Sat at my desk looking out of the window remembering my Dad and inspired by the ultra-running fund raising efforts of an old friend of mine a thought came into my head, and that thought started to grow. Here’s how that thought played out in my mind.
“next year will be 10 years since dad died”
“I should do something to mark the occasion”
“what about a cycle ride for LLR?”
“something big, something impressive”
“Yeah, I could do that, Dad was born in Austria, in Graz, how far is that? I know, google Maps will tell me……………. Oh, 1100 miles, that’s quite a long way”
“Yeah, but it would get people’s attention and if you get people’s attention you’ll get people to donate”
“But you haven’t ridden a bike since you were at college!”
“Yeah, but I’ve got a year to train.”
“Go for it then!”
So right there and then and with no real idea of what I was committing myself to doing I started telling people that I was going to ride 1100 miles in 14 days! I told my wife first, who thought it was a great idea, but was understandably a little sceptical! Mum was next, then my sisters and then all of a sudden I was telling everyone I knew! Before I had even bought a bike I had told too many people to back out. I knew though from the moment the first seed landed in my mind that I would do this, I would do this and I wasn’t going to be stopped! I had quite a few people telling me I should take on something simpler and not to commit to something so big straight away, but no, I was doing this! It had to start where Dad’s life began and it had to finish where we laid him to rest. It had to be in the year of his 10th anniversary and it had to be just me on the bike.
Driven by the grief that is still as raw today as it was 10 years ago and that drove me into an emotional breakdown in January last year I’ve dedicated the last 10 months of my life to planning this ride and raising as much money as possible for LLR.
In October I bought my first road bike, a specialized Secteur Elite and I got out riding. I was in for a reality check. I wasn’t a fit 16 year old playing sport every day any more, I was a 33 year old engineer sitting at a desk who was getting very little exercise. After 10 miles, which I pushed a whole lot harder than I should, I couldn’t get back on the bike for a week. I had killed my legs.
A more responsible approach to training was required. I started reading everything I could about cycling, diet, training methods and a whole lot more to arm myself with as much knowledge as possible. As I wrote earlier, nothing was going to stop me.
I starting riding further every week, building the mileage slowly and taking it more steadily when on the bike. I bought a turbo trainer so that even if the weather was just too bad to be out on the bike I could still train.
I got myself a Strava account and started planning the rides for my trip. I started booking hotels, campsites, motorhomes etc and started to realise just what a task the planning was going to be.
After Christmas I gave up Alcohol and cut the crap from my diet. Cycling was taking over me, and not just because of why I was doing it, but because as I have come to realise, I love Cycling.
I met up with the ultra-runner old friend of mine and we chatted about what drives us to ride and run. It was great to catch up after many years, and little did I know at the time but he was going to end up helping me out when the going got tough.
Along comes Spring and with the awful wet winter behind us up went the time on the bike, up went the mileage, and up went the climbing. I was starting to get confident now and push myself harder and further, but it all came crashing down. My knees gave up. A combination of a poorly fitted bike (I didn’t get professionally fitted for months) and a sudden increase in mileage and effort was just too much. I was gutted, it was all over “I’m never going to make it” I heard myself say a few times. Never making it was never an option though, whatever it took I had to find a way.
A call to that old friend, who it turns out is a sports physio, and a visit for some reassurances and treatment gave me back a bit of confidence. I also finally had my bike professionally fitted and started to feel more positive again.
3 weeks off the bike and then 3 very gentle weeks allowed the knees to recover and so I was ready to push again.
After a few weeks I was back to the mileage I had reached before the knee problem struck and was feeling good, and then another thought crept into my head…
“A new bike would be good, something carbon, something lighter……..”
So after much discussion with my wife off I went and bought a Cannondale Synapse Carbon Ultegra, and it’s wonderful! This time I was professionally fitted and the guys at The Bicycle Chain in Bridgwater have been fantastic. A great deal on the bike and the fitting, and to top it all off a deal with nutritional experts Torq to supply all of my energy bars and Gels and recovery drinks for the ride itself. Wonderful people at the Bicycle Chain, a big thanks to Alex, who himself has had to deal with the loss of his sister as a result of blood cancer.
Training continued to increase and I passed 100 miles in a ride for the first time a few weeks ago, I’m as ready as I can be.
Now I’m sat here, with 1 day left before I begin my journey out to Austria with mixed emotions. Excitement at what I’m going to experience, fear of heading into the unknown and the sadness and grief for the loss of Dad that still drives me.
Throughout all of my training, planning and the emotional rollercoaster of the last 10 months my family have been superb. My wife has been incredible, organising Bingo nights, stalls at Fete’s, a grand prize draw and loads of other fund raising events. She has been instrumental in helping raise the £4000 that sits in the pot so far. Hannah has done all of that whilst also having to hear me talk about cycling every minute of every day for the last 10 months. Our two young children have been great too, and haven’t once complained that Daddy is out on the bike again when he could be here playing with us. My 6 year old son made my smile and cry one day when he passed me a note that he had written. It read “Daddy, we love what you are doing for your dad, love from Finlay” What a special kid.
So, I think that’s it, I’ll soon be off into the mountains and who knows, maybe I’ll find something out there that will help me move on, maybe not, I just know that I have got to do this. I’ll keep in mind a few memories that will keep those pedals spinning. The plywood cricket bat you made me when I was a little kid, the FA trophy Final, Maltesers and Christmas lights on your hospital bed and the Blackcurrant and Lemonade Smile with just a few days left. I love you dad.
Thanks for taking the time to read this. I’ll update each day of the ride with how things are going. Here’s to raising money, and here’s to beating blood cancer.
Together we are unstoppable.