If someone asked you to join in a World Record attempt, would you?!
That is exactly what happened recently as I joined the incredible endurance cyclist Jonathan Shubert as he cycled across Oman from Muscat to Salalah, a total distance of 1,200km, in UNDER 48 hours!
To describe it as a “crazy trip” doesn’t even do it justice! Let me rewind a little….
After meeting the very humble Jonathan just a few months ago at a chance meeting through a friend I did not expect to be swept up in the whirlwind of what he was planning but something about this crazy man made me believe in him since our first meeting. Plus the idea of a nice little jolly to Salalah sounded interesting. Before I knew what I had agreed to I was signed up as the new member of his support crew.
Want to know more about Jon? Read his exclusive interview here.
So where did I fit into the record attempt puzzle? I trained with the Ultra Marathon Cycling Association (UMCA) to be approved as one of Jon’s ‘Race Officials’ insuring that he stuck to the rules along the way. Sounds easy but believe me, the 42 pages of rules to learn wasn’t straightforward! I also found myself a lot more involved in the media side of the challenge handling enquiries from national tabloids and sports sites who wished to follow the incredible journey. Soon it consumed our lives as we gave everything to help Jon achieve his dream.
Preparations along the way including the amazing team from Prismic Media who flew in from Kuwait to film the event, Jon’s great friend Chris who flew in from Dubai, Jon’s Omani friends who gave 24/7 assistance and the incredible Sukhee from the Husaak team who never complained even once. Seriously, not even once. Everyone played a vital role & selflessly gave up their time to make this happen.
The night before disaster stuck as Jon picked up food poisoning! In constant pain and already losing valuble fluids this was a bad situation but we couldn’t change the plans – The show must go on! Determined to succeed we stuck to the well planned schedule – Unfortunately for Jon, I don’t think any of us quite appreciated how much he struggled as he set off from Muscat at 6am on that first morning.
The first few hours on the road were exciting and dramatic as we travelled away from the capital city of Muscat and through the smaller towns and further south away from main civilisation. The scenery soon changed from craggy hills and mountains to the seemingly never ending desert highways.
By 1.30pm on the first day we found ourselves in danger as Jon stopped his bike and asked to lie down as he felt dizzy, his condition quickly deteriorated as his body went into severe cramp and at the point where he lost the ability to speak we knew it was bad. We had planned strategies to keep him cool along the way but the temperature in the desert had creeped over 30 degrees which had a major impact on his body.
Miles from the nearest clinic or hospital we were all alone by the side of the road with a man who is seriously unwell.
Jon admits now that he knows he was close to death lying there on that desert highway.
Frantically trying to help your friend when they are so close to death is an experience that changes you as a person. In that moment you become fundamental to their survival. It’s a horribly scary thing.
Thankfully Jon was able to recover and he shocked us all by getting back on his bike again and kept going as the rest of us stood by the side of the road overwhelmed at what has just happened.
He has incredible determination to succeed and he certainly proved it right there.
As we continued on the journey we travelled huge distances through the Oil Fields and desert roads without stopping and without seeing a town or a gas station for hours. It certainly was a different way to see Oman!
Every so often Jon would have to stop due to the heat that was affecting him, combined with his food poisoning it was a tough trip for him. We knew that we would have to make up a lot of distance after the sun went down! Jon would lie down in whatever shade possible to take small power naps of 15-30 minutes to recharge as us, the support crew, would anxiously wait until he gets back on his feet again to check his health.
Being a part of the support crew was physically and mentally more challenging than I would ever have imagined it to be! Constantly on hand to feed, care for and asses the athlete becomes your main focus! things were not straight forward but Jon was our focus so we ate our food on the road as we travelled and poured the last of our drinking water into a bucket to cool his feet. At one point all we had was 1 Pepsi between 3 of us. Life on the road is not glamorous!
But….. After completion of my 6 hour shift staring at Jon on a bike I have never been so happy to lie down in the dirt with an ice lolly when we FINALLY found a shop (also the same shop where someone tried to negotiate a deal to buy me, weird). I’m sure Jon was delighted with 5 minutes peace without me smothering him!
The heat and exhaustion was affecting us all but you try to keep your spirits high!
Rolling into Salalah at 4.30am felt amazing, like we had all survived something that even now I would struggle to explain to people. The crowds of people out on the street cheering and throwing confetti was so humbling.
But then we had to get back in the car and keep going, we hadn’t reached the GPS coordinates yet….
HE DID IT! We stopped the timer at an amazing 47 hours and 31 minutes, just under the 48 hour mark!
Finally arriving at the Sultans Palace in Salalah felt like a HUGE relief, we were all exstatic to have achieved what we set out to do but the exhaustion had taken the best out of all of us by this point.
We grabbed some quick pictures draped in the Union Jack flag of Britiain (Jon is English and I am Scottish) and the Omani flag and packed the bike into the back of the truck and headed off in search of much needed sleep. Only a few hours was permitted before the media side had to be completed and soon the story was national news.
Helping someone else to achieve something in life is an amazing feeling! I’m so proud on Jon and the team.
Those 48+ hours on the road were certainly a life experience I will never forget and something that I am extremely grateful for. I can’t wait to see what challenge comes up next!