Thursday 6 June 2013

John O Groats to Lands End - part 3

John O Groats to Lands end - part 3.

There is a saying in cycling which says that "it doesn't get any easier, you just get faster", that is spot on!
It certainly doesn't get easier!

Today is the day I leave home for John O Groats, the training has been tough, tougher than I ever thought it would be. Just think about how bad the weather has been, everybody I know has been complaining about the wind, rain and the lack of sunshine. Then imagine having to get your bike out and ride for anywhere between 5 to 7 hours at a time in these conditions because that's exactly what I have had to do over the last couple of months.

When I started this challenge you picture in your mind cycling down country roads with the sun on your back on a lovely sunny summer day, well it couldn't be further from this if it tried.

Despite the weather there has been lots of positives:

I have trained harder than I have ever done before, I have cycled over 3,000 miles since October and I have lost over 3 stone and even though I still don't look good in Lycra I have never been in the 14stone category since I past it as a teenager. And amazingly I have stopped dieting and eat more than I have ever done, so no more fad diets just get on a bike!

I finally conquered my demon hill, Shaley Brow. I certainly wont set the record for the fastest ascent of this monster but I have conquered it! I'm not ashamed to admit that I let out a cheer on reaching the summit for the first time it was the hardest thing I had done on a bike but the "wall of tarmac" doesn't give me sleepless nights anymore and I ride up it at least once a week just to prove I can.

I have ridden 100 miles more than once in a single day. The first time took 7 hours of cycling and it hurt! It hurt both physically and mentally its amazing how dark your mind goes and then starts filling with self doubt as you approach another incline but it proved to myself  that I can dig deep and I can do it. The next problem will be doing that and more everyday for 9 days but I cross that bridge when I come to it!

I know the ride will be tough but being away from my wife and family will be tougher. I have never spent more than a couple of nights apart from Nicola in the 25 years we have been together. She has been amazing during my training putting up with me moaning and either being at work or out on the bike and doing very little in between, but I wouldn't expect anything else from her because she is amazing and that why I love her! I am already looking forward to day 5 when we camp at Aintree race course because that will be the day i get a visit from them and get to spend the night at home! 

I always knew the biggest challenge when doing this event would be me,  I am my biggest critic and am always questioning myself. Its difficult to explain but no matter how hard I work I always think I can't do it and I could have done more training and I know there are people who don't think I can do it and have been expecting me to get injured or to pull out, however I am determined to do this and will complete this no matter what.

I would like to thank everyone who has sponsored me so far after all that's why I am doing this to raise money for our Charities Tommy's and Bliss.

I know I can't expect people to sponsor me for every event we do,  so I promise that this will be the last event I ask you to do so for a long long time.  This doesn't mean that I won't take part in other events because I will, I will always continue to promote our foundation in memory of my granddaughter but I will support the other people who volunteer their time and effort to raise money for our chosen charities.

So if you can i would really appreciate it if you could click on the link below and support me in my challenge.


Finally I want to mention my granddaughter Isabella, you are the reason I am doing this and I miss you every single day. The pain of losing you has never gone away and even though your not here you have changed my life. We have done so much in your memory and have helped other families who have suffered stillbirth and babies born too soon because of you. I love you and I always will and over the next 9 days I will be thinking of you every minute of every day! I hope I make you proud xxxx
Thank you for reading my blog and wish me luck!

Friday 25 January 2013

John O Groats to Lands End (JogLe) - Bike ride part 2


Lands End to John O Groats Bike Ride Part 2.

Its now October and a new "flying machine" super carbon fibre bike has been purchased! Its supposed to make riding easier but guess what it doesn't, the ride is smoother but the training is still brutal and I don't think I will ever like riding up hills! However the weather is reasonably dry and until the clocks go back I'm managing to get out on a night after work and a longish ride on a Saturday.

As soon as the dark nights arrive that's me done! I certainly do not feel comfortable or safe trying to ride long night rides on our brilliant roads. Its only when you take to two wheels do you realise the state of our roads with more and more potholes appearing on a daily basis.

You also to appreciate how many bad / ignorant drivers there are on the road! This includes the idiot (language modified here) who thought it would be ok to pull out of a side street straight across the cycle lane I was riding in and then started to give me abuse as though it was my fault! To be fair there are also a large number of cyclist who are plain stupid and think its ok to dress all in black in the dark with no lights on their bike.

