Tag Archives: British Heart Foundation

Ride the North: Day 1

As we relaxed after the “all you can eat” barbeque, it was amusing to watch people gingerly rising from their seats and meandering, cowboy-style around the room.  A hard day in the saddle had taken its toll and weary limbs were making their presence known.  Bed was calling.

Day 1 of Ride the North had been successfully negotiated, 89.8 miles down, 81.5 miles to go.

BBQ & Band

Evening barbeque and live music at The Loft, Forres (The disco ball was a little optimistic!)

The day had begun with a clumsy walk across Inverness to the starting point at Eden Court Theatre.  The decision to make the trip on foot rather than in a taxi turned out to be environmentally friendly, and cost efficient but naïve.  Concerns of traffic congestion proved to be unfounded.  The large volume of luggage, including a bike bag and two bicycles, was unwieldy resulting in slow progress.  The walk was however mercifully short and dry.

Nerves at the start line were compounded by a late bike delivery from Aberdeen.  Fortunately for us, the rogue trucks arrived around 15 minutes before our allotted start time and we were able to get away on schedule.

The Start

Supporting the British Heart Foundation… ready to roll!

Logistics and luggage concerns quickly left our minds as we meandered out of Inverness, climbing out of town towards Culloden.  In fact, we should have paid more attention to thoughts of logistics and luggage as we failed to think ahead sufficiently…

A local pack of Cub Scouts had kindly agreed to erect our tents on behalf of the Ride the North participants in advance of our arrival in Elgin.  Unfortunately, our tents were safely hidden in our bags, where they’d be when we arrived at the finish, adding a further minor challenge to our day; tent erection… Joy!

Dulshie Bridge (1)

Refreshment Break #1: Dulshie Bridge

The ride had a tough start. It was a relief to reach the first refreshment stop.  We had only done 27 miles, but they were tough miles and the variety of tasty snacks, energy boosters and drinks were extremely well received.  It definitely wasn’t a time to be watching the waistline!

The route was fantastic; taking us through some of the best scenery Scotland has to offer.  It was matched only by the warmness of the welcomes from the communities we visited during the trip.  The applause from the small crowd in Boat of Garten as we rolled in for lunch was enough to warm the heart before the “fine” soup warmed our bellies.

By lunchtime, anyone who had underestimated the scale of the challenge they’d taken on may well have been regretting it.  A cheeky headwind across the moor had ensured we earned our food.

Ballindalloch Coffee Break

The Coffee Man proved to be one of the more popular guys on the event (this time in Ballindalloch)

The afternoon drifted by. We were in a rhythm.  I was starting to become accustomed to switching my mind off and following the wheel in front, or tracking cyclists further down the road.  When separated from our group, the ride was broken up by brief conversations as people drifted passed… a major part of the experience.  Variable paces meant it was common to pass / be passed by the same people on multiple occasions during the day.

We eventually arrived at the Glen Moray Distillery to, again, be greeted by a warm welcome both for ourselves and our bikes.  Weary and hungry, all that stood between us and the barbeque was the small matter of pitching the tents.

Bike with Whisky

Overnight accommodation… for one of us at least!

As it turned out, tents are a lot simpler than they used to be. Fortunately! The biggest threat to our wellbeing wasn’t a lack of shelter, but the bane of many a Scottish tourists existence… midges!

Tip: Insect repellent, then tent. Not the other way around!

Still dressed in my cycling kit, I have a line just above my knee where the bites start and continue to the ground.

Camping

It’s not much, but we like to call it home… for one night only!

Things could have been a lot worse… we’d safely completed the ride, we had somewhere to sleep, food was being cooked and we’d managed to stay dry all day.  Definitely time for a beer!

My London to Brighton experience

After all the preparation we almost missed it.  We had decided to take advantage of the option to “ride later than our allocated start time” to make the morning a little less frantic, to avoid the crowds at the start of the event and to ensure careful coordination of our arrival with lunch in Brighton.  Our plans were flawed on several fronts!

