Inspired by a documentary – one alum travelled more than 4,000 miles across America in 33 days. Chris Greenan tells us about his incredible story.
Primary Teaching graduate Chris was sitting in a local café when he saw a flyer for the Edinburgh Cycling Festival, something he’d been completely unaware of. As part of the festival, they were showing a movie called,’ Inspired to Ride’. The documentary tells the story of a handful of cyclists as they take a 4,233 mile transcontinental race across the USA. “I watched the movie with my jaw dropped the entire time and I was with 50 other people and there was silence,” explained Chris.
It would take him five years to pluck up the courage to get on his own bike and travel to America. What sort of training goes into an event like this? “I didn’t really have a prescribed plan,” said Chris. “I’d go week to week to see how I felt. Each time recording my weight and seeing it drop, but also seeing my power increase.”
Chris started the race in Oregon and was met there by friend, and fellow alumnus, Callum Burns. “In all my years of going over to America, I’d never gone to see Callum, who is now living in Vancouver,” he said. “But he was more than willing to come to Oregon to cheer me on at the starting line. It was really nice because it settled me. Knowing there was a familiar face there to support me.”
The Trans Am Bike Race takes in 10 states – from Oregon to Virginia. It is not a stage race, the clock never stops, so even when Chris was sleeping, it all added up. “I never questioned if I was going to finish, it was more a question of when was I going to finish it. In Colorado it got to the stage where I wasn’t able to turn my pedal, which was down to a small injury on my left leg. I was Facetiming my wife, crying. I was tired and in pain. But it was there that I had to take two days off to ice my knee. My health was much more important at that time, and I would just have to make up the time later.”
Chris’ sleeping arrangements differed throughout the race. One night he’d be in a hotel, the next at the side of the road in his tent. “It’s amazing what you can sleep in when you’ve been on a bike for hours.”
He was taking in some incredible American scenery along the way – the best bit? “Yellowstone National Park. It was a tough ride, but it was incredible. Americans know how to do national parks. I was fortunate not to see any bears.”
After 33 days, Chris crossed the finish line. “It didn’t really sink in,” he added. “It was emotional.” Which was heightened when he saw his wife, Paula. “Paula arrived with an ultrasound picture with her. It was the first time I got to see my baby boy, who is due in January.”
Then started the recovery process. “I’m still finding it hard to process that I was on that bike for 33 days. I found it difficult to understand that I actually finished it,” explains Chris. “It was very surreal, but my saddle sores were a nice reminder – my skin was in bits.”
Despite cycling 4,000 miles across America, Chris is showing no sign of stopping. He’ll be juggling being a new dad with launching his very own cycle endurance test – this time in Scotland. The Trans Alba race will take in over 1,000 miles of Scottish scenery and a whopping 50,000 feet of climbing. “We’ll be starting in Edinburgh, from the Forth Road Bridge,” said Chris. “We’ll be heading to St Andrew’s and Dundee after that. I had to get Dundee in.” Cyclists will head to the Cairngorms and will even have to hop on a ferry to do a leg in Skye and Mull. Then it’s back to Oban, through the Trossachs, and into the Borders – finishing up back in Edinburgh.
There’s still time to sign up to next year’s race – which kicks off on Monday 1 July.