The Support Crew

http://www.flickr.com/apps/slideshow/show.swf?v=71649

Simon

Cambridge – England

Over the last 18 months, we’ve passed through many countries and landscapes, slogged up mountain passes and rolled effortlessly along flat open plains. We’ve been frozen to the core, soaked in rain, and soaked in sweat. We’ve had aches and strains, been hungry, thirsty, sick and tired. We’ve and had many trials and many tribulations. But without the support of the people on our route, we would not be where we are now, sitting in Cambridge, with only a short stint left to do until we finish in Greystones.

These people have housed us, fed us, shared their stories and shared their culture. They’ve welcomed us into their homes at a moments notice and shared with us whatever they could, from giving us clean water from their well to cooking up gigantic feasts. They’ve given us a dusty floor of their shed, an entire floor of their home, and their own beds in which to sleep. They’ve made us laugh, made us think, told us tales of joy and tales of sadness. They’ve raised our spirits when we were down, buoying us up with their acts of kindness, and humbling us with their overwhelming generosity. These people, these friends, our wonderful worldwide support crew.

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Blog Archive – HTFU

 Week 4 - Really cold downhill

This blog was originally published in December 2008

Fearghal

We´ve adopted a new motto this week, its been kindly loaned to us by the lads at SOUTH HQ who’ll no doubt be needing it back when they attempt their historic expedition in Antartica next November.

The four simple letters HTFU stand for; Harden The F@€k UP.  The idea is everytime you find yourself cringing, smarting or moaning about something beyond your control you counteract the negative thought with a quick HTFU (ideally with an aussie accent) .

Its snowing outside and you´re finding it hard to get out of your sleeping bag for a day in the cold and wet?

HTFU 

The prospect of putting on the same damp clothes that you´ve been wearing for the last three weeks makes you cringe?

HTFU

You can´t feel your fingers as its theres a bitter wind and your gloves are soaked?

HTFU

You miss your girlfriend and wonder why the hell you are on a bike in the Pyrenees in the winter and not sitting on the couch with a take-away a bottle of wine and a DVD?

Yep, you guessed it; HTFU

Ultimately, HTFU is a strategy for dealing with discomfort and pain, for turning a negative thought back in on itself and diffusing the disruptive and destructive feelings before they colour the world in the wrong shade. Simon has been using it as a mantra to get past the burn on particualrly grueling climbs. Personally, I prefer “come on te f@”k” (preferably with a deep dub accent). Really, the words don´t matter, its the sentiment behind tham thats important, and by adopting HTFU we are trying to get into the right mindset to grin and bear whatever comes our way.

That senitment has lead us to forgo wearing our gloves when our fingers are numb, and not wearing our heaviest fleece when we were cold- because if we need them in comfortable Europe, if we breakout our Trumps now, then we´ve nothing left for down the road when it will be even colder/wetter/harder.  At least there’s comfort in knowing that we have gloves and more clothes to fall back on, even if there is present discomfort without them. 

So, why HTFU, why bother Hardening The F@#k Up in the first place? Because every now and then, when you are grinding your articulated 50kg bicycle up a 3km climb, you’re wet and your ears are stinging from the cold air and rain, the ipod shuffle throws out the right song, and for 3minutes and 53 seconds you understand what its about in a way that you never would otherwise. You realise that “Times Like These” is actually a time like this and if you never HTFU’d you wouldn’t be here- you might be at home watching TV or sitting at desk somewhere dreaming of being there. And Times Like These would just be be Times Like Those, and you’d never know the bitter sweetness of trully living of trully being in the world – not dreaming of it at a desk, not watching it on telly, and not trying to ignore it with detached ignorance or drowning it in a pickled stupor. 

Thats why we’ll be HTFUing with gusto. 

