I had applied and paid for entry about a month and half ago not having a clue what to expect or what shape I would be in so went in virtually blind. Lindsey arranged sponsors from neighbours, bingo, family, friends and All Saints and Martyrs church. The day before I had £160 pledged, I expected £1 to 50p a pop but everyone was sooo generous giving £5 and £10, I was helping out at the church for a do and the organiser said she'd have a whip round at the end for me. Great I thought, at first, then it dawned on me a group of teenagers having a piss up wouldn't yield much, if anything at all. To my horror ( as I was proved totally wrong and sat in the corner due to embarassment) they raised £66!!! A couple of days ago I had sorted out 'Jamis' all ready and set up ( different every time for some reason) and sat her proud in the hallway, the night before, in preparation for the big day. I had an awful night. After eating half a tub of cookies and cream ice-cream I went to bed and 30 mins later my whole abdomen was in agony which spread to my chest and felt my abs cramping up. First thing I thought of was having to miss the bike ride! I couldn't move for half an hour then remembered I had some rennies in the drawer next to me. Instant relief I couldn't believe it. It was the worst pain ever. Worse than breaking my ankle. The pain came and went but nowhere as near as bad and I managed to get a few hours sleep.
I was actually looking forward to this day. I was injury free which helped. Got out of bed at 5.30 and headed straight downstairs for my pre-cycle meal....Chicken Korma and Naan. As the smell drifted upstairs the missus wandered down them and shouted that the lovely aroma had woke her up. I gave her NONE of it. I then went through the ritual of getting bottle ready, gels, clothes, mobile, gloves, glasses, helmet and shoes. It looked like it was going to rain heavily so took my cycling rain mac ( with hood! I cant believe I found one) which, in hind sight, was the worst decision ever! I also decided to go with 'Vanquish' my heavily upgraded cheapo but excellent Halfords bike as I didn't mind getting this one dirty and mucky. I quickly printed off the directions from Victoria Train station car park that Anna had kindly done for me and headed to the City centre.
In the car park I saw a few others getting ready. Must have had the same idea as me to get the train back from Blackpool North hmmmm I thought I'd be the only one :) There were quite a few cyclist already at 6.20 making their way to OT so I didn't need the map. Got there about 6.40 and wasn't sure where to go as there were cyclists everywhere so had a ride around. I asked a guy near late registration who didn't have a clue either but the guy at late registration said I go to the 'pen' behind him. This is where I'd get the map in exchange for my ticket. I had a nosey around in the middle and wondered why I always have to turn up so bleedin' early to everything I go to. Suddenly at 6.50 people started to open the map boxes and we were told to pick one up and go to the start. Two big queues formed on the outside, I saw the guy in the middle doing nothing with no queue ( his box was already open) so went past everyone and went through. First to the start. I was wrong. A few groups were already allowed through. I ended up about 4 rows back as I stopped to put my helmet and gloves on. It was also nice to see EVERYONE (I saw) wearing helmets. It really annoys me that people have some insane argument that it's safer without. The sky was starting to clear and I was getting funny looks as I was the only dosy sod to wear water proofs. I had no race plan, so I decided to take it easy and stay out of trouble. I was looking out for a few friends who I knew were riding at the early time but couldn't see any of them. Hmm Anna says she's never late and always early!!!! I'll remember that hehe. I thought it was brave of her to actually turn up as she has done so little riding but been getting as much in as possible. A quick look at the waste of time map and listening to the mad microphone man, it was time to go.
7.15-7.20 ish AND WE'RE OFF! Nice and easy does it. I didn't have a clue where to go so decided to follow everyone else. I was going about 14-15mph at the start and drafted the marshall on the motor bike. No traffic which was good as we had to negotiate a few roundabouts. As I got more confident and started to realise the course was well marked out and marshalled I upped the pace but not by much. People started overtaking me a bit too often so I pressed and started to claw back the distance. I was feeling great now and was travelling 20mph quite easily, must have taken a while to warm up. I caught up to a group of 3 who looked like they knew what they were doing and I thought I'd sit behind and draft them. It turns out they didn't know each other and they didn't know what they were doing either but I decided to sit and bide my time. 20-30mins into the ride a guy whizzed past us (I was still at the back of the little group) and the front 2 tried to keep up with him, they did for about 2 mins so I went past them and caught him up. I was easily doing 25mph behind this fella. I had to really go for it up the hills which I found relatively easy. Then he eased off very slighty and I got time to look at his Orbea bike and his dodgy mountain bike clothing. He was very much a grinder, pedalling a lot slower than me but he made it look sooo easy. He didn't look that he was in good shape either so I wasn't convinced he could keep the pace. I think he got peed of with me on his tail after 20 mins and tried to drop me. He did a couple of times but I managed to power back when he least expected it. We passed a few and caught up to 2 very good riders, I think from Manchester Tri club.
