A friend with knees is a friend indeed

Team Pedal, complete and in Dover

Team Pedal, complete and in Dover

We’re in France! We weren’t lucky enough to have internet last night so here’s the progress from the past couple of days. Jen and Megan have finally made way for me to write an update, so grab yourself some hot chocolate and settle in for the long haul.

Yesterday was day 5, and the second big day in a row since Jen’s knee went. Things didn’t start particularly well when I realised the route I’d painstakingly planned in on the laptop hadn’t been transferred to the GPS, so I had to organise a new route hunched over the 3″ GPS display. After leaving Blacklands campsite (http://www.blacklandsfarm.co.uk/) (who generously donated to the team and had great facilities) we made a good pace, and our slightly-before-mid-point of Tunbridge Wells drew closer and closer. The route through Sussex and Kent has been picturesque, and it’s a shame we couldn’t spend longer touring around the back roads and checking out the many sights we had to shoot past, but we are on a mission so there’s no time to lose.

We met the support team in Tunbridge Wells and stocked up on suncream and water, as well as giving Jen’s knee a much-needed ice session. While sat at a set of traffic lights someone from a couple of cars back had dashed up to our car, thrust in £20 and said “Good luck!”. There have been so many incidents like this that it’s been a really great experience travelling through the UK and we’ve all been blown away by the support we’ve seen.

Jen pushing on near Folkstone

Jen pushing on near Folkstone

Unfortunately our day took a turn for the worse, and with around 40 miles to go Jen’s knee went on the pain scale from 2 (out of 10) to 8. We were about 3/4 of the way up our second major hill climb, which apparantly gets used for the Tour de France, so limped off the side of the road and took refuge outside the Green Cross Inn (URL). We owe them a pint or two because as soon as we arrived they offered a bag of ice and a teatowel, and didn’t mind at all that we were obviously cheapskate cyclists with our own food. Dad and Chris arrived a couple of minutes later with more Voltarol gel and some giant ibuprofen. When the pain had subsided a little we pushed on, but made (literally) painfully slow progress until 3 miles out of Folkstone when Jen’s knee gave up for the day and brought us to a grinding halt. Anyone struggling to choose who to sponsor should definitely pick Jen (http://www.justgiving.com/Jen-Gallagher1) who’s not just having to do a huge distance each day but is also going through a fair amount of hardship at the same time.

Expert medical aid at the Green Cross Inn

Expert medical aid at the Green Cross Inn

Day 6 has been much easier, and we had time to meet up with Barry, a family friend and who works for Dover Community Radio (http://www.dovercommunityradio.co.uk/). We got a couple of great team photos and a quick radio interview, as well as a long overdue catch up.

We did cheat a little here, and had to jump in the car to get through customs and onto the ferry. We had intended to cycle those 500m, but thought an extra £90 was a little extortionate for such a short distance. We’ll make it up by making a wrong turn somewhere!

Cycling to our current campsite near St Omer was an absolute pleasure. With less than 200m of height gain it was a welcome relief to Jen and we made the campsite in good time, ready for an afternoon off. I did find that leading the group around Calais I was constantly second guessing myself. Am I on the right side of the road? Is this guy going to give way to me? Am I going the wrong way down a one-way street? Once we hit the countryside I was much more relaxed and settled in to a gentle pace. So far French drivers have given us a good wide berth even on busy roads. Maybe it’s a good thing we’ve got English text all over our cycling lycra – everyone just assumes we have no idea what we’re doing and steers clear!

Cycle on the right...

Cycle on the right…

So we’re now 408 miles into the trip, with roughly 680 to go. We have climbed around 1500m most days, totalling 6742m, and have cycled for approximately 55 hours (including stops). With the exception of our start in North Wales it’s been brilliant sun and clear skies, and we’ve cycled through the hottest day of 2013 so far. Fortunately noone’s burned, and we’re building up some excellent (read: ridiculous) tans. So far we’ve had 3 punctures (so far Jen is winning the “best deflation sound” award) and I’m turning them around in under 5 minutes. It was definitely worth the practice.

Pretty much every update we write needs to have a huge thanks to the support team. Chris and Dad have worked tirelessly to make and break camp, keep us fed and watered, shadow us taking pictures and being on hand for emergency calls when injuries need tending to. When they volunteered I’m sure they were under the impression that they’d have hours to kill and could go off on little adventures. Little did they realise they’d be working harder than us!

Tonight we sit here optimistic. There are hurdles ahead and we’re at the behest of Jen’s knee, but the hills for the next couple of days are likely to be fewer and gentler. We have two big days (80-100 miles each) before our next half day.