Potential Energy

road goes up

Simon

Tiblisi – Georgia

As I whizzed downhill into the Georgian capital of Tiblisi, I felt the cold wind in my hair and bushy beard, the tingling of my nearly knumb hands, and enjoyed the lack of effort as my bike rolled downward. I had earned that enjoyment sometime earlier in the day, when I used the power in my muscles to spin the pedals which gave me forward thrust up some hill. By climbing upward, I gained potential energy, and the higher I went, the more energy I gained, like a rollercoaster carriage waiting to be released for a thrilling ride.

But there is another type of potential that we have within ourselves, and that is the potential to get out and do some exercise, no matter how tired you feel. I always find that I feel vitalised after a cycle, walk or run, even if I felt sh*te beforehand. The urge to stay in the comforts of ones home often overrides the exercise we know we need, but deny ourselves.

I also find that the more exercise I do, the better and more energised I feel. For example after the Christmas slobfest in Armenia, I felt low on energy, despite sleeping lots and doing nothing. Conversely, when I was doing consecutive 180km days in western China, I had boundless energy.  No doubt you’ll be feeling a little sluggish after the Christmas excesses, so raise your potential energy, get out on your bike, or go for a run, walk or swim. Yes, I know it’s it’s freezing cold outside (I’ve seen the news), but I guarantee you’ll come back feeling better than when you went out.

And the fitness you gain will keep you going when you come along for our homecoming cycle this April……..

Courting Impossible

http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=8235991&server=vimeo.com&show_title=1&show_byline=1&show_portrait=0&color=&fullscreen=1

The Global Triathlon from Daniel Martin on Vimeo.

Fearghal

Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men, at least that’s what Mohommed Ali reckoned. He was a big man, and didn’t seem to be held back by impossiblity. Dan Martin is another big man who doesn’t let im get in the way of his possible.  

Dan’s planning a global triathlon! Even trying to think up the craziest expedition I could imagine I never would have dared dream of something like this; swim the Atlantic, bike across Siberia in winter, then run across North America!

Quite simply its nuts and maybe not possible.

But, Dan is going to give it a bash all the same. He’ll be spending four months at sea then hopping on his bike to the bearing straits then running to New York in time for the City Marathon. Like I said nuts, and maybe impossible.

We’ll be following Dan’s historic adventure closely. I really hope he can redefine a global Triathlon as possible.

Our Worlds are Round!

Image: Si on sky bridge in Anhui Province- China

Fearghal

I was cycling along through the desert en route to Hami a few months ago when the kernel of an idea popped into my head. I recorded the following on my dictaphone.

The landscape is a dusty monochrome of khaki brown. Its flat. The sky is high, wrapped around me like an azure dome. I must be below a flight path as the space above is streaked with a cotton wool like trail in wide arc’s.

I’m cycling west and these streaks come from the east behind me, swoop over me and it looks like they are diving off into the distance. Obviously, the airplanes are flying in, what appears to the pilots as a straight line, in the same way that my straight line west would look like an arc to someone 8km below me.

Cycling along on the flat earth in the desert in western china, and the earth’s curvature is staring me in the face. I’m reminded that what seems like a straight line is actually an arc.

Each morning the the sun rises behind me, travels around my left flank then sets before me in an orange blaze.

Its a practical reminder of the nature of our circumnavigation, of how it’s possible for one to travel consistently in one direction, never look or turn back, and eventually arrive back at the precise point where you began.

I’ve been thinking about full circles ever since. Metaphorically the concept opens lots of doors, it reminds me of my favourite quote, a simple line from from the simulcraneaic masterpiece Vanilla sky; “every passing minute is another chance to turn it all around”.

Then it makes me think of the following extract from TS Eliot’s Little Gidding, that I promised myself I wouldn’t post again until we got home:

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.

Finally, and rather aptly, it brings me back to the begining, to the very conception of this little project of ours, when
Si,Paul and I spent months sweating on our branding, logo, and concept. And eventually decided that Revolution best captured our feelings about the circumnavigation:

rev-o-lu-tion

a drastic and far-reaching change in ways of thinking and behaving;

a single complete turn(axial or orbital)

As you can probably tell, I like the idea that the world is round, things are cyclical, and that at some point the last will be first. And given that the world has been through 365 revolutions and 1 full wobble since we left Greystones this time last year, I’ve been thinking of full circles quite a bit of late.

