Ken Ferguson H&S Manager from Wymondham and Barry Kirby Group Financial Controller from Diss, have entered the grueling LEL (London to Edinburgh to London) 2017 cycle challenge to raise money for Mind.
The challenge which starts on 30th July at 1.45 pm, is to ride back and forth between the two capital cities, 890 miles unsupported in less than 116 hours. There is no official route, just twenty or more timed check points to pass through as they pedal up and down the country. In order to tackle the necessary 140-195 miles per day there will be little time to sleep, just a few hours each night, and one of the hardest things to prepare for will be the sleep deprivation that will have to be endured during the challenge.
One of the main reasons that Ken and Barry decided to embark on this long distance bike ride is to raise money for mental health charity, Mind. Mind provides advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem and the charity campaigns to improve services, raise awareness and promote understanding.
Both Ken and Barry have close family members who work as health professionals delivering mental health services locally. They have seen the challenges that those experiencing mental health issues face on a daily basis and so decided to take on their own physical and mental challenge to raise funds to support Mind.
The pair, with the help of their colleague and team manager Bruce Sinclair, have been quietly beavering away for the last six months, training hard to build the fitness endurance that this event requires. Bruce is responsible for devising the strategy, mapping the route which involves 36,500ft of ascent (Mount Everest is only 29,029ft), identifying all amenities, finding accommodation and driving the training schedule.
“It’s been a logistical headache”, says Bruce, “it took most week nights for sixteen weeks to plot the route using over 20,000 waymarks and then to convert all the data into daily stages that are loaded onto the bike mounted GPS units. I’ve also had to think of solutions for all possible situations that could occur over the duration of the ride.”
Training started back in January when both Barry and Ken changed their diets and began to eat much more healthily, as well as using static trainers to increase fitness. As the weather improved they increased their training and started commuting to work by bike - a 50 mile round trip for Barry and 67 mile round trip for Ken.
Weekend training cycle rides also increased from 100 miles up to 200 miles, crisscrossing East Anglia and to date they have both cycled over 4,000 miles in preparation.
Nutrition is an essential part of the training, although when it comes to the actual challenge there won’t be time for a ‘sit down meal’ and food will be eaten mainly in the saddle, roughly every 30 minutes, in order to be able to meet the deadline.
In order to succeed at the LEL Challenge, the team has set an average of 7 mph over 24 hrs which when taking into account breaks for essentials such as sleeping and comfort breaks, actually averages a speed of 14 mph.
Both Ken and Barry agree that the biggest challenge for them will be mentally. “Anyone can train hard and eat well for months to get physically conditioned to ride long distances”, says Barry “but to have the mental capacity to get back on the bike at the crack of dawn each day, with tired legs, no matter what the weather and face another fourteen hours in the saddle is going to be a tough mental challenge.”
“This is why we are so keen to raise money and awareness for Mind – how better to try to understand some of the problems people face, if only for a short period of time. 1 in 4 adults seek professional support each year for mental health issues and suicide is now the greatest killer of men under 45. Locally, Mind provides an incredible support service and we are really pleased to be able to raise some money.” adds Ken.
The two will be travelling light, essential spares will be split between them as the LEL Challenge has to be completed unassisted, support vehicles aren’t permitted. Any repairs have to be fixed at the roadside. Spare clothing will be couriered in advance to their overnight accommodation so that at least the cyclists will have fresh clothing.