Mills in a dress at the Fred Whitton Dinner

Last week I was cycling in Mallorca in the sun, whilst there I received an email from Paul Loftus, the main man behind the organisation of The Fred Whitton Cycle Challenge. He had been going through Just Giving sites and had worked out that I had raised the most money this year, £4306. As a thank you he invited me to attend the special dinner and dance they were holding 27th October, this was to celebrate raising £500 000 for charity over the last 13 years. Sarah Storey and her husband Barney Storey (both multiple gold medal winners at the Paralympics ) were attending as special guests. Oh what a lovely thing to look forward to after our holiday. So all dressed up we headed to The Castle Green Hotel on Kendal. There were a lot of people there, all involved in the Fred Whitton somehow. I made myself known to Paul and his wife, they were delighted I could attend and expressed their thanks for the fundraising I had done. Only 57 women out of 1370 riders completed the ride this year. I was then very honored to be introduced to Sarah Storey who was lovely. We had a good chat about the tough challenge and cycling in general. She really is an awesome cyclist and I was a bit star gazed!

During the evening lots of thanks and mentions were given to various people and businesses that had helped and it was clear that behind the Fred Whitton each year is an army of helpers. In total £85000 was split between 4 charities and cheques were presented to them, £45000 went to Macmillan which made me extremely happy. There was an amazing raffle with signed jerseys of Victoria Pendleton and Brad Wiggins ( which was won and auctioned on the night for £350) and lots more.

And then there was me. Unexpectedly I was announced and had to collect from Sarah Storey a certificate and an amazing goody bag full of things from Saddleback and a £50 M&S voucher ( new pants!) To be honest I was a bit overwhelmed, I didn't set out to raise the money to be rewarded for it, the reward was being healthy enough to do the challenge. I wanted to pay Macmillan back for paying my rent 10 years ago and the Macmillan representative at the dinner said that I had more than done that. Job done.

We danced till midnight and went home buzzing, what an evening.

If you think I did ok to be one of the 57 women out of 1370 entrants to complete the Fred Whitton this year you can still donate to Macmillan here

Photo kindly taken and given by Steve Fleming, click here to see more

Fred Whitton 2012-I did it!

The short version- 112 miles,  12500 ft elevation,  10hrs 22 mins, strong SW wind, it was ridiculously hard at times, I loved most of it and I wasn't sick! I was delighted to have raised so much money for can still donate here The longer version: (it is quite long but I had a lot to tell you!) The Van ( Snail) was packed up and we left for the lakes with our shiny bikes (lovingly polished by Emma) on friday afternoon.

All week people were obsessed with the weather and how awful it may be on the day, high winds and possible rain predicted. I generally didn't pay too much attention, I would be going round whatever so why worry? I was determined to try and enjoy it all. I continued drinking beetroot juice for my muscles (yes I did have pink wee!) and started on the camomile tea to aid anxiety levels. I needed to stay as calm as  possible so I could keep eating. We decided to cycle to registration on the saturday, it was only 2.5 miles and best to turn legs than get stiff I thought. It was all quite exciting, lots of people buzzing around and creating a good atmosphere. Seeing my name on the entrants board made my tummy flip-number 400, I liked it.

It was an official process, photo ID was essential to register and the timing chip was wrapped round your wrist. We met up with others riding, Leon,Paul, Craig and Simon (my riding buddy for the day) and also Jen who was kindly supporting us by being out on the course with bottles and extra food-fabulous. I knew I had friends at Whinlatter too so lots to look forward to.

That evening in the Snail I exchanged anxious messages with Simon about not going off too fast etc. I got everything prepared, checked it all 10 times, changed my mind about clothing 20 times and finally went to bed at 10pm. I did have some sleep and  5am came round quick. This is it, this the day I've been training for. I managed to eat a bagel with peanut butter and jam on it,

I was well pleased with myself. Got all my kit on and we pedalled to the start. It was quite cold and by now I felt quite sick. There were a lot of cars queueing to park, we made the right decision to ride, I began to hope that Simon wasn't stuck, I  wouldn't be good waiting to start. Fortunately he wasn't, we exchanged looks of fear, excitement and nausea and headed to the start. I wished Emma good luck and we got our timers dibbed, we were off!

