Shut up, brain!

A few days ago the following message was posted on the Transcontinental facebook page:

The mind game.
So I’ve seen a lot of posts so far from confident and well organised punters which leads me to the question: Is anyone sh@tting themselves at the prospect of doing the TCR like me?

It was very reassuring to read that I’m not the only one who’s scared shitless about the whole thing. It’s a bit daunting to think about what we’re set out to do in just a little over six months. And it doesn’t really help when people’s jaws drop to the floor with disbelief when I tell them about it. In my heart I really think I can do this, but my brain is working overload to come up with reasons why I probably won’t be able to finish. So to shush the brain, I’ve resorted to dividing the race into smaller steps, or goals if you will:

Step 1: JUST START! Even if I end up failing, as soon as I’ve taken off, I can legitimately say I gave it a try.

Step 2: Get through Day One. It might get hard, but I have to give myself some time to adjust to the situation.

Step 3: Get to Checkpoint 1.

And then whatever follows next (Checkpoint 2 would probably be a logical next step). Funny enough step 1, easy as it will be, is actually also the most important step. For al you realists and critics out there, see how Anna McNuff eloquently speaks about it in this brilliant TEDx Talk. You just might get inspired!

(Thanks, my fellow racer who’s name I forgot, for sharing this)

I also got some help to ease the mind today, from a rather unexpected source. Last week I already put in a request for three weeks off in August, when today my boss insisted I’d take an extra week off. Mostly because he thinks I won’t be fast enough (thanks…), but also because he wants to make sure I’ll actually finish (thanks!!). So now I can either average 130km a day to finish in time if I have to, or finish as fast as I possibly can and have an awful lot of time to relax and recover. I can live with either outcome and everything in between, so time to shut up, brain!



NB, Soon I will get closer into detail about training, preparation, kit, and all that other stuff you bike packing junkies prefer to read about. Promised!



Where it all started

OK, time for a little bit of background. 

I was trying to find a photo on my phone, when I came across this picture from last summer:

This is a tunnel on a summit near lake Mergozzo in Northern Italy. (Sorry for not being more specific, I’m awful at remembering town names.) I was on a camping holiday there with the family, while TCR no.3 was in full swing. It’s a rather short climb, only about 8km in total and the tunnel marks the start of the last 3 very steep kilometers. It was my second time on that mountain and I have particularly fond memories of this little pass, because it was actually the first pass I ever conquered years ago.

You need to know there used to be a time when I didn’t like to bike at all. I only used my crappy city bike to get from A to B, because when you live in The Netherlands, that’s the practical thing to do. I was and still am a girl of ball sports, playing in a team and winning – or losing – games. Never did I understand what was appealing about digging so deep on a bicycle just to cross some finish line. Or sometimes not even that, my parents would just ride for 2 to 3 hours and come back. That’s it.

But every time we would go camping, my father kept asking if I would take my mother’s bike and join for a ride. My dad is Indonesian, and most Indonesians seem to think ‘no’ is an invitation to ask again. And again and again. So to make him stop, I finally gave in and joined him and my brother in law for an uphill ride.

The plan was to come along until the little village at the bottom of the ascent, because that route would be challenging enough for the first time. But in the village and after a cold Coke I felt quite good, so I decided to follow the men and see how far I would get. And it turned out to be worth it. The road was very calm and took us passed a deserted village, along a beautiful valley and just overall beautiful scenery.

My mom’s bike was a second hand hybrid Giant with gears that had seen better days. Combined with the fact that I wasn’t familiar with the gears, I often shifted the wrong way. I cursed the poor bike with everything I could think of. And then the tunnel came. At least from that point on the shifting was no longer a problem, because I was very quickly convicted to the lowest gear. Cursing was now dedicated to the heat and the constant tension on my legs. But no longer out loud, because there was no way I was going to interrupt my breathing pattern. The single most important thing was to get from one bit of shadow to the next. ‘At least make it to the next corner’, I kept telling myself. 

I still don’t know how I managed to keep going that day. It certainly helped that the switchbacks came in fast succession, so I couldn’t really see how far I had to go, and the next focus point was always rather close by. It also helped that my brother in law told me at one point we only had one more km to go. At the time I didn’t realize 1km at the pace I was going was still at least 15 minutes of suffering, but thinking the end was in sight definitely encouraged me to keep pushing the pedals. Long story short, my first time on a sports bike and I made it to the top of a mountain! 

I never accounted for the sense of achievement that gave me. That I just did that, without any training, in the burning sun. And there was something meditative about focusing on your pedal strokes and only thinking about the next corner ahead. But the big bonus was the spectacular views, riding a bike really takes you places. In this case it took us to a little cheese farm we found on top. Needless to say we feasted on it.

It still wasn’t love at first sight though, me and the bike. I hated the descent, I think I went as slow downhill as I did uphill. And peeing gave a painful burning sensation for three days to follow. But the seed was planted there and now here I am, at a point where I’m comfortable enough (or so I try to tell myself) to enter the TCR. So I guess it’s time to say it: thanks, dad!

Ps, all pictures above are from last summer, not from my first ascent of this mountain. Camera phones weren’t a thing yet, back then.


Christmas Eve was very sweet this time! After nervously waiting for nearly two months, the Entries email finally arrived in my mailbox and brought me this wonderful news:

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Happiness and anxiety were flipping coins to take over my state of mind, but now I’m mostly just happy and very excited. And the butterflies in my stomach make good company. So now my to do list for the next months roughly looks like this:

  • Let the boss know I won’t come to work for pretty much all of August
  • Route planning
  • Bike fitting
  • Gear optimalisation – navigation, new wheels and/or tyres, clothing etc. etc.
  • Figuring out the practicalities like do I need a visa, local currencies, maybe already book a plane from Turkey back home?
  • Continuing my sessions with my PT
  • Keeping an eye on everyone else’s preparation blogs

And… I’m afraid this one’s kind of inevitable:

  • Training, lots and lots of training

I had a couple of days off between Christmas and NYE, but I’m ashamed to say I didn’t ride as much as I should and could have. The temperature was actually really nice, but somehow I managed to have fierce head winds or cross winds ALL THE TIME, no matter what direction I was biking. This is always the no. 1 thing to crush my morale, and I realise this needs to be addressed somehow in the upcoming months. There’s no escaping winds in the TCR!