This is a tough post to write, I’ve hung on to this ride by my fingernails for months now and today I slipped off. I’m ashamed to say it but my Jogle has now been postponed until next June. I think if you read the rest of this post you will understand why.
Last August we finally moved back into our restored home after the repairs had been made after the fire. Being out of our home and the daily battles with the insurance company and the builders was extremely stressful. The fire didn’t just last for that fateful night, it lasted months for us. In fact considering I answered the door this morning to the builders so they could rectify a serious error with a window installation; it’s still going on. Anyway, we were back home, such a relief to finally have some stability and normality return to our lives. I think that relief lasted around a week.
I had worked for an Architects for the previous three years, they were funding my university course and I loved the job, I had invested my future in them. The recession has hit the construction industry hard, we had done exceptionally well to make it as far as we had, but crunch time had arrived and we were placed on half hours. This wasn’t an insurmountable problem, working one of the days from home and paying less tax meant it was just about affordable, and I was happy to do my bit to help out the company. At the end of August I was paid half the money I was due and that wasn’t close to being affordable. At the end of September I got the other half, but none of September’s. In the eight months between August and when I was finally made redundant in April I received a little over £2000 in wages, my mortgage alone over that period isn’t far from double that. As you can imagine it was tough going.
After the fire I wasn’t in a good place psychologically. Nearly dying will do that to you. This, the job I loved, falling in to ruin broke me completely. I’m am not ashamed (and no one should ever be) to admit that I was cast into a deep deep depression. In fact the biggest thing that was keeping me sane was my efforts to get fit for this ride.
A week after being made redundant I received some pretty devastating news that will have to remain private, and at the same time I undertook one of the biggest life shifts possible which will also have to remain private. The end of last year and the beginning of this year marks some of the worst months of my life.
To compound this my cycling partner Steve had to pull out of the ride because of a knee injury that wouldn’t be fixed in the near future. I wasn’t going to let that stop me, despite a few doubts about going solo, I owed it to the Red Cross to carry on regardless.
At the start of June and after somehow passing this year at Uni I managed to get a job with my local county council working on their temporary register. It was great to be working again and my first placement was really enjoyable, so much so I applied to make it permanent. Unfortunately due to someone being made redundant taking priority I found out on Monday that I had been unsuccessful despite being the person they wanted for the job. When I first took on the role the intention was that I would finish this placement on the 17th September, I’d then take two weeks holiday to do the Jogle before starting a new placement.
I discovered today that my placement would end on the 3rd of September. I’ve a number of options available to me, but none of them give me the space to do my Jogle when I’d planned and I can’t do it at any other time this year. When factoring all the other issues resulting in me being not in the right head space to do it now, it is with a heavy heart that I have had to postpone.
My motivation to do it is stronger than ever, reading my fellow cyclists journeys this year has made me very jealous of the experience. I can’t wait to do it, but I also want to enjoy it, and I know in my present situation I wouldn’t. Things are on the up for me, but I need a little more time. Sorry.
We have two cats. Now, as with most cats we have a number of cat toys that are largely ignored whilst they play and attack everything in the house that they shouldn’t do. Actually that’s not fair, one of the cats is very well-behaved, the other….well…anyway, ever since he was a kitten he has had a very close and unusual relationship with one of his toys, a rather odd-looking creature that thanks to its webbed feet and beak has been christened “Duckie”. Gizmo’s favourite activity with Duckie is to hold him in his mouth on the floor and just sit there for minutes at a time whilst twitching his ears, we call this “Duckie-Time”. It’s a serious relationship, Duckie was lost for a few days recently, and the look of unbridled joy on Gizmo’s face when they were reunited was a beautiful sight. Now you may be wondering why on a cycling blog I am talking about this bizarre relationship betwixt cat and toy, and you’d be right, this has nothing to do with the blog, the ride or even the point of this post. This post is about an entirely different Duckie.
I hope you’ve noticed I’m riding on behalf of the British Red Cross, there is even a lovely Just Giving link just to your right where you can kindly donate (hint hint). Hopefully by the end of the ride a whole ton of money will have been raised for them, however I have recently discovered a way that I can use the ride to spread awareness of something very close to my heart at the same time. My partner Vicky suffers from a condition called Fibromyalgia, which if you are unaware, is a particularly nasty illness with no cure which causes constant and often severe pain, serious fatigue and a number of other symptoms. It was because of this I became aware of Fibroduck and their mission to spread awareness of Fibromyalgia in the best way possible, with a smile. So I proudly introduce the latest member of the team – Duckie!
Fibroduck are trying to get 1 million ducks sent around the world and photographed in places you wouldn’t normally see a duck, because, well I’ll leave them to explain….
“This is the information on the awareness page of website FMA explaining why the ducky aptly fits the campaign for raising awareness: Before developing Fibromyalgia they were hard working, fiercely independent people.
After Fibromyalgia their pain and fatigue prevents them from performing many of the tasks they took pride in. They have to rely on others everyday and stress about the things all around them that have to go undone. They are forced to live a life that is alien to them – like a duck out of water.
The duck can survive on land but its movement isn’t quick and fluent the way it is in water. So the challenge is to draw attention to Fibromyalgia by using the duck in places a duck wouldn’t usually go.”
