I kept an Instagram diary through the race which gives an unedited flavour of how the race felt. Definitely not conducive to getting an early night, but the support I got from friends and connection to the outside world really spurred me on. And it helped me process and remember all the amazing experiences and moments that my tired little brain was struggling to keep track of.

For another view of how the race felt, from the perspective of many different riders, then check out the brilliant Lost Dot Podcast.

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As is so often said, these races are only partly about fitness, and much more about planning and ability to minimise faff time and get on. A point that I proved in buckets today. Whilst my legs were good, and I was regularly overtaking people on the road, all the time I made up was lost as I faffed at the side of the road or took too many stops. And no one proved that better than Hector. He passed me leaving town this morning as I faffed at the side of the road, and then we bunny hopped each other all day, riding separately, me passing him as the road climbed (I weigh less), him passing me as I was stopped at the side of the road agaaaain. And then the planning point came back to punch me in the face. After a beautiful day of riding, I worried that I wouldn't make it on to the next stop before hotels shut and didn't want to get to the wild gravel part in the dark, and so stopped early for the night. And due to poor planning and an unspotted error in my notes, even if I make it to the next check point on time, I've got a ridiculous, long day of unfathomable climbing ahead. And I won't even get a good night's sleep ahead of it because the TV in my room just decided to turn itself on after a fireworks display and now I can't sleep. (Needless to say Hector ploughed on into the night). Oh well, ho hum, I still had a brilliant day on the bike today and nothing can undo that, let's see what tomorrow brings… . . #tprno1 #tprno1cap8

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Day 3: Sort to Andorra to Prades. What a day, probably the biggest high's and lows. After a night of not sleeping, stressing about Hector riding overnight, and about how I'd stopped too early, I got riding early and timed my arrival at 'the big climb' perfectly. As I rode towards the mountain I could just see it silloueted against the stars, I started climbing and just as the track turned to proper gravel the light was just starting to trickle through vthe leaves. Just as I was worrying about the dogs I could hear barking in the background, a horse cantered down the hill and crossed the bridge in front of me, completely ignoring me, and disappeared into the night, as I laughed slightly hysterically at my reaction. The hillside ahead was dotted with little red lights flickering. Slowly I caught most of them up, managing to ride the majority of the track. We passed random greeting and grunts through to full conversations. And as we got towards the top the mountain was illuminated in the dawn light. It was breathtakingly beautiful. I was almost crying, whether from the beauty of it, or the cold, or the lack of sleep, I wasn't quite sure. After hours of climbing I got to the top, to find @cycling_bear waiting with the @thetranscontinental comms crew, and promptly burst into tears on him, it was such an amazing climb, bloody hard work, but you earned your views. And what a descent back down on lovely smooth, sweeping tarmac. Then into Androrra, less said the better, don't think I'll be going back there. Avoiding illegal tunnels lead to hours of climbing on souless roads. And then just as I crossed the border the sun came out, the roads were beautiful, and life was good again. Towards the end of the day I caught up the Hector, lots more tears. Whilst it's definitely right that we're not riding as a pair, we wouldn't even be at CP1 yet if we were, one of the hardest things is worrying about him and how he's doing. Anyway, bed time calls, I know I'm writing way too much but if I don't write it down now I'll never remember what I did! Brain is already exploding with how much it's taking in. Night night x . . #tprno1 #tprno1cap8

