Hook van Holland to Karlsruhe, Germany

Well, what can I say. What a first week I’ve had into my 12 week Europe bike-packing trip. Here’s what I’ve been up to and the all important stats!

15 – 23 June ~ Hook van Holland ➡️ Karlsruhe

Total distance biked ~ 671km

Max speed ~ 52.6km/h


My first week has been a challenge! I knew it would take time to adjust to it all but I didn’t know how well or not so well I would adjust. Life for me now for the next 90 day’s is simply riding, with my bed and clothes on my back (well, bike, but you know what I mean). I have minimal kit, check my kit list here, and a simple existence. I loved it but also was terrified for fear of the unknown!

I loved seeing family on day 1, my Mum, Dad, Oma, Auntie and Uncle (all by bike, except Oma who’s 95!). Visiting the 24 Windmills in Kinderdijk (a UNESCO world heritage site) was stunning and a fab start to my trip. I then parted with family and went on my own to camp for the first night of many. To give me strength I pulled out a note from my parka pouch my friends gave me for my trip and the first one from Leon said: ‘smash dem peaks, ride the troughs and don’t ever stop.’ ✔️

At my campsite a lady came up to me as she heard I was English and from London and she asked me to book her tickets for the royal festival hall 🤣 I tried and then gave up as who she wanted to see wasn’t even playing! After a strange first nights broken sleep I pushed on to get to the German border. I passed lots of Windmills, Bell Towers and lots of lovely houses, house envy all around!

A few more days in and I was struggling with the whole camping situ. Was being bitten to shit (even with repellant) and already feeling feral. I pulled another note out the bag and it said from my friend Amy, ‘queen of adventure, you are the only Mieke in the world and have super human powers,’ if I didn’t before, I do now, thanks Amy! 🙏🏽

After getting into Germany I headed for The Rhine to follow the euro velo 15 route to Lake Constance. It was just beautiful, so lush and green and I was blessed with cycle lanes and signs all the way. I decided to book an AirBnb to have a bed for the night and booked Bianca in Weinbern, good value and I was excited. Then I realised that it was 10 miles away from The Rhine. I went for it knowing the bed would be worth it and was then shocked by the steep ascents and lack of shade, especially after cycling virtually flat since I left home.

Still, the scenery was worth it and I went through beautiful towns like the gothic Kobern-Gondorf where I wracked up my top speed on over 50km/h – pretty terrifying stuff when you don’t know where the bends are and have about 20km weight on your bike! After having a spot of lunch I then headed back up hill to Boppa, through stunning forests without a care in the world! Think I must have lived in the woods in a former life, heaven.

I finally got to Boppa, back on The Rhine and following it south. I went through beautiful Oberwesel and through nature parks and vineyards, making me want Rhine wine! After a nights camping and feeling rather feral I decided to stop in a hostel in Worms knowing that there were also bike shops around to stop and have a check. After leaving Worms I went through Speyer, stunning and stopped off to have a bite to eat and visit the cathedral. My last stop for the night was a campsite near Oberhausen, large and spacious with a big lake in the middle. However high winds and a chilly night got me up early and out!

The Great

~ being outdoors cycling all day without worries

~ the nature and scenery

~ the architecture – castles, churches and constant house envy

~ the simplicity of it all – minimal existence

~ the food – put it simply, I am hungry most of the time which makes food taste great! 🍽

~ almost all cycle lanes and signposted all the way

The Downright Gross (and funny)

~ waking up with slugs on my face and wood lice everywhere

~ feeling feral after day 2 and everything smelling

~ the bugs! And being bitten on my eye and waking up to it being half shut and staying like that all day

~ the fatigue and not yet getting the right nutrition and hydration (opting for beer over water, eek) 😐

~ accidentally setting off my panic alarm in the middle of Cologne – no one came to my rescue ☠️

~ camping – sometimes a challenge!

~ the weird stares I get because I am a female on my own and I camp without a tent 🤷🏽‍♀️

~ the lack of company! I sort this out my sending voice memos to my friends and chatting on WhatsApp 🤙🏽

So what’s next? Well I keep on following The Rhine to Lake Constance in the Swiss Alps, stay at a friends cousins in northern Switzerland and then head to Austria 🇦🇹 watch thisspace!


The Kit

It is day 4 into my 3-month European bike ride and I thought you might all be wondering what on earth I’ve crammed into my 5 bike bags..so here goes.

