She had to battle a broken bike, hundreds of miles of hill climbs and even the famed Hardknott Pass, but nurse Jo Davies has completed two 150+ mile marathon charity cycle challenges.
Jo, who is married to Bishop John, took on both the ‘Coast to Coast in a Day’ and ‘Wales in a Day’ races for Canine Partners, a charity which aims to transform the lives of people living with disabilities by providing them with assistance dogs.
She was inspired to take on the challenge after getting to know Jo Hill, who herself enjoyed sport and trained for triathlons, but was left wheelchair-bound and in severe pain after a traffic accident.
Jo met Gavin, Jo Hill’s husband on a ride from Land’s End to John O’Groats and he introduced the pair to each other through social media because of their mutual love of labradors.
Canine Partners works to restore people’s independence, ensuring that the dogs are right for people they are partnered with. It also works in partnership with Help for Heroes, the Royal British Legion and other service organisations to provide assistance dogs for veterans and those wounded in service.
Jo said: “It’s utterly amazing what these dogs can do such as loading and unloading the washing machine, helping strip the bed, picking things up, fetching and carrying, taking money from the cash machine, opening doors even helping in the garden.”
First up for Jo was the Coast to Coast in a Day, a 155-mile route from Seascale to Whitby featuring some of the top climbs in the country.
“With the Coast to Coast I had two aims,” Jo said. “The first was obviously to physically complete it; but the other – because I find with these long rides and big climbs – was the to overcome the sheer mental challenge. There was one particular climb, about 15 miles into the ride, which I just had conquer: Hardknott Pass, without getting off the bike. Part of that climb, which is more than a mile long, is over 33%. The steepest I’d ever climbed is 25%, but there has to be something in any ride which I can achieve for myself.”
The night before a couple of ladies at the registration asked Jo what her aims were and “Forget Hardknott” was their message. They’d done it before. “Too exhausting and so early in the ride.” They told her, so Jo was a bit downhearted. But the following morning she bumped into a ‘chaperone’ who asked the same question.
“He said if I wanted to do Hardknott I should stick with him. I did, and it was the best thing that could have happened. He told me how to tackle it. I took a deep breath at the start of the ride, and I did it.”
After that success, for the rest of the day Jo rode on pure adrenaline and “with one of the biggest grins ever”.
At the end of the race she phoned Jo Hill who was ecstatic. The gruelling race took from 5.30am until just after 7pm and it wasn’t just the terrain which Jo had to overcome.
“There were a couple of nasty accidents and we even had tacks thrown onto the road. But it was a beautiful ride and the fish and chips at the end were amazing,” Jo said.
Next up was ‘Wales in a Day’, 181-miles from Caernarfon to Chepstow, a ride that Jo has tackled before, and this time she felt that she was in a better place to do it. But it was fraught with bike problems throughout.
“Within mile three I had a mechanical failure and then, at mile 15 while I was climbing Llanberis Pass, another. I managed to limp along to the first pit-stop, 25 miles in, where a mechanic found that those two failures had caused eight damaged spokes and a buckled wheel. He straightened it all out, and off I went again.”
But just after Hundred House, and with 70 miles to go, Jo’s gears failed completely on a hill climb.
“I managed to get up the hill to a cottage and got hold of our daughter, Kate and she brought me out a second bike. With one major climb left, Gospel Pass, on I went, got to the end at late dusk.”
That ride began at 4.05am and ended at 10.15pm, but there was little time for the emergency nurse practitioner at Brecon’s War Memorial Hospital to catch her breath. “I had one day to recover and then it was back on to a 12-hour shift on the Monday.”
Jo didn’t take up the sport until 2013, when injury ended her passion for long-distance walking.
“My knee wasn’t coping, so I looked for something else and tried cycling. Because I had worked for the Organ Transplant field, I had the idea of cycling round all the hospitals in South Wales to raise money for organ donation so that’s what kicked it all off. Then the year after did my first real organised event which was ‘London Revolution’.
“I had a year off when I was suffering from a bout of depression and that was tough, because cycling really does help you mentally. But I just couldn’t get on the bike, and thought that was the end of my cycling time. But I’m full; fit again so it’s that we’re coming towards the end of the summer which will mean less time on the bike.”
But with her bike still in for repairs, Jo’s thoughts are already turning to next year’s challenges.
“I’ve signed up to do the Coast to Coast and Wales in a Day events again,” she said “and I’m also hoping to do the London to Paris race. There’s such camaraderie when you’re out there, people are able to track you and send messages to lift you up when you’re down – there’s so much support.”
Jo has already passed her £1,000 target for Canine Partners, but sponsorship will remain open for another couple of months
You can sponsor Jo at http:/virginmoneygiving.com/2rides4Caninepartners