RAAM Learnings

I’ve learned an astonishing amount trying to get a team ready for The Race Across America.

Maybe the long version will appear some time. Maybe not, it’s just a long list of weird stuff, like how many power sockets there are in a Town and Country Mini Van and a thousand other things I’ve neither needed nor wanted to know before.

Today’s bizarre nugget was discovered while getting everyone insured, a painful process.

I learned that you can insure against getting a hole in one in golf. That can cost you a fortune in the club bar, or so it seems.

I thought the mere existence of such a policy amusing enough.

It turns out, Barry, pod chief (what on earth that is is another long story from which I’ll spare you) and fabulous support, has not only taken out but actually claimed on such insurance.

If you knew Barry, you’d not be surprised.

He very nicely taught me the other day not to say, “over and out”, apparently it’s either over or out. Never both.

As to why, we are raising funds for ECPAT, who aim to eliminate the sexual exploitation of children:




More Amazing People


The process of getting  Team Endeavour ready for the Race Across America (RAAM) is quite intense.   We set off to California on 11th June and the race starts 17th June.

The riders and crew are amazing people, as are some of the others who have helped us so far.

In real life I have a coach (of the work variety) a lady called Sue Webb.  She knows me quite well. She is very good at what she does. She generally works with teachers and children.  Those of you who know me can be forgiven for the smile you are currently trying to suppress 🙂

When we first met we did an exercise to help she and I work out what makes me tick (or sometimes not tick).

The question was something like, “Draw me a graph of the times in your life when you have been most happy”.

The graph went right back to 1989 at that time, that was I had my first proper job, or so I thought (*).  The timeline I drew filled a whiteboard and had several characteristics:

It was not just up and down, it was very binary.  Not a curve.

The peaks were almost all the same height.  They didn’t get higher in any way that correlated with what I earned or where I might have sat in a hierarchy.  The height of peaks did not trend upwards over time.

One of the higher peaks was quite early when I worked with an ace development team at BT.  Another was more recent and related to work we did at Thomson Reuters in building communities to get better at what we did.

It was a very interesting and useful graph.

Once we had talked through the whole thing I went back to white board and added another detail.

At the top of each peak I added one or two sets of initials. The friends for life I made in each of those experiences over more than 25 years.

I get a huge kick out of going to new places, to do new things, to learn and work with great people.  I insist on enjoying what I do.  You tend to make new friends along the way.

My experience of RAAM so far has been quite intense.  It is ticking all those boxes.  It is a huge privilege. There aren’t many things that drive me to a laptop at 0700 on a Sunday morning.  When I extend that graph, I am sure there will be a few new sets of initials on it.  The people I am meeting in this process are amazing.  While I am in awe of the riders and crew, I am most amazed by the people who contribute despite not being in the core team.

One is Michelle Beattie.  Based in Sydney she had to drop out of the crew for the race but has continued to support the team as we prepare and has secured our rider and crew kit.  I don’t think any of us knew how complex that would be.  Thank you Michelle.

Another is a man called Mike Griffiths.  How we met Mike is a long and quite unbelievable story.  Mike has got >100 people through RAAM.  It is part of what he does for a living.  Despite that he spent 3 hours with me on Friday reviewing our plans and advising us on how to be successful and safe.  Thank you Mike. His organisation is here.

There are many others.  Not least the many (>100) who have already sponsored us.  So far we have raised ~$18k (inc a one off $10k not shown on the donation site).  Thank you to you all also.

It is all the better when we get to do things that matter.  We are doing the RAAM ride for ECPAT, a charity dedicated to eliminating child trafficking and sexual exploitation.  Our donation site is here.


(*) It has occurred to me that my first proper job was actually in 1986 as cox for the Reading University Women’s Boat Club.  The short version of that story is that that is where I began to learn how to work with other people.

Amazing People

The CWT RAAM Crew contains a man called Jim.
Yesterday he completed seven marathons in seven days.
The last was a none too shabby 5:30.
The fifth involved a kidney stone.
The riders are a pretty awesome bunch, training hard.
The crew that’ll carry them are shaping up well too.
The main reason I signed up was to meet amazing people.



On Tuesday we added a further member to the CWT RAAM crew.  An amazing man called Jim Grindeland.  He is based in Minneapolis.  We first met there a few weeks ago at a CWT Town Hall in part dedicated to building the crew.

He and I had been discussing the potential for his joining the team on and off since then.

First thing Tuesday I fired up my laptop and dealt with a few over night emails.  I had one from Jim saying he was still able to make the RAAM team, asking and answering a few questions we had been exchanging.  Right at the end he added this:


As I mentioned above [in his original emai], I’m doing 7 days 7 marathons next week. I was wondering if I could dedicate my runs to the ECPAT cause too.

