August 31st 2018 and it’s 40 degrees in Cagliari, Sardinia. I’m back on the road bike. To be entirely honest, I only ever pick up a road bike for the Virgin Strive Challenge. It started back in 2014 when I was asked to join Sam Branson on his inaugural ‘Strive’ for Big Change (www.big-change.org). Sam wanted 9 other people to join him in the core team going from the O2 in London to the top of the Matterhorn under human power only. And so we did.
We ran to Dover, rowed the Channel, cycled to Verbier, hiked to Zermatt, and climbed the Matterhorn. I tell you what; earlier that year, at home with 2 kids and my own fitness business (www.BlitzFitness.co.uk) the thought that I could have achieved something like this in a 4 week period was beyond my wildest dreams. Not only was it an amazing physical challenge (especially for a non cyclist) but it was a month to be me…. Lara…. Not mum, wife, PT, sister, daughter….. total freedom doing what I love – exercise outdoors and for a youth charity.
2016 dawned. And with it a new Strive Challenge. Bigger, further, harder. And three times as much cycling. I had to say yes through gritted teeth because I knew I could not say no. Our first day in September 2016 took us straight up to over 3000m as we hiked from the Matterhorn into Northern Italy. 5 days later we started our 15 days of cycling – over 160km a day to cover the length of Italy. There is not enough space in this blog to describe how tough this was; to describe the roller coaster of emotions, highs and lows; to describe the stunning views and heat but also the pot holes, the dogs, the Italian drivers and who knew there were HUGE hills in the ‘toe’ of Italy. 15 days on the bike and over 3,000km later and I had no words left. I am not sure where or who I was but I knew we still had to swim to Sicily, mountain bike to Etna and run up it. And we did.
I guess you know what’s coming next? Ah yes. 2018. The Strive Challenge continues. I was honoured to be asked to be the Official Fitness Partner for the challenge and responsible for putting together the 16 week training schedule to get the core team ready for their four-week journey from Sardinia to the top of Mont Blanc via a combination of cycling, kayaking, sailing, hiking and climbing. I joined the team for Stage One this year; cycling 400km and kayaking for 2 days to reach the north of Sardinia.
As I write, the core team have just reached the summit of Mont Blanc and to be honest we are lucky to have Sir Richard and Sam Branson still with us.
Since the challenge started in 2014, I have covered 5,500km (not including the training mileage) raised about £45k for Big Change and I am a better person, a better trainer and better prepared to always challenge myself
About the author: Lara Milward is a fitness coach, co-founder of Blitz Fitness and Sundried ambassador