Prostate Cancer UK - Cycle the Month 2022 retrospective

By Dan | Jun 5th, 2022 - 8:01pm

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So let's start off with the most important bit - thanks. That is, a massive thank you to anyone and everyone for your support throughout the month of May as I endeavoured to raise a bit of cash for a good cause while pushing my personal limits in endurance. It was an impromptu challenge but I am absolutely overjoyed with how it all went and wanted to talk a little about what happened and what I learned throughout the whole process. For those unaware, May was Cycle the Month for Prostate Cancer UK - they were challenging cyclists to ride either 100, 200 or 300 miles while raising cash for a good cause. I chose to go for the 300, considering a few weeks prior I had managed 100 miles over a 4 day weekend I knew it was something I was capable of, I would just need to not overexert myself and keep the miles balanced.

Of course, there was the added challenge of not having a month, with a holiday planned in May I actually only had 22 days to hit my goal, so averaging 100 miles per week would be a necessity to reach the goal. I developed a strategy I believed would work nicely, cycle before work and during my lunchtimes to keep my average where I needed it (roughly 13.5 miles a day to hit the goal), and use weekends to go above and beyond so I could keep a comfortable buffer. Plus, I had weekday evenings as an extra opportunity to ride, should I fall behind. I knew the trick would be to keep to a schedule that worked and not become impatient, the biggest possible problem would be to get injured and lose days of riding because of it - what is an extra 10 mile ride worth if it costs you the next 5 days? I have already discussed my first week's ride in a previous article, so if you want a snapshot of how I was feeling early on into the challenge then you should check the link out below, but otherwise, on to the retrospective...


The results

Rather than bury the lede, why don't we start with the results? My goal was 300 miles, so did I manage it? I am delighted to say I hit 300 miles on May 26th and I used the remaining days to reach a grand total of 402 miles - nothing quite like under-promising and over-delivering! Of course, I didn't know at the time I was under-promising having never done something like this before, I always believed that I could hit the 300 miles, and most likely surpass it, but I had no idea I would be able to drop another century on top so I am naturally over the moon with the results. Speaking of great results, next is your contributions. I thought £300 would be a nice round number, considering the 300-mile goal aiming for £1 a mile had a nice ring to it; thanks to all of your donations, not only did we smash that goal but you ended up doubling it! £615 was raised for a great cause and once again, you have my thanks. Maybe if I take on a cycling challenge in the future I will have to set the goal of £615 for 615 miles.

For those looking for a little more detail, here is a breakdown of each day's riding and where major milestones were hit:

All rides for Cycle the Month 2022
Ride length Total to date
May 1st
20.56 mi 20.56 mi
13.68 mi 34.24 mi
May 2nd
21.17 mi 55.54 mi
6.1 mi 61.51 mi
May 3rd
7.48 mi 68.99 mi
7.68 mi 76.67 mi
May 4th
5.87 mi 82.54 mi
7.93 mi 90.47 mi
May 5th
8.44 mi 98.91 mi
7.94 mi 106.85 mi
May 6th
10.74 mi 117.59 mi
7.51 mi 125.10 mi
May 7th
30.10 mi 155.20 mi
May 8th
13.80 mi 169.00 mi
May 9th
7.71 mi 176.71 mi
7.15 mi 183.86 mi
May 10th
9.17 mi 193.03 mi
7.09 mi 200.12 mi
May 11th
7.71 mi 207.83 mi
6.52 mi 214.35 mi
May 12th
11.06 mi 225.41 mi
7.78 mi 233.19 mi
May 13th
17.51 mi 250.70 mi
May 14th
Holiday
May 15th
Holiday
May 16th
Holiday
May 17th
Holiday
May 18th
Holiday
May 19th
Holiday
May 20th
Holiday
May 21st
Holiday
May 22nd
Holiday
May 23rd
8.15 mi 258.85 mi
May 24th
8.48 mi 267.33 mi
6.49 mi 273.82 mi
May 25th
7.45 mi 281.27 mi
6.11 mi 287.38 mi
May 26th
8.39 mi 295.77 mi
7.55 mi 303.32 mi
May 27th
15.14 mi 318.46 mi
7.04 mi 325.50 mi
May 28th
24.70 mi 350.20 mi
May 29th
20.66 mi 370.86 mi
May 30th
8.31 mi 379.17 mi
7.89 mi 387.06 mi
May 31st
8.46 mi 395.52 mi
7.33 mi 402.85 mi
Final distance 402.85 mi

How it went

So now all is said and done and I can reflect back on the previous month,  it feels like a lifetime ago I was setting out and worrying about the lofty goal in front of me. I remember feeling the weight of the challenge on day 1, the idea that I had just cracked 2 miles and had another 298 miles in front of me was daunting but I knew I had a working plan.



It is no surprise that, because I had decided to spend hours and hours cycling around, the weather was mostly terrible. Across my 22 days of multiple cycling trips per day, I believe I got to cycle in a short-sleeved shirt maybe twice and only got to cycle in shorts once. All things considered, I was lucky if I didn't have to cycle in full waterproofs but I have never normally let bad weather stop me from cycling, and the added motivation of a fundraising goal meant I had no qualms about getting drenched. The biggest challenge was keeping all of my cycling gear clean and dry, having multiple sets of every piece of gear became essential to keep up my cycling schedule. You can't take on a cycling challenge in the United Kingdom without planning for a bit of miserable weather.

