Saturday, 14 May 2011

Getting ready

So with the challenge accepted, it was time to get on with planning how I would actually carry out this undertaking.
Of course, back in June 2010 when I decided this is what I was going to do, I had plenty of time to get ready. Didn’t I…?
As I saw it, there were three main areas I needed to work on
·         Fitness
·         Kit and equipment
·         Documents and logistics
In many ways, the fitness one was probably the easiest.
The Adventure cycling association of America suggest that the Transamerica route should take between 10 and 12 weeks to complete. The full route from Yorktown, VA to Astoria, OR takes in 10 different states and is a little under 4,300miles. So if I aimed to complete it in 12 weeks, I would need to average just over 50miles a day, every day. Searching online, many other people had written blogs of their time doing the route with some finishing in as little as 60 days. I decided I would rather take my time and not feel under any pressure to finish in a certain time.
Even so, 50miles a day would still require a good level of fitness (and some decent cycling shorts!). As mentioned before, I do a lot of running. Last summer, I was training to run the Royal parks half marathon and then after finishing I bumped into one of the charity team from Guy’s and St Thomas’ hospital, who I had run for before. Me and Clare then signed up to run the Brighton marathon in April 2011, and so that was fitness training sorted!
Despite some niggly injuries, training went ok and we both finished the marathon. It was a very hot day, and a hilly course, so I didn’t beat my time from London last year. Clare also did very well in finishing her first marathon.

After Brighton, I transferred to two wheels and started doing some longer rides. Whilst I wanted to have a reasonable level of fitness when beginning the ride, I also realised that I had 3 months of ‘on the job’ training once I got out to America, so didn’t need to turn up at the start line feeling like Lance Armstrong!
So with training taken care of, it was on to the fun stuff – getting kitted out!
First I needed to sort out one very important bit of gear – a bike! I did (still do) own a bike, but not the right kind of one. I had a Specialized road bike – pretty light, built for speed rather than comfort, nowhere to hang any equipment. So basically, not an ideal one for carting everything I needed to survive!
So after doing a bit of research, I went for the Ridgeback World Panorama. A proper touring bike, hewn from solid lumps of steel and with lots of racks to hang my bags off of. It does weigh quite a bit though!
With a bike sorted, I started to think about the rest of my kit. And you quickly realise that there is a lot of equipment you think you will need and, simultaneously, that you don’t want to take too much!
The one word I was using when buying stuff was ‘lightweight’. When you are having to transport everything yourself, every kilo counts. This is especially true with clothes. Whilst it might be nice to have an extensive wardrobe to choose from, its simply not feasible.
My clothing bag is going to have more synthetic fabrics than a 70’s revival night! They weigh less, they wash easily and they dry quickly. And seeing as how most of my time will be spent in the saddle, looking good is not that important! I’ll take a couple of t shirts and a pair of jeans, but everything else will be very much a case of function over aesthetics.
Once all the camping equipment, clothes and bike stuff come together, it looks like quite a lot!

Finally, I needed to get a few logistical issues resolved. Firstly, and very much the most important, was sorting out a visa. Since I would almost certainly be in the US for more than 90 days, I couldn’t go over on my passport alone using the visa-waiver program. So I had to pay a visit to the US embassy in Grosvenor Square, and plead my case for entry! Thankfully, it was fairly straight forward, albeit very boring. Two hours of sitting around waiting to be called for my interview, followed by 5 minutes of questions before being approved.
After that it was full steam ahead. Flights booked, arranged with a bike shop in Yorktown to accept and rebuild my bike and booked a hotel to stay in for a couple of days whilst I get things together and get over the jet lag.
Just need a practice run now…

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