Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Full circle!


It feels as though I've come to the end of one journey (and the last blog post) and am about to embark upon another. Not that I know (yet..) what the next one is.......

I met up with the delightful Si Pavey ( who taught me sooo much) earlier this week at the Bike Show at the NEC in Birmingham, which was great. Brought back all the memories of the highs and the lows (some quite low) of my training and journey of some nine months of this year from absolute utter novice to novice with experience and raising just under £10,000 for GOSH and KidsCo (THANKS EVERYONE) in between which after all, was what the challenge was all about.

Since, I've been back from the trip, I've read all of Charley Boorman's books, Si Pavey's and frankly as many books and DVDs about the Dakar, off-roading, enduros, rallys et al, as I can lay my hands on. For sure if I'd read them before - well .......there'd be rather a different tale to tell and I can say with some certainly it wouldn't have involved motorbikes, mud, rocks and the uber moments of waivering confidence, fitness; physical and mental, exhaustion, new skills and everything else that went with it. Teehee.

I admire and am in awe of those who ride off-road, it's not for the feint-hearted!

Loads of luck to the guys of DakarTeam GB for whom the start, at the time of writing, is 37 days away.

As many of you following the blog will know the inspiration to learn to ride an off-road motorbike and take on this challenge was after watching the Long Way Round some years back. Well, the dream to meet Charley Boorman came true when I met him at The CharleyBoormanLive Tour a few weeks back (I think there's one or two shows to go - it's excellent). Charley is as inspiring in person as he was on the telly. Charm itself, down-to-earth, funny, erudite and he very kindly tolerated my somewhat ditzy starstruck moment when he signed a book for me, minutes before he was due on stage. Thanks for the inspiration and thanks Billy for making it happen.

What's next? I've signed up for some more training courses and have yet to decide; Atlas Mountains, Africa .....Europe.....

What I do know is that whatever it is it's on a bike. I impulsively made a bid for a road bike on eBay and missed it, then test drove one and didn't like it - ooop - there's a learning there. For the time being I'm loving the GasGas and improving every time I ride - despite a rather ridiculous mud incident yesterday!

If Santa is reading, I am lusting after a KTM350 Freeride - I'm reliably informed by Martin Wittering at Torque Racing (who kept my bike in superb order) that if he takes it to bits Santa's helpers will easily fit it down the chimney......

Rubber side down.

Kate x

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

What a difference a month makes ( and 16 other guys!)...

Honestly, I have a little admittance - when I went out on the GasGas a few days after the trip, it was on the tarmac, not a blade of grass or hint of mud did grace the bike. This afternoon however was different!
I'm doing some research at the moment around confidence and the neuroscience behind it and also bringing together a workshop on leadership behaviours. Pondering traits and attitudes around when something challenging occurs; do we give up or 'keep calm and carry on', it made me think about the Pyrenean adventure. Since then, I don't mind saying my confidence has been seriously waivering between wanting to learn more, do a rally, go to Africa .......and never getting on a bike ever, ever again!
So, in light of "we never know until we try", I had a now or never moment, donned my gear this afternoon, fired up the GasGas and went for a blast.
It became apparent from the off that in fact my riding ability has improved immeasurably since the Pyrenees. I was really quite happy on the bike, the GasGas that formerly intimidated me big-time! Throttle and clutch - nice - and into the powerband, it's actually quite narrow so once you're in it, it's time to change gear again. Not any more will Gary be giving my exhaust a sideward glance at all the unburned oil (because I've not been riding it properly). Result!
Albeit riding at the back most (okay all) of the time in the Pyrenees behind riders of the most awesome, talent, ability and.....speed .....I had to keep up or at least try and in doing so, yours truly can know hack along at a pace too.
So, I've googled a rally or two, put out a few calls and messages and yes Africa is in my sights.
On a more sartorial note, I think I need some new gear, something a little less brash, my stuff is somewhat bright, colourful and ' in your face' as it were.
Drawing attention is not what one requires. The guys in the Pyrenees had gear that was quite understated and it was their supreme riding skills that drew the eye. Way to go!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Two to watch.........

We were delighted to meet Barry Smith when we were on our adventure in the Pyrenees to raise money for GOSH and KidsCo,. As the founder of Symprove, a company with a brilliant product and also sponsor of Johnny Walker, who by all accounts is the one to watch in Enduro – we had some fascinating conversations on all fronts!

Johnny Walker is the 19 year old Cumbrian Trials star who was signed up by KTM Off-Road Racing for 2011, after only one season of competing in Enduro! He may be on the heels of the “Knighter”! Barry’s company has sponsored him and he’s signed a shirt for us along with his team-mates to auction for GOSH, how cool is that!

To say we bit off more than we could chew, would be an understatement of extremes, this is what Barry thought;

“I’ve done around 15 trips but this was my first to the Pyrenees – and the most difficult. We did this trip in the most ideal conditions imaginable and personally, I wouldn’t like to face it in the wet, although I believe some tracks are missed out when the weather is bad. However, if you stepped up to the challenge, it was rewarded by the most fascinating views and vistas for miles, so if you had the courage to get to the top of the hills it was worth it.

I think that Kate came in without real knowledge of what her and Robin were about to face and they made a valiant effort as beginners in trying to tackle one of the hardest off-road routes that adventure sport offers - so really commendable first time out as it’s taken me 4 or 5 years to get up to that standard. Biting off more than they could chew but for a very good cause, Kate and Robin were well accepted in the group, and particularly for the great cause they’re pursuing. I wish them well with their further riding adventures and fundraising in the future.”

Since we’ve returned, my mate who suffers from IBS has taken Symprove and reported ‘it’s brilliant!’

Few little facts for you:- It’s a multi strain science-based probiotic, contains 4 strains of live activated probiotic bacteria which are active from the moment people drink Symprove and not dairy or dried products. The bacteria are naturally occurring and pasteurised on an extract of germinated barley, that’s 10 billion live, activated probiotic bacteria per 50ml serving. People who drink it are generally IBS or IBD sufferers and it would certainly seem to be the probiotic of the future! One to watch!

And if the press I’m following is anything to go by, Johnny Walker the boy of the future - an awesomely talented rider - even someone as seriously novice as me can spot that a mile off.

Thanks Barry, Thanks Johnny

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Magnificent motorsport memorabilia........

When one journey comes to an end another begins. This amazing journey from one cold February morning earlier this year thinking 'I'm going to learn how to ride an off-road bike and ride it somewhere interesting ', to now has been quite incredible.
To date we've raised almost £8,000 and the final furlong, as it were, is auctioning the quite fabulous and unique piece of motorsport memorabilia and history. The shirt been signed by; Valentino Rossi, nine Grand Prix World Championships and multiple MotoGP World Championship title holder, Jorge Lorenzo, 2006 & 2007 250cc World Champion, 2010 Moto GP World Champion, James Toseland, 2004 & 2007 World Superbike Champion - he retired last month due to a wrist injury,
Cal Crutchlow, British Supersport champion and British Superbike race winner, and the 2009 Supersport World Champion, Danny Webb, 125cc World Championship multiple title holder, Leon Haslam, British Superbikes, World superbikes, Ian Hutchinson, TT racer, Jonathan Rea, World Superbike racer, Keith Amor, TT legend, David Johnson, British Superbikes , James Whitham,TT Superbike champion, British Superbike Champion Supercup and the ACU TT British Superbike Champion, John McGuinness, TT legend, Neil Hodgson, British Superbike and World Superbike Champion & Ian Lougher, 9 victories in the North West 200, 10 wins at the Isle of Man TT Races and 42 wins at the Southern 100 Races and all the signatures were gathered by Steve Parrish. What an awesome collection.
Some say a journey is best measured by the new friends and people one meets.
Many have been asking what the next challenge will be, there were a number of answers to that a fortnight ago!
A seasoned off-roader who competes regularly and is awesome on a bike, called me last week. He's done the trip. He said 'Congratulations and well done! What were you thinking (I don't think I was), that was a truly epic challenge for such a beginner. Good on you for coming back in one piece'. I'm still surprising myself now thinking back to some of the terrain I covered on a dirtbike! Wouldn't have missed it for the world and the guys were all fantastic and very supportive and encouraging but crikey I didn't know what I didn't know ......... But I do now......!
Thank you, Merci and Grazie to so many people;
Donna Gray for getting me on the bike, in the right kit and starting off my very tentative learning experience, Martin Wittering, mechanic extraordinaire along with buckets of constant moral support and encouragement, Gary Faillettaz for his consistent unfailing encouragement, tuition and so, so very much patience and picking my bike up more times than should be allowed, team-mate fantastico, Steve Parrish for the fabulous signed shirt, books and WSB passes, Michelle Hunter for hosting the auction at the wonderful Queen Adelaide, John Kettley - without whom for sure this journey would never have really begun! Jim Gale for the brilliant graphics and plastics, Tamsin Jones for training, moral support and hugely boosting my confidence, Liz Rhodes at BBC Radio Cambridgeshire for constant encouragement, Nigel Wheatley and Michele Maddocks of Enduroland, Ed Blum, film director, Charley Boorman for tweeting, FB 'ing ( in fact getting me on FB), signing a book for the auction, Ross Noble for an auction prize and for making me laugh and keeping me human in Wales, Billy Ward for making these aforementioned things happen and for suggesting more training, not to mention making me smile on numerous occasions when I really needed to, Tim McEwan, auctioneer of the mostest, Ian Glover of Bloodhound SSC, Nigel Harrison, Jayne Perks, Jeremy Goring of the Goring Hotel, Sue & Andy Banham of Taylard House, Chris Evans (thanks as well as singlehandedly almost completely putting me off bikes forever!) and Cyril Despres, Graham Banks of GB Racing for so much, Sally Saunders of Esse (support and keeping me vaguely feminine), Jacquie and Matt of The Wendy House, Janine Wood of SLP, Tessa Roberts of Ocean One, Christian Malissard of Eagle Perf, Angela Dawson of Dawson VA Services, Dave Newman of SupremeBeing, Irene Routh-Jones for moral support, lovely friend Rachael for getting me packed and lovely texts when I was in the Pyrenees, dear friends Paul and Ailsa for airport runs, Caroline Faillettaz for huge support, my parents for looking after the girls, my fabulous friend Wendy for so much moral support and my gorgeous sister Elly who was particularly brilliant when I was finding it harder than hard, Mr T for so much and so much more and my beautiful girls. And of course to so many generous family and friends who gave donations, kind words and huge support, thank you, thank you, thank you, merci, merci, merci, grazie, grazie, grazie.

