It’s been a while since I’m back from Kendal and it’s only now, that I’ve taken some time to reflect, not just on the ride to and back from there, but also the highs and lows that I faced. Actually more lows than highs. But it ended on a positive note and I learnt a lot about myself.
Let me begin with how uncertain I was about reaching there, in the first place. 3-4 days before I was to leave, I had managed to crack my rib. I’d given it a thought a million times before taking that painkiller that was prescribed and as it turned out, I was all swollen up, feverish, feeling super-ill because apparently I’m allergic to painkillers. I wasn’t worried about the allergy as much as the thought of cycling the route and distance I had planned with the broken rib terrified me. That shit actually hurts. A few hours before leaving, I was cheerful on the outside, letting my friends know how wonderfully “fine” I’m with what I’m doing but was super-scared on the inside. But to be fair, the pain wasn’t too bad when I had decided to leave. So it didn’t seem unsafe to go ahead.
Like I usually do, I decided to start my ride in the night. But before that, I needed to figure out how to use a GoPro. I cycled to a friend’s place, got it all explained and left with half the stuff on my bike belonging to him, including the coffee, the coffee flask, a sleeping bag and the GoPro itself. It was a new experience for me to actually be waving someone a goodbye before going for a rather long ride. I felt less like a loner escaping away and more like a responsible adult who someone might be bothered about.
The route for first 200 kilometres was familiar... I’ve ridden it in all sorts of weather- dark, cold, stormy or sunny. But, that also explains why I’d call it to be the most boring bit. Flat-Rolling hills- Flat-Steeper rolling hills-Never ending twists and turns. That bit was the fastest I’ve ever been on it- with all the gear or not. The moment I took my last sip of coffee in the flask, I could see a 24 hour service station right there to get it refilled. This time, I had the route planned on my phone and had things timed pretty well. I mean, I knew where I should’ve been on a particular time of the day. So, no faffing around! It was a long journey to Kendal, which I wanted to finish as soon as possible. I had divided it into three bits- the first 200 km , the long slog up to Peak district and then up to Preston from Peak District. It didn’t take much long to realise that I’ve finished the first two bits way quicker than I’d ever thought I could do in my life and that gave me a major confidence boost. I had covered around 400km in about 16(ish) hours and was left with just over 100 kilometres to Preston. Considering the amount of time I had in my hand from what I had planned, I took a detour to explore some more of Peak District- NOT a wise decision- I started to realise how heavy my gear was, how tired and sleepy I was, and how everything just hurt. I took a nap for some 30 minutes before heading to Preston.. To my utmost surprise, something worked really well with me and I reached Preston exactly 22 hours after I had left from Bournemouth and I had never managed to go above 400km in a day before, so finishing the ride with 531km done in 22 hours was a big deal….for me and for the family who owned that hotel, told me there’s no suitable room and then let me stay in their family room after hearing all this! Well, yayy me…! Now, when every part of me wanted to sleep, my head wanted to take a walk in the garden with the pro athletes, only to make me feel awful about my average speed and distance that I’d managed to achieve. I spent half the night screwing my mood over how better I could be and how bad I was and rest of it trying to use the ice pack on the cracked rib. Waking up early in the morning, I was tap-dancing all over the place in my cycling shoes, ready to eat whatever I get. Nobody was up by then and I had to leave without even getting a coffee.
Sleep deprived, hungry and snappy, I got onto A6 with vague hopes of pedalling faster. It was after crossing Lancaster when I managed to find a McDonald’s with charging points, food and coffee! I ordered a couple of breakfast wraps and three cappuccinos - all for MYSELF.
When I reached at Kendal, I couldn’t find anyone at the place where I was supposed to be staying and that resulted in me just standing outside the Dojo, shivering in the bitter cold. When I actually met the owner of The Dojo, he said that it’s only open before 10am or after 6pm. But, considering the fact that he knew that I was gonna cycle all the way from Bournemouth, he immediately had my bike’s safety sorted, gave me 10 minutes to get changed and then we walked to the Kendal Mountain Festival venue. I could barely walk after cycling the long miles but it was a bearable pain so I just went with it. On reaching the venue, I was introduced to several people by him and I definitely felt welcomed. After looking around the shops and having a good read of the Kendal Mountain Festival booklet, I decided that it’s a good time to taste the local ale, and it was amazing indeed!
One of the best bits and a highlight of the journey was the Santa Cruz Bike Night! Even thinking of that evening makes me smile. I was completely star-struck by the films that were featured and the legends who talked. I was back to the hostel grinning from ear to ear.
At the end of the day, I genuinely felt like I could be alone doing my thing and still be happy only because I’m loving what I do. It was not an easy ride up to Kendal. Even difficult was to follow the targets that I had set for myself to ensure that I don’t waste much time. But all of that didn’t make the process less fun.
The next day I attended the ‘Adventure Ladies’ event by the Adventure Syndicate. It was amazing to see Emily and Lee again after so long! The last time I had seen them, I had ended up getting awfully drunk at Brighton and had left to cycle back to Bournemouth with just a couple of hours of sleep. Listening to the adventures on Emily, Lee, Ricky, Jenny and Megan, I definitely felt more confident about my world cycle plans.
