By Dean Beckett and Martin Wells
In the middle of August 2013, my father, Ronnie Beckett, was given a terminal prognosis for the pancreatic cancer he had been diagnosed with five years earlier; he died just 3 months later.
During this traumatic time, I would go out on my bike every morning with my lifelong friend, Martin Wells, as a way of relieving some of the stress. It was only two weeks after my dad died that we decided that it would be wonderful to 'give something back' to MacMillan Cancer Support and raise much-needed funds for them by cycling the 940 miles from home in Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, UK, to Barcelona in just 9 days.
When we first decided to take on this epic challenge, we were enjoying our cycling, but were far from being what you would call accomplished cyclists. What we had, though, was 100% commitment to doing whatever it took to get us to the end, even though we weren't sure exactly what that was!
Ronnie Beckett; the man who inspired Dean and Martin's bike ride
To start with, this just meant doing more of what we had already been doing: Relatively short 5.30am rides each morning before work with no thought about nutrition or what changes we would need to make to our lifestyle in order to successfully get us to Barcelona!
In January, we were introduced to Meleni to discuss our nutritional needs. We were expecting to sit down and be told about carb-loading, eating tons of pasta throughout our trip, and topping ourselves up en route with sickly-sweet energy gels. Not so! Very quickly into that first meeting, it was clear that we couldn't have been more wrong! It was so interesting and refreshing to hear the advice around following a more Primal way of eating and it resonated with both of us.
We found our meals were healthier and more varied. Everything we ate was much more nutrient-dense: every mouthful of food had to count to ensure that we had the correct fuel pre- and post-training rides. Eggs for breakfast, chicken and salad for lunch, steak and veggies for dinner with Mel's special sweet potato smoothie as a recovery shake within 40 minutes of any extended rides. We also learned to fuel on nuts, coconut flakes and dried fruit whilst training; shorter rides were performed in a fasted state so that we could make the metabolic shift to fat-burning more efficiently to meet our energy needs.
I lost two and a half stone (35 lbs; 16 kg) in 3 months, felt more alert and slept better at night. Martin felt he had a more positive outlook on everything, at home and at work. Whether it was the new way of eating or a combination of that and the training, he experienced a clarity of thought that he hadn't had for a while.
Dean and Martin just about to embark on their 940 mile journey
Once we started the trip, the days ticked by and, apart from some minor aches, we found ourselves getting stronger and stronger. Our muscles seemed to recover quicker and we didn't feel like we couldn't carry on at any point.
The way we had managed to prepare and condition ourselves was evident when we met with Mel on our return and found that neither of us had lost any muscle mass over the 9 days. Indeed, I was feeling so good - fit and strong - that I went on to complete a 180-mile cycle in one day just two weeks after our return!
At this point, it's worth mentioning that my entire family also transformed their eating habits at the same time. My two sons, aged 10 and 6, were so fascinated by Mel and all the advice that she gave to me and Martin, that they willingly gave up their pasta, bread and other staples. Now, they frequently ask for kale crisps and plantain chips and the eldest regularly makes the scrambled eggs for breakfast and they both help to prepare their packed lunches for school. The boys sleep for 10-11 hours at night and people have noticed that our eldest is calmer and seems to be better focused. My wife also reports better sleep and digestion, increased energy and fewer hormonal problems. Although previously a keen baker, she has thrown herself with a passion into producing tasty, wholesome, gluten-free baked goods for the kids' (and ours!) breakfast and treat times. I’m sure you’ll see some of her amazing recipes appearing on Bite the Sun soon! We're noticing the ripple effect of our lifestyle changes on our friends and family – as well as the local grocer – so it’s great to be able to share with you all here too.
We were simply overwhelmed at how so many people from the local community got involved with RRR. It didn’t take too much pressure from us for local friends, family and businesses to get involved with direct support and promotion for RRR. Posters were displayed in many local shops and restaurants throughout Walton on Thames and many businesses made direct donations via coffee mornings, in house staff challenges, donations of Hog Roasts for the launch party and so many more for the raffle at the RRR return party at Walton Cricket Club.
The support offered by local businesses was touching, and helped ignite community spirit
How the local community responded to this event was quite overwhelming, it was almost like it ignited the community spirit, something that I think these days is lacking in general. Bite the Sun encourages this same community involvement – exactly what is needed and I am sure that local communities will respond to this as did ours to RRR!