Around Christmas, 2013, my son, Sam, and I decided to see if we could ride the FRED WHITTON CHALLENGE in 2014. This is widely regarded as one of the toughest single day rides in the UK. It was set up in memory of Cumbrian cyclist Fred Whitton and has become an incredibly well supported event. This year, there were 2000 cyclists.
The route involves 112 miles around the English Lake District – including climbs over Kirkstone, Honister, Newlands, Whinlatter, Hardknott and Wrynoses Passes – climbing a combined total of 3950 m.
We both managed to get places to ride on Sunday, 11th May. I was under absolutely no illusion as to how tough it would be and, in January, gave some serious thought to my preparation.
At that time, I was teaching at a school 25 miles from my home. Up till then, I had been getting to and from school by combination of train and bike – cycling approximately 25 miles per day.
I decided that I would start to ride the whole way – so for some months I increased my daily mileage to 50 miles per day i.e. 250 miles per week.
During this time I became very fit and lost 2 stones in weight.
Sam and I successfully completed the Fred Whitton Challenge and raised in excess of £1000 for MacMillan Charity Care.
For over 30 years I have been ‘vegetarian’. Initially, I continued to eat fish – but then cut this out of my diet some years ago. I suppose I had been what some people now describe as ‘Pescatarian’.
I continued to consume milk, dairy products and eggs.
Three years ago I decided to remove a lot of milk from my diet – no longer using it in tea, coffee or on cereal. However, I found it quite difficult to stop eating cheese, cake and other baked products which often contained milk and eggs.
At Christmas 2013, I decided to try and cycle the Fred Whitton Challenge (a very tough 112 miles around the Lake District, including all the major road passes) and I thought it might be a good idea to remove cheese from my diet. At this point I was very close to having an entirely plant based diet.
Immediately I decided to cut all animal products out of my diet.
In addition, I read a lot about vegan diets and began to add many plant foods which I had rarely, if ever, eaten before. Amongst other ingredients this has included tofu, tempeh, seitan, nutritional yeast, miso, tahini, hemp, flax, chia, spirulina.
I am in no doubt whatsoever that this change in my diet contributed significantly in helping me to lose weight and increase my strength and fitness which allowed me to complete the Fred Whitton Challenge and other endurance events more recently. Over the weekend of 27th and 28th September, I completed successfully 2 Wiggle sportives – on the Saturday 101 miles around Yorkshire (including part of the Tour de France route in the Dales) and on the Sunday 100 plus miles around the Derbyshire Peak District – both very hilly!
My plant based diet is also much more in line with my long held interest in and concern about the environment and associated issues.