In just over a week, Jenny Graham will be setting out from Berlin on the journey of a lifetime, attempting to break the women's round-the-world record. But as we all know, the journey to the start line is often far more challenging - so we caught up with Jen to see how her final week of real life is going.
So Jen, it's now less than two weeks till you set off on the adventure of a lifetime! How does it feel to be approaching the start line? Are you stressed and frantic, or have you found inner peace?
It’s come round so quickly. I remember in January feeling like I had tons of time and now its actually JUNE – waaaah! I’m on a bit of an emotional rollercoaster, swinging between all these different feeling in one day. I’ve had to rein in my caffeine intake, because I don’t need any kind of stimulant right now. But whenever I get overwhelmed by the project I strip it back to the basics. It’s me, with six months off work, a gorgeous bike and a rough direction to go in – simple!
The training and preparing for this expedition has been going on for many months now. What have the hardest parts been? Were there any challenges you didn't anticipate? Anything that was easier than you expected?
I’ve had to become a tech expert, getting my head round every detail before I’m able to make a decision about each piece of kit, and I never give myself enough time for that stuff.
I received so many rejection letters before I started getting sponsors on board. That was hard because I was already constantly questioning my ability and whether I was good enough to do this, so when others did too it seemed to confirm my worst suspicions. But actually it was a good process because the very fact that I kept going until I found the right people meant that I cemented the project, my ability and my reasons for doing it in my head.
The best bits have been the support I've received across the board from family, friends and strangers. Kind words, messages, people going out of their way to help with logistics or come on bike rides to chat things through. Or inviting me over after a training ride just to feed me and fill me full of tea – that’s been ace!
In fact it’s all been ace – a massive learning curve, but that’s all part of the appeal of a project this size.
You must have the world's longest to do list! Can you give us a sample of what glamorous tasks are on your agenda for this week?
- fix washing machine
- get my hair cut
- chase up Chinese visa
- find a friend who can fix my dynamo light
- send back other back light
- look into insurance
- contact bike shops in Australia and Anchorage to send stuff to
- sort out spot tracker page
- put together repair kit
- get rabies vaccine
- hang out with friends!
- sell car
- clarify route with Guinness
- make witness book for Guinness
- go on a bike ride (the list goes on but you get the picture...)
But I remind myself, I’m not the only one who’s incredibly busy. We’re all juggling family, work , hobbies etc., and remembering that (despite feeling like I'm currently the busiest person in the world) helps me keep things in perspective.
Which parts of the ride are you most looking forward to? Are there any bits you're dreading?
The first 6,000 miles are going to blow my mind! I'll be riding through Russia, Mongolia and China, so a huge amount of unknowns, language barriers and cultural differences. It’s also the section where I have time restrictions for being in each country (visas) and border crossings that may be tricky. It sounds like I should be dreading this section, but I’m looking forward to all the problem solving. (You might need to remind me I said that!)
I’m most worried about the long sections when I’m crossing big countries (Australia and Canada). Keeping my head motivated in those parts will be interesting, and I think there is potental for me to get pretty lonely. Also, it’ll be winter when I get to New Zealand. I have some alternative route options planned, in case the weather is too bad to cross some of the passes.
Have you got any mental strategies or mind games in place, to get you through the difficult moments, or just to keep your brain working through those long 16-hour days?
So I mostly just love riding my bike, and hours fly by without me really noticing. But there are definitely going to be tough times to ride through. At the moment my mental tool kit contains:
Music, singing, learning songs, audio books, counting my time and distances (and mostly getting it wrong but calculations keep me occupied for ages!)
Bargaining with myself. For example, I’m a natural snoozer in the morning, so I during the day. It’s the same for stopping – if I really want to stop, I bargain another 20 minutes of ride time with myself and by the time the 20 minutes are up I’m usually feeling better.
Remembering the laughs I've had with people and replaying them can help my mindset. Reading nice texts and messages really helps too.
Ultimately, I remind myself that this is a challenge I chose freely, and think how lucky I am to be physically and mentally able to do this at this point in my life.
You'll be on the road for over three months, passing through 15 countries and riding 180 miles per day. How are you planning to stay grounded, and keep in touch with your loved ones and life at home?
I’m really going to miss everyone – and this week that has just hit me like a ton of bricks! The plan is to phone home once a week and stay in touch with WhatsApp and social media. Its a hard one to get right because if I call when I’m in a low mood my family will worry for the rest of the week. (The same is true the other way around, I guess. If I feel like things aren’t right at home, I'll worry too.) So then we'll just see how it works out, but lots of emojis and I hope we can do video calls too!
And we'll miss you too, Jen!