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ADVENTURE: In love with the Wild Frontier

In previous Log Book entries, we've looked at the why behind the what and the how. Like we've previously said: "each session has a purpose" and "commitment and consistency are key". But sometimes, it's the exact opposite that is needed. Sometimes, the answer to "why?" should just be "why not?". Lewis Clark is a former chef turned fireman. His past life drive and passion to be a fast, medal-winning cyclist transformed into an ad hoc thirst for adventure, usually in the form of spectacular feats of endurance. He is currently gearing up for his first run at GBDURO, one of the most coveted fixtures on the alt racing scene. Read about the place of sport in Lewis' life, how he has approached something that would have most people shiver in their boots, and why a laissez-faire attitude can sometimes be the best way forward.


Lewis has always cycled. The sport has been a staple in his life and he has long looked up to the greats in the same way any of us would have done. He still does. However, a few years ago, his desire to follow in their footsteps faded. The road and its shimmers lost their appeal and so Lewis took to nature and the alternative scene.


"I've been doing offroad touring and bike-packing for a few years now. I absolutely love it," he said. "No two days are the same, you always get something new. It always gets challenging and so you get to put yourself out of your comfort zone, and sometimes some pretty dark places, but ultimately it's all just great fun."


Between impromptu camping trips and family adventures with his wife and pals, Lewis recently took on the Dales Divide - a 600km route from the west to the east coast of England through the Dales and North Yorkshire Moors, and back again. Inspired by Mike Hall, who sadly died during the inaugural Indian Pacific Wheel Race across Australia in 2017, the event stands on his ethos of community and encouragement for all riders.


Unfortunately, bad weather and time got the better of Lewis on that occasion, but the experience only spurred him on. He now has his eyes set on an even bigger catch.


GBDUro


GBDURO is a monumental 2,000km self-supported enduro organised by The Racing Collective. Consisting of 4 timed stages of around 500km each, the route runs on single track, gravel paths, roads from Land's End to John O'Groats. In short, GBDURO is a celebration of the history and nature of the British Isles in which participants cross Britain from its most southern point to its most northern point. As a #noflyride, participants must get to and from the start and finish of the race without flying. This echoes the Collective's wider ambitions of 'leaving no trace'. Hard to imagine being more in touch with the Wild Frontier than this.


The inaugural edition of GBDURO in 2019 was an immediate success as Australia's Lachlan Morton of recent 'alt Tour de France' fame took a convincing win. He covered the route in a whopping 111 hours and 44 minutes. His team, EF Education, did a fantastic video about it. Check it out to get an idea of the route.


Lewis actually caught Lachlan about 4km from his house in Scotland and rode with for as long as he could keep up with him. "It was amazing! This lad had been riding since 3am that morning after already coming all the way from Land's End and I still couldn't keep up with him. He was still dropping me on every single little incline, it was really cool!", he recounts.


In parallel with his encounter of the first kind, one of Lewis' friends was involved in mapping some of the Scottish parts of the route. It was only a matter of time before our man to realised this was right up his street and felt the desire to "have a crack" tug at him. He applied to enter and in January 2021 he got word from the organisers: he was in.


"Honestly, I was kind of hoping I wouldn't. One of my friends is a proper bike racer with wins and medals to his name, and he didn't get a spot. When I read that email part of me hated the fact that I've actually got to do this thing now," he laughs.


"Ultimately, it would be incredibly disrespectful of me not to give it my best effort. When you sign up to something like this you buy into the ethos of it. There are no prizes, no sponsors, no purses, you just do it out of respect for the challenge, the terrain and the fun of it."


Conquest is not Lewis' motivation. He finds no drive in such an aggressive notion. This isn't about conquering the Wild Frontier, it's about embracing it, subjecting himself to it and coexisting with it.


The plan


Lewis has got a plan. He's been committed to it since January. He's gonna wing it. "Pies not gels", is one for the ages.


Don't misunderstand, we're not saying he hasn't got a plan. We're saying that is his plan. He's equipped himself with a single-speed, handmade, steel mountainbike. He has flat handlebars and aero bars for that extra bit of comfort on the long, flat stretches. He will have his supplies strapped to his saddle, to his bars and will be bringing a single bib which he will wash after each stage. Back to basics.


That ethos has run through his training as well. "When I first heard I got in, I got a training calendar out of a magazine and just had a go at sticking to that. But, basically, structured training just doesn't do it for me," he explains. "I had all these ideas of riding my commutes to work, doing yoga, core workouts and all that stuff. None of it stuck."



But that seems to have made him more confident, if anything. He knows he can keep rolling for hours when others go into dark places. He never loses sight of the fun element of it, which is what keeps him going through the rough stretches. This is where Lewis' philosophy really harmonises with ours. While chasing performance, pushing the limits and challenging ourselves it is important to never lose sight of the adventure of it all. We're just people trying to run fast, cycle far and everything in between, it's just a bit of fun at the end of the day.


KOTWF Ambassador and professional triathlete Indie Lee had a similar moral to her story. If your training is a "grind" and racing is "going to work" then all you have left is a continuous cycle of gritting your teeth and pushing through pain. Funny how Lewis and Indie - people who arguably sit at exact opposite ends of the performance spectrum - have arrived at the same conclusion after vastly different journeys.


You can follow Lewis' GBDURO adventure via dotwatcher.cc and his Instagram page (@lewispie). It's bound to be one hell of a journey, you won't want to miss it. Remember, "pies not gels".


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