The sun was shining, it was cool and breezy. I couldn't believe I was doing it! We started steady, there is not really any warm up before the climbing starts, straight up Hawkshead Hill. The thing about the Fred is it talks about the big 7 passes but there are loads of other climbs too.  The first big pass is Kirkstone,  windproof off as now sweating.   Pedal pedal. I Just kept thinking this is it, don' t ruin it by worrying about how you feel etc. Simon and I chatted, confirming to each other we still felt sick and we would just tap away until the finish. An ambulance passed us, a reminder to be careful on the descents, they can be lethal. The scenery is awesome and I kept trying to look around and appreciate it. I was feeling fine in my legs at this point-must be the beetroot juice! At Dockray we saw Jen and Steph with the Flanders flag, it was great stopping, having a drink,  a coca cola, chatting about how we felt. 2 hours done, Simon and I high fived and moved on.

Onto the A66 to keswick, the headwind was strong, I tucked in behind Simon and after a little while he tucked in behind 2 other guys, excellent they can pull us, result. The road is major and traffic is fast, its quite unpleasant really, head down and pedal. Leon, Paul and Craig came past and shouted 'Hi', I liked this. Got to Keswick ok, toilet break, gel and drink.

Next stop Honister, an evil evil climb, so steep and narrow. Riders zig zagging, riders stopping and walking, people shouting, tourist cars wanting to pass, nightmare. I struggled up behind Simon, I was not going to stop here. At the top huge relief came over me, it was like I could really enjoy the ride now.  The descent is tricky, my hands cramped a bit on the brakes.

On to Newlands, we decided not to stop at the feed station, we were ok and thought best to keep going. There were people cheering in a lot of places, I loved the support, I cheered back and thanked them. When they noticed it was a girl there was an extra cheer! We had quite a strong tailwind up Newlands pass which was nice but was an early sign of what was going to be hitting us in the face later on. I thought about riding in Lanzarote where  the wind was very strong, it'll be ok.  Somewhere along the way Chipps appeared on his Seven Cycles Sola 29er converted to road use, it was lovely to see another familiar face.

Whinlatter next, a more gradual climb and a party of friends waiting at the top. The climb  seemed to go on a bit but the thought of Issy, Amanda, Sarah, Gemma and Kath made it easier. I passed Rick and he cheered me up to the girls,. I loved seeing them, it was so exciting, Kath rubbed my foot which was numb from the cold, I sat down with a jacket round me, drank coca cola and ate a sausage roll, I felt spoilt. Next to them was Jen and Steph again where Simon stopped, more chat and smiles before we headed off. 60 miles done, not doing bad at all. The fun with the wind began now. It was quite cold and extremely blustery, I knew it was going to go on like this for the next 30 miles, this was a real challenge. We climbed more hills and pedalled undulating roads, all into a very strong headwind, it was quite soul destroying at times, everyone was struggling with heads low, muttering how awful it was, and speed was nowhere to be seen. We kept looking out to sea, it was so rough and and amazing to look at, we chatted to distract ourselves, our average speed gradually reducing. I focused on all the money people had donated, it made me feel warm, so generous. I thought about being ill and how this feeling was a hundred times better than that. I looked forward to seeing Sellafield power station, the strangest view in the lake district but I love it. We would be able to say we did it in the 'really windy year 2012', extra kudos! Cold Fell was very hard.

Finally we turned east and the headwind became a side wind for a bit, a small relief. Our legs were tired now, really drained. We were now heading to the infamous Hardknott and Wrynose. Simon and I confirmed our probable need to walk early on, just had nothing in our legs now. Before we knew it it was there in the distance, in all its glory, even though it's so tough I loved looking at it snake up the mountain. The red phone box arrived, the lowest gear was selected, I made it over the cattle grid (some don't) and the real climbing began. So the trick is to only pedal hard when you absolutely have to, it all felt hard now though! There was a tailwind though, passed lots of walkers, push push, breathe! I zig zagged and twisted and turned, shouted at people to move to the side and stayed on the bike. The steepest bit (30 %) just caught Simon out so he waited at the top and cheered me up it, I couldn't talk at all. That was it, I was not stopping now, I kept going, pushing and  pulling, finally the top arrived I had WON! Euphoria came over me. Its hard to whoosh down the other side, its super steep with hairpins, burning rubber from brake blocks style.

You can see Wrynose in front straight away, its steep but shorter than Hardknott. I was still high from Hardknott, the tailwind helped, even pushed extra hard when I didn't have to so the wind carried me up like a pro! High five at the top of Wrynose, 10 miles to go. We just went along as best we could, its not flat so still challenging. We ate gels and chews and pedaled. The lambs were bouncing around in the fields and I loved watching them. Finally the end was in sight, bit of a blur really, under an inflatable arch I think, Emma and others cheering us in.

