PumpingDHuez, Pumping Marvellous, Alpe d'Huez, Heart Failure Awareness, HeartFailure,

#PumpingDHuez

PumpingDHuez is a new charity ride organised by the Pumping Marvellous Foundation, designed to tackle one of the iconic Tour de France alpine climbs.

Last weekend I got to join the inaugural ride and fulfilled an ambition of riding up a pro tour Hors Catégorie (HC*) hill climb. The chosen mountain was Alpe d’Huez, a climb that gains almost 3600 feet over 14 kilometers (8.8 miles) of tarmac road. With it’s twenty one hairpin corners, an average gradient of 8% and a summit finish at an altitude of 5988 feet above sea level it certainly isn’t one for the faint hearted.

The adventure started on Thursday with Jeremy and I heading south to the channel tunnel in Folkestone for an early evening crossing to France. Stopping off that evening in a hotel in Reims we met up with the other PumpingDHuez team members (Nick, Karen, Stuart and Darren).

PumpingDHuez, Pumping Marvellous, Alpe d'Huez, Heart Failure Awareness, HeartFailure,
Team PumpingDHuez – Jeremy, Dan, Stuart and Darren

The roadtrip continued on Friday morning with the drive from Reims to our hotel in Les Deux Alpes a short drive from the foot of Alpe d’Huez.

PumpingDHuez, Pumping Marvellous, Alpe d'Huez, Heart Failure Awareness, HeartFailure,
First views of the mountains on the drive down to the south of France

Les Deux Alpes is a major ski resort in the area, however being out of season and with only small areas of glacial ice clinging to the mountain tops the town was very quiet with only a handful of shops and restaurants open in the evening.

img_7384Nevertheless, we found an excellent little restaurant (Le Trappeur) open a short walk up from our hotel (La Meije).

After the meal the waiter brought over a complimentary shot of a local home made alcohol drink – they pick flowers growing on the high pastures in the Alps and steep them in the alcohol for 40 days, its then served in a hot miniature mug.  I can imagine it is rather warming on an après-ski evening out!!

Le Trappeur Restaurant and Hotel La Meije
Le Trappeur Restaurant, with its rather nice alcohol shots, and the Hotel La Meije, Les Deux Alpes

I had been looking at the weather forecasts for Alpe d’Huez in the fortnight leading up to the trip, most of them were predicting thunderstorms and rain for the day of our climb, so I was pleasantly surprised to wake up to blue skies on the Saturday morning.

PumpingDHuez, Pumping Marvellous, Alpe d'Huez, Heart Failure Awareness, HeartFailure,
The morning of the climb in Les Deux Alpes

After breakfast we headed down from Les Deux Alpes towards Le Bourg-d’Oisans at the foot of Alpe d’Huez. We found a small car park, about 3 miles from the start of the climb, this was ideal as we could warm up on the ride to the start rather than hit the climb cold.

PumpingDHuez, Pumping Marvellous, Alpe d'Huez, Heart Failure Awareness, HeartFailure,
Riding to the start of the climb in Le Bourg-d’Oisans

The first couple of miles of the climb is the steepest, ramping up to 13% almost immediately. As this was the first time I had tackled such a long climb and in fact exercised at altitude I wasn’t going to take any chances with my heart, so my strategy was to only monitor my cadence and heart rate on my Garmin. I broke the climb down into manageable sections with my only goal being to reach the summit.

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Jeremy and I on the slopes of Alpe d’Huez

The 21 numbered corners on Alpe d’Huez make ideal sections to break the climb into. Initially the first corner, then the next hairpin, then two hairpins, when my heart rate reached between 160-165 bpm I stopped at the next hairpin and waited for it to come back down to 130 bpm before setting off again. This made for a frustrating climb at times but I wanted to be extra cautious with this undertaking.