Riding a bike has certainly made me more aware on the roads maybe it should be a compulsory part of a driving test, but there again if you taught people to respect each other and just a few basic manners that would be an improvement.

Cycling has become my new obsession, its all I ever think and talk about and I know I'm driving people mad but the size of the challenge I have signed up to is daunting. I can honestly say that's its the first thing I think about when I wake up and the last thing I think about before I go to sleep and that's if I can sleep as there has been many restless nights thinking about the this ride.

The realisation of how hard this will be for me has well and truly sunk in but I am determined. The training comes first and I plan my week and weekends around it, on the plus size I have now lost 25lbs and officially I have gone from Obese to overweight on the BMI scale, i think Dr Christian would be proud!

I have now progressed to cleats (clip in pedals) instead of the normal pedals as I have been advised that its the only way of getting up those hills as your supposed to be more efficient! Well they should also come with a health warning, the first time I used them I forgot I had to "unclip" and pulled up at a round about but couldn't get my foot out and fell flat on my face!
Fortunately my embarrassment hurt more than the actual fall, and as everyone keeps telling me everybody does it the first time you use them but this doesn't give to comfort when your lying on the floor with the bike in on top of you!

In order to keep up with the number of rides I have purchased an indoor turbo trainer which basically you attach the bike to to enable you to get some miles done inside. Yes its boring but at least I can continue my training no matter what the weather. The addition of a tv in our utility room makes the training more bearable even if it sometimes its as hot as the the South of France due to the constant use of our tumble dryer which appears to be on 24hours a day, no wonder my electric bill is so high!

On the rare occasion I take to the roads I have decided to take on a few of the local hills but there is one beast of a hill that I am yet to conqueror locally known as shalely brow but to me its known as EVEREST!

I have tried and failed a couple of times, there is a sign that's says its a 14% climb and I couldn't help thinking that i should be able to get up this and have really been dejected thinking if I cant get up this how am I going to get up those hills in Devon. However I have recently been sent an article written by a local cyclists who described it as a vertical wall of tarmac and that the 14% is the average but at the top it rises to massive 28.5% incline. I have to admit that this did make me feel less of a failure.

On my last attempt I got further than I did before and generally gave it everything I had forcing every last bit of effort I had in the lowest gear I have. The sweat was pumping the legs were aching and my garmin heart rate monitor was bleeping away telling me my heart rate was too high it actually reached 194bpm but again I had to turn round. Bradley Wiggins I am not but I will be back I am determined it wont beat me, in the mean time Im thinking of trying to get in touch with Lance Armstrong for advice he found hills no problem at all!

Its now January and this training is beginning to pay off as I have said I have lost 25lbs so far and have started training twice a day four days a week with a long training session at the weekend. Getting up before work and doing 30mins on a bike is not easy for me as I have never been a morning person but I am beginning to feel the benefit. I know I have a long way to go and still a lot of weight to shift but I have made a good start.

I would like to point out that all money raised will be divided equally between the Charities we support and all costs for this event are being paid by me and a couple Company sponsors, this means that 100% of all donations will go to the charities as always.

If you feel you would like to make a donation please click on the link below or you can pay via our web site

Thank you


Virgin Money Giving Isabella Rose Foundation

Friday 18 January 2013

John O Groats to Lands End (Jogle) bike ride - part 1.


As one of the founder members of the Isabella Rose Foundation I am always looking for new challenges to raise funds for the charities we support (Bliss, Tommys & Whiston Hospital) so with that in mind I have signed up for the 2013 John O Groats to Lands End cycle ride.

The ride is 960 miles over 9 days of some of the most beautiful but most difficult roads in the UK, and if that doesn't sound hard enough I am 42, unfit,  I weighed 18 stones and when you consider that besides the occasional family leisure rides I haven't regularly ridden a bike for the past 25 years you may be wondering why am I doing this.

Well this blog will hopefully explain why and explain to you exactly how hard this challenge actually is!

It all started during a family holiday to Scotland in 2011 we visited John O Groats and like everybody else who drive the seemingly endless miles to the end of the country we stood in a queue to have our picture with the famous white sign.

