When Jeremy and Harri embarked on a 250 mile ‘Cyclimb’ to raise money for two heart charities, there is no way they could have anticipated that one of them would have cardiac troubles of their own…
With us all locked down and lots of time on our hands, our minds wandered back to a time and event full of memories. 2019 began with Harriet (Harri) and I making that big decision to improve our physiques – by losing weight and continuing our love of cycling. We already had a passion for walking, preferably up mountains and we needed a challenge.
In 2017 Harri and her twin sister cycled from London to Paris in 4 days (!!!) Far too gruelling for me…so we looked at alternatives. What to do? Which charities could gain from our indulgence?
“Let’s cycle from home to Snowdonia and climb the mountain at the end”. Home for us is London and it is 250 miles to Llanberis, at the base of Mount Snowdon. That would take a week at our pace, and July is the target. We have a history of heart issues in my immediate family with my father dying at only 50 from a massive heart attack. We also now have two children’s’ charities of relevance to our family who have benefited from them – Little Hearts Matter and Children’s Heart Surgery Fund.
And so, it began. With no support crew we decided to do a recce of the route by car, at the same time dropping a bag of clothes in each of the hotels we had booked along the way. We’d collect the ‘dirty washing’ on the way home, that way we travel light on the actual cycle ride. (Heads are for thinking; legs are for pedalling!)
On 13th July 2019 we start our cycle to much aplomb and cheering from our neighbours. I have a niggling ache across my shoulders which is a nuisance, but after an hour in the saddle it starts to subside.
“I have a niggling ache across my shoulders which is a nuisance, but after an hour in the saddle it starts to subside.”
I am glad I went to the doctors for those tablets. Not a problem that they made me have an ECG, it’s just to rule out anything sinister – as if the collapsed discs I know of are not sinister enough! Each day starts with the ache but ends with a glorious feeling of achievement; and, hey ho, folks are adding to our fundraising every day, both online and in the buckets on the handlebars – whoopie!
Day 1 is a glorious ride from home to Abingdon, a lot by the Thames, off the roads. Day 2 Abingdon to Stratford Upon Avon. In Stratford we enjoy a crazy Sunday evening of the cricket World Cup Final and Wimbledon Men’s Single final in the pub jumping from screen to screen. What an event this is turning out to be!
As we depart the hotel in Stratford a lady approaches and, whilst stuffing significant monies into one of our collection boxes, tells us of the loss of her own daughter to a single ventricle heart condition. She had been in her 20’s.
Speechless we cycle away, remaining silent for the first few hours, absorbing the magnitude of that lady’s story. We had chosen our charities well and were proud of extracting as much money as possible from all and sundry. Harri looks at me at lunch “What was that lady’s name?” “I don’t know”.
The day was quiet, beautiful countryside rolled by and then Little Hearts Matter contacted us. The lady’s name was Karen and she had got in touch with LHM to say she had met us. We felt so very touched that she had spoken to us and shared her story of her daughter and how that charity were such a big part of her young life.
We scheduled a rest day in Shrewsbury. What could we do? We contacted BBC Radio Shropshire, the week before, with our story of what, and why, we were doing our challenge. “Would we come to the station and have an on-air conversation with Jim Hawkins during the morning programme?” Absolutely yes! We got our causes in the frame, he joked of our madness, we told the story of Karen in Stratford, and the generosity of people both online and en-route.
With a huge spring in our step (…saddle really!), we set off across the glorious, undulating Shropshire countryside and along the Llangollen canal. What a treat! The pain across my shoulders not even getting an audience that day.
This is such a pleasure, seeing our country so intimately, passing barges laden with happy folks from every corner of the globe. Day 5 ends in Wales in a little pub hotel where we get ample chance to mix with the locals, share some good food and drink, and gird our loins for the climb over the col and into Llanberis.
There were only a few stretches on the whole journey where we had to battle with heavy traffic, and this was one of those. The A5, unavoidable here on day 6, is a significant trunk road, linking the port of Holyhead with London. We feared the articulated lorries but loved them by the end! They are driven by professionals.
We learnt to dread the ‘white vans’ They scared the life out of us. Too many deliveries, not enough time equals recklessness. Then, would you believe, on our final day. Our final morning, on a very wet, long descent into Betws-y-Coed, a blowout!
“Boom! Scan shows a narrowing of two coronary arteries…”
My front tyre punctured as I went over a pothole and one of the spokes dislodged into the tyre. We hobbled into the town and googled cycle shops. We had all the puncture repair kits, unused and still in their boxes but not a spare spoke or wheel!
Incredibly, we found a mountain bike rental shop. The owners were so helpful, they adapted another spoke they had spare and got us back on our final leg to Llanberis.
This day we had rain and headwinds pretty much all day. We were getting cold, even in July, but we were nearing the end of the cycle and the vision of our sanctuary Crashpad Lodge occupied our heads as we strained and stretched.
Our welcome party – Harri’s mum and her twin sister – had bunting, balloons, and bubbly! Wow! We’d made it! Josh, our host, loads our bikes onto the trailer and takes us to the lodge. It’s deep inside the National Park in view of our target peak, Snowdon. We crash into bed, full of pride and excitement in equal measure. We’ve cycled 250 miles and tomorrow we will finish with a flurry.
On Saturday 20th July we climbed Snowdon in a horrible cold rain, saturated to the skin by the time we reach the summit. We were joined on the climb by Harri’s son, James, his partner Chloe, as well as Harri’s twin, Jules. Lunch is brought up to these bedraggled walkers by Harri’s 80-year-old mum, Tricia on that wonder of Victorian engineering, the funicular railway, such a welcome relief.
By contrast, we descended through the clouds with wide vistas opening before us and sunbeams zapping the hillside below. We arrive back to a warm log fire in our wonderful lodge. It’s over. We raised a lot of money, we are drinking wine, reminiscing about each day’s activities, and we are totally spent!
Home; letter from the hospital; ECG fine, but we need a scan to be certain. OK, no worries, I think. I just cycled 250 miles and climbed the highest summit in Wales.
Boom! Scan shows a narrowing of two coronary arteries and the cardiologist wants to perform an angiogram and insert stents if necessary. But I just rode 250 miles in 6 days and climbed Snowdon. I have low cholesterol… I’m fit!
Everything cascades and on 20 January 2020 this “lovely young man” (my surgeon’s words, not mine) underwent 7½ hours of triple bypass surgery. Now fully supercharged with new fuel pipes nothing’s gonna stop me now.
What an irony! Would Harri and I have considered doing this challenge had we known of my underlying condition? Probably not! But the little angels who are the beneficiaries of these two wonderful charities don’t have a choice. They get on with their challenges, their lives, without a blink or missing a heartbeat.
We had great fun and we hope that you have enjoyed reading about our journey. We will continue to support Little Hearts Matter and Childrens’ Heart Surgery Fund, through more boot sales and selling items donated to us, and today we have added £500 to each charity.
What a journey! We are so grateful to Jem and Harri for there fantastic fundraising and so glad to hear all are now doing well!