Bikepacking ultra-endurance races and running mountain ranges solo and unsupported with Jenny Tough

Jenny Tough

November 14, 2020

guest links

show notes

  • Living in Scotland
  • Cycling the Rocky Mountains
  • The draw of Kyrgyzstan and the Tian Shan mountains
  • Fastpacking
  • Completing a world first
  • Running
  • Being almost too adventurous
  • Planning a run across the Tian Shan mountains
  • The day to day or running a 1,000km journey
  • The gear for fastpacking a mountain range
  • Alpkit stove
  • The wonder of women\s sleeping bags
  • Buy hydrophobic
  • Sea to Summit Comfort Plus Insulated
  • Running the Bolivian mountains
  • Bikepacking race - Silk Road Mountain Race and the Atlas
  • How to get into bikepacking
  • Tough Women book
  • Changing the way we perceive women
Jenny Tough mountain running
Jenny Tough bikepacking race
Jenny Tough mountain run
Jenny Tough mountain walking
Jenny Tough silk road mountain race
Jenny Tough srmr

FULL transcription

Jenny Tough  
I couldn't even get a real guidebook on Kyrgyzstan. It was like a chapter and a Lonely Planet. You know, it didn't even get its own book. So I couldn't find out much about the country a maps were almost non existent. The last time the country was officially mapped was when the Soviets were in power. And that was 25 years previously, so the maps were way out of date, and they were in Cyrillic text, which I could have barely read.

george b  
Hello, welcome to another episode of the call to adventure podcast with me the founder of call to adventure George Beasley. And now back in Sweden after an awesome climbing holiday in the French Pyrenees where took some giant workers and also designed some new fun trips for you guys for next summer. from speaking with listeners, I know lots of you are frustrated that you couldn't get away this year. And so if you can't get something booked, so that you've got an exciting trip to look forward to next year, you can already book on the maintenir mountaineer course in February, if that floats your boat, or if you're looking for a summer trip. Join the mailing list to get booking priority and discounts on hiking, mountain biking, climbing, paragliding, canyoning, pretty much everything outdoors he in the UK, Europe and further afield. And as with all our trips now, if it can't go ahead and use COVID, you'll have the option to move to LA today. move to a different trip or get a full refund, no questions asked. So you can book on risk free with full confidence. So if you're up for it, head over to call to adventure that's to call to adventure.uk and click on our adventures. But now on to today's pod. Today we're speaking with adventurer Jenny tough, and yes, as a real name. I'm sure Jenny gets that a lot. She's an endurance athlete and adventure traveler. Jenny's competed in ultra bikepacking races around the world, including the Atlas mountain race, Silk Road, mountain racing one, the transatlantic way race and the trans Scotland's name, but a few Jenny's also on a mission to run solo and unsupported across mountain range on every continent. She's currently on five of six, and some of which will well first like her run across the Andes, which won't come as a surprise if any of you have visited the Andes, not somewhere you can imagine people running across so keen to dig into that one. Jenny is also the editor of the book, tough women, which we'll get into a little bit later. So Jenny, thanks for making the time for a chat.

Jenny Tough  
Hey, George, thanks for having me.

george b  
You're in Canada now. Right?

Jenny Tough  
Yeah, well, I just got back a week ago. So I'm actually in quarantine. So, but I'm looking out my window right now. And I am seeing the first dusting of snow on the mountains that just came in the last few days. So I'm looking forward to having winter out here.

george b  
Where have you just come back from

Jenny Tough  
Scotland, which is where I normally do live. And I've lived there for nine years now.

george b  
So what was behind the move to Scotland,

Jenny Tough  
it was never something that I actually planned. I mean, so my dad's Scottish, so have dual citizenship. And I was, you know, raised to be Scottish, but hadn't spent any time out there. So it was always kind of in the back of my mind that one day I'd like to go to Scotland and then actually left Vancouver with my bicycle on a one way ticket that I was going to go cycle around the Mediterranean and have this big adventure. But that was the year that the Arab Spring started. So I was actually entering the Middle East just when suddenly that wasn't somewhere that I could go. So I needed to get out of the Middle East for a little bit. And I think it was a 27 euro flight, Ryanair flight to Edinburgh and cycled from the airport to my cousin's house and said, Hey, I'm just going to stay here for a couple weeks while this whole Arab Spring protests thing goes away. Yeah. And then nine years later, full fledged Scottish citizen.

