Firstly, may I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous 2016. Despite the best laid plans, this year has been a little bit crazy and I haven’t had time to write up a single event and have mainly relied on my Facebook page. So you’ll be thrilled to hear I have decided to give a run-down of 2015 in a single blog! I am sure this will be too long and self-serving! However, just before you stop reading, I really really need to offer my most sincere thanks to all of you who have supported or helped, either with donations to Blind Veterans UK or by bullying me to get up hills or complete challenges where I have been close to failure! Thank You!
At the end of 2014, I decided I had pestered folk too much and so was going to scale back my fundraising. In fact when I failed to get a place in the ballot for Ride London but succumbed to peer pressure to enter (as the poster boy of Blind Veterans UK)
I took a charity slot but paid the fundraising target myself. As I took on more events, I did send out the Justgiving link and you were just fab!
So, despite my best intent of not pestering you all, this year we have raised to over £2,400 this year for Blind Veterans UK
which brings the total raised to £13,585!
A staggering amount for an old fat bloke on a bike! I couldn’t have done it without you!
So that is the key message! However, if you want to read what I have been up to, in order to provoke such a response and some specific mentions then read on!
However, this is seriously long – you may want to get yourself a brew . . .
Was a relatively light month with a key highlight being a trip off to Cirque du Soleil. Nothing to do with cycling but what a fantastic show – if you haven’t been, I wholly recommend it! At the end of the month I then did my first ‘Tour of Sufferlandria‘.
Sufferfest is a company that provides high intensity low volume cycle training videos. These are designed to stretch you to build power on an indoor trainer. The ToS is a virtual stage race consisting of 1 – 2 hrs high intensity training each night with 12 heavy sessions in 8 days. This was really tough but nothing compared to what was to come . . .
To add to the fun, the last day also coincided with my first sponsored run in a number of years, supporting Jonathon Scott in his fight against Mouth Cancer . . . Now there, is an inspiring man! More later!
Saw me taking the bike outside in anger for the Wiggle No Excuses ride around Huntingdon. The day was wet an blustery with a number of mates from Team Branocs and the Royal Engineers Old Boys Cycling Group (REOBCG) riding together. Unfortunately, I had foolishly commented about my lack of punctures the day before and after going through 4 tubes and one tyre ended up at the back, escorting a couple of Tail End Charlies. On the plus side, they likely wouldn’t have finished with my coercion! I did, however, miss the pies!
The first half of March was spent in the cycling mecca of Alpe D’Huez skiing with Ben and an old mate Chris Green! I do tend to collect inspiring friends and Chris is up there with the best, we first met at university and have crossed paths numerous times across at least three continents since. His mid-life crisis involved signing up for 9 months in Afghanistan, giving up work to become a ski god and writing a book! Spin Zhira should be published to Kindle in the New Year – It’s a pretty inspiring read. Anyways, Chris took us under his wing and developed Ben’s skiing exponentially, whilst exposing me as an old fat bloke with knackered knees! It was, however, a fantastic trip and gave Ben a great role model for his potential career in the forces!
Whilst I was off skiing, I was having my bike serviced at Cycles UK . . . It appears Specialized have a pretty thorough exchange service, so when Stu got concerned about some cracks in the paint, it was farewell to ‘Ruby’ and hello to TP (Theseus’ Paradox)
The end of March was spent doing the ‘Spring Classics Tour’ at Indoor Revolution. Indoor Revolution is a WattBike studio in Braintree run by Dean and Luke. They do a great job at keeping us fit and motivated in the off season and the Spring Classics was their version of the Tour of Sufferlandria . . . only harder!
Seems to have been a reasonably barren month for events with the high spot being the excellent St Georges Day Dinner on the 25th which saw a dozen knights descend on Castle Hedingham resplendent in fake (and in one case real) armour and swords to eat and drink way too much! Kudos to Andrew Temperton for keeping this fine tradition going! On the cycling side it was mostly training for the challenges on June
Was a sad, sombre and somewhat humbling month due to the loss of a couple of great men.
It started well with the frivolities of the Army Navy game, which we attended in REOBCG colours and gathered a few new members
but took a tumble on 15 May when Jonathon Scott finally succumbed to the Cancer he had been fighting all year. Scotty was an ex Marine, who I met in hospital the prior October when he had had his tongue, throat and Larynx removed due to mouth cancer. Despite this, he and his fantastic family refused to give in and continued to fight and motivate folk to raise money and awareness. ‘Team Jonathan‘ had already done one sponsored run in Feb and two days after his death we met up again in Regent’s park for the ‘Superhero run’.
Kate, Ellie, Cameron and William all turned up to cheer us on, together with half a dozen of his ‘Royal’ mates from the Falklands. It was a great event and humbling to see the family being so strong. There was even a message from Jonathon urging us to run and have fun!
Special Kudos here to Sarah Smailes (yet another inspiring woman!). Sarah is Jon’s Physio, and the driving force behind Team Jonathon. Despite the hideous impact of his cancer, she has never seen a problem, just a solution waiting to happen. Sarah has continued to celebrate his life and fight to raise funds for and increase awareness of Mouth Cancer and to encourage us to continue running (and you know how I feel about running!!)
