Sarah Outen MBE rose to fame after spending 1,676 days looping the globe by biking, rowing, and hiking. Her London2London adventure was a huge feat and took its toll both mentally and physically, but she is still enjoying a life full of adventure. She updates us on what she's been up to.
After a very frustrating six months of ill health at the start of the year, spending five weeks in June celebrating my honeymoon in Alaska and the Yukon was a perfect time to unwind and recharge. It was also a time to start rebuilding my fitness. My wife and I used our borrowed truck as a base for covering the big miles and then camped or slept in hammocks if we weren’t out on biking or canoeing trips where we camped on river beaches beneath spruce-lined skylines. We cooked over open fires, improvised shelters, hunkered down through rain storms and hail, washed in rivers and lakes, and watched wildlife watching us.
One of my favourite things about being outside and on a trip like this is the chance to reconnect – with nature, with others, and with myself. The pace and the simplicity of life unhurried and where the main tasks of the day are to find somewhere to sleep, something to eat and something to drink leave space for a settling mind and growing sense of calm and balance. It is definitely my happy place.
Coming home from a journey I often struggle to maintain that balance and sense of headspace and often find myself promising to put my health first. It’s so easy to let that slip and get swamped by being busy and making excuses.
I’m really pleased that this time I have managed to sustain the progress and balance I found in North America. Since coming home in early July, I’ve made it my routine to start the day with meditation and yoga, grounding myself physically and mentally. On the days when I’ve been away from home and unable to do yoga, I have missed it physically. On returning home and restarting, I realise my mind misses it too. For in some way, perhaps yoga gives me something that being outside also does – that connection to myself, mind and body balancing and grounding, and just a simple task to focus on. I think it’s something about being, coming inside of ourselves to see what’s going on for us in that moment. Becoming aware of ourselves.
A year ago I was in the midst of a breakdown: the fragile antithesis of everything I am right now. Afraid of myself and of the darkness that had engulfed me, I struggled to look after myself and complete even the simplest task. Bit by bit, daily meditation, yoga and exercise helped save my life at that time and in the months to come it helped me regain some sense of balance and connection. While I wish I hadn’t had the turmoil and terror of another breakdown, I am grateful for the insight it gave me and the renewed reminder of what’s important. That is to stay connected to myself, aware and grounded if I am to maintain balance and peace.
Lee Patmore is a Sundried ambassador who suffers from life-limiting illnesses. Along with his band of brothers, he took on the impressive challenge of travelling from Land's End to John O'Groats on a hand-cycle. Lee talks us through his incredible experience, which was in aid of Help For Heroes.
About The Challenge
In May 2017 I started on a journey that would take me from the northernmost point of the UK to the southernmost point. The legendary John O’Groats to Lands End adventure, but not the normal route that is around 874 miles, this journey has a major twist. I’m a military veteran and also a Help for Heroes beneficiary, and belong to the group within Help for Heroes know as Band of Brothers. Along with two other Band of Brothers and a support crew, we took on a journey that would see us cover 1,300 miles, along with close to 60,000ft of climbing. On our route we visited the Help for Heroes Recovery Centres and a number of active military bases. We started on the 1st of May and finished on the 29th of May. For me, it was all about arm power and the mental battle to push myself beyond limits I’ve never been to, and the daily battle just to get out of bed and get in my hand-cycle.
We started our journey in John O’Groats, which was very cold, very windy, and just miserable weather. Approximately two and a half months before we started, during what should have been the peak of my training period, I had a major flare-up with my Fibromyalgia. This ended up leaving me bed-ridden for two weeks. When I say bed-ridden, I got out of bed once per day to go to the loo, and the rest of the time I was in extreme agony with tiredness and just couldn’t function. The flare-up came without warning and basically ended my training prematurely along with removing the ability to tap into the full level of fitness I had achieved. At this stage, just before we set off, I could just about manage 2 miles in one go on a flat route. Nothing like the 40 to 60 miles per day needed, especially when you start in Scotland and know the terrain is anything but flat.
