Thursday, August 6, 2009

LEL The Big Ride

The picture above shows the medal obtained, a post card with the official finish time and cycle number plate, complete with mud sweat and tears!

I would like to give an enormous Thank You to all who have supported me on the LEL ride. Your kind donations to ART and the comments and text messages received during this epic ride spurred me on and made it all worth while. Also to the new friends I met along the way and their camaraderie which undoubtedly played a big part in the ultimate success of finishing.
At the start of this 1400k ride I was reasonably relaxed. You have to have faith in your own abilities and the reliability of the cycle that would propel you the entire journey. I knew I had not ridden enough miles or even close to the recommended events in preparation for a ride like this but was confident enough to be on the start line. The cycle, a 10 year old +, Trek 470 was the same machine I used in 1999 for the Paris Brest Paris 1200k (Or was it !). Plagued with mechanical failure on training rides this year I was weighing up buying a new machine. The bike was showing its age and I know how it felt! Instead, so far this year the following has been replaced: Chain, two front sprockets, rear cassette, rear derailleur, complete rear wheel, rear axle, new bar tape, right hand brake and gear mechanism, all brake and gear cables (inners and outer), brake blocks, tyres and inner tubes. So it’s the same bike I used 10 years ago right ! but I will nick name it ‘Trigger’s Broom’, from Only Fools and Horses! I’ll say now that save one puncture, the bike was a dream. Smooth and precise for the entire ride without a single adjustment or hitch. Past demons now laid to rest, there were definitely two of us on this ride and if either had failed, the other would too.

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.
The route appears to be reasonably flat for the first 300km but the deceptive rolling hills get you on the way back and you realise that the terrain undulates more than remembered when legs are tired and joints are aching. The scenery at first is somewhat missed as the focus is on gaining ground and time in hand. The odd glances to the side show some pretty villages and mainly vast acreage of cultivated agriculture. In the north, it changes to a few towns and villages, more picturesque scenery that has to be worked for as valleys are ascended to gain views of the magnificent Scottish hillsides blending into sky lines. The farming changes to timber and sheep as the elements are harsh. Cascading rivers and rocky landscape all improve the views as the slower climbs give time to look around and absorb the surroundings. Mother nature not only has raw beauty here but a complete arsenal of elements at her disposal to defend it and during this ride, most of it was used with dramatic effect. The views can of course only be seen when daylight and the riders on the LEL have no choice but to ride at times through the night over this already tough terrain. No street lighting is provided, just the lighting you can carry. Control points along the way where your route card is stamped have various degrees of facilities but on a first come first served basis. It is most common to sleep on a floor (carpet is a luxury), with something soft rolled up under your head. Each control closes in a strict time limit that must be adhered to so sleep is an option only when time has been banked. Food varies at controls but the high calorie burn means you will eat anything to gain the energy needed for the next leg. Crossing the Pennines in the rain I even wondered about the calorific value of the copious black slugs crossing the road. Would it be like eating wine gums or liquorice? Fortunately the next control would come to the rescue with more appetising options. This report would not be complete or I not British if I did not mention the weather. The first night it rained intensely and no matter how well dressed it soaked through or ran into every place. Days were sprinkled with a variety of blue sky, followed by rain showers, blue sky, sun, then rain again, even thunder storms and hail stones were encountered. Clothing was constantly adjusted to suit and remained damp for most of the ride, but all led to loss of time. In the North on the return from Dalkeith the wind was directly at your head, the rain fell hard and it turned bitter cold as each hill top was scaled. At Trequir my fellow riders and I had no choice but to stop as the next control was full where riders ahead took shelter and did not index on to the next section. This led to an impromptu stop but also an unexpected good night sleep on the makeshift beds created from pushing 4 cushioned chairs side by side on the stage of the village hall. At 04:00 most of the storm had passed and we hit the road again. Some low roads now under water we rode through flooding before reaching higher ground.

The dampness and unrelenting hills gradually took their toll on my right knee as sharp pains set in. I eventually lost my companions as my pace slowed to accommodate the injury. I still had hundreds of miles to go. Longer rest stops were needed.

