Cycle Challenge Day 6

This morning was the first during this challenge when I have felt stiffness in my legs and it was an effort to get myself going today. It was even more of an effort, after a full day’s work, to start on the bike. It was TV all the way with the regular fare of Pointless, The Chase and The One Show, followed by the build up and first few minutes of the England match v Brazil. After about an hour and a half and 45-50 km, it was at best a grind and I pushed myself a bit harder just to get to around 80 km in order to keep the distance required down to 250 km in three days. That should be manageable but I will be glad now when it’s all over. A big effort needed and some deep digging to do. In other news, chicken and beans for tea, which apparently was Alan Shearer’s pre-match meal of choice.

Day 6 Distance: 81 km (50.3 miles)

Total Distance: 554.4 km (344.5 miles)

Where am I on the London to Glasgow route: In the southern outskirts of Carlisle, in Cumbria. The kids of CiN apparently went through hell today in the wind, cold and rain and up a number of steep peaks. They somehow managed to close the gap on me to a mere 17.5 miles. Hats off to them; they probably had it harder than me.


Image result for pictures of carlisle england

Watching The One Show today was truly emotional as the stories of a couple of the riders were played out, highlighting how fortunate most of us are in our own lives. You’ll hear this time and time again this week, but…….please donate whatever you can:


Cycle Challenge Day 5

Our gym was built when we converted our garage about seven years ago. It is a fairly small affair with a cycle, rowing machine, bench and weights, and a vibro exercise plate. The gym lies largely unused for long periods in between spells of high activity, but it is being tested to the full at present, or at least the bike is. After work today, I was in the gym by just after 5:30pm and the temperature reading was a frisky 6 degrees Celsius.

It soon warmed up as I trundled away steadily, belting out a bit of Bon Jovi after 10 km. I was halfway there but not really living on a prayer. At the start of proceedings, with a little more than 400 km to go in 5 days, it doesn’t take a career statistician to tell you that that is around 80 km per day. I would be more than happy to leave myself a bit more on the Friday if I have to.

I am really in the rhythm now and this is becoming part of a routine, though not routine enough for it to be too easy. Make no mistake, this is damned hard and I am gradually becoming slightly more reticent to start off each day. The Land’s End to John O’Groats walk is in a different league, but of all the other challenges this one feels to be the hardest since it is sustained over a number of days and the need to do a lot of the legwork on top of a day at work. The 100 km walks were very hard but mostly in recovery than during the events when adrenaline was everything.

Today, the contestants won the jackpot on Pointless (BBC), didn’t win the jackpot on The Chase (ITV+1), but England won their own jackpot of The Ashes at The Oval (DVD+8 years). Tomorrow, there is the England football team playing, so yes, er, really something to which to look forward to watching.

Day 5 Distance: 81 km (50.3 miles)

Total Distance: 473.4 km (294.2 miles)

Where am I on the London to Glasgow route: Crosthwaite, a small parish in the heart of the Lake District, around 5 miles west of Kendal. Crosthwaite has a population of around 600 and a median age of 51, so (if you’re reading this after about 8pm) most of them are in bed by now. There is a nice church. Meanwhile, the kids of BBC CiN are a full marathon (26.2 miles) behind in Morecambe. Take that, suckers! They may well catch me up on Day 8, I reckon, but we will all be happy families in Glasgow at the end of Day 9.


A stone church tower, on a sunny winter morning.

Details of the BBC Children in Need Rickshaw Challenge are in the following link. Please be encouraged to donate whatever you can:

Cycle Challenge Day 4

I must say that I surprised myself today. After doing the weekly shopping this morning, I settled down in the afternoon in front of Columbo (5 USA – Freeview Channel 21 – has three episodes every Sunday afternoon) and cycled away. I didn’t bear too many aches or scars from yesterday’s marathon effort and in a bit under two and a half hours managed 75 km. An hour break and some light sustenance saw me well, ready for the final 2009 Ashes Test, and my legs took me another 59 km. I felt remarkably fresh but I stopped just as I was starting to slow down a trifle (who put that trifle there?!?) and England had got themselves into a winning position at the end of the third innings. So there is a bit left for me to watch after work tomorrow.

Today may be the key day. I am almost halfway and still not suffering too much, with the last two days taking a big clump out of the 500 miles that I need to complete before the end of Friday. One of my key tasks is to ensure that I have good TV or DVD viewing material for the following five days. It makes an enormous difference in passing the time in what is essentially quite a dull and boring task, just cycling for about 24-26 hours. At least when I am out walking, there are interesting things to see and decisions to make about the route. Writing a blog about sitting in the gym for three or four hours on any one day tests the creativity of the mind. But I am enjoying the challenge – so far. I can appreciate the fitness in my legs and a bit in my shoulders too.