george b  
Yeah. Those I mean, we'll shit on Ryanair, but 27 euro for flight, and I paid eight quid for mine to Sweden. I mean, it's so cheap, isn't it? Obviously, there's there's a whole kettle of fish that gets opened up with that and it was all carbon offset and all that good jazz. So yeah, I don't necessarily include adventure on all about taking cheap flights all the time. But I live here now. So I feel like that was that was that was a good reason. So Scotland is one of those places where I don't think many people really explore it even living in the UK. Like I'm from England and I I've lived there most of my life, but I've been up only a few times and always loved it. It's kind of has that wild sense. It's much more like Scandinavia than than the rest of England. So what was your experience? Like? Where Where do you recommend as your kind of top places for people to explore in Scotland,

Jenny Tough  
the highlands are this kind of romantic wilderness of the UK that, like you said, a lot of people don't actually end up making it to, there's something really magical about that landscape that I can't really describe. Because objectively, a lot of it seems really horrible. The weather is almost always quite bad. And it is quite remote. And it takes a really long time to get there, especially if you're coming from England. I think that's why a lot of people realize they can actually get to the Alps quicker and just go that way. But it's just this fantastic place that just always keep on discovering new trails, there's so many peaks to explore. And the Outer Hebrides would definitely be my if you've got one trip to Scotland that you can do in your lifetime, get to the Outer Hebrides, you know, it takes some work to get there. And this is definitely something for post covid world but and that's actually where my father grew up. So I I've been back there a couple of times to explore, and it's just this insane place that is just so far removed from the rest of Britain.

george b  
I went last year on our winter skills and summit of Ben Nevis trip in the in the winter. And that was great. That was really really cool. It was more adventurous than I expected. And yeah, I've got to see a little bit around Fort William which is a which is a very cool spot. And it's like the home of adventure there. But yeah, the Outer Hebrides definitely on the list. It's interesting that you move there because I guess you have the family link, but it seems like the kind of outdoors and mountains what we call mountains are kind of very small mountains compared to what you have in Canada. So I guess it's just you you grew up there, so it's something different. But um, are you from BC?

Jenny Tough  
I grew up in the Canadian Rockies. Actually, while I was born in Calgary, if you know it,

george b  
I read about your first cycling adventure when you cycled the Rocky Mountains. And that was actually my kind of my first big cycling adventure too. We set off from Anchorage and then cycled over through the Canadian Rockies and then down towards the great divide Mountain by route. So we came through Calgary, we're actually going to Shambala. We met I just remember going to Calgary we met somebody in a in a Walmart car park. But that was a different story. So that was your first kind of big trip, right?

Jenny Tough  
Yeah, I just finished university and I didn't really know what I was going to do with my life. And there wasn't really a lot. I think we were kind of in a recession. So jobs are kind of definitely not like flying off the shelves. And I think actually, at the time said to myself, let's get one last thing and and then I'll go be an adult. But it totally didn't work out that way. Obviously, I just kind of got into the adventure thing and found a way to make it work around being an adult. So yeah, I had no idea what I was doing, it was absolutely jumping with two feet into the deep end kind of adventure. But I think that's the best way I think when you're 21. That's exactly what you need to do is just go scare yourself and do something hard and amazing. And from there, you kind of gone from a pretty accessible adventure to now stuff where you're doing more kind of ultra racing, and much more extreme stuff. So have you just done sequentially, a little bit harder trips? or How did you go from cycle tour that's very accessible to running across continents across Bolivia or Tian Shan it's like, what's the transition been? Like? Has it just been pretty steady? Yeah, I'm a big believer. And you always have to push your comfort zone a little bit further, I believe your comfort zone is a fluid line. So every time you need it, you end it out a little bit further. And then that means that you're capable of more now. So if you just keep on pushing that line, and I was quite lucky that I started young, you know, growing up in the Canadian Rockies meant that by the time I was an adult, I did have a lot of back country skills and a lot of wilderness skills. And then I got into sport and running and stuff like that. So I had a lot of time to keep on inching this comfort zone out. So yeah, it was it was a gradual progression to make sure that you know, you want to do things that do scare you that are outside your comfort zone, but they can't be dangerously outside of your comfort zone, you need to have the skill level to back it up.

george b  
I do a little bit about what it is. But can you just illuminate a little further? Where was how did you come up with the idea and what what's the actual project involved?

