The road to Paris

Sixteen weeks ago, almost on a whim, I signed up for the London to Paris cycle challenge. Since then, I’ve rode over 1000 miles to get ready for today. Today is the day that we ride into Paris.

Having not slept very well for the last three nights, I’m shattered before I start. Breakfast is a bit of a daze and I decide to set off on my own rather than join the group of guys that I’ve been riding with for most of the journey. I’m not too sure why I did that. Subconsciously I knew that I was whacked and didn’t want to hold them back. I also think that I needed a little time on my own to contemplate what we were all about to achieve.

The ride from Beauvais to Paris was not too long – around 60 miles in total, broken down into a long first leg, including a 1 mile uphill section (absolutely killed me) and a few more inclines that needed that extra bit of motivation to get up. This was followed by a 19 mile section through to lunch and then the final group ride into the centre of Paris.

During the first session, I have to admit I was getting quite emotional – the challenge had certainly been that and it had pushed me to the limit. I was simply spent. Lots of thoughts went through my mind, some positive, many negative as I looked back over decisions that I’d taken over the years. Why I started to think these thoughts I’ve no idea, I’m assuming that it was because I had drained myself completely and was running virtually on empty.

Anyway, I made it to the first stop and joined up with the rest of the group – ahead of us was one last real push, as lunch was being held on the banks of the Seine. I decided to simply enjoy it – not worry about how long it took, take in the scenery and the French culture. So on the way, a couple of us stopped off for a cafe au lait in one of the village cafes and then joined in with another group who were riding down listening to a variety of music – some good and some – well the guy was brave admitting that he had the songs on his iPhone to be honest!

The final few miles into the outskirts of Paris was fun – lots of banter and even a few group sing-a-longs.

Lunch was again superb and we were all set for the last ten or so miles along the Seine towards the holding point 2 miles from the Eiffel Tower. What a ride. 116 cyclists decked in blue riding through the streets of Paris. The memory of riding up towards the Arc de Triomphe will stay with me for many years. Riding through red lights as a group, the Parisiens and tourists stopping to take pictures – simply amazing.

And then, a couple of turns and we’d made it. Right in front of us was the Eiffel Tower – 300 miles after leaving Crystal Palace, 20+ hours in the saddle and each and every one of us had made it. What a feeling!

It was very emotional as we completed a victory lap around the Tower and caused the Parisien traffic to stop. Lots of my fellow cyclists had friends and family meeting up with them at the finish and it’s safe to assume that the sheer enormity of what we had achieved overflowed.

Wow!

Back to the hotel, celebration dinner and off to a local bar for the party! Unbelievable to think what those party animals had just completed.

An amazing experience and the running total of donations across the group as at the celebration dinner was a staggering £477,000. UNBELIEVABLE.

Advertisements

Roxanne and I hit Beauvais…

I’m pleased to say that Roxanne and I have rocked up in Beauvais – day three of the London to Paris bike ride completed.

Who’s Roxanne you may ask.

Roxanne is my trusty steed for this event – my little bubble bee of a bike – all yellow and black. Why Roxanne? Well, therein lies a story. Today has been hard. Although shorter in length than the two previous days, I think that I under estimated the impact on my energy levels, and this combined with the heat ( 32 degrees at 11:00) and cross winds, the journey was tough.

We left Abbeville at around 8:30 and immediately entered some lovely countryside, picturesque villages and amazing views. After a few decent (hard) climbs, one of which, I had a small altercation with a fellow rider,(sorry!) we settled into mile after mile of rolling countryside, which if I’m honest got a little boring. I now understand why the farmers are so powerful in France – they must represent the majority of the population!

After a quick water stop, we drove ( I mean rode) on and saw more fields. Lunch was in a very nice hamlet on the green and again the Skyline team put on a feast, topped off by lemon cake – yum yum.

The afternoon got harder still for me and with about 5 miles to go, I hit a block – I was shattered and I was sat on a long road with a strong cross wind which meant that there was no respite. Getting into Beauvais was a relief but then I had to find the hotel. I tried my French, the locals understood me perfectly and then directed me into Centre Ville – I wasn’t too sure and checked google maps. The hotel was in the opposite direction – bloody French!!

Eventually, I arrived and got the key to the room, which although small – best not turn over too quickly or my room mate will feel my breathing on his neck – Roberts a lovely guy but I only met him two days ago so I’ve never been one for kisses on the first date!! – a least it’s got air con.

Anyway, why Roxanne?

Well to pass the time along the never ending fields, I started to think about what I should call the bike – god knows why, but honestly, there was nothing else to do. Anyway, the old Police song came into my head – you know, Roxanne, you don’t have to put on the red light…

Obviously Sting was talking about the local whore (well I hope he was, otherwise the name doesn’t work), and I suddenly had a spark of inspiration. Just like a whore’s knickers, my bike is great and very fast, going down but ever so slow going up! Probably wasn’t worth the wait, but the important stuff is coming.

Tomorrow, I, along with 115 other cyclists will complete our goal to not only cycle from London to Paris but to raise a shed load of money for charity. I suspect close onto a quarter of a million will have been raised.

I’m hoping to contribute £2k to this, so please do help by going to http://www.doitforcharity.com/tonylockwood and make a small donation. The North West Air Ambulance charity relies on donation/ fundraising completely in order to provide what is an essential life saving service, so please dig deep.

See you in Gay Paris – better keep quiet about that or Robert may get a little unsettled.

