charity, Motivation and Change

And in the End

And in the end…

And in the end it was all worth it.
The pain and struggle, the exhaustion, the sweat. The constant monotony of turning the pedals for mile after mile. Hour after hour. Day after day.
The ceaseless bumping and rattling, shaking and jolting over cracked and broken roads, the hundreds of unknown, unfamiliar roads and streets, undiscovered towns and villages that passed by in a blur.

To reach the end of any journey is to reach a point of contemplation, of reflection, of validation. Was what I have gone through of value, of note or significance. Or was it just that. A journey. Start to finish with nothing of importance in between.

After returning from my coast to coast challenge, and completing 3 days of cycling over 326 mountainous, hilly and windy miles from Aberystwyth to Lowestoft, I have had chance to reflect.

The distances I cycled each day were easily achievable for anyone with a good level of fitness, experience on the bike and a determined mindset.
100, 112 and 114 miles respectively.
But as I know very well, it is so easy to talk of achievement before it has been accomplished. “I am going to cycle from coast to coast in 3 days”. It is said with a casual confidence. An implied certainty. A tacit guarantee. I will do it. No question.

But there are always questions and doubts, uncertainties and intangibles. The ‘what ifs’…will my body cope, what if I get sick, what if I have a mechanical problem I can’t fix, what if I have an accident, what if I just…stop?

Yet the journey would be far less interesting without that element of uncertainty and risk. When you are flying down a steep descent on a deserted mountain road at 35mph, with no one around, one mistake could be a disaster. A pothole, a sheep straying into your path, taking a corner too fast.

The journey is about overcoming your apprehension and fears and encountering and dealing with obstacles you will face. Mental, physical, or emotional.

From the steep climbs, to the wind and cold, the sapping tiredness, the aches and pains, to the nagging worries in your mind, the voice telling you to stop, the emotions that toy with you and make you question what you are doing, the ‘so what?’ that runs in your thoughts…so what if you have done this journey? What have you proved?
It all conspires to work against you.

So what.

So what did I prove?
A 50 year old man can cycle solo from the West Coast of Wales to the East Coast of England in 3 days. I didn’t land on the moon or discover America. But I proved that a journey is more than just miles and reaching an end.

It is about awareness. Of our place on the planet. It is about appreciation. Of our beautiful world and the environment we inhabit. It is about recollection. A chance to spend time alone. In thought and memory. Recalling time spent happy with loved ones no longer here.
But most of all it IS about achievement. It is about confirming the “I am going to”. About bringing the guarantee to a reality.

And silencing doubts and leaving fears behind.

This journey was not just a cycle challenge. It was to raise awareness and money for a special charity, Make A Wish. I raised £1,100 which is fantastic. But it was also in memory of my daughter Milla. And by cycling and engaging people in my journey, I have sought to honour Milla’s memory and to keep her alive in my heart.

Thank you for reading.

Tony20180906_17453820180906_17393320180907_06395620180907_06370420180907_07433320180907_15405620180910_08524320180909_170655

charity

To The Sea – Day 3 Coast to Coast Charity Cycling Challenge for Make A Wish

Day 3 Coast to Coast Charity Cycling Challenge for Make A Wish.

114 miles from Peterborough to Lowestoft.

Total cycled: 328 miles in 3 days from Aberystwyth to Lowestoft

Sometimes the end doesn’t feel like is getting any closer.

What is it like to cycle over 100 miles?
It depends on many factors.

– Fatigue/Energy levels. How tired are you. Today my body was very tired after the two previous days when I had cycled 100 and 112 miles respectively.

– Pain threshold. We each have different levels of pain we can tolerate. Pain can be ignored to a point. But there comes a time when it will affect you, slow you down, or make you stop. Today pain was at times excruciating. Saddles sores in particular, something I have always suffered from.

– Mental state. The prospect sitting and turning pedals along never ending roads for 7 hours or more is difficult to comprehend. Especially in those first few miles. At times the mind weakened and thoughts of stopping, even of giving up, crossed my mind. But messages of support and knowing how children will benefit from the money raised keep you motivated and focussed and silence the doubts.

Also, envisioning the end, a hot shower, a cup of tea, a lie down…all of that helps enormously.

– The weather. One of the biggest factors on any long ride. Today the wind was so strong. It toyed with me. On some roads it pushed me along, sustaining over 20mph easily for long periods of time. But a turn in the road and the wind slammed into your face and you felt like cycling through treacle. But I told myself to keep going, no matter how slow. At least it was warm and dry and the roads were flat.

– Terrain. From the leg sapping climbs of Wales to the pan flat Fenlands of East Anglia. Cambridgeshire, Norfolk and Suffolk are especially flat counties. Very welcome after two days of big altitude gain.

So it all adds up. There are other factors. How old or fit you are, constantly stopping to check your location and navigate along unfamiliar country roads, stopping to refuel, buy food, fill your drinks bottles etc.

