You’re a cyclist aren’t you Mark?

I think being clad in lycra head to toe pushing my bike through the hotel lobby at 7.30am in the morning getting back from a morning ride gave the game away.   “Yes “ I answered, “good” said my colleague, “make sure you keep the 21st -25th September clear, we are sponsoring our clients annual charity bike ride and we need to put a team together.  I need you to be in that team. “

That brief conversation back in February in a hotel lobby in Barcelona was how I landed the opportunity to ride for Ciena as principal sponsors for the annual Colt Technology Charity bike ride.   The event in 2017 was to be their 6th edition as they rode from regional office to regional office to raise funds for charities linked to their various regions.   Previous years they had ridden from London to Paris. Paris to Frankfurt, Frankfurt to Munich and Marselle to Barcelona.   The route for 2017 was from Barcelona to Valencia over 4 days.

And so fast forward 7 months and having completed the Haute Route Alps a couple of weeks ago, once again my bike was in the back of a van and making it’s way to the Mediterranean coast line for another multi-day event to join 4 other Ciena colleagues and 120 other riders from Colt and their partners.

We gathered on Thursday afternoon to check-in, register, get our ride numbers, attend the pre ride briefing and get to know each other a little bit more.  Each rider taking part was split into groups based upon rider ability and experience.  I had previously elected to go in the group that would average 25kph on the road.  Turned out later that I had been Strava-stalked but the ride organizers  and pushed up into the fastest group, which turned out to the best decision as they were a great group to ride with.

On Friday morning the 12 groups gathered outside the Barcelona offices of Colt and one by one groups headed out to split the peloton up and not cause disruption on the road.

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The ride each day consisted of a base route that would get the riders between the “host” venues for each day with an excursion route attached into the ride for those who wanted to add a little more challenge to their riding.  This was a very successful set up as it allowed riders of all abilities to get involved and stretch themselves according to their abilities.

Then each day all the riders luggage would be transported from hotel to hotel along with a day bag that would be available at each of the feed stations along the route.  The remarkable thing about this though was that the whole event was staffed by Colt employees.  Whether it was the team moving the luggage, or the team moving the day bags, or the team that stocked and staffed the feed stations along the route, each person was a part of Colt and they did an excellent job.    One of the really appreciated features was that all of the riders bags were taken to their hotel rooms and left inside their rooms so that riders didn’t have to haul their bags up to their rooms after finishing the ride.  Such a small detail but so significant.  I greatly appreciated this, as this was not done on the Haute Route.

And the feed stations were excellent, There was no chance of losing weight during this ride as the food at the lunch stops was so good.  The Colt volunteer team did a fantastic job.

Day 1 140km from Barcelona to Tarragona 

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Photo Credit Joe Rass @lebikestop

 

Day 2 Sun was shining again as we went from Tarragona to Tortosa, 156km 2256m.

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Day 3  Tortosa to Castellon – 180km 2,000m climbing and a dip in the lake…..

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Day 4 – Castellon to  the finish in Valencia 125km.

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The Ciena Team Photo Credit Insta  : edstar_osei

The total route length for the 4 days was just over 600km with 7000m of climbing, so a good few days in the saddle.  Also our team 12 managed to take the top three places in the King of the Mountains competition.   (I placed second)

Each of the local regions of Colt that participate in the charity bike ride nominate and raise money for those charities.  In the UK this was the charity Place2be.   ,the UK’s leading children’s mental health charity.

On the last day of the ride they posted a tweet sharing that over £20000 had been raised so far and that this was replicated across each of the participating Colt regions.   Our five person Ciena team was able to add a further £2000 to that total.

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Those that know me, know that I really enjoy cycling, it provides me with a great way to free my mind, recharge, think, test and challenge myself.  This year I have had the great pleasure also to do that and along the way raise a bit of money for charities that help others.

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My Haute Route Experience

It’s been a few weeks now since I completed the Haute Route Alps and I have been contemplating how I can adequately sum up the experience.  The fundraising hasn’t stopped, the justgiving page remains open till the end of October to collate donations. Hopefully this post will try and articulate what was for me without a doubt the toughest physical and mental challenge I have undertaken and help put a few more dollars/pounds into supporting the sustainable diabetes program through Team Type 1 foundation.

Let’s start with the official review video created by the Haute Route Team which gives an insight into the event.   I was interviewed during the event and they used a bit of that interview in the voiceovers.

I arrived in Nice ahead of the event and met up with Joe and Manuel who I met via social media in the lead up to the weekend to grab something to eat.  This meeting set the tone for a great week, making new friends, sharing amazing experiences together, enjoying great company, helping, encouraging & assisting each other.21077699_10213584046777181_9017291818650453197_n

Rather than a blow by blow account of each stage I thought I would share what a typical day on the Haute Route looked like.

