Category Archives: Uncategorized

We have a Son

We have a Son, Just like you.

He’s got 10 little fingers, 10 little toes, dark hair and he looks perfect in every way,

Just like your Son, the only difference  is, our Son didn’t take a breath.

 

He was born in a hospital and delivered naturally,

I cut his cord and dressed him, just the same as you did with your Son.

However, our Son didn’t make a sound when is was born.

 

We have a Son, just like you.

We love our Son, just as much as you love yours,

We talk about our Son, just as much as you talk about yours,

The only difference is that your son lives here on earth and

Our Son lives up in the Stars.

 

Just like you we buy presents for him every Birthday and Christmas,

However our Son’s presents are for his grave and will never get to play with them

 

I am a Daddy and my Wife is a Mummy,

We have a Son, Just like you!!!

 

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Sorrow & Joy

2 years ago today, 28th May 2015, we found out that Rory had died.  Our world has been flipped upside down and hearts have been shattered since that day.

 

During the weekend before we lost Rory, we visited Lullingstone Country Park and walked along the river. This was the last place that us three all visited together and therefore the place is very special to us

 

On Rory’s first anniversary we visited the park and laid yellow roses into the river and watched them float down stream. The reason why we chose yellow roses is because we all dropped a yellow rose into his grave at his funeral.

 

This year we thought we would get a toy boat and write a message to Rory and let it float downstream as far it can go.  

We put some artificial blue flowers on the boat and tied our message to Rory and dropped the boat in.  Daddy thought I would be a good opportunity to play with his radio controlled boat.

 

Rory’s boat was gently trotting along the river nicely until it started to approach the first hazard. Daddy thought it would be a good idea to put his boat near the hazard so Rory’s boat wouldn’t get stuck.

Rory’s little boat soon passed the hazard a continued to float down stream. However, Daddy’s boat got caught up in the weeds and was stuck in the middle of the river.

 

So guess who had to take his shoes and socks off and wade into the river to rescue the boat, you’ve guessed it, silly Daddy. Meanwhile Rory’s boat continue to miss all the hazards and float down stream.

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Silly Daddy!!!!

Daddy decided to not risk getting wet again and not put his boat back in.  We walked along the bank and watched Rory’s boat continue its journey.  It was very peaceful and relaxing watching the boat gently float along.

 

Eventually Rory’s little boat came right up to the side where we were standing and didn’t move.  So we thought Rory wants us to take his boat back home and not leave it there.

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Rory boat’s resting place

So Daddy tried to lean over to pick, without falling in, the boat slowly started to move out of Daddy’s reach. Then when Daddy grabbed a tree to stop himself from falling in the boat moved closer to the edge.  I think Rory was playing a trick on Daddy and trying to get him wet.

 

Eventually I was able to reach Rory’s boat and pulled it out. We went and sat on the same bench, two years previously, when Rory was with us and watched the world go by.  Whilst sitting there we saw a Robin on the opposite bank looking at us, soon we saw a second Robin and later a third.

Despite all the noisy dogs and children we found it quite relaxing and peaceful and thought it was a nice way to mark the day and found it slightly easier than last year.

 

I’m already thinking about next year and thinking we may either try and organise a charity duck race or get a memorial bench somewhere along the footpath along the river.

 

Later in the evening we found out that my niece had a little girl this afternoon. It is really weird that on the same date that we found out Rory died, 2 years later our family is celebrating a life.  However, we are relieved that my great niece wasn’t born on Rory’s Birthday.

A message from Rory?

To some people, Butterflies have a spiritual meaning and they may believe that they are a sign from loved ones who have passed.

 

On the Day of Rory’s funeral, just after he had been laid to rest, we all saw a tiny blue butterfly fluttering around the cemetery.  Could this been a message from Rory?

Then after we returned home from Rory’s funeral my wife and I both saw a tiny blue butterfly fluttering around outside the front of our flat and outside the window of what would have been Rory’s room.  Could that be a coincidence?