But today, the miles eventually started to tick down. Lowestoft seemed so far away. Especially in Aberystwyth on Friday. But it began to get closer, the miles passed as the final 20 miles the tailwind returned.
And then after 7 and a half hours I arrived.

Lowestoft has a very confusing one way system I somehow ignored, preferring to ride up the pedestrian high street, before entering an unattractive industrial park by the sea. And that is where I found the finish. Ness Point, the most easterly point of Great Britain. A large round, flat monument with mile markers to other cities, right by the sea cut off by wave breaks, huge rocks hugging the shoreline. Overlooked by a massive solitary wind turbine called ‘Goliath’.
I was met by an old university friend, Jan. It was nice to have someone at the finish to welcome me. The setting for the end was quite downbeat and nondescript. But it was good to finally finish the ride.

I reached the guesthouse and discovered my rear wheel had a puncture! 328 miles from Aberystwyth to Lowestoft without a problem and one extra mile to the guesthouse and the bike has a mechanical! As if it were in protest at what I put it through.

To cycle 328 miles in 3 days, each of 100 or more miles, is an achievement I am very proud of. Each mile was a battle of willpower and determination A 50 year old body and mind, the mountain climbs, the wind, the cold, fatigue, mental weakness, the continual pain. Did I know I would finish? I knew I could complete the distance. But it was a while since I had ridden 3 consecutive days over a hundred miles. I hoped I could.
It was the thought of Milla, my daughter. Her smile and laugh, whenever she saw me in my lycra cycling kit, that spurred me on.
Knowing I was just a father who wanted to and was making a difference. That gave me all the motivation I needed.

The total raised exceeded £1,000 as I reached the end. Double the initial target.

And that is what this ride was about. It was a goal to cycle from the West Coast of Wales to the East Coast of England. I achieved that goal. I am proud and happy to have done so.

But I feel prouder and happier to have raised so much to let Make A Wish continue their wonderful work.

And to honour Milla’s memory.

 

charity

Tour de Doughnut – Day 2 Coast to Coast Charity Cycling Challenge for Make A Wish

Doughnuts Are A Cyclist’s Best Friend (and a tailwind)

Day 2 of the Coast to Coast Charity Cycling Challenge for Make A Wish. 112 miles cycled in 7 hours 35 minutes from Worcester to Peterborough.

5am. The alarm rudely sounded and immediately I could feel my body resisting and every muscle aching and begging to stay in bed. All day. All week. When you have cycled 100 miles over Welsh Mountains, your body naturally feels like you are taking the mickey when you suggest it has to do it again…oh and I forgot to mention it is over 100 miles today.
To add to the overall lethargy, the mind had forgotten that Worcester and home was not the finish.
So it took a good deal of willpower to get out the door at 6:30am and start cycling. Waving off my wife Rini and daughter Louisa is always hard.

It took a good hour to get into the rhythm, but I reached Stratford upon Avon after 25 miles for my first break. Stratford hold a special place in our hearts. We spent many happy afternoons having a picnic by the river with Louisa and Milla. Having lost Milla, it is always a poignant moment to return to where we were so happy together.

Onwards and up the Fosse Way, an old Roman road linking Stow and Leicester. I enjoyed breakfast number 2 at the excellent Hill Top Farm cafe.
And food became the theme of the day. I was hungry when I set off, still depleted from the day before. Energy bars, gels and the first of 3 doughnuts had been consumed already. Food. Keep eating. And I did.

The hills of Northamptonshire beckoned. A fortifying pasty and another doughnut in Market Harborough saw me up Dingley Hill, long, not steep, but the longest hill of the day.

Into Corby and a stop at my Dad’s house. But he wasn’t in (I knew he wouldn’t be, but popped in on the off chance). And the final 25 miles to Peterborough.

And then the wind picked up. A raging gale. Directly behind me. A delicious tailwind that pushed me all the way to Peterborough, cruising along at 22mph. Fantastic. More please.

So, I made it to my Mum’s in Peterborough. A long ambition to cycle from Worcester to Peterborough accomplished. No more doughnuts, but the biggest hug and a delicious slice or three of home made Weetabix bread and a well earned cup of tea. It is always great to be at my Mum’s.

But the incredible support from family, friends and strangers really kept me focussed and motivated. Over £900 raised. Amazing.

Tomorrow is a flat day but the wind is possibly not quite as helpful. Around 110 miles to Lowestoft.

And more doughnuts please.

charity, Uncategorized

Miles and Mind Games – 100 miles of mountains and hills on a bike. Day 1 Coast to Coast Charity Cycling Challenge for Make A Wish.

The mind is both your strongest ally and your worst enemy.
Day 1 of my 3 day solo charity cycle ride from the West Coast of Wales to the East Coast of England was a true test. Of both body and mind.

After a night in Aberystwyth, I was up at 5am to prepare to cycle around 100 miles back to my home in Worcester.
I had already mentally prepared for the first part of the day. Hills. Mountains. Climbs. Sharp and steep, long and seemingly endless. But while you can visualise the climbs and anticipate how you may feel, it is nothing to the real experience.

