The diary of a (not-so) Rookie Cyclist – part 3
Natalie Ingham has taken on the mammoth 81-mile Sigma Sports West Coast Classic bike ride, in honour of her friend Leon Callon.
Leon was cared for at St Catherine’s Hospice earlier this year, and along with family and friends who make up #TeamCallon, he has helped raised thousands of pounds for charities including St Catherine’s after he was diagnosed with a rare type of stomach cancer aged just 35. In her third and final blog, she tells us how the challenge went. (If you haven’t read Natalie’s previous blogs, you can read her first one here, and her second one here).
What can I say –what an experience Sunday’s Sigma Sports West Coast Classic was! I arrived in Fulwood at 7.30am ready to register and get going on the 81-mile trek. 500 cyclists were doing the exact same thing and it was so overwhelming to see how professional they all looked. I didn’t see a single other set of parents – only mine – whooping and cheering as I crossed the start line!
I was worried about three things – firstly the ongoing heatwave and how hot it might get on the day. The route was so exposed from around mile 35 with no shade whatsoever and the temperature climbed to 33 degrees at Lytham; and I was clad in thick, black lycra!
Luckily I had arranged to meet my parents at various points during the day and they had prepared a survival box. I pulled up to the car and each time they whipped open the boot, rushing around me, asking ‘Right, what do you need? Water, cooling spray, suncream, flapjack?’ I think they were even more hyped up than I was!
Secondly I was worried about missing Leon. When I signed up I had envisaged him supporting me wholeheartedly during the ride and so I didn’t know how it would feel without him. I talked to him whilst riding and realised very quickly that I had the next best thing – his mum and dad. They surprised me on one of my early hill climbs, then joined forces with my parents and stuck with me all day. I also had my three best friends waiting for me at the food stop in Lytham at mile 59. It felt so special to have so much support and I really felt the love. It also helped to break the 81-miles up into smaller rides, knowing I’d be seeing them again really soon.
Thirdly I was worried about finishing the course on time. I had been told that slower riders may be sent a shorter route home, but I couldn’t allow that to happen to me; Leon wouldn’t have stood for it! So my dad kept an eye on my pace and amazingly, despite the heat, I was consistent from the first 10 miles, to the last. Some of the other cyclists had a chat (as they passed me) and they were all amazed that I was tackling my first big event for charity. They were congratulating me and encouraging me to keep going.
The strangest thing is though, even though it was tough and hot and I had only reached 60 miles in my training, once I set off there was never any doubt in my mind that I would finish. I simply had to get the job done.
8 hours and 34 minutes after setting off, I made it back to the finish line with 2 minutes to spare! To cross the line, get my medal and hear I’d smashed my £1,800 target and was at £2,000 was a feeling I’ll never forget. I’m so proud that I’ve been able to challenge myself and use my network to raise much-needed funds for St Catherine’s. Thank you for the opportunity and for all of the support along the way.
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