Twelve months ago Jean Holland from Herne Bay made some drastic changes – she gave up sugar and wheat, lost a stone in weight and decided to get moving again. Although she was serious about getting fit, she had no idea that one year on she’d be training to ride 100 miles in Pilgrims Hospices Cycle Challenge.
“I was 54 and used to run half marathons, but hadn’t run for a couple of years,” explains Jean. “I decided I wasn’t going to do the boring gym stuff, because I hated it and I wanted to do something I would enjoy.”
Jean bought a bike, got in touch with Breeze – a cycling group that organises women-only rides – and got pedalling. Shortly after she signed up to Pilgrims’ Divas on Wheels ride, choosing the 25-mile challenge; it was her way of giving something back.
“My dad, Dave Holland, died from cancer in 2011. He spent a couple of weeks in the Canterbury hospice whilst they were trying to sort out his medication.
My dad died from cancer in 2011. He spent a couple of weeks in the Canterbury hospice. I was terrified at the thought of a hospice, but when I first visited him I immediately changed my view. It was such a warm, welcoming place with such a relaxed atmosphere.
“I was terrified at the thought of a hospice, but when I first visited him I immediately changed my view. It was such a warm, welcoming place with such a relaxed atmosphere.
“When he came home we had two visits a day from the lovely hospice ladies who washed and dressed him, and the nurses who took care of him. Between them they enabled us to keep Dad at home until the end, which meant so much to us all.”
Getting into gear
Jean’s first cycling test was the Divas nine-mile practice ride on 6 May 2017, and it’s a day that will stay in her memory.
“I remember it vividly,” recalls Jean. “I turned up in jeans, my padded jacket, a long-strapped handbag containing a bottle of water and leather gloves. I was so embarrassed when I saw everybody in Lycra!”
When the Divas on Wheels ride finally came round, Jean rode with two friends and the group named themselves the Dream Team. It was a momentous occasion for Jean, and very hot at 34 degrees!
“I took a bag of Jelly Babies with me for energy. We stopped for a breather and I took them out of my pocket to offer them round, but they had melted into a huge gelatinous lump! We all had a bite out of it.”
After a Jelly Baby boost and pushing her bike up a couple of hills, Jean finally crossed the line to a hero’s welcome.
“I remember it as being a really happy day. Loads of my family turned up to welcome me back! I really felt I had achieved something and I raised about £340 in donations.”
Cycling to get out, get fit and lose weight is fantastic, but it’s even better when you’re doing it for others, too. Knowing that with every push of the pedal you’re raising money for a charity close to your heart is a massive motivator.
Now Jean’s thoughts have turned to the The Century – the 100-mile route in Pilgrims Hospices Cycle Challenge. Every Wednesday she pedals through the Kent countryside to clock up another personal best; her latest is 51 miles. At weekends she cycles with the Breeze ladies.
“I intend to do 60 miles next week and will keep doing similar until the weekend before the Pilgrims ride. I’m also doing a 100km charity ride in April, which will be a final push. It will set me up for the big ride.”
Although Jean has a plan, the nerves are setting in. “It took five hours to do the 51 miles, so it’s going to take at least 10 to do the 100. It took me ages to get to sleep last night, worrying about getting back in the dead of night after everyone has gone home!”
Fortunately, Jean has been encouraged by Fiona Baker from the outset and will be teaming up with Angela Mills on the day. Both women are Breeze champions.
“I very quickly fell in love with cycling but I know for sure that if it wasn’t for Fiona, I wouldn’t be where I am now. She’s my hero! For those who have just started, I’d definitely recommend a group like Breeze. It’s changed my life.”
Asked if she has any other advice for beginners, Jean said: “Not really. I’m the one who needs the encouraging words!”
We beg to differ! Here’s what we’ve learned talking to Jean:
Five top tips for Cycle Challenge 2018
- Do it for others Cycling to get out, get fit and lose weight is fantastic, but it’s even better when you’re doing it for others, too. Knowing that with every push of the pedal you’re raising money for a charity close to your heart is a massive motivator.
- Join a cycling group You’ll go much further much quicker by discovering rides and routes you never knew existed, and by cycling with others you’ll get up to speed faster.
- Get the gear You can have all the gear and still no idea, but when it comes to cycling the right clothing and equipment helps a lot – and you don’t need to spend a fortune to ensure a smoother ride. Remember to keep well hydrated and have energy snacks on hand (even gelatinous Jelly Babies can give you a much-needed boost!)
- Set achievable training goals Dedicate a specific time in the week to training and stick with it. It’s important to see your performance improve. Keep it interesting; try new routes and challenges to build up to the big day.
- Find a hero Jean wouldn’t be where she is now without the support of those who’ve been there and done it before. Draw inspiration from other cyclists, whether they’re new buddies or sporting legends.
Jean is hoping to raise £300 for Pilgrims; if you’d like to support her you can visit her JustGiving page. We wish her and her team all the very best for Sunday 6 May!
Thinking about joining Jean and other cyclists at Pilgrims Hospices Cycle Challenge to raise money for Pilgrims? Find out more and sign up today.
We’ll see you there!