Day 5 – 108 miles in the Lake District 

In the aftermath of storm Aileen that moved through the North West overnight,  the fifth day of  RAB was mixed weather with periods of heavy rain and the occasional brighter spell. 

The day started with a route through the conurbation of Wigan, Charley and Preston during morning rush hour that certainly won’t make the highlights reel. But once we headed off towards the local Hills then the mood lifted as we found nicer roads. But the evidence of all the rain was evident from the rivers that we crossed.

The main challenge of the day was the ride from Kendal up Shap Fell – an 8 mile climb that took nearly an hour to reach the summit at 1400 feet.  And as has happened  before as soon as we reached the summit the heavens opened with hail and a rainbow. 

The last hour was certainly tough – an accumulation of 5 days of back to back 100 mile sportives.  But we are over half way to John OGroats now and the legs are holding up well. 

And the best news of the day was that I made my fund raising target for the Princes Trust., and with more corporate activities still in play that should mean that I add to that tally.  Makes it all worthwhile. 

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Day 4 – 107 miles to Haydock

Tuesday dawned sunny with an autumnal chill in the air as we rolled out of Ludlow onto the Shropshire lanes. 

The route was a flatter terrain, meaning more chance to stretch the legs and pick up the pace.  This morning was what I had imagined RAB would be like.  Quiet roads,  lovely country scenery and time to form groups and chat your way through the ride. A cyclists heaven. 

Our route took through the Cheshire plains before the last 15 miles skirting around the Greater Manchester suburbs. Having made good time I arrived at Haydock Park racecourse without any hold up from traffic,  meaning the post ride routine of shower,  massage and a mug of tea and cake.

The cake part was courtesy of the Princes Trust where an ambassador who had used a grant to start her own baking business had provided a cupcake for every rider.  GBBO at base camp! 

And don’t forget that this ride is about helping raise funds for charity.  As an event it hopes to exceed a million pounds across the causes,  and whilst my contribution will be only a fraction – it all helps.  Go to http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/RAB2017.

Final logistics – it’s time to get packing

It’s just three more sleeps before I head off Friday morning on the train down to Cornwall, and I am slowly ticking off the jobs from my ‘to do’ list. The bike is now prepped – serviced by my local bike shop – and I even had to go to the DIY store and buy some pipe lagging last weekend so that I could protect the frame for transit via the event logistics company. I drop my bike off at M25 services on Thursday evening and the next time I see it is at base camp in Lands End on Friday afternoon.

Bike packing

I have also equipped myself with a new tablet so that I can continue to blog – hopefully daily – and then upload to the site using the hotel Wi-Fi each night. That’s the theory anyway. I have also signed up to the event photo scheme so that will automatically feed my facebook account with real time photos. So you can also online stalk me too!

tablet

The packing list is designed to cover all eventualities – and seeing the long range weather forecast is autumnal i.e. wet and windy for the weekend – then I strongly suspect the full range of riding gear will be necessary. Another purchase at the weekend, at the suggestion of the local pharmacist, is “nappy rash ointment”. Even though my days of babies are a distant memory, the properties of said cream are very good apparently for any saddle sores that develop.

So there may be pains that I have to endure throughout the 9 days which is why the fund raising for the Princes Trust is so important. Thanks to the contributions made so far I am now within £100 of reaching my initial target. I also have some corporate sponsors lined up that I hope will take me well above that level, but it is pleasing anyway to know that the good work the charity is doing will be supported. And when I get to the start line then I can wear my red jersey with pride!

And the riding part of the LEJOG logistics?  Well, it’s like a 100 mile sportive (which I know that I can do) but back-to-back for 9 nine days consecutively. Eat-ride-shower-eat-sleep repeat – and again, and again….. until you get to the top of Scotland.

The rest… that’s detail!

Applying the finishing touches

So with three weeks to go until the start of the Ride Across Britain challenge the months of training and preparation are now nearly complete. Fund raising is progressing well – helped by raising attention through my new Princes Trust cycling jersey.

A nice moment happened at the station last weekend. I was travelling by train to the start point of a sportive in Petersfield – the logic being that after the 60 mile event finished I would then carry on and ride home to add an extra 40 miles to make the total distance equivalent to a full day of RAB. Anyway I was waiting at Guildford station at 8am for a connecting train and a “retired gentleman” approached me and seeing my bike opened up a conversation. What was it made of (carbon fibre), what were the benefits (light weight), how much did it cost (a lot) etc. I told him what I was training for, and so he asked whether I was raising money for charity. I was wearing an over jacket which I unzipped to show my red Princes Trust top. “Oh yes I approve” was his immediate response and he wished me luck for the event. A random conversation from an inquisitive passer-by that made me feel really good about what I was doing and why I was doing it.