Would it ok if I posted the ECPAT Charity Link on my Facebook page and ask people to donate?


Would it be ok?!

Jim is doing the The Riverboat Series next week.  That is seven marathons in seven days, starting Monday 10th April. That is a staggering undertaking.  It is an honour to have him on the team and humbling he’d dedicate this effort to ECPAT.  If he has the energy to update us on his progress on Facebook I will be sure to share it with the CWTRAAM2017 group.

I keep meeting amazing people on this project. Please join me in cheering Jim on!

Cycling Is Always A Team Sport

In my last post Racing Across America, I described why we are doing RAAM in June this year and how I got involved.

This guest post is from our Rider Captain, Andrew Jordan. This will also appear in the blog section at our website CWT RAAM in the next few days.  It was originally written on Thursday 30th March.

The title speaks for itself.  I remember Andrew doing this event. I hadn’t heard the story until I got the draft of this a couple of days ago.  I suspect that if Chris Underwood hadn’t done what he did that day, we might not now be doing RAAM. Thank you from me and the rest of the team and from ECPAT for the choice you made that day.


It’s late March, and in 79 days, 1 hour and 38 minutes (not that I’m counting) Team Endeavour will roll over the start line in Oceanside on the start of our epic journey across America. A lot has been said and written about my past experience of racing in events like this. The truth is that despite having taken on five Tour de France stages – all in the high mountains of either the Alps or the Pyrenees – nothing will fully prepare any of us, including me, for what we will endure as we race our way West to East.

Team Sport 1

L’Etape du Tour, where amateurs take on a stage of the Tour de France, is probably the toughest single-day amateur cycle race in the world. Competitors come from all over the world to take on the very same roads as the pros. Needless to say, this is just one day and the Tour itself spans three full weeks. But to put this all in perspective, RAAM is 30% longer in distance and 25% higher in vertical metres to climb, than the whole of the Tour de France. In 8 days. But back to L’Etape.

Nobody enters an event like L’Etape without putting in a LOT of training and body conditioning. It’s simply a waste of time and money not to. But when you consider that each year at least a third of the whole field DNF, mostly because they’re too slow or too unfit, it does make you realise just how tough riding in the full Tour is.
The first year I rode in L’Etape was 2011 and I trained very,very hard.
I very nearly DNF’d.

Team Sport 2

I was on turn 6 of 22 on the lower slopes of the famous Alpe D’Huez and I was spent. Nothing left in the tank. It was 38C, there was no wind, the sun was beating down on roads mostly without any shade, the tarmac was melting, and I had completely run out of food and water (rookie error). I had found a spot under a tree, bike discarded by my side, and I was sat on one of the many metal barriers that snake their way up the mountain, by the side of the road. My head was hung low as I stared down at my cycling shoes wondering how on earth I had ended up in this position.

There was an eerie silence on Alpe D’Huez that day, riders slowly moving past in front of me, their legs straining to keep their bikes moving forwards against the steep gradient of the most famous climb in cycling history. Nobody said a word. Nobody was smiling. Just the whirring of their bike chains powering their expensive carbon uphill. This was at the sharp end of the race, the finish line some 1300m and 11km higher up, at the ski station at the top. I saw other riders, predominantly men, walking their bikes slowly past, doing the ‘Walk of Shame’. I swore I’d rather DNF than do that.

I remember thinking over and over again that there was no way I was going to quit and yet, at the same time my body was screaming at me to stop. I had already climbed Col de Telegraph and Col du Galibier, the latter one of the highest mountain passes in the Alps so aside from the heat and dehydration, I was also feeling the tiredness beginning to kick in too.

My phone went. It was Chris, my cycling buddy, asking where I was. He was at turn 10 so a little further up the mountain. I said I was done, no way I was going to continue. I couldn’t. I physically had no strength, and there was no way I’d attempt it with no water in that heat. A few moments later, Chris unexpectedly turned up. He’d ridden back down the mountain to find me. I looked up slowly and there he was, handing me an almost full bottle of water – his last bottle. I took it without saying a word and drained a good half of it. My body reacted almost instantly and despite the pain and exhaustion, I got back on my bike and we slowly set off up the mountain together, pushing each other on, keeping each other from stopping. Very much a case of mind over body in that instant. Chris had sacrificed his time, his water, and made himself climb the same section of mountain twice, because he wasn’t going let me give up.

About an hour later we crossed the finish line, tears rolling down my face. I was exhausted but I had made it. And I had made it because, at that moment, I realised a valuable lesson. People think cycling is an individual pursuit which to many it is. But riding in endurance events, whether it is L’Etape, or RAAM, is every bit a team sport.


