Another challenge

This time an old one – a reminder of the cycling challenge I did almost 11 years ago, to celebrate my 50th birthday that year.

It feels like a lifetime ago, so much has happened in those years since, but finding my account of it earlier this week while looking for something else brought the whole thing back to me.

It was the first time I had ever done anything truly physically challenging.

At school I was the girl who ran away from the ball in tennis, hockey, and anything else you can think of, scared that the ball would break my glasses; I was the girl who managed not to be on the PE class list and enjoyed spending a whole year reading in the toilets instead of joining in; the girl who no-one would ever pick to be in their team.   Although I could ride a bike, I didn’t have one till I was 18 and went away to university.  I didn’t know that running was a thing you could do for enjoyment.

But I wanted to mark my fiftieth birthday in a special way, and by chance I spotted a small piece in the latest newsletter from our local hospice charity saying that they were looking for riders to do a sponsored cycle ride from the hospice (near to Bath) to Dublin in 4 days – 295 miles in all.   I knew that was The Thing.  After a couple of weeks thought, I decided I would do it.

2015-06-05 10.43.42

The ride was Friday Saturday Sunday Monday in the first weekend that August.  I started training early in the year.  I had to progress from thinking that a 20 mile round trip in one go was a Big Deal to being able to cope with up to 90 miles in a day, including some challenging hills (our route took us across the Brecon Beacons and the Preselli Hills).   This meant fitting in regular cycling including at least two longer rides every week.

Over a period of months, I went from thinking I’d done well if I cycled along the canal from Bath to Bradford-on-Avon and back (20 miles in all), to going to Bristol and back along the old railway line and then on to Bradford-on-Avon and back (50 miles in all).

2015-03-15 15.44.01

Then there was the Hilly Ride – a local circular ride Malcolm devised and he and the boys enjoyed, which as the name suggests, includes several long steep hills.  For a long time I had to push all the way up the hills, but eventually with practice I could cycle up all of them.  Never easily, but I did it.

Reading the account of the ride I wrote immediately afterwards reminded me just how much I achieved, and just how much I have lost.

After that ride, I was able to enjoy several cycling holidays (a complete circuit of Lake Constance; a 5 day ride along part of the Rhine; several coastal trips around the Cotentin Peninsular in Normandy), as well as lots of local ordinary cycling.  One summer I cycle commuted once a week (30 mile round trip), with a group of colleagues.

2016-03-05 12.33.21

But since then, through illness and added responsibilities and weight gain and lack of practice, I’ve really lost it.

Reading that account was the prod I needed to get it back.  Now I have the time and the will again, and I really want to be able to do more cycling holidays again.  So.  I’ve got back on my bike and begun to re-do what I did all those years ago.  I’ve started to build it up again.  I want to be able to comfortably cycle 50 miles without it being an effort.

I certainly won’t be cycling to Dublin again (or at least if I do, it will be considerably more slowly so I can really enjoy the ride and the scenery).  But I will be building up and making cycling a regular part of my life again.

2015-04-18 14.08.13

Coming soon: I’ll reproduce my account of that ride 11 years ago, mainly because I’d like to share just how much it meant to me, and how poorly I compared with all 10 of my cycle companions on that trip, and that it didn’t matter a jot.

(I know the photos seem a bit random, but in one way or another they remind me of all the ways that cycling makes life just that bit nicer)

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About deborah @ the magic jug

Now I've passed 60 I'm still doing all sorts of things I haven't done before, as well as carrying on with the things I already love. I live a happy life with my long term love Malcolm. In my blog I explore local and low tech ideas, food, growing, making, reading, thinking, walking, and lots of other words ending in 'ing'.
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8 Responses to Another challenge

  1. Sam says:

    Yay, go Deborah! My bike is gathering dust and rust in the garage and I haven’t been on it for about a year – terrible. Perhaps this weekend I should get it out and dust it off…

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    • Or maybe some weekend when the weather is set fairer?
      Mine was also in the garage until a couple of weeks ago, where it has languished since the autumn. A quick tune up from Malcolm and it rides beautifully now. Have been out for a couple of rides so far, and plans for more (including this morning’s commute to the farm – though I foresee a push up the hill…).
      Go for it, Sam!

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  2. Marian says:

    I’m cheering you on too, Deborah 🙂 . My husband (and 19 year-old daughter now too) are into cycling in a MAJOR way, while I just toodle about in the evenings when we go on outings with our 11 year-old son. My husband has often said that he would love it if I would join him on his rides, but I’ve always used the kids as my excuse (*someone* has to stay home to look after them while he’s away riding for two hours!). Soon our youngest will be too old for that excuse, though…!

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    • Hi Marian, so sorry for delay in responding, too-busy syndrome. No excuses really. Maybe you should just give it a try, but in a pootle-ey kind of way rather than a MAJOR way? start small and slow, and just enjoy it (with a picnic along the way?). The thing about cycling is that it has to be fun, not another chore. I have a rule that I don’t wear special clothes for cycling. Once you move into lycra, it starts to be a sport rather than a means of transport. At least, it does in my head. (talking of heads, the one exception to no special clothes is I nearly always wear a helmet).
      Have been reading your blog posts and have lots of comments in my head, which MUST make their way onto your blog. Really interesting stuff – keep it going!

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  3. Good luck! The cycling holidays sound lovely 🙂

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    • Oh they are. We’ve just decided to abandon (or maybe delay?) the idea of cycling in India (too hot, too humid) but instead we’re now planning a trip for next year finishing off the ride down the Rhine and exploring The Netherlands by bike. Very exciting!

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I love to read your comments. I don't expect everyone to agree with me, and I don't mind if you don't. However, I ask you to respect the 'circle time' rules made by my son's primary school teacher: make a comment, ask a question or say something nice. Thank you!

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