Sunday 8th October. It's a cold crisp Autumn morning and I'm hopping out of bed, mentally (and psychically) psyching myself up for what I'm about to put myself through.
You see, 3 months ago I had the mad idea of riding 130 miles to raise funds for YoungMinds on World Mental Health Day. As soon as I told people the news and set up a JustGiving page, they donated! I thought wow OK, this is really happening.
The first thing I had to do was actually get into shape, I'm not a lazy person... But I'm also not fit enough to just ride 130 miles without doing any training. So I joined a gym, I don't think I've ever been a member of a gym in my life but there's a first for everything right?
Anyway, I start my training at the gym, every day for the next 2 months using all the leg related machines possible and doing intense #spinningsessions for ooooh about 20 minutes?! Initially, I'm not sweating and think why am I not sweating, I can't be working hard enough!! I push on through, really going at it on the resistance bike and after about 10 minutes I'm dripping wet with sweat (gross, my apologies), I'm so proud of myself!! YES, I've achieved something! In fact, not only am I dripping wet with sweat, my whole torso and t-shirt are soaked and I mean soaked! (gross again, sorry!) Progress.
^ me at the gym on the resistance bike
Weeks pass and progress at the gym is going well, I'm getting into it and starting to feel a bit better. I spend a good 45 minutes to an hour there, still every day, then coming home and making myself some pasta or food high in carbs/protein to replenish my body.
2 Months later, my time at the gym is over and it's time to start training properly, on a real bike doing real bike rides.
I start by doing 10 Miles a day, every day, reminding myself that this is for the next month! During my first attempt I manage to do it in around 56 Minutes 10.9 Miles. I'm absolutely determined to get this figure down and fast! So for the next 2 weeks, I push myself hard to bring the time down and my final time for this 10.9 run is 48 Minutes! Amazing.
Doing this much exercise every day was making me feel good, mentally and emotionally. I was pumped to do this and I was certain that I was going to finish it.
^ cycling around where I live
Time to up the ante. There's no way I'm going to be able to do 130 Miles by just riding 10 miles a day, nope!
^ here we are then, finished our 12 miles proudly sporting our medals! (see the difference in both equipment and bike...)
Ok. I've nailed 10 Miles, I've nailed 12 Miles. Now I really need to start going the distance as the big day is only 3 weeks away, eek! Time to start doing 25-35 miles PER DAY. The first day I do 25 Miles in around 1hr 30 minutes and I'm incredibly pleased with myself, not to mention encouraged by this progress. So the next day I take on the challenge of 35 Miles, following the Garmin (again very kindly borrowed from my uncle), this route soon takes a turn, excuse the pun, and I find myself riding almost vertically up a dirt track sliding around all over the place, finally I get to the top and what goes up must go? S**t, down.
What then follows is me pretty much slipping the whole way down this wet, dirty track with mud spraying in my face followed by numerous occasions of almost falling head over handlebars in the mud, throw in every swear word you can imagine and I reach the bottom. That's only the beginning my friends, the rest of this ride consists of more wet and muddy bridleways, not only that, the Garmin route ends in Basingstoke which is about 10 miles away from home. The worst thing is knowing you then have to ride 10 miles to home when you're already tired and exhausted. But I do it! 35 Miles in 3 Hours 12 Minutes.
Thursday 5th October. My last day of training, on Friday I am in London and on Saturday I'm doing the market in Winchester. So this is it. For the last ride, Dad decides to come along, I am now on the proper bike, the one I will be using for the 130 miles and let me tell you, it was an ABSOLUTE delight to ride!! After riding a tank for a good few weeks, this was something else! YoungMinds very kindly sent me a cycling top to wear, and I now have the cycling shorts (very flattering).
^ my last day of training, finishing in the evening with a beautiful sunset!
Sunday 8th October. The big day has arrived, It's time! The strange thing is, I was so excited to do this, I was also quite nervous but it was a good nervous, I was about to take on something I'd never thought I could do and the adrenaline was pumping through me!
Getting everything ready and preparing my bag for the day ahead, I bought a lot of different foods and snacks which provided protein and fuelled me for longer, with energy drinks and water. I also bought some Electrolyte Gel for halfway when I was starting to flag.
^ setting off on Sunday 8th October!! Here I go!
Here I go then! Embarking on my journey. I've got the gear, I've got the bike (probably helps) I've got the food and I'm ready! The first leg of the journey seems quite easy, it is mainly downhill and the scenery is beautiful. I made it in 1hr 15 Minutes which is far faster than I expected, so I went to a coffee shop and sat down for a cup of tea and banana whilst I waited. It seems I was in good company as this little gem was a cyclists paradise!
