Saturday, 9 June 2012

CYCLETTA 2012: Biking for STROKE CARE.

What does it take, to turn my steps into soaring flight,
what excitement banishes my sleep in the night!? 
what is it that makes me alive,
What do I crave, is it company, is it solitude,
is it winning the battle against my ineptitude??
is it peace within and calm without,
..... -It is self motivated discovery and working within reasonable, honest means for the common good of all...

 I have always loved riding my bike from the first time I pedalled off at the age of six fully in control after many days' struggles, scraped knees and elbows and crashes. As my joyous sister and friends cheered me from behind, and as the wind whipped through my hair, I felt as if I were flying!! Many childhood afternoons were spent in the summer heat of North India, my brother and I pushing each other on the bike, in turns, and running up and sitting down on the stainless steel 'carrier', sending the biker and bike wobbling precariously for a few uncertain moments!!
My favourite childhood memories are all about family trips and outings to zoological parks, the Rose Garden, Rock Garden and Sukhna Lake in Chandigarh, India. As an adult, I travelled widely, mostly by myself, and a bike became my transport of choice!! Buses, Scooters and Trains came to be relied on, when the journey demanded it, but my trusty bike was always my favourite vaahan!
From the time i first read about Cycletta last June, in the local paper, I was hoping to be one of the lucky ten from Luton and Dunstable chosen to ride hundreds of other women, fund-raising on a hair-raising adventure!!!
This year, on 13th May 2012 at the Cycletta Bedfordshire event, God once again gave me the close-to-home opportunity to be part of something magical and magnificent!!

It was a beautiful summer's day in Luton, U.K, on the 13th of May. I was full of anticipation and last-minute jitters about how I would feel post-ride,after cycling for 40 Kms.... Outwardly, I chatted easily with Brian, as we drove to the venue with my bike in his taxi. Brian is our friend, neighbour and count-on-me gentleman and he has always helped us as a family whether it is to drive someone to or from London Heathrow airport. He knows the routes and traffic so well that we were there in about twenty minutes! After helping me place my bike of terra firma, we shook hands as he cheerily waved goodbye and  wished me luck for my ride and fundraising!
After obtaining my starting pack and chip, I made my way down to the sidelines, where scores of women, some with their families, some with partners and parents, put on their gear and began to go through their paces, warming up for the ride. I still had about 50 minutes till my start time, so I self-consciously fumbled with pinning my rider's number on my back, (incredibly difficult without anyone to help, mind you!) and attaching my timing-chip to the handlebars. Having dine Cycletta 2011 at Whipsnade, ZSL London, last year, I was familiar with it all and there was an easy atmosphere with peppy music, a last-minute breakfast-buttie and energy drinks' available to all riders. Their families were settling down on camping chairs, car hoods, or simply on the grassy verge (with push-chairs for toddlers and babies) with lots of activities for kids to engage in, as they would be waiting eagerly for their mum's and sisters to make it back across the finish line later in the day! One thing I love about British families is how beautifully they turn every outing into something special and relaxed, fun for all and full of joy! Its this get-up-and-go attitude that I absolutely loved and have been taking my kids out on lots of trips with my friend and her young son.
That day, however, I missed my two little girls a lot and reminded myself that Raj would be coming to see  me at midday with the kids too!
Feelin' the BUZZ!!  Scores of ladies at the start of the ride!
The Cycletta event was spectacular, with the scenic, breathtakingly beautiful estate at the Woburn Abbey grounds in Bedfordshire providing the perfect, Zen-like experience that made me and my bike, essentially, one!! The ride began with a light breeze and sunshine coaxing scores of Deer and Elk out into the open grounds near the trees, by the lakes and waterholes and under the massive age-old trees. I found myself having to decide between keeping my eyes on the ride or sneaking a look at the beautiful sights all around us. This time around, there were no steep gradients like last year, (Cycletta 2011, Bedfordshire riders will recollect Bison Hill with a smile!!)
Sarah B and I after the finish!!

I loved the weather and enjoyed the sunshine on the day!

After the ride (which, amazingly enough, seemed to seem to take much less time this time around!) and the exhilaration of crossing the finish line, I met my friend Sarah B, who rode with me last year too. She is a keen cyclist and had achieved her aim of finishing the ride within two hours. ( I rode at a very leisurely pace and being the kind of love-the-journey person that I am, took about 2.5 Hrs to finish my ride!)

The long, winding road!!

 Shivangi and I after the ride. (Photo by Rani)
 My fund-raising began at the time of my decision to join the event at Woburn, and I researched Stroke Awareness sites recommended by my senior colleagues and from info on posters at work. A chat with my Hospital fundraising Manager, a few clicks and 'paste's with a mouse and I had set up my page, ready to roll!! Sarah Newby, the Fundraising Team Manager has recently participated in the London Marathon 2012, and is a huge inspiraiton! Since I work on the Stroke Unit at the L & D Hospital, thinking about my patients and their well-being has become second nature to me. After 8.5 yerars with  the Stroke Team of dedicated nurses, Physiotherapists, Occupational Therapists and Doctors, I wanted to do something for the team by spreading stroke awareness and fund-raiser from my bike ride and sale! Over the two days of fundraising at work, I managed to raise £122.40 in total, and its still trickling in!!

Sarah and I with a male staff member at the hospital who just happened to be there!!

Day 2: display of the fundraising stuff donated by Raj.

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