  • 5-6am Wake up, get up, shower, kit up, breakfast, pack day bag for drop-off at the start. Pack some food, make a sandwich for eating in the first two hours.  (thanks Ben for the tip)
  • Around 6-6.30am Pack transport bag for pick up at the hotel.  Gently roll down to the start village and drop off day bag for collection at the finish.
  • 7am –  Stage start.  Along with 300 other riders, we roll out for anywhere between 5 & 8 hours on the bike.  IMG_4275
  • 8-9am – Within the first hour or so, we would have hit the first mountain climb of the day. In a normal stage, described here, the race organisers would put in a minimum of three big mountain cols, which in and of themselves would be a decent day out in the mountains on a bike.  This first col of the day would be to warm up the legs and prepare for the next big climb which normally was a monster.
  • A feed Station would be placed normally at the top of the first climb of the day to allow a quick rest and replenishing of supplies.  For me, this meant grab some cut oranges, sugary drink, salted crackers and eat another of my veloforte bites. IMG_4270
  • Anywhere between 11am-1pm – Hit the big climb of the day.  The list of these second climbs of the day read like a who’s who of the famous mountain cols. Cayolle (2326m), Izoard (2360m), Sarenne (1999m), Madeline (2000m) & Colombiere (1618m).  Normally these ascents would be between 9-32km in length meaning that in some cases we were climbing for multiple hours at a time.  Climbing the Cayolle on day 1 I cramped up towards the top making me really worried for the rest of the week.  I made sure I replenished my salt intake better during the week and adjusted my re-fuelling strategy to make sure it didn’t happeIMG_3509n again.
  • From 2pm to 4pm (or later).  The last big climb and avoiding the time cut for the day.  For each stage there was an official cut off by which we as riders must finish in order to be categorised and receive an official finish time.  My goal of the week was to make the time cut each day and not receive the dreaded DNF (did not finish).
  • FINISH THE STAGE – Pick up day bag, shower, change, eat, massage, find hotel and  prepare for next day.  Hand wash kit, pin on race numbers for next day.
  • Find a good place to eat and get those carbs and proteins in for the next day as well as a good debrief of the day.

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The Lows:

Without question the lows came when doubt came into my mind about whether I would be able to complete the climb/stage/race/section * delete as appropriate.  As Chris said to me on Stage 3 the mind always goes before the legs and essentially he was right.  A couple of these darker moments stand out.

∗On stage 1 I cramped up on the climb to Col de Cayolle, as we climbed 32km from Ascros to the first big summit.    At this point I was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to make the time cuts and finish the race and all sorts of doubts came into my mind.  Had I trained enough, had I bitten off more than I could chew, was this simply something that was beyond me.   I realised that I wasn’t replenishing the salts I was losing through sweating and the effort and so made some changes to my refueling strategy that involved more crackers and included a bit more salt in my food.   It made a difference, no more cramps.

∗Towards the end of the day on stage 2 we climbed the Col d’Granon a dead-end climb of 12km to a gravel car park.  After spending a little too much time on the top of the climb at Izoard I was running out of time getting close to the time cut and put myself under pressure.  It was a tough climb which tested my mental capacity as I had to dig deep to finish ahead of the cut.  I made it by 30 minutes but I hurt.   I can with complete confidence say that I have no desire to ever go back to the top of the Col d’Granon, the road that leads nowhere.

∗On the Col de Joux Plane, with just 7km to go to finish the day the road went up into double digits, after so many climbs and kms that week I wasn’t sure that I had the legs left to get up these 14-18% ramps which although they lasted just a kilometre or two seemed to drag on and on. There was a reward at the end of it though. (See the highs section below)

The Highs:

∗On the morning of day 2 we gathered at the ski resort Pra Loup, there I met Jerom Grilhot also riding for Team Type 1, but he is a board member.  He shared with me the incredible strains that Diabetic athletes put themselves through to compete.  He said something very poignant, “for me the pain stops when I get off my bike and lie on my bed, for these guys (athletes with diabetes) it is never ending”

∗Seeing my son Scott at the top of Col d’Izoard on stage 2 as he and my brother had travelled across to spend some time on their bikes in the mountains and cheer me on.  Scott took this shot as I made it to the summit.

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∗On day 5, which was the queen stage I had just summited the Col de Madeleine and taken a break to refuel and get ready for the last segment of the day.  As I restarted on the descent, I was on my own with this amazing descent opening up ahead of me with Mont Blanc in full view.  An exceptional moment on the bike

∗Similarly on Day 6 climbing up the last climb of the day on the awesome Col de Joux Plane. We had passed the early ramp and as the road snaked up the mountain there was a moment where the sun was shining beautifully with absolutely no wind, perfect silence with only the sound of my drivetrain moving along.  For a moment everything was perfect.  Ironically within just one km I also had one of my lows of the race as Joux Plane ramped up to double digits but then I was rewarded with a switchback looking over the Mont Blanc Massiv that brought back the beauty of this magnificent climb.

