Saturday, 9 November 2013

Today is the day

The start of the challenge is today. After 14 months of planning,  training and preparation it comes down to this.

The flight over here was long, having a long layover in Chicago,  but I arrived on Thursday evening and went straight to sleep. Yesterday I had a free day in Las Vegas and managed to see the sites with some of my fellow challenge participants.

One photo of the fountains at the Bellagio doesn't do it justice, but it rounded off the afternoon with them.

Each person has their own stories of their reasons for doing this challenge.  I hope that we all help each other over the next week to tackle the cycling as there are some incredible stories from them. I don't have any health issues,  but some people in the team will be displaying remarkable levels of courage even by getting on the bike. 

So for next week I am looking at temperatures of 30C/86F. It will be extremely tough. This afternoon we will transfer to Beatty where the bikes will be fitted correctly and tomorrow we will start cycling over the first pass to Stovepipe Wells,  California.

I don't know when I will have Internet access again,  hopefully soon to post an update. 


Saturday, 26 October 2013

Training update

I haven't managed to update on training progress for months. It's because I have been out and about a lot and my change of job in July just got in the way.

Since I last posted, I've done some long training rides:

  • Wiggle Stratford Sportive (27 July) - 69 miles, 3077ft of climb in 4:56:14 (including 16 minutes of rest)
  • Two Counties ride (1 September) - 66.9 miles, 3648ft of climb in 4:41:28 (including 13 minutes of rest)
  • Macmillian Cancer MacRide (8 September) - 53.4 miles, 1578ft of climb in 3:30:58 (including 8 minutes of rest) - not particularly hilly, but was working on doing 3 long rides at weekends in a row and this sandwiched the ones on the 1st and 15th September quite well.
  • Kilotogo Shropshire Mynd (15 September) - 65.6 miles, 4341ft of climb in 5:12:43 (including 14 minutes of rest) - this ride was particularly hard with two very steep and long climbs, and very wet and windy conditions.
  • Evans Cycles Cannock Chase (20 October) - 56.2 miles, 3235ft of climb in 3:56:24 (including 7 minutes of rest)
Over the few months, I've done 1200 miles of further training for the event which is now just 2 weeks away. One more large ride is to come (tomorrow I will attempt the 84 mile Wiggle Circuit Breaker, although I think I may switch to the 52 mile ride as the forecast is for rain and wind), and then it will be light training until the event.

I'm looking forward to the event - it's now been over a year since I signed up for it

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Fundraising target reached

Today I reached the £2,500 fundraising total. I am really grateful for everyone who has donated and sent me messages of support.

I'm quite surprised myself at making it, as when I started fundraising, I was unsure if the target was achievable.

I am happy to continue raising funds, as the money is still required by the charity. I have also been looking at doing another event in 2 years time, which I will again start fundraising. Next time I suspect it will be even harder (both the fundraising and the event... I have some ideas for the event already... if you thought 260 miles was tough, this will be even tougher!)


Monday, 15 July 2013

Birmingham to Oxford

On Sunday 7th July, which was a very warm day, I did my second mini challenge in the run up to Death Valley. This was a 77 mile route from Cannon Hill Park in Birmingham to Oxpens Meadows in Oxford. There were 400 other people on this ride, which started at 7.15am in the morning.

It was 7.50am before I was ready to start and the route ran south out of Birmingham via Walkers Heath before heading towards Earlswood, Lapworth and Shrewley. After crossing the M40 (the only motorway we would see on the trip), we headed across country to Wellesbourne, Lower Brailles, Hook Norton and Enslow before making a north-easterly approach into Oxford. The traffic in Oxford was awful, but then it was almost 2:30pm before I got there.

The event was organised by Bike Events who did a sterling job in signposting the ride.

In the end, it was 79 miles as recorded by Strava, but the extra couple of miles didn't matter - it was absolutely valuable training for November. The only downside was one of the hills which I couldn't get up without getting off my bike. Everytime this happens I worry about the 5% for 25 miles climb in Death Valley. Fortunately the bike I'll use there will have some lower gears, but it's still concerning.

With less than 4 months to go, I realise there is still time to do more, so I plan on adding a couple of extra organised rides to my schedule for September and October (perhaps Cannock Chase or the Brecon Beacons). Please continue to support the sponsorship with the link on the right hand side of the page - I've been touched by the generosity so far, but still have £845 to go!

Some stats about the ride are below. The time denotes moving time only. I took 6 hours 38 minutes including stops. The average temperature was 81F (27C).

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Ride for Ryder

Last Sunday (May 12th 2013), I rode my first "big" challenge as part of the preparation for Death Valley.

The Ride for Ryder is an event hosted by Sue Ryder and started at the Nettlebed Hospice. This is the hospice I am raising money for.

