It all started with a desire to ‘get fit’. Over the years, I had transformed from a healthy footballer type physique, to more of a wrestler type!
Every year in September there is a Glasgow to Edinburgh cycle. 47 miles of closed road to get stuck in to. Back in April 2014, I decided that I was going to commute more often and actually use the bike that I bought through the cycle to work scheme and save some diesel money.
So off I went, 1 day a week. Every Friday cycling 10 miles in with a tailwind, and 10 miles home into a headwind! After a few weeks, I got brave and started to cycle twice a week…
Before long, my initial target of cycling 47 miles in a single day seemed doable – so I started to do the ‘Two Bridges’. Over the Kincardine Bridge and then over the Forth Bridge. Depending on route choice, a 50-55 mile cycle was completed.
At this point, the challenge of Glasgow to Edinburgh seemed to be too easy, so other ideas started to form. Back in 2008, myself and 2 friends motorcycled round the coast of Britain, raising funds for Macmillan Cancer Support and Marie Curie. So, 7 years later, the thought of doing a charity cycle seemed extremely tempting.
A week later, I was signed up. 300 miles in 4 days… surely with a whole 11 months till we set off, there was plenty time to get ready? As well as the physical preparation required, I had to raise a minimum of £1,600 for MacMillan Cancer Support to ensure of my place. I was extremely confident of reaching that target!
Thankfully, the I hit the £1,600 target and Glasgow to Edinburgh passed without much issue – well, except for someone cutting me up and me damaging my wrist. Initially, I was concerned that it was broken – which would have been a nightmare as I had a whole week of volunteering at the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles 3 weeks later – however, the gods of cycling looked down on me kindly and it was merely a knock.
2014 saw me cycle 1,450 miles. A new record for me, but compared to many others, not that great. It also saw me shed around 42 lbs which obviously helped with the hills!
2015 started with a renewed focus on the fact that I only had 6 months left till ‘L2P’. My first Sportive was booked for April – the Evans Ride It Sportive in Callander – a 87 mile cycle around the Trossachs. Stunning scenery – although certainly more hills than I was used to.
First though, I had to collect my new (and first ever) road bike! A 2014 Giant Defy 1 was collected from Pedal Power in West Calder and all of a sudden my mountain bike seemed to be heavy and cumbersome… road cycling was truly fantastic!!
The Sportive was hard going, on a day where it rained more that the sun shone (I suppose what should I expect in Scotland in April), 87 miles was a slog – however, I believe that not many of those who signed up actually participated, so my total time of 7hrs 14 mins seemed slow, but considering there was 4,987ft of climbing, I was relatively satisfied. The only negative was the fact that the whole operation was packing up as I arrived…
Another Sportive followed in May – The Skinny Tweed – a really good 44 mile cycle. Climbing of 1,628ft kept me working and I completed it in 3 hrs 20.
Throughout all of this cycling, the fundraising was ongoing. Cake bakes in work. Afternoon tea in the village. Even leg waxing and head shaving all for the good cause. Knowing that I hit my fundraising target in April really helped me to focus on my cycling – without losing the desire to raise as much money as possible for the charity.
May saw me tackle a longer cycle on my own, the Family had headed down to Eyemouth – near Berwick upon Tweed, so my aim was to make the 70 miles cycle on the Saturday. Couldn’t be that bad, a nice cycle down the coast with a tailwind? Yeah, you guessed it, the wind was coming from the East. 70 miles was a slog, but again I managed it in a little over 6 hours…
Several longer rides followed in the next few weeks. A 69 miles cycle round the Firth of Forth again, as well as my first taste of Audax – a 21 miles mile warm up to the start line. A 63 mile Audax and a 21 mile cycle home. My first ton. 105 miles!! By this point, with 10 days left till we leave Greenwich, I had cycled 1500 miles in 6 months. A whole 50 miles more than I had managed in the whole of the previous year.
By the time we got down to London, I was ready – my weight hadn’t really improved much – I did struggle with knowing what to eat to lose weight but still have enough energy for all the cycling – this is something I am hoping using my fitness pal will help with.
London to Paris itself was great. We left Greenwich at around 7.30am on Wednesday 1st July. Due to the Calais Ferry strikes, the trip was in doubt, but Discover Adventure were excellent and managed to change us to the Newhaven-Dieppe ferry and also change our hotels. Although the change did mean we got into our Hotel at around 2.30am and had to be leaving at 7.30am. A short night!
Day 1 (London to Newhaven) was a 72 mile cycle – 4,597ft of climbing and some REALLY hot weather – definitely in the 30s!
Day 2 (Calais to Arras) was a strange day. Cold and wet first thing (After a 2 hour coach journey back to Calais) then high temperatures in the afternoon. Was great seeing the Tour de France preparation in full flow (Stage 5 was starting from there a week later). Day 2 was 58 miles with 2,296ft of climbing and some lovely undulating roads!
Day 3 (Arras to Compiegne) was the most sentimental. 81 miles with 2,042ft of climbing. Passing through many First World War Battle fields – including the Somme. Temperatures on this day reached 40 degrees and the risk of heat stroke was always about.
Day 4 was a tear inducing 60 mile cycle into Paris from Compienge. 1,738ft of climbing made it still a challenge.
Overall I was delighted with managing the whole event without any time in the van. A fate that unfortunately did happen to others.
Arriving in Paris was an emotional end to a great journey – my wife and son had made the trip over and were there waiting for me, as were countless other families.
Overall, £4500 raised for Macmillan was a great achievement. This has also whetted my appetite for more! What’s next? I have my eye on Venice to Rome in 2017… Apparently Tuscany isn’t that hilly, right?
About the Author: David O’Rourke is 43 and lives in Linlithgow, West Lothian in Scotland. He is the manager in a Financial Services Contact Centre and is married with one son. David loves cycling and raising money for charity.