 

Since that day we have had a few quick sightings of blue butterflies, but nothing significant.

 

Last weekend myself and my wife gave Rory’s garden a makeover.  We took everything off and cleaned everything up.  I then added 3 bags of topsoil and planted some plants that we bought from the garden center in that afternoon.  It took a lot longer than we thought and we were still at the cemetery at closing time on the Saturday evening, so we had to leave rest until the Sunday.

 

On the Sunday we were putting the finishing touches to his garden and then a blue butterfly landed on the garden and seem to sit there for a few minutes.  It then fluttered around and kept landing on many different areas of Rory’s garden. Was this Rory saying that he likes he garden?   

Are these messages from Rory, maybe or maybe not, or maybe that are they just coincidences?  Either way, every time we see a blue butterfly we will always think of our angel Rory.

Did it for Rory -Antwerp Marathon 2016

Antwerp 10 miles and MarathonI did my first and only other marathon 4 years ago and forgot how tough marathon training can be, but when you also factor in that you are grieving for the loss of your unborn son, it is even tougher.  Grief consumes most of your life and thoughts and can be very tiring, so doing anything physical is tough.

 

The reason why I decided to take on the challenge was to raise money for SANDs and raise awareness of stillbirth and babyloss in memory of our son, Rory.  It was the fact that I was doing it for Rory drove me to ensure that I stuck to my training plan and that I never gave up.

Sands Profile Pic-2

Throughout my training I kept doubting that I could actually complete the 26.2 miles in the 6hr time limit.  During my training it didn’t feel it got any easier but I did start to notice that I was recovering quicker, which made me think that I must be getting fitter/stronger.

 

In the last few weeks leading up to the marathon my running felt a little more effortless and I started to think that maybe I can do this.  I did my last run on the Thursday before the marathon and had a great controlled pace run, then had to finish packing for the next morning.

 

On Friday morning my wife, Jo, and I got the eurostar to Brussels from ebbsfleet, there was also a number of my feĺlow runners from my running club, Dartford Road Runners, on the same train as us.  At Brussels we got a connecting train to Antwerp central station.

Antwerpen Central Station

Antwerpen Central Station

We had a short walk from the station to our hotel.  We and the rest of the group were staying in the Mercure Centrum Opera Hotel.  After checking, in me and Jo had a wander around Antwerp and were very impressed, there is so much to see.  I almost forgot that we was there for the marathon and felt like we were away on a weekend break.

 

On Saturday morning we made our way to the marathon exhibition to collect my race number.  The exhibition was where the marathon start area on the other side of the river Scheldt.  The west bank of the river can be accessed via the Sint-Annatunnel, which is open for pedestrians and cyclists.

Picking up Number

Collecting my race number

 

The exhibition was very modest and consisted of a large marquee. Unlike the London Marathon there was no queue to collect my number. Then I went outside to collect my T-shirt, which was included in the entry price.  Whilst outside I had some photos by the start line in my SAND’s T-shirt and Vest.

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We then took a slow walk back through the tunnel and back towards the cathedral and the old town. After stopping for lunch in the old town we went back to our hotel room to rest for the afternoon and to get my running gear ready for the morning.

The Sunday morning was soon here and I was up at 6am having breakfast with the rest of the runners, which consisted of cereal, toast with jam and a couple of bananas.  Cooked breakfast was available, but i didn’t think it was good preparation, even though I would have preferred to have eaten that.

 

After breakfast I was making my last final preparations in my room and then we took a slow walk to the tunnel and made our way to the start line.  The rest of the group got a tram to the start to save their legs, however I didn’t want to risk getting on the wrong one and missing the start.

Tunnel

Sint-Annatunnel

The Marathon in Antwerp is a low key event their was only around 2,000 runners, it felt like I was lining up for a local half-marathon such as Paddock Wood.  It did seem real that I was actually going to run a marathon and hardly had any nerves.  I made my way to the very last pen on the start line, alongside the 5hr pacers.

