I left you around 6 weeks ago with a blog about my preparations towards the EuroChallenge and a feat of riding a MeMover (stand up step bike with no motor or gears, www.me-mover.com ) 2170km from Copenhagen to Lausanne via Hamburg, Amsterdam, Brussels and Paris.
Well hello to all of you as I am back home safe and sound, maybe a little broken but a lot happier and really quite proud of what I achieved! I know it’s bad to brag but honestly when you have travelled this far alone with good times and bad it really does leave a big impact on your life and for me mentally has had the biggest impact of all, although I didn’t realise how much it had really taken out of me until I finished. It has been two weeks since my last day and I have been very lazy (activity wise), but have felt so much more tired than I expected although I am getting there slowly.
I will come back to my thoughts and feelings later on but first I will talk a little about the trip, my highs and lows from each Country…
A country I have never been to before I was hugely impressed by Copenhagen, it’s such a lovely city with so much to see and do that the few days I had before the challenge were really not enough to cram everything in! I really enjoyed finally meeting the Me Mover team in person, picking up the Me Mover I was to do the challenge on (later to be named Monty), trying a Danish delicacy of an open sandwich on rye bread (I cannot pronounce this at all but it’s called Smorrebrod), I also visited a bakery I saw on Paul Hollwoods city bakes having the best cinnamon bun and croissant EVER! Taking a walk around the city and seeing the sights was also fun along with attending the Me Mover launch event and the send off from the city hall square was awesome, I felt like a celebrity with loads of tourists taking photos although I was also a little overwhelmed by how heavy my bags actually were when all packed up. You can watch the start of my journey HERE. I think my only low points in Denmark were the rain and the very long first day where I was out for 11 hours, got very wet, had lots of uphill and wind. I did begin to question what I was doing and the buses driving past were very tempting!Germany
My favourite part of Germany was the amazing bakeries, sounds odd being food based but honestly nothing beats German baked goods, especially a giant Bretzel! I loved the first place I stayed in Grossenbrode it was Such a beautiful area, the hospitality of the hotel was simply the best and a delicious breakfast too… Haha I am obsessed with food. One of my big memories of Germany is stopping along a beautiful river path for lunch and so many cyclists and walkers chatting to me about the Me Mover and my trip, it was great meeting these people even if I was only managing a mouthful of lunch every 5 minutes. My low points of Germany were Hamburg, firstly the hostel I stayed in was really dodgy and I wasn’t happy so I moved booking into a last minute hotel and I just didn’t enjoy the city as much as other German cities I’ve been to such as Cologne. I also had a lot of rain which wasn’t too bad at times but gets a bit frustrating when you are getting soaked every day and to top it off I got stuck out in a thunderstorm with rain so heavy everywhere flooded within seconds. There were trees surrounding me, that was a pretty scary moment.The Netherlands
The first sign of being in The Netherlands was the NL on the number plates of cars, slightly disappointing as I was expecting a big welcome to the Netherlands sign! Also an introduction on the first day in this country was a lot of cobbled and bumpy brick paths, not my favourite part of the day, however they didn’t last forever and I actually loved being in the Netherlands. The wildlife was amazing, the cycle network was simply the best and ran everywhere I travelled, the countryside was beautiful and the little villages I traveled through with thatched cottages and windmills were simply picturesque. I also had a fantastic time in Amsterdam meeting the Me Mover Netherlands team who showed me around on a Me Moving tour which was great fun (despite the fact on arrival the last thing I wanted to do was ride more, I’m so pleased I did) and I was so spoilt! I also tried a frickendel special which is a fried sausage with mayonnaise, curry sauce and onion, it is not the healthiest food in the world but was rather tasty. I decided against trying the raw herring though, another Netherlands food speciality.
I don’t have many negatives of my time in the Netherlands but the bits i did not enjoy so much were the wind, I didn’t realise it was so windy there, however I guess the windmills should have been a give away! I was heading south west and the wind was always from this direction, giving me a constant headwind with one day being 24mph gusts, this made it pretty tough going. I did also get a little wet here too, wind and rain becoming part of the daily ritual. Oh the final bad point was the day I travelled to Amsterdam, a fairly short day, but the cycle paths had many diversions and extra distance added due to the train line being worked on. A little frustrating and stressful as even though they were well sign posted I wasn’t feeling the extra distance.