Jenny Tough  
It was never meant to be this way. I came across the tianzhen the central range of Kyrgyzstan. And do you ever have that moment where you see a picture of a place and like your heart stops and you go my life isn't complete until I physically go there. I have to go see that place. And that was how I felt about the Tian Shan they just looked like the most perfect mountains you can imagine. And nomads lived in them. And that really excited me because I think I might have the heart of a nomad. So I decided I just it was all that I just wanted to go to Kyrgyzstan and explore these mountains. And I was going to take my bike and then I thought, well, you know, character sounds relatively small. If I take my bike, it'll be over too fast. So I should slow it down. And you know, maybe I'll

Unknown Speaker  
Run, I love running. And I never thought before of using running as a form of transportation. You know, we hike and we cycle but running just is seen as an exercise. And at the time, this wasn't really a sport, you know, now we call it fast packing. But that word wasn't really circling at the time. That was only four years ago. So I had to do quite a lot of research and quite a lot of preparation to figure out how to run on supported, be able to carry everything I need for back country survival in Central Asia, and get 1000 kilometers across this country where there was no route. So I had to spend a lot of time also working on on the navigation like how on earth was I going to do it when there was no trail. So it was this huge project. And that was just so exciting. And it was, you know, by far the hardest thing I've ever done. And so I went out to Kyrgyzstan. And it took me I think 25 days to achieve that. And I just couldn't believe it. You know, it was the probably the best I've ever felt about myself was probably running into the city of Bosch and realizing that I completed this world first that me the plotting Kirby runner, had just done 1000 kilometer traverse kind of thing like it was, it was so amazing. And I, after a little while of recovery, decided I really wanted to do it again. And I came up with a list of all the mountain ranges that would be cool to run across. And and you don't realize there's so many more mountain ranges than we think there are on the world. So I had this huge list because of course I love them all. So I just decided if I did one on every continent, then it's kind of a thing. And then I can justify it because I like create a real thing, right? So a few months later, I went off to Morocco to do my African range. And, and yeah, the project just started. And it's been four years now. And I still got one left. And it's been actually amazing.

george b  
There's lots of people doing great stuff in the outdoor and adventure scene. But this one really kind of captured my heart. I was just like, Wow, that sounds amazing. I would love to do that. Apart from fact that I not much for a runner. But I think a lot of people end up saying that they're not whatever the sport is, and then just kind of get into it. So a bit like you were saying you're thinking about taking your bike, but you wanted to do a bit more slowly. So I guess you mentioned a big part that is the kind of planning and navigation. So what did that actually look like? So you think, yeah, I want to run across Kygystaz? How do you actually plan that? What are the steps look like? Do you have to go and find out who's got maps of tien Shan?

Jenny Tough  
Oh, no one. So I mean, normally, I don't do a lot of research, like I'm quite notorious for maybe being too adventurous and that I like to just arrive with almost no knowledge and then just like jump, but because this was going to be so hard, I did actually want to do the research on this one, and that I spent quite a lot of time, you know, back then I don't know if it's different now. But I mean, I couldn't even get a real guidebook on Kyrgyzstan, it was like a chapter and a Lonely Planet. You know, it didn't even get its own book. So I couldn't find out much about the country, a maps were almost non existent. The last time the country was officially mapped was when the Soviets were in power. And that was 25 years previously. So the maps were way out of date. And they were in Cyrillic text, which I could barely read. So there really wasn't much to go on. So I was really scraping the barrels of the internet trying to find any information, anyone who had done any trips, so bike tours that have been across, obviously, there's some $7,000. So there's some peak baggers that aren't really useful, but at least you can get like, bits of information from them reading any book that I could. So most of it at the end of the day was just looking at Google Earth, looking at satellite images, and just saying, well, that probably would go I mean, we'll find out, I had to have a plan, ABC, and then, you know, didn't even end up following any of those, I still ended up having to just rely on local knowledge as I went along and trying to get from place to place. So it was it was really exciting. I mean, it was getting to feel like a proper Explorer, you know, like, we think that's just in the Golden Age that's gone now to actually get to explore to do some has never been done to do an actual expedition, that the outcome is completely unknown. The way there is completely unknown. So that was, I mean, to me, that was just the most thrilling thing to get to do.

george b  
Yeah, I think a lot of us now look back to the heyday of adventure and exploration. And you say most things have been done. So it's, it's really nice. Maybe that's part of what kind of captured me is that it really sounds from an kind of read like a real adventure. Not being able to get that information you kind of Yeah, harkens back to a time when everything wasn't the click of a mouse, and it wasn't all accessible. And I think the stands still hold that kind of appeal. What was it like day to day when you were cut? So you I don't think most people can imagine what it's like to run so far. So what What did it look like?