Start

As soon as the race started the heavens opened up, Jo waved me off and wished me good luck I then concentrated on getting into my rhythm and try not to go off too quick, so I decided to stay with the 5hr pacers. Only a few kilometers into the race we were entering a motor tunnel, after getting drenched I started to feel quite cold and thought maybe I should have put a base layer on.  The tunnel is over 2k in length and felt like we were running through it for a long time.  Eventually we go to the other side and it was nice to see some daylight and feel some warmth from the sun.

 

As we exited the tunnel we headed towards the old town, passing the Steen Castle and were approaching 6k.   This is where Jo was waiting to cheer me on, after this point the crowds disappeared as we were going away from the city centre.  I was running well at a comfortable pace and found myself between the 4.45hr pacers and 5hr pacers, I thought if I could keep this up I would be extremely pleased.

6k Point

6k point, with Steen Castle in background

I soon crossed the 10k checkpoint and I remember looking up and saying to Rory  ‘Daddy has done a quarter of the race and now I’ve got three quarters to go’.  I managed to keep to a good pace and the kilometer markers were passing quite quickly.  There were plenty of water stations, they were approximately at every 2.5k, so i made sure I took on plenty of fluids.  Some parts of the course wasn’t that scenic and we had to negotiate several road and tram crossings,  thankfully there were loads of police stopping all the traffic.   

 

I reached the halfway point around 2hrs 20 mins, which was good for me, as this was 10 mins quicker than what I completed the Dartford Half Marathon in early March this year. I could feel my pace started to drop and could feel my hips getting tighter. I was hoping to keep my pace under 12 mins per mile, which I managed for the next few miles until mile 17.

 

The next few miles were really tough and I made the most of each water stop, by having a little walk whilst taking on fluids and focused on running in between each stop. I eventually reached the 30k check point and could see two Darftord Road Runners Vests ahead up the road, which were Mike and Mary.  I could see that they were also walking and jogging, I just tried to keep them in my sights.

 

I slowly caught up them and found that Mary was struggling as she had been suffering with a cold for a few days before the marathon.  I gave her some words of encouragement to keep her going, we had a little walk and then after she had composed herself we started to jog again, however I started to flag behind them both.

 

At the 32k point there was a welcomed sight of the DRR supporters, which gave us a massive boost.  Now I only had 10k to go, I thought to myself ‘only two parkruns to go’ and just tried to keep plodding along, while Mary and Mike were pulling further and further away.

 

The next drink stop and my next walking break was at 35k, it was this point that I was passed by the 5hr pacers and I knew that sub 5hrs was out of reach.  I had to re-evaluate and thought if I could keep my current pace I would still have a chance of achieving a personal best.

Cathedral

Cathedral of Our Lady, Antwerpen

I had to dig deep for the last 7k and just kept going for Rory.  In the distance was a welcomed sight of the cathedral, but it didn’t seem to be getting any closer.  The rest of the route was a blur, until I recognised the Steen Castle up ahead and I knew I was very close to home.  Soon after passing the castle the route turns left towards the old town, this Is where I saw Jo waiting to cheer me on, I then turn left to see the finish line by the Brabo Statue in front of the Old City Hall.

 

I couldn’t believe that I had actually done it, I could see the line and could see the clock was at 5hrs 11mins,  I knew I had bagged myself a PB and for some reason I did the ‘Mobot’ as I crossed the line.  Soon as I crossed the line, I looked for Jo and we both gave each other a massive emotional hug.  We had done it, we had done it for Rory and all the other angels gone too soon.  We then headed to the nearest bar for a well earned drink or two.


I was so proud that I managed to complete it and was so pleased that I achieved a personal best with an official time of 5hrs 8mins & 24 seconds.  I am so grateful for everyone who sponsored me and help me raise over £1,000 for SAND’s.  I only hope Rory was looking down and watching his silly Daddy and that I made him proud too.