Day 4 Distance: 134 km (83.3 miles)

Total Distance: 392.4 km (243.8 miles)

Where am I on the London to Glasgow route: Fulwood, which is a suburb (population around 33 thousand) just north of Preston. Fulwood Barracks is the home of the Queen’s Lancashire Regiment, and has a museum dedicated to the Regiment. Meanwhile, the BBC CiN riders are stuck in Salford, 32.8 miles behind.


Fulwood Barracks - - 137790.jpg

Details of the BBC Children in Need Rickshaw Challenge are in the following link. Please be encouraged to donate whatever you can:

Cycle Challenge Day 3

After getting far behind where I wanted to be yesterday, it was not exactly do or die now but Saturday and Sunday have to be the days for the big moves prior to the working week.

It was a tough Friday and a late night getting to sleep. An early morning delivery led to an earlier rise than I would have liked, and then some physical effort in the chores that followed, prior to thinking about getting into the gym and on the bike. Once in the saddle, it was a hard graft for just over an hour and a half for 50 km and I felt pretty drained. I decided to take a long break and had a lie down in the afternoon, with some sleep here and there while listening to Pompey’s eventful win at Blackpool. Drifting in and out of consciousness is perhaps the best way when Pompey are playing, even at the best of times. But the rest had done me good, and a generous bowl of pasta with various vegetables, sausages and cheese gave the impetus to start riding again in the early evening.

A really fine session, accompanied by Strictly and then some more 2009 Ashes (1-1 with only the Oval Test to come), found me with such improved mood and energy, and I was feeling ok even after another 80 km in two and a half hours. So that was a personal best 130 km in the day, over 80 miles, and a satisfyingly large chunk out of the challenge. I had hoped to be about halfway, 400 km or thereabouts, at the end of Sunday and I might be not too far off that. Workdays will be hard – I won’t be able to kick off until the early evening and then have to go to work the next day. But that is the nature of the beast; it wouldn’t be a challenge if it wasn’t, er, a challenge.

Day 3 Distance: 130 km (80.8 miles)

Total Distance: 258.4 km (160.6 miles)

Where am I on the London to Glasgow route: Stone, Staffordshire. A lovely market town with the Trent and Mersey Canal passing through it. The population of the town is 16,385, according to the 2011 Census. The BBC CiN riders are just about in the same county, resting tonight in Cannock, a full 18.6 miles behind. They of course have the advantage of not having to go to work from Monday to Friday…….


Details of the BBC Children in Need Rickshaw Challenge are in the following link. Please be encouraged to donate whatever you can:

Cycle Challenge Day 2

Ah, the plans of mice and men. Unfortunately, today’s ride had to be curtailed after just short of 50 km. I won’t go into detail here, but some things are too important to take second place behind messing about in the gym.

England won the 2nd Ashes Test of 2009 at Lord’s as I cycled on Day 2 of the cycle challenge. At the time, I must have been so engrossed in the cricket but I could remember little about the circumstances, scores and performances apart from that England did win. My memory was jogged at times but the series was not so classic as either 2005 or 2010/11, both of which have lived far longer for me. The cycling itself was fairly steady and non-eventful, just as I want it to be, and no real sign yet of physical difficulty. There were good reasons for falling behind my own planned progress, but there is still time to make that up.

Day 2 Distance: 49.4 km (30.7 miles)

Total Distance: 128.4 km (79.8 miles)

Where am I on the London to Glasgow route: Drayton, Northamptonshire, a small hamlet just north west of Banbury, and with a rather small village green (called a ‘village green’ despite being a hamlet). The BBC CiN riders are on my tail, in Banbury, but I am flaunting the yellow jersey, with a 2.8 mile lead. I have some work to do over the rest of the weekend to keep that lead over those pesky kids.

Drayton school and green 22nd Jan 2008 (2).JPG

Tough days ahead, I expect. But the challenge is only mirroring that of the BBC Children in Need Rickshaw Challenge. I’m not collecting anything myself but please feel free and encouraged to donate to their challenge. Details here:

Day 3 tomorrow……

Cycle Challenge Day 1

So this is the first day of 9 on the bike, and 500 miles (804.7 km) to cycle. Quite daunting.

Following my 3 days and 310 km weekend, I felt drained on the Monday, going to bed just before 9pm, and know that I need to look after myself. Speed is not of the essence and if I need to have a more gentle pace, so be it. Days 3 and 4 may well see me have two or three shorter sessions rather than one long trawl. I have received very valuable advice on various aspects from more than one friend – on nutrition, hydration and ‘saddle-soreness’ – and on the hydration side, supply of tablets to help with replacement of essential salts during the ride. I am expecting to fit in a bit more pasta than I normally would and be sensible with rest and sleep.

