My Self Propelled 3 Peaks Challenge – Mind over body or just stupidity & stubbornness
So the aim was to scale the national 3 peaks (Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon) and cycle in between each one within 4 days just to increase the physical challenge in an effort to raise money for Prostate Cancer UK.
The challenge, complete. The body, broken. Money raised, £1982.50 to date (and still going, donations are open till the 1st of Dec, see the website below, hint hint).
This blog is just an observation of a few things from my training (which always seems to be never enough), the challenge itself and also the incredible power of mind over body.
Where to start, the top 3 things learnt from this challenge:
- Always set a goal you’re not 100% sure you can reach. There is nothing wrong, or fear, in failing. If you do, which you probably won’t, then you will learn a lot more from it. It’s about the process not the end result.
- However big the task make a start, however small it may be, and keep chipping away at it. No one can know everything or do everything, so just by making a start is a step in the right direction and with each step you build momentum and with it confidence.
- The power of support and purpose. I believe in this 100%. If you really want to do something you will get it done whatever it takes. Although you have to really want it. Really want it. It always helps to have the backing and support from others, but the motivator has to be strong enough from within.
Training- as expected training never goes to plan, life, work and generally best laid plans and intensions get disrupted. With a challenge like this of long distance, slow pace over consecutive days my plan was to get bum in saddle and get up to high mileage and start to then build in consecutive days of ridding and try to squeeze in a few walks. All went well but a very big reminder was that as you train more you have to look after yourself more! Getting planta fasciitis (inflammation of the fascia on the sole of the feet) meant it was two weeks of decreased training, massage and stretching. This led to less time in the saddle and only getting one ride in over 100 miles (113miles) in training with a 50 mile cycle the next day. That was my peak. So going into the challenge I was feeling under prepared for certain.
All Plain Sailing? Never, although I didn’t quite realise how much of a challenge I had given myself before it was too late. After the day long journey heading up to Fort William and driving some of the roads I would have to cycle I just wanted to get stuck in and start.
Day 1 – 6 am start for the climb up Ben Nevis which was finished by noon. I was on the bike by 12.30pm and in Glasgow by 8pm. 14 hours in total of which 10 miles walking (1323m elevation) and 106 miles cycling (1542m elevation). This was an uncomplicated day and all went to plan, flying on the bike and feeling humbled by Andy who we walked with. He had set his own challenge of reaching the summit of Ben Nevis every day in October raising money for the local mountain rescue team whilst raising awareness of depression.
Day 2 – 6 am start and another 14 hour day solely on the bike for a 160 mile cycle (2304m elevation) from Glasgow to Wasdale Head at the base of Scafell Pike in the Lake District. This was the probably the most sapping day as it was very tedious, boring route on A roads and when things started to slide sideways, with the knowledge of worse to come, its anything but encouraging. The turning point was 120 miles in, it starting to rain, getting cold and knowing I had 40 miles still to go. The legs felt heavy and the ITB on both legs started playing up. To top that the bike breaking with 15miles to go so then I only had 2 gears and finally the battery pack for my bike light running out. Cycling one handed holding my phone as a torch cycling the last couple of miles to Wasdale head was grim. The sole aim was to get in, eat and deal with it tomorrow after a rest and start over. I even had to stop looking at my speedo, distance, time and average speed stats as it was getting me down calculating how far I have to go and how long it would take. It was head down, keep the legs turning, keep the food going in and the thought of “I will get there when I get there”.
Day 3 – waking up knowing it was the hump day was the biggest motivator for me. All the support, messages and amazingly generous donations from people were the only reason why I didn’t say “let’s split this day, do the walk and then delay the cycle until tomorrow whilst we get the bike fixed”. Knowing I had a 122 mile bike ride (1893m elevation) on two gears after a 6 mile walk up Scafell Pike (896m elevation) was just a little inconvenience in getting the job done. The walk was great, dry but steep. I was off the mountain by 10 am and on the bike at 10.40am for a brutal first 30 miles. To get out of the lakes it involved the 33% gradient of Hardknott pass. It helped knowing that if I got over this pass it would be 90 flat miles to Liverpool. The alternative was trying to find a bike shop to fix the bike whilst being in the middle of nowhere, or an extra 20-30 mile detour to avoid Hardknott pass. Not knowing it was 33% gradient until cycling past a sign at the bottom certainly helped with the decision to go up and over. Ignorance is bliss! So head down and slog away. Bit by bit I ate away at the miles. By this time my Achilles had started to swell up from over use but I managed to enjoy the small things, like lunch in the sun by Lake Windermere. Then counting down the miles until the next stop. Small chunks at a time breaking down a big task. By 10 pm I got to Liverpool. Thinking the last day was the easiest…. how I was also wrong.
Day 4 – Thinking the worst was behind me, I set off cycling in to a head wind for 81 miles from Liverpool (1282m elevation) with deteriorating conditions as I climbed towards Snowdon. This was the hardest day. When you think you are in for an easy ride, literally, and then being slapped around the face with wind and rain wasn’t how I wanted to finish. It almost broke me, especially being so close to the finish. There was no other option but to keep plugging away as to quit or stop was just logically not the best choice. Trying to ignore my Achilles and plug away I got on to Betws-y-coed cold and wet. With 10 miles to go, all up hill, the wind got worse and rain harder. Cycling at 5mph in my easiest gear cycling through standing water on the road, into the wind feeling like I was crawling along those last miles took me an hour and a half. I stopped a couple of times, for what I am not sure, probably just to have a little talk to myself. Finally getting to the top of the pass at 12.30pm I tried to get dry, warm and fed before setting off up Snowdon to get wet again. 4 hours up and down Snowdon wasn’t a bad effort. When I got to the top the wind dropped, the clouds cleared and sun poked its head out. A fitting scenic end for the walk down.
Mind over body or just stupidity & stubbornness- I would say the mind rules over everything but it definitely helps to be stupid and/or as stubborn as they come. A motto when it comes to any race or challenge is “ignorance is bliss”. Deal with it when you have to. Obviously, there is some need to know enough to plan, be safe and that you’ve got a fighting change (70-80%) of completing it or in the time you want to. Training is essential and the more you can get in before the better chances you will have to reach your goal. However, if you don’t have the right mind set, drive or motivation in why you are completing it, for what purpose, then you will never reach your full potential in any task/goal you set out to complete.
A massive thank you to those who have supported me, sponsored me and helped raise an incredible total towards a fantastic cause. Without this support and the focus of doing this challenge for a charity I would have probably climbed into the van and had a nap multiple times and taken a week to do it. Also a massive well done and thanks to my brother for supporting me in the van and also putting up with my many sense of humor failures along the way. Without him taking a week off work to come with me I wouldn’t have been able to do it and a great achievement for himself in climbing the 3 peaks alongside me.