Bikepacking – the advice

I was planning for something I’d never done before, so before I even got my kit together I asked some advice of those who’ve been there and done it!

For the most part, the advice was to pack as light as possible. Sounds simple right? But when you’re thinking of what clothes to take what does that actually mean? A wiser bikepacker than me put it simply – if you take lots of spare clothes you just ride around with dirty clothes. Got it, minimal clothing!

A lot of people also told me to veto the tent and go for a bivvy bag to sleep in. Now this seems terrifying but I trusted the advice and went with it. There’s also a bunch of equipment that any cyclist must take in order to feel a bit ‘safer’ so to speak, inner tubes, chain oil, small bike lock and so forth.

So what about toiletries? Well how much could I get away with(out)? A friend at work said why don’t I take a face oil instead of cream – bingo! Now the toothbrush and toothpaste IS obligatory, but that’s about it I guess!

The Kit List Lowdown

After writing the entire list down, it seemed just too much and that there wasn’t any chance it would fit in my bike bags, but alas, believe it or not it did! Phew! So here it all is…

Clothes & Shoes etc.

1 pair of bike shorts

1 pair of casual shorts

2 pairs of socks

2 pairs of pants

1 sports bra

1 vest

1 t shirt

Bikini

1 long sleeved top

1 waterproof jacket

1 pair of bike shoes

1 pair of flip flops

1 pair of cycling gloves

Glasses

Sunglasses

1 book

Spare foldable backpack

Water purification tablets

Toiletries

3 small soaps

1 small shampoo

Hair brush

Toilet roll

Toothbrush

Toothpaste

Deodorant

Face oil

Sun tan lotion

Bug repellent

2 x razors

Hand sanitizer

90 PAIRS OF CONTACT LENSES 🤦🏽‍♀️

Tech

1 phone cable

1 adapter

1 power pack

1 Garmin

1 Beeline

Old Nokia phone (to play snake)

Nokia phone charger

Phone holder

Alarm

2 bike lights

1 tent light

Plug

Whistle (low tech!)

Camping stuff

Tent pegs

Rope

Sleeping mat

Sleeping bag

Bivvy bag

Tarpaulin

1 towel

Washing line

Plastic knife and fork

Bike shiz!

Spare cleats

Gaffa tape (for when shit gets real)

2 inner tubes

Puncture repair kit

Multi tool

Pump

Helmet

Maps

Compass

The bags

1 Alpkit Koala bag

1 Alpkit fuel pod cell

1 Apidura handle bar bag

1 Alpkit frame bag small

1 Quecha clip on bag small

Wow..I’m honestly exhausted typing this all out, and worst of all, almost half of it are ‘just in cases!’ I honestly don’t know how it fits into my bike bags, but it does and it’s probably as lean as I can be. But as my contact lenses stash dwindles, perhaps I can treat myself to a new pair of pants 🤣 gross I know, but that’s the life of a bikepacker I guess!

I’ll be updating as I go about how the bike packing malarkey is going, including pretty much sleeping outside! Watch this space!

Tour de Europe

“You must give everything to make your life as beautiful as the dreams that dance in your imagination.” Roman Payne

Half way through my 365-day human powered challenge, Powered by Me, I made a promise to myself. That I would always seek ways to better myself, to push my boundaries in order for me to shape, break and build myself back up again. So even before Powered by Me was over, I was already brainstorming the next challenge.

From darkness to hope

At the time my marriage was breaking down and I was struggling to cope with daily routine. For the first time in my life depression seeped in and my days went from being happy to having almost no positive outlook. I knew I needed something drastic to help me, to keep me focused somehow. So I boldly asked work if I could take 3-months off work unpaid. Without hesitation they said yes, I couldn’t believe it. I had no idea what I was going to do with the time off, but knowing I had it to look forward to gave me some hope.

Let’s go on a big ride…

After travelling a whole year human-powered, I knew that my next big challenge would be sport related. I felt so fortunate to be in a position where I could take 3-months off work, to do something for me and even better knowing that I have a great job to come back to – win win! So I decided to spend the 3-months going on a very long bike ride around Europe.

