Adventure woman: this 2018 challenge could be for you
Posted on 18 January 2018
Would you cycle 250km?
Now add a zero.
How about 2,500km.... with your partner.... through Irish weather?
Zulfi and Greta undertook this in June. They took part in the Transatlantic Way Race.
So what's the Trans Atlantic Race?
Start in Dublin, north to Derry, then trace the coast until you get to Kinsale and finish in Cork. Tired or excited at the thought?
Greta is a fellow-cycling-starter-upper (see these lovely handmade bags Vel-oh) so I was curious to see what sparked her to start this adventure.
Here's what she told me....
How did you two meet?
We met at the Commercial Tavern in London where we both worked almost a decade ago… After we both got fired (Oooops) we started seeing each other and quickly grew to be inseparable.
You’ve just completed the Transatlantic Way Race. What brought you to embark on this journey?
Good question... We have been cycling for a number of years now but when I say cycling I mean we used our bikes to get around London.
So once we moved to Ireland last year used our bikes just to get around, but we were now based in the countryside and the roads had that magic about them so slowly we started going for rides to the cafe and making them longer and longer.
Then somehow I stumbled upon TransAm bike race page one day and I immediately signed us up for it. I had one of those ‘Do first, think later’ moments.
Fast forward to April, we stumbled onto a few problems and we had a slight fear Trump won’t let Zulfi's beard enter the US and we cancelled TransAM and signed up for the TransAtlanticWay bike race, which just felt SO right!
2,500km is not to be sniffed at. Can you tell me about the training preparation?
Firstly we had to accept that pedalling our cool single speeds wearing jeans and jumpers won’t cut it anymore. That was probably the hardest part.
So we bought ourselves some proper road bikes and a pair of padded shorts each and started going out every other day and we would increase the distance slowly.
That was pretty much all of our January and February and we have gotten to a place where we were happy in the saddle for over 100km. We then took a road trip with Vel-Oh showcasing at various bike shows and although we had the bikes with us we hardly touched them until we got back to Ireland sometime in April.
It felt like we were back to square one in terms of training but pushed ourselves hard and kept going out every other day again with only 6 weeks to go till TAW - Eeek. So I’m not sure we did so well here, but we found that cycling the distance every day was much more of a mental game, rather than how strong your legs are. After the first day or two pedals just seem to go round and round by themselves.
Did you learn anything about your partnership?
We have been together for a while now and so I’m not sure we learnt much about our partnership as such, but I think we ended up having more respect for each other after seeing how much we we were able to push ourselves.
What got you through the hard times? Did you have any mantras?
Mostly the sheep - we would always say hello when we saw them and it just made us giggle. But having someone to giggle with made a huge difference too.
What were the highs of the race?
The views. The challenges. The freedom. The excitement. Learning your limits. The ability to surprise yourself on how hardcore you can be. Just riding your bike. The people we met. The odd occasion when you had tailwind. Waking up at down. Argh, this list could go on forever! The whole experience was incredible.
…. And the lows?
Not being able to plan for the unexpected... both Zulfi's bike and Zulfi's knee’s gave up on him a few days away from finish line. So the lowest point was when we decided… we had to take a big shortcut in order to get Zulfi to the finish line in one piece. Our Wahoo told us we did 2000km instead of 2500km, so although we got to the finish line we didn’t complete the full route of race (biggest sad face).
That was the toughest day of our lives together as a pair I think, not just the lowest point of this race. No matter how hard I try to put how we felt into words accepting the fact that we couldn't (and believe us we tried everything) go on was unimaginably soul breaking.
You recently moved from London to a quiet part of the west of Ireland, can you tell us more about this move? (We know this is nothing got to do with the race but as an Irish woman, I have to ask!)
So as humans and as small business owners we felt London was starting to suck all our energy out whilst time was flying by and we started to long for some slowness in our lives. We then had a friend over for dinner one night who had just come back from exploring Ireland and he was in aw with it. Somewhere within the conversation Zulfi remembered that his family owns a holiday home in the West of Ireland and a few days after this dinner we booked a long weekend away.
Up until this point no one would have made me choose Ireland as a holiday, let alone living destination, but somehow we now couldn’t wait to go.
Once we made it to Ireland and rented a car for the weekend we spent most of it driving around trying to find the house, because it didn’t exist on google maps or on any maps to be honest, and we already started to love this place before we even found it. After knocking on doors and asking random people if they had any idea where this mystery house was we somehow managed to find it.
And whilst we were sitting in the garden sun bathing (yup, not a drop of rain that weekend) we fantasised how amazing it would be to live here in the middle of nowhere even for 6 months or so. To inhale the fresh air everyday, to sleep in, to go for long walks, to work for ourselves, to live for ourselves….
Once we got back to London, to our daily routines the house in Ireland and the ‘hypothetically, what if we actually move' kept coming to our conversations and soon enough we started to plan our escape. We quit our day jobs, bought a van, packed our lives into it and moved away! Most of our friends and some part of us too were sure that we won’t last long, that we would come crawling back to the London life but a year later we’re still here with no plans to go back to London yet. We love the raw untouched beauty of Ireland and we haven’t seen it all yet!
What 3 pieces of kit could you not live without?
So up until early this year we didn’t own any cycling ‘kit’ but we quickly learnt what huge difference it makes on a long ride.
We have tried a few brands on different spectrums of the pricing and so far our favourite, most comfortable and stylish cycling brand we wouldn’t be able to go on a long ride without would be Svelte London. The bib shorts had literally saved our backsides on TAW, we came back without any sores or blisters after 2000km. The merino jerseys kept us warm and cool and not so smelly and we love the simple look. Although I did jazz it up a bit with their floral arm warmers.