For someone who was about to embark on a 300 mile Sport Relief bike ride my thought process on the start line at Blackpool was remarkably simple.
Don’t fall off.
I’d been introduced to the cleats a few weeks earlier - not a three piece folk band, but a two piece device designed to keep your feet attached to the pedals to make you more of an efficient power generator.
Only trouble is, when you stop you have to do a funny manoeuvre in order not to fall flat on your face - a technique which I’d not really mastered by the time the start of this BT Sport Relief: Zoe’s Hardest Road Home challenge came around.
But while I managed to avoid hitting the deck live on BBC Breakfast, a new issue reared its head almost immediately. The utterly amazing number of people who’ve come out to cheer me on so far this week has meant that I’ve had to master the riding wave - which sounds simple and for most cyclists is - but for me taking my hand off the handle bars for even a moment was a major operation.
Once I had that nailed too though, I was away and at the end of day one in Widnes I had honestly enjoyed the first 70 miles – crikey! As soon as I stood up the following morning though to begin the ride to Shropshire I realised enjoyment was going to be replaced by endurance for the rest of the way to Brighton.
Ache as I do, deep in each muscle of my body, having Professor Greg Whyte with me every mile of the way is beyond incredible. He really is an astonishing man who’s done 28 of these challenges and his ability to inspire and distract in equal measure is hard to underestimate - I wouldn’t have a hope of reaching home without him.
As well as Greg, the lovely team around me are looking after me superbly well both physically and mentally, and of course this is all to raise awareness of mental health issues and to encourage people to start those sometimes difficult conversations that are so vital. The wonderful thing is that along the road we’ve been meeting lots of people who’ve been affected by such things who’ve been sharing their stories with us.
It’s the start of day four as I write this and the route to Marlow will take us through the Chilterns and Cotswolds and so will inevitably be ‘lumpy’ – a delightful little euphemism that cyclists use to avoid the dreaded H word, hill.
It was on a particularly devilish climb yesterday that despite my (kind of) mastery of the cleats and indeed the art of the wave, I did indeed take a tumble. No damage done to my already broken body, but my pride took a bit of a denting as I was trying to show off my new found prowess to the lovely Harry Judd at the time.
But onward we go and hearing this morning that people have donated more than £193,000 so far is such brilliant motivation and together with the people out in all weathers shouting my name and tooting their car horns acts as the most amazing pain killer. So if you see me on the road over these last 100 miles please say hello and know this, I will wave back - even if it does cause a bit of a wobble.
I lost my boyfriend last year, and I really wanted to do something and find some hope for people that are living with mental illness. It’s important to help others find help and see there are great projects out there. In 2016 over 6,000 people died by suicide. Help is really, really needed.
You can donate and show your support for Zoe at sportrelief.com/zoe
Useful websites and helplines:
- Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393
- Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 (UK and ROI - this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill.)
- Get Connected is a free advice service for people under 25. Call 0808 808 4994 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org