And for my next trick….

After talking about it for so long, spending every spare hour cycling in training, and sixteen days of pushing myself in the hardest challenge I have ever taken on….it all now seems a little surreal.  I wanted to get back from the trip and get straight on with cycling, but being unable to do anything due to my knee injury makes it feel even more strange.  Get the bus to work instead of cycle?  Sit down in the evening and do nothing?  What??

Going from cycling every day to trying not to even walking too much was hard and made worse by my knee seemingly getting more painful by the day.  I’ve been to the doctors a few times and am assured that nothing is disastrously wrong, but it just needs time to heal.

I was waiting until I was back to being active again so I could blog and say “yay…back on the bike”, but it doesn’t look like that is going to happen any time soon.  This week there seems to be a slight improvement, so I’m going to try a little bit of gentle indoor cycling to see how it holds up, and then take it from there.  The important thing with an injury is not to rush back into activity as soon as it seems to be getting a little better.  However, it is also important not to leave it too long and let all my hard work to get fit go to waste.

Despite the pain, during and after the trip, it has definitely been worth it as I have so far raised £1,142.15 for Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation.  I want to take the opportunity to thank each and every person who donated to this great charity, your support helped me keep pushing and raised a fantastic amount to contribute to the great work they do.  Thank you!

Whilst my knee is healing I have time to think about what to do next.  As my plan for this year was going to be to run a marathon (which I clearly didn’t do after being distracted by the whole 1000 miles of cycling in 16 days malarkey) I would like to start training for that.  Running fitness is very different to cycling fitness, so I have no idea how long it will take me to get ready for that, I may not even be able to do it next year, who knows!  I would also like to keep up with the cycling, possibly join a friendly cycling group if I can find one, and maybe take part in some organised events.

I’ve decided to keep blogging because I found this a great motivator in the preparation for cycling to Switzerland, so you can follow me over at my new blog if you want.

The scariest thing for me recently was my first appointment with the doctor, when he suggested I could do some swimming if I wanted something to do while my knee was healing.  Anyone who knows me well will know that I dislike swimming, mostly due to the fact that I’m a terrible swimmer with an irrational fear of drowning.  A year ago I would have laughed at his suggestion.  A year ago I would have said “no, I don’t like swimming, and I’m not very fit, I wouldn’t enjoy it.”  A few weeks ago, when he said that to me, my first thought was “oooh, maybe I could do triathlons!”.  What has happened to me?  What has happened to the old Jen, the lazy Jen, the ‘occasional sport is quite enough for me’ Jen?

I have no idea where that Jen has gone, but I’m happy she’s left!

The end of 16 days of cycling

Jen’s knee should be okay! That seems like the best place to start. Jen has to rest for a couple of weeks and do some physio on her knee, but all the important bits are still intact and fine. Happy days!

Almost a week ago we arrived in Locarno, and it feels like things have actually become more hectic since then.

Getting off the bike on day 16 was a mixed-bag of emotions, combining joy and satisfaction at achieving what we’ve been working towards for such a long time with a bit of sadness that it was all over.

I’ll admit that the 30 or so hours we spent at my aunt and uncle’s (thanks again Sue, Rico and Ben for being our destination) were long overdue and it was fantastic to be able to play: jumping in the pool, trying to learn to unicycle, and a load of other things which we couldn’t have justified stopping halfway through France to enjoy.

A Swiss-themed arrival party

A Swiss-themed arrival party

The journey home was a lot less pleasant than the ride. Everyone was pretty worn out and ready for home, but towing a trailer meant being limited to 60mph all the way back. We arrived in Bangor around 24 hours after we left Locarno, all ready for bed!

Shocking the body by switching from cycling 8-10 hours per day for 16 days and then doing all the above probably isn’t the most sensible idea, and by Sunday evening before we left I had pulled something in my left foot (admittedly while trying to leap into the pool through a 2′ hoop feet-first with a run up) and a mosquito bite on my right foot left me with a giant, inflated, itchy foot. It was probably the first sign that I am actually quite worn down by the adventure.

What an adventure!

