I bought a bike in 2011. A really cool Marin mountain bike. It cost £1000 in the sale and I'm still in shock that its worth more than my car (a crappy Renault Scenic decorated in biscuit crumbs, sweetie wrappers and sticky fingerprints).
I like my bike lots. I'm not particularly great on it but that doesn't matter. Enjoyment is what counts, so when David Ward (@secureward) asks me to be part of his Cyclothon team and raise money for SANDS in memory of his precious daughter Abigail, I jump at the chance.
I'm a late comer to the team so I know I need to start training and raising funds pronto. Fortunately the good people of Twitter and Facebook dig deep in their pockets and along with family and friends I manage to exceed my £500 target and raise £607.50!!! Thank you!
Cyclothon is at Brands Hatch. It's a twelve hour relay around the 2.5 mile circuit in teams of six. I've never been to Brands Hatch before (even though I'm just 20 minutes away) or even really watched it on telly, so to prepare for the course I have an awesome plan. Oh yes!
A few weeks before Cyclothon I head to Gay Pride in Brighton. There on the pier I head to the arcade. I locate my personal trainer very quickly. He's a Nintendo/Sega something-or-other-racing-simulator-game. £1 a go I set aside five quids worth of training. I select Brands Hatch and I'm off in my racing car getting a feel for the course.
Now this is possibly where I may have a lawsuit. You see, as I raced around that circuit I didn't see one hill. Not one fucking hill. Brands Hatch was flat and this pleased me enormously. I quit my training at £3 and headed to the pub.
Then the big day arrives. Sep 13th.
I arrive nice and early at 6am and I'm totally amazed at how big and exciting the place is. There's a real buzz and vibe about the place. It oozes adrenaline and there's not a motor car in sight.
I head down to the pits and find the Abigail's Footsteps team. Everyone is super friendly and equally shitting themselves. There are some real hardcore teams here. We know we can't compete with them but we don't care because we've raised near on £15,000!
I ask the other girls about their training.
Allison (@allison_b24) has done lots including a London to Paris cycle. She's raring to go and seems undaunted by the size of the track and the speed of the specialised bikes zooming past in training. Jo (@angelwhirljo) is on a par with me so that's a relief.
I stare over at my bike and its missing something. It's missing my naughty, cheeky two year old boy on the back. We usually cycle together and I'm wondering how I'll manage today without the wee ginger nutter slapping my back and shouting "MUUUUMMMMEEEEEE Whoooaaa".
It's now briefing time! Lots of safety stuff and I learn what all the flags mean. Which is handy for Sunday afternoons in F1 season.
We also learn that we are the first people to be on the track since the Paralympics the week before. How cool?
We scoff down breakfast, register, grab our fab goody bags and don our Abigail's Footsteps cycle tops. Then it's time to go!
I'm feeling a bit out of my depth. If it was running or climbing I'd be fine. I'd kinda know what to expect. But this is all knew to me. I can't even fathom my gears out.
And then I'm off. I zoom out of the pits. It's busy and I try not to crash. The day is warm and sunny and I feel so happy and blessed to be here.....
And then a bloody great hill! HILL?Hill? There were NO hills on my training omachine in Brighton. Who put these hills here? I zoom down the first one. My bike hits 29.7 miles per hour. I scream a blood curdling scream and I think I even close my eyes. And then it's uphill. Fucking uphill.
I've still not mastered my gears so as I peddle like I'm in a hardcore spin class it suddenly strikes me that I'm still stationary. My bike gives up and slowly falls to the ground with me on it. My legs are still peddling, my helmet down over my eyes I resemble a dying stag beetle on its back. No-one comes to help me sob sob.
So I drag my bike up. Inspect my greasy cut leg and realise that my chain has come off. I think back to the 70's and 80's. How did I used to fit my chain on my Chopper and then Grifter back then? Hhhmmmm. Anyhoo I manage it (sort of. It makes a weird clicky noise though) and I'm off again. Yet MORE hills. It seems Brands Hatch is nothing but hills. As I curse and sweat I pen a letter in my head..... "Dear Nintendo/Sega thingy people. You have screwed me over. You've ruined my life. I hate you".
Before long I've completed my first leg and I'm off my bike.
I take bike over the the 'fix it pit' and have it serviced by Gary's Bikes of Bristol. He fixes my chain, informs me I have a male saddle and adjusts it as best he can for me.
I grab a quickie massage, a drink and then it's my turn again.
Our team are doing brilliantly. There's 29 of us in total. I'm making new friends and thoroughly enjoying myself. The hospitality is second to none and the catering is never ending and oh so yummy. All organised by VU Ltd (@victorubogu).
Sadly the day passes too quickly. I'm thrilled by the tremendous support we have all received and if it wasn't for my bruised and battered 'private parts' I would want to carry on and cycle another 12hrs!
So it's off to get changed and head to the awards dinner! I stuff my plate with every imaginable food because I heard that's what real athletes do after such strenuous events. I meet Carl who rode continuously for 12 hours for us in the solo event. He's pretty amazing and is just back from The Himalayas and Mount Everest.
And then it's time to say goodbye!
I drive home in the dark full of funny, inspiring and warm memories.
"In memory of baby Abigail Ward. Born asleep just like my precious son Micky Docherty before her. Sweet dreams Angels, play softly in heaven together" xxx