London to St Elizabeth Hospice
4 a.m on October 26th and the alarm went off. The day of the our London to Ipswich Ride for Toni had arrived.
Just days beforehand we had a setback as Emma's bad back ruled her out. But we still had 9 riders.
Olle (Alwyn) and I and our bikes caught the 05.42 train from Ipswich to Liverpool Street and met up with the Check Point team outside their office. We all got into our jerseys which had been specially designed for the occasion. After a little photo shoot the 9 of us set off through the already bustling streets of London. Before long we reached a canal path and snaked our way up the Lee Valley tow path in single file, regularly shouting a chain of warnings back down the line; "Pedestrian! Keep Left!" "Obstacle! Slow Down!"
The day was somewhere close to the 30th anniversary of the 1987 storm where the weather forecast had been spectacularly wrong. Today we had been promised a dry day but instead had periods of light rain to contend with and it was colder than expected. Moving off the tow path onto smooth wet concrete claimed its first victim of the day as James Alliband slid over and cut his knee. We could see the Olympic Stadium, now home to West Ham F.C, from here so this was probably not the first time claret had been seen on these streets.
Another slight unknown was the route. What looked like a friendly path on a map could turn out to be a swampy mush between some fields. Cycling, waddling and wading along one of these, the stragglers (including me of course) noticed a bike without a rider. Turned out Ivan, keeping up the olympic theme had decided to do a somersault over his handlebars and into a ditch. He emerged bloodied but not bowed and carried on like nothing had happened.
Our first stop was at Waltham Abbey where we were fed and watered and patched up by our brilliant support team Alex, Caroline and Stephen. Onwards towards Terling in the Essex countryside on proper roads my lack of preparation and sleep started to tell. Olle had gone ahead to try and catch the group and it was left to James Asker to nurse me on to the next stop. This guy should be a motivational speaker and I really couldn't have made the 50 mile point without him.
Around 40 miles suddenly there was a field of Alpacas to our right. I wondered if I was hallucinating due to tiredness so took a photo just to be sure.
Halfway point was The Monkey pub in Terling. Apparently named after some monkeys had raised the alarm in a house fire saving the lives of the occupants. Some very welcome cheese on toast and sandwiches were provided and lifted spirits. But where was Olle? The answer turned out to be central Chelmsford...a little off route. The support team rounded him up while I dried out and warmed up with a coffee in the pub.
Wiser heads than mine decided I wasn't fit to cycle the 3rd leg. Disappointment doesn't cover it but they were right and the final leg of the journey would still make a personal best 75 miles...
Olle and I completed the final leg with his knowledge of the back roads and we were warmly greeted with a very welcoming committee of family and hospice staff who had stayed behind after office hours to offer congratulations and snacks as we all swapped stories of the day.
We can't thank Check Point enough for making this happen A lot of hard work went into the planning of this event, special thanks to the amazing people who gave up their day to cycle and support and everyone who donated to the cause raising over £1380 so far for the hospice. Word is we may do it all again next year...