As part of Cundall’s commitment to 40,000 hours of volunteering for our 40th anniversary, I decided to take part in a Manchester to Blackpool night ride for the British Heart Foundation.
While on holiday on the sunny Balearic islands in July 2016, a friend of mine passed me an ice cold can of Estrella and said “Are you in?”. The answer, of course, was “yes”, without realising they were talking about anything other than a refreshing beverage.
It turned out that the topic of the conversation was more about whether I’d be joining them in an epic challenge in May 2017 of cycling 200 miles in two days to raise awareness and much needed funds for the Sam Keen Foundation. More on that challenge in another blog…
I rarely cycled to work, but at the beginning of September a friend jokingly suggested I join her on a “little” bike ride one night. I was surprised to learn that “little” meant Manchester to Blackpool and “at night” meant a midnight start.
After much deliberation, I decided it would be good training and I made the first tentative steps into new bike ownership and with less than three weeks to go I had a bike, however with no handlebar or pedals attached. It was then about time to get my training schedule up and running. Three weeks was plenty of time, or so I thought.
07/09/16 – Attached pedals, quick 10 miler around town and immediately understood this is not as easy as anticipated.
08/09/16 – Keen to keep up the momentum, I quickly realised people weren’t joking when they were suggesting padded shorts – cycled to and from a friend’s house without using the saddle. My legs didn’t enjoy the experience the day after.
12/09/16 – Cycled to Bury. I’d never been to Bury. It’s all downhill home.
14/09/16 – No training – it was sunny = beer garden.
15/09/16 – No training – it was pleasant = BBQ.
16/09/16 – No training – it was a Friday… Pub quiz followed by pub crawl (for charity of course).
17/09/16 – No training – it was a Saturday… Lunch followed by some drinks at Tiki bar until the early hours seemed more fun.
18/09/16 –The guilt caught up, it was time for a long ride. What could be better than Hartshead Pike for sunset? The only slight problem was not knowing the way. It was a lengthy ride at 23-miles but I definitely didn’t catch site of the Hartshead Pike Tower (or the sunset)!
Now, into the final week running up to the big day and having not even managed half the distance in training, I thought, for the first time ever, “how about Bicycle Polo?” It seemed like fun at the time (maybe not sensible) but I thought: “yeah, why not!” What I didn’t expect was the thigh burning result the next day (and the next).
So the big night was upon us, my trusty support-driver and I turned up at the Trafford Centre meeting point, only to be greeted with a refreshing drizzle on an autumn Manchester night:
Registration – check.
Final inspection of bike – check.
Drinks – check.
Cundall T-shirt – quickly grab it for the obligatory photo, check!
We were summoned to start in waves. As I waited in Barton Dock surrounded by lycra clad semi-pro looking cyclists and their carbon fibre bikes, I found solace with the few on folding bikes, some with baskets, and some old bikes covered in LEDs. Perhaps I was not the least prepared for this – physically anyway.
The ride itself started off all uphill and then the skies opened. What a cold, windy and rainy night to take to the roads with only two wheels, a bike light and a tiny saddle for comfort. When I had reached the furthest distance I had ever cycled , negative thinking started to go through my mind but I just kept on turning those wheels until I reached the flat straights of Lytham.
Each small incline was greeted with a sigh however my mood was soon taken over by the sight of the Blackpool illuminations lights right up until the passing under the famous Blackpool tower in all its glory!
3hours and 15minutes of cycling later, I collected my medal and took time to reflect on the 52-miles. The skies opened one last time with such a force it was time to run for cover and dive into the open café nearby for a well-deserved coffee and bacon sandwich – after all I had a long wait until my support-driver caught up with me, it was 4:30am and he was still asleep in Manchester.
Thank you to all those who made such generous donations to the British Heart Foundation which made it all worthwhile. I am sure there will be more pain for me over the coming months as I plan to continue training over the winter for the next bike challenge.