What an adventure! Exciting roads down the Furka Pass to Andermatt

Around the time we finished I was feeling fit, strong and pretty confident that I could have carried on. Over the 16 day cycle I settled into a rhythm and routine which meant I wasn’t wearing my body out too much. Once we had overcome some of the routing issues and the final few days were attainable and programmed in I felt a lot less mentally strained as well. Now we’re all scattered across the UK again the realisation that I need a little rest is dawning on me. Every day by 6pm I feel shattered and ready for bed, and there’s still a lot of unpacking to do as well as all the “nice” things such as returning the Garmin GPS and GoPro to their respective donors (thanks again Blacks, Rob, and Konrad and Sarah). My plan at the moment is to rest my foot as much as possible so I can ride at the weekend, so lugging around the bags and boxes of cycling kit can wait.

Hopefully we'll get to ride together again soon

Hopefully we’ll get to ride together again soon

Having not done anything particularly physical since getting out of the pool on Saturday, I’m eager to get out and do something, and it’s a side-effect of the trip I like. Being physically active is addictive, and now I want to capitalise on my cycling fitness to make the most of Snowdonia and the rest of North Wales, as well as do a couple of bigger day trips including Bangor to Leeds (150 miles).

I'm going to miss having great views every day

I’m going to miss having great views every day

We’re very close to achieving our target, so if you haven’t already, please donate to MS Trust and the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation through JustGiving: http://www.justgiving.com/teams/teampedal. All donations go straight to the charities, whose amazing work hinges on the generosity of its donors.

It’s (almost) all over: arriving in Locarno

I am writing this post from a balcony high above Lago Maggiore, sipping fresh coffee and watching the sun come up on another clear, blue day. There’s no cycling to do today (sad face), but it is nice to have a quiet, relaxing morning after the past 16 days.

Yesterday we set off from Gotthard campsite in Andermatt after spending the evening with Sue and Ben my aunt and cousin respectively. Everyone else had a long, cold night with not much sleep as this was our coldest camp of the trip. I definitely felt lucky (and a little smug) about my Alpkit Pipedeam 400 down sleeping bag with a silk liner which has served perfectly for everything from the hottest summer night in France to an (apparently) cold night in Andermatt.

The long & winding road...again

The long & winding road…again

We have been very lucky with campsites over the past couple of weeks so we were due a duff one, so a word of warning: Gotthard Camping Andermatt is a small patch of grass with the facilities over the main road inside the cable car station. The campsite is a bit of an afterthought, but the facilities were at least clean. I would guess that it’s the only campsite in Andermatt because the lady running the place was pretty rude as well! Fortunately we only stay in campsites to sleep, so it was all soon forgotten as we got on the road. I think the mental and physical anguish from the previous day had worn everyone down because the start wasn’t the most efficient we’ve had. There’s something about setting off for the last day where you almost feel like it’s over so there’s no rush.

Happy to be half-way up

Happy to be half-way up

The climb for Gotthard starts a mile or so from the edge of Andermatt so I had a lighter breakfast (only 4 Weetabix!) and we just carried bananas and water. After yesterday’s ascents of Grimsel and Furka, Gotthard promised to be more straightforward, albeit with a cobbled section. Jen’s knee had improved and she was feeling positive about the last climb, so we all pushed on together. The photos show something of Jen’s determination, and I think her knee was somewhat more painful than she let on.

Struggling up the cobbles

Struggling up the cobbles

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Cobble fun

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Enjoying the climb a bit too much

Near the top of the Gotthard pass we were joined by Ben, who climbed the last couple of hundred metres with us. I think he had a better time than us on the cobbles as he’s got a full-suspension mountain bike!

Relief!  At the top.

Relief! At the top.

How high?

How high?

A hug of relief

A hug of relief

Always eat bananas up mountains

Always eat bananas up mountains

 

The Gotthard pass marked the end of the substantial climbs of the trip, but there was still over 50 miles to go to Locarno so we decided to stay on the main road as it wasn’t too busy. The cobbled path was fine for an ascent, but is a bit too jarring to descent at speed on a road bike. The only down-side to this decision was the 1.6km tunnel early on in the descent. It started as a gallery with an open side, but there is an extended section which is completely enclosed and it quickly became too dark for my sunglasses. Trying to hurtle through as quickly as possible so you aren’t constantly being overtaken is fine, but with nothing protecting my eyes I was soon streaming. I didn’t see a way to avoid the tunnel but use the main road for the descent, but the remaining long straights and picturesque hairpins made our choice a good one. The road surface was generally excellent and allowed a safe build up of speed. I can’t tell Mum, but the GPS clocked over 50mph down one straight, which I think was the same time I was overtaken by a very shiny black Ferrari. It was a shame the GoPro’s battery died after the time-lapse recording of our ascent, because that descent was fun!

