Our athlete, Charlotte Roach, this weekend completes her inspirational journey cycling from Beijing, back to the UK through 15 countries. This trip was to raise funds for the Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Rutland Air Ambulance
(DLRAA) that saved her life when she suffered an accident on her bike during triathlon training back in 2009.
The air ambulance lifted Charlotte from the accident within minutes of losing her life and, unlike other services, carries a doctor onboard who was able address her injuries immediately.
Charlotte has so far raised an impressive £6,603.62 which is 91% of her £7,200 target. With only days to go, she would love to raise the remaining £597.38 in which the funds will contribute towards continuing to support the onboard attendance of doctors during flight missions.
Before Charlotte's accident, she was making promising progress on the first year of the trigold programme, which fast tracks runners with a swimming background into triathlon. The trigold programme has also progressed Katie Hewison, Adam Bowden, Matt Gunby and Mark Buckingham and is entirely funded by Barrie.
Charlotte is due to land in the UK this Saturday morning and she will then make her way to London using the budget bike she picked up in Beijing which has managed to survive the gruelling 6 month journey.
We caught up with Charlotte this week to reflect on the experience...
How would you briefly sum up your trip?
My trip has certainly been everything I expected and more - unpredictable, unforgettable, depressing, tough, lonely and overall, delightful.
You have raised a lot of money for the air ambulance. How will this be used and do you plan to keep your involvement ongoing?
The money for the air ambulance will go towards supporting a doctor on their flight missions. It was these extra skills that saved my life. Yes I'd like to fundraise again for the service; you never know who is going to need it (motorists and cyclists out there)!
What were your high and low points?
My high points have been meeting local people and being invited to join them in their everyday life and crossing country borders is always a great boost. A low point is unquestionably the extreme loneliness on the road, sometimes not passing anyone for hours and someone who speaks English for days. But it's definitely been a learning experience.
What have you learnt about yourself?
I think I've learnt that I'm quite flexible to adapt to route changes and changes in routines, laws and languages of different countries and fairly reluctant to give up, striking a point most recently where I was very, very lonely and didn't want to go on - but I really couldn't stop either. So I'm still ploughing away (with much needed support from home).
What was your favourite place and why?
My favourite place was the Chinese mountains outside Xian. The tough beauty of the landscape rivals anything the Alps or other major cycling locations have to offer. So untouched, empty and HARD... we climbed 21,000m in six days!
What was the nicest food you tried?
I've become a fan of Chinese food. It's very different to Chinese food you get in the UK... in some areas incredibly spicy. My favourites have been tea soaked eggs and also a bready meaty stew. The stew felt quite homely and was great after riding.
Tell us one of your most memorable moments?
Getting picked up by the police in China several times and driven back around 100km to where we'd started that day! Solely because foreigners aren't allowed to stay in certain places!
How do you feel this journey has changed you?
I don't think I've changed a great deal but I've certainly learnt a lot and have experienced many new, weird and wonderful things.
How did the trip impact on you physically?
For a cyclist, 100km is nothing special but add 20kg of baggage, thick tyres and then repeat it practically every day for 6 months, regardless of the terrain and it's pretty challenging. I'm most surprised that my injuries have held out.
What's next for Charlotte Roach?
I'm currently unsure. I've certainly missed competing and running but something tells me I should maybe do a few bike races.
How is your bike looking?
My bike is doing incredibly well, a cheap pick up from Beijing- I can't believe it's held out!
To contribute to Charlotte's dream of reaching her target, donate here.