Category Archives: Rapha Festive 500

Rare diseases, beyond bike riding & Harrison’s Fund

In terms of kilometres covered, my Festive 500 was a total success with 555 km.  A brilliant patch to join my other 9 Festive patches turned up from Harrison’s Fund.  This made me really happy.  However, I didn’t meet my secret target of raising a £/km ridden.  As my fundraising page is still live, I decided to see if I could reach my secret target, but I figured a change in direction was needed.  Bike riding was clearly not going to cut the mustard, but I still wanted something that required my time and skills.

Why continue to pursue fundraising for this small charity?  The competitive side of me relishes a challenge and once started, the drive is to complete, so I have unfinished business.  There is also a big part of me that identifies with the predicament these babies (through to young adults) are in, along with their families.  I have a rare incurable disease, vasculitis.  Unlike my father, who had vasculitis of the lungs, mine won’t kill me.  However, it will and does hover over my life like a dark cloud.  It constantly pursues me.  I can’t get away from hospital appointments and treatment is an inescapable reality of life.  And it’s always in the background that my vasculitis may cause further damage to my nervous system as it has already done a pretty good job on my left leg.  So, if I can support research to help young people such as those with Duchenne disease lead better or longer lives, I want to do that.

I’ve sewed since before I can recall.  My first school memory is of the indignity of having to sew like a ‘baby’ using double thread; I was already adept at using a single thread like an adult.  I reckon I was 5 rising 6 at the time.  Sewing and making things have been in my life way longer than riding a bike.  There have been periods of not sewing or making things when I’ve either been extremely ill or after my late partner Jon Jennings died.  But the need to be creative doesn’t really go away, it sits silently in the background while I do other things, like ride silly amounts of miles. 

Lockdown, with the restrictions it has imposed, has given me more time to do other things as going for long rides is simply not possible.   I’ve had more time for my other passions.  Time for gardening and, with the shorter/ cold days, for sewing.  Before Christmas, I decided to sew masks for family and friends, prompted by a conversation I heard while queuing for a coffee at Osterley Park café.  Two ladies were discussing the merits of the various masks available and said that the shaped cotton ones were best.  I trawled the internet and found a pattern.  I made masks upcycling some good quality close-weave fabric from my stash.  I had some Christmas fabric, so made a few with that for fun and to cheer people up.  Feedback has been that the masks are excellent – they do what they are meant to and are comfortable to wear. They bring some fun and joy with the patterned fabrics I have used, in a world that can be rather gloomy.

So, given I have the time and the materials, I have been beavering away mask-making.  So far, 20 have been produced.  I have another 25 cut out and ready to sew.  All the masks are made of good quality fine weave fabric with ear-friendly elastic and have a pocket to put a filter in, which can be bought on-line.  I am going to make these masks available to buy for £5 each and I will cover the postage to you.  The first 20 go on sale with the publication of this blog.  I have some plain, but mostly patterned.  If you have a particular colour or pattern wish, I will endeavour to fulfil this.

The mechanics for buying your mask(s) are either via my Harrisons Fundraising page or via PayPal .  On the fundraising page, if you click the <make yourself known> button, an e-mail will come to me so I can get in contact with you for your address. .   Alternatively, leave a DM on the twitter account the co-pilot @sunniethehoob and or in the comment box at the bottom of this page and my ‘mask enterprise manager’ will sort you out!

Please note, paying directly to the Harrison’s fund if you are a tax payer raises an extra £1.25 per mask.

Or you can pay if you wish by PayPal

Hand Made Masks

hand made masks raising money for Harrison’s fund

£5.00

Even if fun-patterned masks are not your thing, you have at least learnt that I’m not just about the bike!

The Brevet Bird

Rapha Festive 500 #10, Part II

Team Brevet Bird rides for Harrison’s Fund

To catch up with the story so far click HERE

Day 5

The Evil Coldness

The view out of all windows at Chez Hirondelle confirmed cold.  Cars were thickly covered with frost, as were roof tops.  The birds huddled in big, fat leylandii trees rather than venture out to the bird feeding station to feast on fat blocks, dried mealworm and other delicacies.  There was only one sensible option; to watch the world change from white back to technicolour.