As the sun rose and peeped between mountain tops and low lying cloud, the still morning air all around, you get an amazing feeling of, “Thank God I made it through the night”, as the first warm rays of brightness start to light your way. There was also a wonderful day with warm sunshine but this ride is more than the distance from London to Edinburgh and back, it becomes a battle for survival, against the elements and your own will power to carry on.
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:
The immortal words of Lance Armstrong (multiple Tour de France Winner):
“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.

Friday, July 31, 2009

The LEL is cracked!

Distance: 875 miles

Time of ride: 117 hrs 30 mins

Time of arrival: 12.00 Friday 31st July within given ride time

After a not so pleasant trip around the M25 this morning I got to spend a pleasant morning sat in the sunshine(!) outside the Lee Valley Youth Hostel in Cheshunt. The time passed quickly as there were riders at all stages (from those who finished yesterday to those just rolling in) telling their war stories of hailstorms, floods, crashes, aches and pains etc but none of this puts them off. Every rider arriving was greeted with enthusiasm whether they were first or last to arrive.

Paul arrived at midday exactly still within the official qualifying time of the ride as 2 extra hours had been allowed for the extreme conditions experienced in Scotland.

He's tired and sore but full of enthusiasm and a sense of achievement. Once he has had an opportunity to recover a little I will try and get him to give you an account of his own.

Given the age and shared mentality of many of the riders there I think I have many more long distance rides to go through yet.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Nearly there!

Status as of:8.40pm

Distance travelled miles: 777 miles

Nearest largest town: Lincoln

As Susie implied in her message this is one of the hardest patches of any long distance event when you are tired and it is a day of hard slog with still another one to follow. Its the time you realise why we all need good friends. You need a friend who understands the thrill of pushing yourself this hard, to tell you you're great, to keep going and keep pushing yourself even if it hurts. Someone you know is always at the other end of a phone and who (unlike your girlfriend) isn't going to tell you to stop or worry more than you are. For this I need to thank Euclid for being Paul's biggest fan and being there every step of the way for him.

Paul has been going strong all day for many hours and isn't stopping yet as he is determined to try and complete the ride in the given time. By the time he stops tonight he will only have 93 miles to go! He thinks it will be close (he has until 11.10am tomorrow to finish) but knowing Paul he will find it from somewhere.

For all of you following his progress I am afraid to disappoint you but you will have to wait a while to find out how Paul did. I have something very important to do tomorrow which means I won't be doing the blog straight away. I need to be waiting on a finish line to greet one amazing man.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Come on Paul!

You've broken the back of it now so just keep pedalling and think of that lovely comfy bed you'll sleep in soon!

Pain is temporary, pride is forever.

Back on track!

Wednesday 29th July

Status as of 7.41pm

Distance covered: 602 miles

Nearest largest town: Middlesbrough

Given the start to the day Paul is making fantastic progress now. I think the day is best told in his own words taken from his texts.


'Eskdalemuir 7.24. Some flooded roads, literally up to the wheel axles. Less wind now and a better outlook


Just stopped in Longtown for 4th breakfast since midnight. Slight showers doing okay.


Alston. Now back over Yad moss. Plenty of energy....

....and so they continue. I know he is wet through, has hardly slept and has the inevitable aches and pains but as you can see that's not going to stop him or even dampen his enthusiasm.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The summer weather strikes

Wedneday 29th July

Last night the Scottish summer hit in full force. Audax UK (the ride organiser) pulled the riders from the hills deeming the conditions too dangerous to continue. Paul is safe and spent some of the night in an emergency shelter in Traquir.
He reported much more settled conditions at first light this morning and has set out again. All riders have been allowed an extra 2 hours completion time.

Here's hoping for a better day.


Tuesday 28th July

After a day of very hilly terrain Paul made Edinburgh at 5.40 tonight!!! He arrived there in 51hrs putting him right on track to make it back in the given time and to qualify for a ride medal (I think he deserves one anyway).

Before he left Dalkeith he sent the following message:

'Last section was fantastic. Stunning views, 5 long climbs each several miles long. Descents were awesome and a good strong tail wind. Last descent was 17k long. But now its all in reverse so 17k up!' .....only a cyclist could love those numbers.

