Welcome back to Tuesday Chat with Team Strava! Today we’re happy to present a Question and Answer session with Strava Employee Sarah from our Community Management Team.
Q: Hi Sarah - tell us a little bit about yourself.
Hey, hi, hello! I’m a world citizen, passionate cyclist, mother, photographer, and avid adventurer. I have been employed at Strava for two years and love to be immersed in an environment where inspiration for movement is constantly trickling in from every corner.
Q: I heard you had a pretty epic cycling adventure last winter. What did you do?
I went on my first solo bikepacking trip and rode my bike 1600 miles (2575 kilometers) in 16 days, from my front door in Denver, CO to my friend’s front door in Knoxville, TN. I had some unexpected encounters with extreme cold temps, brutal (head)winds, delightful people and emerged from the journey with newfound self-love and compassion.
Q: What motivated you to take on such a challenging ride and how long did you plan for it beforehand?
I was going through a lot of personal hardship and wanted to carve some intentional time to work through thoughts and feelings by removing all distractions. The fact that this route in particular isn’t very scenic was not unintentional.
Anyone who knows me knows that I am a terrible planner, which to my demise, seems to be key when it comes to feats like this. I am cognizant of having done a pretty bad job at foreseeing a lot of issues (that were preventable). But there’s a silver lining to that, too – room for adventure!
Preparations began about a month before heading out, but the idea originally started as a joke when my friend moved to another state. I was commenting how I was sad about them moving away to another friend, and they sent me a screenshot in response, of the directions to visit them – on a bicycle. It said something ridiculous, like 140 hours.
I texted back: “lol, yeah right”. The more I looked at it, the more I believed it was in fact, a brilliant idea. I ran it past my friend in Knoxville and due to their very busy schedule they gave me a specific date to be there, so I had a concrete deadline.
I wanted to avoid big cities because of car traffic and I knew there would be vast stretches of deserted land between towns.
I used Strava to create 16 routes, one for each day, averaging 100 miles, glancing over points of interest to ensure I'd have a place to restock supplies and rest at night. (I later found out that just because a town exists, doesn’t mean there’s always something or somebody there!)
Q: I’m guessing you had some highs and lows. What was the lowest point and were you tempted to give up?
Adversity will inevitably present itself, this is true whether you embrace it or not.
I want to believe that I was somewhat better prepared to respond to difficulties than I would have been when I was younger, since I went into this trip fully aware of that truth and have a tendency to intentionally seek challenges and discomfort.
There were indeed a lot of lows, but when I encountered a challenge, I’d remind myself that I CHOSE this. That shift in perspective spurs creativity, gratitude, problem solving and grit.
I wouldn’t say I was delighted when I got a flat on the hardest, rainiest, day, riding broken hearted through the hilly Ozarks, or that I laughed when the pizza I had ordered that night never arrived (I went to sleep crying and with a 5000 calorie deficit). However, the lowest moments presented themselves early on in my journey.
Days 2 and 3 greeted me with fresh snow crossing the border between Eastern Colorado and Kansas. My eyelashes froze in the frigid headwind, the water in my bottles had turned into a block of ice and shelter was non-existent. I essentially spent those days pedaling without being able to feel my fingers or toes. I had to monitor my vitals and stay focused. My thoughts drifted toward whether I would freeze to death and how long it would take for anybody to find my body — a dark mental place.
The vast stretches of nothing between towns and the eerie silence truly surprised me. There was no shelter from the elements, nobody was coming to pull me out of my voluntary suffering and I wanted to keep powering through but truly feared for my life.
I came across a small ghost town named White Horse, CO, where a kind-hearted lady named Trish, happened to be working in a tiny post office. She was completely shocked when I stepped through the door with my bike and insisted on giving me a lift to the next big town. I firmly believe she saved my life by doing so.
Q: Let’s talk about the highs. What are a couple of moments that really stand out in your memory?
Q: What advice would you offer to anyone planning for such a tough mental and physical challenge?
Seek discomfort leading up to it. Commit to exposing yourself to the most miserable elements you can tolerate: rain, wind, heat, sleep deprivation - or a combination of them. I'd like to point out that I don't intend for anyone to expose themselves to any level of risk or danger that they aren't comfortable with, and that the threshold for everyone's tolerance will vary. I also want to acknowledge the privilege I hold as a white female and remark that a person of color may not have the same kind of experience and treatment in a similar situation. Please practice caution and always notify your loved ones beforehand (Strava Beacon is a great tool to share your real-time location with family and friends). Go to unfamiliar places, opt for the long road, leave the comfort of music and distractions behind. This will build grit and resilience. Every time you prove to yourself that you can overcome something difficult, you gain mental fortitude and harness more trust in your skills. It teaches you that you are capable of so much more than you ever thought possible. I never used to think that I was strong. 15-year-old me would refuse to believe that I would someday accomplish the things I have done today. It is true that ordinary people, like myself, are capable of extraordinary things. The sky is not the limit. Dare to dream, now go.
Congrats to Sarah on an amazing accomplishment and thank so much for sharing it with us! If you’re inspired by Sarah’s story, drop us a reply and tell us about your own epic adventure, or one you’d like to do.
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Wow, that is just a stunning story.... and to think, early this morning I was thinking how tough doing the Dirty Dozen would be (last week's Tuesday story). I can't even begin to imagine the mental toughness this epic adventure would take... at the first sight of adversity, I feel like I'd be calling somebody to come and get me! (note to self - need to gain some mental toughness).
I don't have any epic adventure (recently) to match this (I did do a 4 day group hike through a part of the Rocky Mountains in Alberta, Canada in high school - sleeping in a tent in the woods, carrying a heavy pack each day... wouldn't do that today though!)