Hairpin speeding

Hairpin speeding

Entering the darkness

Entering the darkness

Coming down cautiously

Coming down cautiously

Bending into the hairpin

Bending into the hairpin

Exiting the tunnel

Exiting the tunnel

As we descended towards Airolo we started pausing with the support team more frequently, taking longer breaks, and generally just winding down. Glancing at the GPS showed we weren’t making as good progress as we needed so unfortunately we had to part company with Ben for a short while to get back up to road-bike speeds. Just before we did I swapped bikes with Ben thinking “this will be easy, I’ve been cycling for the past two weeks”, but keeping up with Jen, Meg and Ben on roadies with 1.75″ knobbly tyres and road shoes with cleats on big flat pedals was arduous work and I felt pretty tired when we swapped back – good effort for keeping up with us Ben! Give me drop handlebars any day for long rides.

Lunch break

Lunch break

Weeeeeeeeeeeeee!

Weeeeeeeeeeeeee!

The Team

Almost there…maybe

Megan

Megan

Ryan

Ryan

Riding towards Bellinzona the heat started to feel oppressive. There was a thick cover of cloud and it looked a lot like we were going to get wet before the end. The humidity was right up there and we were more accustomed to a nice dry heat. At one point Jen started feeling dizzy so we had to pause just to make sure noone passed out. That would not have been a good end to the trip!

We were supposed to meet Ben and Sue in Bellinzona so Ben could ride the last section with us but we experienced the first technological failure of the trip: Megan’s phone died and ours were in the support vehicle. In the end we pushed on to Locarno but started feeling a little worried we were going to finish alone.

The stretch between Bellinzona and Locarno had a little sting in the tail and there were plenty of short sharp inclines before we arrived by Lago Maggiore. As soon as we hit the lake it started setting in that we’d made it.

We have finally arrived

We have finally arrived

Sue, Rico and Ben have been amazing and brought down Swiss flags and Union Jack bunting for us to cross the finish with. We must have looked pretty bizarre standing by the Locarno ferry terminal with cameras everywhere snapping away. There was time for a quick ice cream before I headed up the hill with Ben and jumped in the pool, with no intention of getting out before dinner.

Hello Locarno

Hello Locarno

So, what next? We’ve got a few hours before we have to set off on the long drive home, which will take Dad and Chris to Oxford, Bangor, Leeds and the Isle of Wight. There are too many photos and videos to even think about today, so it’ll have to be the pool. What a shame.

This post wouldn’t be complete without a huge thanks to everyone who’s helped us get here. Your donations have helped us raise over £2700 so far for the MS Trust and the Roy Castle Foundation, and the support we’ve received has really blown us away. Most nights we’ve been able to at least read the comments on the blog and Twitter, even if we weren’t able to reply to them, and knowing we had the support of everyone back home has done wonders for our morale and motivation.

 

The only way to sign off this post is with the biggest thanks of all to Dad and Chris. They’ve given up two weeks of “holiday” to set up and dismantle the team tent, feed us, clean up around us, provide us with timely suncream, food and water, provide emergency support when Jen’s knee has been at its worst, and everything else. Every day they were up before us and were working well after we’d arrived back in camp and got sorted out. Without their hard work and continued good humour there’s no way this trip could have succeeded, and running support is often a thankless task (we know we can be pretty demanding!).

Our amazing support team

Our amazing support team

 

The last "Lunge Photo of the Day" moment

The last “Lunge Photo of the Day” moment

Winner of Best Tan Lines Ever is....

Winner of Best Tan Lines Ever is….

