#5000colo Day 35: Hit The North!

Distance travelled: 23.38 miles
Cumulative distance: 681.55 miles
Distance remaining: 4318.45 miles
Percentage complete: 13.63
Villages visited: Swanton Novers, Hindolveston, Melton Constable, Briningham, Briston, Edgefield, Hunworth, Stody, Sharrington, Gunthorpe.

Today, let us give praise to the support vehicle. Our trusty 2008 Citroen Xsara Picasso, Ethel Red the Unleady, is an absolute legend.

The rear seats can be folded forward, then flipped up, and even removed completely depending on how much space you need. With two seats down (as pictured), I can easily fit the bike in the boot, and still have enough room for a rear passenger.

It’s also spacious enough for me to use it as a changing room – I can get changed back into my ‘day clothes’ completely unhindered by the elements! I love this car, and I’m totally going to drive it until it won’t drive any more.

As for today’s ride, I decided to head up past Guist, to fill in the villages I was supposed to hit last time when I got hit by my first puncture; naturally, I added a few on. It was the proverbial ‘ride of two halves’. I absolutely flew out of the blocks, averaging 17mph for the first part of the ride, before the environment started laughing at me.

Firstly there was the northerly wind, which blew right in my face for a good few miles. Then the second half was lots of twisty, undulating back roads that weren’t conducive to riding at speed. And finally, the last few miles was an absolute mudfest, with all manner of detritus plastering the road.

I powered through, though, despite the elements slowing me down to below 14mph. I’m definitely getting fitter, and I’m putting more effort into each ride, trying to ensure I’m pretty exhausted by the time I get back to the car.

I also recorded my lowest weight in years this morning – 14 stone, 5.6lbs. I don’t place too much stock in my weight, preferring to go on how I feel within myself; however, I’ve now lost two stone since I started cycling, and this can only be a good thing.

Tomorrow I’m off down south for a business meeting near Thetford; obviously I’ll follow that up with some more riding and some more villages.

#5000colo Day 34: A Need For Cheese

Distance travelled: 23.65 miles
Cumulative distance: 658.17 miles
Distance remaining: 4341.83 miles
Percentage complete: 13.16
Villages visited: Spixworth, Frettenham, Buxton, Aylsham, Marsham, Brampton, Oxnead.

Popped up to Aylsham to meet @charlies_norfolk_food_heroes on the opening day of his new venture, Hodson & Co Cheese Room with Delicatessen.

We didn’t actually get much time to chat, as business was booming – but Charlie made me a cuppa and I managed to buy some cheese to take home in the pockets of my jersey.

Sadly for me (but happily for Charlie!), all of his legendary sausage rolls had sold out before I got there; next time I’ll have to reserve one! 🙂

Charlie’s positivity and spirit, even in the face of his recent bowel cancer diagnosis, is incredible. I’m sure the business will be a great success, especially as more people are doing their bit to buy local in these troubled times.

I also spotted the Moongazer Ale ‘Time To Talk’ beer, specially brewed for World Mental Health Day, as well as some awesome chutneys from The Tea Lady and cute greeting cards by Izzi Rainey. And, of course, all those amazing cheeses provided by The Cheese Truckle!

On my way back I took a little diversion: I went through Brampton (or ‘Bramtuna’, if you believe the sign in the picture below… does anyone know the etymology of this?) to discover the ‘lost settlement’ of Oxnead. The hall and church are still intact, but not much else remains. Indeed, Oxnead Hall is still used as a stunning wedding and events venue.

There are apparently around 200 lost settlements in Norfolk, so maybe I’ll start rounding those up once I’m done with the inhabited parishes.

I’ve already visited more than 200 villages, so I’m probably about 30% done already in terms of villages visited. Total distance is only at 13%, though, so I should have plenty of time for ‘side quests’, if anyone feels like setting me any more challenges!

Speaking of which, where shall I go tomorrow? Any recommendations?

#5000colo Day 33: A Need For Speed

Distance travelled: 14.36 miles
Cumulative distance: 634.52 miles
Distance remaining: 4365.48 miles
Percentage complete: 12.69
Villages visited: Little Plumstead, Salhouse, Spixworth.