Slowly the frost cleared and the temperature on the weather station rose.  The coming together of these two things was such that I could schedule a post-lunch ride.  Road conditions improved sufficiently to choose Beryl the Kinesis with her almost-skinny fat tyres over Scotti the MTB with fat Big Apple tyres.

I alighted onto one of my regular home office commute circuits.  New Year’s Green lane was surprisingly OK (no slush-puppy corner) but with the ford in full spate.    Keeping to the main road passing through West Hyde and Maples Cross saved sloshing through the streams in the lanes.  I didn’t need to cross the Great Lake of Deadhearn Lane which I feared may have exceeded bottom bracket height, courtesy of Storm Bella.  Then a needless climb to immediately descend into Rickmansworth and back home.

For the whole ride I was in tier 4, with a significant amount of traffic passing me.  The opposite could be said of walkers and cyclists.  As I exited Rickmansworth to Moor Park and home, the number of lycra-clad males on road bikes increased.  More Festive 500-kilometre chasers?

Arriving at Chez Hirondelle, we were so cold that three of the team jumped onto the full-blast radiator to warm up.  Alas, I am not a suitable size for the radiator so a superhot shower for me.

58km for the day, running total 351km

Day 6

Time to go and visit the vampires

My vasculitis check-up was going to be a New Year’s Eve treat.  Therefore, time to visit the Charing Cross Hospital vampires and get a blood test.  The morning was stupidly cold but without frost.  As Charing Cross Hospital is one of the sites I work at, it was auto pilot and alight onto my commuting tramlines at stupid o’clock.   From home to Hammersmith, the temperature didn’t get to 1c.  Tier 4 all the way and traffic was rare as hens teeth.

The next part mainly follows the river to West Middlesex Hospital, the other site.  The highlights of this 12km are the Capability Brown statue, Hammersmith Bridge and a rather good coffee shop, The Coffee Traveller.  From there, I took the roughstuff lane alongside Osterley House and the M4.  It was packed with walkers, dogs and kids on bicycles, but is a moment of escape from grey suburbia.  After this it was the Uxbridge Road, accompanied by motorised traffic with the occasional utility cyclist.

With Uxbridge behind me, I was at a critical decision point – 100km or 80km?  Beryl pointed in the direction of the longer route, so up the lanes to slosh through the streams I went.  There was no alternative to the Great Lake of Deadhearn Lane and it seemed to be peak hour with cars and cyclists in both directions.

The last choice near Chorleywood – straight on at the crossroads to go into Rickmansworth or turn left for bonus kms and extra hills?  The cold plus the call of the teapot were the deciding factors.  Rickmansworth then almost directly home as I couldn’t resist rounding the day up a bit more.

102km for the day, running total 453km

Day 7

Arrivee

The riding window is always pre-defined by necessary things, then reshaped by the weather.  Today, more frost and silly low temperatures but by 10am, I was good to go.  Keeping onto known ice-free roads, I headed for the Ickenham Pump, then over to Uxbridge and Denham again.  Another section of main road and into the lanes for a bit as the temperatures rose.  Again, lots of traffic, not many walkers or utility cyclists but quite a number of MAMILs who looked like Festive 500 folk.

Rolled up to my front door, pressed the Garmin button which whizzed the kilometres to Strava.  A virtual reality patch popped up on my phone and Festive 500 number ten in the bag.

48km for the day, running total 502km

Day 8

Into the freezer

A late start was a double guarantee, thick frost over night plus a telephone consultation.  The pedals didn’t start turning to almost three o’clock, what with lunch and the neurologist running late.

Given the conditions, I decided to trundle round one of my small standard loops from home as I was quite sure it was ice-safe.  Leaving suburbia’s relative warmth i.e. almost 2c and out into the lanes where the temperature rapidly dropped.  It settled under zero, so a touch chilly.  The pond in Harefield confirmed the Garmin’s temperature – covered in ice.

With 42km on the Garmin when I was nearly back, it was way too tempting to go the long way home.  50km is such an attractive number.  The reward was lots of beautifully Christmasly-lit houses.  The reindeer with his mask on was rather good.