Today I had a cake sale in work and my generous colleagues helped raise another £84.29 towards our very good cause. Talking to them really highlighted what Paul is doing and what an achievement completing something like this is.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Paul's progress - Monday 27th July

Monday 27th July

Status as of 7.11pm

Distance covered: 287 miles

Nearest large town: Middlesbrough

Paul is doing brilliantly having ridden London to York in just 24hrs. He is aiming for Alston in Pennines before he stops for a while (369 miles). Paul is saving his phone battery so I only get texts but the last one read Yad moss on this leg :-/ They say a picture says a thousand words you can almost feel the hill!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Paul's progress - overnight Sunday 26th June/Monday 27th

Monday 27th June am

Status as of 6.20am

Distance travelled: 158 miles

Nearest large town: Market Rasen

The London, Edingburgh London begins...

Early this morning (5am) Paul and I set off for the Lee Vally Youth Hostel near Cheshunt on the outskirts of London. This is the home of the start of the London, Edinburgh, London cycle ride. We arrived about 7am in order for Paul to register. Even at this time there were cyclists everywhere. 600 in total from 29 different countries of all ages and on all kinds of bikes. They had one thing in common though - the belief that cycling 875 miles pretty much non stop is normal and fun!
The cyclist leave in waves throughout the day. Paul had been allocated a 2.45pm start time so our day was a strange mixture of the enjoying the atmosphere at the hostel, the excitement of watching groups start and long periods of hanging around a railway station car park. Paul's good friend Euclid came to join us and wish him well which helped speed up the wait and left me at a loss as the two of them admired wheels, lights, spokes and all sorts of other things which most of us think of as just bits of bikes.
Paul had been worrying that he had taken too much with him (he has everything in the two small bags in the photo) but soon found he was in good company. He was also in good company in many other ways. All the riders were very friendly and despite the language differences a common subject was all they needed to spark up conversations.

Paul finally set off at 2.30pm. By 5.15 he was texting me to say he was already past the check point in Gamlingay some 65K from the start. As I started to write this blog I realised this did not mean much to me or probably any non long distance cyclist reading this blog so here is a more user friendly version:

Sunday 26th June 2009

Status as of 5.15 pm

Distance travelled: 40 miles

Nearest large town: Cambridge

Monday, July 20, 2009

Good luck Paul!

Tomorrow sees the start of Paul's little bike ride. May your legs be strong, the weather be kind and the miles fly by without incident. Take care Captain. Love and best wishes, Susie and Mike xxx

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The London Edinburgh London looms large

Nearly a year ago when Paul said he was going to ride nearly 800 miles in four(?) days for the Alzheimer's Research Trust it seemed ages away and I had visions of a large organised event, with lots of support for the riders and with Paul having done loads of cycling to prepare.
The reality is somewhat different! Yes the LEL is a big organised event attracting cyclists from all over the world but the cyclists leave in waves with very little support (apart from a mobile mechanic and check points to ensure they have completed the route). Most the time the cyclist is alone somewhere on route. Sleep is grabbed in small amounts as progress allows sometimes in a check point but other times in a bus stop or other handy local feature.
Its now only 11 days away and Paul's start time is early afternoon on Sunday 26th July. Is Paul prepared? Well the last few weeks have been a mixture of building wheels and haggling for parts on e-bay to get his bike back into working order. He has done some riding but not that much considering what he is about to do.Still on this note Paul is like Susie and will just go for it.
I can't follow Paul as support on route is not allowed. Therefore I'm confined to worrying at home with just a mobile phone for updates. You can see the route Paul will take on the official LEL website .
Even for an experienced rider this a tough event but I know Paul will give it his best and I'm very proud of him for what he is doing. To follow Paul's progress once the event starts look out for a daily blog update.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

World Wide Knit in Public Day

Well, WWKIP day has been and gone and a jolly hot day it was too! We were scheduled to hold our collection in the afternoon so I was worried about where on earth I would be able to park that didn't cost a fortune - town centre car parks charge extortionate prices for a long stay. I headed along Marina Drive getting more and more despondent as every space was taken. I turned around at the very end, heading back towards town and was just about to give up hope when I espied a parked vehicle with its engine running. I pulled alongside to see that the driver was just waiting to finish his ice cream before moving off and so my luck was in and I managed to park up - about 100 yards from the Pier where I'd arranged to meet Paul and Sarah.

