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Over four days from the 18th May, 2016, Jon Ainley (Support Coordinator for The Encephalitis Society) set out on a challenge to cycle 270 miles from Malton, North Yorkshire (The Society's Headquarters), to Abergavenny in South Wales where the Encephalitis Adult Retreat was held. In taking on this challenge, he wanted to raise a whopping £5,000 for the support services provided by The Encephalitis Society.
The route was as follows:
Day One - Malton to Skipton - 62.8 miles
Day Two - Skipton to Birkenhead - 70.4 miles
Day Three - Birkenhead to Shrewsbury - 61.2 miles
Day Four - Shrewsbury to Abergavenny - Buckland Hall - The Retreat - 75.1 miles
It may not have seemed to be the biggest challenge - but for Jon it certainly was!
“Before setting off, there was a lot of trepidation and some anxiety about getting injured, things generally going wrong and letting people down,” he said.
“Stage Two was probably the hardest because we struggled to get the tracker working which was needed to keep tabs on me. We were an hour late setting off and the weather was atrocious and then we hit a housing estate which wasn’t shown on the navigation. It was a nightmare.”
Thankfully, his spirits were lifted by a welcoming committee who waited in the rain at the University of Liverpool. Among them were Harry’s wife, Rhoda, and family, The Society’s Dr Ava Easton and Phillippa Chapman, and Professor Tom Solomon, the director of the Institute of Infection and Global Health at the University of Liverpool, and his team.
“Seeing them there made the whole day worthwhile – it was lovely to see Rhoda and her family and have a natter with everyone else over a coffee.”
His final two days were also tough as he criss-crossed into Wales and England on his way to Abergavenny.
“The rain was horrendous on the last couple of hours on the final day,” said Jon. “It really set in. Everything I had was soaked, my shoes were still drying out five days later and the bike was black with water and grease.”
But he had made it to Buckland Hall where he was greeted by cheering supporters.
“That was an emotional time. I was just glad that I got there. My wife, Andrea, was bawling her eyes out because it had been difficult, with a lot of angst, as she was scared that I would be hit by a lorry at some point!
“I think Rhoda and Harry’s family have appreciated what I did and I think the people at The Retreat enjoyed seeing someone do something in support of The Society and being part of the finish.”
Jon was inspired to take on this challenge as a tribute to his dear friend, Harry Swindlehurst who was affected by Encephalitis over 10 years ago and who sadly passed away last year. His aim was to raise awareness of this devastating condition and raise money to ensure the support service which Jon 'the voice of the helpline' heads up can continue into the future ensuring we can help everyone who needs The Society.
The 270 mile journey has Harry in mind - starting with the HQ of The Society, visiting his hometown of Birkenhead and then finishing at The Encephalitis Society's biannual Retreat in the Brecon Beacon National Park. Harry loved The Retreats at Buckland Hall and campaigned as only he could to make it a four-day event, which it now is!
We want to raise £5,000 towards the Support Service!
The Encephalitis Society is the only resource in the world offering a dedicated advice and information line for individuals and their families affected by Encephalitis. Six thousand people in the UK alone are affected by this devastating condition each year and our service is there to listen, give advice and be a safety net for families that are lost and isolated from this little known condition. We also provide NHS accredited information, guides and factsheets and put on events such as the Retreat to bring people together.
The helpline costs £20 an hour to run and the support service as a whole costs around £40 per hour – this all adds up to a whopping £80k that The Society has to find every year for just this one arm of their work.
You can donate online here: Just Giving Cycle4Harry
or text (UK only)
ENCE70 £20 to 70070
Jon is the voice most readers will be familiar with, Jon has responsibility for the Support line and has been a lifeline for many people. He will not only listen and give information and advice but will also go away and find the people and services needed to make a difference. Jon is also responsible for supporting people with their fundraising efforts. Prior to joining the society Jon worked as a day centre officer for North Yorkshire County Council. He has two children, is keen on classic cars, old buildings (neither of which he owns) travel and all things wildlife.
March 28, 2016
The Long Good Friday Ride
In his latest blog post, our intrepid support co-ordinator Jon Ainley continues his training with an Easter Weekend of rides where he visits Dracula’s home town, battles wind,
I spend Thursday evening (March 24) preparing Desmo, my carbon road bike, for a busy Easter weekend of riding (more about Desmo in a future post!).
It is for my longest test ride yet. I removed, decreased, dried, re-oiled and refitted Desmo's chain and rear casette. Then there was the necessary recharging of numerous lights and my trusty Garmin satnav.
