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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Powered by Me > the exceptions

When I first started my year-long human powered challenge, Powered by Me, the rules were simple.

To travel for a whole year using my body to bike, run or walk
Starts on 1 January 2017 and ends 31 December 2017
I’ll blog, vlog and share my journey with anyone who cares
Raise money for a different charity each month

But, I never imagined the challenges I would face along the way. The places I would need to get to human-powered. Whether or not I could physically do it. If I had enough time. If I could keep the challenge up for a whole year. The ‘what’s’ and ‘if’s’ seemed endless at the beginning. But as time went on these doubts were diminishing.

302 days > 7,600 km travelled human-powered

Over the past 302 days I have travelled over 7,704 kms (or 4,600 miles) human-powered, by cycling, running, walking and more recently skating (or trying to). That’s more than the distance of London to Havana by plane (7,502 kms).

London to Havana

I’ve travelled to weddings, hen do’s, work conferences, birthday parties, a trail running race, a sportiv, a festival and more, only using my body to get me there and back. Powered by Me so far has taken me to places in the UK and Europe I’ve never been to before. BUT, there have been some exceptions to the rules, of which I want to fess up and share with you now.

Even if you fall on your face, you’re still moving forward

In June 2017, I was approaching a good friends wedding. Trouble is, it was all the way in Carcassonne, Southern France, close to Spain. Earlier in the year I was over-confident thinking, ‘I’ll just cycle it.’ When I sat down and figured out the distance and time it would take to cycle to Carcassonne and back (over 1,300 miles in total), I just knew I couldn’t. If I had a few more week’s annual leave I could have done it.

I quickly came to the realization that all my annual leave had already been ring fenced to ride to and from other weddings, hen do’s and the like. So this wedding, had to be the only exception.

Not-Powered by Me

I was gutted. I had to take a plane to get to the wedding and be in a car the other side to get to places. In my head, the rules had been broken. After a bit of sulking I decided to quash the negatives as they clearly weren’t going to get my anywhere and decided to look back at all the positives, as well as looking ahead at what was to come – still several months of Powered by Me challenges.

So I decided to accept that it was OK to have a few exceptions. I’d completed so many months of Powered by Me that I could allow myself a weekend off. And the compromise was that I had to cycle to and from Stansted airport. I also decided that I had to publicly state that I had travelled some places not-Powered by Me. A confession if you like! So here goes. Here are my not-Powered by Me journeys.

  • London Stansted to Carcassonne return flight, for Alice and Alex’s wedding in Mirepoix (but I cycled from home to Stansted airport and back). Read more about my London to Stansted ride here
  • Travel by car when we were in Mirepoix for Alice and Alex’s wedding
  • Portsmouth to Caen, France return ferry, for Mandy and Chris’s wedding in Bordeaux (which I cycled to, but unfortunately couldn’t cycle the channel!)

So there it is. I’ve bared all and fessed up. Have I failed? No. Have I broken the rules? A bit (and only for a weekend). Is it all over? No. Is it still the most testing thing I’ve ever done? Yes. Is it still impressive? Yes (even if I say so myself). By allowing myself a break and not thinking negatively about these not-Powered by Me journeys, I’ve accepted it for what it is and moved on.

The next 63 days – any more exceptions?

With only 63 days to go until I complete by Powered by Me challenge, I hope there are no more occasions where I can’t travel human-powered. Thankfully I still have my mental and physical health. I am even more determined than ever before and it feels good to be on the home straight (almost). But…watch this space.


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Hills, Night Rides and Weddings

It’s been two weeks since my last post with no excuse other than I’ve been tired and busy. During this time I hadn’t even noticed that I had surpassed the 3,000km mark, which makes me even more determined to celebrate the next milestone more, so watch this space.

My total distance Powered by Me is 3,028km and I’ve raised a total of £2,130 for five different causes. Thanks to all those who have supported along the way, it makes the world of difference when I am out there riding knowing that the money raised is helping others in need. Interested in donating? Visit my donate page here.

Hills, Heat, Night Riding and Weddings

On 26 May I set off on my ride from my home in South East London to Robertsbridge in East Sussex to go to a best friend’s wedding. An expected heat wave hit South East England with temperatures reaching just under 30 degrees Celsius. Usually I would bask in temperatures like this, but by lying down in a park with a picnic and a cold beer! Until this ride I hadn’t cycled long distances in hot temperatures before. I’d run and played other sports in the heat but not this.