I’d done a bit of cycling around Europe during my 365-day human powered challenge and remember these rides fondly. Such as Bressuire to Annepont, France + wedding day! and Argentre to Bressuire, France. After talking to a few friends who had been on multi-country bike packing trips like Kieron Ramsay and The Cycling Sausage and following inspirational riders like John Horsfall, I had made my mind up. Bike was going to be my mode of transport and Europe would be my continent to explore!

My country hit list

I decided on where to ride by writing a list of countries that I wanted to explore. I felt safe knowing that anywhere in Europe would be relatively safe for me (as I was going solo), possibly have a good range of cycling networks and paths and easy for me to travel back home from. I wanted to avoid having to fly anywhere with my bike at the start or during the trip, instead planning to take ferries and trains and aiming to only fly to get back home at the end.

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Amsterdam to Dubrovnik ~ approx 2,000km

Part 1 of the trip is to cycle from Holland through Germany, Austria, Slovenia, Serbia, Croatia, ending in Dubrovnik to catch a ferry to Bari in southern Italy. My route won’t necessarily be this straight as I also want to cycle through countries like Hungary and Montenegro, but the route below is the rough itinerary!

Don’t worry – I AM NOT walking the route, it’s just that Google Maps didn’t allow me to map this using the Cycling option. 

Part 1
Part 1 of Tour de Europe

Bari to Genoa, Italy ~ approx 1,000km

Once I’ve travelled to Dubrovnik I am going to take the ferry over to Bari in Southern Italy. I’ll be doing some cycling around Italy but also spending some time resting and doing touristy stuff around Naples, Rome and Florence. By this time it’ll be August so I expect it to be seriously hot and humid and I might welcome a break from sitting in the saddle!

Part 2
Part 2 of Tour de Europe

Barcelona to Porto ~ approx 1,100km

Rather than continue from Genoa and cycle back to London, I wanted to instead venture to other countries where I may never get the opportunity to cycle in again. I’d heard of the Trans lberia, a route across Spain from Barcelona and into northern Portugal ending in Porto. All in all, it seems a good way to spend my final week riding before heading back to London!

Part 3
Part 3 of Tour de Europe

Any cycling recommendations in Europe?

Whilst I have a few ferries booked, one flight home and an Italian holiday in the middle, I am keeping my cycling route open and flexible. Who knows what will happen? The weather might be crap, my body might not be able to handle the riding day after day. I might find I want to cycle for more hours in the day, covering more distance? Maybe cycle in a different country, or join other cyclists touring?

Person Shrugging on Microsoft Windows 10 April 2018 Update

I have never done anything like this before so I don’t have the answers to my own questions 🙂 BUT, what I do know is that I have an incredible opportunity most people wouldn’t even have the courage to ask for, so I am going to stay true to my heart and have a phenomenal 3-months – hopefully cycling around Europe as that certainly is the ‘rough’ plan!

Less than 3-weeks to go & preparations are well underway!

With less than 3-weeks to go until I leave on my bike for Holland, I still have a lot of preparations to do. I can’t thank enough The Cycling Sausage, Kieron Ramsay, Jon Stainsbury, Alice Clare Fitness and Chris Luche for providing me with some insanely good tips to get started and begin preparing (properly). You have all helped me kick start my plans and made me feel more confident about the road ahead. From kit lists, through to choosing a bivvy bag over a tent, I am getting more and more excited as my equipment and kit arrives!

The next steps are for me to complete my equipment and kit list, begin planning out some of the detail of the countries I plan to ride through, alongside a bunch of admin bits and pieces (e.g. insurance!) and going on a few rides with my kit to test the weight and make myself feel comfortable with my new routine – cycling all day and wild camping at night.

Watch this space for more updates and wish me luck!


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The Road to Ultra

Be yourself, but with more skill

..said Goffee and Jones and a quote that was stuck up on the wall of a business course I went on recently. It really resonated with me and made me really understand what I was trying to achieve at the time. I was training for my first ultra marathon and in the midst of my 4-month training programme was struggling to understand why on earth I was putting my body and mind through this.

It was only in this business setting that I grasped the simplicity of it all – I was striving to be the best version of me, by doing bigger and better things than what I had done before. After having completed 7 road marathons and my first ever personal endurance challenge Powered by Me the next thing on the bucket list was an ultra marathon.

Here’s my journey on the road to ultra.

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The ultra marathon training plan

After registering for the Endurance Life ultra marathon in Pembrokeshire I decided to follow Justin Bateman’s 50km training plan I stumbled across on Run Ultra and began my training in early January 2018. I’d ran a few road marathons before so sort of knew what to expect in the early months. That said, I wasn’t naive to the fact that training for a trail race over a longer distance was going to be easy.

