Now that the trip is all over and I’m back home in England I think I need to try and put the events of the last few weeks into some kind of life perspective.
It’s not often anyone gets to undertake an “event” that will be looked back at in the future as a life defining moment. For me however, I have been very lucky. Over the last few years I have had several of these instances. The first was in 1996 when I trekked to Everest base camp – this was probably the most important as it proved to me that you can achieve a lot if you put your mind to it. This one event set me off on a course that continues to this day. First of all it was mountaineering – progressively higher – Elbrus, McKinley, Spantik and Khan Tengri, and then since 2006 when I decided to start biking again various milestones. Firstly there was my first SR series (200, 300 400 and 600km event) in 18 years, then in 2007 I completed PBP. This was another monumental event as it confirmed that whilst I might not be the fastest person, I am at least good enough on the bike to undertake some seriously challenging events. That of course led indirectly to PAC Tour.
To cycle from coast to coast across a country as large as the USA is not something to be taken lightly – no matter how fit you might be. If you are going to spend a month sat on a bike grinding out 120 miles a day – you need to be mentally prepared as well as physically fit. Once you attain a certain level of fitness you can do it – but to keep on doing it you have to have the right mental attitude. For me that mental state is attained by finding out as much as possible about the event before, by ensuring that I am as physically well prepared as possible and by continually mulling it over in my mind I pshyc myself up for it such that by the time I start I have pretty much already discounted completing it in my mind. This approach is fine if everything goes to plan, but if things go wrong what then? Well, I believe that by being mentally “bigger” than the event that you are thus able to cope with unexpected problems that much better without getting too stressed about it.
Beyond the mental and physical preparation for a trip like this, there is also the knowledge that you will meet a group of like-minded motivated people. There is no feeling like being with people who are all motivated towards a common goal, whether on a mountain or on a transcontinental cycle ride. The people you meet on trips like this are those for whom you have instant respect born out of the fact that you are all in it together and you are all capable – or you wouldn’t be there in the first place. On this particular trip I met a good cross section of people. From young Greg who at 16 was on his second trip across country to Walt, Bob and Susan – the older members who at 60+ are all still phenominally fit and able to acheive these goals as ably as people 20-30 years younger. The faster element – Doug, Brian, Dan, Greg,Jeanine and Lori who showed me that despite thinking that I was a good rider, I am in fact a fairly ordinary (if quite fit) rider. These guys are true athletes. The rest of the group, who had between them multiple cross county trips, multiple PBP’s and massive experience of other similar extreme events are also good athletes. To all of my fellow cross country cyclists – I salute you! RESPECT!
No trip or expedition of this nature can occur without a good support structure. The support team and infrastructure for this trip was extraordinary. I could not pick fault with it if I tried. The organisation was superb; Lon and Susan leave nothing to chance and everything is covered. The support crew work extremely hard to ensure that we as cyclists hardly have to think about anything apart from riding the bike, except maybe which beer to order at night!
Looking forward now that I am at home, I can start to think about my next big events. No firm plans have been made yet but in 2010, Paris-Roubaix is being run as a sportive as is Bordeaux – Paris. Both of these are on the radar. I will continue to do plenty of Randonneur events including hopefully an international 1200km. All of this will be with one eye on the fact that 2011 is PBP year again and after the dismal weather of 2007 I have to do it for no other reason than the fact that the weather cannot possibly be that bad two events on the bounce!
Finally, I have had fun creating this blog. It was hard at times due to lack of availability of a computer, but typing it all in and organising the photos enables me to relive the trip and to think more about what I’ve acheived. I hope people have enjoyed reading about the trip and hopefully I will blog further events in the future.