Route 66, The Beginning:
In August 2009, after a lifetime of issues with my mental health, I was diagnosed with Bipolar Affective Disorder. This kick-started me on a journey back to health, which focused on the sport I loved as a child, cycling. Seven years would pass. I tried the medicated route, which worked for a while, before settling on a holistic routine which has seen my mentality far more stable. However, in all that time I had kept hidden the fact I suffered with a mental health disability.
One of my closest friends and I were walking on Santa Monica pier, talking about whether or not I should start talking more openly about it. I was hesitant, but he, knowing me as both the ‘lost cause’ I used to be, then someone who has built a multi-national business while becoming BikesEtc magazines Cycling Guru, was adamant that the story would inspire others to take action with their health. After a long discussion I eventually agreed and thought that in order to get my message to the most number of people it should be tied into an event. It just so happens that in that moment, we walked by a sign marking the end of Historic Route 66. And so the Route 66 World Record Attempt was born.
Route 66 spans almost the width of the US, from Chicago to Los Angeles. It covers around 2500 miles, of mainly flat terrain, passing through some major US cities. The old route was decommissioned a few decades ago and replaced by Interstate, posing the first problem for us to overcome.
Thankfully, in my research, I came across the Adventure Cycling Association who have put together a bicycle route that almost perfectly follows the original. We also found someone who had ridden it in around 23 days and after some careful estimations on what I could do, my PR team and I set the target of riding all 2500 miles in 11 days or less.
The next biggest issue to overcome was time of year. There is only a small window where you can ride without potentially life threatening weather event. Too cold in the winter, too hot in the summer, and tornado season in the spring, leaving us a small window in May or September. I didn’t think it was possible to train enough for May, so opted for September 2018 as the target date.
I’ve always been strong in long distance time trial. I have entered three twelve hour TTs and won fastest from a Kent Cycling Association affiliated team in each one, with a personal best of just short of 280 miles, or 23.3 mph average for the entire ride.
In order to ensure that I was kept accountable I built a team of people around me to prescribe my training. We have Gavin, The Beardy PT, taking charge of my strength and conditioning. Plus, Ian, one of the coaches from my company Direct Power Coaching, taking on the cycling element. The biggest change for me is going from training to do long steady efforts in one ride, to repeating that day-in-day-out for almost two weeks.
Astonishingly, despite some early health setbacks and a relapse of the virus that had kept me off the bike for almost a year prior to starting training again, I recently set the longest duration I’ve sat on my road bike and personal bests across one and twenty-minute power efforts.
Nutrition is something that inspires me. My programme, Nutritionally Fit, is designed to educate others that real food is the way to see real results. It’s something that I’ve always been passionate about and something I have to take very seriously.
I’ve always had some allergies, intolerances and sensitivities to certain food types, but since being struck down with the aforementioned virus I have to reduce or eliminate; nuts, dairy, gluten, vinegars, aloe, refined sugar, caffeine and alcohol from my diet. As you can imagine, this greatly limits what I can eat and a lot of the food I consume has to be home cooked. This has helped me fine tune exactly what an endurance athlete needs in order to fuel their body.
The biggest change I’ve been making is eating a larger quantity of my daily intake from fats. This helps ensure that I get enough calories in but also regulates my blood sugar levels and keeps me from eating everything in sight after a long ride! It’s not easy getting the calories in, but with every block of training that passes my ability to fuel off of fat stores grows stronger, and I become faster, more powerful and have more stamina.
Through my work with Nutritionally Fit, I want to be able to fuel my World Record attempt entirely on real food. Everything will be handmade for me by the support crew. While I believe energy gels and products from sports manufacturers can be convenient, they are not necessary to riding a bike well.
Who helps me with my hydration was always an easy choice. Long term partner, Precision Hydration, helped me understand two very crucial factors. Firstly, how much I sweat, which in fairness I already knew was a lot, sauna’s and hot yoga confirm this! Secondly, and more crucially, I found out that the quantity of sodium in my sweat is also very high. In fact, I was tested alongside three of my riding friends while attending a Precision Hydration Advanced Sweat Test and the quantity of the sodium in my sweat was almost equal to theirs combined.
Simply put, I need to ensure that I drink a lot of water and that it contains adequate amounts of sodium. Having spent a summer in California, where temperatures are always in the 30s and sometimes the 40s, I know that the support crew following me will need to keep my bottles loaded with cool water and PH 1500!
In September 2017, at Revolve24, we launched my World Record attempt with the bulk of the media activity starting in 2018. We’ve not set a target amount to raise for charity, but anything we raise, both financial and awareness, will give this amazing charity the start it deserves.
The training and the learning continue for me, small progression towards a larger goal. Ensuring the training works for me is the key component and it follows the Truly Personal Coaching methodology myself and the coaches on my team subscribe to.
Route 66 – Somewhere between raising hell and amazing grace.