Trans Cambrian Way Adventure!

Living my own Fit Life includes adventure, if I showed you my ‘wheel of life’ (a coaching tool I use with my clients) Adventure is one of my segments.  It really is fuel for my soul.

Each year I plan something new and in writing a blog for my cycling page I realised that actually posting about it in this forum would work just as well. When it comes to finding ideas for my adventures I am quite particular.  I like to stretch myself physically but also mentally, an adventure needs to contain a few key ingredients:

  1. Achievement – I want to be fulfilled at the end of it, having a goal to achieve gives me focus, something to aim for.
  2. Passion and Energy – I want it to be something that I love, something that I can dance and sing about throughout the journey.
  3. Learning – I like to learn, it gives me wings – I think Dr Seus sums it up best…..

 

The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go

So there you have it, every year I set myself a mini adventure and it was in July this year that I took on my biggest adventure yet – 3 days of riding through the Welsh Mountains!

The Trans Cambrian Way had been discussed with two friends in June 2015, it is a 100 mile route that climbs about 5,000 meters over the Welsh hills.  The countryside is beautiful, they said, you can see for miles, they said, it is like nowhere on earth…. they said.  I sat listening to them at midnight in a field in the middle of Mayhem (a 24 hour mountain bike event).  It whetted my appetite and as I spoke about it with my husband we both agreed it would tick a lot of boxes for our mini adventure in 2016.

What does it mean to take on a challenge?

Firstly it has to mean something to me – this is really important, I have to ask myself:  what will I get out of pushing myself this hard for three days, how do I want to feel when I get back. This is before I start with the more logical questions of: what will it be like to carry all that kit for the whole day knowing that I have nowhere to stop for food if we run out or for that matter where do I go to the loo when I need it?  These were the questions I had to answer and of course be prepared when I didn’t like what I heard.

My meaning was clear, I wanted to feel like I was in the middle of nowhere, to be able to connect wholeheartedly with my bike and the great outdoors – not to sound to ‘woo-woo’ but to feel at one with my bike and know that this body of mine can pedal its own way over the mountains – when you cycle you get into a rhythm that just makes everything in the world stop around you.  It is also about travelling for 100 miles over terrain that most people would baulk at walking, this filled me with absolute joy.

The looming questions about how much food I was going to have to carry and where I would find discrete places to have a wee did bother me, the later rather than the former.   However what we found when researching the route was, that although it was very isolated at times we did travel past many small villages and we could divert to these for facilities!  This was good news and on the journey itself finding these little village hideaways really helped break up the day and enabled us to fill our rucksacks with the food of choice – Welsh Cakes!

Planning & Training

It begins, 6 months before the actual event, schedules need to be written up for both training and the adventure itself.  We don’t use any special tour guides for these adventures we are solo in our organisation.  First we do the research, I set up a ‘spread’ in my bullet journal (if you want to know more about bullet journaling and ‘spreads seek out Boho Berry) and simply commit everything I can think of to it.  It is has a basic structure in that I have a sections for logistics, route, equipment and training with each heading growing as we think about the things we need to get sorted before the event.

At some point we begin to tick off the items – under logistics we have hotels and baggage, how to get there and how to get back, bike security and food, phone calls are made and copious notes about prices and distances from the route to the B&Bs are checked.  In our research we find recommendations for much of what we need but then there is always a spanner in the works! The week we have planned happens to be the week of the Great Welsh Show, no room at the inn anywhere in fact…. we discuss camping – but NO.  Changing our plans to a different week could be difficult as we have the girls to think about but to our relief we can get all the logistics aligned for an earlier start.  So these are the challenges that we face, constant phone calls, emails and juggling we have two bikes and four bags to get from Knighton to Machynlleth.  When it is all arranged I am full of wonder at how, exactly, all this is going to work in realtime.

Training happens to be the easy part, simply get out and ride as often as I can, my base fitness is good so it is hills and skills that I want to concentrate on the MTB. Although I am a little concerned that I don’t have the legs for the journey after a beautiful ride over the Malverns on my birthday in May I am so exhausted that I sleep through the afternoon – aided by a glass of prossecco but that’s not the point! It was only 25 miles and no where near the type of climbs we are going to expect in just 5 weeks time.

Trust in your partner

When the time comes you know you have to be ready, I had been avoiding thinking about the actual ride it too much for a few weeks.  The logistics and the route mapping and the constant ‘what if’ scenarios that you work through before this type of adventure had taken over.  Remember there is no A&E close by so you need to know exactly where you are at all times, the safety of my husband and I is paramount, I know we are not tracking the Alps, but this environment can be quite hostile if you get a wet and windy day.  I am a qualified MTB Leader so I know exactly what I need for myself and my husband to keep us safe as well as feeling comfortable reading maps and GPS settings.  I am also packed for every eventuality and happy to carry it all and never have to use it.

