Grace’s gruelling bike challenge in memory of father

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Ballymoney based personal trainer, Grace Smith, has set herself an incredible challenge, one that she knows will push her body and mind to the limit.

On April 21, she will spend a gruelling continuous eight hours on an assault bike to raise money for local health charity Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke in memory of her father David.

“My dad died of a massive heart attack when he was only 56 years old,” Grace explained.

“I was 21 at the time, and I had just started work in Coleraine having completed my degree. I remember my brother calling me at 5pm on a Monday afternoon to say that dad was in the Royal Victoria Hospital. He was in ICU for 17

days but never regained consciousness.

“Losing him deeply affected our family. We found it difficult to talk about our loss. He had been the life and soul, a really great character, and he left such a space behind him. He was a builder and physically very fit so, on top of the loss, his death was a huge shock to us all. Completely unexpected.

“In all, I can count eleven people in my family who have had heart disease, including my dad’s brother who died of a heart attack two years before my dad, aged 42, and my grandparents on my mum’s side. So supporting Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke was the obvious choice when I decided to take on this challenge.

“I also want to raise money for a charity that supports people in improving their health. Five years ago I lost over 110lbs, almost 8 stone, in 12 months. And I’ve kept it off ever since. Fitness is not only important to me as my job – it is important part for my health too.”

The Assault Bike is a static cycle which is said to offer one of the toughest workouts in the world. It is set up in Grace’s fitness studio, Forge PT, between Ballymoney and Coleraine, where the challenge will take place.

“It is a truly horrible machine,” Grace explained with a chuckle. “I started using it for my own training two years ago when knee surgery forced me to change my training regime to something with less impact on my joints. I use it with my clients in small bursts, including seasoned road cyclists who hate it. A number of clients have even thrown up after using it. I was clocking up 1-2 hours per day in my own training when I mentioned the idea of an eight hour cycle to a client. The idea stuck and on Saturday, April 21, the idea will become reality. It will be tough but I have no regrets.”

Grace chose the eight hour duration as this is the length of a normal working day, time many of us spend sitting inactive at our desks. As a fitness instructor, she knows how long periods of sitting can damage our health.

Grace has had to build up the hours gradually, in a similar way to training for a marathon. She has already completed five hours and has one long cycle of six hours to go, before she will reduce back down to two hours per day.

Grace plans to start cycling around 8am and finish around 4pm, having cycled approximately 150 miles at a speed of just under 19 mph without any breaks. During the eight hours she will not be able to get off the bicycle for food

or comfort breaks. Her mum and brothers will bring her electrolyte drinks, bananas and energy gels to keep her going. Friends, family and clients plan to call in to support and distract her.

“It will be difficult,” Grace predicted. “My body will hurt from about two hours in. But on top of that there will be the exhaustion, the emotion and the memories. The main thing will be to keep focused, keep aware of my pace and keep going. And remember why I am doing this.”

If you want to support Grace and raise funds for Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke, you can donate via her Just Giving page: www.justgiving.com/assaultbike.