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cropped-web_header_bannerV2So you want to cycle across America?

Lecture at Edinburgh Festival of Cycling. June 13th 2014

Meet Chris Oliver, AKA the @CyclingSurgeon, he is an inspirational Edinburgh Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon. Eight years ago he could not climb a flight of stairs let alone ride a bike. He was over 27 stone and had weight loss surgery. Twelve stones lighter he cycled 3,500 miles across USA in the summer of 2013 with his daughter. Come and be motivated by Chris’s incredible transformational journey and fight against obesity. Details and booking here

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The End – Thank you!

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“3,454 miles, 15 states, 90,039′ of climbing, 2 oceans, 4 new tyres, 1 new chain, 25 punctures later and we’ve cycled across the USA!!”

WE MADE IT! Sorry for not posting since reaching the beach last Friday, it’s been a bit of a whirlwind. Dad’s flown home and is back to work and I’ve made it up to New York City to explore. I even got to cycle my bike right past Times Square yesterday in the attempt to get my bike from the Upper West Side to Mineola. The short 3 mile ride was interesting – in stark contrast to the past two months there was so much to look at and without my orange flag fluttering from the back of my bike I felt much more on edge. Luckily I managed to cycle bits and bobs with people on these new city bikes that the city has just implemented. Now THESE people are the ones to look out for. Crazy people.

Riding through the city for that short amount of time forced me to think back along the two months of cycle. Absolutely NOTHING compares to the Big Apple. You wouldn’t think that these tiny towns in the Mid-West shared the same country with NYC, it’s just smack bang in the face big and shouting which is what I used to think America is like. The Dairy Queens and Denny’s were nowhere to be seen on Manhattan – in their place, delicatessens and neighborhoods of delicious international food.

So reaching the beach on the last day was fairly emotional. The weather was so grim that we couldn’t see the Atlantic Ocean until we were about 50m away from it. But that sight was wonderful! Relief set in, mostly that we had no more miles to cycle and also that we’d made it, mostly in one piece. My bike started skipping gears on the last day and I just willed it to hold out until the beach.

Upon leaving the hotel for the front wheel dip way back at the start of May, dad got his first puncture (and tyre replacement) of the trip. As we’re in a bigger group of riders (about 25) we agree to cycle together at the very start and end of the trip. We joked that dad would get a puncture just before we reached the beach, meaning that we’d all have to wait until it was fixed before cycling to the ocean. And guess what? He did! We were about 100m from finishing the 3,415 miles and I heard a hissing noise coming from his bike. Sod it. He rode the last part of the ride with a flat tyre, ready to throw his ill-tempered bike into the Atlantic Ocean, never to ride it ever again.

Just joking. We only dipped the front wheels in, got our photos and were met by family and friends. Thanks to mum and Elizabeth for being there! I was less emotional than others I think. To me, this wasn’t a life changing trip but merely a fun experience and a good way to spend time with my dad and see America.

What I’ve learnt from this trip is that you really need to take care of yourself physically. We had women aged 69 on his trip and men aged 76 – yes they were a little slower than the rest but the bottom line is – they rode their bicycles across a continent. These people keep fit and eat well and I imagine they will go on to keep completing similar feats like this. Seeing them has made me want to take care of myself better. At age 70 I could either be contemplating moving into ‘an old folks home’ or rowing across the Atlantic. I’m aiming for the latter.

The people and staff on this trip have been superb! If you’re considering riding across America, I seriously recommend Crossroads Cycling Adventures, no matter what age you are they work so hard to getting you across safe, happy and healthy. It’s been great to spend this amount of time with dad – it might never happen again. It got a bit too much at times but I’m sure it would for many people sharing a room for 7 weeks with their dad?

Thanks to those who’ve donated towards our fundraising for WaterAid – we’ve smashed our target and raised £3,863 which is just amazing! You can still donate here

Thanks to you reading this blog and for those we’ve met along the way. Support is always appreciated. It got tough sometimes and it was nice to know we were cycling for a cause and people had our backs.

Oh and the verdict on East vs West. I’m going to have to say the West. They have the Pacific Ocean and therefore lots of cool sharks so it’s a no brainer really. What’s next for us? Dad’s back to work and ever active with cycling in Scotland and I’m off to Bangor University in September to do a MSc in Marine Environmental Protection. So absolutely nothing to do with this cycle – which is perhaps a good thing? Time to expand my horizons a bit further than the United States of America again. I think it’s time to cross the Atlantic Ocean.

All the best,

Catherine xox

Bike mechanical failure Day

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It’s a funny world cycling. Today should have been the third consecutive day I have ridden about 100 miles. Its a tad tiring! I was physically very, very, tired. I did not expect how the day would turn out. A rapid succession of mechanical failures ensued. Cycling shoe started to disintegrate, derailier started jamming, head set and bottom bracket loose and then discovered three full thickness holes in my rear tyre! A major mechanical rebuild ensues! Fortunately we have a mechanic, Rick with us. So what was a potential physical failure day turns into a mechanical failure day! Emotionally fine though!

Century Cycle Rides

Century rides are an illusion. You think 100 miles on a bike is tough. There are so many variables to affect you; wind, temperature, hydration, food, incline, mechanical failure. However it’s all in the mind. as Graham Fife says: “The greatest battle is not physical but psychological. The demons telling us to give up when we push ourselves to the limit can never be silenced for good. They must always be answered by the quiet, the steady dignity that simply refuses to give in. Courage. We all suffer. Keep going.”

and Jens Voigt says “Shut up Legs” just about sums it up. But the century rides are getting much, much easier, people like Mark Beaumont who pedalled round the world doing at least 100 miles a day I have nothing but admiration for, I am beginning to understand the life of an endurance cyclist. My riding will never be the same again.

