Answering some Q’s.

People have been asking me about my routine and also about food. Here is the lowdown from my end.

I didn’t really have a routine at the start and some days it still feels like I am catching myself up. If the terrain was the same every day, then I could have a very strict routine, but it isn’t so there’s a lot of adapting that goes on. Mark Beaumont has set such a high bar that I have to maintain the pace, or I’ll drop behind. In the early days I was riding until midnight some nights and getting going again at 6. This is not sustainable in the long run, but I will have to carry on doing it intermittently; it’ll be easier in the summer.

On an average day, this is what I do. Actually, this isn’t average, I’m just thinking of an amalgamation of days that is probably better than average. Wake up at five or a bit earlier. Lie in bed for a least two snoozes on my alarm (twenty minutes), thinking about the day ahead with some dread and a little excitement. I also look at pictures of friends and my girlfriend during this time to buoy myself up a bit. I also listen to music to help me relax and to limber up my imagination for the day ahead. The brain is the most important organ in this undertaking. I then get up and either pack a few things back into panniers if I have been staying indoors somewhere, or quickly decamp if I have been in the tent. These two things take about the same amount of time. While I am doing this I will eat any food that I have left from the day before; soggy bread, honey, biscuits, strange dry cakes, bananas, an orange. I have never really been a breakfast person, but that has changed. I don’t stretch. I point the bike in the general direction and cycle for about 30 minutes, quite slowly because I am still half asleep. I will then stretch and listen to more music. Then I finally get going properly and will start thinking about miles and second breakfast. If I have enough food or can buy some, I will eat this after about another hour of cycling

I try and keep up a good pace. This depends very much on terrain; if its really steep I’m happy with 8km/h; bit less arduous and its 11km/h; 16km/h is a good speed for a slight incline; if its flat I’ll want to be around the 18-20km/h, depending on wind. If its downhill I will go as fast as I can without burning out. I managed an average of 30km/h for 3 hours the other day on a consistent slight downhill. My top free wheeling speed so far has been 54km/h.

I will try not to stop too much. At the moment I have to stop to get to water and food with any real ease, and this has probably meant I am stopping too much. If I am having a hard morning I might stop too much for “self-pity” breaks and will have to remind myself that the only way back is forward, if you get my meaning. If I see somewhere to get food and it feels like I haven’t got enough for the next x hours/days (depending on towns etc ahead) I will stop and get it, regardless of how fast I am going. I did do some training where I didn’t eat beforehand to help me deal with this problem of potential low sugar levels, but I’m not sure if it worked. I am acutely aware of when I am starting to bottom out. I feel it in my arms and hands, as though they are fuel tanks and starting to get empty; they feel hollow.

Music usage depends on the day and the road. If its really busy with traffic I won’t listen to anything at all. If the road is empty or I need some rhythm to keep moving I will play music all day. Sometimes I just shuffle the playlist, at other times I will listen to entire albums and use that as a period of cycling when I won’t stop.

If there is a place to have a proper meal around lunchtime I’ll sit down to eat. This is often not the case however; with such a long way to go I have to be prepared just to eat whatever I can get.

The afternoon can be the best time to cycle if its not too hot. If it is hot, however, it is very difficult and I might just plod on in the heat, speeding up later. When the sun is lower in the sky, from around 5 at the moment, the “golden hours” begin. These will last until sunset. I call them that because of the light but also because they have been consistently the best hours for mileage. Its got a lot to do with the cooling down, but even if its been raining all day I’ll do better. Its probably my body and I realising that the day is going and we still have work to do. Excuse the mind/body distinction but it has become very real for me in the last month or so!

I will continue to eat and drink whatever I can get during the afternoon. I am quite conscious of what I need food-wise; if its hot I’ll increase fluid and maybe get something salty like crisps or salted nuts (almonds are a favourite). At the end of the golden hours I will try and stop for a proper meal if its available. If I can carry on after this meal I will do so, especially if there’s more miles to do. Somedays I have been totally exhausted and will start to give myself heavy hints about stopping after the meal; eyelids drooping, legs feeling like bollards, that sort of thing. Other days I will happily carry on for a couple of hours, especially if I feel happy with the safety of the road and the possibility of a camp spot. If I am lucky I will be in bed at 9 or 10. I like to be near the road so tha I can hear its droning song.

Sorry if thats not very specific for a description of a routine, but that is the way it works for me. I have started to call it the “attenuation of failure”, where I try to adapt to the day’s difficulties to lessen their impact on my goal. I will not cycle 120 miles every day for 150 days. I might occasionally do more, often I will fall short, but its quite a good target to fall short of.

To answer the food questions more specifically:

  • I have never used energy bars or energy gels. I am not against them and would welcome any sponsor who wanted me to try out their product. I didn’t train with them for the specific reason that I was pretty sure that you can’t get them in Ukrainian petrol station (you can’t).
  • How do I keep going? I’m not entirely sure. I know that most of it comes from mental motivation. If you are doing 80 miles a day, be pleased with yourself. That’s the sort of distance I’d be doing if I wasn’t trying to raise a massive sum of money and break a world record! If you want to go further, you are capable of it (I am not a trained athlete and I’m assuming you arn’t either).

I think thats it.

By James Bowthorpe

My name is James Bowthorpe. On the 29th March 2009 I set out from London to break the round the world cycling record. I am doing this to raise 1.8 million pounds for much needed research into the cause of Parkinson’s Disease. I have been preparing for this challenge for the last 6 months and now I’m on my way! You can follow my progress and see photos, on my blog.

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