It wasn’t long before I just felt like I was climbing and climbing and climbing. It felt never ending in parts and something that I’m just not used to as most of my rides are within London. The hills paired with the heat meant that I tired out within just a few hours. I did what I could to make sure I stayed in the shade, stopped to stretch every hour and kept myself hydrated.

The route took me through Bromley, Halstead and Sevenoaks where I stopped for a long lunch at a cute little sports themed cafe called 1809 in Hildenborough. I ordered most of what I laid my eyes on, I was so hungry and thirsty I had the lot! Would highly recommend as a pit stop for any cyclists passing through, friendly and welcoming with some great food and drink.

Leaving lunch I had several more hours of cycling, getting through more hills as best I could and coping with the heat. I passed through Matfield, Goudhurst and Hurst Green. With less than an hours riding to go, I was close to heat exhaustion so decided to stop for a brief pit stop at the Ringden Farm Shop and guzzled down an ice cold homemade lemonade and fudge – it was just bliss and gave me the sugar hit I needed!

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The farm shop owner asked where I had cycled from and was shocked that my answer was, ‘London,’ and thankfully told me it was downhill for most of the way to Robertsbridge. It wasn’t long before I saw that sign and arrived at my destination for the weekend with beautiful quintessential countryside views over looking the South Downs at The Dairy, Willow Cottage. I finally made it and it was now time to recuperate, relax and prepare for the wedding the next day.

Mr and Mrs Meakins Wedding Day, followed by Night Riding

The wedding day came and was only 6km away from The Dairy. BUT. I had to somehow get to the church sweat free and looking presentable, but I also needed to wear some sort of sports wear and my helmet! It was all good practice as this year I have endless hen dos and weddings that I needed to travel to and from Powered by Me.

I set off nice and early so that I could cycle as slowly as possible to the venue to make sure I didn’t sweat off my make up and be sitting in the church smelling. Fortunately it was a bit cooler and I passed my heavy items (locks, jacket, lights) to a friend who was driving to the church. Shortly after I arrived at the church relatively sweat free and after a quick shoe change, I was ready to go!

The wedding was just fantastic, a cute little church ceremony followed by a festival themed wedding in the beautiful setting of Brightling Park with tepees, outdoor fires, afternoon tea and a hog roast – what’s not to like! It wasn’t long before the booze was flowing and even though I had to cycle home that night I made sure it didn’t stop me having a good time.

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It wasn’t long before several bottles of prosecco had been drunk and countless shots of tequila and I began to make my way home, cycling the same route as I had done that morning. Within minutes I was in trouble. I didn’t expect it to be so dark, literally pitch black and my lights not even helping my visibility. At one point I was picking up speed but I couldn’t see I was going down hill. I made a silly mistake of not packing a head torch and all I had was my phone torch and Google maps for directions.

In the end I walked most of the way getting lost several times and after setting off at 12.30am I arrived back at The Dairy at 2.00am! Never again will I not pack my head torch. Lesson learnt and it’s all learning for the future weddings I have coming up, some of which I may be staying further away from venues than this one…watch this space and if you have any tips, advice or just want to tell me how stupid I am please get in touch. 

The next day I was a little broken but knew that a days riding had to sort out my hangover. Cycling the same route home I passed familiar villages and towns and fortunately for my mind and legs, it was more downhill than up!

The weather was much cooler but yellow rain warnings were forecast for later on in the day, which basically meant torrential down pours and flash flooding. With an hour to go the heavens opened and I took shelter in a bus stop near Lewisham as the visibility was so poor with the rain and I also had to put on what little wet weather gear I had.

After pulling myself together and braving the rain, I arrived home just after 5pm to some familiar sights and knowing I had food, drink and rest ahead of me. My first wedding weekend complete Powered by Me!

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In total, I’d clocked up another 200 odd km Powered by Me and raised another £100 for May’s charity The Dystonia Society. Despite some tough hill climbing, one traumatising night ride and some intense heat and torrential rain, after a few days recovery I am feeling stronger, more confident and generally chuffed!

Robertsbridge to London ride back from Rach's wedding


If you’re inspired by my journey, please donate below, or text PBME95 to 70070 to donate £5 to The Dystonia Society and follow my social channels to get the latest updates.

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Week’s 18 & 19: 33 to go

As of today, I have completed a total of 19 weeks straight using only human-powered transport and covering a total distance of 2,751.75km Powered by Me and raising £1,936.51 for different charities. This month, I am fundraising for The Dystonia Society via my Just Giving page here. It’s just so exciting to know that in 6 and a half weeks time, I will have reached half way point through my lifestyle adventure challenge. Once again, I’ve been overwhelmed by the words of encouragement, support and donations from all of you, so thank you and please keep it going.