There is still time to sponsor me – by clicking on the link on the photo below.

You will be supporting a fantastic cause, that I now know has a really good public appreciation. I am also starting to make plans to be able share photos and content – via this blog and social media – over the 9 days whilst I am taking part in the challenge. I have started re-using my Twitter account – you can follow me @PaulWeald – and there you can find a picture of me ‘at the beach’ from my sportive that day.

Preparing for the elements

The previous weekend I also learned about what it’s like to ride in torrential rain. I was doing another sportive – this time in the Chilterns – and the sky got darker and darker, before the heavens opened. Thunder, hail and a torrential downpour ensued – much more than my showerproof jacket could cope with. So this week I am the proud owner of a much more rain resistant and breathable cycling jacket – all set for the inevitable rain that we might get on RAB in the Lakes or in Scotland.

I also got very wet shoes from the early morning dew walking across the field from the car to event registration that day. The RAB kit list suggests crocs and so, courtesy of some shopping by my wife, I now have my first pair of open toed footwear. A new experience for my feet!

So I guess this is all about getting ready to move out of the comfort zone – that is part and parcel of undertaking a big challenge. Not worrying about what the weather will do, and in September, recognising that chilly damp conditions underfoot are what we should expect.

And getting used to climbing back on the bike after 60-70 miles in the saddle for another 2 hour ride to get you to the destination point for that day. It’s becoming the new normal.

Six weeks to go – time to get my charity fund raising sorted

Now the schools have broken up it is timely reminder that the RAB itself is now just around the corner. In fact in six weeks time I will be packing my belongings into a 90L kitbag and getting ready for the train journey down to Penzance. Can’t wait…..

Training has continued to progress pretty much as planned. This month I had a very enjoyable four days of cycling whilst on holiday in Majorca.

Whilst the hills were good practice for the first two days of RAB in Cornwall and Devon, the 30 degree plus temperatures were not something that I expect we will see in early autumn in the UK!

So my Spanish rides were shorter trips at either the beginning or end of the day to try and avoid the ‘mad dogs and Englishmen’ effects of the midday sun. Over the four days I managed a total of 250 km across six different rides. There was a combination of flattish spins out towards the coast and then more challenging rides with 500 metre (1,500 foot) ascents of the local hills.

Most venues had a church or castle at the top. And so the song of the day was Ed Sheeran’s “Castle on the Hill“. Very apt!

It was all going well until the final day when I got caught out by a change of road surface on a bend which resulted in me falling off my bike and sliding down the road on my left hand side. Luckily nothing worse than bumps and grazes, although it was a week before I got out cycling again back at home.

It’s time to help others

The other part of the reason for taking on this cycling challenge is to raise money for a good cause – which for me is the Princes Trust. Just like the London Marathon – the RAB event does a lot of social good through charity fundraising. Back in February I attended a Q&A evening put on by the event organisers – at the offices of the Princes Trust. I met one of their ambassadors and heard first hand of the amazing work that they do to help young people – who have fallen on hard times – to turn their lives around. It was truly inspiring and meant that my Ride Across Britain had found its true purpose.

You can click on the image below to donate directly to this charity.

I would also like to encourage businesses to get involved:

  • For example, does your business have charity days – dress down Fridays for example – and would you be prepared to hold an event to raise funds for the Princes Trust?
  • One of my wife’s clients has the idea of setting up a static bike in their offices and then getting staff to take a turn at pedalling. And as ‘cake’ is a well known staple diet of cyclists, then why not combine it with a cake stall?

It would be great if we could arrange some events whilst the RAB is taking place in September. In that way there is a direct connection between those participating through your business with me (and 700 others) who are pedalling across the country. There is still six weeks left to make these arrangements.

So please do get in touch if you think your business could get involved in this way – to extend the reach of my fund raising as a corporate activity. So that together we can give more young people a chance to better themselves.

Fundraising in Champagne

Well it is not all hard work and no play when you are on the Cycle Slam. After a tough Day One ride battling all of natures elements, the evening brought an unexpected opportunity to live it up – when we visited the Bollinger champagne house for a private function. So what’s the connection with charity I hear you ask?

