Day 6- Bundoran to Malin Head

The full story – the boys set off about 9 and made good time throughout the day, lunchingat Ballybofey. First and only puncture at Buncrana meant a slight delay and no cake! Life can be cruel as the village of Malin arrives but you then have about 9 more miles to Malin Head. As you can see from the photos, it was dusk when our brave boys arrived at the finish, completely done in but exhilarated at the same time – it was very moving to watch. Pete has got through lung cancer and a severe stroke. Steve has had two hip replacements and has been the most fantastic support for Pete. I might have had something in my eye……🚴🏻‍♂️🚴🏻‍♂️👏👏👏👏👏👏

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Revived by steak, onion rings and Guinness, one was tucked up in bed by 9.45 and the other off to watch the Anthony Joshua fight – I wonder if you can guess which was which?

Such an amazing achievement for them both – if you haven’t sponsored them so far the links are below. New life charity supports premature babies, ATE provides lunches and business help for poverty stricken in Ghana and the Stroke Association helps survivors and their families.

How far would you ride for someone else?

https://mydonate.bt.com/events/stippins2018/473155

https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/peterwilletts1?page=2#donationsList

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Day 5- Westport to Bundoran- 100 miles!!

Pete and Steve did brilliantly today. Set off from Westport about 8.45 and have ridden through showers and sunshine with gusty winds (running out of descriptions of blowy etc). They managed 28 miles before stopping for coffee and 71 before lunch at Sligo – impressive. Steve reckons their average speed was 13.3 mph today. They made it to Bundoran just before 7pm, very pleased with themselves and looking forward to a hot bath and a steak dinner, washed down with Guinness of course! Unbelievably it is the last day of cycling tomorrow – 91 miles to Malin Head. We have stopped looking at the weather forecast!
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When in Ireland…
Those of you thinking that these place names sound romantic and attractive, beware! Whilst Westport was a pretty town, Bundoran is most definitely not – a seaside resort stuck in the 1940s with the aroma of chip fat, fag ash and wee. Rosemarie used to come here as a child and was heartbroken to see it like this and not as she remembered it. We will not be returning……
Tomorrow takes us through Donegal so expect us all to return in fetching tweeds.
Penny

Day 4- Galway to Westport

Good start to the day – although it was a bit grey and and overcast, it wasn’t raining or windy, and the route turned out to be less hilly than the last few days. There were more cyclists out and about, but not many heading in our direction.
The scenery is stunning – coastal views and inland lakes, heather hills and flocks of sheep. The roads are good and there is not that much traffic. Stopped for lunch at Clifden, quite a big town, and we had cycled roughly 60 miles to get to this point. A triple decker sandwich was soon consumed and we set off for the next leg to Westport. The weather was more changeable in the afternoon, and we were on a mission – Steve’s great auntie Mary Coyne’s resting place is in a cemetery near Letterfrack – it was actually on a hillside overlooking Baugone and took some detective work and a bit of luck to find. Steve had to use his best donkey herding skills to clear the road. Auntie Mary has a fine outlook and Steve was very chuffed to find her!
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After this it was onwards to Westport and it was relatively late (almost 7) by the time we got there but all in one piece. Total cycled today was over 90 miles (can’t be completely accurate because someone turned the Strava off by mistake!) So, over halfway now and heading for Bundoran tomorrow – about 85 miles we think. Weather forecast not particularly promising but we’ll see.
Penny
P.S. There was cake and lots of it but Pete wolfed it down too quickly for a photo!

Day 3- Kilrush to Galway

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Day 3 has been very peculiar – Storm Ali arrived as promised and the winds were too strong to cycle safely so decided on a later breakfast and a reassessment. Set off from Kilrush about 10.30 and drove for 30 miles before stopping for coffee in Ennistimon. It was further inland so not quite so blowy and they set off about 12.30 in brighter skies and with good spirits – there was a limit to how much of our singing they could stomach.

