The story so far.. Bar Harbor Maine to Washington DC

I reached Washington DC on Sunday 12th September after cycling for 913 miles (1,469km) over 16 days with 42,628ft of ascent. Starting in Maine, I cycled through New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and the District of Columbia.

Tackling the back roads of Maine

While I pause the ride for a few days and return home to celebrate my daughters 11th birthday it gives me a chance to reflect on the trip so far and, of course, what is to come in my final push to Key West, FL.

The Grand Depart. It was lovely to have Jules and the the kids there to wave me off in Bar Harbor on August 27th and then meet me at the end of day one in Searsport. That coupled with meeting up with a great friend and his family for dinner at the most magical of Maine garden/Pizza spots made the beginning of the trip feel like a holiday. It was from day two on, when I was alone, that the focus on the ride really began. The first thing was tweaking all those little things that I hadn’t thought about or indeed it was difficult to plan for until the ride actually began. Getting my packing right, adjusting the iPhone mount on the handle bars so I did’t sweat directly on the phone, having my lock attached to the rack so I didn’t have to fish it out of a bag every time I stopped etc. Over those first few days as my body got used to the riding schedule I began to feel more comfortable with my set up on the bike and I felt like I was adapting to the grueling ride ahead.

By the time I reached Portsmouth, NH on day 5 my legs were very sore but I was lucky enough to find Ramona Cavasin and her magic hands and after 90 minutes on her massage table I was revitalized and felt like I’d been gifted a new pair of legs. I also took my one rest day in the beautiful town of Portsmouth and although I enjoyed the time off the saddle I decided it would be the only rest day I would take before reaching Washington DC.

The conditions have been changeable both in terms of the weather and the terrain. Day 9 (Windsor Locks CT to Millerton NY) stands out as being particularly wet and miserable but it was a case of head down and get it done. The ride on day 13 saw some of the fall out of the recent adverse weather conditions in the area with trees downed across paths and sometimes completely washed away canal trails. There was quite a-lot of walking the bike and lifting it (and the bags) over trees. An exhausting day.

Scenery, food and accommodation. Anyone who has followed along with the novice cyclist instagram account (@thenovicecyclist1978) will have noticed the beautiful (hilly!) countryside of North East USA, the amazing food and the fabulous inns, motels and hotels which have been a real highlight of the trip so far. You really get to see and experience places from a bicycle in such a fascinating and unique way.

My bike. All I can say is I love it. It is the Trek Domane SL 5. I was concerned when I purchased it that it was an unknown entity and I should have stayed faithful to my 1987(?) steel frame Pinnarello. Well, simply put, I look at the my bike and my gator skin continental tires in awe every day. The comfort of the ride and the performance on all terrain and obstacles thrown at us has exceeded all my expectations.

My bike and set up

People. The biggest thrill of the trip has undoubtably been the interactions with people I have had along the way. From the briefest of conversations at a gas station as I grab water or a coffee, to the fly-fishing outlet I stopped at to grab a coke, to lunch stops, bike shops, fellow riders, hotel guests and employees and even cars at junctions. It has been truly fantastic and it reaffirms my belief in the human spirit, in the kindness and generosity of strangers and our underlying good, caring nature. A special shout out to Eric who kindly bought me breakfast in Rockport, to Cole and Ashley who invited me into their house for breakfast in Windsor Locks and Joe and team at Bike Works, Newtown PA who gave me the warmest of welcomes when I popped in for some air for my tires. They made me coffee, gave me snacks, sponsored the ride and shared local knowledge of the route that lay ahead. Sadly not all bike shops are like theirs but they are the real deal. They care about bikes, they have time for cyclist, they know what they are talking about and they are generous with their time. I wish every bike shop that I had dropped into on this journey was like Bike Works… If you’re in the neighborhood go see them and say a large English man on a ride down the east coast sent you…. i know they’ll look after you.