Many people ask me what my favourite country was and my answer origionally was that I couldn’t decide, however writing this blog I realise that it was in fact The Netherlands.Belgium
This was easily my least favourite country of the trip, it did have some good moments but my first impressions were not the best. The drivers were a little crazy, the road surfaces were pretty poor in places and I was travelling through some industrial areas on a cycle path with a lot of railway lines. Many of you who followed my trip will know what happened next…
It all went so quickly but one of these railway lines caused my front wheel to drop in and twist causing the Me Mover to stop dead. I did not stop but continued with some acrobatics through the air before skidding to a halt on the ground, it all happened so fast but what I did know is that I was lucky to get up and walk away! However I had to carry on, with no one stopping to check I was ok and being alone I pulled out the first aid kit, patched up my bleeding knees and hands then turned my attention to the Me Mover. A completely snapped foot loop and ripped bar tape were the only injuries it had (shows just what a robust piece of equipment it is!), however I couldn’t ride with just one pedal and luckily remembered I had gaffa tape. Perfect tape for fixing things and with just one extra addition of tape it made it to Paris where I picked up a new one 6 days later. I then had a further 13km to ride into Antwerp, where I decided to get my arm checked because it didn’t feel right. I was pleased to hear it was just muscular bruising so I could continue the trip. Turns out on returning home and still getting pain that it was actually fractured!
Back to Belgium and after a huge rainstorm and deciding to shelter in a cafe with the best hot chocolate ever, there were some bits of Belgium I did like. These were the buildings and the day I spent in Brussels as well as my visit to the amazing city of Mons, which was beautiful. So was the countryside as I got closer to France, there were some hills too which was great as the Netherlands and Belgium are pretty flat countries. I also quite enjoyed a waffle, fries and Belgian chocolate, food is fuel right!?France
After 3km on a bone rattling cobbled road (not great with a sore arm) I was in France, the difference here was noticeable and I enjoyed the undulating terrain along with the countryside I was travelling through and I was on quiet roads with nice smooth surfaces. I learnt a Marie is like a town hall or small information area and enjoyed trying to recall my French from many years ago. I have never said Bonjour so much in my life and almost said it to someone when back home! I loved every place I stayed in France it really is a beautiful country and I didn’t have enough time to explore everywhere enough, there was so much history and phenomenal architecture. I even travelled through the Champagne region, which was awesome. I don’t even like champagne but the region was so beautiful with lots of cycle routes and I enjoyed the challenges of the hillier terrain as I moved closer to Switzerland. Every time I climbed I was rewarded wth spectacular views that became better and better the higher the climbs became.
The only negative from France that I seem to have is the heat. Especially the day I travelled into Paris, where the Garmin said it went up to 44 DegreesC (in the sun) and I had a very long 100km day. silly to complain as I moaned about the rain and wanted the sun, then when the sun came it was just too hot (typically British I guess!). However travelling the whole day under the beating sun with very little shade does take it toll. I did create a wonderful new fashion though wearing a run visor under my helmet which looked stunning… NOT!Switzerland
Wow things got super tough as I reached the mountains of Switzerland, I only had 3 days travelling through here but the scenery was spectacular, with the views from the top of the climbs being incredible. I’m pretty sure there were some different routes I could have taken with less climbing, but I was following the Garmin and ended up with a climb up to 1227m and 1545m on the same day, that was my penultimate day and it well and truly broke me! I was so exhausted at the end and the last 30km of the 81 I did were fairly flat but felt like a greenhouse being in a valley. To top the day off I couldn’t find the hotel as the address as wrong, then asking a teenager where the hotel was proved quite tricky (it’s not much different in French!). By the time I arrived I was finished off and this brought my second cry if the trip but once in my hotel room having showered and eaten I did feel much better.
The final day was such a special one, it started with 32km alongside a beautiful lake where I did struggle quite a bit still feeling tired from the previous day’s efforts. I was crying (3rd time, I am amazed I only had 3 moments where I did cry in the whole trip) and wishing that I was back at home. I did finally make it to a cafe where I met a guy called Patrick who runs Me Mover fitness classes in the Echallens area (near Lausanne). I felt so much better then and after some delicious ice cream in the cafe it was great to have Patrick’s company for the rest of the ride especially the last part where a headwind appeared and I was literally counting down the kilometres to the finish. All of the tiredness and exhaustion mentally and physically were forgotten for a few hours after the most amazing welcome, coming into a university boating competition I had a finish line, a lovely crowd and even got to spray champagne for the first time ever! After chatting, meeting lots of new people, more spaying of champagne and a lovey meal with the Me Move Switzerland team I finally got to bed after midnight, exhausted yet so happy. You can watch the video of my fianl day HERE. I had some chance to enjoy Lausanne before travelling home and got to visit the Olympic museum which was awesome especially the weekend brunch buffet in the cafe (I highly recommend it).Back to my thoughts and feelings and I will do this as a bit of a Q&A
How was the trip?
To sum this up in one word that would be AMAZING, it had its ups and downs but it was one of the best experiences of my life. I loved seeing new places including visiting countries i hadn’t been to before, meeting lots of different people (even if communication wasnt the easiest) and even though it was tough and I struggled toward the end i still loved it.
How were my nutrition and energy levels during the trip?
I did struggle at the start and end of the trip with this. I had prepared all my food beforehand with lots of breakfast, snacks, lunches, protien drinks and main meals but the sheer volume of what I was doing was burning so many calories that I was waking in the night hungry. This meant I had to supplment my supplies and mainly involved bread, milk and apples as thats what i really craved. One evening in the Netherlands after a pretty long and windy day i asked for bread, milk and a slice of caramel brownie cheescake- that hit the spot!
