100 Mile Cycle Challenge

Over the weekend that followed World Diabetes Day, 16th – 17th, we embarked on a challenge of cycling 100 miles along a circuit that went through Somerset and Avon. It may not have been the most monstrous challenge in the world cycling 50 miles a day back to back; however, I do believe I may have already conquered that one running Britain earlier in the year in 30/30…

…Rest assured though, this was a good challenge. I am not a cyclist to begin with, the last time I went about on a bike I was a little kid that had the equivalent balancing capabilities of Ashley Young… I was always falling over! Holes in trousers, falling into ditches, you name it!

I’m a runner not a cyclist and if that wasn’t enough, the matter of being a type 1 diabetic was the whole reason for the challenge itself – how do I go about controlling my blood sugar levels whilst taking on 2 days worth of endurance cycling?

Challenge accepted…

Pedaling Away and Keeping the Blood Sugars at Bay

cycle 1


To begin with we looked at the route the night beforehand and thought… oh dear. To be perfectly honest we hadn’t a clue where the hell we were going! The printer buggered up too so the route for the second day didn’t have any directions, just black smudges…

Fortunately a Mr Jeff Astle was involved – the man is a walking Sat Nav, especially around his parts of the West Country. We were going to cycle a route that goes through areas of Somerset and Avon, a circuit beginning at Wainbridge Farm on Mark Causeway (my Auntie Jayne’s farm) and head northwards to Cheddar, Yatton, Bristol and a town called Saltford on route to Bath – where we’d stay the night at Prospect Villa guest house.

The following day it was on to Bath, Wellow, Radstock, Wells, Glastonbury and back in to Mark to Jayne’s farm. That was the plan of action and of course, I hadn’t heard of the majority of those places – that’s what these challenges are all about, random new places!

To begin with my blood sugars were running a slight bit higher than they should on average, at 13.3 – but not bad ahead of a long distance cycle, I was happy to go on that. I altered my insulin pattern so that night before around midnight, just before, I injected my background basal rate of Levemir that would be in my system for the next day – with us going early enough. I did take a few units that morning of my Basal – as I on a normal day have a split dosage approx every 12 hours. I lowered my basal insulin to just 6 units, under half the amount I would normally have.

With the previous evening dosage also in my system my mind knew that there was a strong possibility that the first 2 hours could be where my levels drop. We pedalled our way into Cheddar and found ourselves on a rather appealing cycle path by the Reservoir. Unfortunately there was no time to take a detour and find some cheddar cheese, as we were soon in Axbridge and heading up a big hill… where my bike chain fell off. There I tested and saw my Blood Sugars were at 11.0 – the highest on the cycle I am pleased to report. After that they did drop fairly quick, with a 4.6. It was time for a boost. I had my supplies as well as clothes for the morrow on my back and took an energy boost.

We went by the fields where Thatcher’s Cider was founded and that drew my interest.. as well as my Old Man’s and Gary Gunner’s – us London folk enjoy our beverages! Jeff at this stage had become our West Country tour guide leading the way!

It was onto Yatton from there (I don’t know Yatton but I do now…) and then to Nailsea (yeah..) and my sugar levels were very stable recording a 5.2 and a 5.3 in the space of an hour. I kept boosting with two gluco-tabs a time, 8gs of carbohydrates, which seemed to be holding steady.

From there it was on to Bristol… now I know that city! We were lost momentarily but then the locating skills of Jeff Astle once again kicked in and we found ourselves on the Bristol to Bath Railway Path. That, I must say, despite an increasingly sore backside, we a cushty little ride.

Bristol viewIt was onwards from there as my levels registered a 6.3 with 7 miles of the day remaining. We found ourselves coming into Saltford ahead of the darkness at around ten to 3 in the afternoon. My finishing level was 8.0 (I gave it a boost on the railway path that it probably didn’t require as much) but all in all I was very pleased with my control and the fact we’d gotten through the day so well… it was on to the pub from there.

This is the point where we have to apologize to Mrs Astle as Jeff had to make it over to Bristol to see his girls in a show – Mimi doing her thing once again and being a fine example that diabetes isn’t holding her back (with a A1C of 6.3!!). Jeff was an ever so slight bit late, we had ‘one more’ at the pub. It was mainly down to Gary, when he is not being called ‘Where’s Wally’ for going missing on the bike… we know him as Gary ‘One More’. Sorry Annie! After Jeff had embarked on his journey to Bristol, we had a few more one mores before getting some kip to be up in the morning for Day 2! We enjoyed our stay at the Prospect Villa Guest House too and thank them for their hospitality.