I am keen to put myself to the test - did I actually say keen?! – and I need to know with that I can spend six or so hours in the saddle.
As predicted, the sun is shining on Good Friday and I'm on my way just after 11.30am.
I'm cycling from Malton to Whitby (Dracula's birthplace, literature fans!) using the coast road. It’s a very busy road and not a cyclist’s dream, I can tell you!
Forty three miles later I'm in Whitby for a mug of tea and bacon sandwich (I'm a brown sauce kinda guy!).
However, there is no time to take in the sites if I am to maximise daylight hours (and, frankly, I don't want to be in Whitby at night if Dracula is around!). So homeward bound I go, arriving in Scarborough just as it starts to get dark.
It's getting cold and I'm tired and I have 22 miles to go.
I start to tell myself: “you’re not up to this.” That it's “too soon for this kind of distance.” I argue with myself that I'm fine.
It's a battle to talk myself round.
Fatigue is kicking in and I'm getting emotional. I know I must get this under control or I will end up a blubbering wreck at the roadside, getting colder by the minute.
Around 6 miles from home, my Garmin satnav dies.
It is not a navigational issue as such but I was frantic that I would lose my ride data. It’s my proof of my hard earned efforts! This is a cue for more emotional rumblings.
(By the way, if you hear reports of a cyclist ranting at himself on the A64 in West Heslerton on the afternoon of Good Friday - you know nothing about it! NOTHING!)
After six-and-a-half hours of riding, I eventually make it home to Malton. To my great pleasure, the sat-nav saved my progress from the point where the battery died. A journey of 78 miles (you will have to take my word for it on the other 6 miles or so)!
Saturday. I did a 25 mile recovery ride through the Howardian Hills. It was a very windy day. The wind on the way out made me work harder than I expected, but quickly became my friend on the homeward journey – helping me to beat some personal bests into the bargain!
Sunday was supposed to be rest day but I decided that a recovery ride was the order of the day instead. A steady 25 mile run over Risebrough Top with a quick coffee stop in Thornton-le-Dale before home for tea and the final episode of The Night Manager (roll on a second series!).
Keep Those Wheels a' Turning.
Saturday, April 2.
I have a busy day ahead of me – having committed to some voluntary training in the morning. It means a late afternoon start (4.30pm to be exact!). I set out for a short 20 or so mile ride across some of my usual routes.
I tackle Setterington High Street and its 17% climb. It's an incline that fools you into thinking you are nearly there. Then you take a quick turn and an even worse gradient awaits.
I try to keep my breathing rate steady. It's a hard hill to fathom and getting the right cadence (rotations of the crank per minute) is difficult. I try hard to judge it, telling myself I have it right. I talk out loud to myself in a continued effort to regulate my breathing.
I'm doing okay – “yes, I've cracked it!” – and then BANG, it's like hitting a brick wall. My legs are like lead. I have “bonked” as they call it.
The blood is not getting to my legs quick enough to meet the demand and I am not moving quick enough to remain safely upright. As I am clipped into my pedals, this makes me very nervous - I can't maintain balance at such a low speed and I don't have the energy to build up speed. I have to stop.
I need a couple of minutes to get my breathing sorted. The self-talking obviously failed and I'm gasping for air as if each breath was my last.
Maybe I could walk on up the hill and push the bike. It would show on the Garmin as though I had ridden it.
I would know that was not the case and that's not what I want. Back on the bike I go. Riding on fresh legs, I reach the top. At this point, I knew in my head that I would be riding the next day and this demon of a hill was on the agenda. Again.
Once over Nemesis Hill (as I have Christened it), it was a lovely fast ride down through Thorpe Basset where I complete a westbound circuit home. A total of 22 non-stop miles.
Sunday, April 3.
The weather is good and I'm out of the house in good time – and before Andrea can make me do any housework.
I return to the scene of yesterday’s crime. Ah, Nemesis Hill…. we meet again!
I tackle Nemesis Hill and just about manage it without stopping. I then push on heading to the East Yorkshire town of Driffield for coffee and a sausage roll. Then it’s home time. In the end, it was a round trip of 54 miles. I still had to do some housework, though.
Tuesday, April 5
Following a rest day on Monday, I'm back out on the bike.
Tuesday was a late finish at The Encephalitis Society HQ but I really feel I should maximise the opportunity of reasonable weather (It’s England - the only thing guaranteed about the weather is that there is no guarantee) especially as rain is expected for the next two days.