Before I answer that question, I want to tell you a little more about the charities that the event is fund raising for. Previous blog posts have covered the Dallaglio Foundation and their sponsorship of research into Prostrate Cancer, but what about the AF Foundation, set up by Andrew and Rachel Flintoff?

Well I rode with them on day one and, during our 8 hour cycling stint, had the opportunity to chat with Rachel about the charity. Basically it all started following Freddie’s benefit year where Lancashire cricket raised over £1M. Having recovered from several injuries himself, he was very aware of the need for excellent physio and rehab facilities. When a friends child needed the same type of support, it became very apparent to the Flintoff’s that whilst the local NHS staff were excellent, the facilities they were using were not. So they set about funding the blueprint design and development of a new physio and rehab unit at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool.

With a recipe for success now in place, the proceeds from the Cycle Slam will be focused on replicating these facilities at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London. The vision is then to roll out further units across the country at places like Birmingham, Sheffield and Newcastle. An ambitious plan, but one through the drive and determination of its founders certainly deserves to succeed, as the following Slam TV video confirms:

Please donate now if you can. Together we can help improve children’s recovery from serious illness.

So back to the Champagne question. Well part of the answer lies in the fact that Andrew Hawes, who heads up Bollinger’s operation in the UK, was a participant rider on Stage 4. He also stayed with the Slam on the first couple of days of Stage 5 in order to facilitate the 130 Slammers being able to visit the Bollinger facilities in the village of Ay and enjoy an evening’s hospitality. And very, very good it was too!

The second part of the answer to my question became clear during the presentations that take place after every evening meal on the Slam. Having read Lawrence Dallaglio’s biography whilst on holiday earlier this month, I knew that he is a lover of fine wine. And so in July, the Dallaglio Foundation will be launching a wine club, selling (yes, you guessed it)… Bollinger…. with the profits going to the charity.

Ah ha, now it all makes sense, with a 130 people in the room a captive audience to buy and promote these products when we get home. I have a 50th birthday coming up this summer, and now I know what to ask my wife Louise to buy me as a present. Very subtle marketing me thinks!

Defeating Cancer

The BBC’s science programme “Horizon” this week showed the ground breaking UK work by the Institute of Cancer Research and Royal Marsden Hospital in the latest treatments of cancer. A truly inspirational programme that showed where funds raised by the Dallaglio Flintoff 2012 Cycle Slam will be used.

You can see the programme on the BBC iPlayer.

As well as following three patients who were part of clinical trials for new treatments at the London hospital, the programme also explored the complex science behind the latest cancer treatments. This showed the three parallel advances that are being made by the scientists and doctors:

  • a system providing advanced 3-D radiotherapy treatments;
  • a surgical robot enabling pinpoint accurate internal surgery;
  • and molecular DNA advances that mean existing cancers can be treated by drugs.

Each of these initiatives addresses a different perspective of tackling cancer. Once the disease is detected, then radiotherapy is used to kill the cancerous cells. The problem is that X-rays cannot distinguish between good cells and the cancerous bad cells, meaning that accurate targeting is essential. This latest machine literally operates in 3-D, zapping the cancerous cells from 100 different angles.

Next when surgery is necessary, the key requirement is pinpoint accuracy in surgical process. The device used was a throwback to research work first initiated by NASA, where they wanted to build a robot in a space station that could be controlled by a surgeon on the ground! This latest version allowed a surgeon to remove a cancerous prostrate with such accuracy that the patient could leave hospital just 24 hours later.

The third scenario tackles the situation where the disease has already spread, and the treatment is to restrict the growth of these secondary tumours. We saw how scientists investigated the B-Raf gene, discovered the way it mutated and designed a drug to combat that mutation. In effect a medical detective story searching for a way to crack a unique DNA code.

Like all well made documentaries, the human interest was the fact that ordinary, genuine and likeable people were now able to receive these ground breaking treatments. For me, the message of hope that this provides was summed up by the clinician who has to tell patients their results. He said that, with previous treatments, 8 out of 10 times he had to give the patient the news that the disease was spreading. Now with these new drugs, that would be reversed, and 8 out of 10 times he would be able to give the patient the news that their cancer was being defeated. Patients able to live with the disease, not die from it. Amazing!

Now all this research comes with a price tag. And that is where the Dallaglio Foundation can help. By donating to the Cycle Slam, the work of the ICR and Royal Marsden will be continued, developing new treatments for prostrate cancer.

Please donate now if you can. Together we can defeat cancer.