Yesterday morning, I weighed myself and found I was 8 pounds lighter than three weeks ago. These next few days may be the exercise version of Slim Fast, even though I should be eating more. It can feel hard to eat that much too soon after intense exercise, so it will be about eating the right food and drinking sufficiently between sessions.

Day 1: I had a full day at work today and was unable to leave quite as early as I had planned and it was only just before 6pm when I was able to make a start. The 2009 Ashes series will form the backdrop DVD for the early days of this challenge and I was comfortable enough, certainly more comfortable than England were in gaining a miraculous draw at Cardiff from not just the jaws of defeat but the upper oesophagus (a word which, incidentally, I managed to spell correctly on a first attempt). The time passed reasonably well. The Children in Need riders have only a short ride today – around 14 miles, so I am the current holder of the yellow jersey.

Day 1 Distance: 79 km (49.1 miles)

Total Distance: 79 km (49.1 miles)

Where am I on the London to Glasgow route: Quainton, just west of Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire. Nice windmill, which towers over the village of population around 1,200. The BBC CiN riders are still in North London. I have a 35 mile lead.Quainton_UK_1

Tomorrow, a shortish day at work and I will be looking for three figures, in kilometres that is. But let’s see how it goes.


Tour de France? Really?

Well, I guess have had some absolutely unworkable ideas for challenges before. Walking around Iceland, on the main road route, was just possible except for the massive expense in a very expensive country; but walking across Australia, for someone who hates camping, was not at all even remotely possible. This latest challenge, matching the mileage of the BBC Children In Need Rickshaw Challenge cycle over the same period, is a really tough one, though I think it is doable. However, in discussion last week a friend suggested that (paraphrasing) “after this one you could do the same for the Tour de France”. I looked at them and realised that they were serious. I was at pains to point out that I am attempting to match the efforts of half a dozen disadvantaged young adults / children, albeit not all cycling the whole distance, but it is 500 miles or 804.7 km over a period of 9 days. The Tour de France, though not the same distance every year, is around 3,500 km over 23 days. Either I have pushed the barriers so far that people think that I can do anything, or they didn’t know just how far the Tour is. After all, these are professional cyclists at the peak of fitness, quite possibly the fittest sportsmen on the planet, at least for a short period. No wonder a few of them need to take performance enhancing drugs.

500 miles in 9 days is going to be tough enough. Like the best challenges, I am not absolutely sure I will be able to achieve it. This is the final weekend before it starts in earnest – next Thursday – and to be quite frank, I could do with another couple of weeks to build up cycle fitness more gradually as opposed to the mad rush in the past month. So, what is the story this week:

Friday: 100 km (62 miles) in 184 minutes. After six hours at work without a proper lunch break, eating ‘al desko’, I came home, had some cereal, toast and a snack bar. This was the toughest session so far but slightly quicker than the same distance last weekend. I did need to have a couple of breaks for salty snacks as I felt short of energy after about 50 or 60 km.

Saturday: 110 km (68.5 miles) in 201 minutes. Much better prepared and I still felt as if I had plenty more miles left when I finished, though I was getting tired. Lots of milk before and after, and it was simply more relaxing than Friday. I didn’t commit to cycling on the Sunday, only to see how I was in the morning.

Sunday: 100 km (62 miles) in 191 minutes. Brilliant. I was not bothered in the slightest that I was 7 minutes slower than on Friday. The distance was everything today. Getting quite saddle sore near the end.

So 310 km (192.5 miles) over 3 days. Not Tour de France but certainly very happy with that and a frisson more confidence. The strategy next week will be to build up a lot of distance early on, especially Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Without setting specific distances for each day, I would hope very much to be over halfway in the first four days, with the need to have lighter sessions on Monday and Tuesday, with greater work commitments on those days. It might be a heavy last day or two and it will be a relief to finish, that’s for sure. I can already feel it in my thighs and calves.

Why am I doing this? Well, I love a challenge. It doesn’t need to be for charity or monetary gain to be worth it. This is good for me, my fitness, mental health and feeling good about myself, and will be a decent achievement. Ask any serious athlete and their response will be similar. I remember at college when I attempted the Times crossword most days, one friend couldn’t understand why because the prize was only a big dictionary, thesaurus or similar. It was the challenge and as an indirect help in other aspects of my life, building up vocabulary, or whatever, I can’t think of the words to express it. However, this particular challenge is mirroring the Rickshaw Challenge and if and when you think of me doing this, or read this blog, simply consider donating a little spare cash to the real heroes here:

I will keep you updated on my own progress. I expect I will be ahead of the BBC CIN cyclists since their opening day is much shorter than the rest, but they can revel in my slipstream for a while……