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Since ” ’tis the season” for giving in many parts of the world, and as end of the calendar year approaches, I’ve decided to finish my working year reflecting upon the biggest “Giving Back” initiative I was personally part of in September of this year (2012) --  my two stages of the Deloitte Ride Across Britain, or RAB as we called it in Cisco UK & Ireland -- an event we aligned to Cisco’s overall involvement in the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games.  Time has flown since I initially blogged about my nerves pre-ride.  I reflected on our “Virtual RAB” -- designed to give everyone at Cisco an easier chance of participating -- also as part of our overall fundraising, and told you about the “Network on Wheels” or Cisco NOW Van that supported us with remote (very remote!) internet access as we cycled through all weathers from the bottom to the very top of the UK.  The Cisco team raised around £20,000 (over $32,000 USD) -- while the event as a whole, with over 700 riders, raised over £1 Million in total -- all for paralympic athletes.

It was indeed an experience!  While the second of my two days was a beautiful day for cycling -- as the video clip from Cisco UK & Ireland Senior VP Phil Smith (quite a cyclist btw!) shows -- the first day was a 12 hour test in truely horrendous stormy conditions! Let me tell you more about that day and show you some of the sights on the way.

This was a huge event - with a double decker bus required for event support staff!

This was a huge event -- with a double decker bus required for event support staff!

My first day on the RAB arrived with weather forecasts for storm force winds.

The evening briefing the evening before had been a serious and sombre affair, with focus on safety first.  They predicted the day ahead could be the toughest day ever in the RAB’s history -- and indeed it was!

 

My bed for the night!

My bed for the night!

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was windy! - very windy!! - as we cycled through the remote West Highlands of Scotland

It was windy! -- very windy!! -- as we cycled through the remote West Highlands of Scotland

 

 

 

What made me particularly worried was a Tweet I received from Winterhighland, our local Ski information service -- it talked of trucks being blown over (!!) on the road we would be cycling along the next day, the A82 which takes you from Glasgow up the west coast of Scotland.

 

 

So all of a sudden I wasn’t too worried about the 5:30am camp wake up -- usually with a “motivational song” like the Proclaimers “(I’m gonna be) 500 miles” to get you started :-) -- I was more worried how we’d survive the forecast 60mph winds forecast!  The route that day was extended (due to a landslip on part of the route) from 127 miles to what turned out to be 138 miles (ouch!), just what we needed on this particular day!

I couldn't believe I cycled this far!

I couldn’t believe I cycled this far!

 

The Green Welly Stop at Tyndrum

The Green Welly Stop at Tyndrum

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We stopped for “refuelling” a few times, including once at a small place called “Tyndrum” -- on the A82 between Crianlarich and Glencoe, where the Green Welly Stop serves just amazing hot chocolate!

Me on my first RAB day - never thought I'd cycle to Glencoe Ski Center never mind right by it for another 30 miles to Fort William

Me on my first RAB day -- never thought I’d cycle to Glencoe Ski Center never mind right by it for another 30 miles to Fort William

 

We cycled by my favourite local ski center at Glencoe Mountain Resort through the iconic Glencoe mountains -- truely impressive scenery.  The wind by this time was just horrendous!  It was also one of the few times I’ve had to pedal hard just to go downhill!!  One memory will stay with me forever -- as we cycled along this part of the route, right in the middle of nowhere, heads down, someone shouted “Hello Stephen” from the side of the road.  I almost fell of my bike!  A group of  Cisco people driving up to join the next day had driven past us and stopped to cheer us on, including UK & Ireland SVP Phil Smith, who was set to join the ride for the final 2 days.

We eventually cycled together into the base camp for the night -- at Fort William -- around 7:30pm -- into quite an incredible atmosphere where the stories of gruelling challenge became bigger and tougher as the night progressed!

 

 

 

 

 

Some of Team Cisco - my colleagues - on a stop just out side of Inverness

Some of Team Cisco -- my colleagues -- on a stop just out side of Inverness

On the second day of my stint, the weather made an amazing turn around, with blue skies and sunshine for most of the route.  We cycled along Loch Ness -- home to the monster of course -- however we didn’t get to see “Nessie” unfortunately!

Cisco UK & Ireland CEO Phil Smith joined the team for the final 2 legs.  He is a fit guy!  Cycling alongside Phil for a while, he talked about the excitement that the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games generated not only in Cisco, but across the whole of the UK -- and also of the lasting benefit it would provide for the whole country.  Phil also talked about Cisco’s role in the “British Innovation Gateway” (BIG) --  ”BIG”is a Cisco-led programme, endorsed by the UK Government, to support hi-tech business and innovation.  Phil also talked about the companies who had entered into the “BIG Awards“, and about the unique business models and ideas that had impressed during the competition.

The second day was a breeze compared to the first, with not only lovely sunshine but a tail wind for half the route -- how lucky was that!

And as we cycled into the absolutely stunning Kyle of Sutherland, we reflected on quite an experience -- and for me I managed to raise more for this charity event than I’ve ever managed to raise for a single event.  So thanks to all who were kind enough to sponsor me!

 

 

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