Alpe d’Huez has been nick named the “Dutch Mountain” after Dutch riders won eight of the first fourteen finishes on the mountain in the Tour de France. It’s a mecca for Dutch cyclists all year round and especially spectators during the Tour de France. So much so that corner 7 is affectionally known as “Dutch Corner” as it is claimed by the Dutch supporters every time the tour comes to town.  It’s easy to spot if you watch any of the stage climb on the television as the corner will be a sea of orange.

It was particularly nice to see that someone had painted a large yellow heart on the road on Dutch corner.

PumpingDHuez, Pumping Marvellous, Alpe d'Huez, Dutch Corner, Heart Failure Awareness, HeartFailure,
Dutch Corner with some very appropriate road art

My strategy of stopping when my heart rate reached 165, resulted in us regularly leapfrogging several riders who were maintaining a more regular pace, I think we overtook the gentleman in red in the photo below about three times as we would pass, stop, pass etc. In hindsight perhaps if I had maintained a slightly slower pace I may not have had to stop so many times – there’s a strategy for next year!

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The hairpins provide excellent views out across the valley and the town below, it is amazing to look over the edge and down at small buildings that we had cycled past in what seemed like just a couple of corners ago. You suddenly realise how high you have climbed in such a short distance.

Jeremy on Alpe d'Huez #PumpingDHuez #HeartFailure Heart Failure Awareness
Jeremy on one of the 21 hairpins
PumpingDHuez, Pumping Marvellous, Alpe d'Huez, Heart Failure Awareness, HeartFailure,
The obligatory selfie shot, on the same corner. (trust me to pick one with digger parked on it!)

PumpingDHuez, Pumping Marvellous, Alpe d'Huez, Heart Failure Awareness, HeartFailure,The main corners are each numbered starting at 21 at the bottom to corner zero at the top.

As well as being numbered each corner has a previous stage winners name on it and the current elevation in metres.

In this example, corner 9 is at 1295m and is named after Steven Rooks from the Netherlands and his stage win in 1988.

PumpingDHuez, Pumping Marvellous, Alpe d'Huez, Heart Failure Awareness, HeartFailure,
The view from corner 9 on Alpe d’Huez back down towards the start in Le Bourg-d’Oisans

p1020752As we approached the last four kilometres, a fellow rider patted me on my shoulder as he passed and then gave a thumbs up and words of encouragement.  I caught up with him a little further up the road when he had stopped at the side.  He explained that he had read the back of my shirt “Team #PumpingDHuez for Heart Failure” and that his daughter has had three cardiac events. He was pleased to see that we were trying to raise awareness and his reaction made the entire trip all the more worthwhile.

You are not quite done as you ride into the resort of Alpe d’Huez with its roadside cafes and pubs lined with cyclists as the Tour de France stage finishes on the far side of town. Another thumbs up and congratulations from the rider who spoke to us earlier as we passed him again, although this time he was enjoying a large cold beverage in one of the roadside pubs with others from his team.

Turning left at the final roundabout in the town and the road ramps up again for the final sprint to the Tour de France finish line.  I was welcomed in by the rest of Team PumpingDHuez, I was very disappointed that the climb took me much longer than I thought it would but elated at the same time that I completed it.

PumpingDHuez, Pumping Marvellous, Alpe d'Huez, Heart Failure Awareness, HeartFailure,

With the climb complete the only thing left was the descent, gravity suddenly became a friend of mine and needless to say it was much quicker going down!

I must say a very big thank you to everyone at Pumping Marvellous who made this trip happen, to Nick and Karen for organising the ride along with the support and photos on the climb. Cyclists Stuart, Darren and especially Jeremy for staying with me all the way up even though he could have gone up much quicker without me and Sam for the Social Media coverage back in the UK over the four day trip.

Fancy the idea of cycling up Alpe D’Huez? Then try it next year (2017) please email hearts@pumpingmarvellous.org for more details.

If you would like to help raise awareness of Heart Failure please share this blog and prehaps consider donating to Pumping Marvellous via my Just Giving page.

Thank you

* HC – French for beyond categorisation and therefore one of the hardest climbs.