Cycle navigation across TransAmerica

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Navigation has been remarkably easy across USA. Have used a Garmin 800, really just to measure distance. I did download the USA Garmin base maps but have not really needed them. We have a daily cue sheet provided by Crossroads. We get a route rap the night before the ride and add our own notes (mine pink). You just follow the cue sheet and keep an eye on distance. the cue sheet indicates roads, hazards and turns (and significant hills/descents). I have not really got lost. Thought I would need a map but you do not really need one. have not used any satnav on my phone either. Still however use my iPhone as a camera/ Wifi browser. I also have a local pay as you go phone for emergencies, but have not used that either!

My average speed is what really matters, I’ve always been pretty good on the flat, yesterday was flat and was cruising about 18 to 22 mph, on occasion up to 30mph on a slight downhill. my max speed for the trip so far has been 42mph. But on the hills, I’m still slow and will be in the granny gear on the triple and crawl along on the long hills at 6-8mph.

Weight is everything with cycling, have got rid of my ortlieb waterproof underseat bag and gone for a very small cycle bag, just for a tyre lever, multitool, two tubes, tweezers and gas cylinders. Small sunscreen and lip balm in cycle jersey with wallet and iPhone in a waterproof case. I like riding with a Camelbac (70oz) and fill up with Gatorade later in the day. SAG – Support and Gear stops are about every 30 miles, with food snacks and gels. I still hate gels, you have to think of it as medicine!

First desert over, into the mountains, first week TransAmerica cycling done

Riding Los Angeles to Flagstaff has been an amazing cycling experience, but the heat in the desert in the first few days felt like riding in an oven. Fitness alone will not carry you though 80+ miles a day for multiple days in 110+ degree heat. I’ve cycled in Cambodia but never had heat like it in the Mojave Desert. I estimate I was drinking at least 4litres of fluid every 25 miles. could not have got all the fluids without vehicle support. Came close to heat exhaustion on one occasion recovering with a quart of chilled chocolate milk. Have drank gallons of Gatorade.

Getting enough food even in America has been a problem for me. With my recently relaxed adjustable gastric band I still do not like food and do not want to eat. But, from a performance standpoint, the essential metric for caloric intake is that you need to consume enough energy to support your activity level. I guess i’m using over 6000 calories a day but the effects of altitude and heat may have made this much greater. I do not think I have gone anaerobic at any point. The road gradients are never much more than 6% but the climbs can be 12 miles. When you fail to eat enough, you’re compromising your ability to recover from the cycling, you’re increasing your risk for getting sick, increasing your vulnerability to injury, and hindering your ability to adapt to your training workload and get stronger (Chris Carmichael). What I have also learnt is that you have to eat today for what you’re planning on doing tomorrow. That means pre-loading your energy stores daily with hearty breakfasts before big rides, so you stand a better chance of mitigating the energy depletion from today. On the ride, you have to stay on top of energy/fluid/electrolyte intake, so you minimise the stress you put on your body today and reduce the amount/extent of recovery you’ll need to be able to perform again tomorrow. As I am doing so many days riding over six weeks I have less than 24 hours to recover before another big ride. If I dig too deep a hole, I may not be able to refill it in time. This happened today on the final ride into Flagstaff when for the last 15 miles I had to take a bump as I had run out of energy and bonked. I always thought that this was going to be the toughest week with first the desert, then the climb into the Rockies. The worst is now over and the rides are easier but none less long. I have been thinking a lot about correct food and nutrition and think I am now on top of this but still mentally do not want the food. It will be interesting to see if I need to get my gastric band retightened when I come home. Controlling core temperature in the desert was very important wearing white arm sleeves and then cooling these with water.

I got a nasty blister on my palm from the hoods and am now wearing different gloves. Thanks to Compeed blister plasters. Not too saddle sore but have invested in a green leather Brooks saddle like I have on my Brompton at home that always been very comfortable compared to the cheap narrow racing saddle I have on my Scott.

Unfortunately did not win the $600million USA lottery tonight. Rest day tomorrow so off on a tourist trip with Catherine to the Grand Canyon.

 

Transamerica final training and shipping bikes

Shiiping bikes today to Los Angeles, think this is safer to get a fixed delivery rather than flying with us on Virgin next week. Bike boxes packed. Its mission critical the bikes must arrive. Else could be very embaraasing and expensive if no bikes in LA.

Last sunday Catherine and I rode Edinburgh-North Berwick-Kincardine Bridge-Edinburgh. A mere 112 mile loop. We were pretty slow. The ride to North Berwick was a whirlwind, cruising at over 22mph. Then from North Berwick to Kincardine we were heading straight into a 22mph wind gusting to 46mph! It was really miseable hard going. Bikes behaving very well. Bought some more clothing at the Scottish Bike Show at the weekend.

Catherine has been doing a lot of swim training at the Commie Pool, has dragged me along and I swam a mile for the first time in years in a 50m pool. Not sure we can do much more training. Fortunatley neither of us injured whilst training. My personal trainer Colin Wycherley has been absolutely terrific and has done a lot of deep pressure massage on my legs, breaking down all the Fuzz. Legs feeling pretty good and strong.

Having trouble finding spare spokes for my Shimano WH-RS10 Wheels, Expect may just be easer to get a spare wheel. Need some carbon bike seat post grease.

Exciting times!