Staffs to Snowdon Update: October 18th

I woke up at 4 am with a blocked nose and a heavy head and an awareness that I had not had a goods night sleep. Anne suggested that I should postpone until my cold had completely gone, but doing this ride was in my plan. My friend Paul was shadowing me in his van and he would be on his way soon. I knew once I started my head would clear and I could get on with the task at hand.
It was forecast to rain from 4 am until about 7 am. I looked out of the window and it was completely dry and I could see the stars. So they got the forecast wrong again. I left home at 5 am and started to focus on my first meeting point with Paul at Norbury Locks which where about 30 km away.
I noticed that the stars had gone, which only meant one thing, clouds, then it started to rain. It was really light to start off with but as I approached Milford it was time to put the waterproof jacket on. It did rain until about 7 am and I wish that I had put my waterproof overshoes on as my feet where soaking wet and really cold.
Norbury Locks 6:30 am: Getting ready to carry on.
I arrived at Norbury Locks to be greeted by Paul in the car park. I was on time and feeling good. I had a slight niggle at the back of my left knee but nothing to worry about. My head had cleared and the rain had stopped.
The 2nd leg of my ride was completely on the canal. I was meeting up with Paul at a pub called the Bridge Inn which was at the 60 km mark, so it was time to get going and put in another 30 km.
The tow path quickly deteriorated to a grass covered uneven muddy mess and it stayed like it over the whole 30 km. There were a few bits that were quite good and I was able to gain a bit of speed but I would say over the majority, about 90% of it I was riding between 10-12 kph (6-7 mph) and unable to go much faster. The towpath around the towns and villages always improved but as soon as you went rural it was back to riding over a farmers field.
The Bridge at The Bridge Inn, Audlem
Again I met Paul and enjoyed a nice hot cup of coffee, I changed over to my mountain bike purely for the benefit of front suspension. My arms and shoulders were aching after the continual pounding from the towpath. I had also hurt my left knee, that niggle had progressed into a pain after riding through so deep very wet mud and putting the power down to get traction, the back wheel span on the spot. I had damaged the soft tissue in my knee. 
The towpath stayed the same up to 5 km south of Chester. So the first 30 km I was riding at about 25 kph then following 65 km was between 10 – 12 kph. Grueling. I did feel like I had done 10 rounds in a boxing ring by this time I reached the outskirts of Chester. With my head cold, I was nursing an injured knee, my arms and shoulders were aching and I had not got much left to give in my legs. Then there was the wind. As I progressed north the wind was picking up and it was continually coming straight at me. All in all maybe I should have stayed in bed. Then again what a great training day, when I do this ride again next Summer it won’t be this bad and I will be fitter so this has been a great learning experience.
It is time to change bikes I think!
So in summary about the Shropshire Union Canal, unless you are on a Narrow boat it is hard work except at Nantwich where they have tarmaced it for about 2 km. 
The ride into Chester was great, the towpath progressively got better from hard standing into tarmac. The canal through Chester looks lovely, in fact it requires a day out to explore. So much history, fine buildings and canal from yesteryear. 
Because the path had improved so much I decided to carry on to Flint. I was conscious now of nursing my left knee and was putting pressure on my right knee to compensate. Chester was my original goal although I was keen to see how far I could go. Giving myself an injury was not the way to go. After all I do have other things to do and am not paid to ride bikes so it was time to be smart and make Flint my end goal.
From Chester they have turned a disused railway into a cycle path, probably the best cycle path I have been on. The tarmac was so smooth. I was back up to 25 kph. It was hurting but I was on the home straight for today. Although my body was aching I had the energy to carry on but most importantly my mind was still focused and mentally I had not given up, in fact I had a little battle with myself about getting to Prestatyn. I so wanted to get there, but logically I should stop. Prestatyn will have to wait until next July.
Ready for the journey home

I met Paul in the Asda car park in Flint, which was right next to McDonalds so after a quick change in their toilets I treated myself to a Burger and Fries. and we set off on the journey home. 

Sat here the day after, writing this with my head full of cold and my knee strapped up my only regret is eating the burger and fries. I should have had a salad.
But thinking back to earlier this year. In June I was going out and riding about 20 km a week. It has only been 5 months and I have just completed 121 km in 1 day. I have another 8 months until I do my ride for Charity. I have come so far in 5 months, I have lost over 2 stone in weight. I have done the hard part. I started and have kept going. I have felt like quitting but the driving force in all of this is Anne.
She has endured over 12 months battling Breast Cancer. Throughout all her treatments, the bad times and the awful times, she has felt like giving up. But that was not an option. Anne like every other Cancer survivor has had to find that inner strength to endure and meet the day head on, one day at a time. Facing the possibility of death. Being injected with poison in the hope it will irradicate the Cancer. Having no choice but to fight another day. THAT IS STRENGTH!!!
To not ride yesterday because I felt a bit under the weather. To think about quitting because it was a bit hard over the last 5 months. Just feels stupid when you consider what Anne has gone through. I have to do this to put myself in the best physical shape so I am strong enough to be their for Anne and the boys. It comes back to the quote by Jim Rohn.

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