 

They made good time to Kilvarra and then pressed on to Oranmore, making the most of the following wind. After here they hit Storm Ali and had to deal with rain, hail and strong headwinds so went considerably more slowly for a few miles. Arrived in Galway about 5.30 in good spirits and all in on piece still. They have cycled about 45 miles today although it felt like much more. Average speed was 13 mph although this did rise to 20mph at times! Bradley Hoy-Willetts is currently working on how to make up the mileage in the next few days but this will depend on the weather. It is still very windy and wet and the forecast for tomorrow is more of the same. Still, they are very encouraged by people’s donations and will be working hard tomorrow.
Meanwhile, for the ladies – much excitement for Penny at the Burren – a geographical feature par excellence, a herd of cows, a perfumery and a chocolate shop. The aroma in the car is definitely ‘Eau de Mamil’ and no amount of open windows seems to cure it.
Onwards to Westport tomorrow!
Penny

Day 2 – Kenmare to Kilrush

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Day 2 and we rode 91 miles today, mostly in the dry and often in the sun, although still quite blustery. Rode from Kenmare to Killarney and then lunch at Tralee.  Ferry trip to cross the Shannon at Tarbert, a 20 minute ride. Overall it was 4250 feet elevation and an average speed of 13.6 mph. Not many other cyclists about, but they had to stop for some deer crossing and more jelly beans (Steve’s sugar rush of choice). After a quick shower, off to Crotty’s pub in Kilrush for a restorative Guinness and a juicy steak. Not thinking about Storm Ali coming in overnight….
Pete

Day 1 – Mizen Head to Kenmare

Blog entry kindly provided by Penny Willetts:

Day one - 1

So far so good, although not without minor dramas. Due to roadworks on the M4 Steve and Rosemarie made it to the ferry with the bikes and the luggage by the skin of their teeth – good job as there was no plan B. Meanwhile Pete and I were quaffing cake and bubbly at his Auntie Pam’s 90th. No dramas with the flight to Cork. Woke to ‘dreich’ weather but not actually raining or cold. Drove to Mizen Head which was VERY blustery and the boys set off about 11.30. Steve sustained the first bruising of the trip by walking into a bollard whilst looking at the view! The first half of the ride was about 25 miles to Bantry where we had a good lunch at the Box of Frogs café.

Day one - Pete and Steve lunch

 

Then a much hillier and wetter ride to Kenmare – about 30 miles so 55 miles in total. As Steve said ‘ a ride of two halves’. Still raining now – I believe it’s called soft weather over here – but hoping it will be clear tomorrow and that hurricane Helene will pass overnight. Meanwhile we are off to the laundrette to dry stuff off for tomorrow. We plan to do 80 miles tomorrow to Kilrush.

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Ready for the ride

It’s the last few days before my ride and I’m feeling good, although I haven’t done as many miles as I had intended. I went 41 miles to Pewsey and back, and last week cycled to my son Tom’s in Didcot and back – that was 61 miles and nearly 3,000 feet elevation. I was going to cycle to my daughter Sophie’s house in Kent (that would have been 95 miles one way) but I had a gear problem with my bike that has been rumbling on for about 3 weeks – I haven’t been able to get into high gears. Thanks to Sean and (finally) the local bike shop, it is now resolved. I still went to Sophie’s by car but dug her garden and walked the dog instead.
We are now ready for the off, although the travel arrangements are a bit complex – Penny and I are going via my aunt’s 90th birthday in Birmingham, and we are flying from Birmingham to Cork whilst Rosemarie Derrick and Steve Tippins are driving to Fishguard, complete with bike carrier, for the ferry to Rosslare. We will meet up in Cork on Sunday night if everything goes to plan.
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You can check out my training rides and routes on Strava:
I am so grateful for all the funds raised so far and the amazing difference it will make for both causes. You can check out my fundraising page and donate to encourage every mile I cycle at:

Training – Week Two

It’s almost the end of August, and 17th September is getting close. Last week I thought it would be good to have two long consecutive rides, so I cycled from my house in Ramsbury to my brother’s house in Havant. It was 77 miles according to the AA via B roads. Wednesday was warm and dry, Thursday with showers was more of a challenge, but it is in Ireland so you have to get used to showers. I went to Havant via Alresford good pub lunch. Penny went down in the car practising her backup duties and we had a great dinner with Sarah and David.

Pete outside the Bell

The following day started at 9am. I had cycled 40 miles and wanted to change my front gear, and it broke, so I could only go in low gears. I cycled another 20 miles and then I phoned home. Penny picked me up at the Carnarvon Arms. I was annoyed because I was sure that if I had had a fully functioning bike I would have made it all the way. Also I got lost a couple of times, which didn’t help. It makes me think how we are going to ensure we are going the right way in Ireland. I have spoken to Steve Tippins and have now got Strava and learned how to use the map app on my mobile phone. Finally I can be sure that I can do 500 miles, providing both my bike and body remain in one piece!

Capture week 2

I’m doing this for two fantastic charities, the Stroke Association and Action Through Enterprise and your sponsorship will really help to spur me on. Thank you to everyone who has shown support with messages and donations to bring the total so far to just over £1,000 with gift aid!