It wasn't long before I met Sarah's mum and dad who'd travelled by bus and then Paul and Sarah arrived on the tandem.
Here we are outside the Brighton Pier. I sat on the back of the tandem and pedalled for a bout 2.5 hours whilst knitting using the lovely purple yarn provided by Sue at Kangaroo but my heart really wasn't in the knitting part as my knitting mojo has deserted me at the moment.

Mike had to work so couldn't be with us but Sarah, her mum and dad stood around in the intense heat with their collecting tins and managed to collect £127.56 whilst the Kangaroo team collected an additional £50.24 at the Lewes carnival. For anyone who's never collected in this way it is jolly hard work and there are so many rules and regulations to follow - you mustn't approach people or shake the collecting tins, you must stay in one designated area between specific times. It's mostly thankless work but every so often someone will make a donation and thank you for doing it and that makes it all worthwhile.

It was very busy (as one would expect for a seaside town on a hot day!) and Paul had his work cut out to avoid all the pedestrians who just walk out in front of you on the cycle track. On several occasions he nearly had a knitting needle up his bum!

I was very impressed that Simon, a photographer from The Argus newspaper managed to spot us and we ended up being featured as Picture of the week!

We encountered many different people as Brighton attracts hen parties, stag parties, street entertainers and people hawking tourist souvenirs out of suitcases before the Police move them on. A very nice young man gave us this little card about World Naked Bike Ride day and the very thought of that saddle on my bare bits made me laugh out loud - eurgh!

We were entertained by a man dressed as a clown, playing a tuba whilst balancing on stilts. The only trouble was his repertoire was rather limited and when you'd heard "Liberty Bell" for the 20th time it did begin to irritate! We also encountered a group of men celebrating a gay civil partnership. The 2 men making their commitment were dressed as pantomime dames and looked very fetching. They asked us if they could sit on the tandem and have their photo taken and Paul was very enterprising and asked them all to make a donation which they duly did, netting us an additional £12 by my reckoning. Sadly we didn't get a photo as I hadn't taken my camera with me.

The other thing was that a photographer from The Argus popped along to take some photos for an article that Siobhan had written about us so hopefully that will have gained some more publicity for the Alzheimer's Research Trust.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Tie Mi Kangaroo Down Sport (sic Rolf Harris)

So what's with the seemingly non-sensical title?

Well, the lovely Sue from Kangaroo in South Chailey has very kindly agreed to help with our antics on World Wide Knit in Public Day on 13th June.

She has very generously offered to provide me with some lovely purple yarn (colour of the Alzheimer's Research Trust) with which to knit and also to hold a collection in aid of the Alzheimer's Research Trust at the Lewes Carnival on WWKIP day. What a star! Thanks Sue.

On WWKIP day we have permission from Brighton Council to hold a collection in the afternoon and so Paul and I will be riding the tandem up and down the cycle lane along Brighton seafront with me sitting on the back knitting! Sarah, Mike and anyone else who's available will be shaking their tins at anyone who's around.

It would be fantastic if any local knitters could come and join us.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Randonnee, randonnaa, randonnee, randonnhahahahaha!!!!!!

Well who'd have thought that I'd ever get on a bike and ride for 100k without the use of chloroform? Or get up at 3am, travel 92 miles, cross the sea on a ferry then do it all in reverse to arrive home ridiculously late that same day? - certainly not me I can tell you! But thanks to Paul and Sarah, that's exactly what Mike and I did on Sunday and it was actually quite good fun.

The day was glorious by the time we arrived in Portsmouth to get the ferry to the Isle of Wight even though we'd driven through rain to get there. Neither Mike nor I had ever been there so it was a huge adventure for both of us. We'd booked ourselves onto the 8am ferry because we didn't think we'd get there in time to join Sarah and everyone else on the 7am sailing, but as luck would have it we arrived in time to join them. It was nice to meet up with everyone and we passed the 40 minutes on the ferry chatting and eating toast (which is a good way to distract me from being on a boat - I am not a good traveller!).