In my last update, I mentioned I was looking for a sub 5 hour time for this event. As you can see below, it was 4 hours 20 minutes. Unfortunately that's a bit misleading as it was 4h20m of cycling time. In addition, I had to stop for rests and food, and a puncture.

Taking all of these into consideration, my official time was 4 hours 51 minutes and 23 seconds, so I was really pleased with that. The puncture did cost me 20 minutes (I had some issues with the replacement inner tube and needed the cycle mechanic to help me), but for someone who not so long ago was doing no exercise, I was most impressed with this achievement. It wasn't a race, but I did come in position 67 of the 113 people who did (and finished) the longest route.

The ride organisation was really excellent, everything went to plan and I think the event (which attracted over 250 riders) raised a lot of money for the hospice.

The next challenge in the lead up to the main event in Death Valley is the Birmingham to Oxford cycle ride in July. It is marketed as 77 miles, but I think the route is more like 74. I'm wanting a sub 7 hour time for this (I will need lots more rests and a long stop for lunch on that one). If I can do this, I will be well on the way of being fit enough for November.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

6 months to go update

Dear supporters

Firstly, thank you for the donations you have made to Sue Ryder to support their hospices. My total raised has today hit £1250, which is 50% of the target - I am thankful for you all for the part you have played in helping me raise the funds for the charity by cycling across and through Death Valley in November.

As part of my thank you to you all, it seemed appropriate that I should update everyone on the progress of training so that you know I am going to achieve what I set out to do. At any time you can look at some stats which can be found at, where I am tracking my training (members of the site can see much more information).

Since the start of 2013, when I really started thinking on how I was going to be able to cycle for 5 days covering the distance involved and up and down mountains, I have covered 617 miles on the bike.

In March I was involved in a training weekend in Oxfordshire - to assess my fitness and also challenge me to do a long ride one day, and then get up the next morning and do another. As you may be aware, March was a month with very changeable weather and the 56 miles ride on the first day was hampered by wind, rain and hail - complete opposite conditions to what I will get in Death Valley. Day 2 was worse, as a snowstorm took hold and we had to abandon the ride in Thame. However, I did discover that I wasn't as unfit as I thought, and with the spring and summer coming, I should be able to put enough time in to successfully complete the challenge.

This month I hope to pass 300 miles in a single month. This should be the start of a lot more miles (even though the challenge is 260 miles, I hope to get in at least 1500 in training).

Next week brings about the first of the three (at the moment) mini-challenges I have set myself in the run up to the main event, with the Ride for Ryder taking place on Sunday May 12th. This is a 60 mile ride in Oxfordshire starting and ending at the Nettlebed Hospice, who are the main beneficiary of the fundraising. Hoping for a sub-5 hour ride (excluding a lunch stop), so check out the above website a day or two after to see the result!

July is the next big month after that, with two challenges (Birmingham to Oxford on July 7th and the Wiggle Stratford Sportive on 27th). In total these two challenges are 137 miles, and that is in addition to the other training I will need to do that month.

Getting the miles in is only part of the battle. On day 2 of the Death Valley Challenge, I have a 15 mile section of the route which climbs 4,500 feet, which is approximately a 5% climb. Hills are definitely my weakpoint, so I have to motivate myself enough to find the worst hills around where I live and keep going up them.

I hope, by that July, to have secured a shirt sponsor and the fundraising has moved on significantly. If you are reading this and haven't yet donated, please do so!

Thanks for your support


Saturday, 23 March 2013

Training weekend

Last weekend saw me attend a training weekend in Oxfordshire. The purpose of this weekend was to do the equivalent mileage on one day of the challenge plus also a shorter ride the next day to give some insights on how people doing these challenges will feel.

On the Saturday, we covered 56 miles over the day. Given that my previous post mentioned my 37 mile ride as being my biggest ever, this obviously became my largest ride. It was definitely the worst weather I have ever cycled in - rain, sleet, hail for most of the day. However, those 56 miles were done over the period of 7 hours, including a long stop for lunch. This made it much more doable.

After camping on the Saturday night, there was the Sunday ride. This was planned to be 40 miles, but didn't quite go as expected.. The first part of the ride was a 350 foot (125m) hill, which was something I dreaded. It was bad, but I did get up with a 30 second stop in the middle to catch my breath. The next part of the ride was gentle and then downhill, and then it started snowing. Really big flakes that get into your eyes and sting. At this point, we were 3 miles from a nearby town and cycled there to take stock. We had done about 11 miles.

I was cold and wet from Saturday, things hadn't dried out and the water was just swishing around my shoes as I pedalled. It was time to stop - cycling in 2 degrees isn't pleasant, and nothing like Death Valley will be. Over the weekend I had cycled 67 miles, which was good training, so although I didn't do any more (those who carried on only did 10 more miles), I was pleased with the achievement. It makes me confident that I can do the Ride for Ryder 60 miles in May, which is the first of my mini-challenges up to the main event.