My next 'what bike?' decision I had to make was which bike would I ride on when doing my London to Paris in 24hrs adventure on Monday 27th April. The colleague I was going with was adamant I should take Bella Rosa, and Mark, my coach was swayed more towards my trusty steed road bike. I was sat completely on the fence. I trusted my road bike, she has done many miles and never let me down (bar the rubbing brake pad a few weeks back but that was a minor issue and I forgave her). Bella Rosa was shiny and new but was a risk. Doing 190 miles on a brand new bike which has a different geometry was of course a gamble. However, my main issue was that the tyres were tubulars - basically they are attached to the wheel. This obviously posed another huge risk, if I punctured it would be game over unless I could change it (which I couldn't at that moment in time), was near a bike shop, or had some 'goo' that would ruin the tyre but keep it inflated for as long as possible. Andy, my colleague assured me that along the way there would be a train station that I could stop at if disaster struck so I would be able to get to Paris. I was still unsure throughout the weekend, only finally making my decision the night before we left.
|Gearing ourselves up|
Anyway, before I set off on my London to Paris adventure on the Monday I just want to fill you in on my first open water swim of the season. I did this on the Saturday before work. However, this was no normal early morning lake swim before work. I met up with some of the team that I am doing the Channel crossing with. It would be the first time I would ever be open water swimming without a wetsuit and considering it is early in the season and the lakes have only just opened it would be bloody cold. I wasn't wrong.
The water upon entering took my breath away. I was the last one of our 'crew' to fully submerge myself and with the persuasion of Gill I buried my head under the water shortly after entering as opposed to doing breast stroke for ages. I was going to do 2 laps of the 400m loop. I went off ahead of the group as wanted to warm up and actually found it OK after a while. In fact when I stopped to talk to Phil one of the relay swimmers I exclaimed I actually felt quite warm, maybe too warm? I did my 2 laps and then got out. I felt fine and although felt I was talking a little funny didn't struggle to hold a conversation with some others by the pontoon. I wasn't even shaking when outside but knew I had to get into change sharpish. When Phil joined me out of the water he was almost instantly shaking and felt like he couldn't talk properly.
We both took this as our cue to get changed as I thought I this may happen to me soon enough especially as I had been stood around chatting (what a surprise!). I remember Gill saying previously you have 10 minutes to get changed before the uncontrollable shakes begin. I got changed pretty quick and strangely enough didn't get too shakey. However I did not speak for everyone. Phil was struggling to get anything out of his bag and put his socks on. (I talk about Phil more so because we were swimming nearer eachother and Gill was the only other person non-wetsuit but she was helping others who were brand new to open water swimming). Phil had recently had a serious ski accident last year which caused internal injuries. He has since had operations to solve his internal injuries but was worried he may not be able to swim the Channel with us this year. However luckily he managed to get his medical to swim with us approved. He has though lost a lot of weight and body fat with that due to his hospitalisation, something that is relied upon when swimming in cold water. Women naturally have more body fat than men so it was no surprise I wasn't struggling as much as Phil but his weight loss would definitely contribute to his struggles that morning. I really admire his strength and determination to swim with us this year, an inspiration in my eyes. It makes you think what the body and mind really can push through. Although I said I was fine my feet however were bloody freezing and although I had to leave to get to work I wouldn't have wanted to linger as I was getting even colder and uncomfortable stood around. I got in the car and turned the heating up to high and blasted the fans at my feet. Even after a hot shower at work I still felt like I had ice blocks for feet - they were completely numb until late morning. I was however pleased that I broke the ice (almost literally) and went for my first non wetsuit swim, this officially meant my Channel Swim training had begun. The next test was on the 3rd of May where I was going to Dover for an early morning swim test (this is where we have to go in and out twice).
