Last week my sponsorship total for Dementia UK reached £5,000 and I just wanted to say a huge thank you to everyone who has been kind enough to sponsor me. The sponsorship will enable Dementia UK to train even more Admiral Nurses to help families dealing with dementia.
A week ago I got home after completing the Deloitte Ride Across Britain, having ridden from Land’s End to John O’Groats, a distance of 982 miles in nine days.
The overwhelming feeling is a huge sense of achievement in completing the ride and remaining physically strong, subject to the crash injuries which didn’t stop me cycling but probably had an adverse effect towards the end of the ride. No trips to the physios or any requirement for sports tape! I’m sure my father would have been terribly proud of me – all my family have said they are slightly in awe at what I have done after following my daily blog and tracking my ride in “real time” on Strava. Why am I supporting Dementia UK in the Deloitte Ride Across Britain ? John Evans (1934 – 2010) I had a succession of great messages on Whats App during the ride, most motivational and some asking what had happened to me on Day 5 (my second crash on the railway level crossing) as I seemed to be going at a snail’s pace to pit stop 1! I had a lovely card from my colleagues at work today saying how well I had done – something I will get framed for the office wall!
The ride also showed me parts of Great Britain that I have never seen before – Shropshire, part of the Lake District between Preston and Penrith and my personal favourites the Cairngorms and Scottish Highlands on Days 7 and 8. I would love to go back and retrace some of the Scottish legs and have a bit more time to take in the scenery and take a few more photos.
Descent from Glenshee
Dulsie Bridge over the River Findhorn
Threshold Sports had warned us before the event that Days 1 and 2 through Cornwall, Devon and Somerset to Bath would be the toughest. In retrospect, I found the cumulative effect of Days 7 and 8 the hardest days of the ride, both long days at 114 and 119 miles respectively plus an awful lot of climbing (both steep hills and long energy sapping drags).
The question I am always being asked is “Would you do it again?”. The answer is “No”. Not because I didn’t enjoy it, I did enjoy the experience and I’ve mentioned the achievement and scenery. However, it is a bucket list box “ticked”. We were also incredibly lucky with the weather. If you split the nine days into three sectors per day (making 27 in total) we had wet weather on no more than five sectors. We also had strong tail winds for virtually the whole ride. Day 9 would have been a completely different, horrible experience with a northerly headwind and rain. I wouldn’t want to tempt fate and ruin the great memories by doing the ride again in bad weather. Things would have been so different if the ride had been a week later.
Is the Deloitte Ride Across Britain for you?
The short answer is “Yes” if you want to challenge yourself both physically and mentally and have the best possible support in completing a Land’s End to John O’Groats ride. The Threshold Sports slogan is “More is in you”. This was certainly true for a large number of riders. I was pretty fit before I started training and then spent the best part of nine months training for the ride so that I am now as fit as I have been for over 20 years. It meant that I my average “moving pace” over the whole ride was 15 mph so I was able to get into camp most days by 3.30 pm giving myself as much recovery time as possible. I wouldn’t have coped with getting in each day just before the 7 pm cut off time.
My tips for a successful ride would be:
Train consistently and a lot for the ride. I am looking forward to “getting my life back”. Two Months To Go – Training Review I have the greatest respect for the families of riders given the amount of training required. I didn’t have anyone to “report to” or ask permission from when training.
Do not underestimate the relentless nature of riding over 100 miles a day for nine straight days and the impact it has on your body. You cannot get away with just riding 40-50 mile training rides – the RAB “bubble” will not get you through to the end. That said, nothing can prepare you for the ride itself!
Do train on hills, both long draggy hills and shorter steep hills.
Get a rear cassette with as high a gear as possible. I had an 11-34 cassette and was grateful for every one of the 34 teeth when married up with a 50 34 compact front chain ring when going up The Lecht, Glenshee and Cothelstone Hill. Do not be taken in by the cyclists who say that a semi-compact 53-39 front chain ring and an 11-28 rear cassette will be fine unless you are whippet thin and can climb like Chris Froome or Alberto Contador!
Have a professional bike fit for your bike well before the event and get used to riding the bike so that you do not get any niggles when riding.
If you don’t like camping, go for the Plus package – worth every penny for the long, hot showers, comfy beds and space to unpack all your kit each night. You also get a 20 minute sports massage each day rather than 10 minutes every other day – trust me, it makes a difference!