53km for the day, running total 555km

Round up

I’m very happy to have bagged Festive 500 number ten.  This was certainly one of the more difficult overall.  Trapped in a reduced playground due to COVID and no coffee shops to warm up in with a good mocha and accompanying GF cake.  Also, my vasculitis currently causes a lot of pain and generally unwell and tired. It increases sensitivity to cold, particularly my feet.  I had to manage my riding time carefully to ensure that I didn’t get too cold.  If I got too cold, the result would be increasingly greater pain.

The challenge of telling the rides’ stories in photos in an area that I know so well was something I really enjoyed.  It makes you look more carefully at scenery you normally take for granted.  Some of the ride routes were based on visiting something that I wished to photograph, such as Ickenham Village Pump on day 7.

The thing I have not been particularly successful with is the fundraising.  Many people believe that this sort of thing is a pushover for me, so the riding lacks the ‘challenge’ that is generally required for fundraising.  The unseen disability is always problematic.  Do you keep quiet and just get on with it or bore the pants off people about it?  For the last three years, I have taken the approach of ‘just get on with it’, which has bitten me on the bum for this fundraising challenge.

Raising funds for a rare disease such as Duchenne, doesn’t resonate with people as say breast cancer.  From a research perspective, it is fantastic that technology such as genome sequencing is readily available and that the cohort for this disease is big enough for meaningful outcomes.  Hopefully finding out how it can be treated isn’t far off.  I understand why sponsorship is low but I take my hat off to Harrison’s Fund for their persistence in such a difficult task.

If you would like to contribute to Harrison’s Fund click HERE

Rapha Festive 500 #10

Team Brevet Bird rides for Harrison’s Fund

The Rapha Festive 500 has been a big part of my Christmas celebrations for the last nine years.  The nominal goal is to ride 500km between Christmas Eve and the close of play on New Year’s Eve.  The real part of the challenge is to document your journey in photos, words or both.  If you reached 500km, a rather wonderful patch was yours.

Every one of the last nine years the ride has been totally different, so the story line for the 500km is never the same.  The first Festive 500, with 200km brevets to Ledbury and then back, was made more memorable for the days being filled with endless rain.  Defeating icy roads with the trike was another memorable year.  This year, the dominant themes are the COVID restrictions and my ongoing struggle with neuropathic vasculitis which makes riding my bike a bit more challenging, due to the amount of pain the nerve damage causes.

Another twist has been added to the journey, a challenge set by the Westerly CC to raise funds for research into Duchenne’s Disease.  It is a disease that affects only male children and most, if not all, do not make it to adulthood.  A tough gig for both the parents and the affected children. Harrison’s Fund has been set up to raise funds for research.  The Harrison’s Fund remit is to find a cure for the disease, rather than provide palliative support and treatment.

As a bike rider who works in NHS cancer research, this was a challenge I could not turn down.

Each day will have a ride diary. There will be photos on my Instagram account.  Plus there the Twitter account run by Team Brevet Bird: Digby, Jock and Timpsie.

To sponsor us in this quest click HERE

Day 1

Crimbo parcel delivery service & a spot of errandonneuring

Twas the day before Christmas.  Due to the everchanging COVID tier system and the restrictions these changes bring, my mother had a Christmas parcel to be delivered almost locally and now needed a courier.  As it wasn’t too far between home and the recipient (as the crow flies(, Mum asked if I could deliver it.  Delivery charge = 2 bags of M&S large chocolate button.

The day was bright and sunny.  Beryl the Kinesis was ready to go.  The parcel fitted into my saddle bag along with two members of Team Brevet Bird, Digby and Jock.  We were all set.  Little did we know that we were carrying a stuffie owl.

After a small urban loop, we headed out into the lanes which were still like riding through shallow riverbeds with the quantity of water and gravel that had accumulated.  Luckily Beryl was shod with was seems to be the perfect tubeless touring tyre, Schwalbe Almotion TLE, which seems to keep the puncture fairy mostly away.  The big flood near Chalfont St Giles (The Great Lake of DeadHern Lane) was now so big and deep, it almost requires a ferry service.  Luckily, with a see-sawing pedal motion, Beryl made it across the lake.  Strangely runners and cyclists were pretty thin on the ground through this section, although family groups of walkers could be spied in the villages.

