Proud and emotional
The alarm woke us up and it still felt like the middle of the night. The last day always brings its unique feelings. There is a sense of relief, excitement and emotion, but also a slight dread. We felt exhausted and sore with creeping doubts whether we’d be able to get up the hills we were facing today and some trepidation regarding the weather forecast for Southampton.
We struggled to eat breakfast as we felt heavy and drained. We had some slight hope that Gerry the Garmin may have revived after a good night’s sleep, but all he could do was emit pipping sounds. I fear Gerry’s navigated his final challenge. We were being joined by Nick, Executive Director at CRUK for the full day’s cycle. As today’s route involved a lot of zig-zaggy turns on unclassified roads, we’d sent the route to Nick last night and asked him if he could download it on any cycling satnav he had. We were very relieved when he confirmed this has been done.
Having forced some muesli, Greek yoghurt, fruit and a croissant down, we got Rubes and Roberto from their secure stable in the Marriott Courtyard and headed out to meet Nick. When he arrived we didn’t really give the warm welcome he deserved having gone to the effort of travelling to Didcot to join us for the final day. In all honesty we felt very downbeat.
However, Nick being with us, motivated us. We coped with our first big hill, the Ridgeway a 450 ft ascent which we’d been used to cycling on our training rides. However, with more than 350 miles cycled since leaving Newcastle our bodies energy reserves were depleted and we’d been dreading it. At the top of the Ridgeway we stopped to grab some water and an energy bar. At this point we realised we’d left our bottles of water in the car. Nick shared his with us and we then called into a farm shop and cafe, Saddleback Farm, which is regularly frequented by cyclists. The staff there very kindly filled Nick’s bottles and we continued to share these until Jackie could deliver the ones we’d left behind.
Nick’s version of Gerry the Garmin is Willie Wahoo. Willie was doing an excellent job of navigating and saved us so much time.
We were making good progress, the rain was holding off, we were feeling more positive, but we’d still got the BIG hill ahead of us. We started the long, slow haul up the hill, which seemed to go on and on and on. The big difference today was having Nick with us. He kept us focused on the cycling, but chatting with him as we pedalled, took our minds off the challenges we were facing. Eventually we reached the top, feeling really positive that we’d conquered the BIG hill. It started drizzling, but it bothered us far less than we were anticipating.
We pushed on, enjoying the downhill swoop from the top of the BIG hill. The journey to Southampton was undulating. Even the smallest hill made our legs burn and however we sat on our saddles it was uncomfortable. Padded shorts are not designed for spending so many hours in the saddle on consecutive days. Particularly when we’re not proper cyclists – we just don the lycra and do our best and our best can take a awfully long time. This longer time means more time in the saddle.
As we cycle along and particularly on the last day there are lots of thoughts going through our heads. A tweet which really resounded with us from earlier in the week when we had the very wet day in Derbyshire was from one of the researchers in Newcastle, Dr Kelly Coffey. “Great progress! Keep going. For every drop of rain there could be a cancer patient who benefits from the research you are funding“.
Another message that we’d received was in response to a posting I’d made about a study showing the benefits of a drug, olaparib, for prostate cancer. Our friend, Graham, who is one of our CRUK Cancer Campaigns Ambassador colleagues responded with ” This is brilliant news and gave me a real boost! After completing all the initial tests I was excluded from the trial because ironically, my original biopsy did not include enough cancer. Praise all those who took part in the trial for raising hope in fellow sufferers. I may yet have another roll of the dice“
When things get really tough, we remind ourselves of how lucky we are and the many dark and difficult days that loved ones and friends have experienced. That helps to put aching quads and sore behinds into perspective and spur us on.
And then the rain came, heavier and heavier. However, we were ticking off the miles, Southampton was getting closer. The closer we got, the more the nervous excitement and emotion increased. The heavy rain didn’t really matter any more.
At 2.55am we arrived at the CRUK Southampton Shirley shop where we were given a wonderful warm welcome and cheered in as we approached, by Angie the manager and a group of CRUK staff, and a fellow CRUK Campaigns Ambassador – Bethany, Ben, Celine and Yo. Thank you all for your support!
After a warming cup of tea, the group of us pedalled off up the hill to our final destination – the CRUK Southampton Research Centre.
We had an overwhelming rush of mixed emotions – pride, relief, elation, sorrow. We were truly humbled by such a reception from researchers, staff and friends. Thanks so much! Friends Ange and Pete – how did you avoid any photographs – thank you for travelling to Southampton welcome us.
It was inspiring to hear from Professor Peter Johnson, Director of Southampton CRUK centre. Southampton is a world leading centre for immunotherapy research. Peter explained to us that one of the areas they were investigating why with oesophageal cancer particularly ,treatment is successful for some patients and not others.
The last week has certainly been challenging to us and our success is in no more small part to the support we’ve received from Jackie throughout our challenge. We’ve met so many inspiring, passionate and committed people. Thanks to the generosity of our supporters our fundraising total currently stands at £2846, which is 57% of our target. Just to clarify 100% of your donations goes to CRUK. We cover all our costs. 82p in every pound funds life-saving research.
Ultimately this isn’t about us, but about funding CRUK world class life-saving research, which is improving cancer outcomes and quality of life in cancer patients. In the 1970’s 1 in 4 people survived cancer, now it’s more than 2 in 4 ,CRUK’s bold ambition is that by 2034 3 in 4 people will survive cancer. There still a lot of work to be done.
The daily blogs have reflected our raw thoughts and feelings each day. There will be a final posting on Monday when we’ve had an opportunity to reflect on the challenge.