It was 3.30am when my alarm went off beside me. The seven hours of sleep I had managed had been fitful and punctuated with dreams of riding my bike.
I got out of bed and pulled on my cycling shorts, strapped a heart rate monitor on and pulled a cycling jersey over my head.
In the kitchen I tried to eat some breakfast: Marmite and peanut butter on toast was usually a favourite of mine, but this morning it was just too early for any kind of food.
I walked up the stairs to my small office where I had set my bike up on an indoor trainer in front of my computer. I switched everything on, logged into the virtual cycling platform I was about to use, connected with other riders on a conference meeting and then climbed onto my bike ready to pedal at 4am.
Instigator of this early morning adventure was Mark Beaumont, the Scottish endurance cyclist, who in 2017 cycled 18,000 miles in less than 79 days around the world, breaking the world record.
His plan was to raise money for NHS Charities by recruiting 80 cyclists to join him in riding 240 virtual miles each. The miles ridden by everyone in a single day would add up to his record-breaking around the world cycle.
I had signed up to be one of those cyclists. As we started riding, the avatars that appeared on my screen, pedalling around this virtual world, represented the other riders that were taking part. We cycled around a 12 mile lap with 580 ft of ascent on each lap.
One thing I hadn’t considered was that the course chosen would be hilly. I had naively assumed that the ride would be flat and had written myself a schedule based on that. Instead, the hilly course would test my resolve with my indoor trainer increasing the resistance on my back wheel every time I rode skywards.
The downhill never seemed long enough to recover before we climbed again. 120 miles in, halfway there, and I was celebrating. I stopped for a scheduled 15 minute break, a change of cycling clothes and some food.
Jumping back on it suddenly hit me that I still had 120 miles and several hours of cycling still to go. For the next few hours my resolve slowly disintegrated.
As I got more tired, I got grumpy with my kids when they popped their heads around the door to cheer “Well done, Dad!”. It would have been so easy to climb off and quit. I was already at home after all.
My lowest point came when I discovered I had punctured, from what I can only explain as a heat build up on the tyre. I had already fallen behind schedule and changing the inner tube would push me even further back.
I eventually got going again and swore to myself I was going to do it. I turned off the podcast I was listening to, it was too distracting and I focused my attention on my avatar on the screen in front of me.
I pedalled and I counted the laps down. Slowly and steadily I made back time and I got closer to the finish. I concentrated on laps to go, rather than distance – the smaller number seemed more manageable. Fourteen hours from starting riding I closed in on the finish line and I felt emotional.
Albeit on an indoor trainer, I had never cycled so far or climbed so high by bike in one day. I wasn’t sure I would ever do anything like it again and I still can’t quite believe that Mark Beaumont did this for real, every day for 79 days and will be doing the virtual ride every Thursday.
Cycle Around the World in One Day
Mark Beaumont is looking for cyclists to join him each Thursday to take on the challenge of cycling 240 miles, or as far as you can in one day.
Register at: https://worldinaday.com/