On an unnaturally hot, Wimbledon Finals Day last June, hubbie and I popped out on a bike ride. We noticed that there was an unfeasibly large amount of cyclists on the road with us and very little traffic. It was only when we spotted that all the other cyclists were wearing event numbers, that we realised we'd caught ourselves up in the annual White Rose Classic cycle event in Yorkshire.
This has happened to us once before. We'd snuck off for a birthday weekend in The Lakes for some champagne and cycling. On a bitterly cold Sunday morning, we clicked into our pedals and marvelled at how many other people had also decided that this rain spattered day was a good opportunity for a bike ride.
I was slightly surprised to be passing quite a few of the other cyclists – I wouldn't bet on me to pass people up hill – and as I was over-taking someone, we got chatting about how wonderful it was that so many people were out on their bikes whatever the weather and that this was indeed a bit of a hill after all the others, before I was forced to bid my farewell explaining that I needed to catch up with my husband. 'You go!' he said, 'You're doing so well.'
I thought that was very kind of him; I'd only left the B&B thirty minutes previously. It was only when I rounded a corner at the top of the hill to a groundswell of animated cheering and, 'Go girl!' that I clocked all the other cyclists' numbers and realised that we'd inadvertently joined the infamous Fred Whitton Challenge. With its 110 miles over hill and pass, it's generally considered the toughest bike ride in Britain. Everybody else had already done approximately 60 miles of hills and all but the most elite of bikers, were starting to feel it a little. I, however, after my big breakfast and a short warm up, was flying. Indeed, I was first woman past that point, according to the cheering crowd.
However, after laughing so much about my moment of glory, we realised that we were cycling in the wrong direction and the only option was to turn around and cycle back past the bemused crowed. I kept my head down.
Back to the White Rose Classic and a decision to do the race properly on 29th June 2014. Then I got cancer. Chemo has chopped me off at the knee caps a few times but not too often. The rest of the time I've been trip-trapping along in trainers or on pedals, enjoying the wind or sun on my face, plotting challenges. I decided I was still going to give the White Rose a shot - a very slow, last one over the line kind of shot – but I kept it secret in case I was forced to pull out; I really didn't want to let anyone down.
Race day was approaching when a sympathetic nurse told me that my white cell count was low and I'd have to have a re-test before deciding if chemo would go ahead a few days later. I supposed that meant that I shouldn't go for a fifty mile bike ride that weekend. However, it surprised me to learn that there's very little you can do to increase, or even decrease, your white cell count. It's just down to how quickly your body manufactures the replacement cells for those lost to the cancer treatment. So, the problem mixing cycling and chemo, I learnt, was only if you had an accident. I could end up in hospital with my body struggling to fight the infection. I didn't like the sound of an infection. I know about efforts to unnaturally encourage my bone marrow to make extra white cells to deal with infection and the process hurt every bone in my body, even my jaw. I also didn't like the idea that chemo could be halted while the clever people at the hospital patched me back together again.
But the sun was shining and my bike was looking at me like a dog when you've mentioned a walk. Should I categorically not cycle? I asked, one final time. Not necessarily, was the surprising response, but I should consider how likely it was that I'd fall off.
I thought of putting my arm in the spin drier and smashing it into too many pieces to count. I remembered my sky dive over a plant pot which resulted in a broken knee and I winced at the memory of the pain I felt when I broke my foot twisting it on an embedded tree root whilst running.
Now, I know cycling isn't for everyone but me? I was disappointed. Gutted, we'd call it in our house. My secret White Rose Challenge was off. Scheduled for twelve days after my final chemo, my white blood cells would be at their lowest. It just wasn't worth it, everyone said.
And then I saw it. I clocked the poster at the local sports centre: Four Hour Spinathon for Marie Curie Cancer Care. A cycling event to raise money for a cancer charity? It had my name written all over it. Yes, me being me, there was still every chance I could fall off my bike during the four class challenge - an exhaustion induced, away-with-the-fairies type of incident - but it would be onto a clean-ish gym floor and with twelve other participants as well as a teacher around to pick me up and dust off my bruised pride.
No matter that I haven't actually done any spinning for about six months.
Brilliant, my friend said, I'll do it, too. Well, actually, after she'd had a couple of glasses of wine I told her she'd love it, glossing quickly over the fact that you could choose how many of the four classes you'd like to attempt. Hey! The bigger the challenge, the larger the euphoria at the end!
My other friend I snagged when she was hosting twelve people for an evening of tapas.
So, we've signed up and it takes place on the 7th June. Could I ask you to sponsor us? If not for the challenge of spinning for three hours longer than I've ever done in one go before, then for the fact that I have to be in my saddle by 8am on a Saturday. Those who know me well will understand that actually being ready for the start of a spin class would be an achievement in itself.
There are always lots of requests for our hard-earned cash and I will still speak to you if you can't manage this one. But if you'd like to support Marie Curie Cancer Care which provides high quality care and support for terminally ill people at the end of their life, I'd be so grateful for your support over at http://justgiving.com/brimhamsharrogate