 

Day 15 – Interlaken to Andermatt . Grimselpass and Furkapass

Where to start? Today has been the single most challenging day of my entire life. However, reaching the top of both Grimselpass and Furkapass climbing a total of 2,777 metres on a continous incline at gradients varying from 7-10%, has to be the single most rewarding and momentous achievement of my entire life.

There were terrifying, hairy moments with sheer clif drops, big loud scary lorries and huge gusts of winds that shot my nerves to shreds, but having Ryan there with me reassuring me along the way, and constantly encouraging me to press on kept me going until I got to the top. We also had our wonderful support team leapfrogging us up the passes, stopping to take photos of us on the crazy hairpin bends and supplying us with ample water and energy-filled snacks.
There were moments when I questioned whether I could actually reach the top, my legs felt like they might explode and my fear kept creeping up and creating a lump in my throat. (which makes it extremely hard to breathe may I add). Ryan, Jen, Dad and Uncle Chris were all there to cheer me on , and I am so pleased that they half encouraged/ half bullied (Ryan) me to push on. Today, I learnt a whole new meaning of the term “tough love”.
Ryan was absolutely fantastic today, I really can’t stress that enough. Considering he could probably demolish both passes in half the time we did them in, he stuck by me the whole way, pacing me , reassuring me that I could do it and at one point even peeled a banana for me and instructed me how to eat it (As i was too tired and couldnt remember how to!)
After a very hilly start to the day, after we took the route on the opposite side of Lake Brienz. Our intended route was relativly flat, and our actual route turned out to be very hilly. Jen, despite her painful knee, was a trooper, and we had a great average pace which made for a prompt arival at the bottom of Grimselpass. She then became a member of the Team Pedal support team for the duration of the climbs, taking some awesome photos and shouting some much needed encouragment from the windows as they drove past us !
After climbing Grimselpass, we had a short decsent and then climbed Furkapass straight after. After that climb we had the exciting reward of having a welcome party at the top. Our Auntie Sue and cousin Ben, made the journey from Locarno (our final destination) to Furkapass to welcome us !!
After a short decsent to Andermatt (for which I had to sit in the car because my nerves were shot and i was absolutely terrified- the Furkapass roads have the most ridiculous “barriers” i have ever seen in my life)
We have now set up camp in Andermatt and are enjoying our last night of camp before our last day of the trip !

Just a little note – we have just had 2 wonderful strangers, from Wales, knock on our tent and commend us on our venture and offering a donation. The kindness of strangers knows no bounds :)
All in all I would like to say a massive thankyou to Everyone for such wonderful words of support and encouragment.
A huge well Done to my fellow team pedalers, and tomorrow .. let’s go out in style.
St. Gotthards pass then onto Locarno . Ryan , Jen .. let’s do it :) XX

Here’s a few pics ! :

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A rest day after 36 miles to Interlaken

Enthusiastic after a wet start

Enthusiastic after a wet start

Today we cycled from Bern to Interlaken. We woke at 6:30 to cups of tea and the sound of rain. A quick check of the weather forecast revealed a mixed bag. One forecast said it would be light rain today and then thunderstorms for the next two days. yr.no said it would be thunderstorms today, improving for the next couple of days. This left us with a bit of a gamble: do we risk poor weather and do a half day to Interlaken, or push on and attempt the bigggest day of the trip? In the end we opted for a shorter day because Jen’s knees started to play up again.

The ride out of Bern was fairly pleasant. By the time we’d got kitted up and set off it had stopped raining, and pottering around at 12mph wasn’t fast enough to kick up all the standing water. Although we didn’t see the sun for the entire ride, it was a nice change to be cycling in 21 degrees rather than 30. Limiting the ride to just over 30 miles also meant we only needed to stop once for food.

Entering the Bernese Oberland

Entering the Bernese Oberland, our first proper glimpse of the alps

We were supposed to do 32 miles, but a minor detour in Thun took us to a crossing… a rowing boat crossing. Turn around, back into Thun and cross to the right side of the river before pressing on.

The northern side of Thunersee lake is great terrain to ride. There were one or two too many lorries, but gently climbing and descending meant the views were constantly changing.