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Day 5: Ceret to Tarascon-sur-Ariège. A weird one in lots of ways. Woke up at 3 to try and make up some time and catch Hector. By the first big descent in the darkness my eyes were starting to flicker and I was going slower and slower. Then I saw a little verge at the side of the road and before I knew it, my space blanket was out on the floor and I was curled up in a ball at the side of the road grabbing 10 mins snooze. Felt soooo much better! Before the snooze I'd been stuffing in mouthfuls of Snickers to try and stop myself from crying (didn't know what about!), now I was singing! Then the next few hours were spent racing trying to make up 60k on Hector (who'd finished a lot later last night so I knew I'd have a headstart on). I wasn't even sure why, we werent riding together, but I just wanted a hug and to see how he was. We were on a set parcours so I knew where he'd be if I could catch him. Looking on trackleaders (where our trackers update to) I could see it was possible but whilst I gained time on the hills, I'd lose him again on the descents. Then they decided to start felling some trees in the road in front of me and I thought I'd lost him. But finally I caught him and my gasping from exertion turned to hysterical sobs. I couldn't tell you why, just knackered and relieved and out of breath I guess. Independently we'd both realised it was pretty much impossible to make it inside GC (into Biarritz by 6am Friday) but neither wanted to tell the other in case that broke their resolve to push on. When we both realised we were thinking the same thing it was such a relief, we could ride together now (as a self supported race this wasn't allowed if we wanted to qualify for GC) and rather than worrying if he'd got to his next stop ok, I could book a room with him (cheaper as well!). Very mixed feelings, we're still aiming for the finisher's party, we've still got the whole RAID route to do (over 12000m of climbing) but it's the self supported rather than physical side that I've always found that most challenging. Feel like I've wussed out a bit but also so happy not to be worrying about him each night and to spend some time together. . #TPRno1 #TPRno1cap8

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Day 6: RAID route day 1, Tarascon-sur-Ariège to Saint-Lary-Soulon Up, down, layer on, layer off, too dark, too wet, can't see, bum hurts, up, down, too cold, too hot, need coffee, arms hurt, too cold, bum hurts, cafe not open yet, layer on, layer off, up, down, mmmmm hot chocolate, up, down, can't see, wipe glasses, can't see, wipe glasses, mmm supermarket bench to hang out clothes, up, down, bum hurts, repeat ad nauseum. Finally got down off the final mountain just before 10 tonight, after starting at 5 this morning. Most of the day spent in the dark or rainclouds. Final descent at a snails pace off the Peyresourde because I couldn't see anything through my glasses or the fog and I was quite frankly terrified. I felt so on the edge, of freezing, of being able to brake, of being able to see, of needing sleep, of just needing to be off that damned mountain. Each time we saw lights below I'd hope that would be our stop for the night, and each time it was a tiny village with everyone tucked up inside in the warm. Finally we got to our destination and they had an amazing heated foyer and there was a pizza place still open. And life was good again. Not my favourite day on the bike, although there were some beautiful bits, and great comradery between those still left on the road. Absolutely couldn't have done it without Hector for company and getting me down off that mountain. No regrets about pairing up now. #tprno1 #tprno1cap8 #noregrets #peyresourde #raidpyreneen

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Day 7: Saint Lary to Arette. What a difference some sun makes. Beautiful day, lots of climbing but worth it. We began the day having breakfast with Rudy, a veteran of ultra distance racing, who said (to make that time cut) this is one of the toughest races he'd known. Coupled with the fact that scratches were now running at about 1/3 I was feeling pretty proud to still be here. I wasn't bothered I wouldn't make the time cut, so long as I could make the party to hear how everyone else had got on. After Rudy headed off (we were very slow out the door today!) we didn't see anyone else from the race all day (except the comms team lurking round some corners!). One of the things I've loved about the race is even when you feel like you're the only person for miles around, suddenly you'll see a red light blinking on the distance, or a overly-laden bike propped up against a wall. There were a lot of hills today, the first day that my bike's actually felt heavy. But the climbs were all worth it for the stunning views and amazing descents (both of which were so much more appreciated after yesterday's conditions). Although the big name climbs (Tourmalet, Soulor, Aubisque) were great, and there's always something powerful about riding roads covered in graffiti cheering on the Tour de France riders, the quieter ones were my favourites. Dawn was breaking as we climbed Ancizan, it's peaks surrounded in swirls of clouds, cow bells ringing all around and it's Autumn colours burning bright in the early morning light. And then Col de Marie Blanque, with its weaving up and down trail, more bells, the sun setting and colours on fire again, and then into the darkness as we descended, the gravelly white road glowing in the moonlight. #tprno1cap8 #tprno1 #Tourmalet #Aubisque #Soulor #cold'Ancizan #coldeMarieBlanque

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