Cycleogical Q and A from WAEXPO16

Wow! What a day!

It’s the morning after the day before and I’m still buzzing from the second Women’s Adventure Expo held in Bristol. Last year, the event inspired me to step out of my comfort zone and ride my little Alpinestars bike further than I’d ever ridden before.

I was privileged to be asked along this year to run a workshop about my adventure called ‘Cycleogical’, which focussed on the psychological challenges that I faced, and strategies that I used along the way.

The event was truly awesome for a number of reasons;

  • I got to hear from even more incredible women about their amazing adventures
  • I got to meet some of the women who inspired me last year (and from previous book-reading about other adventure women)
  • I got to talk about this ride and hopefully inspire other women to take that leap of faith and believe that “I can” and “I will”

During the workshop, and afterwards, there were some brilliant questions asked about various aspects of my adventure (to both myself and Amy, my partner and rock of support), so I thought it would be a good idea to record them below with my answers. So here goes with the first question which made me chuckle, but is actually really good to know from a practical point of view!

1/ How did you get on with riding for such a long time i.e. how did your ‘lady parts’ cope?

Great question! I was riding on average 7-8 hours a day so I made sure well in advance that I had a comfortable saddle and a quality pair of padded cycle shorts. My training rides gave me confidence that I’d be okay in this department. I didn’t use any creams or anything as I’d found my best solution during training.

2/ Are the skills that you used transferable into other areas of life?

100% yes. The main topics in the workshop were visualisation / imagery, goal-setting and self-talk. These are three hugely useful mental skills which are extremely useful for the challenges of every day life.

3/ What’s your next adventure?

Hmmm – ask me this in a few days time when WAExpo16 has all sunk in. It will probably involve my bike and maybe the campervan, Amy and our dog Dizzy so there will be a different set of logistics going on. As for now, I’m trying to swim the English Channel (22 miles) in my local swimming pool over a series of weeks. It’s giving me a new goal to focus on and a chance to get a bit fitter.

4/ What did you eat on your ride?

Every morning I had a tub of porridge that I just had to add water to. Quick, easy and slow releasing carbs. During my ride I had pocket-fulls of dried fruit and nuts which were easy to pull out and eat on the move. In my panniers I had fruit and a friend of my mother-in-law had made me some ‘power cake’ which was nuts, seeds and chocolate all bound together with natural sugar. Then I washed it all down with water. In the evening we were normally camping, so it was usually a meal of pasta mixed into a veggie / Tuscan bean soup. That might sound a bit strange but the soup kind of became the pasta sauce and it was quick and easy to make. On my worst day when I thought the world was going to end and I was drenched to the skin, we booked a hotel and I had the most enormous burger known to woman.


5/ How much did your trip cost?

Hmmm. I didn’t add it up altogether, but we tried to keep it on a low budget as possible. The costs were broken down into:

Accommodation (mainly campsites but sleeping in the middle section of a Renault Trafic van!), ferry journey to/from France, Sustrans guide book to get to Paris, Michelin maps for Paris to Chamonix, food, diesel for the van.

Top tips – since I raised some money for Sport Relief by doing this ride, I asked the ferry company for a discount and they gave me 50% off. The Michelin Map company also gave me 50% off my 5 maps so I saved a few quid there in return for a bit of social media promo. My local Halfords has an awesome bike mechanic so when I took my bike there and told them about my journey on my antique bike they donated a bunch of spare tubes, repair kit, bike pump and cycle top. My brother-in-law donated his work van to us for the trip which gave us an economical vehicle to use, and a place to sleep. Plus, Emma Timmis loaned me her adventure equipment which included full panniers, a tent and a spare bike!! All of this support was pretty overwhelming!


6/ Did you have slick tyres on your bike?

No! I decided to keep my Ritchey nobbly tyres on to ‘keep it real’. Don’t get me wrong, this was a bit of a silly idea and no doubt slowed me down a bit, but I kind of wanted to do this ride on my ‘original’ 1992 Alpinestars.

7/ How did you arrange the trip around work?

I’d worked out that I could ride there, have a few rest days in Chamonix and travel back leisurely in the van within a 3 week window if all went well. This meant I could take a chunk of leave and treat it like a holiday. Amy was also able to book her leave to coincide with the trip which was a massive bonus.

8/ How do you become a Sport Psychologist?

So I’m at the stage where I’ve got a Masters in Applied Sport Psychology and a Masters in Applied Sport & Exercise Science. That’s given me the passion to become accredited as a Performance Psychologist through the British Association of Sport & Exercise Science and I’m now 400 hours into my 500 hours of Applied Practice that I need to do with individuals and teams. The other pathway to accreditation as a Sport Psychologist is through the British Psychological Society for which you need and undergrad degree in Psychology, then a Masters in a Sport Psych discipline, then 500 hours of Applied Practice through their Supervised Experience programme. Phew.

9/ Do you only work in sports that you like or that you’re knowledgeable about?

I love working with different sports, different teams and different people. I’m passionate about all types of sport and adventure sports and love to learn new things. So far I’ve worked with people from Touch Rugby, Roller Derby, Cricket, Trampolining, Hockey, Rugby, Cycling and a Soldier from the Army. My work also ranges from grassroots amateurs to elite level which is also really diverse. I’d love to work with more adventure people too.

10/ At the beginning you mentioned that you wanted to ride solo but your partner wasn’t really up for that. How did that change?

Haha. At first, when I pitched the idea to my partner it was a huge NO. Like the biggest “no way you’re not doing that on your own” response with appropriate serious face and frowns. So I sat on the idea for a while in a bit of a huff, but where there’s a will there’s a way so I pitched version 2 of the idea….”how about I ride to Newhaven solo but then you and Dizzy meet me there and come the rest of the way as a support vehicle? It could be like a mini holiday” (said no-one ever about a bike-adventure-support-role but it was worth a try). That worked. There was a lot of negotiation about safety and communication so for the Wales-England leg we obviously had phone / WhatsApp comms on tap so I could update Amy on a regular basis. For the France leg my dad loaned me some radios and we just used those and text comms on our phone when we needed to share locations.

Support van and a place to sleep!

Questions to Amy included:

A/ What was the hardest bit for you?

My main worry was Ali being knocked off her bike by traffic. To be fair she mainly took the quieter ‘D’ roads but when you go through some of the more major towns it’s hard not to avoid the traffic. Plus there were a couple of occasions where these roads turned into dual carriage ways, so it had to be a rapid sharp exit off those onto a quieter, but sometimes longer route.

B/ Would you be the support on another ride?

I think next time we’ll do something together, but at the time it was really cool to see all of these places in France that we’d never normally see.

C/ What are your top tips for supporting someone on a ride?

Be prepared for quite a bit of time on your own so have a good book. I had our dog with us so that was great as we could stop off and explore places on foot while Ali was busting the miles. Also, be prepared for them not to stop when you’re parked up waiting for them to come over the next hill. We always had an agreed stop in the middle of the day where we’d meet in a town centre, often by the Tourist Info centre as it was easy to find. Outside of these times I’d drive ahead and park up with the dog and wait for her to come past. Sometimes she stopped for a chat, rest or more snacks. Other times she’d zoom by, eating up the miles. Then it’s good to be prepared for the not so good moments when they’re finding things tough going. There were a few of those moments which I dealt with in different ways. I knew when words of support would work and when she just needed to be left with her thoughts.

Smokey and the Bandit
My support crew!

If you have any more questions about my ride then feel free to comment below or just get in touch.

I’ll also be putting my ‘Cycleogical’ workshop online in some form on my sport psychology website so look out for that in the next week or so.

Happy adventuring!


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