Ged (Q5) and the two Andreis joins me for day 10

Here comes Florida. What lies ahead is 20 days of riding just over 1,500 miles to get me from Washington DC to Key West, Florida. While it is fair to say the majority of the hills are behind me the increasing daily milage and the rising temperature and humidity as I head south will ensure there is no let up in the challenge. I am delighted that a friend will be meeting me in DC to join me for the first five days, accompanying me to James Town, VA. That will then see me solo again for 15 days for the final chapter of the ride.

Thanks. I can’t thank everyone enough for their kind words of encouragement, those who’ve been able to join the ride, the sponsors; Fundamental Group, Kay & Burton and Q5 and those who have donated to the GoFundMe page. It means the world to me and I know it does to Alister and Gemma too. We’re almost at our goal of $20,000… let’s get this done. A little vid below of the story so far.

The Novice Cyclist xx

The story so far…

Sponsors confirmed for The Atlantic Coast Challenge plus win an official cycling jersey

Official Cycling Jersey for The Atlantic Coast Challenge

I am delighted to announce that Fundamental Group, Q5 Partners and Kay & Burton will be supporting the ride. Through their generosity the fund raising goal has received a $10,000 boost. In addition Fundamental is underwriting the branded cycling jerseys for the ride . I am incredibly grateful to these three fantastic companies for their support. Thank you Angus, Ross, Olly and teams. It is the support of companies like theirs in addition to the generous individual donations that drives me to take on this challenge and most importantly will make a massive contribution to Alister’s battle with MS.

I do have one more spot on the jersey for a corporate sponsor so if your company would like to come onboard please contact me directly ASAP.

It’s all about the stash (as we all know) so I am delighted that we’ll be putting all those who have donated so far and anyone who donates before July 30th into a hat (or cycling helmet) and drawing 5 names to win an Atlantic Coast Challenge official cycling jersey. So please donate now to be in for a chance to win. It’s not the yellow jersey I know but this jersey will be more famous in my house at the very least!

Off for a training ride this afternoon. See you all on the other side.

Daily schedule published. Come and say hello.

I knew Bar Harbor to Key West was a long way, The Adventure Cycling Association (ACA) has the route at 2,655.4 miles to be exact. That assumes I don’t take a wrong turn, that I can find somewhere to sleep without going off route and I don’t add on any of the spurs/additions that take me into Boston, New York, Philadelphia or the Outer Banks. I think we can assume it’s going longer than 2,655.4 miles.

It didn’t really hit home just how far it is until I sat down and started trying to map out the daily milage. I’m trying to balance a couple of factors in this equation. The need to cycle far enough each day that ensures I get to Key West before Christmas, that I need to stop somewhere where there’s accommodation (ideally a couple of options) and finally there’s only so far I can cycle, fully loaded with kit in a day. Couple that with the uncertainty of the weather and any unforeseen mechanical issues the “planning” portion of this ride is a logistical nightmare. Don’t book accommodation ahead of time then I may have nowhere to rest my weary bones, book too many days ahead and I may not make it to the accommodation in time and a domino effect of non refundable cancelations blows my accommodation budget out of the water.

At this point I should reiterate this ride is just me, no other riders, no organizers, no support vehicles, no nothing. Me, my bike with some panniers on the back, my cell phone and a credit card. I’ve called the ride The Atlantic Coast Challenge which has conjured up an air of formality, established and organization – this is not the case. Whilst the route has been mapped out by the ACA I will be relying on good luck and a bit of self determination for everything else.

That said if anyone would care to join for a leg or two of cycling I published my draft itinerary below. You never know I could be swinging by your town! I would certainly welcome any company along the way and if cycling isn’t your thing perhaps you’d like to join me for a 6,000 calorie, carb ladened, dinner and a glass of wine! Other options include a spot of lunch or just come out for a picnic with the family and cheer me on.

