How lucky am I

As a middle aged man my Hobbies included talking about how fit I used to be!! Which is then followed by a shed load of excuses or reasons why  I’m unable to do the sports I used to do. Three fused disc’s, impinged nerves, no feeling in my leg, heart op, what a night out that was!! I can spin a great yarn (or yawn) about excuses.

So here’s the rub. I’m over weight ( or disproportionate to my height I should be 7ft 3in J) and unfit, I know I am, but still don’t have the motivation to change my ways. Then my saviour arrives!!! The one and only Mr Richard Williams  through misty rose coloured glasses he can recognise talent when he see’s it, either that or the six pints he’d had? He asks me whether I’d fancy doing a bit of a bike ride. BIT of a bike ride!! I’d hate to see a long one!

Now my 20 year old mind went  oh yeah I’ll have some of that but my 50yr old body wasn’t up for the job, that year I’d bought a new bike called a Giant Road E +1 which has a battery pack it gave me the freedom to compensate for all my ailments and get out there BUT as with all new toys wasn’t getting it’s full use.

All my mates absolutely ripped me for “My Moped” even with my failed attempts to legitimise it’s use, you had to cycle for the power to work, and it’s really heavy compared to a normal bike cut no ice with my micky taking mates. I asked Richard if he or the lads would mind me using this bike, and with no hesitation he said no problems of course you can. I can remember a twinge of emotion and being massively grateful , these boys of whom I didn’t know were happy to accept me for who I was “Moped” and all. Why! Med it’s not a race we are about completing a challenge having fun and raising money for good causes .

Now this was about May 2017. I have been blessed to meet a bunch of ordinary guys with an extraordinary outlook and commitment to achieve great cycling feats over the years they have cycled around Wales, LEJO and Wrexham to Monaco.

I know we are going to provide much needed money for great causes and there is an enormous amount of work we have to do to be ready for this epic journey. But the real gain for me is a selfish one. Through the warmth of the group I have been given a greater purpose, one I can share with a great bunch of lads, I’m fitter, healthier and have a greater self worth.

How lucky am I.

Thank you for the invite.

Med

We are raising funds for Leonard Cheshire disability, Marie Curie, Hope house children’s Hospice and Crohn’s and colitis.

All donations will be gratefully received.

Wrexham to Gibraltar Charity Cycle Ride

https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/Team/WrexhamtoGibraltarCharityCycleRide

Man or Muppet?

Let’s be clear we are not your average cyclists, in fact there is very little average about any of us.

For a start we don’t look like your average cyclists with some of us weighing in on the higher side of above average! However, we do make quite an impression in full flow and in full pink!

That is probably unkind on Barry who has slimmed down from a huge 13 stone to about 10 stone soaking wet.

We started the ‘Man or Muppet’ cycling group several years ago having struggled with another local group who in the main were very good cyclists. Being left behind on several occasions we felt it would be better to form a very small group of cyclists who cycled purely for pleasure.

MMVT (Man or Muppet Velcro Team) was formed and under the leadership of Barry (Glorious Leader) the group has gone from strength to strength.

In short we are a group whose watchword is acceptance oh and non-conformance. If you’re too big for your Lycra or your bike is old or you are rubbish on hills or cycle clips scare the crap out of you, you’ll fit in perfectly.

To identify a group of non-conforming cyclists Barry undertook the challenge of designing a team kit. Using the latest in technological safely advancement, apparently the eyes on the kit make drivers take notice of you, in a similar way to a cardboard cut out of policemen prevent shoplifting. I also suspect several large men clad in pink are easily noticed.

The kit has come to epitomise everything we as a group stand for. If I had a pound for every pretentious cycling snob who looked down their nose at us I would not be anywhere near as wealthy as if I had a pound for everyone who shouted “go Muppets”.

A couple of years ago I decided whilst in the Pyrenees to ride the infamous Tour De France climb the Tourmalet. The climb of 4,500 ft is notoriously difficult and I knew it would be a big ask.

I was passed by several cyclists at the start of the climb all of whom looked at me very strangely. About half way up I was joined by a local cycling group 70 in total with ages ranging from 13 to 75. They kept me company for most of the way exchanging conversation and encouraging me up. After while I stopped for a break and let them go on. A little later as I reached the top of the climb I was met by a standing ovation and 69 French men and one Irish man (they get everywhere) cheering and shouting “muppet”.

A heart warming moment and I still smile at the old French chap who came up to me shook my hand poked men in the chest and said “you finish Tourmalet you man not muppet”

As a group we accept everyone and anyone regardless of ability as long as you like cake you are in. I guess it’s no surprise that many of the people who join us go on to become great friends and also get involved in the charity work.

There have been several members who have gone on to become excellent cyclists and it gives us great pride that we have been able to give these individuals the confidence to progress.