We soon arrived in Wooton which was to be our starting point and everyone began unloading their cars.

Mike had crammed our car boot with all manner of foodstuffs - sandwiches, chocolate, crisps, malt loaf, nuts, water and Lucozade Sport.

Paul was in charge of the bikes, being a complete bike geek (in the nicest possible way!) so he set up Maxine's bike for her then proceeded to assemble the tandem. It was reassuring to know that he'd checked the brakes!

Looking around the field was rather disconcerting as it was full of serious bikers, complete with state of the art bikes and wearing the latest bike gear whilst nibbling their super-serious energy bars. I wondered what they would make of a silly middle-aged woman doing her knitting on the back of a tandem.

Sarah was resplendent in her Alzheimer's Research Trust tee shirt and matching purple pumps (I was rather jealous of them as they looked fab!) and she had made herself a tray to carry the cakes Sadia (to the left in the photo) had made to sell.

Here we have the super members of our team. From the left - Sarah, Paul, me, Mike, Sarah's dad, Sadia, Euclid, Maxine and Sarah's mum. Don't we all look great in our gorgeous purple tee shirts?!

........and here's the cycling team - Paul and me on the tandem with my knitting stitches cast on and ready, Euclid, who has ridden long distance events with Paul and Maxine, who is about to complete the London-to-Brighton bike ride and often does her training rides with Paul. In other words, everyone except me knows how to ride a bike. Hey ho, it's only 100k!

We did a little ride around the field with me knitting and Mike caught that on film so no doubt it will surface on You Tube at some stage, then we were off. I had no idea what to expect really but I knew that I could balance enough to knit on semi flat bits. What Paul hadn't told me was that 90% of the route was hilly and we would be going either uphill or downhill which is not exactly conducive to sitting upright and knitting. Anyway, we set off and the sun was shining so I gave it a good shot, knitting on the bits I could, whenever it was safe to do so (ie there weren't cars whizzing past) and just riding when I couldn't.

We came to a halt for a while at this little chain ferry. Whilst waiting for our turn to cross, a man spotted our tee shirts and came over to say that there was Alzheimer's in his family and he'd like to make a donation, which he duly did. Thank you very much whoever you were as we were all very grateful for your generosity.

When people went past us and saw me knitting they mostly laughed and some asked what we were doing. One very funny comment was overheard by Euclid who was riding behind us at the time - a woman remarked to her husband that she'd seen me knitting on the back of the tandem to which he replied that I was just sitting there and wasn't pedalling. She pointed out that I was actually pedalling but he really wasn't having it and said that Paul must be doing all the work!!! - As if I'd get away with just sitting there.............

The countryside was stunning but the course really wasn't suitable for riding and knitting so although I struggled on until about 20 miles, I had to stash it and just pedal after that as it was just too dangerous to continue.

What really finished me off was a gravel track, followed by a potholed road and then a main road with cars whizzing past. Have I mentioned that I am scared of riding a bike on the road with cars whizzing past?!!!!!!!

Here are the fab four at the top of yet another mammoth hill (goodness knows how many we climbed and descended but they were many and varied in their steepness).

I must admit that I really did enjoy the ride as Paul is a very good Captain and I felt safe with him in charge but there's no way I would have ridden a bike on my own. I have a great respect for Maxine and Euclid for completing the ride as it was certainly not an easy one.

We saw so many things en-route that I may have to come back and edit this as they resurface from my memory. Things that I recall are the beautiful hedgerows along the country lanes, the banter between the four of us, the variety of interesting houses we passed (beautiful stone farmhouses, thatched cottages, old churches), several National Trust properties (I work for the NT so was interested in them), amazing scenery along the coast, a white egret on the salt marsh, the smell of the sea, seeing yachts bobbing along on the shimmering sea, cyclists and motorbikers whizzing along the lanes.

So here is my rather pathetic looking attempt at knitting. The thing is, it was much easier knitting on the tandem (on the flattish bits anyway) than knitting whilst running the marathon and ironically the bit I did manage measures about 18" so would have been much longer than my marathon scarf had I managed to knit all the way round.

Some souvenirs from the day - the card we had stamped at each checkpoint, a map of the route, a certificate to say I really did complete it and a little badge. All things to cherish as we had such a worthwhile reason for doing it.