So here it is. I’ve moved up the start date to August 27th and will address my promise not to miss Josie’s birthday by meeting Jules and the kids in Washington for a birthday weekend in the nations capital roughly halfway through the ride.

Milage is shorter at the beginning. I want to give my body time to adjust and test out the gear not to mention I can’t get to Washington any earlier. There are also more hills in the first half. By the end of the trip I plan to be notching up regular 100 mile days giving me 35 days of cycling with 8 rest days (including an epic 11 year olds birthday extravaganza).

I hope to see some of you out there.

Fundraising update – we are half way to the goal of $10,000 so if you do have a few spare pennies please help support here. If not, don’t worry, I know it’s tough out there for many so just sharing this as far and wide as possible and following the novice cyclist instagram account (found on this page) would be very much appreciated and please, enjoy the ride!

The Novice Cyclist takes on The Atlantic Challenge 2021

The Atlantic Coast Challenge Bike Ride

The beautiful and unpredictable nature of life has put me in a pretty unique and exciting position. After 11 years working for The Wall Street Journal I will be leaving the company at the end of July. With my recent move back to the US after 6 years in Hong Kong I have to wait a little while as my Green Card is processed and I am unable to travel outside the USA during that time. I have time and opportunity!

Firstly I am going to have a fantastic summer with my family. Sam is now 13 and Josie 10. I was apart from them for 6 months of 2020 as I tackled various quarantine restrictions in the US, UK and Hong Kong and attempted to balance our relocation to the US with my job based in Asia – all with the back drop of the global pandemic. Over the last 6 years I’ve missed a number of birthdays due to work commitments and I have promised the kids I won’t miss another one and so after Josie turns 11 on Sep 17th and the kids are back to school I’m taking on my toughest ride yet…. The Atlantic Coast Challenge.

The route starts in Bar Harbor, Maine and concludes in Key West, Florida covering the majority of the USA’s Atlantic coast. It looks to be an incredible ride with some highlights including coastal towns of Maine, New England villages, crossing the Mason Dixon Line, a plethora of Civil War historical sites, Washington DC, the outer banks (where the Wright Brothers bike shop tools are on display – I may need to borrow them), Charleston, Savanah, Florida and the Keys.

My favorite section from the Adventure Cycling Association website when describing the route is

“Leaving Florida City on U.S. 1, you begin a 20-mile ride with no services, potentially heavy traffic and abundant crocodile sightings. If you see what appears to be a green couch along the road, it’s probably not! Always give crocs a wide berth, and be ready to sprint if necessary. Crocodiles can reach speeds of 30 miles per hour for very short distances.” ACA Website

The Atlantic Coast Challenge Route

The numbers: The ride will take me 2,529 miles (4,070km), through 16 States with a total ascent of 74,265ft (thats 2.5 times Everest). I am aiming to complete the challenge in 30 days. It will be an unsupported ride and so I will carry everything I need in panniers and will be sourcing food, accommodation, repairs etc as I go.

From my experience cycling from London to Monte Carlo in 2013 and 2014 this should be the perfect trip to give me some headspace as I map out what’s next. But in addition to some selfish “me time” I want to use this challenge to raise some money for a great cause. I will be paying for every expense of the ride myself so every single penny raised will go to support Alister Bailey as he battles Multiple Sclerosis. Please support Alister and his family on my GofundMe page. I hope you’ll also follow along with my adventures here and on the Novice Cyclist instagram feed.

I would also like to thank Fundamental Group and Kay & Burton for their support. There are still a couple of corporate logo spots on my cycling jersey with every penny going to the fundraising goal so do get in touch if your company would like to support.

As always none of my harebrained ideas would ever get off the ground without the support of my wife Jules. I am, as always, eternally grateful to her above everything.

Maps arrived from the Adventure Cycling Association – Preparations begin!!

