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Sport Relief 260 mile Towpath ride.

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To help raise money in aid of Sport Relief I decided to set myself a personal challenge. Last year I arranged a charity ride to help raise cash for the Yorkshire Air Ambulance. We travelled to Liverpool and cycled the 130 miles along the Liverpool 2 Leeds canal to Leeds. Our trip lasted 13hrs with 11hrs of riding time clocked up. A job well done to all, so for 2012 and in aid of Sport Relief I planned to cycle the same route but in both directions. 260 miles of flat none stop pedal turning canal towpath. This sort of distance was new to me. A real dive into the unknown and to make it a little bit more interesting I was going to do this ride non-stop.

So how do I prepare for such a ride. What would I need to complete this marathon. Full suss, XC bike, two pairs of cycling shorts and plenty of pro +. Well it was to late for lengthy  road rides as Im getting Riders Cycle Centre off the ground. It was to late to season the derrière with long bumpy bridleways. What was needed was some inspirational stories of courage and determination, out came the James Cracknall videos.

My stead was a no brainer. My Ragley TD1 with a USE suspension seat post has nursed me over many-a-mile and I was sure would help me cover the endless miles.Maxxis Crossmark tubeless tyres and Ragley Carnegie bars adorned my bike along with my 1×9 drive chain.

Saturday 12noon was my scheduled start time and with a kiss from Jade I set off to Leeds. A steady 13mph average and I reached my turnaround point opposite Leeds train station. A 10 minute stretch and a bike check and I headed back to Skipton. At 17.15pm I entered Skipton where I met Jade and collected my Hope lights and batteries. David joined me for the next 15miles and after a coffee at Foulridge it was solo time.

Lets cut a long story short. For the next 20 hrs I cycled to Liverpool Docks, fell asleep in Mc Donalds for half an hour and cycled back home to Skipton.

I arrived at Liverpool docks at 4.30am enduring 9hrs of tiring night riding. My 4 cell Hope battery on low power luminated the path beneath me. I fuelled myself on home made flap jacks and junk food. I kept hydrated, battled the temperature drop in Wigan and the countless frogs littering the Towpath. I headed home with legs doing all that was asked of them without question but with a neck stinging with discomfort. As the hours pressed on my wrists where asking questions of my rigid forks but I was homeward bound and the miles where counting down. The morning dew and rising temperatures helped fuel and refresh aching limbs and my second wind kept my average at 12.5mph. As endless bumpy towpath was substituted for smoother man made terrain I began to reflect on my journey.

I was confident that the physical demands could be met but the mental one would test me. How would I deal with over 24hrs of riding. What the hell would I think about for a whole day?. I couldn’t tell you until after the event and I can’t remember what I thought about. I do remember thinking about the moment, the pedal stoke, the terrain 5yrds in front of me and the pain in my neck. I thought about the cold can of Coke in Burnley and the umpteenth Jelly Baby laden with sweet sugary goodness. Bruce Dinsmore, a Great Divide racer sent me a text which read “Pain is temporary but memories are forever” and “Pain is weakness leaving the body”. Some thought provoking words to help me rise to the occasion.

With 15 miles to go I could smell the end. I knew my location and the bumpy trails to come. This was familiar surroundings which I thought would be comforting but it brought polarised feelings. I knew I had 15 miles to go. I knew how bumpy the last leg was going to be and I knew it would take over an hour to complete it. It dragged. It dragged like an anchor. I weighed on my back and legs and my body was fighting the rigid ride beneath me. “Pain is weakness leaving the body” but you guys, the kind sponsors who helped me raise £620 rekindled the fire and I excitedly upped the pace and peddled to the finish line.

I’d finished my challenge. Fulfilled my journey and explored the unknown. I was met by Jade, a dream holding a cold beer. I quietly walked to the car, loaded the boot, sat in the passenger seat and had a peaceful trip back home, but the next 24hrs is another story.

A big BIG thank you to all who sponsored me. THANK YOU. You know who you are.