In just a few days time I will be setting off to tackle the Freedom Challenge – a dream of many years finally starting to come true with the first step on Wednesday – standing on the starting line. Its been a huge task just to get to the start line, in-between the dreaming lay the stark reality of trying to balance work, training, budgeting, and my dodgy attempt at parenting which usually involved watching nervously while our uncontainable son wedged a screwdriver anywhere he could into the bike claiming excitedly he was helping daddy to fix it.
I’ve often been asked about the training and preparation for this ride. One word sums it up – long. Long hours. Long distances. Long days. Long weeks. Long hikes, with the bike (and getting some seriously interesting comments along the way!) For fear of looking like a complete under-prepared hack I wont go into the details of what those long hours involved, but suffice to say it completely outstripped any training I’ve ever done for anything. But at the same time its taken me places I would never have imagined, literally and figuratively. From freezing through a snowy London landscape, to roasting under the summer sun in a stark barren Karoo.
The initial stages of training with a backpack thankfully came without too much fuss. After years of running on the trails I have got accustomed to having one on and being without it felt naked, but the real effort came in adding weight. I’d heard that race packs generally ranged between 8 and 10kgs so I ramped this up by adding tins of baked beans and bottles of wine, to 12, then 14, and 16kgs. It was hell – going up hills I swear I could’ve run up faster, trying to train with friends was an absolute joke as I was left standing almost the entire time, and I basically destroyed my backpack straps in the process. But the real joy came in discovering that the 1997 merlot that I had lugged faithfully over every mountain in sight and broken all the wine collectors rules in the process (keep cool, don’t shake… ) tasted unbelievably good as we marked the occasion to start lightening up the pack. Then came the ferocious attempt at the other end of the scale of what had been the normal procedure over the past year – to shed as much of this weight as absolutely possible. While confessing that most of the training I’ve done would probably only give the critics of my cycling ability fuel for their fire, I like to believe I’ve at least done myself proud here as the scale eased off for the final weigh-in, all in including a litre of water, at7.5kgs.
Throughout this journey, I’ve been combining my passion for photography with these excursions, and have built up an interesting collection of photos of the bike in odd places. These are some of the pics, combined with a few pics pre-Freedom.