When I sat and devised a list of goals at the beginning of 2014, one of which was to take on a challenge with the aim of raising money and awareness for Prostate Cancer in memory of my Dad, who I lost five years ago to the disease. Coincidently, my boyfriend had his sights set on a bike riding challenge that he’d seen others do. It was the perfect collaboration, so we signed on up; 380km over five days in the US, from Yosemite National Park, ending up on the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco.
Then I bought a bike. Easy, I thought, I used to ride a bike loads as a kid, it’s not hard. I’ll probably get some of those reflectors out of cereal boxes. Exciting, this will be a breeze! Turns out after my first fifteen miles demonstrated, cycling is actually really QUITE HARD. After months of training, I realised that whilst I may never become a hardened cycling addict, I could manage getting up a hill without crying and most importantly could drink from a water bottle whilst riding. Show off…
On meeting our fellow cyclists in our group at the airport, if honest, I felt a tad smug when on enquiring how their training went, two sisters replied with ‘we don’t even own a bike’. Wow. That’s a bold move. Maybe this isn’t going to be as hard as I envisaged? Maybe those American hills aren’t too bad, they don’t seem concerned? Turned out they had grossly misjudged the trip, not I, as they ended up completing 10 miles maximum and spent the majority of their time in the support van, re-arranging the snacks. Whoops.
After a night setting up a camp and getting the bikes prepared, it was up at 6am and ready to go! I felt a little bit nervous but was too excited to get cracking to care. All seemed well as we got underway along the tree lined routes of the stunning Yosemite Park. I felt pumped and couldn’t see how this could ever get tricky with this kind of scenery!
It’s incredible how you suddenly stop noticing scenery as soon as that tree lined road suddenly starts abruptly ascending. It was then that I realised I could never have trained for these kind of hills as they simply don’t exist in the UK. I’d been ok on UK hills, usually because you could see the end in sight and even a hill half a mile long could be tough, yet manageable. American hills, true to style last a tad longer. At some points, SEVEN MILES LONGER. Well I guess I was there to be challenged…
The first two days were the longest and hardest and inevitably the most rewarding. The scenery was breathtaking, the entire time felt a bit like being in a film. But there were certain roads which at first were so beautiful, but would soon turn out to be my most hated. Like this one. See it’s beauty as it stretches for miles with nothing in sight for miles. Ahh the great outdoors! However after already cycling 40 miles and then being told this stretch is for another 30 miles with not only 30+ degree heat but a pretty strong headwind against you with no end in sight, plus a few massive hills for good measure! This road took me to a new level mentally.
I knew of course, that at no point; stopping, slowing or worst case of all, getting in the van was never an option. If I sat in that van, even for half a mile, in my mind I had failed. And I’m so relieved I didn’t at any point. Knowing that friends, family and strangers had so generously sponsored me to do a challenge, quitting would never be an option. But I would’ve bloody loved to on this sodding road!! It became my enemy, but a good lesson on never giving up *cue Rocky music*.
The funny thing about getting the first two tough days out the way is you are fooled into a false sense of security that the next few will be easy as they’re shorter. What a silly sausage. Whilst the third day was a lot more bearable, you fail to remember that 30 miles won’t take just 3 minutes. But we started to come across some real characters. One guy who was simply walking from Canada with a home made device that featured a scooter fashioned together with a trolley to carry his belongings. He was just walking along the open road, stopping where he needed. It was basically Forrest Gump, but not running. Lazy.
Then there was the real life cowboy who was utterly fascinated by what we were doing. Strange, considering he’d just traded in his pickup truck for a horse and was just popping round to his mates house, which was a two hour ride away. The horse was a little slow…
On the penultimate day, excitement was building. We were starting to get used to hills and my bottom was officially numb by now. Only one more night of camping, waking at 6am and riding 30 miles before mid day! And I don’t mean that to sound like a whinge. I really started to enjoy it. The end of every day felt amazing to look back at how much you’d done, how far you’d cycled and what you’d seen. Plus it helped to think of how many calories you’d burnt…
By the final day we were itching to get to that Golden Gate bridge. And sleep on a mattress. And have a good hot shower indoors. And burn my cycle gear.
Despite being the shortest duration, they really did save the best hills til last! San Francisco is a treat, but if you’ve ever been you’ll know there’s some impressive hills.
Almost there… (just a few of the worst hills yet to come…like a final day treat!)
Cycling into San Francisco felt fantastic and really quite emotional. And that wasn’t just because of the final hills (it probably contributed though).
After some particularly steep ascents from Sausalito we suddenly saw it… TA DA. You big red beauty you!! I don’t think I’ve felt that much love for a bridge. Which is probably a good thing. But what a way to end the trip, incredible!
Thank you so so much to everyone who so kindly and generously donated towards this adventure. Fundraising was as equally as tough as the ride, but it was all so worth it. Our total currently stands at £6,141 for Prostate Cancer UK & Movember UK which we are delighted with, but also hope to continue growing to aid the research into Prostate Cancer which will hopefully lead to a more promising future for men.
I obviously made a video if that wasn’t enough…
Amy & Kenny