As his muscles screamed for a rest and with cravings for a can of cold, fizzy pop, the sight of the Amsterdam ArenA was a welcoming one for Preston North End manager Simon Grayson.
On Friday and Saturday, he was among 250 people connected to Football League clubs who cycled from London to Holland to raise money and awareness for the Prostate Cancer UK charity.
Months of training were put into the event by the riders, many of who had not been on a bike for years ahead of taking up the challenge.
The pain was worth it, the total raised by the ride hitting the £310,000 mark over the weekend – with pledges still pouring in.
Grayson, riding in memory of his friend Stephen Garbett who died last year after a battle with prostate cancer, is nearing £30,000 in sponsorship.
Stephen’s son, David, was one of those who rode with the PNE boss.
The two-day event is one which Grayson looks back on with both a smile and grimace.
A drinks stop at Colchester’s Weston Homes ground put a frown on his face – it was the venue where PNE’s automatic promotion challenge hit the buffers a month earlier.
That was in contrast to his joy as Ajax’s stadium loomed into view at the end of the ride.
“When I saw the Amsterdam ArenA on Saturday it was amazing,” Grayson told the Evening Post.
“It was the end of a tough two-day ride which proved really testing physically and mentally.
“During it, all kinds of things ran through your mind.
“At one stage, all I could think about was having a can of Coke, something cold and fizzy because all you were drinking on the ride was water. Forget having a beer, I wanted a can of Coke!
“It was so satisfying to have taken part. I did a speech at the dinner we had in Amsterdam and I said it was nearly as rewarding as getting my medal at Wembley.
“That is how much it meant to me, even though it was such hard work.
“There were some dark moments, some funny ones but it was all very rewarding.
“Your dark moments would include wondering how you were going to get to the top of a hill, a funny one being when someone fell off.
“One of our lads completed the course – all 145 miles of it – then fell off when getting to the hotel!
“There was a stage when I was at the back of a group and struggling a bit – I was tired and my knee was hurting a bit.
“All the lads in front of me missed a sign and carried on instead of turning.
“So in the blink of an eye I went from being at the back to leading the pack! That was a big psychological moment.”
Ahead of the ride, Grayson was unaware that one of the water stops was Colchester.
“I didn’t want to go back there for a long time after what happened last month,” said the Deepdale boss.
“A lot of thoughts went through my mind, a picture which went on the internet probably summing up my feelings in terms of the bike ride and events there four or five weeks previously.
“I supposed it exorcised a few demons being back there and it was just a 20-minute stop for some water and a sit down.
“I’m glad I took part even though I could think of better ways to spend a long weekend in Amsterdam!
“To help raise so much money for a great cause was really good – I’m a lot fitter after the training and I will ride again....in a few weeks.”