#5000colo Day 11: Doggos!

Distance travelled: 26.82 miles
Cumulative distance: 263.46 miles
Distance remaining: 4736.64 miles
Percentage complete: 5.27
Villages visited: Mundesley, Gimingham, Southrepps, Thorpe Market, Antingham, Bradfield, Swafield, Trunch, Knapton, Edingthorpe, Witton, Walcott, Bacton, Paston.

Separately to my evening ride, this afternoon I went up to the UEA to meet some wellbeing dogs. My friend Sarah runs Tom & Toto Pet Care, which provides UEA students with access to dogs weekly to aid their mental health and wellbeing.

Having experienced these wonderful doggies first-hand, I can vouch for their effectiveness; I certainly left the campus in extremely high spirits!

This evening, Katie drove me up to Mundesley and I ticked off a number of villages in north-east Norfolk. My route planner sent me down a bloody cart track on private land, and my front light fell off without me noticing because it was so bumpy (and because I hadn’t fixed it on properly). I then went all the way back down the cart track to find it, and found it right near the start. Reattached it, then had to go down the cart track for a third time!

Then I went wrong and inadvertently went to Swafield, which wasn’t on my list. I definitely need a better navigation system; any recommendations?

Those mishaps aside, it was another really pleasant ride; not too hilly, sunny, not too windy and a perfect temperature for riding.

Before I go, should we have some more doggos? Of course we should.

#5000colo Day 10: Dancing in the Dark

Distance travelled: 26.29 miles
Cumulative distance: 236.64 miles
Distance remaining: 4763.36 miles
Percentage complete: 4.73
Villages visited: Great Yarmouth, Caister on Sea, Filby, Fleggburgh, Billockby, South Walsham, Panxworth, Woodbastwick, Salhouse.

After a day off the bike yesterday, it was brilliant to be back in the saddle for a very different kind of ride.

Three intrepid fundraisers have just ridden more than 400 miles in four days, from Barmouth in west Wales to Yarmouth, to raise money for The 12th Man (one of my chosen beneficiaries) and Young Minds, a national youth mental health charity.

Rob, Carl and Pat arrived in Yarmouth around 6.30pm this evening, and I went along to meet them and welcome them home. If you’d like to support their amazing efforts, you can do so here.

I then rode back to Norwich, with Tim from The 12th Man accompanying me as far as Acle. Only Yarmouth and Acle were ‘new’ places for me, but I was happy to sacrifice new villages for the chance to go and meet the ‘three amigos’.

This was my first experience of night riding, and it was absolutely awesome. The sun was setting as we left Yarmouth, and we had a stunning twilight ride up the coast towards Caister. I then realised I’d been so sucked in by the beautiful backdrop I’d forgotten to pay attention to the map, and we’d gone ‘off route’; it was easily rectified, though.

I then realised I’d forgotten to put on my hydration backpack, and thus had no water for the ride. Tim kindly nipped into the Co-op in Caister and got me a bottle of water and a protein bar, and we set off westwards towards Acle.

There was one absolutely gorgeous moment where we passed over Filby Broad, and the fading red and purple sky reflected off the surface of the water as we flew by. Shortly after this I realised my front light was out of battery; once again, Tim bailed me out by lending me his spare. Hero!

We parted ways at Acle, and I did the second half of the route alone. Darkness had totally descended by this point, and there was something really exciting and liberating about zipping through the countryside in pitch black, with just my powerful light cutting a swathe through the darkness.

I think I’ll plan some more night rides soon, to prepare myself for the shorter daylight hours when the clocks go back.

#5000colo Day 8: The Heart of the County

Distance travelled: 26.93 miles
Cumulative distance: 210.35 miles
Distance remaining: 4789.65 miles
Percentage complete: 4.21
Villages visited: Beetley, Gressenhall, East Bilney, Brisley, Horningtoft, Whissonsett, Tittleshall, Litcham, Mileham, Bittering, Longham, Dereham, Toftwood, Westfield.

Today was a bit of a family affair; I went to visit my aunt and uncle in Beetley, and then took a scenic route to my parents’ house in Westfield. I’m not sure if I rode past the very central point of Norfolk, but I must have been close to it.

