cyclingThis has been my mantra for the last 5 years, and has kept me going through icy cold winter mornings, motivational lows and emotional hardship. It has let me to exceptional experiences, amazing people and wonderful places.

I have bipolar disorder; it’s my burden and blessing! Why is this important in this context, you may ask? It is because my story is about staying motivated, about staying healthy, and above all about staying alive.

Being bipolar means having periods with hyper mania – everything is great, I can conquer the world, and periods with deep depressions – everything is dark, and I get suicidal. And of course a lot of ‘normal’ periods.

Beside the treatment offered through psychiatrists, psychologists and medicine, I’ve found regular exercise keeps me steadier.

I need the training to stay mentally healthy, and I need goals to stay focused on the training.

Since I started riding bikes, in 2011, as part of triathlon training, people have told me “never go down on equipment” – my peers spend a lot of money on bikes, wheels and accessories, because they believed it made them faster; maybe got them from 11:30 to 11:20 on an Ironman.

In response to this I decided to go the other way. I wanted to prove to everyone else, but mostly to myself, that completing an Ironman wasn’t about spending the most money. I bought the cheapest Merida aluminium bike I could find and used it the first years for triathlons up to 70.3km (and the cheapest wet suit, and cheap running shoes). Not focusing on gear made it so much more about the process of getting to the start line, and the following up to the finish line.

Focusing on the process has made me mentally strong – I always reach my goals, because I know I can, and I trust myself in the process. This is very much in contrast to the rest of my life, where I don’t trust myself, and where a lot of my everyday processes are a struggle.

Every year I search for new goals – to stay motivated and healthy

cyclingI’m a big guy, weighing in at over 100 kg. I used to play handball, a very physical team sport, where my size was my advantage, but due to injuries that is no longer possible. In my search for motivational goals, in 2011 I came across triathlon.

I couldn’t swim, had never ridden a race bike and couldn’t run more than 5 km – it was the perfect match…

In the fall of 2011 I did a 4-18-4 triathlon (short sprint distance) and I was hooked. It was so hard doing three disciplines in one, all of which I had no prerequisite of doing. I knew it would take motivation to get better, and I knew training for longer distances would make me stronger both physically and mentally.

My triathlon ‘career’ culminated with Ironman Copenhagen in 2013 and 2014 (12:04 and 11:37).

After having completed the Ironman distance my motivation faded and I started looking for new goals. Since the cycling part was the most rewarding for me, I naturally looked for challenges in that genre.

In 2015 I decided to focus on cycling

I came across the Haute Route by coincidence. I looked at the three routes through the Pyrenees, Alps and Dolomites – they all looked way too ambitious, but that was what lit my fire. I signed up for the Haute Route Alps in 2015

cyclingI had never before cycled more than 180 km’s, never in mountains, and never on consecutive days. How would I ever complete this enormous feat of 854 km’s – 22,150 meters of altitude gain? Well that was the question that kept me motivated.

Through my bipolar phases I always remembered my goal – to do the highest and toughest amateur sportive in the world – the Haute Route Alps.

It was a mindboggling adventure, with some of the most spectacular views and nature I have ever experienced. And to top it off, I also met amazing people from all over the world. If you have the time, opportunity and motivation I can highly recommend the Haute Route

And all through that somewhat surreal week I kept repeating my mantra: pain is weakness leaving the body!

About the Author: Troels Panduro Andersen, 41, is a Project Manager and Business Developer who lives in Denmark. Troels has been married for 19 years and has three children aged 5, 12 & 16. He has been biking for 5 years now and he uses cycling as a way of dealing with having Bipolar Disorder.

Twitter @troelspanduro

Instagram @troelspanduro