Oman Desert 2017

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Author at the start of stage 4 as the sun rises in the Oman Desert

I’d started the stage at 2pm, by 6pm it was pitch black. My head torch was my only source of light guiding me across the dunes. I was on day five of the 165km self sustained Oman Desert Marathon, 26km into the 42km night stage. I had been passed by every other runner, my feet were in excruciating pain, I stopped, slumped down on a small sand dune and started thinking of excuses to quit the race. A way of telling my friends, wife and children that I’d done my best but come up short….

Six days earlier I had left Hong Kong with my friend and running partner Steve on CX 701 to Bangkok and then switched planes to Oman Air 816 to Muscat. The trip was uneventful but for a 2 hour delay in Bangkok and an annoyingly constant knot of apprehension in my stomach. On paper I knew what lay ahead, however, I also knew the reality is always a little different. I’d packed and repacked my RaidLight 20L backpack ten times the night before. It was bursting at the seams, this was my first multi stage endurance race, I knew none of the tricks of the trade when it comes to packing.

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6 days food, sleeping bag, mat, salt, energy bars, cooker, survival kit and 3 packs Marlboro Lights

The race started 45 mins south of Nizwa with rather a lot of pomp and ceremony as stage one coincided with Oman National Day which recognised Oman independence from Portugal in 1650. After this relatively easy stage we were transferred by coach and then 4 wheel drive into the desert, a drive of 200km, to our first camp. From this day forward we camped where we finished the day’s run as we made a beeline to the coast and the Arabian sea.
We quickly settled into the life of a multistage race. Eat, sleep, run with the occasional wash where we could. Talk became very much about calorie intake, how horrible the food was, blisters and the varying consistencies of sand.

One thing that became immediately obvious to me was that there were some VERY good runners in the race. There were 101 total participants including Mohammed Almorabity from Morocco and Natalia Sedykh running out of Dubai for Adidas Running Moscow and female winner of MDS 2016. It took me very little time to work out that the race I was running would be against myself, the leaderboard didn’t matter and finishing the challenge was going to be my own personal battle.

Things started to hot up on day four. The stage was entitled “The Virgin Dunes” and it certainly delivered. It was 28km of beautiful dunes that punished my legs on an incredibly hot day.

I experienced a feeling for the first time whereby I felt incredibly nauseous to the extent I couldn’t drink water whilst been acutely aware I was dehydrated and needed to take on water. This feeling accompanied me for the last 5km of the stage and made crossing the finish line and dousing myself in water in the shade of a truck welcome relief (photo above).

On the positive side stage five didn’t start until 2pm the next day giving me 24 hours to rest up and recover as best I could. Speaking to the Doctor during some down time that evening she advised that if I ever felt that way again I would need intravenous fluids and to potentially withdraw from the race.

Whilst sleep was always a little disturbed – to be expected when you’re sharing an open fronted tent in the middle of the desert with 9 other people – the next morning was relatively relaxing. The slowest runners were to start at 2pm, the next group at 3pm and the elite runners at 4pm. I’d never covered the distance of a marathon before so I was apprehensive –  other mitigating factors included that the desert went pitch black at 6pm and the race was starting to take its toll on my body which all meant I knew I was in for a tough day/night.

On the other stages we had all started together and I saw all the runners ahead of me until they disappeared into the distance. With these start times it was amazing as the faster runners caught up with and overtook me. For a brief moment I was along side them and I could see and feel their speed and power first hand.

As darkness fell I enjoyed a brief moment of the novelty of running along with my head torch on but soon a combination of factors caused me to stop, sit down and work out how to exit the race in the most graceful way possible. Whilst the leaderboard shouldn’t matter, the two runners I was ahead of on the leaderboard to date we’re ahead of me, the pain on the sole of my right foot was equivalent to driving a rusty nail in with every step, I was hungry and tired – I was really suffering.

It was at that moment, sitting on my own in the the darkness of the Oman desert that I had an epiphany of sorts. Not a grand one to do with my place in the universe, what it takes to overcome adversity or anything like it. What I realised was that sitting there feeling sorry for myself was getting me nowhere (literally). If I stood up and started moving every painful step would move me closer to my destination. Whilst it seems pretty obvious I was in a bit of a state so do cut me a little slack.