^ All the cyclists at the Coffee Shop.
I continue at a steady pace making good progress, I make it to Salisbury at around 12:30/1pm which is an excellent time, this is halfway to the halfway point, does that make sense?
What then happens is the Garmin has a bit of fun with me again, taking me on Bridleway but as I have absolutely no idea where I am at this point, I have to follow and this becomes a NIGHTMARE of an adventure, I trek through woods, mud, end up at Salisbury Race Course, then continue along bridleways, through some more woods laced with nettles and I get stung, a lot, ugh. What started as a good journey has become somewhat of a pain in the arse. Anyway, I eventually get through this escapade and out the other side, in a rather bad mood.
However, the bad mood didn't last. The only thing going through my head during the incredibly tough sections of this bike ride was that I was going to do it, I was going to make everyone that donated proud and most importantly, YoungMinds. I'm doing this for them and all the young sufferers that are in desperate need of help.
30 Miles in. I manage to meet up with Dad, it's been about an hour and a half since we last made contact and I stop for a break, eating sweets, more protein and my electrolyte gel. Always time for a photo as well.
^ After my Bridleway escapade
50 Miles in. I'm now well on my way and getting into it, the hills are becoming more frequent but the views are certainly complimenting them. I'm feeling good. However, the Garmin is now rather low on battery and eventually runs out, which is a bit of an issue because I've no idea where I'm going and Dad in the support car has no service. Let me explain - Because the route I am taking is so long, the Garmin couldn't handle all 130 Miles in one sitting, so it was broken into 6 parts, everytime I hit that point (usually around 24/30 miles) I had to stop and move onto the next route the Garmin had programmed. Just luckily we came into the village where the route ended for me to select the next, but it needed charging and so while it was doing that in the car, we went into a pub (no alcohol please). I can't believe I am actually saying this, but a man turned up to the pub on his ride on mower.. welcome to Somerset! The pub was rather pleasant.
^ wisdom inside the pub (Somerset Sunday 8th Oct 2017)
Garmin charged up! Let's go, 14 Miles left!! 14 Miles!!! Then I can relax and gosh by now I am starting to feel it a little bit. I'm becoming slightly tired, aching a lot, my bottom... is now rather sore and I'm wanting a rest, a proper one. But with only 14 Miles to go, I'm feeling motivated to push on hard! Riding down into the village I was staying was like something out of Miss Marple or Midsomer Murders, beautiful, picturesque and most of all, welcoming.
^ halfway! The place we were staying, sad to say I missed Curry night!
Arrived, in the lovely evening sun, went in to get the keys to our room and it was absolutely wonderful. To end a long day of cycling, this place couldn't have been more perfect. I led on the bed and felt immediately exhausted!
^ this bed was amazing ok
I had the most AMAZING bath I've ever had, never more have I appreciated a bath in my life. Soaking my aching muscles, I spent a good 45 minutes in there listening to music and thinking about the day behind me.
Dinner was upon me!! Starting with roast Camembert (yummm) I then had a roast lunch, Yorkshire puds etc...
^ the gorgeous Camembert!
Monday 9th October. I decided I was going to eat A LOT of breakfast to make me fuller for longer, oh! And lest we forget a big cup of tea! After that, I was set.
I went back to the room, had a COLD shower (this is supposed to help the muscles), I got divers breath and could barely breathe but it certainly woke me up, that's for sure!
Then it was time.... to apply the Assos Cream (again) for those who aren't sure what Assos Cream is, it's Anti-Friction cream for well, my arse. And it worked, really well! It gave me a sort of cold freezing feeling on my bum and... undercarriage! This was probably the most important application of cream I have ever needed, my bum was really starting to feel the miles!!
^ quick photo before I set off!
68 Miles to go! I had a good start, however about 9 or 10 Miles into Day 2 things got incredibly difficult, I came upon yet another Bridleway, only this one was even muddier, even wetter and full of very uneven surfaces and scary woods. What started as a leisurely road cycle, turned into survival of the fittest...I'll give you a little insight.
I was going downhill, in woods and in the distance, I could hear about 100 dogs barking, I felt like I was the fox in a hunt. Anyway, the mud got thicker and stickier, so bad I had to get off the bike and stop every few yards to put on latex gloves and take it off to stop it clogging up the brakes and tyres. This became an intensely difficult repeated procedure for the next 2 hours. It took me 2 hours to go 12 Miles, I had lost an awful lot of time and had to make it up, Dad was no where near me, so I had to push on.