So Duckie will be coming along for the ride, and is sure to encounter plenty of places a duck wouldn’t usually go, and hopefully a little awareness for this horrible illness will be created as we go. Please visit the Fibroduck website, and maybe even get your own Duckie, they’re free! (with just a small amount of postage)
This week a small milestone was past, 200 miles cycled since the 5th Jan 2010, and half of that was achieved in just the last week, bolstered somewhat with a 45 mile round trip to my mum’s last Sunday. That’s my longest single ride so far and by the end I felt surprisingly good, and even the next day I wasn’t too stiff which is a good sign. When I think back to how I felt the first time I cycled just 15 miles and how awful I felt after that I’m really starting to see the benefits of all the training.
It also gave me a good taster what the real ride will be like and it seems very achievable. (not that I want you to underestimate how difficult it will be when you are making that very kind donation…….) I spent a total time of 4 hours to do the 45 miles, and considering we’re hoping to cycle 50-80 miles a day that seems a quite realistic target.
Now to work towards the next major ride, which will be a trip to see my fellow cyclist in London, a 70 mile trip and then cycle back the next day, but I’ve a little more to do before I can sensibly manage that trip.
(A prize of my respect goes out to anyone who spots the reference for this post’s title – and if you use Google you’re only cheating ;) )
Just a quick post this one, and please excuse the rather gushing title but given recent events it seems like an appropriate time to post few words on the charity that will benefit from my exertions.
I follow the British Red Cross through Twitter, and also have been reading their blog (links to both can be found to your right) and I strongly recommend you have a look as they really show what a far-reaching and fantastic job they do, whether helping out with the recent floods, providing 4×4 ambulances during our snowy winter, rebuilding peoples lives after the Boxing Day Tsunami, helping people like me out after fires and so much more.
Which brings me to the real reason for this blog posting. If you have read a newspaper (with one exception…) or seen or heard a news report you’ll be aware of terrible events in Haiti, and naturally the Red Cross are there doing what they do, and here raising the funds so they can pay to do what they do. So if you haven’t already please visit http://www.redcross.org.uk/emergencysite/default.aspx?id=88916 to give what you can afford and help them continue to be pretty amazing.
Edit – The good people at the DEC have provided me with a banner which I’ve placed on this site, you can also donate here (The Red Cross are one of the members of the DEC). The banner and link above have been provided directly to me from the British Red Cross so you can feel safe in donating through them, but be aware there are some nasty people profiteering from this disaster so only donate to trusted sites. You can also text in the UK “Give” to 70077 which costs £5 plus your standard message rate of which £5 goes to the DEC, though I’d recommend going through the web or phone donation so they can benefit from Gift Aid.
Now I don’t intend to document every last little detail of the training leading up until the ride, frankly its dull and no-one wants to read about my regular 20 miles in an hour on the gym bike or similar, I certainly don’t. Still, I thought I would put up a post when something at least mildly interesting happens.
I have to admit that most of my winter training is occurring at my Gym, its warm, I won’t be rained on and there’s a TV attached to the bike. Today I saw the lovely covering of snow and fancied a walk to appreciate it, it then struck me that if I took the bike I could get properly out into the countryside and really appreciate how lovely the world looks with a good dusting of snow. plus it had the potential to be a whole heap of fun.
It was a whole heap of fun, didn’t go very far (10 miles) as it was heavy going on the snow, plus I’m off to yoga later so wanted some energy left for that. There were a few hairy moments on the icy bits and I had no end of trouble with reconnecting with the ‘pedals of death’ as my cleats kept being filled up with snow and other detritus, but I loved every minute of it, and scenery was stunning even if it was a little chilly .
The best ideas are always thought up under the influence of alcohol, preferably within the confines of a pub. Whether this turns out to be a good idea is yet to be seen, but it was certainly dreamed up under the right circumstances.
However a week before we made it to the pub, Myself, and Vicky, my fiancée came within 5 minutes of dying when our trusty TV turned our living room into a bonfire and filled the rest of our house with the thick black toxic smoke that is so accurately depicted on the smoke alarm advert that is currently doing the rounds. This happened at 5 in the morning 2 days before Christmas 2008, and the mention of the smoke alarm advert is apt as due to on-going renovations ours wasn’t plugged in. The only reason I’m still here to type this is the sound of the Christmas baubles exploding because of the heat woke us up and we were able to escape.
Whilst we were at the hospital being treated for smoke inhalation, the lovely people from the Red Cross’ Victim Support service arrived, and from their trusty motor-home began providing the fire-fighters and recently arrived parents with tea, and eventually they came to meet us at the hospital. Here they gave us the most reassuring advice possible, I’ve rarely witnessed a moment where people have said absolutely the right thing at the right time, I cannot fault them or praise them enough. The also gave us each a bag of new clothes in the right sizes from a stock generously donated by Tescos and only left our side when they were certain they had done all they could do.
Obviously I was aware of some of the good work the Red Cross do across the world, in particular during the bigger disasters, but it hadn’t occurred to me that they provide this service, and I had certainly never imagined I’d be on the receiving end of it. So it was with this in mind that, sat in the pub with my old friend Steve, that I mentioned my wish to do some fund-raising for the British Red Cross to pay them back for what they did for me. Somehow that conversation evolved to the point where a potential date had been set and the plan to cycle from John O Groats to Lands end had been set in motion and even in the cold light of morning, and its inevitable sobriety, the idea still sounded like a good one.
So that’s it, at the moment it seems a very long way, but hopefully it should raise a bundle of cash for a really good cause (actually two good causes as Steve will be cycling for a different, as yet undisclosed charity) and it is mostly downhill isn’t it?