The Will to Power! Book Review: Its Not About The Bike

Fearghal

I’ve just finished reading “Its Not About The Bike” by Lance Armstrong. The world and its mother has been telling me to read it or assuming I’d already read it ever since I started this cycling thing.

So when I was home, and I saw a copy sitting on the coffee table in a friend’s house, with no bookmark or turned down pages, and luckily Daz had just finished it.

The book charts Lance’s journey from a self proclaimed child prodigy to successful young athlete, cancer sufferer/survivor, to Tour de France winner and all round american hero.

Its not about the bike is written in roughly three sections. It opens with a plain narrative, telling of Lance’s wins and  conquests up until the the day he gets the news that he has testicular and lung cancer and his world of security and success falls away.

Then he talks the reader through his bitter fight with cancer. Holding nothing back. He describes how the news reduced him. He describes the fear he carried throughout the ordeal of the imminent reality that he may not survive. or that he may never cycle again. He describes his feelings as he slips from powerful world champion to anemic patient with a three percent chance of staying alive. He describes this battle in candid detail, and explains his hair loss, the nauseating symptoms and his chemotherapy.

The final section charts his grind back to health, and his fight to regain motivation and purpose. Then he eloquently recounts his heroic Tour De France win which is so inspirational it deserves the rocky theme as a backing track.

What I found particularly interesting was, and its not clear whether this is deliberate or not, each of the three sections was written in a different tone. The  first in the tone of a strong, cocky and arrogant jock with the world at his feet. Then his tone changes to one of candor, humility and vulnerability of a bald cancer patient as he recounts his raw and scarring ordeal. He describes his climb back to health and the grind to the top of professional cycling against all odds in the third section with a mature, philosophical air.

I disliked Lance the jock, and found his writing dry and dull. I would have put the book down three chapters in were it not for the high recommendations of my friends. I wanted to finish the book and then slate its arrogant and dull author. But, then the tone changed and the story became human, once he learns of his fate, and the narrative is stripped down, honest and powerful from there on in. As, the complex experiences other than success and winning call on Armstrong to reach for a thesaurus to accurately describe them.

There’s something to be learned from Lance’s story, amid the popular  “can do”, “never give up” sound bytes there’s two subtle and elegant messages. Even the strongest “winners” are vulnerable. And, all experience is valuable, both the positive and the negative. As yer man Nietzsche said “what ever doesn’t kill us will just make us stronger”. Cancer didn’t kill Armstrong and definitely made him stronger, and it would also seem, wiser and humbler and more appreciative of his life. Life’s much more than standing on a podium, or sitting on a swinging chair in a big office and driving a silly SUV to a good post code every night.

Indeed, Its not about the bike, but being able to appreciate how fortunate you are to be riding it. 

This Post was scheduled before we entered XinJiang Province. Find out why here

Stand By Me

http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=2539741&server=vimeo.com&show_title=1&show_byline=1&show_portrait=0&color=00ADEF&fullscreen=1

This cover of Stand By Me was recorded by completely unknown artists in a street virtual studio all around the world. It all started with a base track—vocals and guitar—recorded on the streets of Santa Monica, California, by a street musician called Roger Ridley. The base track was then taken to New Orleans, Louisiana, where Grandpa Elliott—a blind singer from the French Quarter—added vocals and harmonica while listening to Ridley’s base track on headphones. In the same city, Washboard Chaz’s added some metal percussion to it.

And from there, it just gets rock ‘n’ rolling bananas: The producers took the resulting mix all through Europe, Africa, and South America, adding new tracks with multiple instruments and vocals that were assembled in the final version you are seeing in this video. All done with a simple laptop and some microphones.

Check out the Playing for Change website for more info