RAB - Final thoughts

By PaulChristie on 24 September 2012

The Deloitte Ride Across Britain was the achievement of a life time for me. It was the climax of a 2-3 year journey from being 19 ½ stone with no fitness level whatsoever, to being 14 stone and feeling strong enough to set myself the challenge of cycling 982 miles in 9 days from Land’s End to John O’Groats. A feat I had only ever thought possible by extreme athletes!
There’s two parts to attempting the RAB - there’s your own abilities, both mental and physical, and there is your support team. By support team I mean my family and friends, who have been behind me all the way and set me off with a surprise parcel for each day full of jokes and encouraging messages and little treats to eat on the ride.
Arriving at Land’s End on the 7th September I was full of excitement and nerves. I had put the training in by cycling roughly 4000 miles in the previous 8 months, so now it was all about the mental attitude. It was going to be tough, I knew that, but I had the cycling legs, and I had the determination. There was no way I would be swept up by the broom wagon at any point, I was there to complete the End to End! 
All nine days followed the same pattern:-

  • Wake up at 4am needing a wee, but decide I can wait until the alarm goes off
  • Alarm goes off at 5am, by the time I have unzipped the sleeping bag and put some clothes on, its a desperate rush to the toilet - waiting wasn't a good idea!
  • Breakfast at 5.30am
  • Grab bike lube, oil spray, tooth brush/paste and chamois cream and head to the toilet (must make sure I don't get these mixed up!)
  • Stand in the queue with 500 other riders waiting to apply cream to their nether regions, also hoping to avoid any chaffing
  • Return to canteen and down 2 coffees
  • 7am I'm on the bike, stopping 40 minutes later for a wee as the coffee has hit
  • 35ish miles later get to feed stop 1 and fill up on sandwiches, shortbread, crisps, cake and chocolate
  • 75ish miles further on, get to feed stop 2 and repeat the above
  • Around 90 miles find a pub for a coke and a coffee
  • On a caffeine high, power through to the end to be cheered in by the RAB staff and anyone else that happened to be there
  • Head to bar and have recovery beer, followed by a shower
  • Every other night get a massage
  • 7pm eat my body weight in food
  • 8.30pm RAB nightly briefing
  • 9.00pm head to bed and apply Pernaton gel and Sudocreme - big tip here, if you don't apply the Sudocreme to your delicate areas before the gel goes on your legs, makes for a very interesting feeling for the next hour!
  • Repeat for 9 days!

We camped every night, bar one which was in the halls of residence at Bath University. Each day would start off with reveille at 05:30am and the music changed each day – the selection included ‘I want to ride my bicyle by Queen’ and ‘We could be heroes by David Bowie’ I found the wake-up call quite motivational.
In my opinion, one of the main things to do is to remember to look up, take your eyes off the tarmac and actually enjoy the experience and the sights to be seen. It’s not a race, and finding a like-minded team to work with helps!
I am 6”4 and I was extremely lucky on day one to find two other guys of a similar build to me at the first feed stop.  They had the same idea as me - we wanted someone to slipstream and there’s not much cover behind the short skinny guys!
From this point we formed a tight knit group of eight core people. We were all of a like mind, being there to enjoy the experience, not afraid to actually stop for a coffee or photo as the days went by, not afraid of bantering back and forth, and most importantly, not afraid of taking the p*ss out of each other. It became very important to keep the humour going, the camaraderie made sure that if you messed up, it was noticed and pointed out by everyone! We celebrated the lows, as well as the many highs.
Over the nine days we each learnt about how each of us deals with exhaustion and stress. Each other’s little nuances, which wouldn’t normally be an issue, became more and more of an irritation after eight hours a day together for nine days.  I had decided right at the beginning that I would not get angry on the ride; I wouldn’t let things get to me as this could ruin the experience. When this did happen (which was only twice) I just stopped! One of these times was after I realised I was not having fun. We were facing 20-30mph headwinds and I was on my own, and trying to battle the head wind on your own makes it at least 40% harder. I came across a random plastic box turned upside down, and that was it, I stopped, sat down, and pulled out my flap jack and started to eat. After watching a number of people pass me by I set off, struggling through the wind until I came across someone else who was looking worse than me. I got in front of him and slowed down for him as I knew the next food stop was only 10ish miles away. Within the next 5 miles we came across about 5 other people who were struggling, and we added them to the back of my line, tackling the wind so they could recover until the stop.
Key memories of the RAB

  • Even after three 100+ mile days, you can surprise yourself and find you still have enough energy for a competitive sprint finish challenge
  • Using everything I had, both physically and mentally to battle through Shag Fell and Glencoe.
  • Finding the mental aptitude to tackle any of the climbs and not get off, even when your legs are burning and feel like jelly
  • Racing a newspaper boy up a 10% incline, before realising it just kept going up and if I didn’t beat him I would look like even more of an idiot – too late to back and save face
  • Turning up at a feed station where two old ladies who happened to be there, proceeded to pull out Vaseline and say I looked like I was chaffing, but they would sort it for me
  • Building a team up and becoming a cohesive unit, supporting, bantering and sharing the RAB experience with each other
  • The last 15 miles of Day nine, and two of us racing the distance to the finish line and the feeling of achievement crossing the line
  • The amazing logistical effort put in by the Threshold Crew, who made sure our every need was met, and who were always smiling and encouraging and there to clap you in at the finish line

In conclusion, the Ride Across Britain was amazing, one of the most challenging and thrilling experiences I have undertaken. The ride will teach you a lot about yourself, how you deal with difficult situations, how you work as a team member and also about how you look at life. Are you a head down and look at the tarmac kind of person who speeds by without noticing anything, or do you sit up and enjoy the scenery, looking to absorb and enjoy things as you travel along?
I would recommend the RAB to anyone, and if you ever have the chance, take it as you will not be sorry!