Absolutely overcome with sense of achievement and excitement. 10 hours and 22 mins. After recovering Emma and I cycled 2.5 miles back to the campsite in the rain.... so I actually rode 117 miles:) I can honestly say I enjoyed nearly every minute, I was always going to finish and the experience will be left with me forever, all the hard training was worth it . The total raised for Macmillan is currently at £3390 and is still growing.  I have paid back the money they gave me with  huge interest so others can benefit too. I have learnt that if you want to do something and commit to it the chances are you will succeed, you don't really have to have a special ability just sheer determination! If you still want to donate please click here, it really will make a difference.

Now I'm looking forward to just riding my bike!

Thank you to..... My wonderful Emma who guided me through this, sacrificing training at her pace (she did  it in 7hrs 31mins!) by training with me. I definitely wouldn't have done it without her constant encouragement, belief in me and her tolerance of me being tired and grumpy at times!

Everyone who donated.... I am still overwhelmed by the total so far.

Simon for being a great riding buddy on the

day and supporting my nerves:)

Garage bikes for my new tyres and zipvit energy chews-we had no punctures:)

Saddleback for supplying my new saddle bag:)

Upgrade and Kinesis Uk for the Lezyne pump which I stole from Emma!

Cliff bars which I also stole from Emma's stash-yum.

Jen, Steph, Issy, Amanda, Kath, Gemma and Sarah for being fantastic supporters.:)

9 days and counting to the Fred!

The clock is ticking now as the "Fred" gets closer and closer. I think my heart rate increases slightly when I just think about it now, a mixture of excitement and nerves. I am overwhelmed by the support I have had emotionally and in donations. My total raised so far has passed £2100, which is incredible and I hope it grows even more. All donations big and small are deeply  appreciated from my heart so thank you. I have had some very generous anonymous donations, for example £112 , £1 per mile from a fellow Fred rider! A page 3 girl I think the very hard work has been done, just need to keep turning the legs this week/weekend. I have asked anyone religious to pray for good  weather,  if  not it will be a long day,  maybe two,  as I will do it regardless!

I have been super lucky and received new tyres and 16 packets of Zipvit energy sweets from Garage Bikes, Morley which is super kind, I hope I don't need all 16! Thanks Garage Bikes!

So, bring it on and let me get to the start line, I'm going to do my best to enjoy it all, including Hardknott!

Things i'm worried about:-

1) keeping my breakfast down 2) being too cold or too hot 3) legs feeling rubbish 4) climbing Hardknott with 100 miles in my legs

Things i'm excited about:-

1) Just starting 2) being part of something big 3) getting to the top of each climb 4) seeing  friends support me and strangers cheering 5) FINISHING!

If you have not donated yet and would like to please click here. Even £1 would be fantastic.  Thank you. 

Everyday training camp-my riding

I was asked again by Jo and Steven of Everyday Training to assist on their training camp in Lanzarote this year. This is a volume based training camp for long distant triathletes (mostly ironman level 3.8km swim, 180km cycle and 42.2km run-this is a tough event!) Basically the athletes have to do 30 hours of training in 6 days, swim, ride and run each day, including races and time trials, it is not for the unfit and they have paid a lot of money to do it!  My job was to hold  a stretch and recovery class at the end of each day and offer physio to anyone who needed it-lets face it with that number of hours of training a few aches and pains were going present themselves. I will write another little post about the injuries I treated. It also gave me the chance to get a few kilometres in the bank myself, I just didn't know how many. I was quite anxious about riding with these super athletes but knew it would be great 'Fred' training. This post is in Km as we were in Europe, 10km is 6.2 miles, 40km is 25 miles. The first day consists of 68km with a 10 mile time trial (TT is still in miles just to confuse things!) to assess how fast the athletes are on the bike. Last year I hated it, the athletes were so fast and whooshed off before we even got to the start, I didn't do the practice lap , one was enough! This year I did it all and although I was last, only just and even in rougher conditions did a PB by 3 minutes. This reassured me that I had improved a lot and maybe I would cope riding every other day.  Sarah the massage therapist from last year, and now a firm friend,  was training for her first Ironman ( coached by Steven), it appeared we were quite similar on the bike and we both found huge support in each other. The first stretch class was great by the pool and helped eased some initial muscle soreness in preparation for day 2.

I was fired up a bit from the TT and wanted to ride again so committed to day 2. 121km ride with a fair bit of climb, just what I need. It was incredibly windy and we had to work together in our  little group of 5, riding each others wheels to reduce the wind effect as much as possible. The wind can be quite soul destroying but everybody is feeling the same so you just have to accept it. I found the long flat roads challenging,  as my training has obviously not involved a lot of this!   I worked hard with a constant burning feeling in my quads. The top of  Tabyesco (volcano) was covered in mist but a welcome coke and apple pie break.