The first three days were hell.
The hills were relentless and seemed never ending. There were some great downhills that saw me coast at speeds of up to 40mph, but these were short lived and nowhere near enough time for a recovery to tackle the next hill. It was clear that I needed some help getting up the hills. The guys with me would get off their road bike and take the weight enough to allow my arms to continue to power myself uphill.
At this stage I had a theory. As long as my arms could physically move and power the cranks to get me up the hill, I was still working. If my arms failed (and they did) I would get off my hand-cycle and with a locked out left leg, I would drag my Handcycle and weak leg up the hill as far as possible. If my legs failed and I couldn’t get myself and my hand-cycle up the hill by my own doing, I would call it for that day and we would then need to decide if we stayed within the time frames and planned stops or if we would move the stop and then try to make up the time later on. Thankfully, it never came to that, as we made all the planned stops and even managed to get in a double-leg to give us an extra day's rest towards the end.
The real turning point was day five. Out of nowhere, my fitness came in again, and as much as I still needed the short recovery stops, I was not given help from this point on.
Day one was the farthest I’d ever cycled in one day, and day three was the first time I’d cycled more than two days in a row.
The never-ending hills
Before we got to Colchester, we had some of the worst sets of hills on the way to Catterick. We are talking a couple of miles with gradients staying between 10% and 15%. With many short recovery stops I took on each hill and made it to the top. My speed was very slow, cadence was also very low, but I powered up each hill and sections of each hill under my own power and was determined to not be beat.
The scenery was epic.
A memory to hold forever along with the achievement of the journey. I have photos that spark a memory, but I was in such a tired state each day that it was only about completing that day’s route. I wasn’t interested in where I was or what I’d just ridden up, it was about how far we still have to complete that day’s route.
For me, it was about each day was its own day, and a unique challenge in itself, with good friends and excellent support.
This winter was dedicated to swim training and running XCountry. In fact I ran so much XC, my senior school PE teacher Mrs Mantell would have laughed her head off if she had still been with us. I used to hate XCountry at school - always got a stitch... I thus dedicate my season to her.
Here my schedule!
- Essex XC Relays - Ladies 3rd Team
- Couple of South Essex XC League races with my old club
- 5 mile Winter XC Handicap - 1st Lady
- Chingford League @ HQ - 5th Lady
- Chingford League at Hog Hill (in the pitch black!!)
- Essex XC League 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 - Bronze V45!
- Ranelagh Mob Match which was run for the 90th time!
- Essex Vet XC Champs - 5th
- Chingford League at Ally Pally on my birthday - flaming steep hill!!!
- Olympic Park 10k with PB
- Essex Senior Champs - Bronze Women's Team!
- The Mercury (10 miles) - 6th Lady
- Southern XC Champs at Parliament Hill - enormous race!
- Blackheath Mob Match - Orion won!! - tough run...
- Chingford League Relays - Ladies team won!
- Cambridge Half
- Brentwood Half - new PB of 1.38
- Essex 5 mile road championship - Women's Team Gold and V45 Gold!
- St. Clare's Hospice 10k - 2nd overall
So a lot of running. Managed to win the Women's Division 2 at my running club and promotion to Division 1, which is the candy for all that effort! The other big project was some swim training with Cedric Lassonde (French Ironman) x6 in order to sort my swimming stroke out. Definitely seems more efficient. Let's see what it is like in the open water in a few weeks! I have also joined a new club that is nearer to me, so I can actually get to some club training, namely East London Triathletes. A very friendly club of like-minded people. I get to swim on Tuesday evenings at 20.00 which works much better for me and I enjoy the challenge of swimming with others, trying to lead the lane as much as I can. The trainers are from Swim4Tri so we are getting great coaching. Just need to try and get a new trisuit to represent them in the upcoming season!
Racing this much is hard on the body. I have had to work really hard at my muscles during strength training. Wonking glute meds have plagued me a bit, but I have come out the other side with some great rewards. Time in the gym is critical, folks, and you have to keep working at it. Rock on 2017 season!