The Great Trial of Strength

Today marks one year since we moved to London. To celebrate the occasion, I’m actually turning this one over to M for a guest post giving his take on this past year, and a look at what he’s been up to over here. Take it away, honey!

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Regent’s Park sunrise ride

Other than having a baby, moving my family to another continent, starting a new job, and needing to start from scratch in terms of a social network, the past year for me has been defined by my bicycle (actually, bicycles, much to Beth’s chagrin). I commute on the bike, made my friends riding the bike, and get my exercise on the bike. London has a great cycle sub-culture, and it’s been really fun to be in a city that is clearly bike mad.

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From my morning commute (winter)

When I moved to London a year ago, my longest bike ride had been about 50 miles in and around Perth, Australia, when I was there on a business trip last spring. I rode fairly frequently in Baltimore—daily commutes, a Wednesday night ride out of Twenty20 cycle shop, and the occasional spin with buddies from the neighborhood—but rarely, if ever, passed 100 miles in a week.

Since last year, though, I’ve really caught the bug. I still commute by bike each day (about 5.5 miles each way), but I’ve also added quite a bit of other riding. My mates and I ride laps around Regent’s Park a few mornings each week before work (meeting at 5:45 AM—it is very, very dark in the winter, and quite nice when we start to see the sunrise in March), and I try and get out for a longer ride each weekend. In total, I usually ride about 150-200 miles per week, and as someone that is…ummmm…competitive when it comes to athletics, I’ve really enjoyed improving my abilities on the bike. Between my GPS device and Strava, I have proof and would be happy to share it with you!

My greatest accomplishment this past year came in June, when the Pedal Pals (the unofficial cycle club of five mates to which I belong, as named tongue-in-cheekily by one of our significant others) flew to Trondheim, Norway, for the Styrkeprøven, which translates from Norwegian as ‘trial of strength.’

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We rode the ‘Den Store’—’great’—length, and it is definitely a great trial of strength: 340 miles through the Norwegian interior from Trondheim in the north to Oslo in the south. After starting at 7:40 AM, we finished a mere 18 hours and 52 minutes later, exhausted, hungry, sore, and elated.

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Which, really, is almost exactly how I feel every day here in London. Baby R still isn’t sleeping through the night, bicycling and running as much as I do leaves me constantly hungry, and my legs complain quite a bit about being pushed beyond their previous limits, but I’m incredibly happy with our decision to move to London. I love my job and the people I work with each day, while working in a major city with lots of others in my industry has been fantastic for my professional development.

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Every weekend (could) bring something or someplace new with the kids (or even occasionally without), and the food scene in London is tremendous. Mostly, though, it’s great to just be home with my family. Business travel in my previous role had really begun to take a toll, and I love getting home each evening to see all my girls. The northern European days stretch until nearly 10:00 PM in the summer, giving ample time to eat dinner and still hit Clapham Common for some t-ball, balance bike practice, or beach ball kick ball with now-big kid E, assuming her dinner doesn’t stretch for an hour, of course.

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Leaving family and friends behind in the States was (and is) incredibly hard, but they’ve come to visit, will be back soon, and are themselves getting to do lots of traveling around the continent. And if you haven’t been to see us yet or recently, what are you waiting for? We’ve plenty of room for guests, so please come see us. We really do miss you terribly.

One final thing: many in London have had a much harder year than me, especially those who lost the homes and loved ones in the Grenfell Tower fire earlier this summer. With that in mind, I’m aiming to raise $1 for each kilometer I’m riding this summer in two big events—the Styrkeproven (540 km) and the Ride London 100 (162 km)—to support the London housing charity Shelter. Shelter advocates and provides legal support for those that the London housing market fails, including the residents at Grenfell Tower and those city-wide that are wrongfully evicted or deal with horrendous living conditions. Please help keep London a city that works for all of its residents and consider a donation through my fundraising page.

Some more photos from the Styrkeprøven:

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