The training plan seemed manageable and in all honesty the long runs to me didn’t seem to be long enough. But I trusted the plan knowing full well the authors of the content had far more ultra running experience than me. After cross referencing the plan with my personal diary and signing up to a trail marathon in Sussex as part of the programme I was good to go, now it was all about getting those miles in.

 

Justin Bateman plan

All the running – come wind, rain, shine or snow!

I must have started my training during one of the hardest winters in London I’ve ever experienced. Endless dark cold nights were followed by weeks of extremely cold head winds and thick snow flurries as we battled a big and mini beast from the east.

The training started to get slightly easier when day light saving kicked in and I swapped the long roads runs for trails. I’d ran a few marathons before, so I was used to the experience of hitting those long runs, the tranquility once you reach that certain level of fitness and the feeling of complete escapism – something that becomes ever more important the more years I spend living in London.

Preparation for the big day – kit, equipment & testing

After receiving yet another fabulous sports massage from Mark Hokan at Purus Active Health, I realised I had yet even more preparation to do other than the training. Mark had recently finished his first ultra marathon and told me that runners needed to carry a certain level of equipment and kit with them in order to not get disqualified during the race.

My mouth dropped and I thought, shit, I better get shopping pronto! I only had about a month to go and needed time to a) find out what the kit was, b) order it and c) test it out on some long runs. I quickly ordered the basic kit required which was; bag, whistle, first aid kit, head torch, wind breaker jacket, foil blanket, base layer and on the day you had to carry minimum 500 ml water and your own food.

It seemed like a lot to carry on your back whilst running, so as soon as my bag and items arrived I started to load it all up and try it all out on some long runs. When you’re running for a long period of time you need to be sure the basics work, things don’t rub and you understand what nutrition works for you. So by doing a lot of trial and error you can find the best solution for you and sleep well with all your kit laid out the night before the race knowing exactly how it’s going to feel on the day.

About a month before the ultra race day I took part in the Endurance Life Event Sussex Marathon. As the day approached I become more apprehensive as I’d never ran that distance before on trail. I also knew the ascent would be brutal, along Beachy Head and the South Downs I was in for some killer hills and if I was being completely honest all I’d done was about 2 hills sessions, one of which was up and down a 100m mound in Bermondsey – hardly replicating what it would be on race day!

And to top it off the week of the race the beast from the east came back to haunt us and absolutely battered the South East coastline. As we parked up at around 7am for registration is clocked minus 6 degrees and was set to snow all day long. I did not want to get out and start running and the only thing that made me do it was the thought that if I could do this, I could do anything. So I got out the car, got my head down and made my way to the start.

5 hours and 24 minutes later thankfully it was all over and I had completed my eighth marathon and this one being the most challenging because of the weather and terrain. And with some gradients up to 25% my pace was all over the shop, from 8 to 16 minute miles, a tough slog to say the least! But I felt stronger and more confident about tackling the trail ultra a month later.

Click here to see the full route on Strava.

Endurance Life Event CTS Series Pembrokeshire Ultra Marathon

27 April we drove from London to Roch, spending all day in the car in the pouring rain! The weather at least was looking far better for the race the following day. When we arrived at our bed and breakfast, the owner had left a cute message wishing me luck for the big day and throwing in some extra sweets to keep me going – I was ready!

We went to the Victoria Inn pub next door for some food and an early night. After eyeing up the pasta option and ordering I was sadly told that all they had was curry – a runners nightmare! I chose the mildest option, loaded up on rice, naan bread and poppadoms and hoped for the best. We then headed off to bed I did the obligatory kit and equipment display, so I hit the sack knowing it was all ready and waiting for me in the morning.

Ultra Marathon Race Day Fearful Face on Microsoft Windows 10 April 2018 Update

On 28 April race day was upon us and we were so thankful the sun was shining and it was set to be a glorious day – not too hot, not too cold and maybe a few showers, perfect for us runners. After attempting to stomach as much breakfast as possible at 5am, we set off on the short drive to Little Haven along the coast line.

When we arrived in Little Haven it was quaint and peaceful and made me feel excited but nervous for the hours ahead. The registration process was smooth and us ultra marathon runners were the first to have our briefing at 9am. The briefing was detailed, covering signage, emergency numbers, the course and more, but made me feel as prepared as I could be before setting off.