 

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London to Paris 24 Hour Sportive – Stage Two, France

My London to Paris adventure continued from my previous post …

Stage 2 – Dieppe to Paris

Having taken advantage of a late offer of a berth in a cabin I managed to get some sleep, although I’d been asleep for what felt like a few minutes before the ferry’s PA system was announcing that we would shortly be docking in Dieppe – in reality I probably got about four hours sleep.

For some reason the ferry had docked an hour late into Dieppe, so we were behind schedule, unperturbed by the delay we disembarked and left the port to meet up for a quick snack and a rider briefing.

London 2 Paris 24hr cycle sportive. Photo credit : Chris Winter
Riding off the ferry at Dieppe – Photo by Chris Winter

I had checked the weather forecast for Sunday before I left Greenwich, at that point it was saying 6 degrees for Dieppe at 5am and the late teens early twenties for Paris in the afternoon, so I had already decided on shorts. However, the clear skies overnight had made the temperature plummet and my Garmin was reading zero degrees celsius as I rode off the ferry – guess who couldn’t find his long fingered gloves…

London 2 Paris 24hr cycle sportive. Photo credit : Chris Winter
Rider briefing and quick snack in Dieppe – Photo by Chris Winter

After a quick banana and a handful of Haribo, we were a rolling peloton of fifty riders. I restarted my Garmin at 5:38am (French Time) and a long line of flashing white and red lights started to string out illuminating the sleeping port of Dieppe.

London 2 Paris 24hr cycle sportive. Photo credit : Chris Winter
Heading off into the French countryside – Photo by Chris Winter

Next stop breakfast at Buchy in 30 miles.

There was something magical about cycling through the night and the villages of northern France. The boulangeries and pâtisseries were the only buildings lit up, each spilling out a welcoming glow of warmth onto the roadside, the smells of their wares and freshly baking bread wafting out over the road enticing me to stop… as alluring and seductive as it was I stayed faithful to the road and didn’t stop, instead the smells urged me onwards towards the town of Buchy for our planned breakfast stop. However, I must one day return to try a freshly baked croissants and perhaps un Pain et Baguette Normande.

With each revolution of the pedals the black starry night sky slowly gave way to the first signs of dawn as the sun rejoined us for our epic adventure to Paris. The sun and its warmth were very much welcomed and it wasn’t long before my fingers started to thaw and the feeling returned to my fingertips, I might have been freezing cold but I was loving it. The cold temperatures had resulted in a fine mist rising off the rivers and lakes along the roadsides adding to the magic.

London 2 Paris 24hr cycle sportive. Photo credit : Chris Winter
Sunrise – Photo by Chris Winter

Breakfast in Buchy was a generous spread of items including ham and cheese baguettes, porridge, pastries, orange juice, tea and coffee.  The only sun in Buchy at that time of the morning was a strip down the middle of the road, as a result a large number of us where gathered around the traffic island getting strange looks from the locals as they pulled up at the junction.

London 2 Paris 24hr cycle sportive. Photo credit : Chris Winter
Breakfast in Buchy – Photo by Chris Winter

Suitably thawed, fed and refreshed it was time to make a move and continue onto Paris.  Just as I was about to set off, Matt (one of the group of seven other riders from Saturday evening) came over and said he was getting the band back together and we should head out together as a group of eight. We didn’t know it at the time, but it was at that point Team Tally Ho formed up and that we would stay together all the way to Paris.

London 2 Paris 24hr cycle sportive. Photo credit : Chris Winter
Team Tally Ho climbing up out of the mist after breakfast – Photo by Chris Winter

The early morning mist had been burnt away by the sun and with the temperature rising additional layers of clothing were being removed and stored away in jersey pockets.

Riding in the group was making the miles fly by, I managed to get a quick selfie and tweeted it to update family and friends back home of my progress (and to mention how nice the weather was!).

A quick selfie and tweet to update family and friends
A quick selfie and tweet to update family and friends

Shortly after we rode into the town of Les Andelys and standing high on the chalk cliffs at the far end of the town was the impressive Château Gaillard, the ruins of Richard the Lionheart’s castle that he built in the late 12th century. I’ve had an interest in castles since I was a child so yet another reason for a more leisurely return to the area.