We’d welcome your support which can range from cheering us on to supporting our charity, ECPAT.   In any event, we plan to enjoy it, I hope you can too.



Racing Across America



Late in  2016 my friend and boss Andrew Jordan got back from a business trip to Australia and announced that he’d formed a team to compete in the Race Across America.  Known as RAAM, it is a ~3000 mile cycle race from Oceanside, California to Annapolis, Maryland.  That is 24/7 for 9 days in June this year, over deserts, the Rockies and The Appalachians.  Four riders, with a support crew of 8 and our mobile media guy.

I hid under the desk.  I knew he meant it.  I knew what was coming.

One of the more amusing snippets at the time was a clip I saw of one of the riders who, when asked why he’d signed up, replied, “I assumed it wouldn’t happen”. He knows AJ as well as I do. He should have known better. He is also a twice winner of the University Boat Race (Cambridge) and hewn from granite, so he’ll be fine.

The first few weeks of this year were mad.  I went to Vegas, Miami, Paris, Aviemore (the best bit), Seattle, Dallas and Minneapolis.  I had the worst cold I have ever had.  It might actually have been flu, but I am derisive of people with sniffles who say they have influenza.  I shall doubtless one day die of rabies having complained of irritability and an excess of phlegm.

Somewhere in the middle of that it appears I dropped my guard, crawled out from under my desk and agreed to be crew chief for the team. Having come to, I’m delighted I did.

The idea is to raise $100,000 for ECPAT, a charity intent on eradicating the sexual exploitation of children around the world.  Every £, € or $ we raise will be matched the Carlson Institute which is run by the Carlson family who in turn own Carlson Wagonlit Travel where I work.

That’s the why.

Of course it is an amazing opportunity and a huge amount of work on top of everything else.  Setting aside the pretense that I agreed while delirious, the reality is it ticks a few important boxes for me.

It matters, I get to work with some sensational people, see amazing places and make some new friends on the way.

Those of you who know me well will know that that is what makes me tick.  Those that don’t, do now.

I don’t usually do this, but I am going to, for once.  I’m going to ask you to put your hand in your pocket and donate to our charity, here.

I am conscious I am pretty well off.  I put my hand pretty deep into my pocket.  I will do so again before we go.  However, each £ or $ counts.

You can watch us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/CWTRAAM2017/ or at the website https://www.cwtraam2017.com/

I will scribble here from time to time as we prepare.  For now, I’d be grateful if you support our bold and worthwhile charity.

Is Brexit Irrelevant?

Brexit is all starting to look a bit irrelevant, but maybe to remainers rather than leavers who I suspect might be the main losers.

Leaving the EU works for me. I am fairly well educated, sufficiently socially skilled and globally experienced.

My salary arrives in GB£ but is US$ really. I work globally, part of my summer holiday is Working From Roam, basically WFH but not my home, but some other random place on a mountain with wifi and a time zone that enables a morning run then plenty of overlap with my colleagues. My pension pots are mostly invested in global organisations and have rocketed since Brexit.

It may be we adopt a Singapore style economy. I will do quite well out of that.

I assume the government promised Nissan to make the UK a tech centre with R&D investments and policies like low corporation tax. In other words a centre in 3D printed, software driven transport and all manner of other tech fuelled industry.

I voted to remain, just for the avoidance of doubt. But that all suits me and my well educated, sociable outward looking children.

Those who voted leave, broadly, less well educated, skilled and globally oriented people will do rather badly.

Those cars will be printed in market, not exported. The value will be in the software and the blueprint. There will not be many manufacturing jobs.

Throw in some more tech driven changes, e-identity (see Estonia) and digital currencies and the idea of nationality as we currently understand it starts to unravel. My Englishness is about as relevant as my Yorkshireness.

I can be anywhere.

Taxation will be entertaining. Bye bye income tax, hello VAT on all transactions (no more cash in hand, no more cash) and taxes on capital income so as to avoid ugly revolutions (actually more likely the latter then belatedly the former, we are human after all).

The thing is, much of all that will happen anyway. Stay or leave.

I’m assuming many (most) who voted to leave are utterly oblivious to all this (and boy did summarise, generalise and skate over the detail, I know, I know). I’m wondering when they’re going to notice. When they do, Brexit becomes very relevant. Especially if it is too late.

It seems utterly implausible that the great majority who voted to leave the EU, did so to embrace an open, global and technology driven future. Such a future works well for people like me, I’m already there. For those who voted to Leave, the destination could well carry most of the characteristics of the EU but to a greater degree and involve not retrenchment in old ways but acceleration towards the new.

I’ll leave it there. More on consequences another time.