So, this is how I spent my day on October 3:
It is 9am, there’s 30 seconds to go before the start hooter sounds, I’m three rows from the front and I’ve got 100km (65 miles) and eight hours of pedalling ahead of me.
It is dry, cloudy and the wind is gusting at around 20mph.
Despite all the training over the last few months, it was possibly the most physically demanding challenge I’ve ever done.
But all those months of training did actually pay off.
This is me just after 5pm the same day, having finally completed my Minutes Not Money challenge:
The Just-Bike ride was a lot tougher than I anticipated, mainly because the off-road sections were far longer than I had expected. It didn’t help that when we finally hit longer road sections, that pesky 20mph wind was pretty much blowing straight at us.
But I loved every single minute of it. And a big thank you to the organisers, Across The Divide, who created a very challenging route and looked after us brilliantly.
There were around 200 riders taking part on Saturday – half doing the 50km route and the other half taking on the 100km ride. Both routes were challenging, taking in the Ridgeway and the byways and farm tracks around Wessex.
The hills were big and plentiful. But the views were worth the effort.
Even with the odd rain shower and the relentless wind, it was still possible to enjoy the surroundings and take in some of the spectacular landscapes we were riding through.
The first two-thirds were mainly spent high up and on the exposed hillsides between Swindon and Newbury. Then the final third was more sheltered, but still physically demanding thanks to some heavily rutted farm tracks, steep hills and that wind.
Having spent most of the 100km riding alone, I was grateful for the scheduled rest stops along the way and not just for the chance to refuel.
They also gave me a chance to keep in contact with Rachel (who made me do it!) via text, getting plenty of live support back from her and some fantastic people on Twitter and Facebook.
Receiving messages of support helped put a smile on my face as I enjoyed a few minutes rest and a bite to eat.
I had predicted I would take 6-7 hours to complete the ride. But the gruelling course and that unforgiving wind meant I took 8 hours.
I’m not disappointed at taking longer than I planned though. Far from it.
I still feel quite elated about the whole experience and pleased I’ve been able to fulfil my end of the deal for the Minutes Not Money challenge. There is still an opportunity to donate some time, or some money if you prefer…or both, obviously!
Raising awareness about ME/CFS and the role of carers has always been the main aim of this challenge.
I’ll now start suggesting ways in which those who have pledged some of the valuable time can put it to good use.
In the meantime, thank you to everyone who is supporting this and who gave me so much real-life and virtual encouragement during the 100km ride.
It was eight hours well spent.
(Apologies for the quality of the photos from Saturday’s ride. I had other priorities, such as finishing!)