∗Finishing the time trial on Alpe d’Huez (stage 4), completing it in my best time ever and finishing with friends at the top.

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ouch! that hurt
The finish... being congratulated by my brother Chris (in the shot below) and my son Scott (behind the camera).

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The Haute Route for me would not have been possible without the incredible support of my wife Lisa and my family.   They allowed me the time to train and get ride fit and where there cheering me on all the way.
A huge shout out and thank you to the all of the riders, support crews, Police, mechanics, volunteers that made the week happen but especially to Joe, Manuel, Monika, Lukas, Joe, Greg, Sean, Gernot, Ian, Chris and Scott who rode at various times with me and made the days fantastic.

Posted by Mark Gilmour on Monday, August 28, 2017

Stage Summary Videos from Haute Route

Stage 1 Nice to Pra Loup  (You see me in the group 45secs in)

Stage 2 Pra Loup to Col d’Granon (My shoes & socks make an appearance at the beginning of the video)

Stage 3 Serre Chevalier to Alpe d’Huez

Stage 4 Alpe d’Huez Time Trial

Stage 5 The Queen Stage – Alpe d’Huez to Megeve.  (look out for Scott mixing it up with the leaders at 20secs in)

& Stage 6 Megeve to Morzine.

The final Video.

Today, Watch the pro’s ride the same mountains I will be riding next month.

Today the Tour de France reaches the Alps and climbs iconic mountain cols such as Glandon, Telegraphe & Galibier. Tomorrow (Thursday 20th) the professionals climb the massive Col d’Izoard, which sits just a few kilometers from the Italian border in the french Alps.  

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Col d’Izoard profile, image credit http://www.letour.fr 

At 2360m above sea level and rising 1000m over 14.1km with an average gradient of 7.3% from the valley floor this high mountain top finish will test the professionals after they have already climbed over the 1st category Col de Vars.   

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Ahead of the Tour,  the women’s La Course road race will also roll out from Briancon, racing along the valley to Guillestre and climbing the same 14km climb to finish atop Izoard.

These are the same roads that I will be racing in just over 4 weeks time.  Spare a thought for me when you watch the pros suffering on the gradients, in the heat and at altitude. That will be me on Tuesday 22nd August as the Haute Route rides 127km from Pra Loup to Col du Granon just north of Briancon over the Col de Vars and Col d’Izoard.

To sponsor me raising money for Team Type 1 Foundation click here.

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Kit Sponsorship

As part of the fundraising effort for the   Team Type 1 Foundation Haute Route in 2017, there is the opportunity for local and wider businesses to sponsor my training kit and get visibility on the roads of Hampshire and London.

During August I have been conducting a count of vehicles that pass by me on my regular commutes to and from work.   It astounded me, that even allowing for the inconsistencies in my counting (very manual) that a minimum of 1000 cars, buses, lorries and motorbikes pass by me each day. With so many “eyeballs” on me (hopefully paying attention so as not to knock me off my bike) having a training kit Continue reading “Kit Sponsorship”

Scott is fundraising again

Having completed the Marmotte bike ride in July and raised over £300 for Barth Syndrome Trust (BST), he is now working with his National Citizenship Service group (FLADS C254) to once again raise money for BST.

This time, they:

  • will swim the equivalent of the channel on Monday 15th August at Hamble Pool,
  • host a laser-quest event at Frankies Fun House in Romsey on Wednesday 17th August
  • have organised a picnic on Friday 19th August at  Romsey Rugby club.

Details can be found on their facebook page 

Come along to their events and/or support via their JustGiving page.

You can help Flads C254 raise money for this great cause by donating directly to their fundraising page – https://www.justgiving.com/Flads-C254?utm_source=Sharethis&utm_medium=fundraisingpage&utm_content=Flads-C254&utm_campaign=pfp-email.

JustGiving sends your donation straight to Barth Syndrome Trust (BST) and automatically reclaims Gift Aid if you are a UK taxpayer, so your donation is worth even more.

The reason why BST is so close to our hearts as a family is because it affects one of Scott’s oldest and closest friends.

About BST logo

Barth syndrome is a rare, often life-threatening genetic disorder that affects boys.  Look at our logo and you’ll see a heart at its centre: this is because most of our boys have heart failure and a risk of sudden cardiac arrest.  However, the heart at the centre is also a powerful symbol of who we are as an organisation: we are a strong, caring and positive force.