Whilst we were out gallavanting around on bikes, the support crew were busy out on the streets with their collecting tins and they will write their own account of their adventures. I know that Mike had a wonderful time and is looking forward to helping out again on World Wide Knit in Public Day in June.

Well done to all our Team.

I should just add that I was amazed that as a runner I managed to do it and that my legs felt fine afterwards with no aches and pains at all. I was especially pleased as the very next day I had to work which involved standing up all day and believe me when I say that working a Bank Holiday Monday at a National Trust property is not an easy option! I thought that it would probably catch up with me the day after though but it really hasn't so it just shows what your body can do if you are reasonably fit. The one thing I did find uncomfy though was my bottom and those potholes were most painful towards the end!!!!!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Isle of Wight Randonee - knitting our way around the island!

Yesterday (03 May 2009) nine people set off in the far too early hours to leave the mainland for the Isle of Wight. Amongst this group were 4 brave cyclists hoping to complete the 100k, flat - only according to Paul, route around the island and 5 equally intrepid collectors hoping to raise funds for the ART.

The result:
  • All our cyclist made it around the full route and Susie even managed to knit (much to the envy of some cyclists she overtook struggling up hill!)
  • Through the generosity of the local population, the Randonee cyclists and some selling Sir Alan would be proud of our collectors took an additional £283.37 for ART.
  • A group of nine people many of whom had never met made new friends and had a great day to remember.

More stories from the day will follow as legs recover, sleep is caught up on and photos are swapped. In the meantime a big thank you to:

  • The '2knits': Susie Hewer (extreme knitter) and Paul Barnes,
  • Our support cyclists: Maxine Ward and Euclid Pires
  • Our collectors: Mike Hewer, Georgina Brazer, Ken Brazer (aka mum and dad)
  • All the people in the background: Sadia and mum for the great home cooked cakes. Euclid and Sadia's family and friends for helping with cakes and their extremely generous support.
  • The Wayfarer Cycle Touring club ( for their well organised event and for allowing us to tempt the cyclist with cakes at their checkpoint.

...and of course the people of the Isle of Wight and the Randonee Cyclists for their generous donations.


Wednesday, April 29, 2009

This one's for you Mum

As I haven't written about my reasons for supporting the Alzheimer's Research Trust on this blog I thought I should perhaps tell mum's story here so people understand why it's so important to me.

In 1997 my mother, then aged 81, had a series of minor strokes.  Shortly after that we started to notice behavioural changes notably memory loss and confusion over everyday items.  We thought it was just old age finally catching up with her.  Then she started wandering and had violent mood swings.  Although she already lived with us it became obvious that she couldn't be left alone for long and so I left my job to care for her. 

The next few years saw a gradual decline into the blackness that is 'vascular dementia'.  My normally placid mum became violent and aggressive.  She had psychotic incidents where she would see imaginary people (children hiding in her wardrobe, Russians sitting on the stairs, women stealing her clothes) and she would shout at them and sometimes throw things too.  She was so convincing that we used to go and check that there wasn't anyone there! 

When my sister died 7 years ago mum did not know who Judy was or that she was her daughter.  The moment I realised she no longer knew that I was her daughter was a terrible time for me.  In the last 2 years that she lived with us, life for us all became almost unbearable as she needed 24 hour care - she couldn't be left alone at all because she would either wander off or hurt herself, she never slept for more than 30 minutes at a time during the night, she became incontinent and incapable of doing anything for herself. 

Finally my husband and I realised that we could no longer provide her with the care that she needed and she went to live the last few months of her life in a home for the "elderly mentally inform" or EMI unit where Harry and his team did a splendid job caring for her.  There she lived a zombified existence unaware of who she was, what she was or where she was.  It was heartbreaking.  She died in March 2005, the day after her 89th birthday. I've been running marathons in her memory ever since.

Thank you for taking the time to read mum’s story.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

A question of bad taste?