I got up and started moving. I made it to the finish line at 1:45am and actually overtook a few other runners getting there. I was too tired to find my tent. I slept on the floor of the blister treatment tent situated in the middle of the camp. I made a cold “hot” chocolate in order to try and get some calories in my body. I feel asleep around 2:30am having had two sips of the ghastly drink. With the final stage starting at 7am the next morning I got up 3:30hrs later and went again.

Even as I write this a week after I finished I’m not totally sure how I got through stage 6 which comprised 23km of high, soft sand dunes. I crossed the finish line 95th out of the 101 starters (5 did not finish). One active runner finished behind me. I had accumulated a time of 45 hours and 27 mins during the 6 stages. Putting that in some sort of context the winner clocked 13 hours 56 mins. Steve finished in 52nd place with an amazing time of 26hours 54 mins.

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I will forever be grateful to my partner in crime, Steve Williamson, who went above and beyond helping me through this experience. We enjoyed one of the greatest beers in history at the end of our week in the desert.

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Beers poolside at the Grand Hyatt, Muscat

If I learnt anything it was probably the simple affirmation that you can overcome adversity and achieve things that you and others might not have thought possible. Believe in yourself and surround yourself with positive people. As the author John Bingham said

“The miracle isn’t that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start.”

Whether in your professional or personal life, the important thing is to start. See you on the next one x

3 reasons why I’m running across a desert

If you follow me on instagram you may well have noticed that I started doing a bit of running a few months ago. The runs are, unfortunately, few and far between but they have been with a singular goal in mind. To get my body in some sort of shape to take on the Oman Desert Marathon on the 20th November 2017. Incidentally, I am unclear why the race is called a marathon – at 165km over 6 days and carrying all your food and kit, it feels like a little more than a marathon.

When I tell people I’m doing the race their eyes tend to flick over my body, taking in the 120kg mass before them. Then with what can only be described as a tone of sympathy mixed with genuine interest they say “really, why?”. Well here are the 3 reasons I’m getting on a plane next week to try and do something I have no idea whether I’ll return from in one piece, let alone finish.

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From top left: Finishing 26k in HK MSIG , running in London early morning, fitness test ECG, Barcelona running, Tokyo jog around the palace, 15km Pottinger Hong Kong

1. The Challenge 

I cycled from London to Monte Carlo – twice – in 2013 and 2014. I and 22 other men and women took on 1,400 grueling kilometers , over the alps (Mont Ventoux et al) with total climbing of 36,000 feet over 9 days.

The Oman run is a self-sufficient 6 stage race from the Oasis at Bidya to the Arabian sea. You sleep out in the desert and have to carry everything except water (sleeping bag, mat, food, stove, venom extractor kit!). There are large soft sand dunes, high temperatures and pesky little scorpions to name a few of the challenges that lie ahead.

It’s not just that I like a challenge. I think it’s that I like a challenge that I’m not naturally predisposed to being good at. At nearly 19 stone in weight I am built for short, sharp bursts of activity. Breaking the line in rugby for instance. I am not built to run or cycle and certainly not over prolonged periods.

It is therefore more about leaving my comfort zone. It is not only humbling but also inspiring. It gives me a great sense of perspective and enhances my interactions with people in my everyday life.

2. Going off the grid

It is good to take a break and one of the best breaks you can take is from your phone. We’re all guilty of it – getting a daily update from work or convincing yourself that checking emails once in the morning and once in the evening on holiday is OK. Well it may be OK and communication with work and colleagues whilst on “holiday” may be inevitable. However running across a desert with no phone signal takes the decision out of your hands and the “off line” time is invaluable in my opinion. All you have to think about is getting from A to B, eating and sleeping. In my experience everyone manages just fine without you for a week.