Chateau Gaillard

The town of Les Andelys is on the banks of the river Seine and it was here that we stopped for a snack with the chance to offload the now unneeded layers of clothing into our bags and another group photo, this time in our excellent L2P24 jerseys.

London 2 Paris 24hr cycle sportive. Photo credit : Chris Winter
Group photo on the banks of the Seine at Les Andelys – Photo by Chris Winter

What you can’t see in the photo above is the blood running down my left leg, as I arrived at the stop my cleat got caught in the pedal (my excuse and I’m sticking to it as I am sure that I unclipped), with both feet clipped to the pedals and no forward motion theres only one direction left to go… yes I met the ground coming up on my lefthand side, my knee took the brunt of the fall. Now usually the blood of a small cut and graze will clot quite quickly. However, with my heart medication my blood doesn’t clot very easily (and I don’t want it too either) so it was it time to test the first aid supplies and ask for a plaster.

With my knee patched up we left Les Andelys behind us following the meandering river Seine towards Vernon and ultimately Paris. With the quiet country roads we were riding two abreast for most of the way, the traffic was starting to build as we passed through Vernon so we took to a single file train taking turns at the front. I took the opportunity to record a short video of us as I dropped back from my turn at the front.

We stayed in the train all the way to the next snack stop, along the way Chris, Tom and Luke (the event photographers) passed us in the car. A couple of miles down the road I spotted the car parked on the roadside and they had setup on both sides of the road to take photos and video footage. I must say a big thank you to them all for the brilliant photos and memories.

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Chris, Tom and Luke setting up for a shot of the Team Tally Ho train
London 2 Paris 24hr cycle sportive. Photo credit : Chris Winter
The Team Tally Ho train to Paris – Photo by Chris Winter
London 2 Paris 24hr cycle sportive. Photo credit : Chris Winter
Snack stop 3 at La Roche Guyon – Photo by Chris Winter
London 2 Paris 24hr cycle sportive. Photo credit : Chris Winter
Clea taking a Tally Ho group selfie – Photo by Chris Winter

The section between snack stop 3 and lunch, whilst only 21 miles, had the two largest climbs of the day at Sailly and L’Hautil (almost 1200 feet in little under 12 miles), whilst climbing L’Hautil my Garmin clicked over onto 100 miles. By this time I could feel the previous 158 miles in my legs but I made it up both to be rewarded with lunch at Chanteloup Les Vignes.

Clea had completed the last part of the climb and into the lunch stop pedalling with just one leg as her lefthand crank had fallen off, fortunately the event mechanics weren’t far behind us and it wasn’t long until the crank had been reattached. We were on a way for the leg and the run into Paris.

We were getting close to the 24 hours and the traffic lights of the suburbs of Paris were not playing, each one seemed to turn red just as we approached. We crossed the Seine for the final time as a group and cycled under the Eiffel Tower, stopping my Garmin at 4:57pm (French time) – Total time 24 hours 28 minutes and if you allow for the ferry delay it would have been 23 hours 28 minutes.

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Crossing the Seine and arriving at the Eiffel Tower
London 2 Paris 24hr cycle sportive. Photo credit : Chris Winter
Champagne under the Eiffel Tower, Paris – Photo by Chris Winter

Whilst my goal was to cycle under 24 hours, I do not see it as a failure in a way, but a fantastic achievement for someone who has previously suffered a heart attack and couldn’t walk for more than 5 minutes without getting out of breath. If you would have said to me five years ago, as I was lying on my hospital bed on the day of my heart attack, that I would ride to Paris in 24 and a half hours I wouldn’t have believed you. It just goes to show what you can achieve, start off with small steps and see where it takes you, the most important thing is that you start.

So you’ve read about my experience, I hope you enjoyed it and that I’ve inspired you to want to do the same. If so sign up here for the ride of a lifetime and achieve something extraordinary.

