As I write this it is less than 8 weeks away from my attempt to ride from Lands End to John O’Groats in 10 days or less.
If this is the first you’ve heard about this crazy idea of mine, it’s for a very good reason, which I will explain.
I am not the fastest of riders, but I am consistent and I can keep going. This means there are limits as to how far I can go within a set time. I had my sights set on a different world record attempt either this year or next, but due to the amount of time I would spend away, it just wasn’t really practical at this time. I shall keep the nature of this one quiet for now, although there are some that already know what I’d like to be doing.
But, this idea of being able to set a world record, or fastest known time got into my brain
Here is what went through my mind…..(bear with me here)
- If I was the first to do something, then surely by default it would be a world record, regardless of the time it took.
- However, saying I’ve done the journey in say 14/21/30 days isn’t really that spectacular, and could be easily beaten by a relatively fit tourist.
- I needed to pick a very challenging timescale, but one that I had at least a slim chance of hitting.
- There was no point in chasing a fully supported timescale as I’m simply not fast enough, or able to cope with so little sleep.
- Unsupported has a very different set of challenges
- I checked and researched, and came to the conclusion that no female had attempted recording a time for the double End to End.
- I needed to do it as soon as possible in order to claim the record, since there are much stronger female long-distance riders out there, that could quite easily put together a support crew and knock a considerable amount of time off my own. So I didn’t want to announce it too soon.
- I needed a UK based challenge as the impact of social distancing restrictions was going to be a major factor in timing and available facilities.
So in March, when the likelihood of my Race Around the Netherlands happening seemed slim, I registered with Guinness World Records to set a record for ‘fastest solo & unsupported Lands End to John O’Groats return journey (female)’
It takes around 12 weeks to get a response from Guinness, so I embarked immediately with my coach on a revised training plan, which was adapted to now include lots of hill work. Hill rep sessions have become a weekly occurrence. This is the same hill, over and over, sometimes seated, sometimes standing. Yes, it gets monotonous, so I have music playing…that helps a lot.
Eventually, Guinness came back to me. Yes, they registered it as a new unclaimed record, although there were caveats…which have caused me both a problem and quite a bit of stress ever since.
Guinness World Records
It turns out that Guinness give supported and unsupported distance attempts the exact same weighting. And therefore, they set me a challenge completion target of just 7 days.
For any Audaxers out there, you’ll appreciate that riding 900 miles (1450 km) in just 3.5 days unsupported is a big ask. It equates to 257 miles a day, for 7 days straight. As my plan is to be actually peddling for 14 hours a day, that would mean a constant average speed of over 18 miles an hour – although I am now considerably faster than I was 6 months ago, I will never be that fast.
I totally accept that for a challenger who has support at least in the form of a motorhome and 2 or three drivers, this is a perfectly attainable target. But, for any challengers attempting to do this completely self-supported, it’s a very different proposition, as the search for and preparation of food and accommodation (or bivvy) needs to be considered. In my mind, when Guinness set their original ‘time to beat’ they should include the possibility that the first attempt might be supported or unsupported, and set the time accordingly. But it seems that they simply base it on the current male record (which by the way had a full support crew), and add a bit.
I have stated my case to Guinness, with evidence of other similar records that have been set around the 10-day mark, and now continue to wait. It’s frankly not looking good for an extension to 7 days.
And so, I had hoped this would be a Guinness World Record attempt, but alas it’s looking increasingly likely that it will be a ‘fastest known time’ attempt instead. Either way, I will be the first female to record a time for this journey, and so by default, it will be a record. But, I’ve said I’ll do it in 10 days, and therefore that is what I intend to do. It will still be the ‘time to beat’ by future riders.
I have been provided by Guinness all the evidence requirements for a world record attempt and will ride to those same requirements. This will enable the attempt to at least be verified and confirmed officially, even if not ultimately accepted by Guinness.
I can’t wait any longer for further decisions by Guinness, so it’s time now to get this thing moving.
Since this is such a big ride, I decided it was time again to raise money for charity. I was inspired for two reasons. First, I had seen just how compassionate everyone still is even during times of hardship. I watched Captain Tom walk around and around his garden, raising millions for NHS charities. People got very creative, and NHS charities did very well. BUT, this has been at the expense of other charities, who have seen their fundraising routes decimated this year as millions of fundraising events were cancelled.
This global situation has impacted every area of life. Thousands have become sick or worse. Millions have been off work, and many of those will ultimately lose their livelihoods as businesses fold due to the changes forced upon then. Many others will continue to work from home potentially for many more months, or may never go back to their workplaces in the normal way. Children have been away from school for 3 months, or more, and grandparents haven’t been able to hug their families.
With all of this change and uncertainty, the potential impact on mental health is likely to be serious and widespread. Many coping mechanisms have simply not been available for months, although as a nation, we have begun to embrace the outdoors and exercise, which is known to be a great source of calmness for many that suffer. As someone who is ordinarily very outgoing, I’ve certainly had my own dark moments through this, as I’ve struggled to deal with the sameness of each day, and the solitude. Being able to cycle has been my saviour, even though ironically I mostly cycle solo, and find total peace when I do. Somehow it’s a very different type of solitude and one that I very much enjoy.
So it seems only right to link this cycling challenge to Mental Health, and so I’m raising money to support MIND on the south coast.
My aim is to raise a minimum of £1000
If you would like to donate, you can do so on the following link