Ten Years Of Crazy!
2019 Marks a very special anniversary for me. It's ten years since I began a series of hardcore fundraising challenges for charity. I've cycled the length and breadth of the UK, stripped naked in deep snow, jumped from an airplane, organised a community to walk together, run more miles than I can remember, and I also smashed a world record.
I've lost count of how much I've raised over the last decade, but it's in the tens of thousands of Pounds, which makes me smile everytime I picture it as a pile of cash being delivered to the charities I've supported.
In the beginning...
Back in 2009 it began with a walk in memory of Shaun's mum, Brenda, who died a few years ago from Motor Neurone Disease. We met in our local town precinct and walked through three towns, collecting money in buckets.
Run, Colin... Run!
With barely enough time to recover from that long walk, I'd organised for some of us to take part in the 'Leeds 10K Run for All'. It was Shaun's first long run, but he managed it, along with his sister and some friends, and we raised a boat load of cash through sponsorship and a party at a local pub after the run.
Four weeks later I embarked on something that I never even imagined would happen. I broke a World Record! I'd been planning to cycle from Leeds to Liverpool, and back, along the towpath of the canal (with the same name) for a while. I'd planned a three day expedition, camping overnight somewhere over the Pennines.
I set off just after 5.30am on the 6th of August with 10kg of camping equipment, food, water and other bits in my backpack. Ahead of me lay 128 miles of trans-Pennine canal towpath and ultimately, the end point, the Liver building in Liverpool.
My three-day plan changed pretty quickly. As much as towpath cyclists are frowned upon nowadays, I had a pretty clear route straight out from Leeds. Of course, I slowed down whenever someone came by, and I ALWAYS gave pedestrians priority, but once out of the city and in to open countryside I was able to gain speed.
I made it to Liverpool in under 12 hours. Amazing! Although my backside was raw. Imagine two patches of angry red skin, one on each cheek, worn away from the friction of the saddle and the 10kg of weight on my back. I decided to book a hotel for the night instead of camping out and set my alarm for 4.30am the next morning.
I wheeled my bike out of the hotel the next morning, my backside coated in nappy cream, still carrying my backpack, and headed back to the start of the canal. I'm not going to lie. It was pretty grim! It was dark and I was in a massive amount of pain, but I put my head down and just belted as fast as I could (again, slowing down and giving way to pedestrians). Before long I was in Wigan, passing the very underwhelming pier!
Weirdly, the miles passed quicker going east than they did going west the day before. Foulridge (the halfway point) came and went. From there, all the locks were down hill. Skipton, Bingley and Saltaire passed, and I was flying down towards Rodley when I got a puncture! I had a spare inner-tube so I just swapped them and binned the punctured one.
I arrived back at Lock no. 1 just before 5pm where Shaun was waiting for me. My legs were covered in mud, I was dizzy, exhausted, and my backside felt like I'd been sat on a burning grill for the last two days, but I'd done it. Leeds to Liverpool and back in a record breaking time of 22 hours and 38 minutes. (I still hold that record).
Check out the original vlog at Leeds & Liverpool Canal Record Breaking Blog
That bike ride took some recovering from. My backside took two months to heal. TWO MONTHS! I originally planned to do it again to try and beat my record time, but I decided against it, mainly because it would have been dangerous to people using the towpath.
Further, Faster, Harder!
I needed a bigger challenge, something harder, longer and more challenging, but what...?
How about cycling the length of the country? From Land's End to John o'Groats, alone, unsupported, and complete it in a week? Ha! So that's what I did.
On Wednesday the 14th of July 2010 I took the train to Penzance and stayed overnight in Sennen, just a few minutes from Land's End. What followed was the most intense eight days of my life! Apart from almost getting killed on day one, every day I pedalled up to 130 miles through heavy rain and gales. My knees gave up on day three, and I was left at the side of the road in tears, unable to walk, never mind pedal!
I talked about giving up a few times, knowing in my heart that there was no chance I'd actually stop. Tears and phone calls to Shaun always made me feel better, and gave me the energy I needed to push on. The days passed and the mileage increased. By day four I was in the Lake District.
I was halfway through my journey and my knees were getting worse. Every day I had to stretch and pedal very slow to get them moving. By the end of each day I could barely walk! Day five took me across the border from England to Scotland.
The weather up till now had been wet and windy. Every day I'd reached my destination soaked to the skin and spent the evenings drying out my kit and cleaning down my bike ready for the next day. However, upon reaching Scotland, things took a turn for the worse! The worst summer storms for 17 years battered me as I struggled to reach Pitlochry on day six. I just managed to get into town before they closed the road due to flooding.
The next morning I was stranded by floods. Unable to take my planned route, I took some advice from the B&B manager and worked out a diversion. It was an extra few miles, but all on the very busy A9 towards Inverness. I waded through the knee deep flood water (much to the annoyance and shouts from the local Police) and pedalled off along this dangerous dual carriageway.