On the 26 July the adrenalin was pumping and there was a familiar air of anticipation and excitement at the start. The ride is too long to fill in every detail so I will give some of the highlights.
So what keeps me going when desperately low on energy, the pain in my knee so intense and lifting on or off the saddle has to be a planned manoeuvre due to the sharp sting each time. Well a combination of the following actually:
“Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts for ever.”
Perhaps it was the thought of loved ones routing for me and willing me on, even waiting on the finish line and I not wanting to disappoint.
Even the survival instinct that cuts in. If you stop you may not get going again, and in some of the remote night areas, that could be more severe and harmful than carrying on. (Some riders were reaching controls in a hypothermic state.)
Then it dawned on me in a philosophical way: I was doing this for a charity, despite any pains or the emotional roller coaster ride that events take you on, it is only 5 days total and the I can get off and return to normality, get warm, take some rest or tablets and recover quickly. The sufferers of dementia, Alzheimer’s, their carers and close family, cant stop the ride and get off. The emotional roller coaster has no brakes and will not be over in a few days. For them there is no end to their ride. So who was I to give in and wimp out. With that in mind, you grit your teeth, blank out the pains and dig deep.
The ride of course had many up sides too. One funny event worthy of note. The last two sections I rode with a new friend called Peter, suffering from a bad knee also. We rode together and agreed to take it as easy as time allowed to preserve our knees. Riding through St. Neots at 03:00 we found an all night petrol station, locked up but open for business. It was so cold Peter had gone through his bag looking for any garment to put on for warmth. The station attendant was happy to serve us coffee in the quiet night but would not let us in to get warm despite our best pleas. We had rolled out of the gloom from the cold fens into the lighting of the town. To us we looked normal as we were on a mission. To the attendant, what did we look like, Peter had his spare boxer shorts folded up on his head covering his ears, held on by his safety helmet while I was wearing a balaclava. Now why would the attended not let us in at 03:00 to get warm?
At the finish line, midday I arrived to cheers and claps from fellow riders and spectators, then Sarah, running out of the crowd toward me. A big hug and a kiss. A welcome that made it all worth while. Having checked in and received a goody bag I opened the beer, chinked it on the handle bars as a cheers to the iron horse for performing so well and sprayed some froth on the frame (Not quite champagne but all I had). Fighting back the welling emotion of having finally made it to the end and within time, I searched out a quiet spot where the bike was propped and tried to take in the sheer enormity of the completed challenge. A ride like this definitely makes you appreciate your surroundings and the luxuries we all take for granted every day, be it warmth, a soft bed, food, the car we drive or just life in general. We should all take the time occasionally to take stock around us and appreciate the things we work for, no matter how trivial.