So, several months ago my bearded cousin Joel put a shout out for people to help him on his next epic quest to raise money for the Manchester Children’s Hospital. I knew he’d done some mildly daft things previously to raise money for the hospital but this time he was telling us he wanted to do something a little more special/challenging. I volunteered myself and Gillian to provide support for the ride envisaging a couple of weeks driving a car through Spain and France, making encouraging noises and occasionally handing out jelly babies to exhausted-looking cyclists.
Fast-forward to now and I seem to have upgraded my volunteering to actually cycling a 1000 miles across three countries (possibly including a mountain range). Now I would describe myself as a casual cyclist at best, mostly it’s just commuting to and from work when the mood takes me so I’m not quite sure how this happened. My suspicion is some form of Jedi Mind Trick on Joel’s part. Because of this I’ve had to up my game a bit and start getting out on my bike more, thankfully the nice weather we’ve been having has made this less of a chore. Our first team ride was the
Manchester to Blackpool ride which was really good fun. Firstly because I was able to meet a few of the other riders that will make up the team for next year, secondly because the 60 miles that day was the furthest I’d ever cycled, and thirdly because I got a medal at the end! I did learn though that when someone suggests putting sun cream on your legs it’s a good idea to listen to them unless you want to get very burnt – the mid-calf, ruler-straight tan lines are pretty special and 6 weeks on still not showing any signs of fading.
What this ride did do was lull me into a bit of a false sense of security; although it was 60 miles the course was relatively flat. So when it was suggested we go out for a 75mile-ish training ride “with a couple of hills” I was up for it. It ended up being one of the most physically tough days I’ve ever had. I sweated, swore and cried my way up
5,500 feet of climbing. The rest of the team were so supportive and tolerant of constantly having to wait for me to catch up, they didn’t even really mock me having to walk up most of the steep bits. I’ll admit I came within an inch of tapping out and getting the train home at one point but had a bit of word with myself, got fed some energy gels by the others, and made it round the full ride. Looking back it’s something I’m actually pretty proud of. It was definitely a wake-up call for what we’re doing next year and I know much of my training between now and then is going to have to focus on getting up those hills.
It also made me question why I’m putting myself through days like that. And it’s pretty simple really. Recently I re-watched the Children’s Hospital at Christmas television programme that Joel, Amy, Jake and Harry were featured in. Looking back at that and then thinking about the Harry I get to hang out with now it’s incredible how far he has come and so much of that is down to the awesome care he got when he was first born and in the years since. Joel and Amy have often told us about how amazing and supportive the whole team at the hospital were during what must have been a really awful time for them. Hearing their stories and seeing Harry now, I can completely understand why Joel is so keen to give something back to the hospital and it feels completely natural to want to help him. As a physiotherapist I work in and around hospitals and they can be pretty scary and intimidating places if you’re not used to them (actually they can be scary and intimidating even if you are!). I can’t imagine what it’s like having your child seriously ill in hospital and how that must feel. If through doing this ride we can help the guys at the hospital to make that experience a little easier – that definitely feels worth it.