Jenny Tough  
The running is the easiest part. And I always find it really hilarious how many people are just really thrilled by the thousand kilometer thing. But I mean, anyone can run 1000 kilometers. Maybe you won't like it but like there's only the only things you need to know

About that I right, left, right, left and just keep going. So the running was always kind of the easy part, the relaxing part and the part that I didn't have to worry about or think about, you know, as long as I ate close to enough food and drank enough water, I could keep that moving. But it was you have to organize everything else, it was really important to me to go on supported, because I think that's the most valid way to adventure and explore. So you're having to manage everything else, you're having to manage your navigation, you're having to manage a culture that is completely different from yours, you're having to keep yourself healthy, keep all your kit together, because you're like I was in deep back country, you know, I didn't have a lot of wiggle room for error. Kyrgyzstan doesn't even have a mountain rescue, like there's no helicopter, so I can't have things go wrong, you don't have the option of not enjoying this or, or whatever. So, day to day. I mean, it's kind of mundane, like I know, it looks gnarly from the outside. But all you all you have to do is just keep moving in the same direction that you've been moving, find enough water, eat enough food, and then find a safe place to sleep at the end of the day. And that's like that's your to do list. It's the most freeing thing. It's so simple, and traveling ultralight as you have to do to run like really keeping your pathway as minimal as possible, means you don't have things you don't have any superfluous items in your life anymore. So it was this whole 25 day experience of just pure minimalism and just living in nature, and spending time with nomads and looking at beautiful mountains, and just keeping my body moving over some of the most amazing trails I've ever found on this planet.

george b  
Yeah, I think the whole forcing yourself to be more minimal is a huge part of the appeal. And the fact that life is so simplified. I've never done lightweight, ultra lightweight, fast packing like that, but just from some bikepacking roots, where it's kind of like one pair of boxers Joby and you bring the camera because, well if you're into photography or film, and unfortunately, that means that you've you've got even less room for the rest of the stuff. So I always have that with me. And that takes up most of your room and then and then there's not much space for anything else. But there's something so nice about it, like you say that kind of simplicity of just having one gold has all the normal variables of the day taken away. And it's just go for as long as you can and stay healthy along the way. And I think that that's part of the magic to it. But for the fast packing stuff. I mean, you've got to go even it feels very lightweight. When I've done very lightweight backpacking in Guatemala or somewhere I felt like I basically had nothing but possibly more than you had with your with your fast packing stuff. So how much are you carrying? And what kind of stuff do you have with you on a longer trip like that,

Jenny Tough  
the biggest problem is that it's in mountains, and I'm alone, so there are corners that absolutely cannot be cut, you know. So basically my pack would be my sleep system. And nowadays, I would just do a hydrophobic down sleeping bag, and ultra lights with your mat and then an emergency tarp so my entire sleep system fills up like less than what what my old sleeping bag probably would have filled up like in the entire sleeping bed system and just a really small amount of space. And then you've obviously got your layers so one, one t shirt the whole way through. Obviously never gonna get to me but you have to be able to stay warm and dry. So good jackets. And then it's just food so a stove and dehydrated food and then your camera cameras The only thing that can keep you alive I guess that's just there for you know, most of us will not go without a camera. Yeah, that's pretty much it. Nothing extra nothing fancy whatsoever you cooking on you on like a super lightweight minimalist one, or you got one of those. It's like the size of your thumb. Just a tiny little thing I think it got from alpkit actually. So it was maybe like 20 or 30 bucks. And it's nice it out to do. Yeah, yeah, I'm pretty happy with my purchase. And how about sleep systems? Like what do you look for in that kind of stuff? Obviously, it's got to be ultra lightweight. But what are some other things that you're thinking about when before you buy stuff like that? What changed my entire world was that only two years ago, I found out that women sleeping bags are actually a real thing. I always thought they were just a way to market something pink to me, but actually women's sleeping bags are smaller and snugger. And they put more down in the feet and hips. So like I didn't know that. I don't know why I didn't know that. So if you are a woman or if you're under the size of five foot nine, get yourself a woman's sleeping bag with you my biggest advice to anyone and then yeah, hydrophobic down. And because of that, I don't usually use the bivy outer like I don't take anything extra so I just leave out in the sleeping bag, because it's okay if it does get a little bit wet. And knowing that I'll sleep when I do sleep really cold as it is mountains can obviously suddenly get way colder than you thought they would and then also take into account that if you're doing an endurance sport for that long thermoregulation does start to become a problem.