TIME TRIAL! Decided to take Nick from The 12th Man’s advice and plot myself a shortish route to do as quickly as possible, in order to try and improve my cardio fitness a bit. I was over 16mph, which is a good start! It’s fair to say I left nothing out there…

I’m feeling a lot more balanced and positive today; really hope these peaks and troughs start to even out before too long. Fingers crossed the new medication starts working its magic soon. I’ve spoken to my GP and we’ve agreed that I should increase the dosage again.

Just a short update tonight, as I’m pretty tired. Tomorrow, though, there will be a trip to a cheese shop. This is very exciting news.

#5000colo Day 32: We Need To Talk.

I’m not gonna lie: I’m really struggling. The saddle sores are the worst they’ve ever been; my new medication is causing me all sorts of anxiety; the logistics of planning the ride are starting to stress me out; the social media commitments are becoming more arduous; my lack of reliable ‘day job’ is making it very difficult to build any kind of routine.

I will get through it, of course, and I will complete this challenge, no matter how long it takes me. But for the next few days, I may need to dial it back a bit; I have a fair few bits of paid work to manage, plus I’ve just started a distance learning certificate in Awareness of Mental Health Problems, to which I will need to dedicate a few hours a week.

It would be deliciously ironic if studying Awareness of Mental Health Problems exacerbated my mental health problems, so it’s pretty important that I schedule some time for it without putting too much pressure on myself!

Please don’t worry about me; I’ve been to much darker places than this and come out the other side. This is just a confluence of circumstances, conflicting with the chemical imbalances that a change in medication naturally causes.

If the anxiety gets too bad, I have anti-anxiety medication that I can take ad hoc; this does have the side-effect of making me very drowsy, though, so I try to avoid taking it too much as I like to keep myself busy and alert whenever I can.

I’m still more than happy to receive emails, messages and requests at colofivethousand@gmail.com, so please don’t hesitate to reach out if you’d like to be involved. It might just take a little longer than usual for me to get back to you.

Be kind and compassionate to each other, and, most importantly, to yourself.

#5000colo Day 31: Deflategate Part III

Distance travelled: 23.80 miles
Cumulative distance: 620.16 miles
Distance remaining: 4379.84 miles
Percentage complete: 12.40
Villages visited: Erpingham, Calthorpe, Aldborough, Thurgarton, Bessingham, Gresham, East Beckham, West Beckham, Bodham, Aylmerton, Sustead, Metton, Roughton, Hanworth.

So I’m doing this one post hoc. This was yesterday’s (Sunday’s) ride, but I’m writing it on Monday. I went for a ride with Euan, who’s one of my closest and oldest friends. Euan works as a trainee Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner for Norfolk and Waveney Mind.

He used to work in a senior management role within the NHS, commissioning programmes and managing large budgets within mental health. However, he recently decided to change tack and move to a role where he could actually work directly with people experiencing mental health problems.

Euan has experienced a lot of mental health problems himself down the years, and I’ve watched him grow from a very dark place in his life to achieving some incredible things, both academically and career-wise, due to his amazing determination and belief in fighting for what is right.

He’s recently got himself a road bike, and we’re both riding in the Autumn Sportive next Sunday, so we decided to go for a test ride from his home in Erpingham. It was slow and steady; we took it nice and easy and nattered all the way round, although we did encounter a couple of pretty full-on rainstorms.

Then, about three miles from the end, ANOTHER BLOODY PUNCTURE. Whatever it was this time somehow found its way through my Continental Gatorskin rear tyre, which is widely regarded as one of the toughest bits of rubber on the market.

Once again, the puncture repair spray failed to deploy correctly, leaving us no alternative but to call the support vehicle! At least we got the majority of the ride in, anyway.

#5000colo Day 30: The 12th and 13th Men

Distance travelled: 30.98 miles
Cumulative distance: 596.36 miles
Distance remaining: 4403.64 miles
Percentage complete: 11.97
Villages visited: Spixworth, Frettenham, Buxton, Brampton, Tuttington, Aylsham, Eastgate, Hevingham, Stratton Strawless.

Today I went for a ride with Nick, the co-founder of The 12th Man (and fellow NCFC fan!), to mark World Mental Health Day.

We rode without a fixed route, meandering our way up to Aylsham and back over 30+ miles. It was brilliant to be able to chat with Nick about his work, and understand his motives for setting up The 12th Man.