As for the other local group that I mentioned earlier, they are going strong and now have some great people who have helped develop local cycling. I’m a member and enjoy cycling with them when I can. They are a good bunch but on balance I will always be a muppet!

The reluctant cyclist

We are raising funds for Leonard Cheshire disability, Marie Curie, Hope house children’s Hospice and Crohn’s and colitis.

All donations will be gratefully received.

Wrexham to Gibraltar Charity Cycle Ride

https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/Team/WrexhamtoGibraltarCharityCycleRide

“If it was easy everyone would do it”

Hope House Children’s Hospice

I was recently asked why we would put ourselves through such a tough time in the challenges we organise.

This question is not uncommon but my answer is always the same. If we can raise money or awareness that in turn makes someone else’s life a little easier then that is job well done.

We have become defined by the challenges that we arrange, consequently people expect that we will do something more demanding each time. Actually, we love the fact it gets harder because “if it was easy everyone would do it”.

But seriously, there are certain charities for whom we would walk bare foot over hot coals. We have a special affinity with children’s charities. Lee and I completed our first challenge in 2008 in aid of Hope House and since then we have competed several challenges for Sparks, the children’s Medical Research Charity.

The affinity with children’s charities stems back to my childhood and the loss of my sister in 1978. Sara was diagnosed with Leukaemia and sadly passed away after a brave battle with the illness.

I remember to this day how the support of friends and family helped us all get through such a difficult time. I’m not sure how we would have coped without the network of support around us.

After Sara’s passing Mum and Dad worked tirelessly raising money for a variety of cancer charities and latterly they become involved with Hope House.

I had always avoided anything to do with children’s charities especially where cancer was involved, but the first time I watched a video of the work Hope House were doing I was moved beyond words. It wasn’t just the work they did with the children but the support and counselling they provide to families.

When I think what a difference that support would have made to my family, I became determined to raise awareness of their work and to raise funds to enable them to support many more families.

There are dark moments on any challenge; times when you struggle and occasionally feel like throwing in the towel. For me I think of the difference we can make, how every pound we raise can improve the lives of those around us.

Cycling 1400 miles in 13 days is a huge undertaking but we are fortunate to be supported by friends and family. For me, the fact my father is with me on the challenge makes the whole experience even more meaningful and together we can make a difference.

The following video highlights some of the work Hope House Children’s Hospice do.

https://youtu.be/MKpGdylE4GQ

The reluctant cyclist

We are raising funds for Leonard Cheshire disability, Marie Curie, Hope house children’s Hospice and Crohn’s and colitis.

All donations will be gratefully received.
Wrexham to Gibraltar Charity Cycle Ride link

https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/Team/WrexhamtoGibraltarCharityCycleRide

Fame! …..I want to live forever.

I am a prolific reader of ‘stuff’, or ‘man rubbish’ as Karen calls it. (Her normal trick is to pick my copy of Men’s Health, point to the cover model and ask when my feeble excuse of a body is going to look like that).

Sadly, reading the magazines alone hasn’t turned me into a cover model, and I’ve read enough of them. During my ‘research’, I’ve read plenty of articles extolling the benefits of increasing flexibility, especially in the older, less flexible man.

Training has been tough of late. My body has been pushed to the edge and the net result is that I am constantly stiff! My muscles ache from morning till night.

“Stretch”, I hear you shout! Well I do and I’m good at it, but it just takes so long! I use a foam roller which I hate.  I’m surprised they haven’t been banned as an instrument of torture.

Armed with my magazine knowledge of flexibility, I book for a body balance class at my local gym. The class is a mixture of Yoga, Pilates and Tai Chi, and sounds ideal.

I arrive in the gym in my standard kit of hoodie, rugby shorts and trainers.  I carry a sweat towel and some water.  I head for the ‘mind and body’ suite and what first strikes me is that everyone has their own mats, they are all thin, and they all look very, very flexible.

I nervously head into the dark room and find several people sitting on their mats looking very serious. I spot the mat bin and hurriedly chose one. How I wish I had used my other senses in the twilight.

I find a spot at the back, slip off my trainers and sit on my mat, my very damp and very smelly mat.

As my eyes adjust to the light, I can see the rows of mirrors and a handrail running along the wall.  All I can think of is the dance room from the kids from fame. I wonder if our instructor will arrive in a leotard and leg warmers, holding a cane and taping vigorously as she shouts instructions.

Well, I couldn’t have been more wrong. She was already in the room and sat on the matt adjacent to where I had set up.

I spent the class next to the instructor, with her sympathetically correcting my posture and teaching me the power of the sigh, (not a groan, a groan has no power whatsoever).

I engaged with Mother Earth through my feet and smiled through my heart.  I’m not entirely sure what any of it meant, but it was very relaxing.