Day 3, 87km with a steep hill climb Fermes. Somehow I got into my cycle kit again and off we went. My bottom was sore, my muscles ached and I was tired but everyone else was saying the same and they had been running and swimming too. Steven and Jo were enjoying my participation and were encouraging me to ride ( huge compliment as they are both awesome athletes) Well Fermes was steep but if I'm honest it was a bit of a molehill compared to the lakes climbs but with tired legs once was enough! The stretch class was getting harder for most now as muscles were tightening with the intensity of training.

Day 4, I managed to get myself into a pickle at this point  because today was the timed hill climb and I wanted to do this but this meant cycling 4 days in a row, at pace. I've never cycled more that 2 days  in  a row before, thinking it would kill me! Dragged (encouraged) by a lot of people once again I was riding. 99km today with a 10km timed hill climb. I was intrigued how the body would perform when pushed in an  already tired state and asking for a rest! Last year I did the hill climb with the aim of just getting to the top before the end of the afternoon, this year I wanted to to do better. Everyone is set off in 1 minute intervals, I was first. 3, 2, 1 GO! I can't tell how strong the wind was on the switch backs, round the corner and having to get out of the saddle to keep moving forwards-laughable! But a tailwind round the next corner was fabulous recovery and a chance to speed up. As I pedalled I blocked the requests from my legs to stop and just kept going, it was only in the last 1km really that a few people passed me, each one encouraging  a bit more effort. Seeing Jo at the top shouting away was uplifting and one last surge got me to the top. I wasn't last! In fact I think I beat a couple of people but most importantly I had beaten myself- I win! So you can push hard with tired legs but your mind has to be powerful to over rule them.

Day 5, I really wanted to do day 6 which was the whole ironman route so chose to have a rest day today. I just lazed around a bit, reading and listening to music with my feet up-bliss. The athletes had a 10km race to do in the afternoon so I helped time that as Jo and Steven competed.

Day 6,  quite nervous. Preparation for a 180Km (112 miles) ride normally would be a good few days of not a lot for me so having ridden the previous 4 days, done a TT and a hill climb I was anxious I may not make it! Well if I have to turn back I can. It was a long long ride with awful wind conditions (changing direction half way through so there was a headwind the whole way), muscles  screamed most of the time, and I visited interesting places mentally.  I had a dodgy moment with 25 miles to go at a garage. At times like this I really question what's it all about? Why am I not happy sunbathing on the beach, that would be so easy! This is so unpleasant, why am I putting myself through this? The answer I come back to always is because I can. I am healthy enough to try and thats where it gets me back on track. I'm doing something and feeling life and the good feelings are much higher after this than if I had been sunbathing!  I had to recall the previous  time I had felt like this, few deep breaths, eat, drink and get back on the bike,  the group were so lovely and it perked me up to keep going. Sarah and I often exchanged grunts knowing that talking was not an option and we were at our limit.  The relief of the last 10 miles being downhill was unbelievable, the mood of the group changed instantly, chatting again, laughing, relishing the achievement.

Finishing nearly made me cry with joy! I won. There was no stretching class today, we partied instead!

I was incredibly tired for a week and worried about working as I was very busy but I managed it by sleeping a lot, eating well and stretching! I didn't ride for a week, felt strong for the first 35 mile ride yesterday. I learnt a lot about my body and mind and feel I'm ready to face Hardknott and its 33% gradients next sunday so bring it on!

If  you would like to donate for Macmillan please click here, every penny counts so even £1 would be really appreciated and I am working hard for it!

Anxiety and Euphoria

If i'm honest I was really anxious about this ride, 94 miles with 5 passes in it, it was turning up the heat again and let's face it the last couple of rides have not been a breeze! I have ridden in the Lakes before but not since last September,  and not with so much climbing. By now I have made the passes into absolute monsters and the mere thought of them was making my heart race and turn my tummy into knots. We drove up friday night in Snail and stayed by the lake in Thirlmere, quiet as anything, lovely. Sleep came and went, thoughts of the ride going round and round, will I make it up Honister twice? Will my legs feel like lead at 40 miles again?  I really really hoped not!

As usual the porridge was hard to stomach but necessary fuel, my pockets were crammed with energy supplies, the Garmin 800 was set to go, I was well excited by the new toy,  a present to myself for enduring this training! It also meant I would always know the way with its OS map on it and this is very calming for my anxious mind!