Although Nick doesn’t suffer with mental health problems himself, he has devoted his life to helping others who do. In his role as a director with The Outsiders, he helps to create campaigns that inspire positive changes in the community; one of these is The 12th Man.

The main premise of the organisation is to raise awareness of men’s mental health. There is still a lot of misunderstanding and ignorance around mental health issues among men especially, and The 12th Man provides training to men involved in traditionally male-dominated occupations and interests.

The organisation is not designed to directly support men with mental health problems, but rather to raise awareness and reduce stigma among men who don’t suffer from – and, in many cases, don’t even recognise – mental illness.

It’s about changing perceptions; trying to reach those people in society who think that depression can be dealt with by simply ‘manning up’, and educating them about the realities of mental illness.

By offering Mental Health First Aid training and partnering with individuals and organisations in specific industry sectors and interest groups, The 12th Man is working tirelessly to break the taboos around male mental health.

I’m immensely proud to be supporting their vital work on my charity ride, and I’m hopeful that in time we can chip away at those deeply ingrained prejudices that see male mental health problems as a sign of weakness, or a lack of masculinity.

It takes a huge amount of strength to speak out and ask for help, and we should do everything we can to support men in feeling able to talk candidly about their feelings, whether to friends and family or to mental health professionals.

#5000colo Day 28: My Hero

Distance travelled: 21.91 miles
Cumulative distance: 565.38 miles
Distance remaining: 4434.62 miles
Percentage complete: 11.31
Villages visited: Little Plumstead, Salhouse, Wroxham, Hoveton, Coltishall, Horstead, Crostwick.

This is Jamie. He’s a good mate of mine, and one of my mental health heroes.

Jamie has experienced various mental health issues, homelessness, drug addiction and bereavement, and now uses his experiences to help others.

He originally trained as a peer support worker, but then completed a foundation degree in mental health nursing, and now works in the NHS as an assistant practitioner.

Jamie’s constantly managing his own mental health, but also devoting his career to espousing the virtues of a recovery-led mental health model, which puts the individual at the centre of their recovery journey rather than simply directing them to a particular service or waiting list.

Jamie’s strength, courage and openness is an inspiration to me, and I’m a strong advocate of peer support and the recovery model.

We had a lovely old chat over coffee at Salhouse Garden Centre, and we’re going to try to ride together again soon.

I’ve also recorded an interview with Greatest Hits Radio (99.9FM on your dials, for those of you who still have dials), which I hope will air tomorrow at some point.

#5000colo Day 27: By Royal Appointment

Distance travelled: 23.21 miles
Cumulative distance: 543.47 miles
Distance remaining: 4456.53 miles
Percentage complete: 10.87
Villages visited: Keswick, Swardeston, East Carleton, Ketteringham, Hethersett, Colney.

It was a pleasure and a privilege to meet Lord and Lady Dannatt today. They both have a passionate interest in mental health and are patrons of mental health charities.

Lord Dannatt was previously the head of the British Army, and campaigns for the mental health and wellbeing of current and former Armed Forces personnel.

Lady Dannatt is the current Lord-Lieutenant of Norfolk, The Queen’s representative in the county, and supports many local charities, including Norfolk and Waveney Mind and Norwich City Community Sports Foundation.

I spent an hour in their company, and their willingness to rally their considerable connections across the county behind my cause is hugely appreciated.

Oh, and the doggo is called Scrumpy, and she’s my new friend. We had tummy rubs and all sorts.

Who knows what tomorrow will bring? This is turning into a quite remarkable journey…

#5000colo Day 26: Everything All The Time

Distance travelled: 13.74 miles
Cumulative distance: 520.26 miles
Distance remaining: 4479.74 miles
Percentage complete: 10.41
Villages visited: Panxworth, South Walsham, Ranworth, Woodbastwick.

Where to start? This was probably the craziest, most hectic day of the ride so far. It started off with me trying to blag some public transport assistance, but it turns out you’re not allowed to take your bike on First buses. Talks are ongoing with Greater Anglia about the trains; they can’t give me any discounts on travel, but I’m still hopeful we might be able to do some content together.