Nice flat roads in Northern France

Nice flat roads in Northern France

Day 4: Oxford to Horsham

After a half day of rest we went to bed as early as we could to make sure we were refreshed for the day ahead. A quick look at the weather forecast told us it was set to be the hottest day of the year so far, so we wanted to set off early to get a good proportion of our cycling done before the high temperatures started.

As we set off from Oxford at 7.30am I was a little apprehensive about my knee as it still hurt a bit, but we took it slowly as we warmed up.

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Heading through a quiet Sunday morning Oxford

Before too long we were zooming down to Henley, with very little knee pain, and making excellent progress.

Today has really showed us how wonderful our support team is and how much we rely on them. We are so grateful for Chris and Richard, for setting up camp, cooking us dinner, driving all over the country after us to supply top ups of suncream and flapjack. We couldn’t do this without them!

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A quick stop with the support team to rest and ice my knee for a while

Just after lunch we managed to meet up with Pat and Tony (aka Grandma and Grandad) who with Daniel and Kaylie had been driving all over the South of England to try and catch up with us. We wish we could have spent more time with them, but we had to get going to make sure we met our target for the day. Thanks so much to them for coming to see us, and for the bag of treats, the raspberry doughnuts were greatly received

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A much needed treat

There were a few unexpected moments on today’s route, not least the two off road mountain biking moments…. thanks GPS for assuming all bike routes are equally suitable!

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A brief downhill section, right before I did a spectacular crash into a rock and fell off

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Cycle Route? Path? Field? It’s hard to tell!

As the day wore on we did get a bit slower, thanks to my knee which had its occasional momenta of pain. I’m just glad it wasn’t all day pain like yesterday, at least I had some relief for the occasional 20 minutes.

We made it to Lower Beeding, near Horsham which completed our 87 miles for the day. As the campsite we’re staying in is away from the route we didn’t need to cycle all the way there, so Richard picked us up and that was us done for the day.

We’re staying in the brilliant Blacklands campsite, which not only has fantastic facilities, but the lovely owner Keith, hearing of our ridiculous adventure, has made a donation to our charities, thank you!

So now everyone is busy running around preparing everything for tomorrows trip. We’ve planned a 76 mile route which will take us to Folkestone and our UK stint will be done.

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Our spiritual home?

Day 3, to Oxford

Team Pedal Day 3 and we set off early to be driven back to yesterday’s finishing point in Ilmington to cover the remaining miles back to Oxford.  There is something mildly unsettling about being driven away from somewhere you then need to cycle back towards, but that is something we have to face up to on this journey, as we may not always be able to cycle to our destination every day.

Today the plan was to continue through Oxford and head towards Guildford but my knee had other plans.  After a painful day yesterday when I started getting knee pain towards the end of the day, I had hoped a good nights rest would solve it.  Unfortunately not as today’s 35 miles were excruciating.

This early in the trip we need to make the most of the additional days we have set aside for rest.  Whilst our bodies are adjusting to the sudden onslaught we’re putting on them, rest days during this time can be very beneficial for us all.  So we made it back to Oxford after making the Team decision to rest for the afternoon.

It’s important for us to always keep the bigger picture in mind. We have to make it all the way to Switzerland, so it makes little sense to push through injury and potentially make it worse.  If I pushed myself through injury and couldn’t even make it across France I would be very disappointed.  Currently my knee is drugged up, bandaged up, raised up and iced up – all this will hopefully make it better tomorrow and ready to do the next 80 miles.  We’re all optimistic that our afternoon of rest will refresh us all and allow the Team to push on further.  The last two days have been very hard, but we’re all still determined and committed, spurred on by the great support we’re receiving from everyone.

And finally, a little light relief, from today’s journey…

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I just couldn’t resist a photo opportunity when we cycled past

Day 2; Shrewsbury to Ilmington

So today , after adjusting to morning-campsite life, we set off cycling a little late. We got half way out of the campsite down a hill when I (Meg) found that one of my brakes was squealing alarmingly, i turned around to have them checked out. initial hiccup out of the way we had a few steep hills for breakfast. After a particularly long hill with a cheeky 14% incline popped into it, we had thoroughly woken up . The scenery has been beautiful today, its fair to say the rolling green hills and quaint towns of Shropshire are stunning to cycle through. England has actually blessed us with glorious summery weather with the sun has been beating down on us. It’s lovely weather and we couldn’t ask for better riding conditions however we welcomed the shade on our several pit stops. 

