Manchester to Blackpool Cycle RideI was so nervous about the Manchester to Blackpool Cycle Ride… not being a regular cyclist and a fairly nervous one at that, this was something completely out of my comfort zone and I wasn’t too sure I’d be up to cycling 60 miles in one day. The event is organised to raise funds for The Christie, an NHS cancer treatment trust plus charities of peoples‘ choice. We decided that the rest of our sponsorship will go to St Bernadette’s, the school where my sister works.

My brother-in-law kindly drove us and the bikes to Manchester, through a haze of drizzle and I watched the spray from the vehicles on the wet roads in some alarm. By the time we met up with the others in our team- St Bernadette’s Hot Wheels- near the start at the Old Trafford football ground, the rain had stopped but the skies were still an ominous grey and there were huge puddles on the slick roads.

Trying to find the loos turned out to be a challenge, as we followed a couple of girls on a complete circuit round the football grounds before finding the ladies right where we had started- oh well it was a good warm-up for the legs…

The start was quite daunting for me- it was a staggered start as there were over 5000 riders taking part, but there was still an awful lot of jostling before we thronged down to the wet streets and traffic. I am not the best at stopping and starting but it’s amazing how much more confident I felt at the end of the day!

As the busy roads of Manchester gave way to countryside, the weather improved and we saw some sunshine. Our team all kind of found their pace- some went off ahead, a couple dropped behind and I cycled with my sister and her colleague. I had a computer attached to my bike and was surprised to see that 12.5 miles had gone by without too much effort.

There was a sustained and fairly steep climb towards the first water station at Atherton, but we decided to push on to the next one at Haigh Hall at 20 miles, where we stopped for a break and snacks. I felt fine at this point, although had a dodgy moment when a bloke on a mountain bike just in front of me decided to pull wheelies going up hill before stopping dead.

The route followed some very busy roads, and as we were either overtaking people or being overtaken by other cyclists, we needed to have our wits about us.

After another brief stop at Charnock Richard for the loo we had more hills to climb before riding into Preston. This was quite hairy as the traffic was very heavy and I did not feel comfortable. I was relieved when we rode out of Preston and stopped for another short break at a water station at a pub called The Saddle (sore!!) at just under 50 miles. I was still feeling strong and things were not too sore at this point, but we decided that we just wanted to finish and so we pressed on towards Kirkham.

My sister’s colleague had mentioned several times that we needed to go up a ‘killer’ hill in Kirkham and when we reached it I noticed several people were walking up. Lungs heaving and legs pumping, I managed to cycle up the thing and was totally surprised to hear my brother-in-law’s voice say ‘well done’ when I reached the top, gasping for breath. I thought for a second I was hallucinating, but after dropping us off, he had gone on his own 50 mile bike ride (as you do!) before driving out to find us and take photos.

Team St Bernadette's Hot Wheels!

Team St Bernadette’s Hot Wheels!

He followed us for the next few miles, driving ahead, jumping out and taking pictures- it was a bit like having our own personal paparazzi!

My sister’s colleague’s husband and a few people from the school met us at Freckleton, which was nice, and we geared up for the final few miles along the coast road through Lytham St Anne’s, with its wide grassy verges, towards Blackpool. This was my favourite part of the whole ride, as it was flat and I could see the sea and so psychologically felt that we had made it. Although my posterior was now complaining rather loudly, my legs still felt strong and I was overtaking people.

The finish!

The finish!

We rode onto the prom at Blackpool and passed under the lights to finish by the huge mirror ball- I pumped my fist in victory as I crossed the finish line- I’d made it, and felt in pretty good shape! I really think walking must help built general overall endurance fitness.

As we hadn’t eaten much on route my sister and I were both starving so devoured a pizza from one of the hot food stalls before being taken home for a well earned shower. The event was well organised and supported, and I am glad I did it, although it does pass along some very busy roads and so I am not sure I‘d do it again.

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