Medal

Did it for Rory xxx

6 Months Angelversary

No one ever forgets the birth of their child as it a momentous occasion. However, will we never forget for the wrong reasons.

6 Months ago today our Son, Rory, arrived into this World at 23.34 on 30/05/2015. He was a healthy weight of 6lb 3oz, he had 10 perfect fingers and 10 perfect toes.  In fact he was perfect in every way apart from that he never took a breath.

My wife, Jo, gave birth naturally to Rory and the only pain relief she had was gas and air.  I was by her side through the labour, I timed the contractions and when Rory arrived I got to cut the cord.  This all sounds like a normal delivery, however the difference was that we already knew two days before that our unborn baby had died.

We didn’t know what to expect and was scared what we would see, but there was nothing scary at all.  Rory was a beautiful little baby boy, with long legs like Daddy and a cute button nose like Mummy.  He looked so peaceful and just looked like he was asleep.

The only image that haunts me from that day was seeing the Knot in his cord, that had tightened, which caused our Son to pass away at 36 weeks & 2 days.

We got to spend a short time with him and held him a few  times, but couldn’t pick him up too many times as he was so delicate. Rory stayed in the room with all us all night in a cold cot. Jo couldn’t stop looking over him and holding his tiny hands and fingers. All the time we were together I didn’t feel sad, we were a family all together, with our baby who was sleeping.

The next day some of our family came to visit to meet Rory but eventually the time came when we had to say goodbye to him and leave hìm behind. We were saying goodbye to our Son before we even got a chance to say hello.

Leaving Rory at the hospital was the most hardest, painful and heartbreaking thing I’ve ever had to do. Instead of leaving holding our bundle of joy, we left with broken hearts holding a memorial box.

Poppy Half Marathon Festival of Running – 8th November 2014

I’ve always wanted to do this race for the last couple of years, but never entered it because of the Swanley KFL which is always on the same day and previously being a Swanley member I used to help out setting up the course.  So now being a member of Dartford Road Runners I thought I would give it a go this year.

I booked the race over 3 months in advance and decided to set up 12 week training plan. I’ve never followed a plan before for a half marathon and I thought I would this time to see if I could improve on current PB of 1:59:40, which I did at Paddock Wood in April 2013.  All my training was geared up to this race, throughout my training I felt I was improving and getting fitter. My parkrun times were improving, I had a steady 10 mile at Sittingbourne  and I even smashed my 10k PB at Ashford.

Leading up to the race the organisers announced that they were also organising a 5k and a quarter marathon race as well as the half marathon.  My wife, Jo, liked the look of the medals and decided to enter the 5k.  Jo’s sister also decided to enter the 5k too, so they could do it together.

With only a few weeks before the day whilst training with Dartford Road Runners I managed to badly twist my ankle. It felt quite painful at the time, so I rested it for about 5 days.  During the next few runs afterwards the ankle felt a little bit tender, so I couldn’t really push it in training, but I was running.

The night before the race myself and my wife were both getting our bags ready for the morning, which was unusual as its normally just be me getting my things ready.  I saw on facebook that the forecast for the next day was strong winds, but hopefully staying dry. I was hoping for more of a gentle breeze than strong winds as I was still hoping to get close to my PB.

On the morning of the race we set off early and made our way to the sussex coast.  As Jo was doing the 5k which was due to start at 10.30am we planned to get to Bexhill for 9.30am to give Jo plenty of time to register and get ready for her event. We arrived shortly after 9.30am and parked fairly close to the HQ  along the seafront, where we could see the large waves crashing onto the beach.

(Photo Courtesy of David Cooper)

(Photo Courtesy of David Cooper)

We wasn’t the only ones there early, I remember seeing Rachel and Gary Bignell and Stephanie Ham in their car sheltering from the conditions.  We met Jo’s sister, Donna outside the HQ and made our way to registration and collected our race numbers. I picked up my race pack and my number was 1111, I thought that’s an easy one to remember and then the volunteer pointed out the significance of my number 11th of the 11th.