 

The swirl around the heart encompasses the many symptoms which are caused by Barth syndrome – immune system problems, muscle weakness, extreme and debilitating fatigue, growth delay and feeding problems.  But again, our swirl means more to us than just a collection of symptoms – for us it symbolizes unity, collaboration and inclusion. So yes, Barth syndrome is a serious condition that strikes in many different ways but with your help, we know we will succeed in our mission.

Riding High…..

Back in overcast London after a spectacular few days cycling in the mountains of the Alps.

This trip was conceived long before attempting the 2015 Marmotte.  Following the mountain collapse and subsequent closure of the Grand Tunnel du Chambon the 2015 sportive and also a stage of the 2015 Tour de France was re-routed.  This meant that the 2015 sportive would be a unique event in that the Marmotte would take a different route for the first time in it’s history but it also meant that those completing it would not complete the traditional course.  If we wanted to do the traditional Marmotte we would have to come back.

Roll forward 12 months and a number of our 2015 group are gathered again in Le Bourg d’Oisans ready to face the Marmotte again.  This time I was Continue reading “Riding High…..”

The proper mountain training starts.

A quick update on the training for the Team Type 1 Haute Route cycling event next year.

In 2016 my cycling goals are aimed towards being ready to cycle in a 7 day amateur stage race in the summer of 2017 and so this years trip to the Alps to ride the Marmotte sportive is a great opportunity to keep mountain fit.  After completing the Marmotte in 2015, the plan was to come back in 2016 but this time with Scott as he will have completed his exams and have some extra time off school.  And so here we are.

Scott this year is riding for the experience and also to earn a little bit of sponsorship for his best friends charity Barth Syndrome Trust.   You can donate to his challenge effort by visiting his justgiving page www.justgiving.com/ScottsMarmotte

On Monday whilst I was at work Continue reading “The proper mountain training starts.”

Taking on a challenge

Four years ago, my son Scott and I along with a couple of friends completed the 3 peaks challenge for various charities.  We raised over £4000 in the process.   Now a couple of years on, I have been looking for another challenge in which to raise money for charity and motivate me along in the process.

As a keen cyclist I wanted that challenge to involve cycling and so I began looking around and  found the Haute Route cycling events and began discussions with their charity partner Team Type 1 Foundation.
The Haute Route is billed as the one of the toughest amateur cycling events that someone like me can participate in.   HROG2016
There are currently three different Haute Routes available:

  • Pyrenees,Anglet to Toulouse, 7 stages over  7 days 800Km, 20,000m+ of climbing.  Daily distances range from a 16km Time Trial to over 160Km.
  • Alps, Nice to Geneva 7 stages over 7 days 800+km, 21,000m + of climbing. Includes an 18km Time Trial & average daily climbing of 3000+m
  •  Dolomites, Geneva to Venice, 7 stages over 7 days, 900km, 21000m+ of climbing, Time trial of 21km up the Stelvio, & 3000+m a day climbing.
  • A fourth route will be added in 2017 in the Rocky Mountains.

So in August/September 2017, the plan is to ride in one of their  European 7 day editions to raise money for the Team Type 1 Foundation, a charity dedicated to “instill hope and inspiration for people around the world affected by diabetes”.

The target is to raise $25,000 which will be about the sum Continue reading “Taking on a challenge”

A New Year, A new Start blogging, Some tough News

Although I am an avid journal keeper, I have not been an avid blogger as can be seen by the infrequent updates that are added to this website.

My last post on this website was following the successful 3 Peaks challenge that my son and I along with 4 other friends completed in June 2012.  Back then we raised over £4000 for national and local charities, one of which is Piam Brown Oncology unit in Southampton Hospital.  The little girl that I mentioned in that post who was being treated at Piam Brown has since made a full recovery after some intense and difficult experiences.

Just this weekend, it has become apparent that the Piam Brown unit will once again play a significant part in the lives of another family in my congregation here in the South of England as their little girl faces a battle with cancer. It will be another difficult and intense journey and they are at the stage right now where they do not know what the outcome will be.

It is very humbling and heartwarming to know that there are trained caring professionals like those in Piam Brown who will provide excellent medical care and equally important family support.

So spare a thought and a prayer for this family and the many others like them who face these sorts of battles and family trials.

It becomes very important to me, that when faced with mortality in such a way, that my faith, belief and knowledge of principles of eternity provide comfort and support. Indeed my faith even helps me make some sense of things and situations which otherwise would not make sense.

If you are one of those having to come to terms with ones own mortality or suffering bereavement, perhaps there may be aspects of the gospel of Jesus Christ that may bring you comfort and support. You can explore these beliefs by using the following link http://mormon.org.uk/beliefs/plan-of-salvation or get in touch using this website.