Our London to Brighton experience started smoothly.  We left the house at 09.06, just 6 minutes behind schedule.  Not bad!  We had even had time to capture the moment for prosperity…

Brothers - Before & After

Brothers – Before & After

 A “thumbs up” from “@LDNtoBrighton” (The official Twitter account for the event) reinforced our level of comfort as we set off for Clapham.  How were they to know where we were?  After all, there was a lot going on!

We abandoned the car (Thanks Michelle!) at the first sight of cyclists, just south of Tooting (09:46).  Crossing the torrent of participants to make our way to the start line on Clapham Common spirits were high.  The bubble was almost burst when we arrived at a rather deserted start area.

A few Marshalls were rounding up the stragglers, encouraging them to “Start ASAP!”  It turns out the final start time was 09:30.  A minor detail that had passed us by.  A schoolboy error!

Fortunately it didn’t take us long to catch up with the first tail-backs, perhaps not coincidentally in Tooting.

L2B Tooting

30,000 cyclists + London traffic + major junctions = Frustration!

It didn’t take us long to see the first of what turned out to be several accidents either… within a mile of the start, a chap (who, it turns out, wasn’t even participating in the London to Brighton event) managed to cycle into a stationary car at speed.  The result of the collision was a cut chin and, I suspect, concussion, as well as badly damaged wing mirror (on the car).  It was relief that we discovered that the carbon frame of his bike had also been broken as he was insisting that he was OK to ride on.  He clearly wasn’t!  We left him in the capable hands of a Marshall with Medics on the way.

Travelling through South London was a stop / start affair.  The Police were doing a fantastic job of clearing the roads of cyclists by sweeping up the rear to stop traffic, maintaining momentum one junction at a time.  It wasn’t until we hit the first hill however that our expectations for the rest of the day were properly set:

With so many cyclists even the smallest bottleneck can impact the flow.  Bottlenecks included narrowing roads, hills, accidents, traffic controls and confusion caused by refreshment stops (“Should we or shouldn’t we?”).  A combination of a narrowing road and a “steep” slope was enough to bring everything to a grinding halt.  It was annoying the first time, but became less so as we relaxed into the day.

Reigate Selfie

As we headed south, out of the hustle of London and into the countryside, the atmosphere changed.  Communities turned out in force to “make a day of it”.  Quiet villages took on a carnival atmosphere as brass bands played us on our way.

Refreshment stops were frequent and well stocked.  Even private dwellings offered “a free sit down”, sweets and showers from Water Pistols,  People generously came out of their houses to cheer us on our way; each cheer being greeted with a “Ping” on Philip’s bell.

It felt like we were part of something meaningful and positive.  A feel-good factor was capped by the way people ascended the final climb of the day;

Ditchling Beacon had been billed as the big challenge.  The most significant hill on the ride.  It was all downhill to Brighton from the top, but getting to the top would take some effort.  If it went the same way as the other substantial hills we’d encountered there would be no way of us cycling up it because of people walking.

Fortunately people seemed to decide to walk at an early stage of the Ditchling Beacon ascent, and then considerately moved to the left-hand side of the road.  As a result, despite arriving at what was probably the busiest time of the day, we were still able to cycle all the way up.

It wasn’t without it’s hairy moments, but we both managed to stay on our bikes.  For a few minutes, the other participants became vocal onlookers, like an over-enthusiastic Mountain-Top crowd in the Tour de France.  It was a special feeling to get to the top!

The thousands of people at the finish on the front in Brighton were the cherry on the  cake!

L2B Finish 3

So, a HUGE thank you to all the people involved in organising and supporting the event, the Marshalls, the Medical Staff, the Caterers, the Mechanics, the Supporters, etc. etc.  Thank you all for making it such a fantastic event!

A great way of celebrating life!

 

Father’s Day (Approx. 00:30)

What a difference a year makes… exactly fifty-two weeks ago I was having a Heart Attack.

Tonight I’m enjoying the early stages of England’s World Cup adventure*. In a few hours I’ll be setting off to cycle from London to Brighton as part of the British Heart Foundation’s annual flagship event.

It seems an awfully long time ago that I was whisked into hospital to undergo an emergency angioplasty. It was surreal at the time, and doesn’t seem any less bizarre an experience now.

