So all that training paid off – LEL 2017 complete!
- 1,463km – total distance
- 60h – total ride time
- 90h – total elapsed time
- 4h – “sleep”
- 11000m – ascent
- 28000 – calories burned
- 15 – meals consumed
- £3,130.118 – funds raised
I have chosen the Rifles Care For Casualties (C4C) charity given my close affiliation with the Regiment and, having lost a number of close friends, as well as seeing many more sustain life changing injuries.
So what was all the fuss about...?
Like many family, friends and colleagues you may have been tracking my progress over the past few days. I wanted to thank you very for your generous support, both in sponsorship but also during the event sending wishes and keeping my morale up. As I sit back at my desk this morning and reflect on the past few days, still with swollen and bruised feet, windswept and sunburnt face, a numb left hand, throbbing knees, tender backside etc, it feels like a great achievement – and each and every one of you has played a significant role in motivating me to reach the finish line. Thank you.
So how was it you ask? A tale of two halves some might say. A swift northward sprint up to Edinburgh saw me arrive in the top 10. A tail wind, fresh legs, and no sleep all created for a fast initial assault, sprinting through the Fens, up into Lincolnshire, Yorkshire, Pennines, skirting round Northumberland into Cumbria, then over the border into Scotland. Even the two punctures sustained on the way failed to derail my quest for a sub 80h overall time. With 48h left to head south things looked great.
However, having endured a miserable Sunday night climbing Harwood Beck into Brampton (torrential rain and close to freezing temperatures) I felt more warm kit was required, plus new shoe cleats to cure an ominous squeak (more on that later), more inner tubes, and a new tyre (given I had a big gouge riding back from registration the night before the start; three punctures sustained then). So a pit stop at home in Edinburgh was required to perform a crucial resupply; I resisted the temptation to completely shut down when I arrived home, it was very tempting to call it a day at that point.
One of my colleagues, Jeremy Milne, was kind enough to escort me back down from Edinburgh to just past Innerleithen, and made the most of showing me he was the king, as I toiled away with my tired legs trying to stay with him. My first proper sleep came at Brampton Castle, circa 800km in. Food, shower, a two hour ‘rest’ (sprawled out in a school corridor using a hand towel as a blanket), more food, then off, when disaster struck. My chain set (where the pedal arms meet the big rings) had almost entirely severed itself from the frame and all I could do was cable tie it back on and pray. Miraculously this contraption endured the next 400km; with each control point I would give it the once over, add more cable ties, and cross my fingers.
With each extra kilometre covered I was ever the more prouder of how this botch fix was holding out, apparently some pictures taken of it by a volunteer had gone viral on Twitter. However, as I was tearing my way round the windswept Fens outside of Peterborough, all of a sudden I found myself skating along the road. I looked down and realised my pedal arm had completely sheared off and the pedal was left back up the road. Somehow I stayed upright and did not take down any of the riders I was in a group with. A real Samaritan of a chap following in his van assured me that he would get me back on the road. After running a few of his errands (blood tests at the Whittlesey surgery, and a trip to the tip where I unashamedly helped to unload his old loo piping and detritus from his last plumbing job, in my lycra), we popped into Terry Wright's bike shop in Market Deeping who got me back on the road before I knew it. The chaps in the shop even sponsored me and stuffed my jersey pockets full of snacks and bars.
I was beaming as my legs glided round in perfect circles. The new chain set felt immaculate and I felt buoyed and ready to destroy the final few hundred kilometres. Little did I know what lay ahead; the final sections from St Ives to Spalding involved even stronger head winds and sideways rain. Perhaps I should have called it a day when the chain set broke, after all that would have been the perfect excuse. But no – failure was not an option!
Having left at 05:00 on Sunday I really wanted to be home and dry by 13:00 on Wednesday. Alas it was not to be given the mechanical slow-downs and a handful of moments where my body had simply had enough. I always knew the physical part would be the most straight forward; I knew there would be aches and pains but I accepted that. Perhaps I had not appreciated quite how tired I would be and that I would regularly start to doze off whilst hurtling along – not recommended. And of course, the mechanical issues. Two punctures very early on meant I was dropped from the vanguard group only 60km in, so no free tows available. And as for my chain set, that could never have been planned for. All along the way though I never lost sight of why I was doing this. Yes it was a personal challenge, but I also wanted to remember and recognise my brother Riflemen and their families. The motivation for that kept me going. And of course the fear of being heckled by you all for abandoning.
I completed the ride in just over 90 hours and was in 45th place (out of 1500 starting riders). I was well within my 100 hour cut off, and all the riders leaving in the subsequent waves after me had 117 hours. Maybe next time I can go for my sub 80, so long as I take a spare bike…
Apart from the obvious pain and suffering, what I will never forget is the hospitality and generosity of all the volunteers and members of the public we met on the way. And of course the support that you have shown, both in the run up to the event, and during it. Thank you so very much.
There was no way I would be defeated – mission complete!