As for the next challenge..........Andalucia and Africa in my sights and perhaps a rally. Watch this space.......

Monday, September 19, 2011

Icing on the cake......

Have just received a message that the BBC shirt signed by;
Valentino Rossi,
Jorge Lorenzo,
James Toseland,
Carl Crutchlow,
Danny Webb,
Leon Haslam,
Ian Hutchinson,
Jonathan Rea,
Keith Amor,
David Johnson,
James Whitham,
John McGuinness,
Neil Hodgson,
Ian Lougher
is now framed and ready to collect (will take a pic of it when I collect it tomorrow) and therefore also ready to auction as the final icing on the cake of fundraising for GOSH and KidsCo. Thanks so much to Steve Parrish who very kindly organised this for us. Thanks Steve! How exciting is that and as a mate commented yesterday, 'must be worth more now as James Toseland has sadly retired due to injury'.

I've been overwhelmed by the wonderful support, encouragement, wry amusement and bafflement across this amazing journey. Had another cheque in today and I'm delighted to say that we've now raised just over £7500.00. So very chuffed, if still bruised! I was asked today what my next challenge would be - there's many answers to that particular question! Suggestions....?

Also very excited that another signed item by a British enduro icon might be on the horizon, I was told when in the Pyrenees that one should really stand when uttering his name! More on that to come.....

Has a little outing on the GasGas this avo to celebrate!

Monday, September 12, 2011

What goes up - must come down! GUEST POST FROM MR T

What goes up - must come down, there is no such thing as a free lunch, many a mickle makes a muckle, if I knew what the last one meant, that too may also apply to the challenging trip from which we have just returned. The first one is obvious. The 'lunch' in the second refers to the fantastic views we witnessed from the top of various Pyrennean peaks, which you too may have enjoyed in photographic form from the comfort of your PC. You will have realised that the 'no such thing as...' is the treacherous ascent on two wheels, to be followed by an even more hazardous descent!

In the early stages, whilst informing people of the planned trip in the attempt to secure sponsorship, a large proportion responded very positively assuming the undertaking was to be completed on mountain bikes. When informed that motorised transport were to be involved, a number looked somewhat sceptical, under the impression that there would be little challenge involved with an engine doing the hard graft. Yeah, right! The number of times one can drag a 140KG motorcycle 20 metres up a rock strewn 45 degree slope is very definitely limited to no more than twice an hour, (in my case, anyway). In fact, there are ample opportunities to do oneself some serious damage, or worse.........

Whilst I didn't break anything, or even ruin my GOSH riding kit with blood stains, I did have a rather alarming episode on the descent to lunch on day two. The descent in question was a rocky mountain stream bed, mostly dry, but slimy here and there and very narrow, perhaps no more than a foot wide in places. Add boulders, the odd errant cow, and all in 30 plus degrees heat, and things begin to get tricky. The final section was in excess of a kilometre, (could have been two for all I know), and wearing helmet, goggles and body armour, all added to an overheating rider, even the trusty KTM boiled up twice in sympathy! At the bottom, the trail turned to 9 inches of sticky mud with assorted rocks. Lacking the energy to steer by now, a rock caught the rear wheel and had me off. Stepping off, I was happy to let the bike fall whilst I attempted to catch my breath. Young Gary, waiting at the bottom, came and rescued the bike and rode to firm ground for me, I had neither the energy or will to pick the bike up myself...

Three minutes later we were at our lunch stop, I was the last to arrive. Staggering in, I sat down but had no interest in eating. Fifteen minutes later, I was still panting, my heart pounding and my T-shirt soaked. Interestingly, I later learned that the first aiders were getting alarmed at this stage, as I had turned grey and they were desperately trying to think of reasons why they shouldn't be the one to administer CPR! Really, I had shaved and brushed my teeth that morning! Anyway, a selection of isotonic pouches and a couple of litres of fluids later, I was ready - to quit! It took a couple of hours to return to my normal chirpy self.

On a few occasions, I would have happily have pointed the KTM down the mountain and given it a shove. So, bearing all of the above in mind, and that I have been riding motorcycles, albeit on the road, for longer than I would care to admit, I hope this helps you appreciate what Kate has achieved. In fact, only Gary managed to complete the whole three days, upholding the honour of the Enduro Challenge Team. I wouldn't have missed it for the world, but never imagined the level of bike control, fitness or skill required to conquer the trails, well done Mrs T!

Finally, without exception, the other 'off-roaders' who were riding the same route were top geezers, so we are still to encounter a dodgy biker, perhaps they don't actually exist......