Symptoms

The intervening twelve months have introduced many changes in my life; some were sudden and immediate, the aftermath of the event itself, others have occurred a little more gradually, new habits and behaviours that have fallen into place over time.

From what I’ve read, it sounds like many people who experience Heart Attacks, or are given stents as preventative treatment, do not make much of an effort to change their lifestyle. They abdicate all responsibility for their long term health to their Doctors. This is one of the main arguments against extending the use of statins. This definitely hasn’t been the case for me!

One of the things with Coronary Heart Disease is that it doesn’t get better; it stays the same or deteriorates. Modern medication is fantastic in reducing the risks of living with it by lightening the load on the Heart and thinning the blood, however they don’t treat the underlying condition. Stents also treat the symptoms, not the disease.

Despite increased awareness and medical advancements, Coronary Heart Disease is still the UK’s biggest killer.  (www.bhf.org.uk)

Personally, changes to my diet and regular exercise have resulted in dramatic changes. I am fit and, although I wouldn’t describe myself as healthy, my life expectancy has increased significantly (to be fair, it wasn’t looking that hot a year ago!).

logo

For me the London to Brighton Bike Ride will be a celebration and, hopefully, a fun day out. For others who have been touched by Heart Disease, it may involve an act of remembrance or gratitude.  Good luck to each and every one of them!

Hopefully it will also serve as a reminder or a prompt for others… just think about the thousands of people that will be impacted by Heart Disease before the next Father’s Day,  Each and every one of us can make a difference!

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*Actually I’m sleeping as I was too tired to stay awake any longer, big day tomorrow, etc.  Burning the candle at both ends is a thing of the past!  🙂

Countdown to L2B

Two weeks today, June 15th, Father’s Day, I will be participating in the British Heart Foundation’s Flagship charity event of the year; the London to Brighton (L2B) bike ride. It’ll be a mere 54 mile jaunt from Clapham Common to the Beach in Brighton, and I’m expecting a quiet affair; just me, my little brother and about twenty-five thousand other people.

Last year’s starting line… while I was enjoying my first day in hospital post Heart Attack.

One of the main reasons for participating is that it will mark the anniversary of my Heart Attack; one year to the day when our lives were momentarily turned upside-down. The fact that I’m not concerned about the physical aspects of the cycle shows how much things have changed since last Father’s Day.  It’s amazing what you can achieve with the right motivation and a little hard work (not forgetting the drugs of course!).

I’m so glad that I decided to take up cycling as the mainstay of my fitness regime.  I don’t remember there being much conscious thought in it at the time… it just seemed like the right thing to do.  As well as getting me in shape, it’s opened up a whole new social dimension, and has re-introduced me to competition without needing to be in competition with anyone but myself.

I am personally aware of several other people that are participating in the event having been impacted in one way or another by Heart Disease. Many people will be there for a fun day out, but there will be a lot of others for whom the journey will be much more significant.  I’m sure it’ll be a special day!

Coincidentally, I lived just off Clapham Common (the starting point for the ride) for about five years when I first left University. It always used to play host lots of community and charity events. Generally I’d watch them from afar with a combination of curiosity and (occasionally) a little envy. It’s not without irony that it’s taken 20 years, a move to Aberdeen and a Heart Attack for me to participate in one.

I’m really looking forward to enjoying the occasion with my brother. It’s been years since we did anything like this (if we ever have). I’m also looking forward to participating in a sporting event with him in which we’re on a fairly level playing field… it’s definitely been a long time since that’s been the case! (Not that it’s a race, of course! Don’t worry Mum!)

Brothers

Philip & I circa 1978. The awesome power in our legs was evident even then!

For those of you who are participating, I’ve included a photo of the 2 of us so you can spot us in the crowd. People say that I’ve got cuter over the years, but I don’t think either of us have changed a bit. You won’t be able to miss us!

Jersey of the day: British Heart Foundation

I am proud to be participating in the Euro City Cycle to raise money for the British Heart Foundation.

BHF Jersey 2

On 16th June last year I had a Heart Attack. I was very lucky. I was treated immediately and haven’t experienced any complications. There are lots of people that aren’t so lucky: 1 in 3 people that have Heart Attacks in the UK don’t even make it to hospital. Unfortunately, heart and circulatory disease remains the UK’s biggest killer and affects thousands of families and individuals:

  • There are around 103,000 heart attacks in the UK each year
  • There are nearly 2.3 million people living with coronary heart disease in the UK 
  • Nearly one in six men and more than one in ten women die from coronary heart disease 
  • Every seven minutes someone dies of a heart attack in the UK
  • The UK spends nearly £2 billion each year on the healthcare costs of treating coronary heart disease.

As the nation’s heart charity, the British Heart Foundation plays a leading role in saving and changing lives through:

  • Investing in pioneering research into the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of the heart, which has already saved thousands of lives and improved the lives of thousands more
  • Supporting and caring for heart patients through our Heart Helpline and over 400 great BHF Specialist Health Care Professionals
  • Providing vital information, through literature and targeted campaigns, that helps everyone reduce their own risk of dying prematurely from a heart or circulatory illness
  • Campaigning for change – to improve the lives of children, heart patients and their families.

Find out more at:  http://www.bhf.org.uk

I’m ready!

My preparations are almost complete.  I’ve successfully completed my final training ride.  The dirty kit is in the washing machine.  The train tickets are printed.  Time to put my feet up!

If I needed convincing that I am ready to start the Euro City Cycle, today’s ride was enough.  A steady 60 miles, however it featured an ascent of the Suie (from the North, i.e. the hard way).

The hill has become a bit of a mythical beast over the past weeks, not helped by the fact that it’s the feature climb on the Ride the North.  It’s an elevation of just over 230 metres at gradients of up to 12%.  There are more challenging mountains to take on, I just haven’t cycled up them yet.

The nerves were jangling as we approached the lower slopes, but it didn’t take long for them to be wiped out by the physical exertion.  In the end there weren’t any major dramas.  There was a bit of huffing and puffing, but a successful climb was never in doubt!

The beast tamed.  My physical preparations are complete.  🙂

The view from the top. Worth the effort in so many ways!

Logistical preparations are also complete, although a Tube Strike in London promises to make the transfer a little bit less predictable.  I’m going to have to just suck it and see.  Hopefully a considerate cabbie will take pity on me!

A few hours of focused packing will complete the kit preparation.  Louise thinks it’s hysterical that I’ve given so much thought to the kit and associated packing.  I’ve never been one to spend a lot of time preparing for travel.  I’ve always taken the view that as long as I have my passport and a credit card then nothing can go wrong.

For this trip, there are so many items that could ruin (or at least significantly disrupt) the trip in so many different ways, that I’m a bit nervous.  In no particular order:  bike, passport, medication, rail tickets, wallet, cycling shoes, towel, laptop, helmet, etc. etc.

As I say, a few hours of focused packing is required!

To Do List 2

That just leaves me with the small matter of “raising money and awareness”.  I’m really grateful to everyone that has sponsored me.  Together we’ve raised over £2,500 for the British Heart Foundation.  It’s not too late contribute… just click here.

As far as awareness is concerned, I’m also very grateful for your help!  I’ve been working on the basis that if my experiences help one other person than it’s been worthwhile.  The more people that are aware of the risks of heart disease, or able to recognise the symptoms of a heart attack, or understand that a major medical incident doesn’t necessarily take away hope, the better.

I appreciate I’m very lucky.  I’m hoping we can give other people a little bit of luck too!

E-Minus 50 (days) and counting…

Crikey!  Doesn’t time fly!  It seems like only last week that I began to seriously start thinking about the Euro City Cycle and prepared my comprehensive “To Do” list.  Today it’s just 50 days until the challenge starts.  Definitely time to take stock and plan the finishing touches…

I really want to avoid any last minute panics.  I recognise that whatever I do, life may throw me a curve ball, I may hit an unexpected hurdle, or a good old fashioned screw up will make things more interesting than I’d want them to be.  However, I still have plenty of time to address any shortfalls so hopefully I’ll avoid any crises.

