Known for her running challenges (which include being the first woman to run the 1500-mile length of South Africa’s Freedom Trail), British endurance adventurer Emma Timmis switched to an Elliptigo for her big adventure last year. The goal – which she achieved in 74 days – was to ride her Elliptigo, self-supported and pulling a trailer, 7,951.9km across Australia. Oh, and she smashed a world record in the process.
Here, Emma chats about her Elliptigo experience and the highs and lows of her Aussie adventure. And if you’re wondering what an Elliptigo is, it’s kind of like a cross-trainer on wheels!
Congratulations on your Guinness World Record! How does it feel now that you’ve had a few months of ﬁnishing under your belt?
It was such a fantastic experience and every time I think about it a huge smile appears on my face. I’m over the moon and extremely proud to have achieved a World Record. Guinness [World Records] had problems with some of my evidence for a while. It’s deﬁnitely harder work submitting all the evidence to Guinness than it is to ride across Australia self-supported!
You rode your Elliptigo for 3 months. What was a typical day like?
Each day was long, way longer than anticipated! I would wake up about 1.5 hours before sunrise to get everything sorted, breakfast eaten and packed away ready to ride as the sun rose. Depending on the wind and my energy levels, I’d ride between 1-3 hours before having a break. A break might be just stopping to stretch my legs and drink water, or could be longer stop for a meal or repairing something. I’d stop multiple times throughout the day with my ﬁnal stop looking for somewhere to put my tent as the sun was going down. I covered between 100 and 150km per day. I always aimed to have my tent up early and relax outside the tent but the reality was that I could never ﬁnd somewhere appropriate to set up camp early enough, or I was surrounded by mosquitoes and had to lock myself in the tent! It was never the romantic notion I had of watching the sunset over the ocean as I sipped on wine beside my tent!
How did the trip compare to your expectations – was it easier or harder?
As always it was so much harder than I anticipated. I don’t know what goes on in my head when I visualise my adventures. It’s not even like I read lots of books or watch TV lots and have these unrealistic visions. Maybe I’m just a dreamer. I always think I’ll be super-relaxed and soaking up the sun in tropical countries with no wind and no insects! So wrong! There is always so much more to cram into your day than you expect. I loved ﬁlming and making vlogs every day but it took so much time and I often fell asleep in my tent half-way through making the video and had to catch up the next day. Self-supported trips alone are deﬁnitely my favourite but I have come to realise they are the most demanding.
What were the high and low points of your challenge?
Pretty much all of the lowest points involved wind from some direction or other! The wind is your worst nightmare when you’re on an Elliptigo as you stand so tall and get pushed around. The highs were the beautiful scenery, the peace and the unbelievably friendly people I met in Australia. This journey was unsupported but by the end I felt like I’d had the biggest and best support team ever as there was always someone looking out for me.
What was the weather like and did it affect your riding?
The wind had a huge effect on the day and it would slow my speed so drastically. The ﬁrst two weeks [the weather] was very British! I had days where it rained from beginning to end. As I went through a town called Geraldton I heard on the news that it was the worst weather they’d had in 20 years! But this was evened out with the stunning, summery weather I had for most of the ride. I love the sun and heat, and felt completely in my element riding along in 30-plus degree temperatures.
Where did you tend to stay – was it mostly wild camping in your tent?
Yes, the majority of nights I wild camped in my tent. Towards the end when I had less distance to cover and I was in quite built-up areas, I managed to sleep in houses most nights. Word spread through social media and friends of friends and I had beds offered to me almost every night for the last two weeks. This was great as I didn’t have to deal with drying out my tent through the day or battling against mosquitoes to cook my food at night, but it came with other challenges. I often had late nights socialising but still had to get up at the same time to get on the road. I also became very comfortable in my tent and staying in different beds each night didn’t mean I slept better.
What did you ﬁnd most challenging about the expedition?
Have I mentioned the wind already?! The main thing I looked for on the weather forecast each day was the wind as it made such an impact on me. When the wind was really strong it made me want to have a complete strop, but really that wouldn’t achieve anything so I just pushed on as best as I could. Weather is one thing you simply can’t do anything about and try to is only going to make you frustrated.
You spent a large chunk of time alone – did you enjoy the solitude?
One thing I’ve learned as I’ve got older is that I am deﬁnitely an introvert. The best deﬁnition I’ve found for ‘introvert’ is that they energise from being alone. This is deﬁnitely me. I love spending time with people but if I do it too much I feel tired. For me, having all that time alone was a great way to energise, think and reset my mental state. I love having such long amount of time alone with my thoughts. It’s where I feel most empowered. I would think a lot about people I love, goals for the future and how I can make a difference in the world. At the same time I had to think about a lot of boring things like when the next town would be, how much food I have left and where I can get water. At various points in the day I would try to focus on being present, taking in the sights, sounds and smells, and making the most of that very moment.