In the queue we stood next to a lady from Sweden who over the last three weeks had just cycled from lands end on her own, "it's the best way to see a country" she said. I think this is when the seed first set in my mind to cycle from one end of the country to the other.

However I never gave it another thought for six months or so until I came across an article about the Deloitte RAB LeJog 2012. The ride that year was due to take place in September and when the event started I followed the progress of the ride on their website and twitter and even visited their overnight camp site at Haydock during that week. It seemed a well organised set up and I began to wonder if I could actually do it, so I registered an interest on their website for the 2013 ride.

Then at the end of September I received an email from the organisers regarding registering for the 2013 ride. So in what I can only describe as a moment of madness I signed up for the event.

I have never been fit or athletic and I have always been over ambitious when it comes to setting personal goals but this takes it to another level even for me!

About 10 mins after I signed up I sat down at my desk, put and my head in my arms and thought what the hell have I done.

So in September 2012 I started my training for the 2013 ride which will take place in June.
I'm over 6ft and as I stand on the scales the needle creaks up to a massive 18 stones so if I'm going to take part and hopefully complete 960 miles over 9 days through some of the most hilly parts of the country I had better get some serious training done.

The first problem I had was I needed a bike suitable of completing long distances, now when I was a kid they were called racers however nowadays I discover they are called road bikes. There are two main differences they are now made out of carbon fibre and the price! You can buy a small car for the costs of these new bikes but if I'm going to do it I am going to do it right so after weeks looking around a brand new carbon fibre all singing and dancing bike is purchased.

Training has begun and I will update how its going in part2.

In the mean time please take a look at our website for details on our foundation and who we support.

And if you would like to sponsor me for this event you can through our website or click the link below

Virgin Money Giving Isabella Rose Foundation


Saturday 23 June 2012



Its been a couple of weeks since my last blog, and to be honest with you I have had a tough few weeks.

Running the foundation is really rewarding but its also emotionally draining. It gives me a great sense of satisfaction knowing we are raising money to help others whilst keeping Isabella's name alive, but the downside is it constantly brings into focus that Isabella is not here and she should be!

It was my birthday last week and it really hit me that Isabella would have been visiting her granddad with her mum, but instead I was visting Isabellas grave.

I consider myself to be a strong person who has the ability to just get on with things, to be the strong one when the rest of the family are struggling. However recently thats not been the case so I decided to take a break from the foundation for a couple of weeks even though I still did work on the upcoming ball.

Then last night Nicola and I attended a fundraising night set up by Rachel Buckley. Rachel is a similar age to my daughter and like my daughter her and her partner Scott's little girl; Scarlett Aurora Campbell was stillborn in Whiston hospital.

We didn't know Rachel or her family before Isabella and Scarlett became Angels and we hadn't even met them before last night. We heard of their story through someone who works with Nicola and we became in contact through the power of twitter and in the last couple of months became friends with her and other members of her family including her wonderful mum Debbie.

Rachel is inspirational! Through the tragedy of what has happened to them they, like us are trying to make a difference and help others in the same situation. They do this by raising the awareness of stillbirth and fundraising for their chosen charity Tommys. (They raised over £3,000 last night)

Their message is simple but powerful Still Birth Still Matters!

Rachel last night gave a very emotional speech sharing with us Scarlett's story. It isn't my place to tell you all the details but briefly Rachel was 9 days overdue when they lost Scarlett through a complication with her amniotic fluid. Her bravery in telling Scarlett's story had everyone in tears last night.

Rachel believes that Scarlett would have been saved if she had had a ultra sound scan in the later stages of her pregnancy, and this is something we also believe would have saved Isabella.

At the moment the vast majority of women have their last scan at 20weeks basically half way through the pregnancies! What happens if in the later part of the pregnancy you develop a problem? The answer is simple nothing! Isabella died as a result of a placenta abruption at 26 weeks. this was undetected and she was stillborn at 31weeks. A simple ultra sound scan would have spotted this and maybe just maybe she would have been saved.

The same applies to Scarlett and a scan in the third trimester would have highlighted a potential problem and maybe she too could have been saved.

Rachel and her family have set up a government e-petition fighting for a compulsory scan in the third trimester of a pregnancy. This simple procedure undoubtably would save lives yet we don't do it whilst other countries do! You have to ask yourself why we dont do this and the answer is probably because of the cost. Yet how much does this actually cost and how much of a cost can you put on a life.

