Day nine: Into the unknown and facing it all alone…
The ominous title which introduces day nine describes exactly how I felt. It was good to have had a rest the day before because the first week had been seriously challenging ‘physically’, but exhaustion was easy to deal with – this was going to be emotionally tough. Tony, my faithful driver, would still be meeting me at the transition points, of course, but this was the first day where I would take on every step, peddle, paddle and stroke by myself. I said goodbye to Penny and the children again that morning; knowing that this time, it would be twelve days before I saw them again.
Add to the loneliness of each mile the fact that the route itself was largely uncharted territory, and I really was starting to feel the pressure. My previous record for an endurance event had only lasted nine days, so I was also beginning to question my body and stamina in areas that hadn’t been broached before.
Sometimes in life and business, the toughest tests are not actually the toughest situations we have to face. More often than not there is a shoulder to cry on, a wise old head to give you advice or an expert to refer to when you are facing an uphill stretch. If there is a lesson to learn from my feelings, even before this day had really got going, it is that whenever you possibly can make sure a helping hand is at your side.
Heading north from the Mersey side…
So I set off for a short bike ride, leaving West Kirby and heading for Fort Perch Rock at the mouth of Liverpool’s Mersey River. The poor weather hampered the crossing again and begrudgingly I let my braver judgement take second place to my ‘erring on the side of caution’ promises once more. It was back on the bike at Crosby and a long, solitary bike ride up through Preston and head-down, pressing on to Lancaster.
The weather was dull, wet, misty and foreboding, reflecting my mood, and doing its best to dampen it further. North once more from this, normally picturesque, town I approached Cumbria, a part of the mission that I’d actually been looking forward to tackling. Perhaps in response to my heightened anticipation, the sun showed a little sympathy and made a bit of an appearance by the time I reached the Lake District and prepared myself for the climbs to come.
Fight your way through to the familiar…
I love Cumbria and arriving in the amongst its peaks and lakes certainly lifted my spirits a little. In all, there were six tough climbs to face (don’t get me wrong – for me, that was a good thing), a short swim and a nice run before arriving for a well-earned rest in Gosforth. So the day of doom ended on something more akin to a high (albeit a tired one).
Being an adventurous person, I live for the highs; I revel in the challenges, and I get the biggest buzz of all from coming out of the other side of adversity. For any business owner, those are common, recurring scenarios and emotions. We all love winning that big contract, smashing an annual target, shutting the door on a problem or waving goodbye to stress. As long as we can see the proverbial ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ and that there is a bright horizon to aim for we can pretty much get through anything.
The key, therefore, is to set your sights on the target and be prepared to get your head down and peddle ‘for as long as it takes’ until you get there.