3. Shared experience

I have nothing against doing things on my own. Indeed much of the training for these challenges can be solitary. I do however enjoy the shared experience with any great adventure like this. For Oman it’s me and Steve. A man (with a lovely family) who lived 6 doors away from me 7 years ago in London, went to India for 5 years for work and then in a fantastic “isn’t it a small world” moment moved in to the house two doors away from me in Hong Kong about a year ago.

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Steve left, author right during a training run at the top of section 4 Maclehose Trail, Hong Kong

 

I like Steve already – he’s Scottish, mixes a great cocktail – enough said. However the training, tears, laughter and shopping trips to buy endless kit involved in undertaking something like this – let alone actually doing the race – is a fantastic experience to share. Hong Kong is an amazing, but sometimes temporary, port during a global career. Whilst that may or may not be the case for Steve and I, wherever our paths lead we’ll always be able to meet for a pint somewhere in the world and talk about that time we ran across the Oman Desert – and that for me is very special.

Next stop Muscat – I plan to take some photos/vids of the run so follow the blog or my instagram if you’d like to see how it all goes.

Also if you have any interest in cycling around the island of Taiwan next year drop me a note. We are working though the logistics soon but current thinking is it’s a 6 day challenge.

 

 

L2MC2 Redux

So it turns out I forgot to cancel the WordPress subscription. That coupled with the fact that for the first time in 3 years I’m not setting off on a massive ride to Monte Carlo this weekend compelled me to write a post. This post is slightly different as probably only of interest to the 20 or so brave souls who took part in L2MC2. I was looking thorough some of the video we picked up on the trusty GoPro and wanted to take a slice of it to remind you all of the great adventure we set out on a year ago today. There’s some banter, some cycling and hopefully some fond memories. We have ALOT of video so more to come perhaps but for now happy viewing… see you for beers soon I hope. Jonny

Farewell from the Novice Cyclist

The time has come for the Novice Cyclist to mount up and move on. The blog will come down within the month.

It was almost three years ago that the idea of cycling from London to Monte Carlo entered my head. Working for Financial News and Dow Jones, Fund Forum was always a highlight of the calendar as it brought together so many of our asset management readers for the industries biggest European conference run by Informa. We distribute the paper and coincide the publishing of our CEO survey. Exactly why we decided to cycle there with staff, friends, clients and colleagues remains a bit of a mystery.

I have looked back over the blog and memories of the 2013 and 2014 adventures came flooding back. From getting the ridiculous idea of cycling to Monte Carlo off the ground, organizing the support crews and routes, bringing on board sponsors, recruiting riders, selecting and raising money for the designated charities (wooden spoon, the soup kitchen and haven house), training, the ride itself and celebrations in Monte Carlo on arrival.

I meet some amazing people that I didn’t know before and I forged even stronger bonds with those I did know. I just want to thank everyone who was involved, supported and joined these epic rides. It is not possible to communicate how much goes into organizing and executing rides like this and how many people the success of the ride is dependent on. You know who you are and you will always have my gratitude. Not only was the experience for those involved special but we also raised over $100,000 for disadvantaged and sick children and adults. We will not be undertaking the ride in 2015 but I hope the impact of the ride on the people it helped lasts into the future and the groups of friends who met on the ride continue to ride together and reminisce about L2MC (1and2)

So take a last look back over the blog and thank you again.

One door closes and another opens so keep an eye out, I have a few ideas of other adventures ahead….

Jonny “the novice cyclist” Wright

The Big Red, tickets going fast

So you’ve followed the blog, watched the videos and sponsored the riders. Now, for one night only, watch one of the intrepid riders perform some classic rhythm and blues. No doubt there will also be a strong attendance from other L2MC2 riders so there will be lots of Mont Ventoux chat in the mosh pit. All funds going to our charities; Haven House and The Soap Kitchen.

Fareed

 

Get you tickets here http://www.etickets.to/buy/?e=11740