It would be great if you could visit my Just Giving page and perhaps give a donation to Pumping Marvellous as we need to raise awareness about Heart Failure and help other heart patients that are not as fortunate as me.

I’ll be on the start line again in Greenwich on Saturday 29th April 2017 – I’ve still got that magic 24 hours to beat 🙂

Hopefully I will see you there and as Sophie says

One Day I Will Not Be Able To Do This, Today Is Not That Day

L2P24

London to Paris 24 Hour Sportive – Stage One, England

What did you do for the Bank Holiday weekend? I joined 49 other cyclists for the adventure of a lifetime by cycling from London to Paris in just 24 hours, just over five years to the day after my heart attack and raising funds for the Pumping Marvellous foundation. I had entered the London to Paris 24 hour sportive organised by Sophie Radcliffe and the team at Cycling Friendly.

The adventure began at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich Park. I had arrived an hour early, having cycled there from a local hotel that I had stayed at the night before. I wasn’t expecting the view from the start, as I reached a statue at the end of a tree lined avenue the view opened up to a one hundred and eighty degree panorama of the park and London beyond, topped off with the skyscrapers of Central London and Canary Wharf on the horizon – I’d only just arrived and the views were fantastic!

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London and Canary Wharf Skyline from the Royal Observatory, Greenwich

Other riders started to arrive and soon a small group had started to form around the benches opposite a van selling coffee. I was a little worried as I entered by myself and therefore would not know anyone, I needn’t have worried as everyone was extremely friendly. Introductions were being made along with the normal questions in this type of scenario, such as have you travelled far to get here etc?

London 2 Paris 24hr cycle sportive. Photo credit : Chris Winter
Riders arriving in Greenwich – Photo by Chris Winter

The record distance travelled goes to Milton, he had flown into London the day before from Brisbane, Australia just for this ride and another rider had come from America. It was turning out to be a truly international event before a pedal had even been turned. With the introductions, registration and rider briefing complete it was time for the official group photo in front of the iconic Canary Wharf skyline before heading off on stage one and the ferry at Newhaven.

Rider briefing at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, London
Rider briefing at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich
London 2 Paris 24hr cycle sportive. Photo credit : Chris Winter
Riders of the 2016 London to Paris 24hr Sportive – Photo by Chris Winter

Stage 1 – London to Newhaven (58 miles / 93 km)

With the riders all assembled we set off for Paris, I started my Garmin at 3:29 pm (UK time) making the goal for the Eiffel Tower 4:29pm (French Time).

London 2 Paris 24hr cycle sportive. Photo credit : Chris Winter
Starting the adventure of a lifetime, Greenwich Park. Photo by Chris Winter

The busy streets of London were soon replaced with quiet country lanes as we made our way out of the capital towards Orpington, by chance the route passed my sister-in-law’s mother’s house and they had very kindly made a banner for me, encouraging me up the first main climb of the day.

Val and Ken's Banner
Val and Ken’s Banner
London 2 Paris 24hr cycle sportive. Photo credit : Chris Winter
Hawley’s Corner before the descent into Westerham – Photo by Chris Winter

After Westerham, the route climbed up onto the High Weald skirting Five Hundred Acre Wood, the scenery and views across East Sussex were stunning.

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Riding with Sophie over the High Weald in East Sussex. Photo by Sophie Radcliffe

I had hired a small GPS tracker for the ride from Open Tracking, this was sending my current position to a website every ninety seconds and displaying it on a map of the route for family and friends to track my progress. For UK based events Open Tracking use the detailed 1:25000 Ordnance Survey mapping, however as my event left the UK I had to use an alternative mapping partner.

Pumping Marvellous, the heart charity I was cycling in aid of, had also tweeted the tracking link to it’s followers before the start and was tweeting updates along the way, each one was appearing as a notification on my bar mounted Garmin. This was providing me with an excellent source of encouragement, knowing that others were following and supporting me along the way.