I’m aiming to raise £2,000 in total which I will split equally between the two charities. You can sponsor me at: https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/peterwilletts1

Training – Week One

Shalbourne

After several weeks with temperatures over 30 degrees, it is much easier to put in the training at 20 degrees! This Wednesday I rode with Tony Madden, doing 35 miles to Upton, near Andover, and back. The ride was quite hilly around Shalbourne, Upton and Hatherden, so a good test. On Saturday I went south to Stockbridge via Hungerford, Shalbourne, Wherwell, Chute and Great Bedwyn, stopping for a good lunch in Stockbridge, and again at the Hatchet in Chute for a bowl of chips! If you’ve cycled 60 miles you can eat what you like. At the lower temperatures I felt really good.

It’s now only one month to go and I have to get the mileage up towards 90-100 miles per day to get the distance done in the time available. It’s much easier cycling with a friend – on your own you feel every hill and bump, whilst with a friend it doesn’t seem so far or so hard. Steve Tippins will be a great cycling companion in Ireland.

The mydonate page is now up and thank you to the people who have sponsored me so far – it helps to keep my legs going and my wheels turning!

How I arrived at this journey

I am one of ATE’s six trustees, as well as a cancer- and stroke-survivor, with a big cycle challenge ahead of me. It will be an epic ride for me, cycling the length of Ireland from its most Southern to its most Northern tip. This is the story of how I arrived at making this journey.

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The London 2012 Olympics were memorable for many reasons – the great international performances, the GB team in particular, and it was when I was diagnosed with lung cancer. After a variety of tests, an eagle-eyed X-ray specialist noticed a small lesion on my left lung. I had surgery and chemotherapy, and it was also discovered I had atrial fibrillation, an irregular heartbeat which increases the probability of stroke. Despite this, in 2015, I wanted to celebrate my recovery from cancer, and decided that cycling from Land’s End to John O’Groats would prove that I was as fit and well as before. My two cycling buddies Steve Tippins and Charles Gardner helped me to achieve that goal. We cycled about 1,000 miles in 13 days! As Charles had recently founded Action Through Enterprise (ATE), which does fantastic work to reduce poverty in Ghana, we did this incredible big ride whilst raising money for both MacMillan Cancer Trust and ATE. I felt absolutely marvellous!

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Unfortunately I suffered a severe stroke in late November 2015. I don’t remember much about it; my right hand side was badly affected as was my speech – I could only say yes or no, and I didn’t always get them right! This was bad enough, but I was due to walk my daughter, Sophie down the aisle in late December and that looked unlikely at this point. After a week in the Great Western Hopsital, and a further two weeks in the stroke rehabilitation unit at Chippenham I came home, walking with the aid of a zimmer frame. The physios were wonderful, as were the occupational and speech therapists, knowing that I had this goal to achieve, and I did manage to walk Sophie down the aisle with just one stick, much more of an achievement than I anticipated!

My family and friends were also marvellous, visiting when I could barely speak, helping with the speech exercises and generally keeping my spirits up. Unlike my recovery from cancer, stroke recovery is much slower, and not just physical. It involves retraining the affected parts of the brain, regaining mobility and practising everyday activities such as doing up your buttons. Fortunately I am a positive (some would say stubborn) character, and was determined to get back on my bike and somehow give back a little.

During the process of my recovery, I have also become really involved with ATE, becoming an active trustee of the charity since October 2016 and fully in support of the work we do to improve lives in a very poor, neglected part of the Upper West Region of Ghana. I am inspired by another of its founders, Charles’ daughter, ATE Chief Executive, Sarah Albeboure, who whilst volunteering in Ghana, became motivated to do more for the people of Lawra. Six years on from setting up the charity, ATE feeds just over 1,000 children each school day, as well as supporting small business owners to generate sustainable income and improve inclusion for marginalised disabled children and their families.

Steve Tippins got me back on my bike, and we are cycling from the South (Mizen Head) to the North (Malin Head) of Ireland, 500 miles in 6 days this time. Combining my love of cycling and passion for supporting two charities that I believe in, I am going to cycle for Action Through Enterprise, who are changing lives in Ghana, and for the Stroke Association who guided me and cared for me when I needed them.

It would spur me on to be sponsored every bit of the way!

Please visit my fundraising page and help me reach my target: https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/peterwilletts1

So, on 16th September I am going to Ireland. Look out for my weekly blog of my progress in training rides until then, and daily blog posts when I am cycling the fantastic route from the south to the north of the country.