What went wrong though, on this day, was the fact that my body and mind went through this emotional roller coaster which hit a proper rock bottom by early evening. I felt miserable. I sat in the brewery, staring at my beer and being able to do absolutely nothing. I couldn’t shake that feeling and it stripped down my confidence into pieces. Because that wasn’t bad enough, there were a bunch of misunderstandings with friends that needed to be sorted back in Bournemouth. I walked aimlessly into the base camp tent and wandered around with a hunched up posture and a rather unwelcoming and unapproachable attitude. I saw that Sir Chris Bonington had his book signing at some point but I couldn’t quite figure out when. So with whatever state of mind I was in, I stood right in front of Sir Chris Bonington and asked him about it, without even buying his book first! There was a moment of silence as everyone watched. Then I took a moment to calm down, explain and introduce myself to him and bought his book, got it signed and had a chat with him. I left the Festival venue with a big grin and called dad. I had called him earlier when I was almost in tears. I believe, he sensed the elation in my mood, as I followed his advice and tried to keep my head up and talk! That evening was spent talking to some rather amazing people at the hostel.
The next day, i.e. Sunday afternoon, I reached well in time before Mark Beaumont’s talk. I didn’t have a ticket for his talk but I had been in touch with him beforehand about it, so there was a hope of being let in as a guest. I cycled 600km to Kendal with this very hope in my head. So, of course I got in and not just that, I had Leigh Timmis who cycled the world in 7 years sitting on one side and Sean Conway on another! I felt chatty but I held it in as I knew I’d talk rubbish if I didn’t muster up some confidence before that so I’d know what I was talking about. Mark’s talk was something I could relate to pretty well. He’s definitely one of the speakers who break down their points to make sure the audience understand what’s being said and its context. One thing I quickly picked up from the talk was the detailed planning and strong belief in his goal. After the talk, as I waited to get his book signed, I had a rather interesting chat with Sean. Soon followed the ‘best of Kendal’ where I, again, had no ticket. The initial plan was to meet Mark and Sean at Brewery after ‘best of Kendal’ but As I bought my coffee, I happened to bump into Sean, his girlfriend and Mark again and I was let in as a guest. For all this time, I kept feeling incapable to express myself effectively because of inexplainable reasons but I knew I HAD to talk. It was difficult, not impossible. The show lasted for a while with several interesting films that I made a long list on my phone of. Stuff related to my expedition was talked about for most of the time at the Brewery and I couldn’t hide my anxiety. What I do remember being said by Mark is that I can’t be staring at my drink as I talk, I need to be more effective in the conversation. Playing tricks with my head, I could speak a bit, but not enough to make the most out of the experience of sharing the Brewery table with the legends! But I definitely knew that I didn’t feel left out. I could relate to what was spoken, I felt like I belonged and that made me feel rather happy for some reason! I might be a kid in a bunch of people who’ve achieved amazing things in their lives, But I felt like I could be one of them someday. When I left the venue that evening, I was genuinely happy. So happy, that I, in fact, went for a jog afterwards to just soak into that feeling and try getting my confidence back and head composed. Not quite sure it worked though!
After I was back in the hostel, I knew I had to pack to leave. That night, I couldn’t sleep. All I could think of was that I made an under-confident and nervous reputation of myself when actually I am much better than that. When I left from the hostel for cycling back to Bournemouth, everything hit me at once along with the strong headwind and I let out silent tears on my bike. There was no hiding, this had to happen. I stopped at a petrol station and just sat there with some more coffee. The next thing I remember happening was me taking train tickets from Lancaster to Bournemouth and spending £128 on that! The surprising part was, I got on a train and got off on the next station which was not very far away. The 7-8 minutes that I spent in there were absolute horror! In that moment, It felt like nothing could save me. When I got up to leave, my head went blank and I was back on the road, pedalling 470km to Bournemouth! Throughout the entire distance, I made sure my parents thought I had taken the train. I answered every phone call and tried talking clearly so that it doesn’t sound like I’m on the bike. Turns out, I’m not a skilful liar as my dad did sense something wrong and I had to tell him that I’m on my bike!
The last mile back home was something I’d never forget. It was pretty late in night, and my lights were almost about to die. I had a wide smile on my face, because, whatever my head and body might be going through, I made it back from Kendal in a day.
Usually the case is that when mind is strong, body follows. On this ride, none of them was in an optimal condition. But being back, I now know that I can count on myself, and feel a little better about myself because I did what I initially considered unrealistic.
What I learnt from this journey was that maybe what I think is unfixable, can actually be fixed if I don’t give up and keep going. I think it really is entirely up to me whether to follow the advise that’s given regarding being realistic, taking it slow and steady or doing it the right way. If I try it my way, make mistakes, fuck things up and be back on two feet and a wide smile, then I’m still ready for the grind! And who knows? That might exactly be the way how people do things that aren’t done before and set benchmarks that were previously deemed as impossible!