Unknown Speaker  
And you'll be colder and colder as the thing goes on, because your body will just stop functioning the way that it should. And so I do overdo it on the sleep system. So I'll bring a sleeping bag that's rated for much colder than I ever expect to be in.

Unknown Speaker  
And how about sleeping pad? The arrestor?

Unknown Speaker  
No, I've done a few. So I've done like when I did the Southern Alps New Zealand, I was never that cold. So I did the one, I forget what it's called, it's one of those ones, it's like half the size, half the length of your body, and it's got all those holes in the middle. So it's literally just covering the absolute essentials. And it crunches up to smaller than the size of my fist. So it was pretty amazing. It's you're definitely not taking it for comfort. But then, by contrast, the one before that was the Bolivian Andes, some of the tallest mountains in the world, you know, asleeping, up over 4000 meters several times. So I needed the proper insulated, much larger map, you know that that run was the hardest because I didn't have to carry so much to stay alive those temperatures. So that when I was insulated, I think it was a sea to summit. Yeah, something like that.

george b  
We've got the comfort plus insulated sculptris, something like that. And it's and it's awesome. It's really, really good. It's probably I imagine it's the same one. It's like, rated super low. And yeah, very, very comfortable. Bolivia is one that really kind of caught my eye but thought running that I've done a little bit here and there traveling around Bolivia and a few mountains and the thought of running across there was definitely surprised me. So how's that whole experience. I mean, you mentioned that it was probably the toughest one.

Jenny Tough  
Yeah. And now that I'm five, deep into this whole journey, I'm still saying oblivion was the hardest, but a lot of that was real. And then a lot of that was also in my head. It really surprised me when I started that one that I was absolutely terrified. I was literally paralyzed with fear the morning that I was meant to start, you know, I woke up really early, I was going to get a good start, because I had, as I did, almost every day of that expedition, I had several massive mountain passes to get over. So I thought I'll get it early start and I remember getting up. And there was really bad weather. I was meant to be there in the dry season. But when I got to Bolivia, it turned out that because of climate change dresses in hadn't really happened. And it was terrible weather forecasted the whole way through, you know, there was no chance of changing the dates because it was like a week's worth of bad weather. So I got up and the weather was terrible. And I remember just lying there in this kind of hut that I rented out in this tiny town. And just thinking, I can't do this, I don't want to do this way too hard. I'm absolutely terrified and wasted an hour just sitting there staring out the window, just going Oh God, I act like a cat. And almost every day was like that. It just normally, when I feel afraid like that, I just have to push myself and start going. And then you realize you're being silly and you get over it. But I didn't I think every single day, I was just you know, there was just so much going on and so much that could go wrong, you know, there's the physical environment, being at that altitude is obviously just difficult running at 5000 meters, you know, I never really got around to the altitude on that it was always really hard on my body. The navigation was really hard, as you said, like the terrain out there, those Andes they're, they're brutal. So you're up against some really difficult terrain. And again, like the weather, like I said, was the weather was a catastrophe. I had thunderstorms multiple times every single day. So I was always cold and wet. And then outside the environment, there was also very much a human factor I was being you know, Bolivia does have one of the worst crime rates in the world against women, and attitudes towards green goes, definitely wasn't any better. And I was constantly being told that I was going to be murdered. And, you know, if you travel a lot, you'll get used to hearing that kind of stuff you'll get used to being told that everywhere is dangerous, and you should have just stayed home kind of thing. And I I'm really good at ignoring it. But it really seeped in this time. And I think because I knew that it wasn't entirely unfounded, that people were warning me against against violence in the regions that I was going through. So I yeah, I did have a lot to be afraid of. And I really felt it on that one. And it was a real struggle every single morning to get myself out of my RV and try and go up yet another over 4000 meter mountain pass.

