I’m just checking in briefly on a grey, rainy, dark, cold, horrible day in London to give you some inspiration of blue skies, rolling hills, yellow cornfields and hard work, the likes of which most of us can’t even imagine.
If you haven’t heard of Emily Chappell or read her blogs, you are missing out. (You can thank me later). She is awesome. She is a cycle courier in London who like to take time off by long distance cycle touring and then writing about it – in 2011-13 she cycled from Wales to Japan. At the beginning of this year she cycled across Alaska in the middle of the winter. And she recently attempted the Transcontinental race from Belgium to Istanbul. She’s blogging about it bit by bit, from the start to (presumably) the moment she had to pull out after ending up in hospital on day 8. It’s incredible.
Here’s her blog of the start – Transcontinental: the start line
As the riders began to empty out of the bar towards the start line, I noticed that my whole body had started to fizz with excitement, as if someone were opening bottles of champagne behind my ribcage.
So far the race felt exactly like the many night rides I’ve done down to Brighton or out to Dunwich – the smooth lanes, the fragrant hedgerows, the silent villages – the difference being that this night ride would turn into a morning ride, and an afternoon ride, and another night ride, and another, and the gentle countryside of Northern Europe would eventually give way to the jagged Alps, and the hellish heat of the Balkans, and ferocious dogs of Turkey and Bulgaria, and whatever other horrors we hadn’t yet been able to imagine.
I hit my first low point at around six that evening. I had been on the move for 18 hours by then, and awake for 32, so it’s not really surprising that things started to unravel, but it’s very difficult to get any sort of perspective when you’ve been cycling for that long without sleep – something I was to discover again and again over the following week.
As I sped down into Lyon, all the lights in my favour, watching the glowing bridges and spires of the city spreading out beneath me (and thinking that I really must try and come back here one day when I have more time to spare), I found that, quite improbably, I was humming with energy, singing with happiness. This made no sense, I thought, remembering my suffering of the previous afternoon, since which I’d only had four hours’ sleep, and ridden for another 20 or so – no sense, that is, to anyone other than an ultra-racer.
(This being my favourite of her updates due to my own experience on Mont Ventoux!)
I could see the summit by now, with its distinctive meteorological tower, but it still seemed far off, and to get there I had to fight my way through gusts of wind that were trying to push me off the mountain as surely as riptides might try to drown me. I edged across the mountainside, clinging on like a fly as it grew steeper and steeper, and the drop to my left became ever deeper, almost a mile of sky between me and the ground.
Just read the blog posts, and then follow her blog, and then be inspired by how incredible the human body is and how fantastic some people can be. And dream away your afternoons wishing you were somewhere in the sun, on a bike, strong, tanned legs turning and turning… rather than watching the rain drip down the windows and day turn into night without really noticing.