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By this stage I had been cycling with a group of seven other similar paced riders and we were making steady progress towards our final stop of the evening. The sun was getting low in the sky, as it dipped behind the clouds and the horizon to leave us for the night we were rewarded with a fantastic sunset, unfortunately the photo below does not do it justice.

The setting sun on the approach to Newhaven
Sunset in Newhaven

We arrived in Newhaven at 8:11pm, having covered the 58 miles at an average speed of 13.5 mph with 3,570 feet of climbing, to be rewarded with a two course meal and the opportunity for drinks in a local hotel before riding to the ferry at 9:30pm. Whilst waiting to board the ferry I got talking to a couple of French cyclists who were on their return leg having cycled from Paris to London, on mountain bikes and mainly off road by the sounds of it – Chapeau!

Continued on the side of the channel in the next post

 

Celebrating Life – MI +5

If you have read my blog before you will know that, at the age of 38, I suffered a myocardial infarction (MI, better known as a heart attack).  It was caused by a combination of bad habits – a sedentary lifestyle, poor diet, smoking and a general lack of exercise.  That was five years ago and I have come along way since that hospital bed in Scotland, completely turning my life around by taking up cycling and running.

I don’t want anybody to have to go through what I did on the fateful day in April 2011.  Through my involvement with the Ordnance Survey #GetOutside Campaign, I’ve been sharing my story to encourage others to become active, whilst offering hope and inspiration to other heart failure patients that there is a future after such life changing events.

To mark the 5th anniversary of my MI and raise awareness of Heart Failure I’ve set myself a few challenges for April and May: –

#ChampionsWearOrange

I’ll be in my bright orange OS GetOutside kit for all four rides, do please say hello if you see me!

The main event is London to Paris, I leave Greenwich at 4pm on Saturday 30th and need to arrive at the Eiffel Tower before 4pm on the Sunday (70 miles to Newhaven for the four hour night ferry crossing to Dieppe and then 120 miles to Paris).

Paris

Whilst awareness of Heart Disease/Failure and getting people more active is my main driving force, I would like to raise much needed funds for Pumping Marvellous, a heart charity that represents the needs of nearly one million heart failure patients and just as importantly the patients families, at the same time.

If you would like to help the fight against heart failure – 20% of the adult population in the UK will be touched by heart failure and heart disease at sometime in their life – please donate to Pumping Marvellous by visiting my Just Giving page www.justgiving.com/coeurcycliste

New Year, New Challenges

In the words of John Lennon another year over and a new one just begun, let’s hope it’s a good one, without any fear… war is over.”   That war may be over, but my war against heart disease is just beginning…

This year will be my fifth since my myocardial infarction (heart attack), the memories of that day are still so vivid that it seems like only yesterday, yet I have come so far in those five years.

So much so, that I am going to celebrate with a year of challenges, honouring my #GetOutside pledge to Ordnance Survey and raising funds for Pumping Marvellous (my chosen heart charity).  Hopefully, inspiring others to get off the sofa and make a difference along the way.

My current challenges:-

All Year – 366 Day RunStreak, I’m running at least one mile everyday, I started this RunStreak on the 1st November, it’s day 64 with 118 miles of running.

February – OS Spin Insanity Sportive, 57 Mile cycle ride in Hampshire.

April – London to Paris, 190 mile (300km) cycle ride from the Royal Observatory in Greenwich to the Eiffel Tower in less than 24 hours.

May – Taunton Flyer Sportive – just a fortnight after L2P24, its back on the bike for a 111 mile cycle ride around the World War 2 airfields of Somerset and Devon.

June – Walk to the summit of Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon), the highest peak in England and Wales.

View to the East from the summit of Snowdon towards Llyn Llydaw

July – British London 10k Run – (6.8 miles) run around the closed streets of Central London. My first ever running event (other than a fun run as a seven year old in 1979 – I don’t think that counts)

August to December are yet to be decided, suggestions welcome in the comments below or through my Contact Me page.

I’m doing these challenges to raise funds for charity, please help my fight against heart disease by donating to Pumping Marvellous through my JustGiving page.

Thank you in advance!