After yesterday’s travails, today was relatively comfortable; no grumpy drivers, only one minor mapreading mishap, and less of an issue with saddle soreness.

I’m taking a rest day tomorrow to allow the soreness to heal a bit, and I was lucky enough to be one of the 1,000 fans drawn in the ballot to go and watch the Norwich match tomorrow!

I’ll be back on the bike on Sunday evening, doing my first-ever night ride. Time to break out the hi-vis jacket…

#5000colo Day 7: Coastal Capers

Distance travelled: 28.88 miles
Cumulative distance: 183.42 miles
Distance remaining: 4816.58 miles
Percentage complete: 3.67
Villages visited: Filby, Thrigby, Mautby, Runham, Stokesby, Billockby, Clippesby, Thurne, Ashby with Oby, Fleggburgh, Rollesby, Ormesby St Michael, Ormesby St Margaret, Scratby, California, West Caister, Caister on Sea.

A real up-and-down sort of a ride, despite the lack of undulation in the terrain. It started really nicely, rolling through Thrigby, Mautby and Runham against a pale pearlescent silver sky; I stopped and photographed the village sign, which was surrounded by bright pink flowers.

As I rolled towards Stokesby, I noticed that a few fields over, running parallel to me, was the set-square-straight tarmac artery of the Acle Straight, carrying the traffic to and fro between Acle and Great Yarmouth.

It had all started beautifully; however, in a microcosm of life, a few obstacles were about to present themselves. Firstly, a couple of near misses on the A1064; impatient drivers squeezing past me with inches to spare, one of whom shouted something unintelligible out of his window at me.

I’ve had very few problems with drivers in the 800+ miles I’ve cycled in the past few weeks, and they’ve pretty much all been on A-roads. I try to keep off them as much as possible, but sometimes it’s pretty much unavoidable… and the road surfaces do tend to be a lot better than some of the back roads!

The next problem was definitely ‘user error’; I misread the map and turned off the B1152 too early. By the time I realised I was too far down the road to make turning back a worthwhile option, so, after a stop for water, mapreading and a stretch, I decided to do the loop around Thurne in reverse.

However, a couple of miles further on, as I headed towards Repps, I realised that I’d forgotten to restart my activity on Strava. This annoyed me a lot more than it should have, but I eventually talked myself round using the logic that despite what the app says, I have still cycled the miles I’ve cycled, been to the villages I’ve been to, and done the exercise I’ve done. I’ve recalculated the route and added the missing miles, so no harm done.

Onwards to Fleggburgh, then Rollesby, and another busy stretch along the A149. The area around Rollesby Broad was really picturesque, but due to the volume of traffic I wasn’t really able to drink it in as I’d have liked to.

A couple of Ormesbys later (St Michael and St Margaret), and the ‘saddle sore’ was back with a vengeance; the worst I’ve experienced so far. Thankfully I had brought a tiny pot of chamois cream with me for the first time, which I’d decanted from my big tub just this morning. Boy, did I need it.

The magic potion worked its charm, and I was back in the saddle with renewed vigour for the final stretch. Up to Scratby, then down the curiously named Rottenstone Lane to the even more curiously named caravan estate of California.

Then it was yet more hairy A-road riding, along the Caister bypass. A quick loop round through West Caister, rolling downhill past the scenic Caister Castle, then into Caister itself and a finish line right on the beach.

A challenging ride today, no doubt about it. Katie came to meet me at the finish, and we treated ourselves to a G&T, fish and chips and a fiver’s worth of 2p coins for the inevitable and childlike joy of the coin pushers.

My plan is to power through tomorrow’s ride, and then possibly have a break on Saturday to let the sore bits recover…

#5000colo Day 6: Blackberries and Barbara

Distance travelled: 20.96 miles
Cumulative distance: 154.54 miles
Distance remaining: 4845.46 miles
Percentage complete: 3.09
Villages visited: Lakenham, Keswick, Swardeston, Mulbarton, Bracon Ash, Swainsthorpe, Stoke Holy Cross, Saxlingham Nethergate, Shotesham, Newton Flotman.