A week later we had another kick when we learned that a good friend from Singapore, Nick Tsinonis, had tragically died from a heart attack whilst training in the gym. This was a huge shock but I was fortunate enough to be able to join Annie (Anne-Lize), ‘Theo’ (Dionysios) and Dino (Constandino) at Nick’s funeral in Singapore the following week. The sheer number of attendees and depth of feeling showed what a huge impact he had on those around him and was quite humbling. Despite the crap circumstances, it was a privilege to be a part of this and great to witness Dino lift the cup at his rugby final a couple of days later.
As a result of the short notice trip to Singapore, I did have to miss the Tour de Sapper (North) but huge thanks to Chris Pattinson for the loan of the bike and Almeric Ong for the guided rides around the heat of Singapore! What a country to cycle in!
At the start of June we had Scotty’s funeral. This was a ‘Royal’ funeral with Honour Guard, Bugler and Colours. This was equal parts laughter and tears, just like all military funerals with tales of mischief and misbehaviour alongside huge respect and love. Ellie, Jon’s eldest, stole the show with an amazing humbling and brave eulogy, which left the crowd of hardened marines laughing with tears of REspect rolling down their faces!
It never ceases to amaze me how some of the most crap situations can be the most inspiring! Seeing the impact these great guys have had on those around them and the strength of their families is something else! Never a sign of giving in, just knuckling down and making the most of a crap hand!
Back on the Bike
Two days later I headed to Cardiff for the inaugural ‘Velothon Wales‘ This 120km ride featured a flat and very fast first half, led out by Phil C and his son followed by two significant and eye watering climbs (The Tumble 10 km @10% and Caerphilly Mountain peaking at 26%). This was a great ride and a fitting tribute to Nick and Scotty and made all the better by meeting up with ‘Team Pie’ from the Unite and Bike ride to Paris as well as many members of the REOBCG (Royal Engineers Old Boys cycling group – a virtual cycle group for ex sappers with members across the globe! I couldn’t wish for a better and more supportive group of mates! – If you’re a Sapper and you cycle ping me for an introduction!)
The next week,I was lucky enough to catch up with the gorgeous Gracie Elvin from OGE and Laura Trott from Team Matrix when stage 2 of The Women’s Tour started in Braintree
The next day, we headed down to the Isle of Sheppey for Chase the Sun.
After a strong start, our team split in two and the John, Dan and Dave raced off to finish in just over 15 hrs (I just didn’t have the legs to keep up). Meanwhile, I pootled around and lost some time helping out some folk until I met up with Darren, Matt and Russ, three mates from the Corps (I hadn’t seen Russ and Matt since Bosnia in 1995!) This created all kinds of problems for our fantastic support team (Mark I, Dave S and Vicki S) as they tried to support two groups up to 100km apart! However, they did an amazing job and motivated me to push on when things got tough! Thank you guys!!
Darren and I left Russ and Matt and attempted to make up time which made for a somewhat emotional and knackering ride. There were three of us in my group but Rob never seemed to take a pull! It was only at the end, we discovered his longest ride before had been 80 or so km! Huge kudos for him keeping going! We ended up riding 350 km and climbing 3000 m but missed the cut off by a country mile!
High spots include the descent of the Cheddar Gorge in the pitch dark! Thank gawd the goats weren’t out! Huge kudos and thanks to Darren for dragging me around and Mark and Dave for their awesome support! Really wouldn’t have made it without them! The strava file is here
It was a really hard ride this year and so it took me at least 15 mins before I signed up to do it again in 2016!
One of the great things about the forces is the camaraderie and sense of humour! Darren realised I was crap at hills and so the only option was to book me on as many hilly rides as he could! The next being just a couple of weeks later as we took on the Wiggle Mendips 100. This featured three significant climbs with Deerleap and Burrington Combe making the Cheddar Gorge seem simple! I really am crap at hills! but do kinda like them – Once again – Thank you Darren:)
Is generally when you start to ease off after Summer. However, this year it proved to be a pretty crazy month with four decent events!
I kicked off with the London cycle and Ride London, These closed road rides take you around the capital and the Surrey Hills. Once again the REOBCG were out in force and it was amazing how many folk I bumped into that I knew. It also gave me a chance to join David S on his first official Century! We did lose a couple of hours due to an unfortunate incident on Leith Hill (RiP buddy) but it was great to ride down the Mall with Dave and meet his family at the end!
I then headed off to North Wales for my first ride with Ed at Cav’s Rise Above sportive. This was another great ride with a couple of decent lumps including the Horseshoe Pass. Ed is also a mountain goat but was kind enough to wait at the top of the hills and take picture as I dragged my fat sweaty carcass over the top! As a result, we were able to get some great pictures of the countryside . . . not to mention some great action shots as I summited the Pass alongside Cav! (He really is tiny!)