george b  
There's this strange phenomenon when traveling through Central America and the murderer is always in the next village. And they just say don't No, no, no, no, no, don't sleep there. They're all crazy and alcoholics and murderers and then the next day you end up having to stay there and then it just kind of passes on and loops on to the next village and but there is something to be said for it. I mean, like the statistics speak for themselves in some parts of Mexico. So you certainly got to still keep your wits about you. And it's it's definitely not that it's not dangerous. It's just that it's like you sayYou probably wouldn't go anywhere if you listen to all the locals all the time. But I mean, that to run through that environment is pretty amazing. So if you and doing it for so long, I can imagine that it would just wear you down mentally you can, it's not that difficult to be tough, and kind of mentally tough for a short period of time. But when you're doing something that's very physically demanding, but also up against that kind of mental stuff, as well. And then the worries about safety and weather, how did you keep going? or What was it that kept you going? When everything was kind of so tough and against you?

Jenny Tough  
Yeah, the one thing I can always fall back on, if all of my reserves fail is that you can't quit here, like you're in the middle of the back country, you've got to get home somehow, you can't just, you know, throw your toys out and, and say you're done. So I, I at least had that. But I did need to get to the finish line. Because you know, I needed a way to get back home. I don't know I've been there are a lot of times that I thought that expedition would fail. I think, I think partway through, I actually looked at I looked at my route and looked at the flight back that I booked and knowing that I need to make that flight, I didn't have the option to change it, I realized that it actually couldn't be done. And so I think I went through a few days where I knew it was going to be a failure. So I decided, you know, I'll just go down swinging, I'll just try and get as far as I can get knowing that I'm not going to make it. And then I think having that mindset and, and that I'm just going to go down swinging kind of thing. I somehow did pick up the mileage and somehow made it back. But I mean, it was by the skin of my teeth that I finished that expedition on time, it was really run to the airport with all my gear still wet and disgusting and have to deal with it on the other side when I landed in Edinburgh.Which will wasn't nice.

george b  
The people sitting next to you must have been like, Who is this lady? They're gonna have to evacuate the plane because I just put my shoes in my luggage and put it on hold. And I thought oh, that's like, so start to dry.

poor baggage handlers.

Yeah, yeah, I don't, I don't always know what to say go. And I guess, to be fair, keeping going is the easiest thing. You know, you've made all these plans and spent all this time working out how an expedition is going to go. And that's all you planned. If you get to the point where you decide that you don't want to do it anymore, now you have to make a new plan, you have to figure out how are you going to get out of here? How are you going to get home? What are you going to do about it. So actually, when you're at the point that you're really starting to wear down, and knowing that every day on something that this challenging, you're going to burn several more of your matches, and you're going to have less the next day and less the next day after that, and so on. So every day, you're physically less, but you're also mentally, just exhausted and making decisions gets harder. And that's something you have to be really conscious of when you're going alone. So making the decision to quit something which is something that you didn't plan for you never made a plan for that. That's actually cognitively to like overload, you know, you'd have to really be able to sit down and work out a new plan. And so it is just easier to keep going. And so sometimes, you know, there definitely been days that weren't nice, or I shouldn't have done them in the first place. But it was just like all I knew was to keep moving forward. And so you just keep on soldiering. And as you get worn down, it goes both ways. You know, a big adventure always has its peaks and troughs, your emotional ups and downs. And I think the further you go, and the more exhausted you get those peaks and troughs become deeper and higher, you know, your highs become really high and your lows become a little bit scary. But then another high is going to come along. Hmm. How about you journey into bikepacking and ultra bikepacking races, something that surprised me that I got into racing, because it's not really my personality to compete against other people. I mean, I certainly compete against myself, and I compete against myself really hard. But being in an organized race just didn't seem like my thing. But I really loved this marriage of pushing yourself physically while also doing an adventure and a place that you've never been. So when I discovered bikepacking Ultra races, I was really intimidated at first because cyclists just really intimidate me. But I got there and discovered this tribe of people that were weird the same way. I was weird, you know, people that were pushing the sport. I'm pursuing it for the same reasons I was and then suddenly, I was just surrounded by people for the first time who like really did the same stuff as me. So for me, it's not so much about the competition. I mean, I think it's really cool when we all get together and pit ourselves against really hard challenges. But for me, the best part is just spending time with those people. So like I'm the worst competitor in the world. You know, I'm the type of person that is the reason why medals for participation exists in sports because it's just so awesome that we're all here. We're all winners for showing up.

