others means you can take on (and succeed with) big challenges.
- Breaking your goal down into smaller chunks makes the whole thing manageable and achievable.
- You can be your own biggest cheerleader. Notice what you’re achieving. Speak kindly to yourself. There will not always be someone else there to pat you on your back. Do it for yourself.
- Reward yourself for your achievements. Find an appropriate way to celebrate how far you’ve come. And enjoy it!
- Make sure you really want to do what you’re setting out to do. The desire to succeed will carry you through many challenges along the way.
- Imagine yourself having already succeeded, along with how that will feel. Creating a vision of how things will be means you’ve already made it possible in your own mind. Success then becomes much easier.
- Don’t be afraid to make your goal your BIG. Your sense of achievement, and your growth as a person when you attain your goal will be so much bigger and better.
What now? Well, I guess there’s little we can’t do, if we put our minds to it. Our comfort zones have stretched, and we have the confidence of knowing that we can achieve incredible things, because we have.
And I don’t doubt for one minute that it is for you too!
Finally, if you’d like to donate to our two charities, you can do so here: