Tag Archives: Charity Bike Ride

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!

The unknowns

I am well aware that perfect preparation doesn’t necessarily result in perfect execution.  There are always the unknowns to deal with, the surprises, and the factors that are just out of our hands.

In my opinion, worrying about the unknowns is a waste of energy irrespective of whether they’re known or unknown!

As far as physical training for the Euro City Cycle is concerned I think I’ve done just about everything that could have been expected of me.  I’ve slowly built up my mileage and, while I haven’t done four days of 70+ miles in a row, I have done multiple consecutive days of cycling and tried to keep the intensity up by including some decent hills.

Even so, it’ll be interesting to see how my body physically reacts to the four days of activity.  What is clear to me is that I need to do what I can to ensure the unknowns don’t add to the physical stress of the event.  Simple things like sleeping in different places every night, “foreign” food, sharing a room and, possibly, a change in climate all have the potential to have an impact.

To be honest, a change in climate would be very welcome right now.  The past couple of days have felt like winter’s returned to the North East of Scotland.  On this morning’s ride I was concerned that the numbness in my feet was due to the cold… what temperature does it need to be to run the risk of frostbite?

During the event it’s going to be really important for me to remember why I’m doing it.  I need to give myself every chance of successfully completing it by looking after myself.

In the past I would have been comfortable getting by on adrenalin, I would have burned the candle at both ends without any concerns.  Those days finally caught up with me and I’ve had my wings clipped somewhat.

So, I’ll leave any shenanigans to other members of the party.  I’m going to look after myself and try to minimise the unknowns.  I know they’re going to be a factor, I just want to make sure they’re not self-inflicted!

***

As an early example of potential curveballs, a rumour has started that on the first evening of the ride, before boarding the ferry we will have access to a room to “shower and freshen up” for a total of 8 minutes each.  While this has the potential to be an issue for some, I’m going to practice my bathroom drill over the next week or so to make sure I’m fully prepared! 😉

 

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.

***

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”!

***

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!

Back in the saddle

I’ve been out of action for three days since my toe trauma*. I’ve been fighting through the pain, hobbling from place to place, putting on a brave face.  Sympathy has been hard to come by.  It seems that comedy toe injuries demand laughter rather than sympathy, sniggers rather than tears, giggles rather than concern.  So be it!

Time to “Man Up!”.

Man-Up-Nancy

I’ve been getting lots of sympathy from the ladies in my life!

After three days of enforced rest, today was the day to get back in the saddle…

Over the past week I’ve “connected” with people doing both the Euro City Cycle and “Ride the North” events.  It’s all feeling a lot more real now.  There’s less than 3 months to the start of the Euro City Cycle.  Time to start getting focussed!

It’s clear from early interactions that people are at different stages of readiness and very different levels of experience.  I guess that’s always going to be the case.  Everyone will be starting from a different base level of fitness and stamina,  Everyone’s preparation will be different.  So I’m expecting a real mix of fitness levels for the event.

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Personally I’m keen not to hold anyone back on any of my rides over the summer.  I also want to make sure I’m fit enough to enjoy them.  This will obviously require me to be able to complete the events without pushing myself too hard, or putting myself in any physical danger.

I’ll be seeing my Cardiologist on Monday.  It will be our first meeting since I was discharged from hospital in June (technically it’s my 3-6 month check-up).  I’m looking at this to trigger a change in focus for me from “laying the foundations” to “getting ready to ride”.  I realise I need to spend more time on my bike, and get outside.

My preparation approach is:

  1. Start now.  Don’t delay any longer.
  2. Build up slowly; there is no need to go nuts. It’d probably do more harm than good. 
  3. Don’t panic!
  4. Make a preparation plan. Set targets.  Do your best to meet them.
  5. Re-plan if necessary.  There’s still time.
  6. Enjoy it!

Personally, I’m really looking forward to the switch in focus.  Bring it on!

***

I could show you, but you may find it too distressing!

Making connections

I’ve found Sunday mornings are much more enjoyable with a warm glow of satisfaction from some early morning exercise inside me.  This morning, having managed to drag myself out of my warm bed I spent a productive hour in the pool.

I may be deluded, but the pool seemed quieter and more business-like than it has done in recent weeks – perhaps the impact of New Year Resolutions is already being diluted.  We can only hope!  The fact that it was almost light at 8am also made a positive difference… roll on spring!

This morning my fire has also been stoked by increased levels of Social Media activity, which is always exciting…

The arrival of February saw the start of “Heart Health Month”.  The Press & Journal, North of Scotland’s local quality newspaper, kindly marked the event with a feature on my Heart Health story looking forward to the Euro City Cycle in May.

P&J

(Unfortunately at time of writing the Press & Journal online “Lifestyle” section is “down”, as is the British Heart Foundation Healthy Heart Month web page.  I’ll update the links when they’re up and running.)

The Press & Journal article was picked up by the “Ride the North” team and publicised on their Facebook page (which is up and running!) and has resulted in some fantastic publicity, and some sponsorship for which I’m really grateful!

Ride the North

“Ride the North is a two day, 170 mile cycle challenge through the beautiful scenery of the Grampian Highlands in the North of Scotland.”  It’s a fantastic and highly sociable way to see the area.  Given it’s held in Scotland in August, perfect weather is almost guaranteed!

The event started in 2011 with a group of 38 cyclists.  Since then it’s really caught the imagination of the North East Cycling community – this year there will be over 600 cyclists taking part.  The event works closely with its Charity Partners and Sponsors to raise some serious amounts of money!  It’s amazing what a few good people with a common goal can achieve, and I’ve a suspicion this is only the start!

