Day 2 – 110 miles to Bath

The day started cloudy and dry as we rolled through the Devon countryside.

We had our fair share of  Hills with our very own cheer squad at the top of Cothelstone – 902 feet above sea level. The weather was drizzly at the top of the hills but drier at lower level,  and we even had a tailwind crossing the Somerset Plains. 

The afternoon included the signature ride up Cheddar Gorge. I even managed to get out of the seat and surge towards the summit,  something I may regret later in the week.

And then the weather closed in with an hour of torrential rain going through the Mendips.  That was tough. I now know why RAB is such a challenge but I got through it and spinned my way into Bath.  Hot shower, massage and next off to dinner to recharge the batteries for tomorrow when we cross into (windy)  Wales. 

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Saturday 9 September – and RAB is underway

Day one – 105 miles of Cornish Hills 

The day started brightly allowing us glorious views of St Michael’s Mount. 

The forecast proved correct though as showers were swept in on a chilly north westerly breeze. But my training sportive in the Northumbrian hills in June had prepared me well for the relentless undulating terrain of today and nearly 10 hours after leaving Lands End I arrived safely at base camp at Oakhampton in Devon.

Or rather I arrived in a muddy field which made me very pleased I could retreat to the comfort of a dry hotel room to rest up and prepare for another 5.30am departure back to camp.

Today was a good day. I signed up for this RAB adventure some 11 months ago and pulled off the start line with a broad grin on my face – just like it was Christmas!

A virtual RAB

Whilst I am cycling my way across the country, over the next 9 days,  through the modern wonders of crowdsourcing and social media then my ride will be virtually followed and my fund raising for the Princes Trust will also benefit. 

Here is how it will work. A business called Limitless is offering an incentive to it’s  staff. They provide customer service support and what makes them different is that all their workforce is virtual -they are crowdsourced. Each team member uses an app to receive and complete work,  and for every task they earn points. At the end of each day the total points earned across the crowd are converted to virtual miles. And the competition is to see if their virtual ride is as long as my actual ride?

And the good news is that each virtual mile completed also translates into a donation from the company to the charity – result! 

There are other ways that you can follow my progress over the coming days.  There is a live event page on the RAB website that will have daily updates. And the twitter hashtag is  #DeloitteRAB2017. And for those that are connected to me on facebook then there will be an automatic feed of photos as the event progresses through the iconic landmarks.

All that is left now is to actually ‘do the do’ and ride the event.  Or if you are part of the Limitless team then I will feel your positive vibes as the 9 days progresses.  Come wind,  rain or shine. 

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.

Time to get the miles in

This month has seen an increase in cycle training volume as a result of two big weekends of cycling. And the results are very encouraging for the challenges that lie ahead.

Back to back hundred miles

This first was the London Revolution – a two day event organised by the RAB event company Threshold Sports.

This started at Lee Valley in north London, with a 5am alarm call on the Saturday morning to drive around the M25. A few hours later and I was rolling across the start line for a two hour ride through London. An iconic photo crossing Tower Bridge, but lots of traffic lights and built-up conurbations to slow our progress. Made me glad my local roads are in the leafy lanes around the royal county of Berkshire!

Once we hit the green belt the scenery changed to more familiar surroundings as we moved south west through Kent and Sussex towards the Surrey Hills. A couple of nice climbs done and we made our way towards Windsor racecourse with a 100 miles ‘on the clock’. A fanfare arrival to base camp gave me a good impression of what to expect on each day of RAB, but then rather than heading for the chillout zone it was time for a quick pit-stop before the extra 15 miles ride home. As I have the hotel option booked for RAB, I didn’t need the glamping experience of rain showers, rider snoring and being woken by random tents zips in the middle of the night!

Sunday morning was a 6am alarm (a relative lie-in) for the pedal back to Windsor, where seeing a long queue to cross the start line I opted for a cheeky – bacon butty – second breakfast. Refuelled for the day ahead, the route took us over familiar roads crossing the Thames at Marlow before tackling some meatier climbs in the Chilterns. When we get to RAB, the first two days in Cornwall and Devon are the toughest by way of “undulations” and so the repetitive up/downs of Bledrow Ridge and Kop Hill was a good test. I got up them all showing that my winter training and base level fitness has paid off. Following a sunny lunch stop, we made our way north east through some salubrious areas of north London before hitting Enfield with just 5 short miles of built-up traffic to ride through.

Crossing the finish line – to another fanfare – I quickly stowed my bike in the car and grabbed a change of clothes. Barely 10 minutes had passed and I switched on my phone to see my finisher line photos already uploaded to my facebook account. Now this is a seriously cool use of technology. The event photographers must all have 4G cards in their cameras that mean that rider photos can be uploaded in near real time to social media. And both the quality of photos and the accuracy of spotting each ride by the bar code strips mounted to our bikes and helmets was first class. Meaning that everyone at home could follow the progress of the event and know what was happening. And the event company have the same technology on RAB – so you can follow my path across the country.

Make that three

The second event was a charity challenge, over the second May Bank Holiday weekend organised by a TVT member Kathryn Rossiter – to celebrate her 50th birthday. Now most people think of luxury holidays to mark that milestone, but not when you are GB Age Group triathlete. For her it was a multi-day sports endurance event instead!

The day one Saturday was a ride out west from Reading through Berkshire; then day two Sunday was the ‘long one’ with nine and half hours of riding time out north through the Chilterns before looping back through Oxfordshire. And then a third day heading out south-west through Hampshire with plenty of rolling hills. A total of 300 miles over the three days which is exactly what I can expect on RAB.

Only come September I have to do all that again… and again!

What was special about this second May weekend was the group riding aspect, with many riders all used to cycling together. Cue lots of banter, chain-gang style formation riding, and always someone looking out to see that the whole group was sticking together. That management phrase “there’s no I in team” could not have been more apt.

And given that Kathryn is Chef Exec of a local social charity called Thrive, it would be remiss of me not to mention her fund raising efforts. It was a pleasure to participate and contribute financially to this cause over the weekend.

Looking ahead

So with just over 100 days out from the RAB start line at Lands End – and how do I feel?

Basically the answer is good (which is better than the banal “I’m fine” response usually given to such questions). I know mentally that I can ride back-to-back 100 mile rides, and that the longest day of 125 miles is within my capability. There is still three months to go to continue to build fitness, to make minor tweaks & adjustments to reduce soreness whilst riding, and to focus on fundraising.

Giving something back to others who need help – via my charity partner the Princes Trust – is where my focus turns next month.