After the briefing they got us all down to the shore line to start the race! Legs bobbing up and down, dogs barking and last minute stretches and taking off of layers was happening all around me, as we all huddled together, wished one another luck and set off – here we go!

I set off slow and steady without music to simply take it all in and get into a rhythm and pace I was comfortable at. This worked very well as the first 6 miles or so was high up along the coast line on a single file path. Because you couldn’t over take and the views were simply breath taking, everyone took their time and soaked it all up. Every time I stopped to take a picture a runner would ask if I was OK and I immediately knew that I was in safe hands for when the going got tough later on.

After I got into my pace I was planning my race in my head:
‘Slow and steady,
Try not to stop running unless you have to even if you’re running really slowly,
Stop at every check point for food and drink
Only start listening to music when you feel you really need to,
Enjoy it! You’ve worked so hard to even get here.’

Check point 1 and 2 seemed to be done and dusted very quickly and I knew in total I had 5 for the ultra. I didn’t know exactly how far they were from each other and knew that when it said mile 9.6 at check point 2 that there would be big gaps between some of the others.

Between check points 2 and 3 I felt like my world was moving very slowly, it felt like the check point would never arrive and I also knew that I had to do another loop of this check point for the ultra marathon distance. I was already in quite a bit of pain at around mile 15 but kept my head down and tried to stay focused as I knew it was also about to get a whole lot harder!

Miles 15 through to around 22 seemed to be the hardest for me. My ankle hurt and I was getting some left hip and knee pain.  I was struggling on some of the trails where it was a particularly narrow path so meant you couldn’t stride out to get through it, it was short, shuffle like steps – fine if that’s what you’re used to but not me.

When I was approaching mile 26 I had absolutely no idea what was in store. I never ran in training or in a race beyond marathon distance, 26.2 miles. ‘What would happen, how much pain would I be in, would I start to go mad?’ All these things were running through my head. I was hoping that the pain wouldn’t get significantly worse but would just stay bad and low and behold, miles 26 through to 36 was honestly just as much pain as the previous 10 miles – result in my eyes!

Yes you go a bit loopy, yes you start to get hungry, yes you sort of start to have bought of angry running, thinking ‘why me, why did I decide to do this?’ but you also have what feels like endless elation, a sense of belonging, purpose, higher meaning. It sounds bonkers but I was more than happy with going to what I call ‘the other side’ as it pushed me further than I’d ever gone before and alas – it didn’t break me! (well not permanently anyway).

6 hours 56 minutes later from the start

When I was approaching the final mile, I could hear cheers of people getting closer – something that was comforting after having spent so many hours in my own quiet bubble. The approach to the finish line was quite a long open stretch, which was lovely because you had time to adjust to what was actually happening and enjoy it.

I saw my Mum frantically cheering and when crossing the finish line was told by the lady putting on my medal that I was fifth lady. Mum and I started screaming and jumping up and down – I couldn’t believe it! Never did I think I could get top ten for my first ultra marathon. I was honestly full of energy and complete elation, memories I will never forget.

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How could you not enjoy running in this scenery…just wow

My first-time ultra marathon journey was full of ups and downs – what a cliche but it’s true. You get so many lows, the pain, the suffering, the lonely dark cold runs, sometimes despair. But with that comes these highs that you can’t even explain. For me, the mental highs I experience far outreach the physical.

Yes it’s great to feel strong, look strong and not worry so much about how you look, what you eat, what you drink. But it goes way beyond being about your body and more about your mental state, your frame of mind, knowing that with each step you are growing stronger, more resilient, more at peace even.

As I write this I am full of mixed emotions. Enthralled I even did it, yet not yet being able to shake this feeling that something now is missing. Maybe for me it’s forever going to be about the chase, the challenge, aiming for that finish line, the end up ahead. That’s OK if I have to deal with it like that, because I am so fortunate that I can do these things and these things bring a sense of higher purpose and happiness into my life.

If you’ve enjoyed reading this watch this space as for me, this blog is about my personal endurance challenges and reflections and it has only just started it seems. You can also follow me on Instagram and Strava for my latest sporting updates!


