A long goodbye

I wonder what the other guys are thinking right now?  I bet they’re excitedly making their final preparations for the RAID and nervously thinking about what lies ahead in the Pyrenees.

Instead of all that, I’m sitting here with a feeling of guilt and despair about leaving my lovely young family for a week.  It’s been brewing a while but this aching feeling in the pit of my stomach has grown exponentially in the last 48 hours after my youngest broke her collar bone.

The Wounded Daughter

The Wounded Daughter

She’s a lively little 3 year old but this freak injury occurred when she fell out of bed a couple of nights ago.  After a mis-diagnosis of bruising and eventually a drawn out afternoon in the fracture clinic, I could have cried when I found out she had broken one of her little bones.  The pain comes in waves (usually linked to Calpol withdrawal symptoms) and she has been very brave by trying to carry on with all the normal things.

So, if leaving my family for a week for a stupid bike ride hadn’t felt bad enough, it feels pretty shitty right now.

But, the Land Rover is fully loaded and should soon be arriving on French shores with Dave and Terry.  The flights are booked and we leave tomorrow morning (with an emotional goodbye that doesn’t bare thinking about) and all the plans are firmly set.  It’s just as well that there is no getting out of it now because I can’t begin to think what was going through my mind 9 months ago when I set the wheels in motion for this thing.

It’d better be an epic adventure full of heroic tales that I can share with the girls when I come home.

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What’s the RAID Pyrénéen?

It’s this years big cycling thing is what it is.  And its just a few days away.

Here’s the challenge:

  • 720km of cycling
  • 18 cols (mountain peaks)
  • 11000 metres of elevation
  • Completed in 100 hours
I think this goes on the bike...

I think this goes on the bike…

On 1 September, myself and three mates will take on a cycling challenge bigger than anything any of us have done before.  Supported by two cycling mad retired friends who’ll be testing themselves on some of the cols, we’ll leave the Atlantic town of Hendaye to cross the Pyrenees to Cerbere on the Mediterranean Spanish border.

After overcoming things like bruised ribs after a mass pile up on the annual ride to Skegness, saddle sores after training in Portugal and self inflicted BMX injuries our little team is about as ready as it can be to set off on this epic journey.

The Carnet

The Carnet

Yesterday the “Carnet de Route” turned up from Cyclo Club Béarnaise, the French cycling club that administers the certification of the challenge, and to use the words of Dickie (one of my team mates) – this shit just got real!

The now frantic final preparations are almost complete (anyone got some spare brake blocks??) and we’re set to pack up and head off over the weekend so nerves are starting to creep in.  I think we all feel like we are winging it a bit because none of us have done anything like it before: How much food do we need to take? What contingency supplies do we need? How long will 100 miles in the mountains actually take?

I’ve got a million unanswered questions and only 4 days before I start to find out the answers.  If I have the energy and the WIFI I’ll update this blog as I go along.  If not, there will be an epic update in a week or so!

Stay tuned and enjoy the ride!

No BMX Bandit

Last Sunday we had my daughters birthday party at a local BMX track.

She’s been desperate to have her party there since we took the bikes up for a play a few times and it turned out to be one of the best birthday parties we’ve done.  The track is run by Huncote Hornets BMX club and their British Cycling qualified coach hosts the event.

Jan makes sure that the kids are safe and confident in what they’re doing whilst using the speakers and gates he’d normally utilise for competitions.  The kids jumped out of their skins when he first pressed “Go” and the pneumatic gate flew down with a crash in front of them, but it wasn’t long before they were racing around the cinder and tarmac track.

Birthday BMX Bandit

Birthday BMX Bandit

The bikes and helmets are all provided to the kids (if you want them) so my daughter and her cousin got all kitted up whilst others remained more confident on their own bikes for the session.  The little ones were allowed a go on their balance bikes before everyone grabbed a homemade picnic in the shelter of the cargo container that doubles as clubhouse and shed!

Taking the opportunity of a quiet time on the track, I grabbed a bike & helmet out of the shed with a few things running through my mind:

  1. The track record is 14 seconds
  2. The kids had been going round in 35 seconds (I had to beat that right?)
  3. Jan’s words of warning “the bikes are quite twitchy”
  4. An image of myself flying over the jumps, throwing some shapes and whizzing around the track

As the barrier went down, me and my mate Dan flew down the ramp.  All of a sudden my cadence was faster than I had expected and I was at the bottom of the first M-shaped kicker. In that instant I realised I didn’t know how to jump a BMX (I might have had a chance 25 years ago!!) and the indecision about what to do resulted in something spectacular! It’s been described as an airborne cartwheel on a bike.  And it hurt!

Wounded

Wounded

I ended up scraping my hands, knees and elbows whilst giving my shoulder, back and knee a battering in the heavy landing.  My daughter was first on the scene and handed me my bike and in true hero form, I grabbed it and finished my lap, then steadily started another two before taking stock of the bloody injuries!

So, as always, last Saturday was a school day.  Here’s what I learnt:

  • BMX racing is great fun – all the kids loved it and some have even begun the search for bikes and helmets!
  • 25 years is a long time off a BMX and they’re not like road or mountain bikes!
  • Safety advice is useful: all the kids were instructed to wear helmets & gloves and to keep their arms & legs covered (I ignored this)
  • As you get older, injuries develop slower – it was 48hrs before my knee swelled up and 72hrs before the real pain started in my back!
  • Huncote Hornets have got something exciting going on so we’re off to the club night to see how we get on…
Huncote Hornets

Huncote Hornets