Hebridean Cycle Challenge: Charity Cycle and Charity Walk

Challenge 2013

Peter Thompson's Solo BIke/Run Challenge Report

Well, the Hebridean Cycle Challenge certainly lived up to its name - for me anyway. 33.6 miles cycling over the highest roads in Harris (over the Clisham road) and then an 11 mile run over the fields/hills of Harris. 

Doing these things can feel a bit surreal at times. There's always a sense of "not belonging" as you queue up for registration surrounded by assorted men and women who look right at home. They all look fit, strong, and capable and the only hope you have is to not embarrass yourself too much.

Peter (in black in middle of photo) at the start of the challenge
Peter (in black in middle of photo) at the start of the challenge

The event was brutal and for the cycle part I was at the back - with the "Broom wagon" right behind me all the way (that's the van that sits behind the last rider - in some races they will actively throw you in the back if your doing too badly... thankfully the driver let me get on with it)! It added another level of pressure to the ride, everytime I stopped for a drink, out he would pop.. "are you ok?", "do you want to quit?", "No" I'd say, "I'm ok.." and on I'd go.

The rest of the pack? I have no idea why but they were about 5 miles ahead of me. The only person I did pass was a poor lady who had a puncture. There she was by the side of the road, lycra clad, changing her tyre. I thought THANK GOD!! I wont be last!! Sadly, within 5 mins, she shot past me up a hill and within 30 seconds she was gone for good.

Peter entering transition - looking anything but ashamed and useless!
Peter entering transition - looking anything but ashamed and useless!

I think you are getting the gist of this. So, over 2 hours later, I get to the transition point, totally spent, feeling thoroughly ashamed of myself.. and last, but no rest for the useless.. I had 11 miles to run!

After dropping my bike off with my WONDERFUL wife and getting a fresh water bottle, I began the run. Or should I say, the trot. Has anyone ever cycled 36 miles then had to run? Is it just me, but your legs dont really want to join in the fun do they? 11 mile runs are pretty normal for me, so I thought, this part would be where I'd make up some time.. but.. alas.. it was not to be. I had forgotten to take into account I was runing over mountains.. this was Trail running - not the nice tarmaced, evenly undulating road running I was used to.

After the first 3 miles (where i had to walk some sections) I realised that I was doomed.. last place. Passing all the fantastic Marshalls at key points, (poor things had to wait for me to finish before jumping on their quad bikes to go home!) everyone giving me encouragment.. needless to say, theres a great sense of SHAME being last, it's just something you can't get rid of. And when your co-runners are eating soup at the finish line.. you've still got 9 miles to run..you can't help but feel that you wished the ground would just swallow you up. Oh, and lets not forget the physical side - I have never felt so exhausted or spent in my life. What kept me going? The fact I had to finish it - last or not. I'd set out to do it, and I could have jumped on a quad bike and been given a lift back to that soup at any time.. but no, pains temporary, but quitting lasts forever.

3 miles before the end I puked up. My stomach had shut down by then. 5 hours cycling/ running does that! But, eventually there it was - a yellow flag, and my wonderful wife.. I finished, and Linda gave me the finishers medal, people were cheering, clapping, and even the broom wagon driver was there shaking my hand!

I'id done it and I was smiling. Forget the fact people had finished nearly 3 hours before me.. forget my body felt like I was going to die, forget if I wanted to I could have ran for my car with shame..but no, I was smiling. And I didn't feel bad at all. And I went inside and had that soup!.. and sandwiches, and cakes, and coffee, and pizza.. and I had my medal. I said to linda, NEVER again, am I running, cycling, or going out into the wilds!. NEVER EVER AGAIN. and.. I meant it.

However this morning, things seem a bit different. I wonder if I could get Linda to take part with me next year? What's the worst that could happen? ..There can only ever be 1 person who finished first, but there's only ever 1 person who finished last... in every single race. These things are done for personal goals, no matter how grand or humble. I pushed myself to my utter limits, and a life spent without doing that, is a life only half lived, I think. Yesterday I did something only a small percentage would or could do and I've a silly medal to show for it.

I'm looking at it now. It signifies that I accomplished what I set out to achieve. 
jobs a good un!...

So, see you next year Mr Broom Wagon!

Peter Thompson

Peter toasting the challenge?
Peter toasting the challenge?

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