What was supposed to be 22 mile ride turned into 30. The ride incorporated Nemesis Hill again - but today I decided on a new approach: going downhill. No breathing control or mind games needed this time!
I just launched myself in the expectation of just holding on and enjoying the ride. However, a late start meant by the time I was at the hill, it was dark and even with my very expensive lights it was just like falling into an abyss - with the odd rabbit thrown in for good measure!
Until next time!
P.S. No rabbits were harmed in the descent of Nemesis Hill
Click HERE to see Jon give a loved one a bath.
You've Been Framed!
April 15, 2016
“Not one cyclist overtook me today! Mind you they were all going in the other direction.” - Jon Ainley, Support Co-ordinator. Cyclist. Twitterererer.
I have done so much riding over the last few weeks that it's all become something of a blur. I've travelled over so much of the same old ground that I am calling it “boy band syndrome” because…. wait for it…. I’m always going in One Direction! (I’ll be here all week, folks!)
The big news this week is that I have entered the 21st Century and now have my very own Twitter account - @jonencephalitis
And if you are one of the lucky few who have been following my tweets @jonencephalitis, you will know that I am the proud owner of a new carbon bike frame.
Unfortunately the courier decided that I lived somewhere else – and left my new baby at the flat above my house!
Needless to say, I was quite surprised to find that someone had built a flat ABOVE my two-storey terraced house.
Not only that… but it turns out it was signed for by a “Mr A. Person!!!”
Oh, the joys off online shopping!
Anyhoo, me and my new carbon bike frame were soon united and it is a beauty! It’s super light - as a carbon frame should be. I figured if I cannot shift some weight of my own, I'd at least shift it off the bike!
Thursday, the 14th of April, and I finally managed to get out on the road and do 32 miles. It's been a frustrating few days as I had not been able to ride since the previous Sunday when I covered around 43 miles.
I’m hoping for better weather over the weekend and the chance to cover more miles. I'll keep you posted on that.
In the meantime, please follow my progress on Twitter. Did I mention that I have my own Twitter account? It’s @jonencephalitis
Bye for now!
Giant Bradley and Little Patrick
Tuesday, April 18
Jon’s Thought Of The Day: "Have you ever wondered why there is only one Monopolies Commission?”
You may remember that I said I was hopeful of a ride on Friday evening? Unfortunately, that didn’t happen because the rain just kept coming with no let up.
Saturday, on the other hand, turned out to be more promising, so I arranged to ride out with a friend who lives near Easingwold. (About 18 miles from Malton as the crow flies).
I don't know if you know this - but North Yorkshire is the biggest County in England. It also has some of the highest elevations (also known as “hills”) in the country while the weather can turn very quickly indeed.
I set off on Saturday to meet my friend in glorious sunshine - only to be greeted by snow 30 minutes later. The weather didn't “dampen” our spirits though (see what I did there?!) even if we did set off in sleet!
The two of us managed a very healthy 30 miles which included some testing hills (also known as “elevations”). There was also time for a quick coffee stop to warm our cockles up half-way round though.
I have a confession to make. I am a fan of The Archers. You know, the long-running BBC Radio 4 soap opera set in Ambridge, a fictional rural community?
Anyway, my friend and I were discussing the latest going-ons when a rather sweet pensioner hijacked our conversation and proceeded to ruin the latest episode of The Archers for me.
The episode I had yet to hear.
The episode I was looking forward to listening to when cleaning my bike down at home.
The episode which was crucial in perhaps the biggest storyline to hit The Archers for years.
Obviously, now I know the plot! But I refused to lose the plot, so to speak, as one of the joys of cycling is the people you meet whether they be on or off a cycle.
If we proved to be some welcome company to someone then that can only be a good thing….. besides that might well be me one day!
Sunday, April 17.
Strong sunshine and once some domestic duties are out the way, I'm off on my bike and heading east to the town of Market Weighton.
Market Weighton is the home of Giant Bradley - one of the world’s tallest men.
It is also home to my brother Patrick – one of the world’s smallest men!
A quick coffee, a round of toast and a laugh and a joke with Patrick (at his expense) and then it is time for home.
A 51-mile round trip time in the saddle was 4.5 hours, (excluding time off for coffee, toast, and a joke or two at my brother’s expense). There were some tough hills, but I knew I could manage them. However, that sunshine never seemed to be where I was.
Until the next time
Tour De YLSM
April 18, 2016
“As a cyclist I'm often asked what do I think about cyclist shaving their legs? To be honest I'm in two minds about it! Hence I only shave one leg.” - Taken from "You Only Get an Ooooh with a Haiku: The Poetry and Musings of Jon Ainley" by Jon Ainley
Exactly FOUR weeks to go until the Tour de YLSM – can anyone work out what YLSM stands for? (answer below).