We fully intend to support the e-petition our families may have lost our Angels through different reasons yet this one change could and we believe would have saved them both!

We have some amazing family, friends, supporters and followers who have been more than generous in making donations to our foundation and supporting our cause.

We know we can't and we won't constantly ask for you donations,  this time all we are asking is you click on the link below and sign this e-petition.

It does NOT cost you a single penny but would mean the world to our two families.

e-petition Link

We wouldn't have met Rachel, Scott, Debbie or the rest of their family if we both hadn't experienced the pain that still birth causes.

Our Angels have brought us together for a reason, lets make it count!


Ps If you want to follow Rachel on twitter her name is rachel_buckley88 and her mum is debbiebuckley. Please show them your love and support.

Tuesday 12 June 2012

Charity Ball


Its been a busy couple of weeks for the foundation, firstly we have been busy finalising our first ever Isabella Rose fund raising ball, and are pleased to confirm the following details.

It will take place at St Helens Rugby League Club in the brand new Premier Lounge on Saturday 29th September 2012 at 7pm.

The Premier lounge is a beautiful venue overlooking the pitch at the new stadium.

The event is Black Tie and this will give all the ladies a perfect excuse to wear their lovely evening gowns.

A three course meal is included in the ticket price and entertainment will be provided by Marble Eyes who are a brilliant 4 piece band. This will be followed by a late night disco.

During the night we will be holding a fund raising auction and raffle.

The aim is to raise as much money as we can for the foundation As always the proceeds will be split between Bliss Charity and Whiston Hospital Maternity Bereavement Fund. We have also added a third worthy cause to our fund raising this is the Tommy's Baby Charity.

Over the next few weeks I intend to do a little feature on these charities to explain to you why we chose them and what they do to help others.

Tickets for the Ball are £35.00 each, which I think is fantastic value for the night we have provided.

The tickets are still being printed but you can pre-order yours by contacting me at the

We have a capacity of 200 people so the tickets will be sold on a first come basis only and from the initial feed back we are anticipating a high demand.

We would love to see you all there and promise to put on an evening which will make my granddaughter pround.



Thursday 31 May 2012

Would you stoop so low?


This blog is about what happened when my daughter visited Isabellas resting place earlier this week.

Only those who have lost children will appreciate the importance of making their grave as beautiful as you can, making it colourful by ensuring it has nice flowers etc.

This is where you go to be close to your child, you make it beautiful and peaceful because you are looking after them. Its a place to go to think, reflect and to talk to them. Its supposed to be a calming place.

We have tried to make Isabellas plot as nice as we can, each set of grandparents have purchased the plot either side so we can all be together in the future. This has enabled us to extend her garden to be able to make room for all the flowers that family are constantly taking. The local council only allow the garden to extend out 300mm but do allow it to extend to neighbouring plots.

We have even purchased a bench with her name on a plaque so people can sit and spend time with her.

It is a beautiful place when the sun is shinning, her garden looks lovely. Its is a wonderful tribute to our little girl.

So bearing all this in mind can someone please explain to me why when this is so obviously a babies grave, do some scum bags (and believe me I have toned that down) feel the need to steal things off the grave?????

I actually cant believe some people could stoop so low!

When my daughter visited the other day she noticed that two small vases that had been halve buried into the ground had been taken and this is not the first time. The vases were not expensive and dont have any real sentimental value so what is the point!

Do these low life not know the heartbreak their selfish actions cause, the thought that someone has walked up to my granddaughters grave stooped down and pulled these items out of the ground sickens me.

My daughter was in tears, this is the last thing she needs after what she has been through. Why dont these people think?

I dont know how to prevent it, the cemetery is open 24 hours a day, do we put a sign up saying dont steal off this grave you bas#@rds.

This is not the only problem we have encountered. We have stumbled across drunks or should I say they have stumbled across us, others take their dogs but instead of keeping them on their leads they think its ok to let them run loose. There is a new section in the cemetery next to the part where Isabella is, its an open plot of land being prepared for future burials but these dog owners think its ok for them to let their dogs sprint around on there barking and pooing everywhere. Its still part of the cemetery even if it is not occupied.

I could rage on about this matter for hours if I let myself!