11th of the 11th

11th of the 11th

I tend to get memorable numbers at races, I’ve had numbers such as 118 and 999 in the past. Then later I found out I’m not the only one, as Gary Bignell aka ‘number 69’, had number 1418 (1914-1918).

The start of the 5k fun run was fast approaching and we made our way to the start on the promenade and waved off my Wife and Donna. They headed west along the seafront for a short distance before turning around and heading back towards the start.  Once past the start line they continued heading east for approximately half a mile to another turn around point back to the start.  They had to repeat the route another two times, so I saw them on many occasions during the race.

Jo and her sister, Donna, are not keen runners and walked the whole 5k and when they were the final two to cross the line, they wasn’t bothered.  They were both delighted that they completed the distance and so pleased with their medal, which happen to be exactly the same as the half marathon.

Jo and Donna at the finish

After the role of spectator, it was my turn to get ready for the half marathon. Whilst getting ready I was undecided how many layers to wear, I normally sweat a lot when I run and was thinking of only wearing a vest. However the wind made it feel a lot colder so I decided to wear short sleeve base layer under my DRR Vest.

Once finishing flapping about and finally deciding what to wear, I made my way to the start where I saw everyone from SLGR (too many to mention) and I could see Ian Pullen, Simon Hassett and Mathew Woolston up ahead and closer to the start line so they could get a quick getaway.

Team SLGR before the Start (Photo Courtesy of Kat McVicar)

Team SLGR before the Start (Photo Courtesy of Kat McVicar)

 

Simon and Ian at the start (photo courtesy of Simon Hassett)

Simon and Ian making a quick getaway at the Start (photo courtesy of Simon Hassett)

After a 2 minute silence and a rendition of the National Anthem we were off. It was quite congested at the start and took a while to get into any sort of rhythm.  The route turned left down onto the lower promenade where we were greeted with a mass of sea-foam. Some runners were bemused by it and seemed to stop or slow down in front of me.

The route continued along the lower promenade past the De La Warr Pavilion, then further up we were presented with another obstacle, the path was completely covered in shingle. The shingle was quite deep in places, I found it quite difficult to run on and was worried about my ankle.

Half Marathon Race Route

Half Marathon Race Route

Once past the shingle section we reached the turnaround point and had to run back through it.  On this section I got to see so many friendly faces and exchanged a few hi-fives as we all encouraged each other.

Despite the wind and the shingle, I was running at a reasonable pace and found myself running with Janet Cooper and Dawn Annett, so I thought to myself I’ll try to keep up with them for as long as possible.

Myself and Dawn completed the 1st lap practically together in 39 mins, which was on right on target.  I stayed with Dawn until the shingle section which slowed me down a little while Dawn seemed to glide across it.  I did my best to keep her in my sights and completed the 2nd lap in 41 mins, with a total time of 1hr 20mins. I was still on target for 2hrs and only had to do another 40 minute lap. Sounds easy on paper, but not after being battered by the wind for nearly 9 miles.

I really struggled on the last lap mentally and physically, my hips started to ache and the shingle didn’t help. I struggled to keep Dawn in my sights as she started to pull away from me and I only saw her on the turnaround points.  My legs were getting heavier and at mile 11 I tripped over whilst looking at my Garmin. Some fellow runners went to help me up and asked if I was ok. I said ‘I’m fine, don’t worry about me, keep going’. I just didn’t want to slow anyone else down.

I got back to my feet and jogged to the drinks station and took this opportunity to take a couple of drinks (one water and one rola cola) and have a little walk.  I knew that my 2hr target was out of reach and now just wanted to finish, put my feet up and have something to eat.  So I kept plodding away, I could see the pavilion  in the distance and just focused on that.