Well, you certainly like to test yourself, though. I mean, you were the first female finisher in the Atlas mountain race and the Silk Road mountain race, right? Yeah, good times. I think for for people that know about ultra bikepacking races, they probably have a good appreciation of just how hard they are. But can you just let's just take one of them. And then can you just kind of take us through what the race involved because involves because the distances are horrendous. And we were lucky enough to meet Lael Wilcox when we just dropped into Anchorage, and have when we were starting our our bike tour, and she kind of set us up and opened us up to the world of these incredible ultra bike packing races. But yeah, the thought of the distances that people are doing on their bikes is just unfathomable. So yeah, take us through one of those how the kind of a bit about the race,

I'll do the Atlas that was this year, which is hard to imagine this adventure that had in the year 2020. So um, you know, the most important rule is to know about this style of racing is one it's single stage. So the clock never stops. And the races tend to be more than a week long. So you win if you can sleep the least. So you know, the single stage factor, it never stops. And that's why the distances people do in a day gets so high, because people are doing all day every day. And the other most important rule is that it's unsupported. So you can't accept help from anyone else, including the other competitors. And you have to carry everything that you need. So that to me, there's a lot of integrity in this style of racing, which is really cool. So the Atlas race, if that was February 2020. And it was, I'm gonna get all the numbers wrong, I think it was 1300 kilometers long, off road. And we had seven or eight days to do it. And it was pretty cool. I mean, I was, again, really intimidating to intimidate, despite the fact that, you know, I've done these races before, and I've done the outlets before, I think I still started the race, close to the very back of the pack, there was about 200 of us that left Marrakesh, and I just looked at them on but oh, gosh, they're all real mountain bikers, and I am not a real mountain biker. So I'll just hang back and let them go. And I always do that to myself, I always build it up in my mind before the gun goes off. And then it does, and we start pedaling. And I remember Oh yeah, I love riding my bike. And I know how to do it again. And so I just went for it, I just kind of had a goal to keep my shit together. And you know, I never set out to win because I didn't think I had any shot at winning, which is probably what helped me the most was I just had a goal to just keep moving and not have any catastrophes and just stay healthy and keep the bike in working order, and just do as well as I physically could. And so that was what I did every day was just kind of kept myself to schedule and, and it was a really social race, which was really cool. I was almost always riding with other guys. And that was like, the best part of it was the experiences I had riding with other people from all around the world in this incredible landscape.

Hmm, it's quite unusual to have an event like that, where the competitors kind of talk to each other or almost like get on they're kind of like not competing. And in climbing. It's the same as well, like before people are doing problems and bouldering in the Olympics, for example. Or when it comes to the Olympics, they talk to each other and give each other that kind of shared bita. And there's something about bikepacking as well, that shares the same spirit in some way. Everybody's obviously competing against each other. But from everything that I've seen in all the races that I've followed, it seems like there's a really good community which is which is cool, but still the thought of getting into ultra racing like that, I think seems pretty inaccessible for a lot of people. So if somebody likes the idea of it though, what advice would you give for somebody to build up to one of the less extreme but still like a bike packing race and

Jenny Tough  
I would say just start with the experience in itself. So go for a really long ride that's going to take you two days to do it. You know, take your baby kit putting your saddle pack or strap onto your bike somehow. And just go out and see how far you can go and sleep out in a really dark baggy kind of way which is what we do you know we sleep in like the bushes next to the trail.