Okay… back to my Monday evening ride!
I was “welcomed” by a very strong northerly wind which made for a hard start. But I had a cunning plan! Ride out into the wind and then let it assist me on the way back.
The plan worked well for the most part with me making excellent time on my homeward ride from Hovingham.
Indeed my Strava record gave me a new PR (personal record) on my 21 mile circuit. My “moving time” was 1 hour, 43 minutes which works out at an average of 12.5mph. Not bad indeed.
Tuesday evening was sunny (for a change) and was supposed be a rest day. But I couldn’t resist a quick jaunt in the sunshine.
Heading out on one of my favourite runs across to Riseborough. In 1 hour, 48 minutes, I covered 24 miles at an average speed of 13.3mph.
Until the next time, my friends!
P.S. Oh, wait… I almost forgot. Tour de YLSM stands for …… Yorkshire, Lancashire, Shropshire, Monmouthshire. Did anyone get it?
Desmo - A Bike Like No Other
Friday, April 29
Grumpy dad moment:
Jon: “Hi Dad, did you like the cordless screwdriver I brought you for your birthday?”
Dad: “Yes son, but aren't all screwdrivers cordless?”
Jon Ainley remembering Desmo (my dad)
So, it's been a while since my last blog. As ever, the North Yorkshire weather (rain, hailstones, sleet – your typical English springtime weather) has dictated activities somewhat. For the most part I've had to shelve my best laid plans and ride as and when I can.
Following on from a 32.6 mile ride, I had an enforced four day break mostly due to the weather, but also preparing my back-up bike.
On Sunday April 24, I managed to fit in a 72 mile ride covering some of the pending Tour de Yorkshire route.
Lovely seeing all the time and effort being put in by various villages…..blue and yellow bikes and bunting is everywhere! To be honest, it did make me a bit wary when I parked up for a coffee in Helmsley as I didn't fancy my bike having an impromptu paint job by an overeager paintbrush-wielding local!
It was a lovely bright day - but deceptively cold. Fortunately, I made the right choice clothing wise. Contrary to a previous fun video clip I was NOT wearing PINK (although, I can carry pink off should I so choose!).
The following Monday, I did a 25 mile ride setting off in sunshine only to be greeted by a full on white-out blizzard. Sadly, the weather has not yet improved sufficiently enough for safe riding. Let's see what this evening brings!
I do have some sad news in that my buddy and co-rider Darren Egdell has had to pull out of the event on health grounds. He is truly saddened not to be taking part, he was so looking forward to the event. My thoughts are with you Darren!
As you may have deduced I have a number of bikes. It is my intention to use my best bike Desmo (pictured above) for the ride. Desmo is so named after my Dad, a keen cyclist, who never rode anywhere! He would titivate my bikes when I was kid. Making them standout from the crowd. Desmo is my bizarre tribute to him. With its custom spray job, designed by yours truly, it is a unique bike. Being carbon fibre it is light and responsive. Desmo was expensive to build but it is true escapism for me.
There is no pink on it either – although did I tell you that I can carry pink off should I so choose!
Bank Holiday Blast
Dad: it's bad luck to cross on the stairs!
Dad: Because I'll stick my foot out!
Jon Ainley, Remembering Desmo (my Dad)
Wednesday, May 4.
It was a busy Bank Holiday weekend for me.
It began with a long ride-out on Saturday - 48 miles to be exact. I’m kicking myself now because I didn't round it up to an even 50!
Sunday, I was providing additional CFR (Community First Responder) cover for Yorkshire Ambulance Service at the Tour de Yorkshire finish in Scarborough.
I was supposed to be in a prime location near the finish line - but unfortunately I was relocated to a quieter location. Shame because I think the Pro riders would love to have had a sighting of the infamous “Jon-i-am” (that’s my Twitter nom de plume, folks. Follow me - @jonencephalitis – and I’ll think about following you back).
Bank Holiday Monday! What better way to spend a Bank Holiday Mondays than by tackling a leaking downstairs toilet. It literally sent me round the u-bend! The smallest room in the house has proven to be the biggest problem for me since we moved in. I had to have the floor covering up and strip the offending WC out. Then put a new section of fast-setting mortar down and then try and deal with the leaking flush pipe. (Is it just me or is there something ironic about a man named Jon having problems with the John?).
