I Made it!

The Tech Bikers Paris-London charity ride is over and we returned more or less in one piece. There were bumps, scrapes, cuts, bruises, aches, pains and punctures a plenty….but we made it!

Here is my review of events:

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Day 1 – Excited for the journey ahead

Didn’t start too promisingly as I had not slept a wink the night before our 6am departure from Kings Cross. I was shattered before we embarked. Not a great start!

By the time we reached Paris I was still tired and hungry whilst staring down the barrel of a 325km bike ride. But none of that mattered – we were all buoyed by the adventure ahead, the charitable reasons for doing it, the collective purpose and the sense of Team that evolved right from the first moment we gathered together.

Meeting point

We assembled under the Eiffel Tower for pictures, had our bikes adjusted and then set off. The fiddling around and the preparation (or lack of) were now over. This was it…

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Ready to set off

All the new riders were keen to know what it would be like and what was to come. I could tell them with confidence that day one would be the easiest and probably most pleasurable, then the degrees of difficulty and descending levels of pleasure plummet in sequential order as we move through days two and three.

A gloomy start

My upbeat assessment of our opening day was however dampened in every sense by a monumental deluge. The heavens opened and we were rapidly sodden despite the best defensive efforts of ‘appropriate clothing’. And just for good measure there was a liberal dousing of hail.

At this point an epidemic of punctures spread. Apparently bike tyres are far more susceptible to this affliction in the wettest of weather. And then my dodgy knee (an old motorbike accident wound) kicked in with a vengeance, seemingly inflamed by the exertion combined with the cold and wet.

And remember – this was ‘the easy day!’

That night I took my prescribed painkillers (had been hoping they wouldn’t be required), took a shower, got dressed for a much longed for dinner and………….passed out!

Day 2 – Off to a good start

Woke up starving! Apparently I was something to behold on arriving in the breakfast room. I made a speedy bee-line for the breakfast buffet bar and loaded up heavily without even considering a table or where I might sit.

There was also some possible evidence that I had overdone the painkillers. I think I might have been a bit high as my cheeriness levels were rather over and above where they should have been at that time of day!

Testing the waters

And that pill-powered cheeriness was soon tested. During the morning and whilst out of the saddle and driving hard on the pedals, the chain slipped off which is a really strange sensation – suddenly you’re not working against anything – and down I went.

A few cuts to the heel and a heavily bruised rump! Nothing compared to the frustration of a slipping and falling chain though. There is great camaraderie on these rides however and there will always be somebody to step in and help out.

That is until you go your own way…

Where did everyone go?

I’m not sure if it was the fall, the chain nuisance, the knee or lingering effects of powerful painkillers but I managed to get lost! Lost in France might be a perfectly good song by Bonnie Tyler, but I never planned to take her lyrics literally!

I was happily pedalling along very straight and slightly featureless roads. I hadn’t spotted any arrows for a while but as it was a straight road, and felt they were probably unnecessary anyway.

It was only after two hours and perhaps at least 25 miles – and with no evidence of people ahead or behind – did I surmise that I’d probably struck out alone.

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Just me and my bike

This is hard enough anyway without adding distance! When reality set in, rather than kick myself, rant, rave or moan, I found myself bonding with my bike. After all it was just me, my bi-wheeled buddy and the wide open French countryside.

I started taking pictures of my bike. Then it occurred to me that I was becoming like the Tom Hanks character in Castaway when he befriends the only thing he can – a Volleyball he called Wilson. I did just stop short of giving my bike a name!

Back to civilisation

Having phoned the support vehicle and sent them my location, thanks to modern GPS they managed to track me down and set me on the right path.

Now I had missed lunch. Two of the last three meals had gone by the wayside. And anybody who knows me well knows how much I like my meals! For all of that though it was worth it.

It might have been the wrong way and did no favours to a complaining knee or depleting energy levels, but it was really tranquil and beautiful, like a Sunday afternoon rural cycle into the unknown.

It just happened to be in the middle of an organised distance charity ride!

Pushing through the pain

I managed to point in the right direction for the rest of the day and catch up with the others.

My previously induced sense of a pain free world now started to wear off in a big way. The truth of the knee condition roared back and the pain that night was significant. And even worse – I was now out of the spectacularly effective pain killers.

Just making the ferry at the end of day 2 was a major relief and the socialising on board as well as the champagne acted as a great distraction and numbing agent.

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And I was rather charmingly given an honour that night – my own special ‘Parisa Adventuress Award’ was kindly bestowed on me – fashioned from a pristine sick bag!

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And just to top it all there was the most beautiful sunset as we set sail for home shores…

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Day 3 – The Garden of England

Strangely arriving in the UK and setting out across Kent does not bring with it a sense of ‘nearly there’.

The fact it is the hardest day physically means the feeling of impending completion remains on hold for quite a long time yet. It was a gorgeous morning and all very peaceful but I couldn’t help but think, ‘Kent might be called The Garden of England, but it’s a bloody big garden!’.

Parisa Louie Techbikers blog_14And then there was my knee which was determined to make this final push even harder than it should be.

Treatment fit for an athlete

Stubborn as I might be, I’m not a complete masochist and I spent some time in the support wagon getting invaluable treatment including much kinesiology tape.

I’ve only seen this stuck on and strapped to elite athletes on TV before, so I confess just a little bit of me was quite chuffed about this!

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The welcome sight of London

We ploughed on through the day and made it into central London and Moorgate for 6pm.

Applause from the greeting parties rang out and the long awaited hug and much welcomed hugs ensued – one of the things that had kept me going at times over the three days. So too the plentiful drinks and pizza that followed..!

Crossing the finish line

What an amazing bunch of people. It was such a thrill to be a part of the group and to enjoy the camaraderie and sense of purpose.

Tech Bikers founder Eze Vidra has worked wonders in creating this, bringing so many tech people together, forging a bond, seeing business contacts and friendships blossom and, most importantly,  raising nigh on 200k for the charity Room To Read.

It really is a great story of a business community coming together for a lot of fun, a challenge and for the greater good.

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Until next time..

So many people are involved to make it all work and they are absolute stars.

All the effort, bumps, joint pain and navigational disasters by us riders are absolutely worth it.

WatchFit colleagues were there to greet me and the other Tech Bikers (they tell me free beer and pizza was not a consideration at all!) and we vowed there and then to assemble a full WatchFit team next year. Watch this space..!

 

She did it! Congratulations Parisa!

Read more about her journey here:

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

Part 4, Part 5, Part 6

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