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365 days complete > 0 left

As I write this blog post I have mixed emotions. On one hand I am overjoyed that I have completed an entire year only using human powered transport (with a few exceptions) for my Powered by Me challenge and on the other hand, I am sad it is over. When I started Powered by Me on 1 January 2017, I never thought much about how I would feel at the end. Instead, I channeled all my physical and mental energy into getting myself from a to b, human powered.

Month by month, it ever so slowly got easier, as the bad weather passed, I became fitter the more I travelled and when the going got tough again, I was more resilient and able to cope with what was thrown at me (just). But a year is a really long time, a lot happens in a year, but not a lot happens too as you pass each day, each month, until you’re celebrating Christmas and then a New Year, wowzers!

London to Beijing (and a bit more)

So what distances do you tally up travelling only human-powered for a whole year? Well it of course depends where you need to get to. Day by day I needed to mostly get around London. In between the norm I travelled to Nottingham and Loughborough for work, Folkestone and Canterbury for hen dos and Kent, Dorset and Bordeaux for weddings.

So here goes, my final stats for 365 days Powered by Me are:

6,239 km by bike
1,926 km walking
450 km running
£3,342 raised charity

So that’s 8,615 km human-powered, which is a little more than the flight distance from London to Beijing.

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Not without support

It goes without saying, but I really could not have achieved what I have without the endless support from friends, family, colleagues, charity donors and also complete strangers. There are too many people to name in one go, so instead I have summarised as best I can the people who have helped me at some of the lowest and highest of times this year.

My work colleagues and a few friends and family getting stuck into their very own Powered by Me week-long challenge.

Adam Turner and Ed Youngson for both lending me their bikes when I was in need, with the latter being stolen (but now paid back!).

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Those that said I was bat-shit crazy for taking on such a feat and didn’t think it could be done. I proved you all wrong.

I can

Kieron Ramsay for agreeing to cycle 1,400km with me from London to Bordeux to a wedding he wasn’t even invited to! It was an absolute pleasure Kieron.

Dan Keeley, a fellow adventurer who has helped provide clarity during a period of my life where I have been battling a divorce and depression.

Mark Hokan at Purus Active Health for my monthly sports massage to help keep my body in check and ease the pain (somewhat).

To my team (Chris, Andrei, Amy and Patrick) at work who put together a film to celebrate my challenge and provide words of encouragement for the final weeks, just watch some of the films below!

To my girls who provided endless encouragement, took my bags around when I was cycling and gave me a lovely keep-sake to remind me of this Powered by Me feat.

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My cousin’s wife Abra Voets who took part in her own Powered by Me week and also encouraged her pupils and colleagues too, getting it into the local news in Holland! Best of all, Willem Hogeveen, a maths teacher said, “In 38 years, I have never gone to work on my bike, just as I do now, it rains.” Despite the rain, Willem travelled Powered by Me also said he now intends to take the bike more often to work – result!

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Pupils at Krimpenerwaard College, Holland

Radha Balani for the £10 donation to each charity every month and even reminding me when I hadn’t set up the next Just Giving in time, as well as sending some delicious home made brownies as fuel for my final month – thanks Radha!

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Louise McGuire for crafting my amazing Powered by Me logos, love them all.

Hanyi, Bev, Cushla, Claire, Andrew, Emily, Mandy, Rachael, Amy and Adwoa who all crowd funded generously for me to get a new bike when mine got nicked!

My work colleague Emma Butterworth for getting into cycling for the first time (with my old bike) getting me this fab make-up bag as a thank you and also putting together this story map of Powered by Me for a mapping competition.

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And finally to my family for all the generous donations, enthusiasm and unconditional love during the lows and highs, including my mum who set up an Instagram account just so she could follow my journey.

So what’s in store for 2018?

Well firstly, I’m going to give myself a bit of a rest (sort of). I am not sure yet what my first mode of motorised transport will be. It could be a car, train, or tube journey. Whatever it is I hope that I don’t take it for granted and enjoy it somehow. In reality what I think will happen is I’ll freak out, be shocked by the fact that I have to pay for travel and most likely hop back on my bike (weather dependent). I’ll keep you posted!

What I do know, is that my travel in 2018 will now include other forms of transport – bike, walking, running, even skooting and skate boarding (when I can actually do them).
Now I know what I can achieve human-powered, it will certainly make me think twice about getting on the tube, bus, train, or in a car.

