jon fearne and alan colville
Thursday 21st March 2019
Mental health is a topic being pushed around the social media world at the moment and rightly so. It's probably one of those aspects of life that you don't truly understand unless you go through it. Our interview with endurance cyclists and lovers of high peaks covers exactly that. They have been taking part in an amazing series of challenges - Mind Over Mountain - this year culminating in aiming for the highest cycle ever at a summit undisclosed at above 7300m, surely there's not that many peaks in the world accessible on 2 wheels?!!! We caught up with them to discuss their journey and why they do what they do...
We come across some extreme challenges from time to time and each time, the word ‘wow’ doesn’t do it justice. This is one of those times. A series of challenges culminating in attempting a world record of the highest cycle ever but it’s a secret. Why the hush hush?!
John: Simple, this world of crazy challenges and world records is very small and we don’t want to put all the hard work in planning and training to be pipped at the post.
Alan: This is only the final location. Increasingly, adventurers are going higher and higher. Some do challenges like this regularly. All they’d need to do is take a bike, and our record could be taken. So, we are keeping the final venue secret, only until closer the time, but the rest of the great work we are doing, we’d love people to engage with and share, especially our ‘Get Active to Improve Mental Health message’
So, you’re both experienced endurance athletes with a very impressive CV of accomplishments so do you find it hard creating new challenges that will push your limits further?
J: I guess I don’t find it hard or if I do that’s part of the fun. Sometimes the planning and working out if an idea is possible to be turned into a challenge is a big part of the process and the fun, then seeing it come together in the physical event is the icing on the cake. Our world has so many adventure opportunities and I am happy to follow others as well as try and create new.
A: No. I think if you just change discipline, it unlocks a new world of pain, like Jon who’s going to be running the Manx 100 this year, for example or climbing the highest mountain outside the Himalayas, which we’ve both just done. For an endurance mountain biker, that was hard because it involved reprogramming and retraining. Our World Record scares me for sure. I think we’ve found the hardest we could get!
Is there a race/challenge out there which does scare you or have made you doubt yourselves?
J: Lots of events out there scare me, that is part of the attraction is learning to control and use this fear and see it as a friend not an enemy. In its simplest form exposed heights really sharpen my focus for sure.
A: For me, there’s only one mountain bike event that scares me and that is Iron Bike in Italy, because it’s 8 days, huge elevation, but the hard bit is how technical the descents are. Change discipline and there are loads, like UTMB for example, I’ve done this on a bike, but to run the 140km around Mont Blanc with 8,000m gain in a day, would break me, I think.
For someone who is looking to get into endurance sports (not us by the way!), what would be your top 3 tips in getting involved?
1.Just grab a bike or run shoes and start your journey, an adventure is relative, a walk in the woods can be an adventure and endurance based if it’s your first time.
2. Don’t listen to people who say you can’t do it (there’s a lot of them out there)
3. Don’t judge what your doing by looking at others. (remember its personal)
1. Build up steady
2. You can train your body to do anything
3. Be a sponge and listen to others to fast track your learning
4. You are better than you think you are and can do more than you think you can. I know that’s four, but I couldn’t resist.
So a lot of your challenges for the Mind Over Mountain series involve a lot of work at high altitudes and with the UK not able to replicate those conditions, how will you factor this in your preparations?
J: Part of my day job is designing training methods for people who don’t have the natural environment to train in. For me living in Chamonix valley I have mountains out my back door so can train specifically, for Alan we have to think more creatively. Again I love this side of things.
A: For Jon it’s easier, living in Chamonix, for me it’s hard. However, just in the past 12 months, I’ve been to the Andes, Alps, Rockies, Dolomites, to name a few. I get into the mountains whenever I can, but there’s no doubting it would be better to be living at altitude. It will make it harder, but not impossible for me. It’s just another element that makes this the epic challenge that it is.
Your challenges are raising funds and awareness for mental health through the charity MIND. We assume endurance events pushes your emotions to the edge, has there been moments in the past where doubt took over and thought pulling out of the event/race?
J: Oh wow, so so many times, the crazy thing is though we chose to put ourselves in these positions, people with mental health issues do not chose it. In endurance events we go on a roller coaster of emotions serious highs to serious lows and back again. Its all about excepting where we are seeing what we can control and controlling that and letting go of what we can’t. The more we do the more we recognise different situations and emotions and can then learn coping strategies.
A: Certainly, but as endurance athlete, we don’t throw the towel in until it is ringing wet. We also knew from the off that we were doing this the hard way, we’ve none of the celebrity or support of Ben Fogle for example, hell he’s even better looking, but what we are trying to do is harder than what Ben did. We accepted early that we were the under dogs and would need to be more resilient than ever. Good training for the World Record, I think.
What is the one thing that you fear most about the challenge series?
J: Dealing with the slow process that you under take on big mountains, I have ADHD and so need to find ways to keep myself on point (normally I use exercise) on high mountains my heart rate never really elevates and so I get (sounds daft) but bored and need to find a way to deal with this better.
A: I like to plan and test in training before a big event. There’s so much that we can’t test ahead of the World Record, that I’ll do what I can but accept that I’ll just need to be resilient and adaptable to whatever the mountain throws at me. So, my feats then move to all this hard work we are doing being in vain, because we just don’t get the support and engagement we need. If we get that, Jon and I will do the rest on the mountain. So, please support by sharing and liking what we are doing.
Final question and we will leave it open for you to answer. You’re nearing the top of the mountain. One of you is ahead of the other and the competitive side comes out in you. The race is on to the top. But you feel a slight unease in the stomach area and the sandwich you had earlier before the climb starts to disagree with you and you know something might happen before the top. Do you push on for the win and risk a moment to forget or do you stop to ‘push out’ and admit defeat on this climb?
J: There is no Race between Alan and I we work for a joint goal and if at any point one cannot carry on the other will continue (unless an obvious safety risk).
A: We are both competitive, but what we learned from Aconcagua is that many of the attributes that make us good endurance athletes, can come against us at high altitude. So, I’ve already learned to ditch the competitiveness, remove the ego and not to push through, as I’d normally do. Also, Jon and I have already had this discussion. We are a team and we are both trying to break the world record, but if one can’t for whatever reason, like a bad sandwich, then the other one will push on, if waiting puts at risk either of us making it to the top. Finally, we are there together, not to compete but as a team.
Thank you for your time and we wish you all the best in your challenges, we will be keeping a close eye on your progress.