Unknown Speaker  
I just like whatever you can do that's going to be the fastest way and you're only going to sleep for a few hours and then keep going so if you're interested in this world and you absolutely should be because it's this then I would just say you know start I mean always think if you have a goal in mind say you want to do the Silk Road Race or something like that. Make a list of the reasons why you don't think you can do it today. So is it that you don't have the right kit is that your you don't have the skills you don't know if you can ride a bike that far whatever it is, you know, make that list and then for every item on that list, that is the barrier to you doing that goal. Find a way to check it off. So if it is just the skills then then work on that. Grab some friends And go bikepacking there are smaller races or not even races, but just events, particularly in the UK, we have a big scene that's really coming out now. So, you know, spend some time googling bikepacking events and races and set yourself up for some smaller ones close to home, you know, and just start taking away what you need to have in order to be at the start line of one of these races soon. And you know, it is achievable, actually. I mean, when I started, it did seem extremely unachievable. I'd never cycled anywhere near those distances in a single day. But then the first time I did a 200 kilometer day, I was like, Oh, yeah, I can do it. 200 kilometer days, just a different pace. And the first time we did a 400 kilometer, it was the same. I just thought, you know, anyone can do this. Obviously, it takes work. It might take years, but anyone can get there. Like they say it's just like riding a bike.

george b  
Jesus 400 kilometers in a day, though, that still sounds insane. I've ridden my bike a long day. But that is incredible. But um, yeah, I guess like you say, everybody probably feels that it still feels after, I don't know how far we rode on, on our bike trip, something like 14,000 kilometers or whatever, probably some more. But the thought of what 400 in a day is is pretty amazing. I mean, we only did probably the biggest day was set in our 110 miles or something. And that's with with some road as well, like, on the road, but with with all of our stuff on the bike too. Yeah, I do like the idea. But there's something that kind of piques my curiosity, which I guess is what a lot of people get from this kind of stuff, like wanting to know how far you could go. So yeah, I'm gonna have to, I'm gonna have to find a bike packing event and, and start training for it. Definitely feeling inspired. Let's talk about tough women. You edited the book? And what's the story there? How did that come about?

Jenny Tough  
You know, when I did that first adventure, I talked to her when I was 21 years old, and I set off to cycle to the Yukon, almost everyone I met, kind of reacted the same way. They're like, Oh, my gosh, you really gonna go alone, you have kind of a boyfriend or someone. And at the time, that didn't really bother me, because I, you know, I was 21, I was completely green. And their doubts were completely valid. And I always had this fantasy that one day when I grew up, and I proven myself, no one would speak to me that way anymore. And, you know, I realized a couple years ago, when I hit my 30s, and I have objectively proven myself, you know, I've done several world's first expeditions, I've won adventure races, you know, on paper, you know, I'm decent, I've proven myself, and I'm growing up. And yet, I still get the same reaction almost everywhere that I go, I mean, even going out for a run in the highlands, I might meet someone who will speak to me that way, and doubt me, and be shocked that I can do anything by myself. And that made me realize that the way that we perceive women in sport is, is still wrong. And at the same time, I realized I now have a platform that I can do something about that. And so I always get asked, in my, in my work life, I always get asked, why aren't there more women in the outdoor industry. And it always baffles me because actually, I work with women all the time, the outdoor industry is full of women, I would say it's almost 5050. But when we get to the highest level, you know, I blame TV more than anyone else. But at the highest level of media, we tend to see one type of adventurer and one narrative. And that's not really the way that the outdoors are to me and the type of people that go into that door. So I want to give a platform to women who are full time employed in the outdoor industry, women who are pushing the boundaries and doing lots of different things, give them a platform, and then also have an answer to this question and, and to prove to people that women are tough, and there are different ways to be tough. So that was kind of how the book came about. And I got all these incredible writers from all around the world and all different types of sports and ages and diverse backgrounds. And yes, definitely, my favorite thing that I've achieved lately was to see that book, come out and see people, women, girls, boys, and then start to pick it up.

george b  
what did you learn about toughness from it,

Jenny Tough  
that it has so many different faces? So I mean, obviously that word, being My name is a word that I thought about my whole life. You know, when I was a little girl at school, I got teased for it all the time and actually hated my name. I was so embarrassed because like, it was ridiculous that a girl should be called tough. You know? So I was always like, hilarious to the kids in my class that that was my name because it just didn't suit right. And, and it took me a long time to come around to it and go hang on. That's a frickin awesome name. Like I love that. That's my name. Obviously, I still always get teased about it. And I'll always challenge anyone if they can come up with an original tough joke that would make my day but you know, I tend to hear the same ones almost every day and I love them. Because again, I love my name. But I've always thought about that word quite a lot and why why was it funny that a little girl had that as a name? And what are our perceptions of what that word is? And I do think it's very diverse word that can be defined in so many different ways. And I think all women are tough.