Riding 220 miles in one day across England; an achievement that isn't owned by many but held close to the hearts of those that do. You won't often, if at all, spend 16 hours in a state of such productive escapism; moving forward and developing as a person, but with the clear mental space that being so focused on one goal brings.
M2L (Rapha Manchester to London) is tough, emotional and one of the most wonderful and humbling experiences I've ever had. The weekend now seems a blur, but thankfully paper lasts longer than pain, and I've documented the journey from food to fears below:
With a ride of this magnitude, there are so many variables that you enthusiastically try to control. I've been in a state of constant M2L planning for months, but during the final 24 hours every choice is intensified. Whether it's what shoes you wear, what seat you choose in the pub and of course the food you eat, everything is considered and nothing is an accident. It may be mistaken as stressful, but it's meditation. Every ounce of energy is spent on one ambitious goal. And it's crazy what human can do when focused.
Then we set off. The panic and preparation was over. We were in it. Unlike worrying, every mile was productive and we were moving closer than we'd ever been to the finish line.
We followed red arrows from Manchester and then blue arrows that lead us into London.
We followed our heart that told us to keep going when our legs and head were doubting it.
We followed each other - 200 cyclists against the odds - meeting up with different groups along the way who shared their story (as well as a welcomed wheel to sit on).
We followed our stomachs and ate every 10 minutes, even if that meant drinking a sweaty brownie that had melted or shovelling down bircher muesli whilst sitting on the toilet.
We followed the support. From whatsapps sent by friends who were tracking us, to a handmade sign en route that had been tied to a post earlier that morning. When you have a low moment, you see that and realise the world is on your side. Ride on.
We followed the time. The event has cut offs you have to beat at each food stop otherwise you get picked up by the van. When you're trying to control your emotions, being logical (and the arsehole of the group telling others to hurry up) distracts your mind.
We followed our head. The group had to split as we approached the 180 mile mark. When it becomes dark and you're all tired, you realise that 'teamwork' means doing the best for the team not necessarily staying together.
We followed advice. Don't stop for longer than 10 minutes. Break the route up into sections. Keep drinking. Take turns on the front. As Simon Mottram, Rapha Founder, also shared the night before, "just keep on keeping on".
Everyone has their own story of M2L. Their personal tale of why they turned up on the start line as well as their unique journey during the ride. The 2016 M2L story is made up of individual chapters but we're all part of a collective 'happy ever after' - together we've raised nearly £200k for Ambitious about Autism. Never have I felt part of something so much greater than myself.
Since Sunday, I've had the inevitable highs but also the unexpected lows. The come-down that is fuelled by a gap in your life which had been occupied for months. So now (as my body tries to digest the remaining sugar), my ever growing wandering mind and wild heart is asking, what's next?