Where's Wally

Gary One More above, as Where’s Wally on the 30/30 challenge…

My blood sugar levels registered as follows for Day 1: 13.3 (start) 11.0 (10 miles in), 4.6 (17 miles), 5.2 (25 miles) 5.3 (35 miles) 6.3 (40 miles) 8.0 (finishing level).

Day 2 was interesting as the route we were quite unsure about, what with there being no directions on our map. Jeff of course though had it all in his head – we were saved! It was back onto the Railway Path to Bath and then onto the Two Tunnel Path that covered a large section of the route to Wellow and back on the path after some killer hills to Radstock.

The Tunnels were interesting. The day before we actually had a brief tunnel incident that caught us unawares on the route – my light didn’t work, Jeff didn’t have his light on him and so we tucked behind each others, with Dad and Gary having lights. I found myself behind the Old boys bike but was under the impression Jeff was behind me following along.. I had a chat with ‘Jeff’ as we went through it, but then heard Jeff’s voice shout out “are you Ok Gav?” I thought… ‘that’s some echo – he is behind me!’ I got out the tunnel to see Chris Frome shoot off… Jeff was further ahead.

The Two Tunnel paths were longer and more interesting. There were lights in the tunnels too, which helped matters a great deal. There was also music and a few interesting displays up in there… I would have been happy going by there the whole way – nice and flat ground too! (Kev Winchcombe would have loved it!)

cycle t

My blood sugar levels had started at 13.1 that day – so similar to the day before. After keeping on the 5s for the first part I found them at 4.9 on the road from Wellow to Radstock – but with 3 miles to go, I had no glucose supplies left in my bag and was in need of stocking up. A serious risk of hypoglycaemic I knew was on. I took the remaining swigs of the Lucozade Sport (which from my 30/30 experience I found quite useless for keeping levels up) and made the decision to try and use the adrenaline effect, that I knew from playing football and experimenting with in running, and basically take a risk. The idea was to have a few bursts of hard pedaling combined with just resting and letting the bike run – a change of endurance.

If we could make it to Radstock, a main town, we could recharge in a shop and stock up on supplies. I did this and perhaps took a risk as without cycling experience, this maybe could have burned more energy and crashed me into that hypo.

He who dares Rodders!

I got to Radstock and found my levels at 6.5. It worked! I’m a glucose genius! We filled up on apple pies and raded the shop for what we could… not to mention, we were completely covered in mud at this stage having gone by a really messy off road path in the drizzle – shoppers looked on in shock.

cycle stop point


After Radtsock we had to come more roadside and had a challenge of some big old hills approaching Wells. Once more on the straight into Wells though this was arguably my most enjoyable part of the cycle, with my sugar levels being at 6.6 after a nice Danish Pastry… We were heading into Wells downhill… smashing it about 40 miles per hour or more!

WellsWhen in Wells…

I did most of the second day standing up on my bike – I really didn’t enjoy the butt pain I was going through, so opted to work my legs harder by standing. Hey.. I’m the Diathlete, my legs are iron! They were up to it. It showed me though that I’d be no good in Prison as my backside wasn’t up to it…

From Wells it was onwards to Glastonbury, which had an awful road. It was a festival the night before but I’ve been running on some awful streets in my time – I live by such locations as Erith, Woolwich and co – but this was bloody horrendous. There was glass on the ground, rubbish absolutely everywhere, I couldn’t wait for the right turn that would take us back onto the country lanes!

We had one bad incident where Gary fell off his bike in the town of Meare but he was alright, the imagination of ‘one more’ soon to happen in a local countryside pub got him through…

We completed the cycle in good time and my finishing blood glucose registered in at 8.8mml/l so all in all, very pleased. It goes to show that no matter the sport, the hobby, the challenge – type 1 diabetes can’t prevent you from succeeding. In this case, my sugars were spot on throughout more or less.

If you would like to donate to support Diabetes UK and JDRF UK in support of my efforts of the 30/30 challenge and this cycle adventure, please feel free to see this link here and the donation lines are open until mid December 2013.

Pictured below is the cycle team: Gary Gunner, Vince Griffiths (the Old Boy), Jeff Astle and myself.

cycle finish point



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