A cemetery is a sacred place, its full of loved ones being visited by their family. Its the only place these family members have to spend time with their departed why cant people be more considerate.


Wednesday 23 May 2012

Life as an Elephant

On Sunday the 20th May 2012 members of team Isabella ran the Bupa Manchester 10K.

I was obviously part of this team but there was one main difference, I ran dressed as an Elephant and not just any elephant but our mascot called Peanut.

Over the last few weeks before the race and I told everyone what I was planning to do everybody asked me the same three questions 1) Are you Mad, 2) Why is your mascot an elephant and 3) why have you called it Peanut?

Well the answer to the first question is yes, but elephants and peanuts just seemed to have a running theme all the way through Amanda's pregnancy.

It all started when Amanda showed me her first scan and I happened to say that Isabella looked like a peanut, well I thought it was more diplomatic than saying she looked like a alien! However this then became my nickname for Isabella and from then on I always asked how she and Peanut were.

But that was just the start and coincidences just grew from that moment.

Nicola, Amanda's mum spotted a toy elephant in mamma's and pappa's so she bought it, it turned out that this range was called ....peanut!

The very first teddy Amanda bought for Isabella was from the Disney shop, and it was a dumbo the elephant soft toy which had a wonder perfume smell, and the first pink toy was bought by Amanda's sister Rebecca and it was a pink elephant from Chester Zoo.

Its no surprise Rebecca has a soft spot for elephants because when she was little the only way we could get her to stop using her dummy was for her to throw it to the elephants in Chester zoo, but that's another story.

A few weeks later Amanda and Geoff received a present in the post from Geoff's sister who lived in Australia, it was a soft teddy which was in fact a baby in a peanut shell.

It sounds obvious but nobody actually spotted there was a theme to all this until Isabella was born and lying in her cot in the maternity ward. Amanda asked for all the teddies that people had bought to be taken to the hospital and the teddies where put in Isabella's cot with her. It was only then when she was lying there surrounded by the soft toys that Amanda and Geoff realised that a lot of people had bought a toy elephant with a connection to a peanut.

It really hit home when the maternity staff provided Amanda with a "Joshua Box" basically a keepsake box donated by another Charity that contained items which they felt would be useful to families who lost children. The people who set up the charity had lost a child themselves named Joshua and the items in the box included a camera, pen and paper, foot and hand print kits. These where items that they thought would have helped them after they lost their son. The boxes are a brilliant idea and provided some comfort at a difficult time. However they also contain one other thing, a little soft toy. It just happened that the soft toy in the box provided for Isabella was an elephant.

From this moment onwards Elephants have always had a connection to Isabella.

Then about two months ago we had just set up the Foundation and I was watching one of the many music channels on tv when Coldplay's paradise video came on, if you haven't seen it the whole band are dressed as elephants running around, its then that I thought that I could do that and the bright idea to run the 10K in one of them costumes started.

So Peanut the elephant mascot was born!

I have to admit I did began to wonder what I had done when I put on the costume on the way to the run. I soon began to think this was a stupid idea, I could hardly see where I was walking never mind run.

However once we got to the start I absolutely loved it.

Firstly I got interviewed by the Manchester Evening News only a small interview but that and a picture in the paper must have helped raise our profile.

Secondly the atmosphere was amazing! I have taken part in this event for the last 6 years and the people always line the streets of the run cheering the crowd on, but this time it was different. There was an excitement amongst the crowd when they saw a 6ft+ pink elephant running towards them.

I lost count of the amount of people who cheered my name or just shouted come on big elephant (I think it was meant in a nice way). Some of fellow runners even slowed down mid race to tell me what I was doing was fantastic and the pats on the back from other runners were constant.

The look on the children's faces is something I will never forget, I had to give that many high fives my hand actually hurt more than my legs and at one point I was zig zaging across the road to and from the crowd as more and more people asked for pictures.

The biggest buzz was seeing my family and the rest of Team Isabella (who had already finished) just before the finish, they provided the biggest cheer of the day.

I crossed the finish line in 1 hour and 26mins not the best time but in my defence it was a boiling hot day and it was sweltering in that costume.

When I crossed the finish line I was emotional, I knew I had done my granddaughter proud we all had and at the end of the day that is why we are doing it.

We think we know why elephants are so important to us. Elephants never forget and we will never forget our Angel Isabella.