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Now I have other options, that are green, eco, free and keep me healthy. So rather than just go back to my old ways, I hope that I will think a bit differently. If the weather is OK then I hope I will say ‘ride it.’ If it’s not too far then I hope I will say ‘run it.’ Whatever I decide I now have the foundations to travel human-powered. I’ve invested in myself, I have a decent bike, wet weather gear, lights, etc. so it would be a shame to just throw that all in the basement and wait for a sunny day.

Ultra Marathon training and 3-month sabbatical

What I do know is that on 28 April I will be running 36 miles straight in Pembrokeshire in my first ever Ultra Marathon. I’ve always been a runner at heart, having taken part in several marathons before. Since completing Powered by Me my fitness has possibly been the best it has ever been. That’s given me the confidence to keep my fitness up and build on top of it by training for a very long trail run 🙂

As well as that, work has very kindly given me a 3-month sabbatical during the Summer of 2018 where I plan to ride most days around Europe, from London to Croatia and possibly beyond. I’ve not yet planned anything as don’t want to get too excited and already have some fantastic recommendations from other bike packing cyclists.

As for my blog, I’m not yet sure what I’ll be doing with it. I definitely want to keep on blogging, about my running, cycling and other sporting adventures. I may keep it under the guise of Powered by Me, or start something new, who knows. Would welcome any thoughts or ideas please!

For now, over and out.


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I’m only human

During October, I was interviewed by the fab Sarah Williams, creator of Tough Girl Challenges. Ever since then, I have been able to open up and be honest with myself, by remembering I am only human and that it’s OK to not be OK.

Am I really a tough girl?

Sarah set up Tough Girl Challenges as a way of motivating and inspiring women and girls, so when she called me up for an interview for her Tough Girl Podcast, I couldn’t refuse.

Sarah asked me lots of questions. Why did I start Powered by Me? What was the impact on my life? What were the biggest challenges I’d had to face? You can listen to the full podcast interview here to find out.

It had really been the first time that I’d spoken to someone I didn’t know about Powered by Me in great detail. It was the first time I’d truly reflected on what I had achieved, why I did it, the ups and downs, and it was also the first time I had publicly spoken to a stranger about what I was going through – a divorce.

After listening back to the interview I was proud of myself. Proud of what I’d achieved. Proud that I was now on a podcast. Proud that others thought I was a tough girl. But deep down inside I was going through a roller coaster of emotions, and for me, this roller coaster meant in my head, I was far from a tough girl.

If you’re human – then chances are you’ve probably experienced some terrible situation

I’ve always thought myself mentally and physically resilient. And this year has proved this – to some extent. In Summer of this year, my world came crashing down. What I thought was my whole life ahead of me planned, was taken away from me like someone pulling a carpet from underneath without any warning. My husband told me he was leaving me, with little explanation. We had been together for 7 years, married 1, and I felt like a fool for not even realising he was unhappy.

I’m not going to bore you with the details. This isn’t me pouring my heart and soul into 500-something words. But it is me being totally honest about what has happened to me, during a time where others around me might think I am this super woman, one that is resilient, strong, confident, happy, and this couldn’t be further from the truth.

I am opening up about this in the hope that it might help someone else going through a turbulent time. I also hope that it helps me to help myself and that by opening up about going through one of the toughest times in my life so far, it somehow puts a stamp of approval on the fact that I am not doing near as much with my Powered by Me challenge as I had hoped to. And that’s OK. So long as I still am able to complete the challenge day by day, to me, that’s all that matters right now.

Frankly who cares if I don’t blog as much, or post as much on social media. My friends, family, colleagues and Powered by Me acquaintances will be happy just knowing I am getting up and out of bed every day, which right now, is all I can do.

Day by day, with 29 days to go

Right now, all I can work on is getting through each day. I need to take the time to fix myself, in whatever way I can and recognise that this will take time. What I do know is that staying active and continuing with my Powered by Me challenge is helping me somewhat. It isn’t going to heal everything, but it certainly helps to relieve my anger, stress and low moments.

And I take comfort in the fact that I have only 29 days to go until I have completed my year-long human-powered challenge – Powered by Me. Right now I don’t know how I’ll conclude, or even celebrate, but what I do know is that I am 100% certain I will finish it.

Until the next time I can update you, over and out. As always, thanks for the support.