Thus, I continued pedalling and resisted the best mocha in town as I whizzed past KoHo in Little Chalfont and then a few roller coasters before I grovelled up Ley Hill.  Stopped off briefly at Venus Hill, where I had spent a good hour with my Dad as a teenager trundling around the lanes to find what isn’t really a hill at all.  Then it was mainly downhill to our parcel drop – successfully made. Retrace up, belt down the big hill into Rickmansworth, then home.  We arrived at Chez Hirondelle with 84km on the GPS.

But there were some other errands that needed running.  By doing this by bicicle this would be an errandonnee .  Scotti the MTB was the machine of choice as, with a pair of big Karrimor panniers, all the errands could be done in one hit.  Into Pinner to pick up the M&S order, then to Tesco’s at Pinner Green for the pharmacy and home.  Another 16km on the GPS.

100km for the day, running total 100km

Day 2

Christmas Day and the great coldness

Christmas day was bright but cold.  Frost-covered cars and rooftops.  The weather station confirmed cold.  The planned early start was binned in exchange for a later 10am start.  Dave our bike butler was along for this ride.  With the knowledge that the lanes were so wet that they would have turned into ice rinks, they were immediately no-go areas.  Scotti the MTB was deployed as he has both fat Big Apple tyres and SPD pedals letting me don alpaca socks, Shimano SPD boots plus overshoes. With such foot coverings, my feet stood some chance of not becoming ice blocks. Dave used his anti-ice machine, a trike.

A brisk main road ride ensued, including climbing up to the giddy hights of Chorleywood to immediately descend to Rickmansworth and then home by Moor Park.  Just to round things up, as Dave headed directly for home, I squeezed a small loop in to nudge the ride to the 40km mark.  I still made it home by the auspicious hour in time to be home for Christmas Day’s low key COVID festivities.

43km for the day, running total 142km

Day 3

Boxing Day

Due to excessive faffing, plus weather that wasn’t exactly enticing, a ride kicked off after lunch.  I wasn’t entirely on my own as Digby and Jock were ensconced in the Carradice.  The weather was now warm, i.e., 6c but came with inbuilt dampness.  After a tour of the delights of Uxbridge, a former coaching town when coaches were pulled by horses, I headed for the Oxford Road and passed ‘The Crown & Treaty’ where Oliver Cromwell and King Charles held a meeting to stop the Civil War.  This was a fail. 

Into Denham where Cromwell’s New Model Army tramped through on several occasion and up the riverbed lanes.  Another crossing of the Great Lake of DeadHern Lane.  Easy-peasy with Scotti and his high bottom bracket. Darkness started to descend as I took a dogleg into Little Chalfont and back.  The houses on the outward-bound section had some amazing Christmas lights, making riding in the dark a pleasure.  Then home via the squiggly descent off Chorleywood, through Rickmansworth and home.  During the run into Chez Hirondelle, as I reach suburbia, I passed a number of road cyclists.  Were they too chasing the Festive 500?

65km for the day, running total 209km

Day 4

The day of many lakes

The weather was set fine; sun, blue skies and relatively warm, 6c.  The lanes of Hertfordshire, Dacorum and Buckinghamshire called.  We set off, me on Beryl the Kinesis and Dave on the trike again.  Within 5km of leaving home, the first flood appeared but by using a service road, this one was avoided.  The same couldn’t be said for the 20 or so floods that followed, installed by storm Bella overnight  Deep, long, wide, skinny, all combinations existed.  Some lanes even had floods separated by small sections of road.  Keeping feet dry simply became mission impossible, despite overshoes.

We passed plenty of walkers, but cyclists were very thin on the ground.  Perhaps they didn’t want to get their feet wet and give their bikes the Paris-Roubaix look?  To add to the fun and games, one of Dave’s trike’s rear axles started to make funny and quite disconcerting noises.  Running up to 70ish km, it was time to swing for home.  The lure of lunch, a hot shower and central heating was too much to resist.

84km for the day, running total 293km