As soon as I left the seafront at Aberystwyth I was climbing. The road rose steeply out of the town and continued a long climb towards Devil’s Bridge. The top of the climb coincided with sunrise, a gorgeous fiery orange streak sandwich between distant mountain tops and a layer of morning cloud.

From Devil’s Bridge the climb up towards Cwmystwyth started with a long drag pitching up to 15%. It softened to a manageable, but draining 8 or 9%. And went on. And on.

By the top at the Jubilee Arch, my legs were jelly. But the views were incredible. Stretching in front the Elan Valley awaited. A rapid descent through Cwmystwyth and I found myself on deserted valley roads, rolling with steep kicks and short descents. The valley was silent, save for the occasional baa-ing of the hundreds of sheep that lined the road watching as I slowly trundled past.

By the time I had sped down into Rayader after almost 30 miles, I had gone from sea level to 1,500ft and climbed 4 huge climbs and numerous others.

Rayader to Leominster was a relentless drag of continual hills. I pulled over at the side of the road before another long climb. My mind was giving in, partner in crime with my protesting legs. Neither wishes to carry on. I had never climbed so much and for so long. I am not a climber, too heavy and I was struggling.

But a quick check of messages gave me renewed impetus and I resolved to carry on. This hill proved the last major hill before a long, enjoyable descent towards Leominster where after 70 miles I rested up and refilled with lunch.

40 miles to go. Or so I thought. A mile or so out of Leominster a road sign announced Worcester 23. I felt a surge of adrenaline and pushed on, but 23 miles when you are already exhausted is a long way. The hills were less severe, but still plentiful.

By the time I reached Worcester I felt empty, despite eating energy bars and gels and bananas and a baked potato.
The legs still hurt, the mind still played games…A voice saying ‘Another hill. Why don’t you just stop? Give up?’
But another voice countering ‘It is not too far. Remember why you are doing this. Remember Milla.’

And after exactly 100 miles, 6,772 feet climbed, 3,500 calories burned and 7 and a half hours in the saddle, I reached home. And a lovely welcome from my wife Rini and daughter Louisa.

The messages kept me focussed and lots of donations to the fundraising page, some from people I don’t know, saw the total hit £840. Incredible.

So on to tomorrow.
120 miles to Peterborough. And a few less hills. My mind and legs will be happy.

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Hills and Wishes

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The hill stretches out in front of me. The gradient not too unkind, for now. Yet it is continuous, unrelenting. The hill a struggle, as all hills seem to be.
When you have reached the age of 50 and your legs have thousands of miles of cycling in them, the mind is fond of reminding you that what you are doing is silly.

Pointless.

Cycling hundreds of miles.
Alone.
In all weathers.
Up hills and mountains.
In full knowledge that hills hurt and you labour up them, looking for that extra gear or two you don’t have, looking for the crest, the summit that is often invisible, hiding, mocking. Like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow….within reach, but shifting constantly.

You reach the top. But it was false hope. A brief respite and the road kicks up again. Steepening and ever upwards.
The pain redoubled. Your efforts renewed, but your legs screaming at you to stop. Your inner voice laughing at you. Telling you to stop. The wind mercilessly pushing and nagging at you. Telling you to stop.
But you don’t.

Pointless? Perhaps.

I’ve done it before. I’ve cycled 100 mile days many times. I’ve done over 150 miles in a day. I’ve cycled alone. I’ve climbed hills and mountains. I’ve reached the top. And savoured the all too short respite of a fast, exhilarating descent.

Pointless.

Why do it again? What are you proving and to whom? Yourself, the doubters or the encouragers?

The answer is simple. But it is what drives me on and provides all the motivation I need.

It is never a case of proving you can and are able. It is a case of doing something you enjoy and take immense pleasure and pride in. But doing so for those who can never have such opportunities. Those who can not and will never cycle a metre, let alone hundreds of miles. Those who can not and will never take a single step, let alone climb mountains. Those who through disability or illness can not and will never experience the freedom of exhilaration, the rush of adrenaline, the delight of achievement in completing a challenge such as cycling from one end of the country to the other or standing on a mountain summit and viewing the world below.

This Friday I will begin my latest charity fundraising challenge for Make A Wish and in memory of my daughter Milla.

Cycling 340 miles / 550km from Aberystwyth to Lowestoft, the West Coast of Wales to the East Coast of England in 3 days.
Alone. Just me, my bike, the Welsh mountains, the hills of England, the wind and possibly rain.
Every hill will send my stomach turning, an apprehension of pain and a desire for it to be over. The hills will probably turn my legs to jelly at some point.

But the one thing this cycle challenge will be is not pointless.

Because of the money raised already, Make A Wish will continue to give seriously ill and disabled children experiences and memories and happiness. Each wish granted will help in so many ways. And every child will feel as if they are standing at the top of a huge mountain, after a long climb. The world at their feet and a heart full of joy.

To support me and Make A Wish you can donate to my justgiving page;

http://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/marathonwalkersclub

Thank you

Tony