August 24, 2016, by David Greenaway

Nottingham Life Cycle 6 – Day 5 Milton Keynes to Thetford

We are at the point on this challenge where pain kicks in big time, without exception.

The effects of being in the saddle for over 400 miles, with four successive days averaging 90 miles, in tough terrain and exacting conditions is taking its toll.

Some of that is obvious: pressure points on the saddle and the pedals. They are hurting for everyone. Then there are the rider specific issues, which are around knees, necks, ankles and backs. In my case an achilles tendon problem.

That means the next two days will need to be managed well; they are long and they are flat. Flat sounds good, and if you are in hilly terrain, it is very good. If you have 100 miles on the flat that is not good, you never stop pedalling.

Pic 1 - Doug John DavidBut back to today, 87 miles from Milton Keynes to Thetford. As always, I was last to leave, for the usual reason. Doug and John waited for me.

With the possible exception of the final ten miles, our route planners had again done a fantastic job. We were out of Milton Keynes much more easily than we got in, and before we knew it we were at Cranfield, and on to Stewartby. (I had not realised that the latter was a model village built by the London Brick Company). In the main we passed through an unremarkable landscape, and with the exception of Old Warden, fairly unremarkable villages.

Our first stop was Sandy, where we met up with Kate, Sara, Susan, Steve and Nick. We ate at the same café as them (I can’t remember its name) which did a very good jacket potato. Whilst there, the van and minibus attracted a lot of attention and Louise, Paul, Gary and Ian did a great job in telling people what we were doing and why.

From Sandy we moved into Cambridgeshire, passing close to but south of Cambridge itself. Among the many beautiful villages we passed through was Grantchester. I am sure I went there as a young academic to interview Nobel Laureate Sir James Meade for an article I was writing on his work.

At Fulbourn we again picked up Kate, Sara, Susan, Steve and Nick at the Six Bells, for a second lunch, and were well looked after. Then on to Newmarket (where John managed to find an Irn-Bru at a Shell garage for me) and the final stretch.

Pic 2 - Newmarket Pic 3 - DG and IrnBru Pic 4 - Off road track

This was meant to be through a lovely deciduous wood south of Thetford, but that was strictly for mountain bikes, so we ended up coming in on the A134.

I found today hard going for a combination of reasons. First, it was hot, over 90°F and with the open landscapes there was rarely any shade. Second, it was pretty flat. There were some undulations, and in a funny sort of way they were challenging. But there were essentially no opportunities for freewheeling. Third, I just have a lot of miles in my legs!

On days like today, as you grind it out (which is what you do) you have to stay focused to stay safe. You also have to constantly remind yourself of why you are doing it; whatever discomfort we are feeling, it is nothing compared with those affected by breast cancer. That is a powerful analgesic.

Our Life Cycle Miles individuals today were Caroline Humber and Sandra Kavanagh. Caroline is one of the people who agreed to tell her story in our video for LC6, which inspired all of us. Sandra was nominated by Susan as a ‘dancing queen and genuinely gorgeous person’. We are proud to ride in your honour.

Whilst on why we are doing this, let me introduce another newbie, John Robertson. John has been with our University for 30 years (and not because he can’t get a job elsewhere). He is a distinguished clinical scientist and Professor of Surgery, driven by a passion to translate his science into therapies which will make a difference to patient outcomes. Despite a heavy clinical list and his other commitments, John has prepared well for this challenge, because he wants to be part of what we are doing.

Our cause has clearly inspired a lot of people. I think I knew that from the support we had before we set off. But the spontaneous interest and generosity of people whilst we are on the road is remarkable. That included a gentleman in a pub in Holsworthy giving me £1 from a pretty empty wallet, a driver who stopped whilst we were taking a rest halfway up a hill in Cornwall and passed £5 through his window, and a lady in Sandy who had just undergone reconstructive surgery who simply wanted to engage.

For me, it is as always a privilege to be part of this.

In closing today, let me do some tidying up.

First, two points on yesterday’s blog: the tortoise in the pic was not a random one; it is Doug’s, his name is Tim, he is 60 years old (and Doug put the racing cap on him); I mentioned Sara’s brother-in-law, but not his name, which is Mike Adams. And I say again, what an extravagantly fabulous achievement to have sailed around the world.

Second, we have had several visitors join us this evening. Susan (Greenaway) will be with us for a couple of days, as will Jenni Wright; George Baxter, Director of Research Enterprise and Graduate Services will ride with us tomorrow; and Tim Garrett, a great friend of the University will ride with us for the next two days.

Third, to facilitate their enquiries, the Stewards declared today a Megomnium rest day. So no points awarded or deducted, and the leader board is as it was yesterday.

Fourth, Tim Bradshaw a long time Milton Keynes resident has pointed out that Doug’s estimate of the number of roundabouts in Milton Keynes (124) is out by a factor of ten; there are at least 1,000!

Pic 5 - Drying ClothesPic 6 - Paul catching up on emailsFinally, the success of the British Olympics Cycling story is fed on Sir David Brailsford’s philosophy of marginal gains. For us, marginal gains is all about finding an additional minute here or there in washing and drying; shaving; packing / repacking. Just to create a little bit of headroom to read emails and maybe even respond to them. We are now well into that territory.

I had the opportunity to catch up on blog comments this evening, thank you all for those.

We have now completed 418 miles and tomorrow we reach our second compass point.

Professor Sir David Greenaway

Posted in Life Cycle 6