HALLUCINATIONS, altitude sickness and hunger – welcome to the world of Edinburgh-based endurance racer Jenny Tough, who, aside from launching her bid to cycle from Belgium to Greece tomorrow evening, is aiming to boost female participation in endurance events.

The aptly-named Tough – a half-Canadian, half-Scot who has called Edinburgh home for five years – is competing in the gruelling Transcontinental Race (TCR) 2017. A field of international riders will pedal for over 4000 kilometres from Geraardsbergen in Belgium to Metera in central Greece, via Germany, Italy, Slovakia and Romania.

Checkpoints are mandatory stops and support vehicles are not permitted, but other than that, few rules exist. Riders, often competing after three hours of sleep a night, are left in charge of plotting their own route.

Tough is making her debut in the event but has already completed cycling and running events across Scotland, Korea, Kyrgyzstan and the Balkans within the last eighteen months alone.

The Edinburgh resident is likely to be outnumbered by male competitors but remains confident that her exploits can help inspire more women to enter extreme endurance events.

The 29 year-old told The National: “A few weeks ago, I competed in a race where I was the only woman, and for many women in endurance and adventure sports this is a common situation. However, it’s getting a lot better as more women are seen competing on a high level, which encourages more women to give it a shot.”

She added: “I think social media plays a big role in this, as other women can see what it’s like for us and feel a little more confident in signing up for an event or taking on their own solo challenges.”

Last year’s winner, Kristof Allegaert of Belgium, took home first place with a speedy time of eight days and 15 hours. Tough holds little hope of seizing the crown for herself but insists she is not there merely to make up the numbers.

She said: “The TCR is definitely pitched as a serious race, not a bike tour, and there are some seriously high-calibre athletes participating this year that will be exciting to watch.

“Moving at race pace against other participants will be a new type of challenge for me, and I’m certainly going to give it hell, but I’m definitely not planning on being out front at any point!

“If I can keep up with the middle of the pack that will be a huge athletic accomplishment for me.”

Other than the small matter of cycling over the Alps, Tough believes maintaining her mental health could be the biggest obstacle in her path.

“Taking on solo endurance challenges can come with so many hazards, but sometimes the hardest part is being alone in your own head.

“I’ve found myself in situations where I’ve been hallucinating, suffering altitude sickness, or just plain hungry, and without a partner there to keep an eye on you that can quickly lead to bad decision making.

“You need to be prepared to take sole responsibility for any problems that arise, including injuries and illness.”

Despite nonchalantly declaring that she “didn’t do very much dedicated training”, Tough evidently put herself through her literal paces in the lead up to TCR 2017.

“I didn’t follow a plan or work with a coach, and I only competed in one race this year – and that was only three weeks ago. I did, however, go on a big mountain biking adventure in April, have been running really well – and doing lots of yoga”, she explained.

Unsurprisingly, training for a 4000 kilometre race comes with a certain degree of risk, but Tough remains in good spirits heading into the event.

“I find a big part of preparing for a challenge of this size is just showing up at the start line injury-free.

“I almost had that covered, until on my last big training ride two weeks ago I crashed my bike, and it turned out that I quite badly bruised my hip, so I’ve spent the last two weeks nursing that and hoping the swelling disappears by Friday.”

Although the focus has very much been on the looming TRC, there’s no rest in sight for the adventurer. Last year she completed an unsupported solo run across the Tien Shan mountains of Kyrgyzstan, becoming the first person to do so, and next on the agenda is a similar expedition across the Atlas Mountains.