Neil’s Story – Preparing for the Go Ghana Cycle Challenge

‘Your Story’ is part of a new series here on the Grapevine, where we hear the inspiring tales of seemingly ‘normal’ people heading off on extraordinary adventures.

This week we heard from Neil who is preparing for the Go Ghana Cycle Challenge 2011. Sam caught up with him to learn more about how best to prepare for such a challenge.

Who are you?

My name is Neil Hollins, I am a 43 year young Account Director/Business Developer for an IT and Business Services company that helps find solutions for Public Service organisations. I lives in south Birmingham, have been married for 17 years to my wife Jill and I have a 14 year daughter called Elise.

Why did this event in particular appeal?

I wanted to support the Friends of Tafo charityand Georgina because she is so passionate about what the charity does to support the people in the town ofKwahu-Tafo. It is also a really hard challenge which I would need to train hard for which really appealed.

Also, turning the big 40 I wanted to find a way of giving back to society. I got into cycling last year after purchasing a Garmin Satnav for my bike. I am a gadget nut. I bought it in the January sale and really enjoy looking where I have cycled on the PC and planning new routes.

So, supporting Georgina’s charity and cycling was a perfect combination for me and much better than the London-Brighton bike ride!

What training methods have you adopted?

I have been mainly cycling on a mountain bike which we will be using in Ghana. My bike is heavy and hard work which is good for building strength. I am interval training and following training recommendations from Nicole Cooke (Olympic Gold Medalist in Beijing 2008) from her book “Cycle for Life“. I highly recommend this as a good introduction into cycling for anyone, what ever their goal.

I have also been following Paul McKennas “I Can Make You Thin” techniques. With the combination of the exercise and eating I have lost 3.5 stones since January. Last year I cycled 1,000 miles in total and this year I have already done 700 miles since January. My target is to cycle 1,200 by September before the challenge. I really want to be fit enough so that I can actually enjoy the experience.

I also have converted our garage into a gym with small multi-gym and glider. The multi-gym for building strength and the glider for cardio, especially when the weather is too wet or windy and when it’s snowing earlier in the year.

I have found that cycling is also a really great social activity and have encouraged a few friends to help with the training. More experienced friends have been a great support on nutrition and hydration which is so important on such gruelling challenges.

What kit are you planning on using?

The bikes are provided for us by Ghana Bike and Hike but we can take our own saddle – phew! as I feel that we are now one after so many miles spent together.

I will also take my own cycle helmet and hydration pack in a ruck sack. My cycle shoes are also very important, I used to get pins and needles on long rides wearing trainers so I visited a good local cycle shop who diagnosed that I needed cycle shoes with a hard, non-flex sole. I only went into the shop for advice and walked out with the shoes and a 700 road bike!

I will also take comfy cycle gear and padded gloves for all the expected potholes.

How are you raising your sponsorship?

I have mainly raised sponsorship through Virgins Money Giving online website with support from family, friends and colleagues plus planning fundraising events such as a car boot and raffles. The Virgin site is veryconvenientand I have been overwhelmed by people’s generosity.

The acid test: Are you keeping the health and fitness up, and do you plan to do anything like this again?!

I think that I am hooked for life now on cycling. I really love being out on the roads exploring new places in the local area andI regularly see people in their 60’s, 70’scyclingearly on a Sunday morning (even a 70 year old couple on their tandem) so is something that I know I can do for many more years to come.

I definitely think I would do something like this again and I am sure that my first trip to Africa will be a real life changing experience and will make me want to do even more.

Good luck Neil!

Neil has already made a total of 1,843 including gift aid of his 3000 target. You can follow Neils preparations in hisGo Ghana Cycle Blogand contribute directly to theFriends of Tafocause throughNeil’s Virgingiving page.

Want to find out more about this event?We spoke to the man behind the Go Ghana Cycle Challenge 2011, click here to read the article.

Feeling Inspired?If you fancy an adventure of your own in Ghana but think a week long cycle challenge might be a bit much, check out some of our alternative muchbetter holiday choicesin Ghana.

If you’ve got an adventure of your own that you think we should feature,let us know!

4 Replies to “Neil’s Story – Preparing for the Go Ghana Cycle Challenge”

  1. Looking forward to meeting you in Ghana Neil, I am also doing the Kwaho-Tafo bike ride. My training has been horribly intermittent due to a) work – which was (almost non-stop for June and July) and b) injury – I’ve got a bruise on my right hand from the handlebars I think, and cycling was sadly out of the question this week. I’ve been in Los Angeles for the last month and cycled from Venice Beach down to Torrance and back every morning, or every other morning, a round trip of 33 miles. But I’m working again next week, so there won’t be much cycling in Tennessee either. Hopefully I can put some miles under my belt when I get home, but at least the heat here (up to 100 degrees inland, 90 on the coast) has prepared me for the Ghana experience. I think ! No idea what to expect really….
    best wishes

    Ralph Brown

  2. Hi Ralph,
    Good to hear from you and like-wise looking forward to meeting you for the Ghana Cycle Challenge. It sounds good that you are able to train in the heat unlike here in the UK with driving winds and rain! I think that the heat, terrain and being on the bike for so many hours are going to be tough but looking forward to cycling as a group. Most of my training has been on my own putting in the miles and hours and I have really enjoyed those rides with friends for support.
    Cannot believe that it is only three weeks to go and the time has flown by!

    Look forward to seeing you at Heathrow for the flight to Ghana. Best wishes Neil.

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