Updated: Mar 2, 2020
Two years ago when I rode my first long ride home I kept it a secret from almost everyone I knew until a week beforehand. My wife knew obviously and I told my kids after they noticed the training had increased and I bought a new bike. But otherwise, I kept quiet about it, even though I had started writing this blog, which in the first few months was basically just a diary. Last year I was happy to tell people I was riding home from Hamburg with my son for a month before we left. I knew what lay ahead and that I would have company the whole way. Doing something solo just feels different. Looking back at previous 'sporting' endeavours I realise there's a pattern where I don't tell people about my plans if it's the first time I'm doing something or if I'm really unsure I'll do it. For my half Ironman many years ago I told one person who wasn't a family member, eventually only telling clubmates from Coventry Triathletes the night before the race. Most thought it was peculiar, but right up until that point I thought I might drop out.
Now, you might argue that I tell people at the last minute because I love the attention you get from them. There's an element of truth in that for sure: who doesn’t love telling a story that they expect will shock people? I'm getting married/I'm pregnant / I'm getting divorced/ I've got cancer/ I've become a Buddhist and I've given all my possessions away. That sort of thing.
I tested this out earlier in the week by telling a work colleague and client in a business meeting about my plan. This wasn't a random thing where I blurted it out like some kind of cycling Tourettes, there was a context for sharing it, honestly. I got a perfect reaction "Sorry did you just say you were riding home from X? On your own? Are you mental?". Cue small smile and inner fireworks. Hey, I never said I didn't like the warm glow of getting praise from strangers.
More often than not though I've kept things secret simply out of fear of humiliation. Who wants to tell people their grand plans of climbing Everest only to twist their ankle walking up the stairs at home? Or worse still let people laugh at you and say you will never do it and then be forced to move to another country and change your name just to avoid those same people saying 'told you so'. No, most of us want to avoid embarrassment at all costs. Of course, there is a school of thought that sharing everything publicly will help to motivate you and that has worked a little for me the past. But really I am more of an intrinsically motivated person than extrinsic.
I must also consider the highly likely third option that no one else gives a shit where I'm going (except perhaps the hardcore few - you know who you are). I feel certain that there are people who are thoroughly sick of hearing about my rides, but most likely they don't read this blog unless they actually enjoy tutting their way through it. In all honesty, I've always felt uncomfortable publicising the fact I have a new post through my club's Facebook page and I rarely tell my non-cycling friends. I’ve vowed to post on Facebook once on the day I start this year and no more.
But....I have made my mind up about this year's ride. It's big. It scares me. It excites me. Most importantly it will motivate me to train hard.
I'm not going to share it just yet. I want to see how the preparation goes for a few weeks and see if I'm on target. I need to balance out that surprise/fear equation before I reveal the plan to a wider audience. A few people know because they have to or they have helped me make the decision.
I know I need to lose weight - at time of writing I am 96kg and I need to lose 8kg to get down to my Milan -London weight. That means managing my diet better, but I also need to learn how to manage on bike nutrition better because I've failed this for ages and I really can’t get this wrong on this trip.
I will need to ride an average of 145km a day for two weeks on this trip and that won't happen through just getting out and riding a lot. I need a structured training programme that builds over the next 20 weeks or so.
I have to be in good physical shape all around and that means I need to do everything I can to stabilise my back and improve my upper body conditioning and core. So I need a training programme for that too. Actually turning up at the gym would probably help too, as I have already proved I can't simply get a better core by printing out the programme and leaving it on my desk (this seems most unfair).
I also need the right mental approach to the whole task, not just the ride. On the ride, I will need to cope with long days in the saddle alone and get up and repeat in all again. I am confident I can, but as the American sports coach Vince Lombardi once said: "fatigue makes cowards of us all".
These are not trivial challenges to overcome. Just because I've done something similar before doesn’t mean I can do it again. All of these changes need to be made against a backdrop of having a very busy full-time job and a family.
Oh and Whisper it quietly, I will need a new bike because the route includes long sections of gravel riding. I won't subject my beautiful Bianchi to that and my Giant isn't quite right either I don’t think. So before I spend a penny a had better make damn sure that I really am committed.