There are some notable events which happen year on year and are not related to birthdays and family celebrations. One of these is the Acorn Bike Ride with which I have a love-hate relationship. Acorn is my charity of choice and I've been involved since the very beginning thirteen years ago when we started raising money for people with dementia and their carers locally, and research into scleroderma at Leeds General Infirmary. One of our big annual events is our 100k (62 miles) sponsored bike ride which takes place each May.
The Acorn 100k Bike Ride is now in its seventh year and I've written about it before (My Big, Fat Biking Blog) and usually I come at this event unprepared, unready and unfit. This year was going to be different.
Firstly, having ridden on begged and borrowed bikes in previous years, this year I purchased a proper road bike. Doing the bike ride on a cycle with big, bobbly tyres and a frame that weighs a ton is simply making life hard for yourself so the new bike (named Alwoodley for reasons too complicated to explain but it is enough for you to know that it's glitzy) weighs next to nothing and has tyres as thin as bra straps. Excellent. And because it is such a sleek machine, I have done proper - yes proper - training, clocking up over 100k every week for the last month or so. Therefore all my body parts which usually take a massive pasting on the day are perfectly honed for the task in hand.
In previous years, my cycling partner has been the lovely Tim who has been happy to chat to me up hill and down dale for the five or so hours it takes for us to do the ride. He has tolerated me stopping to chat to all the marshals I know (that would be nearly all of them) and has joined in my bitter complaints about the bumpiness of Alwark Bridge which comes near the end when one's nether regions have already had enough. This year Tim was unable to ride so the singing dancing doctor, Philippa (the fastest woman on a bike in our village) and her very tall friend Clare agreed to take me under their wing instead. However there were to be no stops apart from lunch. Now this point I had to negotiate. Daughter number two was marshalling and there was no way I could cycle past (on the eve of her birthday) without stopping for a hug. Also my lovely tennis buddy who bravely does a marshalling post near the end and therefore has to sit there for hours deserves a brief pause in proceedings.
The eve of Bike Ride Day is always the big bake. Everyone on the Acorn Committee plus a few chums do a massive cake bake the day before because we give everyone a terrific tea when they get back. But there is usually some small (or big) hitch the day before which, because I live nearest the route, lands in my lap. So I have muffins, Cornish fairings and chocolate rock cakes on the go in the kitchen when the phone rings...
Last year, a lane on the early part of the route was flooded the day before and we thought we might have to change the route at the last minute involving me driving round to find alternatives on Bike Ride Eve. This year, a call had come in to say that part of the road through Boroughbridge (on our route) was undergoing road works and would be closed on the day. Of course, we go through all the procedures with the Police and the County Council to ensure that all the roads are clear and the necessary permissions have been granted. Also I have been riding the front and back end of the bike ride as training for the last month or so and no advance notices of road works have been in place. Hmmm...
Baking paused, I hop in the car and drive to the aforementioned spot and yes, there are a dozen or so workmen, numerous bits of machinery and three-way traffic lights. I parked up and found a helpful workman to talk to and he explained they were subcontractors and were not working the following day but another subcontractor would be on-site to surface dress the road involving complete closure for the whole of Saturday. He helpfully took me to the supervisor who was asleep in his van (it was lunchtime after all) and he promised to have someone from the main contractors phone me back.
Meanwhile, the formidable Louise, who is in charge of us all at Acorn, was taking another form of action and had contacted our signage friends, HACS who have close contacts with the County Council. Well, the man from the contractors never phoned but I tracked him down anyway and the long and the short of it was that the roadworks were postponed to the Sunday to allow our 650-plus cyclists through. Phew...
So back to the actual Bike Ride and once my pre-ride duties with our brilliant photographer Giles Rocholl had been completed, the foursome (singing dancing doctor, fast Philippa, very tall Clare and I) set off. My fears that I wouldn't be able to keep up were unfounded. Despite a brief stop and hug with daughter number 2, we arrived at the lunch stop at 10.15am, two hours from the start and nearly halfway! And we made it to the end with only one minor collision (note to self: don't stop suddenly, even at water stops), to be greeted by fast Philippa's husband - Il Presidente of the Cricket Club - and number 3 child at 1.15pm (on their way to cricket) which means that, discounting half an hour for lunch, two negotiated stops and the minor collision, we completed the route in 41/2 hours - my fastest ever!
Not only that, but, because apart from sore knees, some fatigue probably caused by staying out till 1.45am that night carousing, I think that if it ever stops raining I might go for a cycle later. Now that is a result.
Postscript: The Acorn Bike Ride 2013 raised an amazing £50,000 - wow! A huge thank-you to everyone involved: bikers, bakers, marshals, registration team, car park team, lunch crew, signage and food sponsors and our fabulous main sponsor Tim Naughton (loving those socks, Tim!)