The hour flew and the 10 minute sleep at the end was very nice.  Did it help? I’m not sure but I did feel very relaxed.  I’m going back. The normal instructor was away and I’m told the session was a little ‘happy clappy’. I know one thing for sure, I’ll be talking my own mat next time.

Reluctant cyclist

We are raising funds for Leonard Cheshire disability, Marie Curie, Hope house children’s Hospice and Crohn’s and colitis. All donations will be gratefully received.
Wrexham to Gibraltar Charity Cycle Ride link
https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fundraiser-display/showROFundraiserPage?userUrl=WrexhamtoGibraltarCharityCycleRide&isTeam=true

We’re going to need bigger Calipers!

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So 2018 is the year of milestones! It contains the majority of my 50th year, Karen’s 50th Birthday, Isabel’s 21st birthday and it’s 10 years since we bought the business from my parents. It’s also 10 years since my first cycling challenge.

10 years ago we were setting out on our new business venture and from day one we decided that we would like to give something back and that’s how the idea of a challenge every 2 to 3 years to raise money for charity started. I think today they called it ‘paying it forward’ but we just call it fundraising.

I don’t think there would be anyone more surprised than me if you were to tell me that in the 10 years we would have cycled the length of Hadrian‘s wall, cycled around Wales in 8 days, cycled from Lands end to John O’Groats and from Wrexham to Monte Carlo and were about to embark on the biggest challenge to date cycling from Wrexham to Gibraltar. A journey of 1400 miles in just 13 days.

So the blog finds me at the start of March with 11 weeks to go until we leave on our challenge. Training started in January with the completion of RED January, Angela had encouraged me to take part in a Ange - Copy

running challenge which involved running every day in support of mental health awareness. This was a mammoth undertaking on its own but a great way of shocking the system into training.

February has been the start of my cycling training and today I can be mostly found sat on a bike in the gym whilst the worst of the winter weather goes on outside.

Having struggled with the running in January the enormity of the task ahead became clear, the realisation that 110 miles a day for 13 days may be beyond me.

Thankfully a client had told me about a cycling coach who may be able to help, he specialises in people who have little time to train and creates training plans enabling cyclists to get the maximum ‘bang for buck’ in training terms.

So in early February I found myself sitting in a studio in Shewsbury having my V02 Max and lactate threshold tested whilst sitting on a watt bike. Liam the coach expertly guided me through the training assessment and encouraged me through the excruciating V02 max test. Taking blood from my ear every 3 minutes to work out my lactate threshold. I’m still not absolutely certain why we did this but I’m told it was essential!

Apart from a few good Club cyclists (and now me) Liam is used to dealing with professional athletes helping them hone their skills and tweak their fitness levels to maximise their potential. Goodness only knows what went through his mind when he saw me arrive at his door!

For those of you who don’t know the VO2 max test is an all-out sprint at the end of the session where your maximum output is calculated and where you leave nothing in the tank. Apparently the test went well and it took me a good 10 minutes before I could breathe again.

Long story but I’ve recently been diagnosed with high intensity excercise asthma, the same kind that Chris Froome suffers from. This is in fact the only thing I have in common with him, well apart from the fact that we both own bikes but then I paid for mine!

froome

Having regained my composure I stepped off the bike and saw Liam stood in front of me with a set of calipers in his hand. He looked at me, I looked at him and we both looked at the calipers! “I think we’re going to need larger callipers” I said.  I’m not certain whether Liam is just polite or whether he suddenly realised that he didn’t have any larger calipers but he smiled and I stood in silence in my shorts in his patio window whilst he measured the various bits of flab on my body diligently writing the result in his notebook.

calipers

So Liam’s training program has arrived it’s tough and means that with the weather being so bad I’m in the gym every day, either doing a fasted ride, a recovery ride or series of exercises designed to torture the soul. The good thing is although it’s tough it’s never boring and keeps you thinking and moving. The schedule arrives on an app and my workout is recorded and sent to him for him to analyse. (I turn it off when we get to a cafe stop).

I also have a special diet which is the hardest part. Counting every calorie, every gramme of carbohydrate and gramme of protein that you put into your body means for the first time in my life I’m actually reading labels! I have realised quite how much crap they put in food.food - Copy

I even have a carbohydrate ‘swing o’ meter’ which is about as exciting as it gets.

Mike is accompanying me on many of the training sessions although he objects strongly to getting up at 6 o’clock in the morning.

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There’s a saying in the cycling fraternity that goes something like winter miles lead to summer smiles,  at the moment I’m not sure whether this is true but I really hope so.

The reluctant cyclist

We are raising funds for Leonard Cheshire disability, Marie Currie, Hope house children’s Hospice and Crohn’s and colitis. All donations will be gratefully received.

Wrexham to Gibraltar Charity Cycle Ride link

https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fundraiser-display/showROFundraiserPage?userUrl=WrexhamtoGibraltarCharityCycleRide&isTeam=true