300 miles – ‘Not the London to Paris’ bike ride
Back in January 2021, 4 months post my second Stem Cell Transplant, I decided to sign up to raise money for Myeloma UK (via the London to Paris bike ride – 300 miles over 4 days). As a non-cyclist! I still wonder what madness took over my mind – I hated cycling and knew I hated hills!
But back in 2020, when my myeloma (a blood cancer) returned, I had decided that I needed a focus to help me handle it, and decided to try to raise a further £50,000 for Myeloma UK, the charity that I had already raised over £125,000 for. I don’t like to do things by halves, and I have already drained family and friends for every penny they have, so I decided that for my contribution, it needed to be something that was a real challenge.
So I got my e-bike in February and the challenge began! It was still lockdown and I was scared of what I could, or couldn’t achieve so off I went and began doing short 10 mile rides. Slowly these got a little bit longer and I was SO proud when I hit 20 miles. But it was a long way off the distances I needed to do to reach Paris, and I had only ever ridden on my own or with a friend.
I bit the bullet and contacted Sally from Stourbug – I knew I needed to learn to cycle with a group and I was really nervous about my lack of cycling, my health and riding with other people after 18 months of shielding. The response was so welcoming and made me relax immediately.
It was the best thing I ever did. Even before my London to Paris ride was postponed in July, (and Sally, Patrick, Eric and the other Stourbugs offered to run a UK based alternative so that my training didn’t go to waste), everyone in the Club was amazingly friendly and supportive. I knew after my second ride (with the wonderful Singing Sye!) that I wanted to join up and learn more. And with every ride, I improved with guidance and support from a huge number of ride leaders, and riders. A special mention has to go to a few in particular….Eric, Sye, Sam, Sandra, and obviously Sally and Patrick.
And then hit the postponement of the ride…and the beginning of the ‘300 miles – Not the London to Paris ride’. I was gutted. So many people had supported me and sponsored me and I am always worried how long I will be able to keep my myeloma at bay. But, the Stourbug team rallied round, Sally & Patrick planned a whole route and we began our 4 day trip in the middle of September, the same days I would have been cycling to Paris.
The first day was 100 miles down to Hereford with Patrick, Sally, Eric, Kim, Graham and Stan. My first ever 100 miles (although why I thought doing that at the start of 300 miles was a good idea is beyond me!!). It was a challenge for lots of us, but gave us a confidence that we could do anything (hmmm, Lejog Eric??).
It was a challenge for lots of us, but gave us a confidence that we could do anything (hmmm, Lejog Eric??). The first 82 miles to Ledbury seemed relatively achievable and we were cycling relatively fast.hen we hit THE hill at 89 miles. OMG. A 20% incline was not a nice thing at this stage and I have to admit that it only took one person slipping, for me to decide that even with a button, it was impossible for me. Thankfully it wasn’t too far to the top and within a few minutes I was back on the bike, on the bumpy roads of Hereford. Just a couple more hills and we got ourselves to our Premier Inn for the night (Big shout out to John Plant for bringing our bags and then collecting them the next day). Who knew that Graham had such a soft spot for his bike that it shared not only his room, but also his bath!
Day 2 saw us doing 67 miles back to Hagley, including a lovely stop to investigate the lovely village of Pembridge. We got back to our respective homes and enjoyed a night with our families before heading off for another days cycle.
Day 3 was a 71 mile trip to Banbury!! It is true to say that we were all feeling a little jaded my now (well most of us anyway), but the arrival of 3 newbies (Mandy, Carl and Richard) on the ride really boosted and motivated us for what we had known could be hard mentally. But bar a bit of a windy passage, and a few hills, it was a lovely ride that saw us hit Banbury with a welcome from my husband Nick who had brought our bags.
So then came the final day. I am still smiling from the whole experience. We headed back through Stratford and came via the Fisheries where Kim returned to the group and Pauline joined her to ride with us back home. It’s amazing how 69 miles can feel relatively easy when you know that the finishing line is in sight! And what a finishing line. We came back to friends, family, prosecco and a BBQ… and a VERY comfortable bed.
I know I’ve rambled a lot here, but I really am so grateful to the Stourbug group for everything. I have developed a real love of cycling now, and will be continuing to train so that I can do the official Myeloma UK London to Paris ride next year – but it has a lot to live up to! Thank you to everyone who took part, who helped me train and who have donated to my page. It means so much.
And to anyone else not quite sure about what they can achieve? If you want to, you can.