They were taking it in turn to share the work load. Orbea man and I sat behind these 2 for around 20 mins as they were going around 23-24-25 mph. He chatted with one of them but still they did the majority of the work. I thought I had better do something so led up a long climb whilst the others chatted a bit. Near the top the other 3 dropped back for some reason unknown so I went on to a long descent thinking I was all alone and that Orbea man had paced it wrong. I was wrong, he had caught up. I led for 15 or so minutes then we approached a town before Haigh Hall. We caught up to another rider who looked like he'd done a few years on the bike, was young and skinny.
I was still at the front and asked if this new guy was gonna join us. He obliged. It looked like I was going too fast for him up the first hill we came across together so I thought I'd show off and pedal uphill with one hand whislt juggling a gel in my other and threw the wrapper to the floor just like they do on the TDF. I lowered the pace so they would catch up and then dropped them both on the next hill. Once again Orbea man was breathing down my seat tube. I was still at the front going up to Haigh Hall but then a junction at the top approached. The marshalls were in the middle of the fork and I thought usually you take the route to the right of the marshalls. I heard a cry from Orbea man saying I'd gone the wrong way. They were the first words any of us had said to each other. The marshalls didn't give a toss. I turned around and caught him up then thanked him. A fast downhill section into the woods didn't look as deadly as I had thought. On one of the first corner in a 'car park' my rear swang out 90 degrees just before the first fuel stop. I was very lucky not to hit the only car there, never mind not to falling off my bike. I think all the 'Cyclist slow down' signs on every tree gave away the severity of the under wheel conditions. I was glad the other guy was leading as it gave me a clue to sharp bends that were coming up. Again I had a nervy moment on one corner and nearly went down a steep banking. Might be the same one Anna nearly went down. Another fork in the road appeared and no signs or marshalls at all!!! FANTSTIC. We nearly stopped whilst we debated which way to go. We went up the very steep hill to the exit of the park and saw a group of cyclists at the top. We had picked right. One of the group had a punture so they had all waited until he had repaired it. I said to OM (Orbea man) that the guys infront that we had over taken so far looked good but didn't last long when they tried to join us. He said the group at the gates of the park said there were only 2 more riders ahead of us! He looked really determined to catch them up and I followed like his lost sheep. A long steepish hill was upon us and I joined his side. We chatted briefly. He said he only had his bike a couple of weeks and he was a MTB'er. I said I was in awe of his talents and struggled to keep up. I had my second high-5 energy gel. There isn't enough in them for the money. I had a zipvit one a few days ago and they are massive for the same price ish. Then disaster struck. I was sipping my energy drink from my bike mounted water bottle and whilst trying to put it back it slipped and fell and saw OM swerve to avoid it. Oh dear. I told him it was nearly empty anyway and I carried on. He expected me to stop off and pick it up which I wish I had done now as it was FULL. I carried on in the lead for another 15-20 minutes at around 22-23 mph.
I was getting tired now trying to keep up the pace. We overtook one more rider which put me into 2nd if the previous riders' stories was to be believed. Not long after, OM sensed I was dying and went past me. I had slowed to around 20mph about 40 miles in ( overall average was 22.6) . I tried to keep up. We were on a dual carriage way to Preston. He slowly pulled away as I tried so hard to get on his wheel again but he was too strong and I was too weak. I felt I was closing at one point and put in a big effort but he drifted into the distance. I went past a few roundaabouts and saw a marshall but missed the sign. I thought I heard her say turn right. I went past the straight on exit and I was sure I saw OM who hadn't turned off. I went round again and asked the marshall if she definately said turn right. Yep she muttered. I sprinted a little bit to see if OM was ahead but couldn't see him.