I have even followed the route on Google Earth so I can see the type of terrain I am going to be riding and to check where on the route we may need to be more mindful of our surroundings – it is little things like this that will help on the day and make the ride more comfortable and flowing.

The trust that my partner and I have is immensely important – we need to be able to tell each other how we feel when it matters most. At times we will both feel exhausted and severely down on energy, you don’t always notice it in yourself and although we are both equally fit and able, we will both feel depleted at different times.  Working together to keep one another on the trail will be essential to make our overnight stops on time. i.e. before dark.

We are off!

When the day to leave arrives it is with relief and excitement that we head off.  This is literally the best part of the whole adventure, there is no more planning or training to be done and the road is just open for us to take.  We can feel comfortable in the knowledge we have done everything possible to make this adventure a good one and it’s now down to us to actually reach our goal.  I won’t bore you with details of our entire 3 day trip so I will just give you a couple of soundbites…. no honestly it is just full of fabulous scenery, bike hardships and ‘bonking’…. before you get worried that is a technical bike term for being low on energy!

So about that energy, when it comes to making sure our energy is topped up we need to have a good strategy for re-fueling, ours came about by chance but perhaps we should have thought about it more before we set out. Our first stop was an hour in, we were not hungry but it was a great place to stop and take in the view, having a quick bite to eat whilst recovering from the climb we had just done seemed logical.  After that we simply agreed that we would stop after every hour of riding, regardless of how we felt, to eat.  In-between those times we would take on water and maybe a moam or two…. yes I know they are foul disgusting sweets but they get me moving like no other jelly baby or gel can. This worked really well and there was only a couple of moments on the second day when my need for energy was reached before the hour was up. I did make a little ‘song and dance’ about it on one occasion before being force-fed more welsh cakes which seemed to do the trick.

It was absolutely wonderful riding with my husband, it was truly a partnership for the whole ride.  We looked after each other, when one or the other was low on energy we would suggest stopping and taking on more food or water, and we went hours one day without uttering a single word but riding in simple companionship.  There was one beautiful moment reaching the top of a particularly difficult climb, Peter was waiting on a rock, the size of a dinner table, and as I reached the summit tired but happy, I just put down the bike and joined him simply looking in wonder at the view from this new vantage point.  I sat on the rock ,crossed my legs and slipped into a beautiful meditation and when I opened my eyes he was still there smiling. We continued to eat in silence until it was time to move on.  I can not tell you how connected I felt to him in those moments, our silence filled the space so beautifully and the world just moved around us.  It really was a most remarkable moment. He was probably just glad of the peace……

For the love of it

It is in those moments when you feel so connected to your surroundings that you feel most alive.  This is the reason I do this, why I take myself of on mini adventures and challenge my limits.

The views were stunning, the challenges life affirming and most of all it was fun spending time with the one person that I care most about in this world (ok all bar my children).

The joy of dis-connecting with technology and using it just for our own safety was mind changing.  I switched off Facebook/Twitter and any other social media I have, I talked only to my daughters in the evenings and used the camera to record a few photo’s of my time on the hills.  It was liberating that I didn’t need to look at what every one else was doing, I was so much more engaged in my journey.

I can count the lessons this latest adventure has given me; courage, to work through a challenge that felt so much bigger than me; faith and trust, in those around me from my partner looking out for my energy and topping me up with moam’s and my family who spent their time looking after my girls; honesty, in everyone we meet on our journey especially the drivers who took our luggage from place to place (without passengers) and; gratitude, to the B&B owners who took in two very wet and muddy cyclists each night and gave them tea and cake to restore their exhausted bodies and washed their dirty clothes ready for the following morning.

What Next?

As I write this I am indeed planning my next adventure, I have the bug for this.  It does get under your skin. My new adventure is going to be a little more interesting, it will take me away from home for longer than 3 days, indeed it will take me about 12 to 14 days to achieve my goal – In May 2017 I shall be Cycling from John O Groats to Lands End, a solo journey for the best part but hopefully a few friends joining me along the way for a few day trips.

Life without adventure would be dull, adventure fills my soul and I learn so much about myself and those around me.

 

Adventure is worthwhile in itself – Amelia Earhart

 

I’ll leave you with a few photo’s, they don’t do it justice at all!! However I thought you might like to see some of the terrain we travelled on – yes that water in the last picture is the trail…. 3feet deep in places, we had to carry our bikes over the stream connecting the river to the trail to get through and this was one of many interesting sections we had to cross.

If you want to know what it’s really like take a trip out there yourself.  It is great for mountain biking but the walks or even the trail runs around there are truly amazing and I would be happy to share any of our planning, B&B recommendations and route selection with people who are interested.

 

This post was also featured on Female Coaching Network in two Parts > Part 1 & Part 2

Mountain Bike View to Knighton  Hills and Trails  Woodland view  MTB Stuck on a bridge

 

Two mountain bikes  River crossing on a mountain bike  View form the handlebars