My big challenge for 2018 is to cycle from Land’s End to John O’Groats, not only for the personal challenge of cycling from one end of the country to the other, but also to raise money for Alzheimer’s Research and do my bit to try and help them find a cure for this terrible disease.
So LEJOG is something that has been on my mind for some time, probably since seeing some of my Warwick Tri Club friends complete the challenge back in 2013. As the years have gone on since my last fundraising effort for Alzheimer’s back in 2013 (The 10k Jubilee River Swim organised by the wonderful team at MySportingTimes), my Grandma, Gookey’s, dementia has worsened, to the point where she was moved into a home last summer. Her journey into dementia has been horrible to see. It’s been so hard seeing the Gookey we know, and love disappear, while there is absolutely nothing that we or anyone else can do to help. I’ve been thinking for some time that I needed to do something to try and make a difference, to raise some awareness and money to help find a cure for this cruel disease. The tipping point for me was when I went to see Gookey on her birthday last December and for the first time she didn’t know who I was. Yes, I knew this would be coming, but it doesn’t make it any easier when I know someone who has always been such a vital part of your life no longer knows you to be pleased to see you.
With no cure or treatments for dementia, I know there is nothing we can do that will bring the old Gookey back, but I can do my best to try and help further the research for a cure and raise awareness of this disease in her name. So, I had my cause, and my challenge in mind, now just to find a way to make it possible.
I was looking for a summer Land’s End to John O’Groats trip, preferably 10 or 12 days (it does have to a challenge!). As someone with no sense of direction, who isn’t particularly fond of spending a lot of time on her own, and in recognition that while this might be my dream, but not necessarily that of my cycling friends, I needed to find an organised and supported trip, where I could join a group of similarly-minded people. Lots of research later, I wasn’t getting very far, with trips either clashing with my pre-booked races, taking too many days, costing too much money or being restricted to certain charities. Luckily, I started chatting about how I wanted to do it on a club ride and was recommended to have a look at Great Bear Tours by Rob who had already done several trips with them and was going back for more.
Coming from a family of bear lovers, with so many fond memories of helping to decorate Gookey & Grandpa’s teddy bear Christmas tree the name couldn’t have been more apt and I was excited to discover that they had a 12 day trip going in June. After a little consideration and reflection over Christmas I signed up, sent my deposit and started thinking about what I needed to do to get ready.
The Build Up
I think that the most successful / worthwhile element of my LEJOG training was trying to get out on the bike both days every weekend. Happily, Philippa had introduced me to VC Jericho a very friendly Oxford-based cycling club in the Autumn who ride on a Saturday morning. These rides consistently push me and combined with the OxfordTri club rides on a Sunday have really helped me improve as a cyclist. The other thing I did, partly spurred on by a very cold winter, was a spend A LOT of time on the turbo doing various FTP booster sessions on Zwift. Sadly, while I thought that sweating through each of these sessions was going to make me into an amazing cyclist, I think they just made my legs constantly tired, especially as most days I turboed I was also doing another session, be that a run or a swim. I just wanted to be good enough for the bike trip of a lifetime and meet my running goals too!
I cycled all over the Easter weekend, which was pretty punishing in bad weather and finished feeling less prepared than I had at the start. Then from mid-April injury hit and cycling became painful as I put pressure down through the pedals. I was genuinely worried that I might not be able to do it. I got some more training rides in, including a club ride followed by a lovely ride home in the sunshine totalling 100miles in the weeks leading up the trip and felt more confidence growing and got the OK from my physio to go ahead and get on with it on the condition that I had three weeks’ solid rest when I got back. The bags were packed, the fundraising was in full swing, now I ‘just’ had to cycle the length of the country.