I was going to take the train down to OB Café in Old Buckenham, which I’m told is a favourite haunt for cyclists, but they’re only open from Thursday until Sunday. After having been busy with ‘day job’ stuff as well as trying to blag things, I decided to take the easy way out and do a nice simple 20-miler I’d done a few times before, going through South Walsham and Ranworth before stopping at the Fur & Feather pub in Woodbastwick for a pint, then riding the last few miles home.

The Fur & Feather is the pub/restaurant that’s attached to the Woodforde’s brewery; I’d often cycled past on my Broadland loops and thought it looked very inviting, so I thought I’d plan a stop.

It was teeming with rain again for the first few miles of the ride; I’ve got some overshoes arriving on Thursday, which should make a real difference to my rides. Cold and wet legs I can deal with; saturated feet and freezing toes, not so much.

I did trial two other bits of new kit today: a neckwarmer/snood (which I didn’t really notice, but I’m sure it’ll come in handy when the temperature plummets), and a fleece skullcap to go underneath my helmet. This was an excellent addition, and I’m sure it’ll only become more valuable as we transition into winter.

So anyway, I glided through the 13-odd miles to Woodbastwick in good time, then locked up the bike and went into the pub. The coronavirus protocols were all spot-on, and I was shown to my table.

I’ve not had a beer since the end of my previous ride at the end of August, so I thought I was overdue a little treat. Note to self: beer still tastes good. Here’s some pictorial evidence.

While I was waiting to be served I flicked through my notifications, to find out that the official Norwich City FC Twitter account (705,000 followers) had just posted a link to an article about me. My phone was then abuzz with messages from people, and I excitedly told the bar staff about my charity ride and what had just happened.

People at adjacent tables then started asking me about it, and I ended up chatting with them and, before I knew it, I’d ordered myself a second pint. My new friends had ordered food, and I took one look at it and started getting immediate food envy.

On a whim, I called Katie and asked her if she fancied a pub dinner rather than eating at home… that’ll be a yes, every time. So we ended up having a fantastic dinner (pork Wellington, hell yeah) and a great evening in a lovely rustic boozer.

I’m also hoping to get Woodforde’s on board with my ride, and I’m going to be chatting to their marketing guys tomorrow… if I can find the time! I’m meeting a friend for coffee in the morning, then meeting the Lord-Lieutenant of Norfolk, Lady Pippa Dannatt, in the afternoon.

After that, I’m going to visit an elderly friend of mine who I was looking after during lockdown; she’s just moved into a care home and is currently self-isolating, so I’m going to go and chat to her through an outside window.

Then, in the evening, I’m going to an online networking event with Buy Local Norfolk, to ‘e-meet’ some local businesses and tell them about what I’m doing.

I feel like the ‘snowball effect’ is starting to happen, and I’ve got an ever-increasing number of commitments related to my riding; I just need to be mindful of my own wellbeing (and, indeed, of the impact all this chaos is having on Katie), and be prepared to slow down a little bit.

Easy does it, Colo; there’s still a long, long way to go.

#5000colo Day 25: Five Hundred Up!

Distance travelled: 22.83 miles
Cumulative distance: 506.52 miles
Distance remaining: 4493.48 miles
Percentage complete: 10.13
Villages visited: Tasburgh, Flordon, Hapton, Forncett St Mary, Forncett St Peter, Aslacton, Great Moulton, Wacton, Long Stratton, Hardwick, Sheldon, Morningthorpe, Fritton, Hempnall.

500 MILES COMPLETED, HONK HONK!

So that’s the first big milestone passed; I’ve done the first 10% of my 5,000 miles, although I’ve only raised 2% of my fundraising target. If you’re reading this, could you maybe direct your friends, families and colleagues to my page at tiny.cc/5000colo? It’d be amazing if you could keep following my progress, and sharing my page with others. Remember I’m @5000colo on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram too.

As for the ride itself, a nice loop from Tasburgh today. My new Gatorskin rear tyre, kindly donated by Bicycle Links, feels pretty much indestructible. Tim also lent me a new saddle to try out, and it felt great!

The photo below was taken outside The Fox & Hounds in Great Moulton, a cracking local boozer in the South Norfolk countryside. It wasn’t open today, but I’ll pop back in another time for a mid-ride fizzy pop.

Remember to support your local; so many great pubs are going to the wall, and they need your help more than ever. There’s no better way to connect (or reconnect) with your local community than over a drink or two.