Today I went on a very important mission. During lockdown, I had volunteered with the parish council to help elderly neighbours who were shielding.

What started as a weekly shopping trip to buy essentials for Barbara quickly grew into a friendship; my wife and I would pop round to have a chat with her and water her plants for her.

Barbara then had a fall in her home, and was taken to hospital for treatment; she tested positive for Covid-19. After fighting and beating the virus, she was allowed back home again.

Sadly, she then suffered the loss of her best friend, and shortly after that she had another fall. She spent several weeks in hospital, and has now been moved to respite care while her family try to find her a suitable care home.

Katie and I decided to pop down to Newton Flotman to visit her, so it was an obvious chance for me to tick off some more villages. Katie drove down in the car and picked up some of Barbara’s favourite things en route.

To say she was surprised to see us was an understatement! She’s been in isolation for the two weeks since she left the hospital, with no visitors allowed (we were permitted to speak to her through the window).

Tomorrow, she will finally be allowed out of her room to go and meet other residents and take part in the activities in the home. If you’re feeling a little bit glum today, just imagine what the last two weeks have been like for Barbara.

Make every day count, and count your blessings. If you’re reading this and you’re able-bodied, with a roof over your head, food on the table and the company of friends and/or family, take a moment to cherish those things.

In other news (and be warned, this is utterly thrilling), I picked some blackberries on the way down to Newton Flotman. Picking blackberries always gives me a nostalgic twinge as I remind myself of childhood walks.

#5000colo Day 5: The Nest

Distance travelled: 26.26 miles
Cumulative distance: 133.58 miles
Distance remaining: 4866.42 miles
Percentage complete: 2.67
Villages visited: Hellesdon, Horsford, Felthorpe, Upgate, Swannington, Little Witchingham, Great Witchingham, Lenwade, Morton, Attlebridge, Thorpe Marriott, Horsham St Faith.

I planned a local route today, although I need to be mindful that I’ll quickly run out of villages within easy riding distance if I keep riding from home!

It was an absolute pleasure to stop at The Nest, which is Norwich City Community Sports Foundation’s site (the old Anglian Windows site near the airport).

I met Emma Fletcher, who is the Senior Fundraising and Events Manager for CSF, and she gave me a guided tour of the facilities. I had no idea quite how many different programmes and projects CSF has on the go, and I’m really keen to go back and get involved in some of them as the year progresses.

The second stage of The Nest is well underway: a purpose-built new facility will house a wide array of changing rooms, multi-use spaces and a separate IT learning space.

I’m really proud to be raising funds for (and awareness of) the CSF’s outstanding work throughout Norfolk; you can find out more about what they do here, and more about The Nest here.

Outside The Nest with Emma Fletcher from CSF.

#5000colo Day 4: Hot and Flat

Distance travelled: 23.29 miles
Cumulative distance: 107.32 miles
Distance remaining: 4892.68 miles
Percentage complete: 2.04
Villages visited: Sea Palling, Waxham, Horsey, Somerton, Winterton-on-Sea, Hemsby, Martham, Repps with Bastwick, Potter Heigham, Catfield, Hickling.

The weather today was absolutely gorgeous, so I decided to head out towards the coast. I thought it made sense to choose a relatively flat route, as it was still pretty warm.

I rolled down the coast road, through perennial camping hotspot Waxham, and stopped at Horsey to get a photo with the bike in front of the mill.

There was a wonderful sunset as I rode west through Martham, and there were some beautifully desolate back roads running up from Potter Heigham through Catfield and across to Hickling.

I’m still struggling to find a rhythm with the publicity side of things; it would make sense for me to announce my route the day before, in case anyone wants to support me for the following day’s ride.

I’m still trying to find some sponsorship, too, so if anyone knows a local company who might be interested in supporting me in exchange for as much publicity as I can muster, please put them in touch!

#5000colo Day 3: Ringland Bad, Wramplingham Good

Distance travelled: 23.43 miles
Cumulative distance: 84.03 miles
Distance remaining: 4915.97 miles
Percentage complete: 1.68
Villages visited: Hellesdon, Drayton, Taverham, Ringland, Easton, Marlingford, Colton, Barford, Wramplingham, Great Melton, Hethersett, Wymondham.