I passed the pavilion, then down the steps, that I had jumped on the previous two occasions but this time I gingerly stepped down. I could see the finish line, I just put my head down and kept going, however, the line didn’t seem like the line was getting any closer.  I then eventually crossed the line and the last lap had taken me 44mins.

Struggling at the end of the 3rd and final lap (Photo courtesy of David Cooper)

Struggling at the end of the 3rd and final lap (Photo courtesy of David Cooper)

Once I finished and collected my medal, everyone was queuing for free hot drinks and treats in the marquee. I couldn’t be bothered to queue, I just wanted to put on some warm dry clothes before I got cold, so I headed back to the car.  I later found out everyone wasn’t just queuing for refreshments, they were also receiving their instant results, so I had to wait to for the results to be published on-line for my official time.

I got changed and my legs started to stiffen up so I didn’t fancy hanging around in the cold and left before I had chance to say goodbye to anyone and see how my friends got on. But before leaving the 3 medallists had one last quick photo showing off our bling.

Just a little windy!!!

Just a little windy!!!

The route wasn’t particularly challenging and the 3 laps allows you to see your supporters and friends that were racing on many occasions. However, it was the very strong winds and the shingle that made it harder. I was pleased with my time of 2:04:24, it wasn’t a PB, but it was my quickest half this year and my 2nd best half marathon time. I would like to try this race again but preferably with calmer conditions and who knows maybe achieve a PB.

Route profile

Route profile

Well done to everyone who took part in one of the three different events, we all well and truly deserved our nice medals.

Commemorative Medal

Commemorative Medal

Prudential Ride London – 10/08/2014

On Saturday, the day before the big day, I spent a lot of time checking over my bike and making sure it was ready for our journey together.  I previously had a problem with the back wheel due to a hitting a pot hole, so I spent a lot of time truing up the wheel, for any cyclists, they would know how difficult and time consuming this job is.

Once I had finished fiddling about with my bike, I then put on my numbers on my bike and jersey and then got my bag ready for the morning.  We were given stickers to put on our helmets and official baggage bag.  I put a sticker on my helmet and thought ‘this is a large helmet sticker’ then when I went to put the sticker on my bag and thought ‘this is a bit small’ and then I realised I had put my baggage label on my helmet, Lol.  Luckily I managed to peel off the sticker from my helmet, without ripping it and managed to stick it to my baggage bag.

My machine ready for our adventure.

My machine ready for our adventure.

 

Getting jersey ready night before

Getting jersey ready night before

 

I set my alarm for 4.30 on the Sunday morning as Mat Woolsten was due to pick me up at 5.15am and then Kelly Standley at 5.30am before making our way to the O2, where Mat had booked the official car parking.  Once at the O2 we had a choice of cycling through the Blackwall Tunnel, as this was closed for traffic, or use the Emirates Air Line cable cars over the Thames to the Excel Centre. The cable cars were free for all riders and their bikes, so we thought we take the opportunity for a free ride. At the Emirates Air Line station we saw Laura queueing waiting for the lift, but myself and Kelly decided to carry our bikes up the stairs and then Mat and Laura followed behind.

Myself and Kelly got in one cable car, which was quite difficult to maneuver our bikes into whilst they were moving. Then whilst airborne, over the Thames, I wondered if the cars could be rocked, so I tried and it actually did.  I’m not sure why I did this because I’m not the best with heights and soon stopped and then held onto the hand rail, meanwhile Kelly was in fits of laughter.

Once we landed on the other side we all slowly cycled to the start following all the signs.  We knew we were getting closer and closer because the number of cyclists riding along with us grew and the car drivers were getting more and more frustrated due to all the road closures.  When we arrived at the Olympic park Mat and Laura went off to their starting area and myself and Kelly had the same starting block and after dropping off our bags we made our way to our pen.

We were in the pen for about half an hour before we started moving and then joined the rest of the queues for the start, with all the other starting colours. They seemed to allow a block from each colour take in turn to move forward and reach the start line.  After about another 30 mins we eventually made it to the start line.

