“Start with why”. If that is the advice I want to give my athletes, then surely that is where I need start myself. Why? Why Be The Egg? The easy way out would be to give my usual answers; to explain that is a mantra; that it comes from a quote, etc. The real answer to ‘why’ runs deeper than that.
While it is fitting to kick this blog off with ‘why’, it is no wonder that I have left writing this blog post to the night before launch … Sharing the ‘what’ of big goals, and even the ‘how’ of the process you go through to pursue them, is relatively easy. Sharing your ‘why’ feels awfully private and scary. “Should I say this?”, “Can I share that?”, but frankly I only know one way to write (and live) and that is from the heart, so here it goes. Let me present to you: Be The Egg Cycle Coaching and my reasons for launching this business.
This year I turned 40. This summer I received some bad news. This month marks the end of a decade. Three big things. As cliché as it sounds, but big things make you think and reflect on what you want out of life.
I am fortunate to have a pretty niche and pretty awesome job. As a destination consultant, ultimately, I am in the business of helping people articulate their visions, test the viability of their plans, sketch out a strategy, and secure the money to make those dream destinations a reality. That is pretty awesome, especially when you consider that those destinations involve fun places such as zoos, theme parks, museums, theatres, areas of outstanding natural beauty and, yes, on occasion, even a cycle hub or walking route.
The jobs satisfies many of my ‘whys’. It is intellectually stimulating and incredibly diverse; I get to work with the most passionate clients and am lucky to work with the best colleagues one could wish for; people who are driven, clever and comfortable with giving me full autonomy and full support at the same time. The job satisfies big drivers such as independence, curiosity and a strong sense of identity and achievement.
I live for my passions; I follow my own path; and I don’t care if that is a less conventional one. My first passion was ballet. My second love was scuba diving. When, after years of travelling the world, that care-free barefoot life eventually came to an end, due to an ambition to study and get a degree, a study in tourism management and consultancy was the obvious choice. Tourism is the business of creating and selling dreams, and I am a dreamer.
For many years my work was my biggest passion, but then came the bike … Work hard, play hard. That’s what I have been doing for the last 10+ years. As much as I love my job, it also a demanding one. It is not a regular 9-5 job. Consultancy is about ebbs and flows, deadlines and targets, spreadsheets and presentations, robust analyses and compelling propositions .. and doing what it takes. I love that challenge, but being the “Duracell Bunny” that I am, I often don’t know where to stop either, making things much more complicated and time-consuming than perhaps they should be.
Combine that with training for and racing in ultra distance cycling events … and you have quite a challenging combination, one that, at times, requires 48 hours in a day or multiple spare batteries.
Some people may think “why don’t you give up the cycling or why not just compete in shorter events ?” The answer is simple, because the cycling makes me happy; the endorphins are my drug; the social contacts are my network; the longer distances satisfy my thirst for adventure and discovery, both of the world around me and my own limits.
Whether it was ballet or scuba diving, or now cycling, it has never just been about personal pursuit. It has always been about passing on skills, sharing passion and teaching / coaching / helping others discover, grow and enjoy. Thinking back, even while studying for my degree I was helping out lecturers by guiding students a year below me with their financial and management accounting modules. That pattern has always been there.
As I mentioned before, I am a dreamer and I like to dream big. I blame my dad for that. My dad is the dreamer, the one who has always encouraged me to live for my passions. “You want to travel the world?” – Sure, go for it. “You want to delay your studies by yet another year, and another and another?” – Why not. “You want to study all the way through to PhD?” – Awesome. Be ambitious. But he is realistic too … “After your BA, keep studying all you like, but find your own funds”! My mum is the practical doer. She has never held me back in my dreams, but also taught me the value of appreciating the little things and passed on her endless energy to make things happen. My sister and I have been lucky to inherit not only a natural endurance talent, but also a good mix of dreaming and taking action.
My dad doesn’t talk about his feelings that easily. He often expresses himself in songs or poems. A long time ago, during another period of change, he shared with me a Garth Brooks song: The River. A few lines have always spoken to me – and are some of the things I sing out loud, totally off key, when trying to keep myself awake on long ultra rides and race.
You know a dream is like a river
Ever changin’ as it flows
And a dreamer’s just a vessel
That must follow where it goes
Trying to learn from what’s behind you
And never knowing what’s in store
Makes each day a constant battle
Just to stay between the shores…
Too many times we stand aside
And let the waters slip away
‘Til what we put off ’til tomorrow
Has now become today
So don’t you sit upon the shoreline
And say you’re satisfied
Choose to chance the rapids
And dare to dance the tide…
This summer my dad was diagnosed with multiple myeloma: an incurable type of bone marrow cancer.
I had seen him last in April, just before the Race Around the Netherlands. He was very thin, easily tired, lacked appetite, complained of feeling cold. Not like him at all… But I was too busy to really pay attention. I was worried, but not as worried as I should have been. Luckily my sister was more insistent. Several tests followed. Her suspicion was that it might be an auto immune disease, but none of us expected quite such devastating news.
As I grew up, I naively expected my parents to just be there forever. Then one day, you look up from your busy life and realise that your parents are getting older and that they won’t be there forever. Living apart in different countries for so many years now, it made me regret all those moments we could have shared.
A charity ride for Cancer Research UK is what got me into cycling as a sport, back in 2010. That 100-mile ride with Phil Reddy, one of those super passionate clients we get the pleasure of working with, has been life changing in many ways. He used the bike to regain fitness after treatment for oesophagus cancer. Just 3 months after that charity bike ride that he organised, the cancer came back, and he died. Every few years since then I have done a big challenge to raise money for Cancer Research UK. From my first 100 miles, to my first 24-hour race, that mad Zwift distance record and then my ambitious plan to break the LEJOG record.
So, why Be The Egg? Because those 3 big things that happened this year – turning 40, reflecting on the end of a decade and my dad being diagnosed with incurable cancer – made me realise that it is time for a change, time to chance the rapids, time to dare to dance the tide.
Inspired by my dad, and in a bid to inspire others, I will be riding the longest of all unsupported ultra cycling races: the 7,400km North Cape Tarifa Bike Race, from the most northern tip of Norway, to the southernmost point in Spain. I will be raising funds for Cancer Research yet again, but this time my motivation will be more personal than ever.
It will be about adventure and discovery and no doubt also about dealing with ups and downs, both physically, mentally and emotionally. It will be about living for my passions and seeking growth and insight. It will be about leading by example and encouraging others to dream big.
I won’t quite quit my job as a consultant. There is a lot I love about my job. But I may need to scale it back. This race is something I simply need to do. I don’t want it to wait. And I am also ready for something new.
Although I have no doubt that cycle coaching will be a profession that I will utterly enjoy, staying true to my consultancy background, a prudent risk assessment shows that it would be both financially and strategically wise not to change my course completely straight away.
I don’t know where things will go from here. I hope that, after reading more about my approach and having a chat about the bespoke services I am offering, some of you may want to trust me with your goals and let me support you as your coach. If the cycle coaching business becomes a great success – which I hope – I may take it full-time, and it could grow to bigger things still. Who knows?
So, that is my ‘why’. What is yours?