Spaces for this year’s event are sold out however there may be some Charity places available if you’re interested.  If it’s the same as this year, entry for next year’s event will go on sale in November.

For me, “Ride the North” will be the third, final, and, I suspect most physically challenging cycle of the summer.  I’m hoping by that stage I’ll be over the feelings of “can I do it” and be able to focus on “doing it”!  Can’t wait!

It’s all up from here!

So, it seems that the Euro City Cycle will not be starting in Trafalgar Square.  We will not have the privilege of rolling out of Buckingham Palace in a regal procession.  We will not even be getting clipped in to our pedals in the 2012 Olympic Park in Stratford.

No, it appears that after what I can only imagine was an intense and competitive bidding war, the honour of hosting the start of our great European adventure has been awarded to…  wait for it… the Holiday Inn, Brentwood, Essex.

It’s not only distance that separates Brentwood from Central London!

While being very practical, convenient even, for our Day 1 cycle to meet the ferry in Harwich, it doesn’t quite have the glamour of other possible departure locations.  It’s the equivalent of starting the Tour de France somewhere random like… Leeds!

Selfishly, Brentwood is also a bit of a trek from the Station that I’ll arrive at in London, so my trip will be a little more “interesting” than I had anticipated.

Still, we need to start somewhere, and I can understand why being responsible for a group of novice cyclists in Central London isn’t an attractive (or safe) proposition.

Hopefully our rather more cycle friendly cousins on the continent will make their major cities a little more accessible.  It’d be a shame to leave Amsterdam without seeing a canal, or to depart Brussels without seeing a little boy peeing!

With the challenge laid out in front of us, I’m sure the Holiday Inn Car Park will take on new significance, and be etched on our memories as the starting point for our trip of a lifetime.

I can’t wait!

Hopefully thing are only metaphorically “all up from here”!

E-minus 100 (days) and counting…

in exactly 100 days time I will be setting off on my Euro City Cycle ride to Brussels.  I’ve been trying not to get too caught up in all the details as it’s seemed such a long way off, but I guess now it’s time to get myself organised.

By my reckoning, there are four things that I need to arrange:

Logistics:  I need to get from Aberdeen to London (and back).  My preferred travel option is by train.  Although this will take about 7 hours, it seems to be the simplest option, not least because it avoids the need to take my bike apart (and more critically re-build it at the other end!).

One of my current challenges, however, is that I don’t know where the cycle starts.  I therefore don’t know where exactly I need to be.  This issue is countered by the fact that I can’t book the train tickets until 3 months in advance, so I just need to be patient for a few days.

I will also need to stay in London overnight both before and after the cycle.  I’ll select a cheap hotel that’s close to where I need to be.  Again, a problem not knowing the cycle departure point!

So, not much I can do right now on Logistics other than try to get some more details… I guess knowing where you need to be, and when, are always key elements of good logistics!

Kit:  This should be the easiest of to address.  I can hear the advice now… “Throw a Credit Card at it!”.

Although I have a “Kit List”, the range of cycling clothes, accessories, dietary supplements, etc. to choose from is huge.  Being a relative novice to cycling and a complete novice to cycling longer distances, there is quite a high probability that I’ll select poorly (non-functional, impractical, over-priced, superfluous, etc.).

Green Flash were not cool when I was at school!

I’d like to avoid the schoolboy nightmare of turning up in the wrong gym kit (for example, wearing Green Flash when everyone else has Adidas).  Until I arrive on that first morning, there will always be that niggling concern that I’ll spend four days with people giggling at me behind my back!  Of course I’ll be grown up about it, but these are feelings that I don’t think ever completely go away, no matter how confident you are!

I’d also like to avoid the situation where everyone else turns up with the one essential, secret item that is the difference between having a safe, comfortable, enjoyable trip… and not.

As things stand, I’ll just have to rely on luck however some advice would be helpful.  Any suggestions?

My kit (and luggage) obviously has to work with the logistics.  Once I’ve worked out where I need to get to in London, I need to be able to get there safely with bike, bags, etc.  I suspect this is a situation in which less is more!

Sponsorship:  When is the right time to start fund raising?  There is an argument for “as soon as possible”, but if people are like me they will recognise they have plenty of time and do nothing.  I could wait until the last minute, but that doesn’t leave much scope for reminding people.

Having pondered this for a while, I’ve reached the conclusion that right about now is a good time to start.  100 days before the event, Christmas is out of the way, everyone’s in need of the feel good factor that giving a little money to charity will provide… the timing couldn’t be better!

Sponsorship will be a feature of the run-in to the cycle, but I’m not going to obsess about it.  I am paying for the trip myself so every penny raised will go to the British Heart Foundation.  I’ve set myself a target of raising £3,000 but that’s just a target… it’s all good!

Incidentally, my fundraising site is up and running, you can access it by clicking here.

Thanks again to everyone who’s already sponsored me!

Training:  So that just leaves training (which I also equate to Health and Fitness).  So far so good I’d say.  I’m cycling over 40 miles on a regular basis, and around 120 miles a week.  I need to ramp it up as we get close to the event, and do more outside on the open road, but I have time.  The key thing is that I look after myself.

I also have the small matter of a check-up with the Cardiologist in a couple of weeks.  It’ll be the first time I’ve seen him since I left hospital in June so it’s a reasonably significant event.  I’m not exactly sure what the check-up will entail.  Hopefully it’ll be a formality.  Fingers crossed!

***

To Do List

So, that’s it.  I always feel better when I’ve made a list.  Now all I need to do is start crossing things off it!