Around the northern side of Thunersee

Around the northern side of Thunersee, 8 miles from Interlaken

We arrived at Manor Farm campsite before 12:00, the earliest finish of the trip. This campsite has by far the most convoluted pricing system I’ve ever seen, and every pitch has a different price. After setting up we went for a quick swim in the lake before settling in for some last minute photos of the passes to come to get Megan and Jen excited!

The local weather forecast is now that the storms are likely to come in the evenings, so we need an early start tomorrow. This has the added advantage of getting as far as possible in the cool of the morning if the sun does come out.

Descending down to Interlaken, looking forward to a swim in the lake

Descending down to Interlaken, looking forward to a swim in the lake

Catching a local

Catching a local

Looking out over Around the northern side of Thunersee, towards Interlaken

Looking out over Around the northern side of Thunersee, towards Interlaken

We’re in Bern, whoop!

Today I got up and had five Weetabix again. Getting ready for the days ride involves eating a fair amount of food before getting sorted with suncream, lunches, contact lenses and filled bottles. It’s nice once you’re on the bike and don’t have to keep running through a mental to-do list! Last night we got to bed before 9pm, so with nearly 10 hours sleep we all felt pretty rejuvenated and the start was quite prompt.

Climbing out of Delamont

Climbing out of Delamont

Riding out through Delemont in the cool morning air was a nice change from the hot, sticky afternoon air we arrived in. The only hill climb of note was on the far side of the town, leading up through a winding valley before cutting down to Biel.

It was absolutely amazing to start riding in mountainous terrain, and this climb was kind to us and didn’t get too steep. We arrived at the top with an average speed of around 12mph, with only a couple of short breaks (one of which saw Jen attempt to propel a banana skin into the undergrowth only for it to end up perched on a tree branch ten feet directly above us!).

It's getting hot

It’s getting hot

The descent down to Biel had a section of cycle path alongside a fast dual carriageway, which included a couple of tunnels. Perhaps it was the fear, but we made it through at twice our normal speed. We had met a couple of friendly local cyclists at the top, who warned us in advance which helped.

Leaving the hills behind

Leaving the hills behind

The afternoon saw us slow down considerably. It must have been well over 30 degrees and the heat sapped our energy a bit. What was supposed to have been a 2pm finish ended up being closer to 4pm, although we did have to add on a couple of extra miles because our intended campsite didn’t exist!

More strategic planning

More strategic planning

Making good progress near Biel

Making good progress near Biel

 

Today the Garmin Oregon 600 gave us a few problems. It reset itself a couple of times and I ended up doing this at the side of the road:

Programming the GPS

Programming the GPS

As the Internet failed us the other day, here’s a little video I made as we climbed the Ballon d’Alsace a couple of days ago:

We're having a great time!

We’re having a great time!

Hello Switzerland

Day 12

We set off from Bayon this morning all ready to do 51 miles on another half day of cycling. After our triumph yesterday I was very tired and found today a bit of a struggle. We had some nice roads with a few hills in the early morning but this soon became a steady climb upwards the closer we got to Switzerland. On one particular hill I had to stop quite a few times with knee pain and general tiredness – thankfully Ryan and Megan helped me through with encouragement, because I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it.

It was with great relief that we saw the most beautiful sign I had been waiting the last 12 days to see:

A happy sight

A happy sight

We also couldn’t help having a little fun at the border control:

Hello Switzerland

Where are we?

Where are we?

Hello Switzerland

As I’ve been injury-laden for the last 11 days my main focus has been to make it to the Swiss border. I can’t describe the relief I felt when I realised I had made it, but I think the relief drained my remaining energy and the last 15 miles were an arduous slog. Thankfully, after a little more uphill and some beautiful scenery, we had the descent all the way down into Delemont and the campsite.

Making my way through Switzerland...slowly

Making my way through Switzerland…slowly

Winding Hills

Winding Hills

We have now cycled 823 miles, with a total ascent of 13,670 metres. Tomorrow we start our Swiss adventure, with four more days of cycling before we reach the finish line in Locarno.

I couldn’t have reached this far without the support of all my team, Richard, Chris, Megan and espically Ryan have been so wonderful in helping me to rest and nurse my knee injury and to make it through the cycling.

Thank you to everyone who has supported and followed us this far, we only have four days of our journey but these four days include three alpine passes and another ~240 miles of cycling.