Consider using a personal trainer experienced with training people for endurance events. Threshold Sports do issue a training programme but I found it much easier to have my trainer, Lawrence Cronk (an Ironman coach) at Enduraprep, checking my progress and tailoring my programme to fit round sportives that I entered. There was also the threat of a “kick up the backside” from someone if training slipped which can be useful with long periods of training.
Invest in decent wet weather gear and train when it is raining; you will then know if it keeps you dry and how you react to being cold and wet (badly in my case). The suggest kit list from Threshold Sports is definitely useful – how some riders managed at the start of Day 8 without leg warmers and full gloves, I will not know – it was freezing!
I went to the Ride Across Britain training day in April which I found extremely useful, both to meet other riders, get some practical tips and to see how my training was going compared to other riders. RAB Training Ride
Chose a charity that resonates with you on a personal basis as it is then much easier to ask friends and colleagues to sponsor you. It also gives you the added impetus to keep training and riding during the ride itself.
If you are a stronger rider, do slow down and be prepared to help or tow weaker riders, even if it just to the next pit stop or camp – remember, it is the Deloitte Ride Across Britain rather than the Race Across Britain!
I am working on a slide show “film” of my photos from the ride and will post a link to it when completed.
I am incredibly grateful to everyone who has sponsored me so far for the ride. I have now raised just over £4,750 (plus Gift Aid) to support the work of Dementia UK My Virgin Money Giving page is still open for donations and can be reached here. To reach £5,000 would be absolutely amazing!
Why I am riding from Land’s End to John O’Groats in the Deloitte Ride Across Britain (a distance of 980 miles in 9 days) to raise money for Dementia UK? The simple answer is in memory of my father, John Evans, who had he been alive would have been 84 today (26 June). Unfortunately John suffered from vascular dementia for well over the last 10 years of his life and had we, as a family, known about Dementia UK at the time, the support and advice we could have accessed could have made what we, and my mother in particular, had to go through so much easier to deal with on a day to day basis.
Dementia is such a cruel disease as you never know how long you have to live with the disease and its rates of progression are so different between people with different forms of the disease. In the case of my father, there were a series declines followed by plateaus. John and the family began to think something was wrong when he couldn’t complete The Daily Telegraph crossword, something he’d been completing for over 30 years. We then saw a loss of short term memory with the repetition of conversations on a 10 minute loop – it was terribly difficult to continue the same conversation when John had no idea we’d discussed the particular topic three times already!
John and my mother retired to Dittisham, near Dartmouth in Devon, and I think one of John’s happiest day was walking my sister, Caroline, down the aisle at her wedding. Even then in 2002, the decline had set in and I had the pleasure of giving the “Brother of the Bride” speech at the reception after John had welcomed the guests before the meal.
The odd thing was that his long term memory was fine until he lost his mobility. When we eventually decided to move John into a care home, one day he escaped by climbing over a locked 5 barred gate. This was second nature to an ex-agricultural lecturer and Head of College who would regularly walk the College farm. Fortunately, the escape attempt took place in the summer and he was found several hours later over three miles away having travelled through a few fields!
It was also awful to see the loss of the ability to communicate, particularly for someone who had been so articulate. John must have found it frustrating as well, as one day in the care home he lifted a huge cathode ray TV off its table in the lounge and placed it carefully on the floor – I can only think he wasn’t enjoying the day time telly !
I have a huge amount to thank John for, notwithstanding the obvious! He was responsible for instilling my “values” – work hard, treat people with respect and how you would like to be treated, don’t say anything if you haven’t got anything nice to say and be loyal and generous to your family and friends. I think I also inherited his competitive instinct – anyone who heard his exhortations to himself on the golf course will know what I mean. I can still hear the “Oh John!” shouts following a duff shot!
I also picked up my love of sailing, crewing for John in “Gusty” while learning to sail. We had a series of holidays to Rock in north Cornwall in the 1970s, before it got terribly trendy, trailing the dinghy down the M4 and M5 from Kent.
A real bucket and spade holiday, sailing in the estuary and surfing at Polzeath. John would escape for a few rounds of golf at St Enodoc Golf Club leaving the rest of us having fun on the beach, digging pits, building sandcastles and tennis ball helter-skelters and flying kites.
What would John think about me undertaking this ride? He’d be terribly proud, pretty surprised (as I only took up cycling about four years ago), worried about the amount of training involved (and the lack of tennis I’ve played this year) and fully supportive of my efforts. I have to say I still miss him more than I care to admit.
If you would like to learn more about the great work carried out by Dementia UK you can reach their website by clicking here
If you would like to sponsor me so I can raise loads of money for Dementia UK you can donate via my Virgin Money Giving page here