 

Nearly there!!!

Only 86 miles to go!!!

Whilst preparing myself for the start I looked over and I recognised a couple of friendly faces, Dawn and Peter Grainger, who had volunteered to help on the baggage trucks.  As I said hello to them both, Dawn quickly whipped out her camera from under her rain poncho to take a couple of quick snaps.  Then the countdown begun for us to go and was soon off.  Once we got over the timing mats, after a few seconds of clicking from all the riders clipping into their pedals, we said ‘good luck’ to each other and then cycled along our own pace.

Photo courtesy of Dawn Grainger

Photo courtesy of Dawn Grainger

It was a great feeling to cycle along the closed roads of London, it was a unique experience.  The route took us along the wrong side of the dual carriage way on the A12 towards the docklands area and then we through the lime house link tunnel onto the highway and towards Tower Hill.  It was nice going through the tunnels to get a break from the rain and to ride on dry roads.

After whizzing past the poppy display at the Tower of London the route took us onto the embankment and then through central London passing many London Landmarks.  The rain continued to get worse and the wind starting to pick up, despite the bad weather I was going along at quite a quick pace, for myself, and was averaging about 18 miles an hours.  After crossing the Thames via Chiswick we headed towards Richmond Park and then Big Bertha hit, the rain was torrential and the road through Richmond Park quickly turned into a river.

I was halfway through the park and then the dreaded puncture fairy struck, it looked like so many other participates were also struck down by her, I passed so many unlucky riders and we was only into the first 20 miles of the ride.  I pulled over to the side and tried to get some shelter under the trees whilst replacing the inner tube, however the rain was so heavy I didn’t get any respite from it.  It took me an age to take off the tyre, replace the inner tube and try to pump up the tyre to a reasonable pressure whilst using a tiny hand-pump. It’s times like these that I wish I could put my arm out like the pros’ and someone comes along with a new wheel in hand,  replaces the wheel in seconds and then push you on your way.

After eventually fixing my puncture I re-joined the race and within minutes of getting back on my bike everyone came to a halt.  Due to the adverse weather conditions the roads were completely flooded and we were asked to dismount and walk for a short distance.  Once we left Richmond Park most of the roads on the route were flooded, so we had to be cautious along these roads because many times we all came to stand still.

At 36 miles we had crossed over the M25 and found the rolling countryside of Surrey.  After about 10 miles of undulations we then endured the biggest climb of the route, being Newlands Corner.  It may have not been Leith Hill or Box Hill but it was still a challenging climb, which maxes out at 570ft and it was on this climb that a fellow participant suffered a cardiac arrest and passed away, which was such sad news.

View from top of Newlands Corner.

View from top of Newlands Corner.

At the summit of the climb there was a welcome sight of the official food hub, where I stopped to consume my Jam sandwiches and to fill up my water bottles. After my pit stop I made my decent along the A25 heading towards Dorking, it was along this stretch I reached my maximum speed of 39.9 mph.  The next 13 miles flew by and were soon making our way to Leatherhead reaching the 60 mile marker.

By now the rain had stopped, the sun started to come out, I was starting to dry out and I was enjoying this part of the ride.  We soon passed through Esher and through the very picturesque Kingston Upon Thames, I was really enjoying the scenery.  Not long after passing through the market town I stopped at the last official drink stop.  I stopped for a few moments to take in extra fluids and some carbs for the final push to the finish.

After a few minutes at the drink station I saw Kelly again, we had a quick chat and as Kelly was keen to get going again before her legs seized up, so she left me at the stop.  I continued to drink some more fluids, then I topped up my bottle, send Jo a text giving her an update of my progress and took off my jacket, as I was starting to get quite warm.  I was now ready to take on the last 13 miles of the  challenge.

