Joining Norwood's uneasy riders
Sands of time: The Norwood fundraisers enjoying a welcome break from their exertions
Although not normally superstitious, the portents were not promising in the lead up to my participation in the Norwood bike ride in Croatia.
Persuaded to sign up by a good friend, my training consisted primarily of laps around Regent's Park on the bike I received from my parents as a batmitzvah present.
Over three months, my brakes broke and I lost the key to my bike lock while it was chained. My husband and training partner broke his hand and a bike he was due to borrow was stolen.
But ignoring the warning signs, we joined 25 other riders on the cycle, which raised £32,000 for Young Norwood.
Nigel Trumper and Jon Feuchtwanger
Also taking part were two Ravenswood residents - Richard Tooke, 52, who has Downs's syndrome, and Jon Feuchtwanger, 62, who has a mild learning disability and dysphasia, which affects his speech.
The residents cycled on tandem bikes with Ravenswood sports specialists Nigel Trumper and Michelle Bass and were a constant inspiration.
Starting off in Makarska, southern Croatia, riders were transported by boat to the picturesque island of Hvar, where a pleasant morning cycle was followed by the serious business of a 1,200 foot climb. Everyone was exhausted but the group mentality was a great motivator.
For some, the speedy descent was even more daunting with the dramatic drop of the cliffside just inches away.
Ari Raymond, a 26-year-old marketing executive from Hendon, was riding in memory of his late cousin, a Ravenswood resident.
"Having seen the difference in my cousin whenever he came back for weekends with my family, I knew there was something special about the work Norwood do," he said. "But I could not quite appreciate how much and to what lengths they go to give residents the highest level of care possible. Seeing the tandem teams made me aware of how much I take for granted in my life."
Hopeful of a restful Saturday, participants discovered that the leisurely walk along the promenade reported by last year's group had been replaced by an arduous trek up a mountain higher than Ben Nevis.
Reaching the 4,600 feet summit was incredibly rewarding but the return journey on loose stones was even tougher than the challenging walk up. The trek took eight hours to complete.
On Sunday, there was another boat journey to the island of Brac for a 1,700 foot climb by bike. Aching bodies took a while to warm up but the whole group made it and were rewarded by 10 kilometres downhill and a stunning beach at the end of the 40 mile route.
The cyclists also included businesswoman Nina Forman, whose family were among the Ravenswood founders. The 36-year-old from Golders Green started out "really nervous" but ended up enjoying herself immensely. "Whilst it was hard work, I am up for challenging myself."
Leonie Gold, 30, an assistant news editor from Borehamwood, said that "facing a relentless bike climb on our first day, I wondered how I was going to make it. Then I turned round and saw Richard and Jon pedalling up the mountain on their tandems. This was all the inspiration I needed. It also helped being surrounded by some of the most beautiful coastline I have ever seen."
Norwood hopes to raise £800,000 from bike rides this year.