It was 5pm before I could get out on the bike. I left with the mind set of doing a cut-down run of 25 miles, but I ended up doing 50 miles!
The weather was lovely! I could go out in short sleeves and feel the sun on my back. I set off for Helmsley and made great time.
I even had time to jest with a local couple shouting: “Which way is the Tour De Yorkshire finish line?!” It was met with laughter. I think.
I felt like I could go forever - wind will do that for you. I made record speed down the A170 eastbound (Jon-i-Am? More like, “Jon-i-Go”!). That was until I then had to change to a south easterly heading where I was met by a strong headwind. It literally took the wind out of my sails (Jon-i-Gone).
However I pushed on like the manly man I am. I had no concerns about the distance. But it put on another 40 minutes onto my time and the weather was now much colder.
My sleep that night was the worst I've had for a long time. My joints ached and I was suffering from “restless leg syndrome.” I know now that I'd pushed myself too hard. Fifty miles non-stop – save for a very brief video stop.
This week, the weather is supposed to be good so I am hoping to get some miles in… Nothing excessive though……!
Till the next time.
The Final Countdown
Tuesday, May 17
“You can't buy happiness but you can buy a bike and that's pretty close” - Anon
Only a few hours now until the big day and I've been getting some miles in - over 1,368 in fact! My last long ride was 74 miles in some wonderfully hot weather, a climate I needed to experience riding in. Two sunburnt arms define my lack of preparation but sun cream will be an essential rider resource.
“The bicycle is a curious vehicle its passenger is its engine” - John Howard
I have backed up my long ride by several 30 mile jaunts. What has been a joy was discovered in error when I took a wrong turn.
Yes, a wrong turn on a route I have done countless times. Yes, a worrying concept especially when you are about to embark on a 270 mile journey! Anyway I found some delightful villages. The delight was brought to an abrupt end though while speeding through East Ness (no Loch in sight!). I was put into a blind panic by a loud buzzing noise followed by a tickling sensation.
It meant potentially one thing (well two actually) - a wasp or a bee. Grinding to a stop in what I can only described as an impromptu Norman Wisdom “Mr Grinsdale” sketch, I was certainly a point of interest for the local lady resting on the bench who I suspect might have been contemplating the joys of village life compared to madness of the Big City! It was indeed a bee who was once more on its merry way – although probably a bit lost - once I removed my crash hat. I have been getting great support from former anti social cycle group and I'm seeing the dividends of their wisdom.
“The sound of a car door opening in front of you is similar to the sound of gun being cocked” - Amy Webster
We are waiting on the #Cycle4Harry cycle shirts so I am quite excited to see how they look. I also prepared the support vehicle over the weekend. It will include space for spare bikes and all the resources that go with such an event. I'm hoping to get some temporary livery so people can identify us as we make away down and spot us at rest points. Please come and say hello if you do.
“Don't buy upgrades, ride up grades” - Eddie Merckx
A 51 mile ride (Sunday the 15th of May) sees all the training rides out of the way. I have given myself two ride free days to service the bikes and prep equipment. I have loads of resources that need checking, charging and packing. You would think I was going on an expedition to the Antarctic but it's all needed.
So it's full steam ahead for the Grand Depart at 10.00 Wednesday 18th for stage One. Do remember to keep an eye on social media and the Encephalitis Website. – as well as my own Twitter account @jonencephalitis.
We will aim to keep people posted with updates on journey.
“Life is like riding a bicycle in order to keep your balance, you must keep moving” - Albert Einstein
May I just say a massive thank you to everyone who have made a donation! The pledges have inspired me to keep going through all the training (and unbelievable weather conditions). Harry would be so very proud of we are doing and the generosity shown. I cannot leave the blog at this stage without giving a big heartfelt thank you to everyone at The Encephalitis Society - you are what makes us a service that supports others so well. I salute you!
“When I see an adult on a bicycle, I don not despair of the human race” - HG Wells
And I must say a special thank you to my wonderful wife Andrea – who is my moving support team. She has been so understanding, so patient. She has been a cycle widow for the last eight weeks and when she has seen me, I don't know how she has put up with me. Thank you Andrea you are my world x
I know that signing the DIY contract means means failure to complete all DIY jobs within two weeks will result in a several weeks of silence! ……mmmmm
Until the next time, my friends!
The Encephalitis Society is the operating name of the Encephalitis Support Group which is a registered Charity and Company Limited by Guarantee.
Registered in England and Wales No. 4189027. Registered Office as above. Registered Charity No. 1087843.