Pride and joy

Me and Trevor, ready to roll out again in Team Buff UK kit.

This week has given me more reasons to keep going, and feel proud of what I’m working towards. It’s also re-kindled some old, and deep-seated doubts. The way I’ve tried to approach these things is in itself another step forwards, so I thought I’d share them with you.

When I first approached sponsors for my Round Britain ride, I had little expectation of any success. One of the first positive responses I got was a company called Buffera (www.buffwear.co.uk) They make headwear, and having no hair, I’d used Buffs, as they are known, through many years of outdoor activity and motorcycling. I still have an original Buff, and have watched their product range grow and diversify for a long, long time. I  its original form it’s a simple product, a seamless tube of polyester that can be made into a variety of hats, headbands, wrist bands and  neck scarves. they look good, dry quickly, are warm when it’s cool, and cool when it’s warm. They are also incredibly durable, I’ve never worn one out! In short, I don’t ever leave home without one. For last years ride I received a box of various Buffs to use on my journey. I was pleased as punch with this.

On Thursday this week I received a big box of goodies from Buffera in support this years ride. I was now a fully paid up member of Team Buff UK. That means, as well as replenishing my headwear, I received a wardrobe of Team Buff cycle wear, to cover me head to toe, through every eventuality, and  weather conditions. The quality of every item is top-notch, a gillet with windstopper front panels and a mesh like back. Gloves that mould to your hands and don’t fold up in the palm. Both cycle shirts have non-slip seams around the waist and sleeves to stop rucking up, and long or short zips, to suit the conditions that they will be worn in. Every detail has been considered in the design process, and the combinations you can create mean I don’t need to acquire anything else.

What made me proudest, wasn’t the fact that I’ve been given it, it’s the fact that it isn’t available to purchase. I feel like I’ve earned the right to wear it. Goodness knows how people feel when Team GB kit arrives for the Olympics, but this made me feel like I’m making progress and gaining a little recognition for the huge effort I’m putting in. Thank you Buffera, I will wear it all with pride.

Me and Fly in Bradworthy, Devon.

Earlier in the week I went riding with a few of the local Sustrans volunteers. As it happened, Tuesday was the anniversary of the day I left to ride around the Uk coast last year. We even rode along the same road I used to get out to Hartland Quay where I joined the coast. That may not seem much, but I’ve only ridden that road the once, and I didn’t plan the ride. We cycled slowly, and chatted in the warmth of the sun. It was a gentle ride, along a quiet river valley, eventually climbing up onto a ridge which we followed to Bradworthy.

Stopping in Bradworthy itself we parked up and Michele became everybody’s best friend as she produced a large quantity of apple cake. I came second best friend as I distributed malt loaf. It was all very relaxed and reminded me of have good I feel when I ride slowly with an open heart and mind.

Whilst we stood there chatting and taking photographs, the guys all came over and picked Fly up. I wondered what they expected. Even allowing for the malt loaf, tools, coat, map, pump, chewy bars, spare tube and Water bottles, Fly isn’t light. Built to travel the world, on any surface, in any conditions, whilst lugging 50 kgs of gear, she’s light for a tractor, and that’s it.  More perplexing for some was the computer mounted on top of the stem. I’d mounted it sideways, so I can’t see it whilst riding. I don’t want to see it, it distracts me and tries to trick me into thinking about mileage and averages, rather than scenery and enjoyment.

This was a moment of precious calm in my current life. There was a long list of jobs that I felt I should have started, and I chose instead to take a long bath and chill in front of the TV. All I did in the evening was stick some reflectors on my trailer box, and unwrap the special extender bar I bought to allow me to fit the handlebar bag. This also made me proud because a few years ago I wouldn’t have let myself stop until I’d done the obvious jobs. Furthermore, I was making up new routines and rules to suit my current situation, not just following the routine I know so well.

Team Buf Uk cycle shirt and me posing!

At this stage of the game, you might think I’d be dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s. I should be, but it isn’t how things have panned out. I’m still waiting on a response to the bikeathon idea, and the fundraising is proving desperately hard this year. People don’t have a lot to spare, at a time when so many charities need more support than ever. It’s completely understandable in the current economic climate. I’ll raise whatever I raise on the road and be happy with it. It isn’t something I can do anything about.