We cycled 75 miles today, nearing about a third of the way  of the U.K chunk of our adventure. We then drove a further 30 miles to stay at Jen’s house in Oxford. We will be returning to Ilmington bright and early to set off from there tomorrow. 

So what with Ryan’s puncture yesterday and Jen’s today..I guess tomorrow will be my turn. Let’ hope i avoid any deep potholes! 

My brain is now gradually turning off considering that we’ve been up since 7.30am, cycled 75 miles and eaten a portion of pasta suitable for a small family. So I may mention a few things, and post a few photos, but no coherent sentences from now. 

-we have passed 4 dead badgers on our travels, it’s very sad.

-we entered a sliproad onto a dual carriageway before realising the mistake, that was interesting.

-I have an uncanny knack for getting my kit covered in suncream and dead flies, and also my right calf gets covered in bike grease from the chain. Thus I am lovingly known as the scruffy one of the team. Let’s hope that I can try to look slightly cooler when arriving in Switzerland. 

Until tomorrow, here’s some pics from today. And tomorrow’s post will be done by Either Ryan or Jen so you wont have to read me rambling again ! 

There will also be a video posted tomorrow for your entertainment. 

 

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Day 1 – Bangor to Shrewsbury

So it’s the end of day one .
90 miles done from Bangor in North Wales to Shrewsbury in Shropshire.
We are currently sat around camp discussing tomorrow’s route and checking over the bikes .
We were very lucky with the weather today, aside from setting off in gloomy rain and strong winds this morning.
It started out a bit minging, and having not cycled in a whole week , the first hills were a little tough with the wind and rain to slow us down.
We headed down the A5 through Betws -y-coed and Pentrefoelas before reaching Whittington .
Apologies .. But hectic evening , settling into daily team pedal life has taken its toll. We’re all tented up and heading to sleep 10pm! Blogging will be more interesting , thorough and overall better in the days to come .
We’re all well. Optimistic and excited for the ride to Oxford tomorrow !
Goodnight !

Thanks, a last minute appeal, and GoPro testing

On Thursday we set off for our 1000 mile cycle to Switzerland. We’ve made good progress with sponsorship but we still need a bit more to reach our targets so spread the word and gently coerce everyone into helping out!

We’ve been helped along the way by too many people to list, and we haven’t even set off yet, so if you’ve provided technical assistance, gadgetry, donations, moral support or even just friendly banter: cheers! Your reward is getting to see me looking silly for a couple of minutes… enjoy:

Shiny new old bike

Now it’s starting to get scary, I can’t believe the time is almost here and there are only 10 days left before we go.

This week both Ryan and I had to contend with the difficulty of how to deal with injury.  On Tuesday my knee make a horrible unnatural crunching sound whilst at work, which made it very painful to cycle at all.  Being this close to the start of the journey to Switzerland it’s hard to know what to do.  Obviously with a minor injury it’s important to take some rest time, but how much time?  Last week was the last proper week of training as now we’re winding down in preparation for the big day and more training was essential, but to run the risk of making an injury worse and being unable to even start the trip would be crazy!

I took some of the week off to rest my knee, but I still got plenty of vital things done instead…like building my new bike so that I actually have something to ride on the trip.

A quick recap for those who aren’t aware, my old bike which I’ve been using for years and for all the training so far, is actually too large for me.  Although this does not cause many problems day to day, on anything more then a 50 mile ride I have a lot of back pain due to having to stretch too far to reach the handlebars.

Finally I decided I could not risk taking this bike to Switzerland so I bought a new frame.  Thankfully Ryan was available this week and is also quite handy with a torque wrench, so on Thursday night I drove to Wales and we spent most of the weekend destroying one bike and building a new one.  Rather then bore you with the technical details, here is a pictorial representation of the journey:

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Before…a perfectly good and reliable bike, just not quite right for me.

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Bring stripped of all vital parts

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Checking the gears are all still there

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Brakes all in working order..hopefully

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The finished product. Brand new frame….borrowed everything else.

And because it now seems mandatory to have a photo of my looking silly with a bike:

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Just an excuse for Ryan to take a photo of his car!

I am very happy with the final result and the bike is already a lot more comfortable to ride then the old one.  Although I am slowing down the training over the next week I still need to go out and use the bike lots to make sure everything is in working order, so I’ll be getting out a few times this week.

The only thing left is to decide on a name for the bike.  I’m informed by Ryan that the First Rule of Bike Club is that a bike must have a female name, and you don’t get to name it yourself.

I have reliably informed Ryan that I don’t care about the First Rule of Bike Club, or what he or anyone else calls it, my new bike is called Felipe….

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Surely…anyone can see the similarities between my new vehicle and Felipe’s?