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Magdalena Schoerner's TRANSPYR

Name: Magdalena Schoerner
Age: 33
Challenge for 2017: TRANSPYR – a coast-to-coast mountain bike race across the Pyrenees (800km off-road in seven days)
 
What made you decide to take on this challenge? How did you prepare for it?
 
I don’t think I would’ve signed up for Transpyr had it not been for seeing Lee and some of the Adventure Syndicate crew tackling the same route (self- supported) the previous autumn. Although usually more of a roadie, I knew at that point, having just come back from touring the Great Divide MTB route that I am capable of overcoming enormous distance, difficult terrain and dealing with the stresses of self-supported bikepacking – but doing an endurance MTB race was entirely out of my comfort zone. Still, when the opportunity to take part in TRANSPYR came up through my workplace I readily put my hand up.
 
Fitting endurance training in with a busy work life was a challenge in itself. On top of that I was worried about finding time to improve my technical MTB skills. Ian from Gears and Tears helped me put a training plan together which really got my head around what I had let myself in for. The plan included indoor training, incorporating my commute, long off-road weekend rides and skill sessions. I certainly struggled with the intensity of it at times, especially in the winter months and alongside work. Still, I wanted to see my name on that start list and to arrive as well prepared as I could. Being given the opportunity to go on the TAS Training Camp in Girona last January and hearing of everyone’s cycling plans and passion remained a constant driver for me throughout the entire preparation period.
 
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Can you tell us about a moment when you realized you might be capable of more than you thought you were?
 
Deep down I always knew I would finish but my real fear stemmed from my lack of experience as a mountain biker, and I got it into my head that I’d be one of the worst there when it came to skill level.
 
Well, I wasn’t the best but I certainly wasn’t the worst either, and that in combination with just being a tough cookie made for a few such moments. I overcame some technical terrain I wouldn’t have touched even a few months prior, and I placed in front of some very experienced riders on some of the days.
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Did anything not go to plan on your adventure? How did you deal with setbacks?
 
With TRANSPYR being a supported event, there was always someone or something to fall back on, and knowing that there would be food, fresh clothes and a hotel room waiting for me at the end of each day took away some of the pressure. This, however, put all my focus onto the race itself and left very little space for mistakes. I was lucky not to have anything major go wrong but one day my tubeless set-up let me down and my front tyre needed a few top-ups. Also, my hydraulic disc brakes were dangerously worn out by the last day.
 
On the one hand, I dealt with the challenge – and setbacks within – simply by swallowing my pride and admitting to myself that it’s OK to seek the expertise or company of others. On the other hand, the entire undertaking was so huge that, for once, I couldn’t overthink it and just had to take each day as it came.
 
Were you worried or frightened about anything before you set off? What happened to your fears once you were on the road?
 
I was worried about lots of things: my lack of MTB skills and advanced mechanical knowledge but most of all turning up unprepared and not being as good as I could be. This meant I put enormous pressure on myself in the preparation. I can’t say it all fell into place when the start gun sounded but my fears and nerves certainly improved throughout the week.
 
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Did you have any heart-warming encounters en route?
 
So many! People would offer cold showers with their garden hose for example, but most important was getting to know the other riders and events team. It’s incredible how much you bond when going through this kind of challenge together – from total strangers to lifelong friends.
 
How did it feel to finish? Was it as you expected? What happens next?
 
Very different to, for instance, finishing the Great Divide route where, after six weeks, being on the road had become part of life and finishing and being back in society was almost an anti-climax. I was ecstatic to have finished TRANSPYR. As much as I started enjoying it in the end and now look back at it as one of the best things I’ve ever done on a bike, it really was a huge weight off my shoulders – all the physical and mental pressure not just of the seven days but of the six months I’d spent preparing. I felt relieved, happy and proud of myself.
 
I’ve not been back on my MTB as much as I thought I would be. I remember just really enjoying the simplicity of riding my road bike at the end of the summer and following completely different routes to the trails and bridle ways I roamed all spring and early summer. And while a few of the big cycling challenges would certainly tickle me for 2018, I want to ensure I’d choose them for enjoyment and not because I feel like I need to prove anything to anyone. In the meantime, I’m dreaming of another far-flung, self- supported long distance bikepacking trip and taking my sketchbook.
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Magdalena and her boyfriend run an outdoor/adventure cycling-focussed printed t-shirt brand and blog, Back Of Beyond Cycling. Check it out here or come and say hi at Bespoked - the UK Handmade Bicycle Show in Bristol next April. You can also follow her on Instagram at @mount_magdalena and @backofbeyondcycling.
 

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