Ride to Recovery across the whole of Great Britain.
A trio of ex-servicemen is in training for an epic 1,400-mile bike ride through Britain to raise thousands of pounds for their wounded comrades. Former Royal Engineer Steve Craddock, Naval veteran Lee Patmore, and retired Royal Marine Brian Kilgannon will cycle from John O’Groats in Scotland to Land’s End in Cornwall in a bid to raise money for Help for Heroes. But when their feat begins in May, the former warriors will not be content with the challenge that has tested the mettle of cyclists for decades. Instead of taking the usual 960-mile route through the western spine of Great Britain, Steve, Brian, and Lee have set themselves the added challenge of visiting seven military bases along the way. These diversions will add almost 500 miles to the route and will mean cycling up hills, totalling a whopping 63,000ft – the equivalent of more than twice the height of Mount Everest.
This is a tough ask of anyone, let alone for Steve and Brian who both suffer from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) from their time in services and will be fighting their own mental demons along with the physical toll the route will take. However, Steve and Brian will get inspiration from Lee who suffers from Fibromyalgia, a condition that causes heightened pain and extreme tiredness.
Lee, from Essex, is now mainly confined to a wheelchair and will take on this mammoth journey on a custom-made cycle he will power by his arms. He works as a disability fitness instructor at Brentwood Leisure Centre and qualified as a personal trainer after completing several courses with Help For Heroes.
Retired Sergeant Steve, from Chatham in Kent, said: “I hope you can begin to appreciate the sheer effort, guts, and determination that will be needed for Lee to complete this challenge. Lee will be in pain and discomfort the whole time. He will not know from one day to the next how his body is going to cope. However, Lee has his Band of Brothers with him, and we will be doing whatever is needed to get him to complete this truly amazing challenge."
Former Colour Sergeant Brian is no stranger to endurance cycling. He has already cycled from the most northerly part of mainland Britain to its most south westerly point via (as he puts it) ‘the easy route’. In 2006 he set a world cycling endurance record on an indoor turbo trainer, clocking up a staggering 1,017 miles in 60 hours.
Brian said: “I have volunteered to assist Lee and Steve in this epic ride, having cycled for the Royal Navy and Royal Marines for the last twelve years. Since leaving the Marines I found that I had personal problems both mentally and physically, therefore the thought of doing this challenge with Lee will also give me fulfilment. Having already cycled from Land's End to John O’Groats and holding a world record for distance riding I am fully aware the problems we are all going to face.”
The planned route is as follows:
- John O’Groats.
- Livingstone (Gore Bike Wear).
- Catterick, North Yorkshire (Phoenix House).
- Colchester, Essex (Chavase House).
- Brentwood, Essex.
- Brompton Barracks, Chatham, Kent.
- Tidworth, Hampshire (Tedworth House).
- Plymouth, Devon (Hasler Company).
- Land’s End.
The Band of Brothers are hoping to complete the challenge within 30 days and are aiming to cover between 60 or 70 miles per day, with three rest days if required.
What better way is there to spend your Sunday lunchtime encased in a world of pain for an hour or more?
To be honest, other than Yorkshire puddings and roasties, I'm sure you'll agree not much beats a Sprint Triathlon (right?)
Southend-on-Sea provided a great location for the first Sundried Triathlon. The town really welcomed the event and a whopping 2500 people came out to support the 300 athletes, many of whom were competing in their first triathlon.
The swim took place in the Thames Estuary with a refreshing midday start, due to the tide times. 1 hour before the start all we could see was mud flats for miles. I'm familiar with a non-wetsuit swim, but a non-water swim? That would be a first.
There was no need to worry. A mini tsunami came in as scheduled and the bay rapidly filled with clean salt water. We flip-flopped our way 500m along the sea front to the start, (flip-flops were then deposited back at the start for us), and the swim was simply point-to-point parallel with the beach: great for nervous swimmers who didn't have to venture far out their depth, and nice for spectators who could walk along and see the race unfold.
After failing to hold the fast feet of the lead man who set off beside me, I found another set, then decided to have a go on my own and make it hurt. The speed that is easy in a draft becomes really hard when in front, and I probably should have stayed where I was, but as this was a training race there was no need for energy conservation!
A smooth transition and we were quickly on to the fast, flat but quite technical bike course. The organisers are talking about a closed-road multi-lap affair for next year which I think would really draw the crowds in further and give it the buzz of a French Grand Prix tri: something the UK scene could really benefit from. I lost one place to another fast boy through the 20km bike leg, finishing up that bit in 4th; feeling rather power-deprived throughout. Some days you're the firework, some, the damp squib.