 

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All the bikes

When a bike is stolen, a fairy dies.
Anon

At the start of my year-long Powered by Me adventure, I had my one and only trusted bike. A bodged together Focus frame, with a small set of gears and only one brake on the front (I know, I know). It had got me to Loughborough, Nottingham, Bordeaux, Dorset (and back) to name just a few, and before I knew it, I had travelled over 6,000 kilometers on the trusted thing (and before you ask, no, it didn’t have a name).

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Sipping prosecco on the Tattershall non-the-wiser

On a Friday evening in August, I met some friends for a drink in the Tatteshall Castle, a boat on the Thames near Embankment. Sipping prosecco for a few hours, catching up with friends, I was non-the-wiser that at the same time, across the road, some punk was thieving my one and only bike.

bike theft

I was absolutely gutted. At first, I thought the council had taken it away, as I had chained it up near a sign that said ‘bikes here will be removed by the council.’ It was a sad and lonely walk back home to Bermondsey, fueled with rage, if only the thieves had known what this bike had been through! After a call to the council, they confirmed that it wasn’t them. I then reported it to the police and posted it on Stolen Ride, a company who share stolen bike posts and give advice on bike safety. However, I wasn’t hopeful knowing how bike theft is so common in London and quickly made plans to borrow a bike in the meantime.

Freedom machine (borrowed)

The next day, I made plans to borrow my friend Anna’s fiance’s bike. Ed said he wasn’t riding it much and said I could borrow it for as long as I needed. And I desperately needed a bike, as the weekend after I was going to Shambala festival in Northampton, and was pretty certain I wouldn’t be running! After running to Mile End to meet Anna and Ed, I had a bike in my hands and instantly felt more relaxed – I now had my one and only mode of transport back (for long distances anyway).

The next weekend, I was putting in the mileage in after riding to and from Northampton to spend the weekend at Shambala festival, a total of 250 kilometers. It took a bit of adjusting to ride someone else’s bike, but before I knew it, it just felt normal to me.

Ed's bike

FML (take 2)

On another Friday night, sipping prosecco in London Fields with my friend Rogit, I was non-the-wiser that another punk was thieving Ed’s bike! Yes, you heard it, I was the victim of not 1, but 2, bike thefts in just 2 weeks. I couldn’t believe it. Both bikes had been well locked, with a cable tie and 2 d-locks. I guess I was just having a string of really bad luck.

FML

Worst of all, I was drunk, filled with complete rage, and on the other side of London to home. After saying farewell to my friends, knowing I wasn’t much company, I begun my long part-walk, part-Santander cycle back to Bermondsey, knowing tomorrow was a new day.

Nice wheels

Now, don’t get me wrong, it took me several weeks to get over my 2 bike thefts, but I had to stay positive knowing there’s a silver lining – a new set of wheels at some point! After several friends and family saying I should crowd fund for a new bike, I decided to do it. All I needed was a few hundred quid to get myself back on the road and within 24-hours of setting up the crowd funding page, my generous supporters had raised £300.

Crowd fund

I couldn’t believe it! After all these months of asking people to donate to the various charities I was fundraising for, I never dreamed that these generous people would also be giving to me. With their generosity, I was back on the road pronto, with a ‘hot pink’ Falcon bike that I hoped would deter the thieves as it looks like a child’s bike! It’s working well so far.

 

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As well as my new hot pink bike, I decided to venture further afield and sign up to the Cycle scheme, to get a second bike. I couldn’t believe I’d never used this scheme before. You spend up to £1,000 on a bike, or bike-related stuff and pay no tax. Even better, the money is deducted from your pay monthly, over a 12-month period. It’s a budget and efficient way of getting a new set of wheels and it also meant I was buying a pretty decent bike, which I’ve never done before!

I felt like a kid in a sweet shop. Shiny, new wheels, which I knew would be taking me to far away places in the future. The silver lining was in full swing. Despite having 2 bikes stolen in 2 weeks, after a few months, I was now the proud owner of 2 bikes. My second bike is a Canondale Hybrid bike that I got at Swift Cycles in Liverpool St after an intense bike assessment and fitting, where they fit you for the right bike, saddle and so forth, well worth the investment as now I have my stats pack for life whenever I go bike shopping.

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During November, I am fundraising for The Royal British Legion. Please give what you can to this fantastic charity who go above and beyond to support those in the Armed Forces and their families. Donate to The Royal British Legion now for Powered by Me month 11.


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