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.