The trip I somewhat impulsively signed up for, it turns out, is 5 days of riding from Geneva to Nice, over the Alps. Now, even with my limited geography, I'd say that is likely to include some hills. Also, I have a feeling its quite a long way. So, my idea of a scenic trundle along side some babbling brooks and meadows, with a few cloud-topped mountains in the distance is, in fact, going to be five, 80ish mile days, each with about 3500m of climbing. This, I was told for perspective, will be equivalent to climbing Everest twice.
Well, stubborn pride would not let me bluster my way out of the trip, so instead I looked for a way to train for it, given that I have not ridden a bike any significant distance for about 7 years, if ever, and even I am not daft enough to tackle one of the toughest sections of the Tour de France without a bit of preparation.
Obviously, I could ride out from home and cover some miles that way, doing loops and circuits of my local area. Alternatively (and given that I am out of work having just returned to the UK from NZ after 10 years, and won't be starting my Osteopathy Masters until September), I had some time to kill, so decided to make the training into a charity fund-raising opportunity.
And so was born the Land's End to John O'Groats (LEJOG) "Gimme 5 (pounds)" Tour.
Now, I was a little surprised at how many people join groups and do this ride every year for charities (and good on them, too), and the option was there for me to join a group and be flogged for 10-14 days down the A-roads of Britain for 1000 miles. A trip like that, though, would need training for, and training was the purpose of my ride. Instead, I plotted my own route - 60% further than the standard one - that will take me through the highest parts of the country I could find, and thus give me plenty of hill practice.
I have chosen Barnardo's as my charity, partly because I know someone that works for them, and partly because I recognise that while I am getting a chance to pursue yet another career, many kids out there struggle to get even one chance. Barnardo's work with kids regardless of their gender, race or disability to try and close the gaps through which they may be falling, and give them a chance to realise their potential. If I can help them even a little, by getting people to hand over a small amount of money to their cause, then that will be a Good Thing, and all those who helped by pedaling (me) or donating (you) will know they have done something of which they can feel proud.
So, to the nitty gritty. There is link on the right side of this blog page that will take you to a JustGiving donation page, which is a secure and easy way to donate money. If you know me or meet me on the way, please feel free to hand me cash, and I will see it safely to Barnardo's, but I'm sure we'd all feel better if it all happened on line. For one thing, I won't have much space to carry a secure cashbox on my bike...
Thank you for your support.
I'll leave you with a brief run-down of my trip, and then future blogs will elaborate on the details. I'll be starting on Monday 5th May at Land's End and finishing 1603.81 miles later in John O'Groats. I have 29 'legs' plotted out, ranging from around 30 miles up to 82 miles, but mostly around the 50-60 miles distance, each to be completed in a day. There will be occasional rest days (either forced by weather or physical necessity), so I hope to get to John O'Groats by about the June 10th. Some judicious zig-zagging will take me through Dartmoor, Exmoor, the Brecon Beacons, Snowdonia, the Peak District, the Yorkshire Dales, the Lake District, Northumberland National Park, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs, and the Cairngorms. I will try and work out a link to Google Maps to show the exact route.
How much you choose to donate is entirely up to you, of course, but I'd like to just draw attention to some simple maths: 1p/mile would be £16.04. Which seems very fair to me.
Finally for this first blog update, but perhaps most importantly from the fundraising perspective, how much you are able to donate yourself is almost secondary to how much you could help raise on my behalf, by telling friends, family and work colleagues about my ride and directing them to either the blog or the JustGiving page. I appreciate that times are hard, and Comic Relief has only just been on the telly, but the more people who know, the more can choose to donate. And, if anyone out there wishes they could do something similar but just doesn't have the time due to family or work commitments, this is how you can do your bit. Thank you.