Stronger, faster, better

One of best things that’s happened to me in recent weeks is this:

I am stronger, I am faster, I am better.

I knew this challenge would change me but I didn’t know how. I’d never done anything like this before, nor knew anyone who had. Could I do it? Would I become fitter? Would I become more productive? I’m only just starting to answer some of these questions now. Just over a quarter of the way through my year-long human powered challenge I am starting to experience staggering changes to my body and mind.

I am more productive, my mind feels stronger, happier and healthier, I feel I can honestly do anything I put my mind to, my body is so much stronger, I don’t ache day after day anymore, instead, I feel solid, my core strength is stronger and without labouring the point, all in all, body and mind, I am stronger, faster and better. And to top it off, I went to see the fantastic Mark Hokan from Purus Active Health for my monthly sports massage. Usually, I would be in quite a bit of back and calf pain, but this time round everything just felt great!

It’s time to learn and collaborate with other lifestyle adventurers

For the past month, I have been exploring ways of learning from other adventurers and challengers like me, to look at collaborating with them and being inspired by their feats. When you start looking, it’s quite overwhelming how many incredible people are out there, doing fantastic things for great charitable causes and to pursue a life of physical and mental development.

I’ve been particularly impressed with Dan Keeley, Rom2Home creator, Virginia Bailey, stRIDE17 creator and one person I’ve yet to connect with, Markus Pukonen, Routes of Change creator. All are doing phenomenal challenges to provide a better life for someone else through their fundraising and are doing their bit to make this world a stronger, happier and healthier place, read a bit more about these amazing individuals below.

Dan Keeley – Rome2Home

After experiencing a full-blown manic episode in Italy, which resulted in Dan preaching to the central lane of a major motorway, he was in and out of psychiatric wards in both Italy and the UK. Soon after he was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and months of depression. This was back in 2012 and fortunately, Dan now manages his Bipolar and seeks adventures to raise money for CALM (The Campaign Against Living Miserably) and by running from Rome to Home, starting on 25 August.

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Over around 65 days he will run 1,250 miles through Italy, Switzerland, France and more, watch Dan’s route from Rome to Home here. Dan hopes to raise £12,000 which will help combat male suicide, the single biggest killer of men under the age of 45, with 12 men taking their lives daily. Find out more about Dan’s journey on his blog Rome2Home and connect with him on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. I for one will be following his journey closely and will be supporting with Dan’s social media and content creation during his journey, so watch this space!

Virginia Bailey – StRIDE17

Virginia’s dad suffers from Dementia and she has set herself the task to raise £20,000 for Dementia UK, Alzheimer’s Society and Unforgettable who create dementia products, by covering 450 miles across 3 countries in just 8 days, mostly cycling and some hiking, with 12 ladies in lycra whose families or loved ones have been affected by Dementia.

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Not only has Virginia created this journey from scratch, she doesn’t count herself as a ‘cyclist’ and has self-funded the entire trip by asking for in-kind accommodation, kit, venues and more. StRIDE17 will help families and carers to cope with Dementia, through raising awareness and sharing stories, and will raise much-needed funds to support specialist Dementia care workers and research into the disease. If you want to support in any way, head over to StRIDE17 fundraising page and connect on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Markus Pukonen – Routes of Change

I thought my year-long Powered by Me challenge was a bold step for me to take until I heard about Markus Pukonen, who is circumnavigating the planet human powered for 5 years…yes you heard it FIVE YEARS. His Routes of Change adventure will create healthy futures for others, by showing people all over the world that sustainable living is possible. I am just amazed and hope one day I get to meet Markus!

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He’s been on the route for 1 year and 305 days and is currently sailing the Pacific Ocean. This is just insane, I can’t believe it and makes me even more confident about what I could achieve way beyond Powered by Me! Watch Markus Pukonen on Hawaii News here and follow Markus on Twitter and check out his site Routes of Change.

Seeking like-minded lifestyle adventurers

If you’re an adventure of sorts and are looking to change your lifestyle, or in the process of doing so and encouraging others to, I want to hear from you! I would love to find out what your adventures mean to you, where you are in the world, what advice you have for others and more. So please get in touch, connect with me on my social channels below and let’s talk!


If you’re inspired by my journey, please donate below, or text PBME95 to 70070 to donate £5 to The Dystonia Society and follow my social channels to get the latest updates.
donate-now


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