Euro City Cycle Jersey

Logistics:  Done!  Well, as much as I can do in advance, I think.

I have (return) train tickets booked for myself and my bike between Aberdeen and London.  I’ve paid a few extra pounds to go First Class so I should have power and Wi-Fi to allow me to be productive while en-route.  The tickets were cheaper than I was expecting.  I watched the website closely so I was quick off the mark when the tickets were released – they could have got eye-wateringly expensive otherwise.  (For the record, a request for assistance from the Train Company in the way of subsidised tickets was politely declined)

Pre- and Post-Cycle hotels are also booked, so the big ticket items are in hand.

The only segments of the trip that I haven’t organised in advance (and probably won’t) are the transfer between stations in London, and the final leg of the trip to the hotel in Brentwood.  There are a few options available to me (including Black Cab in Central London I think – Have any of you ever taken a Road Bike in the back of a Cab?), so I’ll just play it by ear.

I don’t think either of the outstanding legs of the journey are very long, so I will make sure I can comfortably carry my kit and manoeuvre my bike at the same time so I can walk if necessary (I am definitely not planning to ride in Central London with a rucksack on my back!).

Having taken some advice from hardened distance cyclists, I have come to the realisation that my life may have been spent subconsciously preparing for this trip;  I don’t have many clothes, I travel very light and I’m not a fan of “stuff”.  As a result, packing should be a doddle.  I’ll wear the only clothes I’ll take with me on the journey down, carrying my cycling kit and a couple of extra pairs of pants.  Simple.

Kit:  I say I don’t like “stuff”, but I have been slowly accumulating cycling accessories over the past few weeks.  I now carry spares and a repair kit with me everywhere I go.  I still need to get myself a medical kit and an array of essential Pre- and Post-Saddle cycling creams (Thanks for the advice!).  It feels a bit optimistic, but I also need to think about sunscreen!

As far as the cycling kit (clothes & food supplements) is concerned, the man from Wiggle is becoming very familiar with where I live.  I’ll have a final push in a couple of weeks, but I think everything is under control as far as kit is concerned.

Incidentally, if anyone has any further advice on essentials I should take with me (other than “don’t forget your bike” and “take lots of creams”) I’m keen to learn!

Fundraising:  I have decided to broaden the scope of this action to “Fundraising and Awareness“.  I have paid for the ride myself.  As a result, all the money I raise will go to the British Heart Foundation.  I will continue to raise as much money as I can over the Summer, but focus my efforts more on awareness.  After all, I have little control over whether people decide to sponsor me or not, but I do have some control over the messages:

  1. Everyone can personally take action to reduce their chances of experiencing the effects of Heart Disease; and
  2. There is hope after having a Heart Attack.  Life goes on.  You can still do things.  You can even do new things!

So, I’ll focus on the messages and hope that sponsorship will follow.  (http://www.justgiving.com/heartattackwaitingtohappen)

Fitness:  I’ve been able to get outside regularly over the past couple of weeks, which has been great!  I’ve slowly ramped up the mileage of each ride to my target distance (50 miles).  Now I think I just need to do more of the same and, in the process, avoid hurting myself.

There’s more work to do, but things are progressing well.  I’m increasingly confident that the cycling won’t be too much of an issue for me.  I guess the big unknown is the back-to-back mileage.  Realistically, I’m never going to do 300 miles over 4 days before the Euro City Cycle itself, so I’ll just have to rely on the Training Guidance I’ve been given.

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In addition, I think it might also be a good idea to get my bike serviced before I head off.  After all, it’s going to play an important role in the trip!  I know I should learn to do it for myself, but one thing at a time!  I suspect that if I did try to do it myself at the moment it’d result in an expensive bill for someone who knows what they’re doing to fix my “fixes”!

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So, all in all I think I’m in reasonable shape!  I’m sure the next 50 days will fly by.  I’m getting increasingly excited about the event, to the extent that I’m really happy I’ve got other events to look forward to after the Euro City Cycle.  I suspect it’ll leave a bit of a hole in my life when it’s done!