I was all alone for quite a while and had to drop the pace to 19mph then 18mph then 17 mph. I had no energy left with 20 miles to go. These were the longest miles in the whole ride. Riders started to overtake me. I tried to join the back of a group of 4 but I had no chance. I kept the speedo at 17mph and kept thinking that I should have retrieved my bottle. A couple more overtook but one of them stopped further up. I asked if he was ok, he was just stretching his back. He overtook me again 10 minutes later .I was hoping a feed and water station would turn up. I thought I had already passed 3 stations and not stopped at any and that there were no more left but I hoped and prayed for one. I passed the 80km marker and I saw a sign for a food station. I was saved!!!! I had to turn off down a side street for a minute or 2. Quite a long way this station I pondered. I arrived to an empty social club car park with one marshall. 'Wheres the grub' I barked. 'Its not open yet, you are too early. Come back at 11' he replied. He's gotta be taking the p*ss. I rejoined the course looking for somewhere to buy anything. Luckily a few hundred yards down the road was a petrol station. I bought an orange lucozade and quickly downed it as I had wasted enough time as it was. As I got to the coast the already blustery winds started to blow a gale. I kept looking for the markers but they were few and far between especially travelling at 13mph max. No-one had passed me for a good 20mins and was wondering if I was going the right way. I asked a couple of cyclists not in the race if I was close to the disco ball. They didn't know. I was getting disheartened. I knew I was close to the finish but not close enough. I then saw a 90km marker. Nooo still a long way to go. Some temporary traffic lights gave me hope of a breather and a quick chat with the marshall who said not many had gone past, possibly less than 20. I was at the lights a while and I kept looking back for other riders. Still nothing. As I set off he bleated 'well done lad only half a mile to go'. I perked up and found the energy to sprint past the lights then caught sight of the disco ball and then the finish line. I looked back thinking there would be loads behind me. I was all alone. ...still. My legs couldn't power me across the line and I didn't want them to. This was my moment. I could hear the clapping cheering and whistles, all for me and only me. I was wondering if Lindsey and her mum made it in time. They were due to arrive at the Pleasure beach at 10.56 . Damn my watch said 10.50 but when I crossed the line I saw them right infront of me. Wow, it was unbelievable. It was a great feeling and I was sooo happy they could share this moment with me. Apparently they had gone straight to Blackpool North Train station and got the tram down.
I picked up 2 bags of goodies as the first didn't have a certificate in and drank the water and vimto in record time. I sat at a bench with a big grin savouring my achievement. As I slumped in my seat I heard a voice say ' how did you do?' I didn't look at the person just said I was doing geat til 40 miles then I died. He said he knew! I looked up. It was Orbea man!!!! I didn't know what time I had done. He had done 3 hrs 24mins I looked at my computer...3hrs 33mins and 57 seconds and averaged I think was 17.7mph. I really wanted to get over 18mph. He said I had done brilliantly and I returned the compliment. I had to ask him if he took a wrong turning but he assured me it wan't him. Hmmm I'm still not sure. OM looking for me to chat to topped the day off. Next was a chicken kebab with free cuppa as I was the first to get served. The burgers came a close runner up though. A bottle of water and a pint of cider later we headed to Pablo's chippy for the best supporters in the world.
At Blackpool North train station it was chaos. We arrived at 14.00 and next train was due out at 14.20 direct to Victoria. There were already 8 bikes at the gate ready for boarding and 5 infront of me behind the barriers just in case they could fit more on. Even the 8 weren't guarenteed to get on. The platform staff called any cyclists for the 14.10 York service. There was no way we were getting on our first choice but I knew we could change at Blackburn or Hebden bridge for a service to Victoria. There was NO queue for this train. We boarded and I found out a train to Vic would arrive only 7 mins after we got into Blackburn...result. Eventually got into Vic 4 mins after our preferred choice had arrived. Good job I work for the trains and had insider info. Got home and went straight to bed.
We had raised £226.50 for Christie's and had a marvellous day.