With Paceline, you get rewarded for 150 minutes of elevated heart rate a week. But we know these rewards aren’t the only reason you move your body—there are so many other physical and mental perks of exercise, right? That inspired us to start this new franchise: Rewarding Feats. In it, we talk to people in our community about inspiring—and rewarding—feats of fitness. First up, Paceline investor Andrew Sharkey’s experience cycling the Swiss Epic, a five-day stage race in the Swiss Alps that covers 350 kilometers and 12,000 meters of elevation.
Can you introduce yourself in 150 words or less?
I’m originally from the UK but I’ve been based in Hong Kong for almost 19 years. My kids were born here. I met Joel [Lieginger, Paceline’s founder and CEO] through cycling and I was one of the initial seed investors into Paceline. I love Paceline because as well as being a great idea, I like being part of the movement to better health and wellness. I do a lot of cycling because that’s kind of my me time, the time that I can de-stress, analyze my thoughts, pull them together in a logical order, and balance the rest of my hectic lifestyle.
What do you find most rewarding about cycling?
It’s my opportunity to reset, refresh. As Joel will be able to attest, you can only really cycle on the Hong Kong roads in the morning. I’m on the bike by 5:10 a.m. and I’m usually home by 7:15 a.m., so I get the sun rising, and the best part of cycling for me is to be able to go out and come back in before I go to work. I’ve exercised, so I’m full of endorphins, my mind’s all aligned, I’m in a good place, I’ve had my de-stress. So I start the day on a very positive note.
Even if I have a bad ride, the frame of mind that I come into work with versus when I don’t exercise in the morning is very different. I find I’m a better person, I’m less moody, my appetite, everything’s aligned. Even the way that I interact with my family, if I’ve got my exercise in, they’ll attest to the fact that I’m a better person.
How did you get into cycling in the first place?
I was always a fan of bike riding, but in the UK with the weather and whatnot, it was never particularly easy. When I moved to Singapore in 2000, I discovered mountain biking and got a taste for that, and then when I moved to Hong Kong, I found a group of people into cycling. We became friends and I enrolled myself in a mountain bike race called the Cape Epic, which I did in 2012. It’s the Tour de France of mountain biking. There’s no other sport in the world where you can come in as a reasonably good amateur and stand next to the icons of that sport. It’s just amazing to be part of that and it drives you, motivates you, incentivizes you.
I did [the Cape Epic] again in 2014, 2017, and 2019. We were due to go and ride it in 2021, but due to COVID, South Africa wasn’t really an option for people that were residents in Hong Kong. So we rolled it to the Swiss Epic.
Cycling’s interesting for me because the hill never gets any easier, you just get faster. Committing to other people, being in the social aspects, the coffee aspects, that’s the part that I really enjoy. And it still can be ultra competitive, even if it’s a social ride—it’s only social until you reach the first hill and then everyone’s for themselves.
Can you tell us more about the Swiss Epic?
The Swiss Epic is one of the races in what’s called the Epic Series. The Epic Series started out as just one race, the Cape Epic race in South Africa out of Cape Town. But now, the Epic Series has grown into eight races. The Swiss Epic is the second hardest race after South Africa. My usual race partner unfortunately had to pull out so I had one of my Hong Kong-based buddies step in, Niek, who’s in the photos. The scenery was absolutely stunning. It was a fantastic race.
What was the best part?
The best part was finishing. You go and do these ultra-adventure races, it’s definitely what I call a type two holiday, something that you enjoy only after it’s over. It’s the achievement, it’s the personal accomplishment, all of that comes floating through when you cross the line. Upon reflection, once the race is over, I can say the scenery, the organization, the whole aspect of living in a race village for five days with some of the best athletes across the sport, it’s just phenomenal.
We had some tough weather, I also had COVID for five weeks in the summer, which prevented pretty much all training. But Niek helped pull me through and teamwork got us to the end. So I think [another] best part was having a partner that was patient, understanding of what I was going through, and somebody to motivate me to get to the end. In a race like that, where you’re under stress and the conditions are tough, it either makes or breaks the team. You’re either going to be mates for life or never speak with each other again, and there’s nothing in between. So we’ve come out in line with the former, so we’re best mates and going to stay best mates forever.
Did you get any comments on your Paceline kit or did it bring you any luck?
Quite a few people asked us what Paceline was. A lot of people thought the color was quite unique, the design was quite unique. People were curious as to what it was because the app’s not available in Europe.
What’s your advice for anyone else who might want to take on a feat like the Swiss Epic?
Particularly for the Swiss Epic, there’s a lot of rocks and steep descents and roots to climb over. So getting some skills training would definitely be preferable. [Also] you’ve got to be in the right frame of mind. It’s easy to ride when you’re nice and comfortable, but can you still ride when it’s raining, when your bum hurts, when your arm hurts, when your neck hurts, when your back hurts, when your kit’s wet and moldy? So get yourself ready: Imagine the worst, and then anything else is a bonus. And then [use] an app like Paceline to motivate you to keep training.
Do you have any other feats on the horizon?
I did three months of travel in the summer with my wife and children, so it’s time to have a little bit of stability. When travel in and out of Hong Kong is easier, I’m definitely going to want to fly to Nairobi, grab my original race partner, and then go and race the Cape Epic, and we’d be honored if we could wear the Paceline kit there too.
What’s the best wellness advice you’ve ever received?
Focus on your sleep. Work out the length of your sleep cycle and then work on improving the proportion of your deep sleep in that cycle. Everything’s focused around how well you can recover and how well you can replenish your energy, and that for me is sleep.
What’s the best wellness-related investment you’ve ever made?
It’s got to be Paceline. Come on. That’s 100% honest because when Joel told me more about what the goals [of Paceline] were, to incentivize the healthy lifestyle, that’s what I live and breathe. I’m a pescatarian, I very much philosophize around the way to lead a balanced, healthy lifestyle. I love the idea of starting a movement, particularly digitally and particularly with his idea. And I think what Joel has achieved and what the whole team has achieved in three years and where it’s going, and moreover the number of lives it has changed, is just amazing. It’s just fantastic to be part of. It’s not just a financial investment, it’s a philosophical investment. It’s about changing how people are for the better.
What’s the best personal finance decision you’ve ever made?
Buying a house. I bought early and I’ve rolled and levered and rolled and levered. I think if you have comfort in your own home, both financially and non-financially, then you can switch off, you can relax and it just creates the right [environment] for you to do all the other things that you want to achieve in life.