Two weeks to go…

London to Paris - 14 days to go

So, in two weeks, I’ll be in a Travelodge in Crystal Palace, London, meeting up with my fellow cyclists, all I’m sure looking forward (with trepidation) to our early morning start to what will be an amazing experience – riding in a group of around 100 from London to Paris.

I have to say, I’ve come a long way since signing up to the event 16 weeks ago. I admit that I signed up to force myself to get fit, to give myself a goal and a purpose to getting out of bed at ‘ridiculous o’clock’ to get in the training, to ensure that I would do the activity irrespective of the weather.

I wasn’t sure whether I’d enjoy it or despise it. I remember saying to a colleague that although I would get to Paris, I might not ever want to get on a bike again!

Well, I can confirm that I have enjoyed the experience so far and feel a whole lot better for having done the training so far. I learned a lot about myself also – about the need to get away from it all and make time for quiet contemplation, about the need to push myself to better my previous times, about the need to push through barriers – tiredness, aches and pains – and the need to just enjoy the moment.

I will certainly be carrying on after the event and I’ve already started to look at more events for next year!

The next two weeks will be punishing – I need to up my daily mileage over the next week before laying off a little on the last few days leading up to the 14th. I also need to ensure that I’ve got all of my kit ready – still need a few things – weekend shopping trip coming up methinks!

I’ve finally managed to confirm the logistics of getting bike, kit and me down to London and back – good old Virgin trains will be carrying me First Class from Preston to London as well as the return. Only thing to sort out now is the best way of traversing London from Euston to Crystal Palace. So, a quick tip – if you are in London on the 13th – late afternoon and you see an ‘old bloke’ on a yellow bike with a kit bag on his back looking lost – stop and help me please!

Sponsoring is going well – I managed to get some ‘corporate’ sponsorship from xynergie and Intuitive Interim & Executive Search as well as MyGoalBook – just waiting for my kit to arrive now – take a look at this little number… Thanks to the guys at Clifton

MyGoalBook cycling Kit
The new MyGoalBook Cycling Kit

Always opportunities for more sponsorship, If you’re interested, go to www.doitforcharity.com/tonylockwood – everything raised is going to North West Air Ambulance.

NWAA

I’ll be blogging regularly for the next two weeks and during the event itself – I’ll also be posting pictures on my Facebook page as well as the event Facebook page.

I’m getting into the cycling malarkey!

I have to be honest and tell you that when I signed up for the London to Paris cycling challenge, a part of me wondered whether I’d (1) complete the challenge and (2) if I did, would I ever get on a bike again.

After just four weeks, I now know the answer to both of these questions. Without a shadow of doubt, the answer is Yes and Yes. Yes, I will definitely complete the challenge and ride into Paris on the 17th August 2013 and have a photograph taken along with the rest of the group under the Eiffel Tower and Yes, I will definitely continue to cycle.

It is great fun, provides me with time to think and is doing amazing things with my fitness and body tone. I’ve been building up my miles and keeping a detailed record of progress on an App – Strava. There are a number of similar apps out there but this one is ideal and best of all Free. It keeps a detailed record of the journeys that I take, highlights times for specific sections, it even tells me how I compare with other Stava users. A very useful addition to my training plan.

I’ve taken a week off to take in the sun with the family and I’ve missed the bike rides. I’m itching to get back in the saddle and build up the miles again! The next few weeks will be telling though as I’ve really got to start to build up the distances on consecutive days – ideally, a few days of over 25 miles each day within the next couple of weeks would be great, especially if on one of those days, I can stretch to 50+ miles.

I’ve still got over 10 weeks to go, before I need to be at Crystal Palace for 06:30 for the start of what I’m sure will be an amazing four days.

I must have got into this cycling malarkey though – I’ve started to look for the next challenge!

The London to Paris trip is in aid of my 2013 Charity of the Year, North West Air Ambulance. I’m hoping to raise a minimum of £2000 for them from this event and all donations are greatly appreciated. Go to http://www.doitforcharity.com/tonylockwood if you’d like to contribute.

How can such an essential service be dependent upon Charity?

North West Air Ambulance

When I first started to work with the NW Air Ambulance, I like many others was amazed to learn that the whole service operates without any public funding and is completely dependent upon charitable donations.

Many people assume that the Air Ambulance service is part of and funded by the NHS – it isn’t!

How can that possibly be?

How can such an essential service that saves lives each and every day not be covered by the public purse?

Anyhow, unfortunately no matter how much moaning I do, I don’t think I’m going to change things – just yet! So, if I feel so passionate about the service, I need to get on with helping them to raise the £4.5m that they need to keep the two helicopters operational.

I’ve therefore just signed up for a personal challenge – to ride a bike from London to Paris over 4 days in August 2013. For some, this may not seem like a challenge, but given that I’m a social cyclist – social meaning a couple of times a year with the kids, let me assure you that this is a challenge for me!

I will be blogging throughout my training and during the event and want to encourage other people to take up similar challenges. The aim of all of this is to raise money and I will be seeing how social good can come from social media – I have around 2500 direct contacts across Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter and supposedly access to over 10 million in the wider network – this made me think – what if I could encourage each and every one of these to donate just £1 within the next 60 days.

What do you think – is it possible? Fancy helping me? If so, please send this onto your contacts and let’s get this really essential service trending across the Social Media world – many thanks for your help.

 

Please help me to help the Air Ambulance by donating £1 (more if you like) at http://www.doitforcharity.com/tonylockwood