What happens with this type of project, is that you work to get certain things in place, and only when those things are complete, can the next layer be given attention. An example of this is picking up Fly. Once I had the bike, I had to fit lights, a computer, handlebar bag, Reecharger, etc. Finding that the bottle cages wouldn’t fit meant swapping them around and making a minor alteration to the one that sits under the frame where the fuel bottle will live. It also created the separate job of soldering connections for the dynamo powered front light, and the transformer for the Reecharger that converts AC current from the dynamo into DC current that my gadgets can use.

These small jobs take time and care, and were added to, by a late change of handlebar style. The new bars won’t take the handlebar bag clamp, so I’ve had to source an extension bar, that fits to the steerer, in order to mount the bag separately. This is a small T-bar, just like a second, mini set of handlebars that I found at SJS Cycles in Taunton, Somerset. Thorn, makers of excellent expedition cycles, are part of SJS Cycles, and you can view the huge range of cycle accessories at www.sjscycles.co.uk  where you will also find links to Thorn themselves.

Having finished all these jobs , I managed to borrow some scales to weigh the bike and trailer, along with the box, now fixed to the trailer frame. Once again, this couldn’t be done until now, as I didn’t have the bike to weigh it in its finished state. Weighing myself first, I simply picked the bike up, got back on the scales and them deducted my weight from the total weight. I repeated this whilst holding the trailer box. What became  clear, was the fact that I wouldn’t be able to meet the airlines weight limit, however hard I tried. I would have to try to negotiate some form of sponsorship for a higher baggage allowance with the airline, something I could have had the vision to see prior to this, but didn’t.

After calling a friend to talk through options, I phoned Aer Lingus. The PR lady was very helpful, but had no authority to do anything. She kindly passed me on to another lady, who was also helpful, and also had no authority. It was suggested that I emailed the duty manager who would be able to sort it out. I did that, and later that afternoon, I received an email in return that told me that this was beyond her authority, and that she would pass it on. They get back to me later. This took up a reasonable amount of the afternoon and no solution was found. It epitomizes what it’s like to organise a ride like this, and demonstrated well what has happened over and over again throughout the preparation.

Just the three of us :)

Whilst this frustrates me, it will get sorted out in time, and time is something I’m running out of. My mind and body are exhausted from the constant writing, talking, promoting, organising and even cycling. I’ve had to slow down. It isn’t even that I just feel tired. My sleep patterns are severely disrupted, with broken sleep, and waking in a state of extreme anxiety. I’m sitting here in the morning, drinking coffee, almost unable to press the correct keys, however hard I try. My mind is full of thick, sticky, treacle, and I can’t concentrate. Worst of all, I’m back to dropping things all the time. This clears over about an hour, and then I’m just tired.

This weeks list of  dropped items includes two plates, a mug, a packet of coffee, lots of food, and most importantly, my iPhone, shattering the screen. Last week dropped it down the river bank and into the river, and sighed with relief that I hadn’t broken it. It is repairable thankfully.

These are warning signs, and I have been listening. I’ve backed off from cycling, no more long rides etc. I do a little, and take a break, regardless of whether I feel I have too much to do to stop. I have to do this, and remember doing the same last year, as the leaving date got close. I am still maintaining Pilate’s as this gives me balance, along with the gentle pedaling I’m now doing.

To not get bogged-down in what isn’t happening, is another step forwards for me. The fundraising, as I said earlier, is incredibly slow and difficult this year, mostly due to the economic climate. I have had to resign myself to raising whatever I can and not fretting. The bikeathon is still up in the air with just two weeks to go, and I’m just letting that all slip by. The constant battle to complete jobs is now easing. I can see the wood from the trees and I’m excited about what I’m facing over the next two and a bit months. My fingertips can touch that simple lifestyle once again where (as Anna Hughes, another round Britain cyclist put it)  I can simply “eat, sleep and cycle.” All that stands between me and that is the packing of my gear, and I have all of that.

Leaving home will be a blessing. The riding will begin and all of this will be left behind.  My tiny Acorn is growing ever so slowly. I’m nurturing it , trying to encourage it to grow stronger, with more branches. Others are helping me along the way, supporting me and nurturing me, helping me to grow stronger as well. Small steps add up, and I now find myself a long way from where I started just two and a half years ago, feeling proud, excited and ready for the road.

Please donate anything you are able to support the UK charity Mind, at a time when their own resources are being stretched further and further. www.justgiving.com/Riding2Recovery, or text £1 , CNQY 98 to 70070. Every penny helps support sufferers.

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