Team Branocs then got back together for The Only Way sportive in Colchester. This was a lovely hill free route and Henry’s first Century (and likely last)
23 Aug was Sufferlandria National Day – and what better way to celebrate a fictional day for a fictional country than 3 hrs on a Watt bike! – Oh and I also had a quick trip to the Oval to watch England win the Ashes
After the excesses of August, It seemed to make sense to have an easier month in September. However, that wasn’t how things panned out.
At the start of September, I got a mail off Team Sky inviting me to join them for a training ride in North Wales before the Tour of Britain! Apparently I had won this after posting about the Rise Above ride?? Despite having the ABF ride booked for the Sunday I drove up to visit my folks and onto Wales to join them. The weather was fantastic and they looked after us really well! We got a load of gizzits (Rapha tops don’t fit me) and spent time with the mechanics and staff before meeting Sir Dave and the team. After a team brief, where I was announced as the new GC lead, we set out for a ride out with the team, escorted from and back by Sky Jags! You should have seen Sir Dave’s face when he saw the size of his new GC lead! Needless to say, I didn’t beat Pete Kennaugh on the climb!
That night I drove nearly 300 miles to join Jacqui for the ABF sportive in Bedfordshire! This was my second catch up with Martin and Rob from Team Pie and a great ride until Rob, channelling his inner Yorkshireman, decided to save his brakes and used mine! Unfortunately, I am twice his size and he hit the ground hard! We then spent 2 hrs with the ambulance whilst they sorted him out (you have no idea how painful it is seeing a mate have all his cycling gear cut off!!) By this time I was firmly the Lanterne Rouge, so swept up the stragglers again and got them back to Five Bells in one piece (Rob was ok, just badly bruised and concussed!)
The next week, my habit of winning stuff continued when I ‘won’ a few places to ride stage 8 of the Tour of Britain. It was a great ride with Dan and Dave and we also caught up with Team Sky who kindly gave me a pretty cool signed top
My final ride for Sept was the inaugural Tour de Sapper (South) In Weymouth. Twenty or so of us descended on Weymouth for a couple of evenings swinging the lantern, justified by a ride around Dorset. Paul had planned a great route with some nice lumps, a circuit to the Bill and racked up the nostalgia with the start and finish at the Bridging Hard! He even managed to arrange for some stunning weather! All in all a great weekend, made better still by the singalong at the Black Dog . . . I’m not sure the band knew what had hit them!
I cannot write about Sept without mentioning another of my inspirational mates. Vicki Bailey has done a number of performances featuring sport and particularly running as a medium. Last year she performed at the Fringe doing 26 Marathons in 26 days. This year she topped that with a performance called Running beyond language. This was a 26.2 HOUR run, in Kuopio in Finland in complete silence! She really is mad as a fish but a huge inspiration, whenever, things seem a bit tough!
I finally finished my (real) cycling exploits in October, with the Tour Ride Worcester. This 100 mile ride only featured just over 2km of climbing, however, this was concentrated in three or four particularly steep hills. Once again I over-cooked the start and the packed last few months finally caught up with me so I was running on empty! Huge thanks again to Darren for dragging me around as it was tough (but then again it wasn’t running, it didn’t last 26.2 hrs and it wasn’t in silence! so who am I to complain
I was also fortunate enough to be invited to a couple of special memorial events in Oct and early Nov. Firstly, I joined Blind Veterans UK at a memorial service in Westminster Abbey and then parade with the Queens Gurkha Engineers at the Cenotaph in London. Both were very humbling affairs and provided some fond memories.
I said I wound up my ‘real’ cycling events in Oct but the best laid plans failed once more and I had one final challenge to undertake. I have been doing a lot of training at Indoor Revolution and spend a fair bit of time doing Sufferfest cycling vids. As mentioned before, these are high intensity, low volume training sessions, aimed at building power. At the end of Nov, I joined 14 friends and we undertook a quest to become Knights and Dames of Sufferlandria. This required us to ride 10 of these sessions back to back with just 10 mins to change and feed between each one. This was pretty tough! It’s hard enough to ride a bike for that length of time but there is no let up on a Wattbike. The whole team absolutely nailed it and around 11 hrs later, we all finished and have been anointed as Knights / Dames of Sufferlandria!
You may call me Capt (Retd) Sir Ian Slack RE BSc(Hons) MInstrRE KOS A mythical knight of a mythical country but a pretty pleased one at that!
I do have to mention my family and thank them for their patience! All these events have taken me away from home a lot and when I have been back, I have spent a lot of time training. I have tried to spend time with them and have managed a few trips with them from time to time but I am sure I have been a grumpy git and a pain to live with so Thank You; Sally, Tom, Ben & George! (By the way . . . we need to talk about next year :))
Having said that, Ben & George have also been pretty busy and have learnt to Kayak in the last 2 months and have just qualified to paddle the Olympic Course!
If you have managed to survive to the end, I am amazed and impressed as this is a pretty major and I’m sure tedious tome! Once again Thank You for all your support and immense generosity! Sometimes failing on the best laid plans isn’t all bad and for a non fundraising year, we have raised a huge amount so Thank you!
Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a safe and prosperous New Year!
Slacky / Ian / Shirley / Shrek . . .