The pain was also an ever-present factor that needed to be managed to keep up with my new schedule. I had gone from riding 20-40 miles a week to cycling 100-150 miles, and my body sure did notice the difference. By around day 3 or 4, the muscle ache set in. It was a strange sensation like my thighs were permanently half cramped, but this was only when at rest and it immediately went away while I was cycling making it pretty easy to live with. This feeling slowly went away over the next few days and did return briefly again after my holiday but I would rate this pretty low on the pain scale.

The biggest issue came up as my thighs were just starting to feel better - pain down the inside of my right knee. I believe the origin of this was two-fold: firstly, my saddle had been a hair too low which is never good at the best of times but when you are cycling long distances, and pushing to get them done quickly, it can really cause problems. Secondly, due to a run of cold and wet weather days I had wrapped up in multiple layers, including 3 layers on my legs - now obviously this doesn't cause a problem in its own regard but the layers I chose restricted my leg movement, only slightly, but it was enough to contribute to my knee issues. This was quite concerning and on some rides, the pain was quite severe, enough to end rides early as a precaution. Obviously, rest is the best way to recover from injuries but I needed to make some miles happen so I just had to cycle around it and luckily the pain was only when riding seated so I would only sit to coast or for downhill sections. I also knew that my holiday was coming up and although it was a hiking holiday, it would be the perfect opportunity to allow my knee to recover.

Other problems came and went on a day-by-day basis with issues in my left hip and left knee causing only momentary worries. I also returned from my hiking holiday with an ankle injury but, once again, fate was in my favour as this only hurt when walking and felt fine when cycling. It was a worrying factor throughout the rides, thinking that a single bad injury could render the fundraiser impossible. Ultimately, all's well that ends well and both the weather and near-injuries will be a footnote to what was achieved over the month of cycling.

Thanks to the efforts I made to go above and beyond in my first week, millage stopped feeling like an issue. The miles melted away, and being so far above and beyond my goal made it feel fun again - when I returned from my holiday it felt a little like I could take it easy. Although, that feeling went away when I set my sights on the extra 100 miles to crack 400, still, that was not a requirement, just a personal goal.

What I have learned

So, what is my takeaway from all of this? Well, first and foremost I had a great time doing this and will absolutely be arranging fundraisers in the future. Anyone who knows me knows I love setting myself strange and difficult challenges that used to be just for the sake of seeing if I can do them or not, but if I can do those challenges and raise money for a good cause then why wouldn't I? When the sun did shine and the blue skies were out it was everything I love about biking off the beaten paths, maybe in the future, I will focus on summer based fundraisers...



Bike by a canal over the A5

As for my riding, not only have I proven my fitness is far greater than I had ever known but I have certainly learned a massive amount about looking after myself. I have spoken previously about just getting out and riding in my intro to cycling, but it is important to say that doing this on my old bike would have been a miserable slog. My old 26er, which barely changed gears and stopped, was a bit of a death trap that while I certainly got my money out of, was well past retirement. I would be willing to wager that if I had attempted this on my old bike that those near-miss injuries would have probably become real problems, and even if they hadn't I am sure the bike would have let me down. The Vitus Nucleus VRS I moved to is bigger, more comfortable, rolls better and is simply in better condition - hard to beat it really!

On the topic of bikes, my new bike was obviously a massive boon for this challenge, but some of my improvements were vital in getting me through this. I can say with absolute certainty that this would never have happened if I was still riding on tubed tires. As mentioned previously, I used to ride 20-40 miles a week and I would get 1-2 punctures per month - throughout this challenge, I rode well over 100 miles a week and had 0 punctures. I have had no punctures since switching to tubeless, the difference is so staggering that I am sometimes in disbelief of how long I've gone without getting stranded on a trail or side of the road. If you have yet to switch to tubeless, you are genuinely missing out. Not quite as impactful, but ditching the plastic pedals that shipped with the bike for a nice set with super-grippy pins was a real nice upgrade that stopped my feet constantly slipping off in wet weather; I am not one for riding with clips, but switching to a set of pedals with good metal pins and pairing them with thick outsole shoes (I use trail runners) and you will often have to fight to release your feet.

In case you are curious, these are changes I made to my bike and, although I haven't a massive amount of experience in this field, I do love what I went with:

  • Maxxis Minions DHR II/DHF, Stan's sealant and Muck-off Presta valves (Wheels were tubeless ready)
  • DMRbikes V12 Mg pedals - function over form, work great but the finish started peeling in about 3 days

As for me personally, I have just learned to generally take better care of myself while riding. A quick stretch before embarking, plus keeping your speed down for the first 10 minutes can really make the difference when trying to stave off injuries. I might have been able to just jump on and ride as a kid but not only are those days gone, you will ultimately pay for riding like that as you age. On a few of the longer rides, especially when I am cycling daily, taking time for a proper break and allowing myself to refuel and drinking plenty has become something I make a conscious effort to do. In the past, I was very guilty of riding 30 miles without drinking and having maybe eaten a piece of toast, but I really felt those longer rides when they are part of back to back rides and, much like the stretching, will be making an effort to take a bit better care of myself when riding in the future.

Conclusion

So what are my takeaways from all of this? Well, I will absolutely be doing more fundraisers in the future, I should probably take better care of myself when riding and the weather in England will always disappoint when you need it the most! Seriously, I know I have already said this at the start but, once again, thank you. Every donation, every message, and every passing "good luck" has made this a really enjoyable experience that I would love to do again. It is also something I recommend everyone try, at least once, the combination of challenging yourself to do something, no matter what it is, while raising money for a cause you care about will be something you remember forever. But for now, I am looking forward to cycling just for fun again...

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