A huge thank you to the fantastic staff of South East Water who raised an amazing total of £257.87 through their April cake day. As well as the sale of cakes a 'bad taste' day was also held where staff entered a competion for the most clashing outfit! The day resulted in a feast of colours (which to a colour magnet like me is not necessarily bad taste) and some great stories.
Cindy (pictured here in the fab 70's outfit) was brave enough to performed a courier run on the day in her outfit which resulted in extra donations from the staff and customers at her coffee stop!!!
This has given me some ideas for our event on the Isle of Wight in the next couple of weeks but I'm not sure how many of my great volunteers will still want to collect with me if I suggested we draw even more attention to ourselves!

A big personal thanks from myself to my very good friend Simone Ruddle for putting us forward and organising the bad taste day as well as to South East Water for their generous support. Sarah

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

What's it all about?

I found this on You Tube and it moved me and made me remember why we're doing all we can to raise awareness of this dreadful disease. Susie

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

O Captain! My Captain!

With apologies to Walt Whitman but you'll understand why that title came into my head in a moment.

I knew little about bikes except that they have a seat, handlebars, pedals, brakes and gears. I knew even less about tandems and I confess that the new terminology made both Mike and I giggle - the rider at the front of the bike is called the 'Captain' and the rider on the back is called the 'Stoker'. I had visions of shovelling coal into the furnace of a steam train!

Training begins

After the first tentative ride we made the decision to proceed with the madness so that meant we had to try a ride slightly longer than the end of the lane and back.

For our next outing, Sarah brought her bike too so she came out with us. Mike had somehow wangled it that he was working so couldn't join us! I have to admit that I was really rather scared about this first proper ride as it is very hilly where we live, no matter which way you go and the idea of struggling up those hills filled me with dread. There was nothing for it but to just head off and I chose a round trip of about 5.5 miles which included some killer hills (both up and down).

As we headed through the village it seemed as if half the population had decided to go for a walk so there were lots of heads doing a "double-take" as we sped by and I waved and shouted "hello" to them! They are used to seeing me running along the lanes but this was an entirely new thing.

The hills were jolly hard work and I huffed and puffed but I found that when we'd reached the top I recovered quickly. The thing that really did scare me was going downhill - oh my goodness the speed of it! I did feel safe with Paul though as he is obviously a very experienced rider. When we got back home I felt as if I could have gone further.

The next outing was a couple of weeks later and Paul came alone. I should have been suspicious immediately. I'd planned a nice little 10 mile route which involved a main road (not too busy though) so I could experience the cars whizzing past. As Mike waved us good-bye we headed off up a steepish hill and when we got to the top Paul revealed his dastardly plan to visit Rye, which is about 12 miles away. I did not have kind thoughts about Paul at that moment!!!

Off we went and for the first few miles I spent all the time looking over Paul's right shoulder so I could watch out for potholes etc. This probably upset the balance of the bike but Paul was very tolerant. The cars really whizzed past us and some of them came far too close which I am used to from running. As we arrived in Rye we caught sight of the wind turbines and it really was a stunning sight (although I suspect that some people might disagree). As we came out of Rye we went up the steepest hill ever and it was jolly hard work. At one point I had to stifle a giggle as we were going so slowly, and must have looked jolly comical, and it reminded me of a scene from the film 'Babe, Pig in the City' where Mrs Hoggett rides a comedy bike in her search for Babe! Then, instead of heading for home we went off to Hastings, up hills, down hills, cars whizzing past, bumping through potholes (ouch).

By the time we got back home and Paul checked the mileage we had travelled 32 miles. I was pleased that I felt OK afterwards with only a slight stiffness on my quads and more importantly I've overcome my terror of riding in traffic (well, almost).

The first meeting!

Here are Sarah and Paul in a photo taken by my husband, Mike, who is always the leading light in my support team, no matter what I do.

I was very nervous and excited all rolled into one on the morning they first visited. They were due at 12pm so a about 11am I rushed up to the village shop to get a newspaper. As I went through the door there were two strangers, a man and a woman, leaving and I wondered if it could be them. Then I was really worried because the man was about 7' tall and thin as a bean-pole and I wondered how on earth my little legs would keep up with the pedalling!!! So it was a huge relief when they arrived and were normal sized and very nice people too (I knew Sarah would be nice because she likes bunnies!).