On the Sunday I also had work. However, I woke up in the morning extremely upset (I think I may have woke up crying). Today was Rosie's 20th birthday. I kept looking up at the canvas I have of Rosie above my bed and crumbled. I knew this day was going to be hard but wasn't quite aware how much the significance of this day would affect me. On the drive to work I couldn't stop crying and by the time I got there I hardly had any make up left on. The second someone asked me if I was OK I burst into tears again. I ran to the toilet and hid there for a while as well as occupy myself buying a cup of tea. Again it was no use, I sat at my desk attempting to work but my mind was elsewhere and I kept breaking down. My family were all going to Bournemouth to let off some balloons in Rosie's memory and spend the day together. Yet I would be sat at work knowing I would be missing it and not able to be there to support everyone, particularly my sister. After 30 minutes of sniffling I decided I had to talk to my supervisor to explain. She let me go instantly. I tried to explain to my colleague why I was leaving but couldn't get the words out before breaking down again. I drove straight down to Bournemouth and spent a few hours there with my family thinking of Rosie. As you can imagine it was an emotional day but I was and still am so grateful to work for allowing me to go. It meant a lot to me to be there. As my brother in law said it's another first for us to experience.
|The 'birthday girl' balloon we let off in Rosie's memory|
On the Monday we had to get a few bits from town. I wanted to get a variety of nutrition to try out as I have mentioned previously I have fallen out with High5 gels. I got some 'Clif' bars and 'Torq' gels which had been recommended to me because of their natural ingredients. Torq also have some interesting flavours such as Raspberry Ripple, Apple Crumble and Rhubarb and Custard. After our stop in town it was time to head back and get on the train to London. We were meeting Andy at Trafalgar Square as this was the official start of London to Paris.
The weather was lovely and we went for a pre ride lunch. The boys had a beer considering the weather was so nice but I refrained knowing that me on a bike is bad enough! Bella Rosa, which we parked up just outside the restaurant, got many stares because of her colour and I was loving every ounce of attention she got. After a big three course Italian meal we headed off at 3.45pm.
Dan however, struggled all the way to Newhaven with his hamstring and even though we got there in good time at 9pm, without sounding rude Andy and I would've beasted our way to the ferry had Dan had not been struggling so bad. When we arrived in Newhaven it was obvious not a lot goes on there and we were searching for somewhere to eat. We managed to find an Italian that would stay open for us and after a re-fuel of pasta we headed to the ferry. Bikes loaded it was time to try and sleep on the chairs. I couldn't get comfortable at all throughout that 4 hour journey and got a dead leg on many occasions. In total I managed a rough 1 hour sleep - perfect to do 120 miles on!
|Mid ride group selfie|
|Mid ride solo selfie|
|We made it|
|All enjoying pasta and beer (I have covered my dodgy eye up with the beer!)|
|Dan's bed for the night|
|A quick stop for fuel and of course a selfie|
I had managed to send a text to Dan before his battery went dead to meet me at that train station but he did not receive which train it was. When I walked off the platform I was overjoyed and so emotional to see Dan and gave him a huge hug. I hadn't told him at the point how I got there as knew he would worry and at that moment in time all that really mattered was that I was safe in the end. I am not going to lie there were moments when I was on my own I did get scared and think what if, but I had to trust my senses and that got me safe. I am sorry to my family as this will be the first time you have heard this story but just remember what you said to me when I finally revealed I didn't actually cycle to Paris, "as long as you are safe now". Safe I was, gutted I was also. I didn't feel like doing anything touristy, I was tired and upset so we took my bike to the Eurostar station, Gare du Nord and bided some time eating and charging our phones. We got back to London at 22.40 and got home at midnight.
|A sad selfie waiting for our Eurostar train|
|On the train home|
I just want to finish by thanking everyone who was so kind to me when I announced my 'failure' even though many got angry with me for calling it that and preferred the term 'a blip in the road'. All your kind words were really appreciated and I can assure you helped me out a lot mentally as I managed to make my own positives from the experience to take with me on my road to Kona. I am particularly thankful to Sophie Radcliffe (@challengesophie) the woman who gave me the inspiration to attempt this challenge in the first place. She took the time out to email me some words of encouragement. It obviously was a personal email but outlined how it wasn't meant to happen and we learn from these things. As a strong believer in fate myself I believe this too. Now I really will finish on a quote she shared with me in this email, "It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because therer is not effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the trimph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatlly" - Theodore Roosevelt.