I've always been an anxious type in certain situations and sometimes the adrenalin hangs around a bit more than it should, taking my body longer to calm down so I was pleased that the first part of the ride was not too challenging, including Kirkstone pass. We made our way along to Keswick, enjoying the awesome scenery. 40 miles done, legs ok, drinking lots and eating regularly. A quick cup of tea at The Lakeland Pedallar

and off to find Honister for the first time. And so the mighty monster pass came into view, I started chatting to myself, take it steady Mills, sit down as long as possible with intermittent standing, zig zag across and one section at a time, do not panic it will not help.

Got to the top, euphoria hit and I was committed to the ride. A friend joined us at the top which was nice so we were now the three musketeers.

I had been told Newlands pass wasn't too hard, it went on a bit but was ok, Whinlatter I am familiar with and I thought I'd get a Coke at the top. No Coke available, organic elderflower pop? I don't think thats quite going to hit the spot somehow.

Now I know I only have to do Honister from the other side then roll back to Keswick, I've done about 65 miles now and I'm feeling good, I'm going to have this Honister and then get back to Snail quick sharp. I started to fade a bit near the start of Honister, that familiar draggy feeling in the legs, bit tired, anxiety starts.  I backed off a bit, learning from last time that this is ok to do. Ahead Emma pulled in, a cafe that sold Coke! Yes this hit the spot and I was firing on all cylinders again, bring it on! The pass looks majestic in the distance and it invites me to climb it. I know i'm going to do it, I just know.

At the top the euphoria hits again, I win! I whoosh down whooping out loud, I am delighted!

The ride back to Keswick felt longer than it was and the little kick out of Keswick was tougher than expected,  but I kept pushing and finally I saw Snail in the distance. 94 miles, about 10,000ft climbing, lots of bars, fluid, gels, chews and Coke! I can't tell you how ecstatic it felt to have a ride like that, just got to add another 20 miles, Hardknott and Wrynose...................

If you would like to donate to Macmillan please click here it will really help the quality of somebody's life and encourage me up those last two monster passes with more Euphoria than anxiety.

Sunshine versus legs

What an amazing treat the sunshine was yesterday. It's what cyclists dream of. Alarm was set for 6.45am (groan-not an early morning person, especially on a sunday) Arrived in Gargrave, filled pockets with gels, bars and map, hit start on the Garmin and off we went. Plan was to do 70 miles with some climbs of course, a circular route via Hawes. It was practically 2 years to the day I did my first ride in the Dales, the scenery and roads were one of the reasons I decided to leave the big smoke and move North. I cycled 45 miles on a borrowed bike, probably in about 10 hours and it nearly killed me!

Anyway back to this ride. First 30 miles were not too bad, legs were complaining uphill a bit but that can be normal. Tried not to look at Garmin and enjoy the views, breathtaking. Climbed Fleet Moss-the easy way, felt completely zapped of any energy despite a gel and bar. Stopped in Hawes, Emma says we need to stop cafe stopping, welcome to training not leisure riding! I was keen to get going as I just wanted to get it over with to be honest. The drag out of Hawes left me feeling a bit soul destroyed, headwind didn't help, legs empty. Negative thoughts in abundance I drew on the reason I was doing it and pushed through, looking around at the beauty.  Managed a good climb near the end, the hairpins out of Langcliffe,  which made me feel like I had achieved something, really got a good line and felt strong a the top. 68 miles later, 6800ft climb and I was drinking recovery in the van. I really hope I feel stronger for the next ride, the enormity of this challenge really hit me yesterday but thats a good thing, make me train more! Sponsorship really helps with encouragement up the hills so if you can donate I would be so grateful.

Donate now here for Macmillan

A short ride with a lot of hills!

I had a reasonable ride planned, weather permitting. We headed for Gargrave, whether it was the late night before or general fatigue my legs felt like lead. 27 miles later we arrived at The Dalesman-thank god, refueled and then wanted to sleep by the fire. So the plan was to go home the flatter way, lets just avoid that main road though........ legs perked up a bit with a few energy products and suddenly we were in this super hilly 30 miles. It was tough but by doing it I faced a couple of demons and I won, put them in my mind for future reference. I nearly stopped up "big Jack", but I didn't. I pushed when there was no feeling of push. 55 miles and 7000ft climb deserved pizza at the end. I just have to do that twice for the Fred Whitton.

Currently on 3rd cup of tea this monday morning....

Please click here to donate to Macmillan