I managed to get back on track and find the roads I needed to be following, it seems I was rewarded for the awful past 2 hours with stunning views, lots of them.
Now came the fun part of being this high up... going down! I raced down, hitting a top speed of 30.9 mph!!
^ where would you go?
The way around was probably as long as going through, so I decided to go for it! Stupid mistake (again)! It started ok, as they all do, deceiving you into a false sense of security that everything along this pretty little bridleway would be ok.. wrong! My apologies for this next part, but yes, it did happen....
Anyway, mother nature was calling... I was in the middle of absolutely nowhere with no one but my own company around, so I got out the loo roll and performed in a field with some cows and a rather pretty view. Don't get me wrong people, I wasn't a fan of this procedure either, but I think this cycle ride maketh the man because it seems I wasn't on a cycle ride, but an expedition. I finished my business (YES I DID HAVE CLEANING PRODUCTS) and continued over a little footbridge and took some more photos of the views.
^ the view was serene.
45 Miles to go.
Adrelanine is starting to kick in now, just as well it did because the following hill (mountain?) was an absolute monster! Every corner I went round it carried on going up and up, 500ft, 600ft, 700ft, 800ft?! When the hell is this going down!! Not for a while. 900ft? Check. I finally, after about 30 minutes of climbing get to the top, 1017ft up steep merciless hills. This in itself was an achievement, I didn't walk up it once, I pushed myself and told myself I could do it, I was SO motivated and I did it!
As I'm riding down a hill (yes down, thank god) Dad has parked the car in a car park and is waving at me. I turn around and enter the car park and past the trees was the most stunning view I've ever seen in England. Just before Hemyock, I was graced with this view that was surreal, enchanting, breathtaking.
24 Miles to go. Filled with joy at the view I have just experienced, we continue with only 24 Miles to go.
^ reflective and warm clothing on, enjoying the sunset
14 Miles to go. The light has dramatically decreased and is fading fast. I continue to follow the car closely, pedalling faster than ever to prevent myself getting cold. Through the narrow, quiet winding roads of deepest Devon I look back on the last 2 days and think what I've achieved so far was something quite unbelievable, I could never have imagined it.
After suffering for so long, not being able to leave my bedroom, to be able to ride 147 Miles to raise funds and awareness for YoungMinds, it made me feel proud and well up slightly.
9 Miles to go. Darkness has now fallen, we've come to a very busy town, riding through the town in the dark, following the car, I'm now very tired and hungry but I push myself harder than ever because I'm now so determined and quite frankly, the main road I was riding on was terrifying. Dad was in front of me with hazard lights on, shining the way while cars were racing past, some are very kind and past far and wide but others didn't. It was also very hard to tell where I was in the dark and I had no idea how far I had left because I was now not in control of navigation.
Dad stops in a layby ahead of me and asks how I'm doing, by this time I'm virtually catatonic, but I manage to say I'd like some food from the supplies and Lucozade. He says to me '3 Miles to go George, you're doing SO well, let's do this!'
3 Miles to go. As we turn off the main road and down a (spooky) country lane, I start to feel the relief, I can taste the finish, the warming house at the end!
As I see the indicator turn right into a very dark, very narrow lane I know I've done it, I know this is it! He puts his thumb up out the window and waves! I've done it! I've actually gone and f**ing done it! I race to the finish and I'm greeted with a warming welcome, ready to collapse I take my helmet off and sit down. They offer me a shower and some food, of which I barely speak through and just listen, sometimes muttering something.
I did it.
Wearing my YoungMinds top, I have never felt more proud of myself than that day. So far I have raised over £850 for YoungMinds and counting. This was no easy challenge and there's no doubt about it, I found it incredibly difficult. But do you know what? I loved every minute of it, the thrill, the views, the challenge, it was all so enjoyable and when asked if I'd do it again, yes I would. Just not for a while.
I'd just like to thank everyone who supported me on this ride, everyone at YoungMinds, everyone at Sainsbury's, all my friends, all my family, all of my donators and supporters. You all pushed me to achieve this challenge. Most importantly, I'd like to thank my Father, Mike for being there for me as support the whole time and lest I forget my uncle who very kindly let me borrow all his equipment. Without all of you, this wouldn't have been possible.
Tuesday 10th October (World Mental Health Day) The day after my 147 Miles I went into Sainsbury's sporting all my gear with the bike to spread awareness for YoungMinds and raise money for the ride I had just achieved. 14 Hours earlier I was riding in Devon.
YoungMinds is the UK's leading charity committed to improving the well-being and mental health of children and young people. If you'd still like to donate and sponsor me, you can do so here - Sponsor Me