Leeds Children’s Hospital Big Bike Ride (100 miles)
I supported Leeds Children’s Hospital because of the great care that the LGI’s Peter Congdon Neonatal Unit provided when Daniel was 3 months premature.
Daniel spent his first months of life at the Leeds General Infirmary / Peter Congdon Neonatal Unit, where he fought through intensive care for about 6 weeks, on to high dependency for a month then the last few weeks progressed to home nursery before heading home still on oxygen support and daily contact with the unit’s outreach nurses.
I’m sure many parents go through the similar journey and in most cases I would assume, as with Daniel, you’d never guess the battle they had as babies to earn their right to life. However, on their side they have the genuine care and expertise of all the medical staff on the ground.
Many times we’d arrive at Daniel’s side for the day, to find a nurse either offering comfort or a little prayer for him.
Daniel’s journey through the unit started well when he was 27 weeks (+5) term, even pulling off his own CPAP on the first day – which got the staff on their toes :-). He was lucky enough to be the first one to trial a new Giraffe incubator with all the mod-cons including motorised lift and movement (which might be why he loves theme park rides so much these days!)
However, after only a few days, he contracted septicaemia…this is bad news for most people, never mind one so young. Out of the multitude of daily photos we have, it’s hard to find a palatable one for a number of weeks and still has scars which were the result of this period. We also have the memories of his battle including those night-time calls to say there’s been a turn for the worse and to return to his side.
With the staff’s support, he bloody fought though.
I still say that during his time in hospital, I could see his tenacious character and within a minute of turning up each day, would spot whether he’d have a good day or not. Looking through his old photos shows the machines with a real cocktail blend of drugs which I hope he never returns to in his life!
It was as an (exhaustively) happy day to bring him home after 3 months. In some ways, we were lucky in that we’d had plenty of practice and support at nappy changes etc. and still had daily support from the fantastic outreach nurses in the early weeks as well as the occasional ‘support call’ back to the neonatal doctors.
We are truly thankful to everyone involved and I’ve long-wanted to begin to show our gratitude. This 100 miles ride I hope is just the beginning of that process.
I had been looking forward to doing this ride for a long time as I had been disappointed that the 2014 event had clashed with something else. I really wanted to start to give something back for the care that Daniel received from the hospital nearly 10 years ago.
In a similarly embarrassing vein as my London Nightrider, I had been planning on doing the ride in some form of costume; a teddy bear maybe. However, the usual excitement of life, made the event more complex that I had originally envisaged.
Due to working away from June, my daily training had been interrupted, therefore decided to start commute-riding once or twice per week to my new work location 42 miles away at ITV in Salford Quays. This was all good and was a pleasant ride in the middle of summer.
However, one evening I was returning and was nearly home, when someone opened a car door on me at the perfect time such that I could not avoid it. My hand on the front of the bars took the brunt against the thin edge of the car door, followed by my arm then chest eventually ripping me from my pedals and laid in the middle of the road. Ouch.
Broken hand, ribs, 11 stitches and other bumps later I was into recovery, with only 7 weeks before the ride. At every doctor’s appointment I took the opportunity to judge whether they thought I’d heal soon enough – all very touch and go. But I really wanted to do it.
After a month I managed to get the cast off, but was left with a totally useless hand – unable to even pick up an empty plastic cup. Physio, physio, physio and only 3 weeks to go, never mind losing general fitness to do 100 miles or no longer having a bike.
With only 10 days to go, I made the call to go for it…talked with the local bike shop and ordered a new bike; sorted and was back on with 1 week to go. First ride out REALLY hurt for both hand and fitness levels but I only had 6 days left and still had to begin fundraising. Physio, physio, physio.
Since my fitness level had dropped dramatically, a fancy dress outfit would have been too much. I did however decide to borrow one of Daniel’s teddy bears to dress-up and take for a ride on the handlebars to help me 🙂
On the Day
The forecast for the event day looked pretty good – generally sunny but importantly dry. The day started off very foggy indeed but I think I’ve ridden in nearly all weathers so nothing concerning.
I aimed to start as early as possible, because I was taking the 100 miles very steadily – no point in aggravating the hand or heroics without fitness…after all, I still had another big charity ride the following weekend! (Manchester – Blackpool)
Since I was an early starter, the set-off was quite low-key and quiet, but I was in the first group to go. It wasn’t long before I noticed just how many marshals were out on the road to help – out of the rides I’ve done, I’ve never seen so many. It didn’t take long before I was the front rider, which meant I was waking up the marshals on the way out – but they all gave cheery waves!
Fitness wise I could tell I was way down on ‘normal’ but still relatively confident; though I’m sure a great deal of fitness comes with mental preparation and I had prepped all day before. I was still very much nursing the hand on bumps but looked at it as a new endeavor or problem that I had to solve on the go. Another hill I had to climb was the fear I had of cycling near parked cars – it did make me feel nauseous and constantly had to rationalise with myself.
Powering on to York I could tell I’d made a decent pace, though was no longer the front man. The trek through York was very much constrained by traffic lights, which were a great opportunity to have a swig or bite to eat anyway.
Just pulling through York I joined up with Kevin and Martin. We rode on past York slipstreaming each other with a spot of chatting along the way – all very sociable which is the great thing about cycling, as you’re sharing the pain and it really does help connect people.
The hills were where I really started to struggle – normally I love the hills (these days) but the combination of degraded fitness, metal (rather than carbon) frame and not having a compact gearing really hit me. I did make it up the 14% slopes though and on to the first pit stop for a lovely bacon sandwich.
Since I was still in the mindset of completing rather than competing, I took my time to stock up nutritionally and drink plenty. This is a key skill to learn for anything over 2 hours. During the stop, I think lots of group riders passed (Strava flybys) which meant I started to see lots more people.
The drop down from the hills and back to York was very pleasant – everywhere around York is just so flat compared to being in Leeds. When I first started riding, I hated hills, but these days if I see a hill I want to be up it, though I’m still a heavyweight so certainly no whippet up em!
I used Tadcaster as my final stop and stocked up on water for the final leg which I knew was a little more undulating. The hills were somewhat power sapping by now but experience gives you climbing techniques to conserve energy.
Approaching back at Roundhay park, Julie and Daniel had been tracking my progress and knew I was about to arrive. I saw them there as I approached the finish line, which was really nice; with Daniel being his usual giddy-kipper self!
Not sure if these links will stop working, but a couple of official photos are here: