“So we’re back here again are we!!?.."
"But this time it’s worse... We four idiots. All alone. You’d think we’d have learnt our lesson from last time... Didn’t we remember the fall-outs? All that screaming? The anguish? The not speaking? Ignoring each other? Not listening? Pushing, shoving… willfully hurting each other?! Why on earth have we come back here? Whose sodding idea was this anyway?!..."
“I’m not listening”
“For the love of god!! Stop you madman…It hurts. Why are you doing this?”
“La la la la la laaaaaa...”
“Right, That's it. I’m never speaking to you again…”
“Shhhhh… just breathe”
"But we’re past all that now aren’t we? Too tired anyway. At some fragile kind of truce. No protest because it doesn’t really matter anymore. None of it does. Body, Bike, Mind, and Me all existing peaceably together, just for a moment. All the quarrels have died away and we pause.
Together. Silence.Some kind of disjointed unison. None of us saying anything, we all lie down.”
It’s 7am on the last morning of the Highland Trail 550 and I’ll admit things have begun to get a little bit weird… I’ve been riding my bike for 26 hours and it's been 200km since my last sleep amongst the remote hills of Fisherfield, I’ve barely seen a soul since. The temptation to lay my head down on the soft grass at the side of the Great Glen Way, dappled with the first rays of the morning’s sunlight, is just too powerful and, for a moment, the whole World stops spinning…
"Body, Bike, Mind, and Me all existing peaceably together,
just for a moment."
“It wasn’t always like this though was it? These dark times. Remember the highs? Oh the highs! The ecstasy of the night before! All four of us moving symbiotically together, brethren in arms. Taking on the world and winning. Egging each other on
further, further, harder, stronger, faster - “Sod the future… Live for NOW!”
Was it the rhythm that intoxicated us? The trance-like beat of pedal strokes spinning us onwards and slicing the night. Still fog reflecting off headlights so only the air on my face foiled the alarming illusion that we weren’t moving at all. Mind struck dumb by the spectacle. Bike trundling on regardless.
Or was it the joy in the childish reckless abandonment of all the rules? That moment when we all convened under hushed whispers and moonlight and decided, like four naughty schoolboys, that bed was for losers and we could all sleep when we were dead…”
So where did it all go wrong?… dawn, always dawn.
I lay there, head in the grass, Mind numb. Body caked in mud, blood and sweat as the sunlight slowly bathed and massaged it back into some semblance of life. I don’t know if I actually slept. Sleep would seem too definitive a term for that particular experience. It seemed as though I could have been there for hours but then, fifteen whole minutes later, my alarm beeps. We all jump up, Body, Bike, Mind and Me, surprisingly rejuvenated and determined. We set ourselves to completing this journey.
It seems strange now, perhaps a little too strange, ridiculous even as I sit hereweeks later in the comfort of home writing about it all, but that was my reality then. Nothing else existed. And that, as it turns out, was exactly what I was looking for. Nothing. Although, over the past few weeks, it’s taken a while for me to figure that out. Body is still grumbling, Bike has undergone major cosmetic surgery and Mind is still grappling to make sense of all that it has learned.
Confused? Don’t worry, me too. Let’s explore this one together...
...was it the joy in the childish reckless abandonment of all the rules? That moment when we all convened under hushed whispers and moonlight and decided, like four naughty schoolboys, that bed was for losers and we could all sleep when we were dead…”
This was my second experience of the Highland Trail 550, a self supported 550 mile mountain bike race around some of the most remote corners of Scotland. That first year beguiled me into going back. I felt then that, although I’d pushed myself further than ever before and surpassed all my expectations, it still wasn’t the bottom of the tank. I knew that there were lessons I’d learned out there that could take me further and so I vowed, as I rolled across that unassuming finish line on a back lane in Tyndrum, that I’d certainly return next year... better prepared.
Well, next year came and I returned to Tyndrum, but thanks to a string of work commitments and only a two day preparation period I certainly didn’t feel in any way better prepared. In the sleepless nights before the race, I was forced me to re-evaluate my motivations.
“I came to a settling notion that to just enjoy being out on my bike in one of the best places on earth with a bunch of other kindred spirits could well be enough without any external pressures of achieving any particular goals. Once again I’m headed off on an adventure and one which, this time, I’m mainly approaching in a state of curiosity.”
I’d resigned myself to the fact that physically, my body would not be as capable as it was the year before. What I was curious about was how far I could push the boundaries of my mind.
Taking Mindfulness on adventure... carry on to Part Two