Today was pretty tough. Much slower than the last couple of days, although that may be to do with the extended elevation, the increased temperature, or just a bit of cumulative tiredness. The Ringland Hills were particularly taxing; I barely made it to the top in the lowest gear.

I started warming into it as the ride went on, and by the time I hit 20 miles I was ready to keep going! Still, I need to keep half an eye on the saddle sore situation, as I don’t want to overdo it so early in the ride and end up having to take time out.

I found a nice little curiosity in the tiny village of Wramplingham; the village sign is actually planted in the river!

#5000colo Day 2: The 12th Man Social Ride

Distance travelled: 28.2 miles
Cumulative distance: 60.6 miles
Distance remaining: 4939.4 miles
Percentage complete: 1.21
Villages visited: Trowse, Kirby Bedon, Bramerton, Claxton, Ashby St Mary, Thurton, Bergh Apton, Alpington, Poringland, Framingham Earl, Caistor St Edmund.

This morning I went on a group ride with The 12th Man, one of the organisations for which I’m fundraising. Their mission is to encourage men to speak more openly about their mental health.

They offer free Mental Health First Aid training to organisations such as barbers, tattoo shops, pubs, menswear stores, taxis and van-based trades, and I’m hoping to do one of their courses in the very near future. You can find out more about what they do here.

My ride was a bit slower today, and I had a couple of points where I really ‘hit the wall’. I’m a little bit ‘saddle sore’, too, but hopefully that will stay at a manageable level so I don’t need too much time off. I managed to power through in the end, though, and then stopped for a coffee and a chat at Tim’s house. Tim is one of the ride organisers, and he also runs Bicycle Links on King Street.

Tim’s a real gent, and he’s arranged for Bicycle Links to sponsor my ride by offering me free advice and maintenance, plus cut-price gear and parts. Bicycle Links also does a lot of brilliant ‘social enterprise’ stuff. They donate restored bikes to asylum seekers and refugees, and offer free bicycle hire to people looking to start cycling. You can find out more about the brilliant work they do here.

Remember, if you want to ride with me, meet up with me, talk to me about sponsorship or have any kind of interaction at all, just drop a comment below or email me at colofivethousand@gmail.com.

Tomorrow I’m off in the direction of Wymondham, but I’m already looking ahead to next week. Any ideas where I should head, folks?

#5000colo Day 1: We’re Off!

Distance travelled: 32.4 miles
Distance remaining: 4967.6 miles
Percentage complete: 0.65
Villages visited: Sprowston, Great Plumstead, Witton, Little Plumstead, Salhouse, Woodbastwick, Ranworth, South Walsham, Upton, Panxworth, Hemblington, Blofield Heath, Rackheath.

Well, that was nice. The weather was ideal, and it felt great to be back on the bike. I didn’t feel particularly exhausted at the end, which is encouraging considering it was my first ride in 12 days.

I’m still trying to find a definitive list of Norfolk villages; apparently Blofield Heath is a hamlet that’s part of Blofield, so I’m not sure whether to ignore it or tick Blofield off the list. I’ll still need to do Brundall and Postwick at some point, so I guess I’ll do Blofield again anyway.

I’ve felt a little less overwhelmed than I did yesterday; the sheer intensity of the launch and the corresponding publicity was quite exhausting. It was liberating to be back in the saddle, and it’s good to redress the publicity-to-cycling ratio a bit.

I’ve also spoken to my GP today and we’ve agreed to increase my medication; I switched from Citalopram to Sertraline a couple of weeks ago, and while the switch hasn’t been as bad as I’d imagined, there have been some really intense moments of anxiety that I’ve struggled with.

I need to let this challenge unfold slowly; currently I’m investing far too much time in social media, desperately trying to connect with people and grow my reach. I need to keep reminding myself that the reach will grow organically. Keep turning the pedals, and the rest will come in the fullness of time.

Tomorrow morning I’m off to ride with the awesome guys from The 12th Man, which is one of the organisations I’m raising money for. You can find out more about them at 12th-man.org.uk, but their campaign is centred around helping men to speak more openly about their mental health.

This is ‘mile zero’.