The run was out and back along the sea-front where people out for their Sunday stroll probably wondered why all these lycra-loving lovelies were self-flagellating themselves upon this Day of Rest, but they were giving great words of encouragement and seemed really into the spirit of the event: Southend seems to be a perfect match for a triathlon.
So, back to the run. 2.5k in a straight line does seem a long way, and to turn around and repeat the feat was another painful prospect, especially when you could see the Sundried finish banner over a mile away in the distance, not getting any closer...
Coming into a shorter triathlon as a longer distance athlete, you have visions of it 'being over quickly' and being 'no big deal' but I tell you what, Sprint is long and Sprint is hard! And I could only seem to muster limited speed anyway, but it was hurting as much as I could make it, so will hopefully prove an excellent training session as part of my preparation for the European 70.3 champs in 3 weeks’ time.
Coming to the finish, I didn't have much time to celebrate the female win and 3rd place overall as I was very aware of the clock ticking close to 60 minutes, and I always enjoy dipping under an hour in a Sprint. Sadly, I was 25 seconds too fat, but this will come in the next few weeks as I start to sharpen up for my first peak of the season. A couple of kilos makes a lot of difference to speed!
I would like to thank Sundried for their support of me as a pro triathlete this year, providing great PR opportunities as well as beautifully crafted clothing, and now adding another string to their bow: by producing a fantastic first event. Sundried really does stand for quality through and through. I look forward to seeing how the Southend Triathlon develops in years to come, and will definitely be back for that sub 1 hour in the future!
About the author: Alice Hector is a prolific elite professional triathlete, having already won the Volcano Triathlon in Lanzarote earlier this year. She is also a professional fitness model and has done lots of work with Sundried as an athlete ambassador.
Photo Courtesy of Surfers Against Sewage
The Big Spring Beach Clean is the largest and most impactful volunteer beach cleaning project in the UK. Across the UK, almost 17,000 volunteers have joined Surfers Against Sewage at 475 beaches and river banks to remove 55 tonnes of plastic pollution.
The single-use plastic drinks bottle was, once again, one of the most commonly found items (with over 17,000 being removed and recycled with Ecover). The poster child for our ‘throwaway’ society, the plastic bottle perfectly demonstrates the need to both refuse single-use plastic and to ensure that we trap the plastic that we have to use in a circular economy, preventing it ever escaping into our environment. Whilst they remain committed to tackling plastic pollution on their beaches for as long as it takes, each and every SAS beach clean volunteer longs for a day when beach clean are nothing but a fond memory and we truly have plastic free coastlines. SAS has been blown away by the response to the Big Spring Beach Clean this year and, together with their Beach Clean volunteers, they will continue to work towards a day where plastic-free coastlines have become a reality.
SAS Rep for Scarborough, Steve Crawford, said it best, "My hope for the future? Is going down to a beach clean and realising there’s nothing to do, no plastic, nothing and all there is to do is sit and look at the sea. You go there and that beach is pristine. That’s the dream, the end goal. And there are lots of ways we can do it”.
Sundried have a strong ethos of recycling plastic bottles and we do so by turning them into clothing. Read more about Sundried's recycled clothing here.
Photo Courtesy of Surfers Against Sewage
Top 10 Big Spring Beach Clean 2017 Stats
- 475 – SAS Big Spring Beach Cleans took place across all regions of the UK
- 16,944 – SAS Big Spring Beach Clean volunteers
- 55,541kg – Of marine litter removed from the UK’s coastline
- 74,000 hours – Donated by SAS Big Spring Beach Clean volunteers
- 17,000+ – Single-use plastic bottles removed and recycled with Ecover
- Weird, Old and Wonderful – A broken open safe, terrapin shell, two 7.62 rifle bullets and a cider can from the 1960’s to name just a few of the surprising items found
- Longest Litter Journey – A Cornwall Council recycling bin found washed up on The Isle of Skye!
- Government Representation – From DEFRA Environment Minister Dr Therese Coffey to Tynemouth’s Young Persons Mayor, Oscar Daniels more than 10 MPs, MSPs, Mayors and local councillors volunteered
- Dawn ‘Till Dusk Big Spring Beach Clean 6am – 6pm cleaning 5 beaches around Bude with The Plastic Movement engaging 200 people and removing 835kg!
- 91 Years YOUNG – Oldest Big Spring Beach Clean Volunteer (Freshwater West, Wales)
If you've been inspired and would like more information on how to get involved with Surfers Against Sewage, especially as they work closely within the community in Southend and Thorpe Bay, follow the below links to their social accounts:
You can also get involved by doing your own #MiniBeachClean and letting the SAS Beach Clean Team know at firstname.lastname@example.org and sharing @surfersagainstsewage.