After a spot of lunch and a getting-to-know-oneanother session it was time to face the bike. So here it is, the tandem itself. It's not a sight you see every day!

I had no idea what to expect, which is probably just as well. I did know that I was nervous about riding on the road and prayed that there wouldn't be any traffic or neighbours passing by to see me fall off.

Here Mike captured the moment we pedalled off along the lane. After a few yards of not being sure exactly what was going on I settled down a bit and it really wasn't as bad as I expected. We had to ascertain if it would be possible for me to actually sit up and knit whilst pedalling as that was still an unknown so I had to be brave and try it. It was OK and I knew then that we could do it and so our fate was sealed!

How it all began - Susie's Story

I hadn't intended to do any extreme knitting in 2009. Oh no, not me, running the London marathon twice whilst knitting was more than enough! However, the best laid plans of mice and men often change and so it was that an email arrived in my inbox from Paul. He'd contacted me via the Alzheimer's Research Trust as he had a cunning plan - that we could perhaps do a ride on a tandem together with me as "stoker" (that's the person on the back), knitting at the same time.

Well, most sensible people would have read that and thought "don't be ridiculous!" but not me. Instead I read and re-read the email and thought "Hmm, what an intriging idea". I'm not entirely sure what this attitude says about me but I was willing to have a go.

Now there are 3 things you should know about my relationship with bicycles:

i) I hadn't ridden one since I was about 11 years old.
ii) I had never ridden on a road in heavy traffic and the thought scared me to death.
iii) I have never had the slightest desire to become a cyclist let alone cycle whilst knitting!

The other thing that worried me was Paul's reasons for doing this - I've been approached by several people who are attracted to the idea of gaining a Guinness World Record more than to the fund-raising side of things. Whilst the GWR is very nice, it is not my reason for doing the "extreme knitting" stunts. What it does is gain valuable publicity and has given me opportunities to talk about the horrors of dementia.

I was also slightly worried that he might be a great deal younger than me and it would look like a young man pedalling his granny out for a ride!

I fired off an email to him and waited for his reply. Thankfully he sounded nice and ticked all the right boxes so several emails later we realised we had to meet up to see if the idea would work in practice.

How it all began -Paul's Story

Sarah is my partner. One day Sarah told me her father, Ken (shown left), just got back from the doctors having undergone tests, and he had been diagnosed with Dementia, leading to Alzheimer's. Well to be honest, I really did not comprehend what that meant or how things would change for Sarah and her parents. Why didn't I know? This disease is a major life changing event and effects so many people. The reason is, there is so little publicity around it. Unless you directly know someone suffering or being affected, it seems to be totally overlooked. Perhaps because it happens to older people, so I don't need to worry just yet, as I'm still young?

Well we began to research and the news is not good. No cure as yet and a severe lack of funding to help with the level of research needed. We found the ART web site and I was inspired by all the fundraising events taking place and the actions undertaken by this charity. (The first glimmers of hope in an otherwise gloomy future). I wanted to be involved, raise some funds for ART, help them continue the great work. One thing I can do is cycle, being a member of a long distance endurance cycle club. If I could ride to the ends of the earth and back to find a cure or even to give Ken a better chance of normality, I would leave right now!

The longest, hardest ride in the calendar this year is the LEL, (London-Edinburgh-London), that's close enough to the ends of the earth for now. I went back to the ART web site to read more on all the fund raising and amidst all the inspiring events found a link to a extraordinary person, who had run the London marathon, and, knitted a scarf while doing it, and, not just any scarf, a big one. That person is Susie Hewer. The event had put Susie in the Guinness Book of World Records for producing "The longest scarf knitted Whilst Running a Marathon".

In a flash of parallel madness I contacted Susie to see if she wanted a new challenge. While training for the LEL Susie could come along too, on a tandem, perhaps repeating the success of the marathon run and knit another scarf. I waited for a reply, and I guess you now know the answer.

Why will we be doing this. Simple, for Ken, for ART, for all of us, who may one day need or benefit from a cure for an indiscriminate disease, that may already lurk within.

What are we doing? Raising awareness, Raising funds, and Raising Hope.

When, a series of rides to raise awareness with a record breaking event on the tandem. See the dates on our events list.