How and what did you eat? Was there anything you loved, were sick of, or craved?
Porridge, porridge, porridge. Being on expedition is the only time I ever eat porridge. It doesn’t necessarily agree with me but it’s so convenient. Lightweight, quick to cook and full of energy. I carry my own petrol-fuelled stove so it’s very easy to be self-sufﬁcient. Most lunches were bread-based, and dinners were pasta or cous cous, often with tuna. When I stayed with local people I had a whole variety of foods. I seemed to acquire a bit of an addiction to Monte Carlo biscuits too. It became such a thing that people all across Australia were buying them for me. My trailer was regularly ﬁlled with more biscuits than water!
Was there anything you looked forward to each day?
I actually just loved riding the Elliptigo. The way your body moves on it is so natural and free that it makes you feels so good. I had a huge smile on my face the whole time I was riding it and when people see you it makes them smile too which made me even happier.
How did you feel at the end of each day – were you tired or was it manageable?
I did feel tired but it was more related to being out in the elements rather than my muscles being fatigued. Each day I would wake-up and my body would feel fantastic. I think it’s because you aren’t putting any impact through your body so it isn’t too strenuous on your joints. But I was tired each night. I found it very easy to sleep which is something I struggle with normally. If I had any phone signal and got a notiﬁcation of a donation that gave me a real boost.
How physically tough was it? And did towing the trailer make it difﬁcult at times?
Towing the trailer was really hard work, especially against a headwind and up hills. I deﬁnitely went up some hills that were the very limit I could take the trailer up in terms of steepness. Thankfully, I was on an 11 speed Elliptigo so I would just choose the lowest gear and pedal away. Being out in the elements and exercising my whole body all day most deﬁnitely was tough, but the magic of the Elliptigo is that no matter how hard you work, the next day you just don’t ache.
How much of it was a mental challenge?
On the cold, wet, windy, miserable days it was probably 90% mental. There was one day that was so windy I was barely moving anywhere. It took me most of the day to move 50km. I could only struggle for about 3 or 4 km before having to stop and rest. This day was most deﬁnitely a mental battle. I wanted to give up but actually I had no choice. I couldn’t have pitched my tent in that wind anyway so I had to keep pushing on slowly.
What was it like in the remote sections such as the Nullabor?
It was so beautiful. I loved having no distractions and being completely in nature and vulnerable. I was completely alone early in the morning and late in the afternoon but actually in the middle of the day there are lots of people traveling in camper vans that I became friends with. They would pass me on a daily basis and provide me with water which was very much appreciated.
Did you see or encounter any wildlife during the challenge?
Because I was moving at such a slow pace I got to see animals that most people passing in cars would miss. On two occasions I got really close to echidnas. They are so cool, the ﬁrst time I saw one I thought it was porcupine. I saw loads of kangaroos but sadly most were dead at the side of the road. I had a wombat snufﬂing around my tent one night. At the very beginning I saw a Thorny Devil (a spiky-looking Australian lizard) that I managed to get really close to.
Were there any hairy moments or scary incidents?
I don’t think there was really. There was the night that the wombat was snifﬁng around my tent all night. That was a little scary as I had no idea how they respond to people but we never actually met face to face. The time I burned a hole in my tent and found a scorpion right outside, but again nothing happened. There were a few occasions where cars got too close for comfort. Lots of people were concerned that the road trains would be a danger to me but all the truckies communicate over the radio and were telling each other to watch out for me.
How did it feel knowing you were going to achieve a world record?
The moment I crossed over the distance [record] was a bit random as I was in the middle of nowhere. As I was going for a distance record, all I needed to do was travel a further distance. So when the distance came, I stopped and drew a line on the ground and made a video. Once that was done I carried on as normal. The only witnesses to the record breaking was a ﬁeld of sheep! Quite an anti-climax really, but the record wasn’t the main purpose of my journey.
How did you feel afterwards – did you experience any of the post-adventure blues?
I went straight into a new job in New Zealand and into submitting all my evidence for the record so I had no time to feel anything really. I’d also been dealing with an injury for some time too which had taken lot of my energy and I needed to get treatment for. I actually haven’t had that much time to reﬂect over the challenge yet, but hopefully I will one day. And I’d deﬁnitely love to do another Elliptigo challenge!
How is your injury?
I am still seeking a diagnosis unfortunately. It’s been a year now since it began and it’s very frustrating. The trouble is that it’s not something you can see from the outside so it seems to be a process of elimination, testing what it’s not. I also think there has been more than one issue happening. But the best I can say is that there’s something going on with my left calf and hopefully it will be sorted soon. Now I’m back in the UK so hopefully I can get it sorted here. Fingers crossed.
Do you have any challenge-related plans in the pipeline?
Unfortunately, I can’t be thinking too much about anything else for the moment as this injury isn’t healing so I don’t know when I’ll be fully ﬁt. But it will deﬁnitely be a big run of some sort.