How much did I travel each day?
My shortest day was 24.94km and 2hrs24 travelling (this was a unplanned move towards Rotterdam a day early) and my longest day was 148.61km with 9hrs59 of travelling time. I also want to mention my ascent as my climbing total during the whole trip was higher than Everest at 13,397m with the biggest day 1714m in Switzerland. I have done a seperate blog with all of the statistics and maps in and the link is here for those that may be interested.
How did I find being completely alone?
Suprisingly it didnt phase me at all, in fact I think on a personal level it did me some good to gain in confidence and learn to deal with any situation just getting on with it. It also gave me a lot of time to think about life in general about how I had been feeling before the trip and what i wanted to do to change this.
How did I feel afterwards?
I am not going to lie, the day after I finished I felt absolutley terrible. The only thing that made me feel better was the huge buffet at the Olympic museum! I just felt completely wiped out and it was like my body knew it was all over and was just telling me to rest. It took me a good week to start feeling a bit like normal in the mornings and only now can I go a whole day feeling good. I guess I forget that this was an epic challenge and I did put my body through a great deal. Tiredness aside mentally I was elated and proud of what I achieved, as I said before sometimes I forget how big this trip really was and I cant quite believe I made it so far on the Me Mover using my own energy and power. I was relieved to finish but upon retuning home I found it hard not being so active, however I also couldn’t be bothered to do anything.
What do I think of the Me Mover?
I only picked up a Me Mover to train on 4-6weeks beforehand so didnt have that long to train but it was enough to see me through as I was pretty fit from Triathlon training anyway. It takes a couple of trips to get used to the movement and balance but once you’ve got the hang of it, it’s great fun and an amazing form of cross training. I did not have any overuse or strain injuries at all during the trip and it improved my leg strength significantly. I also found that it has improved my balance hugely and can now stand still on one leg with my eyes shut easily. I didn’t have any mechanical issues at all (other than the broken foot loop caused by the crash), not even a puncture! I did check my tyres regularly for stones and pumped them up every couple of days along with lubricating the chains.
Overall this is a fantastic fitness device for all abilities and would be great for athletes wanting to cross train or keep fitness during injury. Its a really fun way for people to get out there and get active and has much less impact than running. Top Swiss Triathlete Nicola Spirig has also given one a go and liked it, my mum is also hooked.
Has it changed me?
Yes it has, it made me realise that I shouldn’t try and be what I think others want me to be. I should be myself, wear what I want, sing in public, give my opinions and just generally be myself, if other people don’t like who I am then I guess it doesn’t bother me any more. I have also gained so much confidence and have been doing radio interviews and not even felt nervous which is crazy considering a few years ago I wouldn’t even phone people myself. Pushing outside your comfort zone is something I highly recommend as it really does develop you as a person and makes life so much more fun.
Why did I do this?
I did this trip for both personal and public reasons. Firstly I was struggling with how I felt about Triathlon training and racing on an elite level, having struggled with anaemia and over training syndrome. This opportunity came at the perfect time to get me away doing something different and active but also give me the time to think about where I really wanted to go with sport.
The other reasons I was doing this is to raise funds for the Danish Diabetes association and Diabetes UK, a great charity as I have both type 1 and 2 diabetics in my family and the trip was all about being fit and active which are great for helping diabetics and also can prevent people getting type 2. I manged to raise £759 for Diabetes UK and around $875 for Danish Diabetes and if you would like you can still donate via the links. (click on the charity names to get to these)
Finally I wanted to inspire others to get out there, get active and challenge themselves. Not necessarily on such an extreme level, but on a suitable level for personal ability and fitness, even a short walk is getting out there and doing something. So what are you waiting for… Go for it!
Do I have any other crazy plans for the future?
Maybe a little crazy (thats me) but I want to go from John O Groats to Lands End on the MeMover as fast as I can!
Although in the near future I am going back to college to do an access course so I can go to University and become a Dietitian. Sport wise I am just going to do it when I fancy and train more socially rather than putting the pressure on myself, perhaps giving some other sports a go to mix things up a bit like netball.I have to say some massive thank yous to Chia Charge, Epic Sweet Peaks, Bounce Foods and Be Well Expedition foods for all of the nutrition they provided me with. Renee McGregor, a fantastic dietitian who has supported me before, during and after this trip. Her advice has been invaluable. The Body Therapy Company for giving me oils to help my legs recover and be as fresh as possible. KitBrix for providing the fantastic bags that kept my kit organised and fitted perfectly onto the front of the Me Mover. Dude Shoes for supporting me with the most comfortable shoes ever which were perfect on my rest days. Cosinuss provided me with an earpiece to record my body temperature and heart rate which was brilliant. Finally I need to thank Me Mover for giving me this fantastic opportunity. (Another blog to follow with how they all helped me)
If you have any questions please ask as I am happy to answer them, plus you can see more updates on my trip via these sites:
YOU TUBE : Daily Video updates