Epic cycle ride undertaken by unfit, overweight, not middled aged lady

I visited Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos in 2002. One of the things that really struck me about the countries was the indefatigable people, the welcome extended to visitors and the simple joy taken in small pleasures. But, having visited the Museum of the American War in Ho Chi Minh City, seen the 'Danger UXB' signs in Laos and read the good news headline in a paper in Cambodia: ' Deaths from UXBs down to 3 this month. Only 40 maimed.' I was acutely aware of the toll still being taken on the population.

Over the years I have pondered the munitions still there and this year I have finally decided to get off my bottom and do something. So I have, somewhat impetuously and with little regard for my physical fitness, cycling ability or dodgy left knee decided to join the MAG cycle ride from Ho Chi Minh City to Ankor Wat. I will be doing this the first week or so in Feb 2011 and it does involve a couple of days of over 100km in 30 degree heat. Having signed up I have been told that neither a rickshaw nor an electric bikes are options and that doing the distance on my own pedals is expected.

Donation link is further down on the right - I have paid for my own flights and contributed enough to cover living expenses so all money raised from sponsorship will go to MAG.

This is my blog of my progress to get on the road and when I am there - assuming I will be capable of rational thought after a day of unaccustomed exercise.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Day Five..... This is The End,

Woke up determined to cross the finish line at Ankor Wat on my own pedals. Feeling much better and actually wanted some breakfast although couldn't really face the noodle soup option so had a cereal bar.
More happy campers

Still had various ailments: heartburn was killing me and my left hand was really bad so I downed the Naproxen with a paracetamol and codeine chaser for good measure then asked Dr G for heartburn and vomit meds just before the morning ride. There is then a slightly more delicate matter, those of you who are squeamish or anyone who works with me skip to the next paragraph. When riding a bike gents get sore bottoms, ladies get, well, sore errr lady parts. As of this morning mine were on fire and not in a good way. Decided that the only way that I could get the clothing on would be to go commando, slathered an extra 1/2 inch or so of sudocreme padding on the gel inner of my cycling shorts and gingerly put them on.... much better than previously although I didn't think that this vital part of my anatomy would ever be the same again... 

Rubber Tapping
Following the slight overuse of meds the morning ride all went surprisingly well and I realised that I had finally acclimatised after 4 days of cycling. It was quite a revelation not to feel dizzy/ nausea all the time. One thing that has surprised me is that during all the cycling I have not had any problems with my legs;  I have been stretching at every break (well all those where I was not sat with my head between my knees) and the training that I have done seems to have been about right for the distances (>80kms per day) that we have been doing.... it's just been the heat that has done me in.
  Post lunch idyll
The after lunch ride was a real treat; we did about 18kms off road through villages, trees and fields including around an Ankor era Wat. This was exactly the type of riding I had been hoping for even though it is a bit more hard going than the tarmac'd road; although the advantage of a gravel/sand surface is that the heat is not reflected as much and it was a far cooler ride. After a further 10 kms we stopped for a 'pre finish' break and I cycled in, lost my back wheel to the sand and ended up on my side. No major damage although bit of a bruise on my right calf... and to my pride. 

Blew up balloons and decorated the bikes then cycled through the rush hour traffic of Siem Reap in convoy; with a bus at the front and back with hazards. About 50 yards from the finish line my
Hello to Jason Isaacs!
balloon burst and I realised that I must have some really bad karma coming in on this one.... Crossing the finish line was a real buzz and after champers, congratulations and a lot of very sweaty hugs we all said 'Hello to Jason Isaacs' even tho' only one other person in the group was aware of the good Dr K's broadcast :-)
Got to the hotel and there was some problem with the rooms. As Paul was coming out on Friday I had my own room and this seemed to be causing some problem so I nipped into the loo while they sorted it out. Tried to come back out of the loo to find the handle wouldn't turn... it took 3 MAG/Actionchallenge people, 1 swiss army knife and a multipurpose bike tool to release me from my final prison. Bad Karma? more like Doooooooomed.
Celebratory dinner and I had my first alcohol since Blightly - thank the lord for G and T.... I was complemented several time on how well my complexion had healed now we were out of the heat but I did come clean and admit that I was wearing 1/2 an inch of slap :-)

Bonus Wat on the way
One thing I haven't mentioned is the mix of people who have done the ride, mostly because a blog is me, me and of course me. The 30 or so riders ranged from the director of a childrens charity, CEO of a large retailer to students and social workers. Motivation ranged from others who had been out and seen the many landmine amputees in Cambodia (anti-personnel mines  are designed to maim not kill since an injured soldier takes more looking after than a dead one) to a couple who do one of these per year. Cycling ability ranged from those who regularly do 70 miles plus, including a chap who had cycled across Oz (2,500 miles in 31 days) to those who had not been on a bike in 20 years. One of the latter has discovered a love of cycling and is already planning to do Sri Lanka next year. I think that the one who really stood out to me was the quiet, self effacing bloke of about 24 who had been struck by information on mines and decided to do this despite never having had a passport before even for a day trip to France.
Me with the team (Rith is stood up in the MAG T shirt)
There will be a short wrap up blog for the de-mining demo etc but I may not write this up until I get back to the UK as I am really struggling with photos etc and formatting on the IT over here. So - final bit after the ride - I didn't manage the whole 480kms and sat out for about 46kms or so due to heat stroke ..... I am hoping that this doesn't mean that people will be expecting a discount on donations and/or money back. I could not have done this without the support of many people, you do all know who you are but I want to single out Paulie who has worried, texted and lost most of his remaining hair over the past week not only looking after me but passing on info to everyone else as well. He has also admitted that when he said goodbye to me at Heathrow he did think he might never see me again.

What have I learnt from the ride is:

a. If I do it again I will come out a week early to acclimatise
b. A gel saddle and cycling shorts are your only friend

Finally and most importantly:

c. I am just not built to do this sort of thing and baking cakes/selling stuff is more my forte so I am never, ever, ever, ever doing this again and if I mention it please get me committed :-)

 TTFN and thanks again for all the support


1 comment:

  1. Stop Press: Apparently we made it onto the Mark Kermode/Simon Mayo show last Friday..... woo hooo!