Within a few minutes after getting back on the bike the heavens opened again, many riders were pulling over to put on their waterproofs, as I just took mine off I couldn’t be bothered to put it back on again.  It came down so hard it felt like hail stones which made the final climb up towards wimbledon, a little bit tougher.  This was the final time I saw Kelly until the finish as I slowly passed her. Whilst concentrating on the hill I didn’t get much chance to look out see the common and see if Great Uncle Bulgaria and the rest of the Wombles were at home.

By the time I got to Putney Bridge the rain had stopped and I was now at mile 80, only 6 miles to go.  I felt pretty good at this stage and I could see that my average speed was increasing.  I was going along at a steady pace along with few other riders and it was a great cycling along the closed roads and it was felt unusual to cycle through red lights.  We were soon on the embankment and passed Battersea Bridge, now I knew I was very close to the finish.  I was counting down the Bridges as I passed them, Albert Bridge, Chelsea Bridge, Vauxhall Bridge, Lambeth Bridge and then Westminster Bridge.

Once we passed Westminster Bridge we went round Parliament Square onto Whitehall, pass David Cameron’s house, towards Nelson’s column and then turned left under Admiralty Arch on to the home straight on the Mall.  Whilst cycling down the Mall I quickly saw my army of fans, my wife Jo, my father-in-law Rod, my sister-in-law Amanda and my brother-in-law Nick,  cheering me on.  Once I past my fan club, I thought I’d stick the bike in a higher gear and pretend I’m Mark Cavendish and sprint to the line.  As I crossed the line I punched the air in delight and then collected my medal.

Admiralty Arch

Admiralty Arch

Finally - the finish line!!

Finally – the finish line!!

At the finish we continued down the mall pass the Victoria Memorial and down the side of Buckingham Palace, to the baggage area.  Many of my friends volunteered to work on the baggage trucks with Swanley A/C so I went over to say hello to them all.  They were telling me what a tough day that they’ve had and some of them looked more knackered than me.  Mathew was also here as his wife and daughter also volunteered, this was the first time I saw him since we left each other at the Olympic Park.  Typically Mat’s first words were ‘where have you been?’, as he finished before me and then congratulated for finishing.  Then only a few minutes later Kelly arrived and came to see her partner Steve, who also helped on the baggage.

Showing off my medal

Showing off my medal

After speaking to my friends I went to find my wife and her family.  They had walked down towards Buckingham Palace to meet me and were sitting near the gardens.  Jo’s sister, Amanda, had made a packed lunch for me, which I was so grateful for and scoffed it down.  We sat there for a while, whilst I shared my experience with them before we slowly walked to Charing Cross station and got the train back to Dartford.

Here are my results for any cycling stat fans;

  • Total Time: 6:43:59
  • Riding Time: 5:45:47
  • Average Speed: 15.12 mph
  • Max Speed: 39.9 mph
  • Elevation: 2,185 ft
Ride London 86 mile route and profile.

Ride London 86 mile route and profile.

On Saturday I was doubting whether I could actually ride 100 miles, which I didn’t, but to no fault of my own.  However, I still felt pretty good when I finished and felt that I would have been ok completing the other 14 miles, despite probably being the hardest part of the route.  I feel slightly disappointed that I didn’t get a chance to complete the full 100 mile route, however I was still pleased with myself as this was still the furthest I’ve ever cycled in one day and I was more please about that I managed to keep my average speed above 15 mph.  Before I started training for the event I struggled to keep my pace above this for a 13 mile ride.

The whole day was a great experience and Big Bertha didn’t dampen the riders spirits, it just added to the adventure.  I enjoyed the route, it was great to cycle along the closed roads of London and to finish on the iconic Mall.  All of the volunteers did an amazing job and were so cheerful, despite the weather not giving them much to cheer about.  They all have my up-most respect for giving up their day in order to make the race possible.

Don’t forget, for those who may be interested, the ballot opens for the 2015 event on Monday 18th August. So who is up for a challenge?