I have just learned to ride a bike two years ago, having been a “couch potato” and as such never done any sports in all my life. As my health condition deteriorated, there was no other way than doing something about that and soon I found my passion in biking. In only 9 months I collected a regular street bike, a mountain bike and just for the RAB got myself a race bike. Not an elite biker at all, I started the RAB - with almost 30 kilos of body weight less - as the journey of my life time with the strong confidence of being able to do that combined with the strong will to learn, what this extreme endurance challenge would do with me after all. I just wanted to know, how it would feel to cross the finish line after almost 1000 miles in just 9 days. It is the supposed impossible which drives me…
In November last year, I moved from part-timing to a full time role within Vodafone, having been promoted from assistant to manager. I am married and the mother of 3 kids, hence the biggest challenge around the RAB was time management and to find a reasonable balance between all the demands in life. I quickly realised that cycling has been the pivotal moment in my life, as it also teaches me a lot about business. Because, when I have a set back in business, I have to rethink and retry. Like with cycling, I fall off the bike and I have to get on it again – the sooner the better.
As I am also very passionate about the business I am in and doing “mobile for good”, engaged into child care and charity, the invite from the VF Foundation for the RAB brought together the main components of my life. As of today, the people of Vodafone have raised almost 1 million USD for Moyo Lesotho, out of which the Vodafone Big Bikers contributed almost 220K GBP, the highest fund ever raised on a RAB. I started as the only one from Vodafone Campus in Düsseldorf, representing almost 5000 people. The pressure I put on me was high, but being a mentally stable person, I was sure I could do it, although with almost no cycling experience…. A big say!
What I have learned during the RAB have been numerous things:
I felt very exotic over the ride, being the only female German among more than 800 riders. All of them very kind persons, greeting me with “hello Team Germany” every time they passed me by. On day 2 they all knew my name, on day 3 some started to hum the German national anthem, which made me feel even more exotic and often very alone, although constantly being together with almost 1.500 people, cyclists, support crew, helpers etc.
Learning no. 1 was: I did not expect to be hit by homesickness that hard. The more caring the people around me, the more who brought in their family and friends, the more jealous and weak I felt.
Learning no. 2 was even harder: I trained very hard for the RAB never ever using the granny gear. I pushed myself to the limit and promised to myself to use the granny gear only on day 8 and 9, as a reward. It took only 30 minutes until the first climb when I thought there was something wrong with my gears. I went down the first hill just to check it and started the climb again, when I noticed that there wasn´t anything wrong with my bike but simply I could not climb the hill without using the granny gear! Today I call that gear my very best friend ;-)
Learning no. 3: Being confident about my mental attitude, the learnings hit me hard and made me think of the why and how all day long on day one. I was so caught in my own thinking, that I reached the first pit stop very late, talked about my experience much too long, started again as the last one on the field, lost my way, fell off my bike and did not manage to reach the base camp in time. Broom waggon! The very bad buzz word! Basically all went wrong that day and this broke me. Big mouth shut, smile gone, already pain in my legs… It took me until day 3 to get rid of my self-pity.
Learning no 4: Hey, when you think it cannot be any worse, well, then jump on the very old and terrible Scottish highways and enjoy the bumpy ride of your life time! What the hell was that?! Unbearable and painful I took the decision to quit on pit stop one. I was out! I even could not talk any more with eyes filled with tears of pure aggression and bad, bad mood.
Learning no 5: It are those moments, you do not want to move on, when you meet with amazing chaperones, hugging you, telling you they´d understand, but hey – “Team Germany, you can also get on your bike again, give it another try and decide to take the broom waggon just round the next corner.” Here is my love declaration to all the wonderful chaperones, amazing in attitude and sportive fitness. Wow! Hat off to all of them! Big thanks to Robert and his hooter, collecting me every single day just before the broom waggon offered me a seat, bringing me home to base camp, smiling and being proud of this ridiculous German rider with yellow trainers!
Learning no 6: You feel very special, honoured and blessed taking part in the RAB. There are just no words for that. And it needs moments of unbearable sadness to realise how vulnerable you are, how risky the whole ride is, how much is waiting for you along the road, how tiny and small you are. Day 7 changed my attitude and sense of self entirely. I will not get over this extreme sadness and it still shapes me in many things I do.
Learning no 7: So what is it, the RAB did to me? I crossed the finished line with anticipation in getting the answer – and there was only silence. No extraordinary feelings, no additional blessings, no ground-breaking findings. That confused me the most. And it took me many days to understand, how my life has been irrepealably impacted by the RAB and the many wonderful people I met, the great coverage I got, the remote followers I had and the huge appreciation I received once I returned to work.
And I am so very happy, that the most important thing did not change over the RAB: my madness and hunger for cycling remained and so I will participate in the London Revolution in May, plan to cycle the entire length of Germany and Italy in summer and have kicked-off my own charity project: I plan to ride the rickshaw through rural India, drinking from mineral bottles, empty and install them in shacks, every single day in another area, and by that illuminating slums with the support of A Liter of Light.
Team Germany sends you warm regards. Ute
I signed up for the challenge of a lifetime and certainly got it! All of the wise words about pacing myself on the first day went out of the window the moment I hit the first big (down)hill and of course I was exhausted by the end of day 1. Luckily there are all the facilities available to help tired cyclists recuperate before hitting the road again...and again...and again. Everything from the food, to the massages, to the laundry, to the hot showers, the pre-set up camp, the mechanics etc are all there to make a really hard event just a little easier.
I can highly recommend participation, it WILL change your life.
Describe the problem in a few words
Event Type: Charity Ride
Starting Point: John o' Groats Highland - United Kingdom
Duration: 8 days
From: 06 SEP 2014