And this is what happened …
Very, very, very red but very, very, very smiley!
I went on Facebook at the start of the week to try to find a local cycling group that would give me another reason to train, and I came across the Dinton There and Back Again Cycling Group. Their rides leave from the country park just down the road from me, and so I tentatively asked if it might be appropriate that I join. I was honest about my speed (SLOW) but they were so welcoming and encouraging, so I turned up at 10am this morning for my first ride out with them. And it was SO MUCH FUN!
The ride leader Steve was so lovely and made sure that I knew that this wasn’t a racing club, it was a leisure and fitness group. We started out (after not the best start from me, which I’ll get into later!) and I found the pace quite challenging but it was exciting to be riding with a group, and I wasn’t doing too badly at keeping up to some extent. And anyway, the group kept waiting at points. I felt the need to apologise every time I caught up with them, but they were all so lovely and made sure I was OK and did I want a rest/drink etc.
Through the powers of Facebook I’d also arranged to ride mostly with a lovely lady called Emma. Turns out that we went to the same mother and baby group 6 years ago, so we had things in common to discuss. We’d decided last night that we would do a slightly shorter route together, as we didn’t fancy the whole 63km, so Steve advised us the best places to veer off etc. Emma is definitely faster and a better/fitter rider than I am, but I actually really enjoyed and found benefit in having someone to chase after, who wasn’t so ridiculously unreachable that it wasn’t worth even trying. She definitely helped me keep my pace up.
A year ago I rode to Maidenhead. At the time it was my longest ride and was a big adventure. Nearby the route I took, there is a hill called Crazies Hill. Clue is in the name! And today I TOOK CRAZIES HILL. It’s actually not as bad as the name sounds, or maybe I’m a bit fitter now. I was puffing and panting like a crazy thing myself, but I was really glad of the support of Anthony who joined me for a little while. He was encouraging me saying that he’d only been riding for a year himself and used to be always at the back himself. To me he seemed like a pro.
Emma and I reached the veer off point and headed across, but found some of it was on quite narrow tracks. Suitable for a road bike still, but quite a bit of towpath along the Thames. It was beautiful but we had to cross some really steep bridges a couple of times, and Emma was a bit slippy in her cleats as we pushed the bikes over. Then we got to a gate that we couldn’t get the bikes through, so we laughed about this being a bit of cyclo-cross as we lifted the bikes over. I learned that her roadie was much lighter than my hybrid (MTB with slicks)!!
We arrived into Marlow and our coffee stop. I was so happy that they had soy milk so I could have a coffee, and I had taken a couple of gluten free flapjacks with me. Very, very welcome.
And here we are! The guy modelling the group kit at the front was the lovely guy (sure it was Anthony) who helped me beat Crazies Hill.
Really enjoyed the break and had a giggle. Only a bunch of cyclists could through their feet in the air so we could see their cleat covers!
What do you call a collection of bikes?! And that tree was straight until we arrived haha!
Next we rode out of Marlow and took on the big hill that had been freaking me out a bit (a lot) Quarry Hill Road @ 10%. Not ashamed to say it broke me, and I got off and walked up most of it. But still the group were waiting at the top of me, and there was no laughing or pointing at my puffing and panting haha! Next time, or maybe the time after, I’ll take that hill!
At around this point I started to get a bit too much inside my head and started thinking that I couldn’t do it. My legs were already so sore with DOMs from Thursday’s PT session (too many squats and dumbbell burpees!!) and they were now really starting to tire. I didn’t see the rest of the group again from this point, but I’ve since learned I took a slightly different – and longer! – route by accident.
There was a guy called Chris who we’d all commented was a really quick rider. Like really quick. He took on the whole 63km ride and ended up with an average of 20kph, which is saying something considering that for the last half of the ride he just sat quietly on my wheel (must have been sooooooo slow for him). He really kept me going. We didn’t chat a lot, but just knowing he was there was a real boost for me, and he also had a cycle computer that told us the route. I told him a couple of times to please go ahead and not wait for me, but he insisted. Such a lovely guy, and I’m so, so appreciative. Everyone was so lovely, but Chris’s kindness made an special difference and turned what could have been a quite psychologically damaging ride in the end for me into a positive experience.
Eventually we rolled back to the start, 51km later. I was so pleased!! There were some folks hanging around at the end, and they were all so encouraging, supportive and congratulatory. The whole group really made this ride for me so I think I might have found the cycling group for me!
So here are the details. As my target speed is 25kph in order to get to Paris, I was a bit disappointed with the 14.5kph but then I realised … just a year ago I was riding at 8mph, so nearly 15kph is a massive improvement. Secondly, I have to have 25kph IN A YEAR’S TIME!! I’m not expected to have it now, and that’s why I’m training. I think the tiredness in my legs towards the end got into my brain and I was thinking of stopping and calling The Trainer to say Paris was off and why hadn’t he told me I was a deranged nutter for even considering it.
I have an average of about 18kph on rides of 20k, so I think I did really well to maintain 14.5kph on a ride that was more than double in length and also had double the elevation. Even toward the end, on the flat I was achieving a nice 23kph ish so that was encouraging. Also the towpath bits really slowed us down – but hey, it wouldn’t have made that much of a difference!!
Oh and a first. I’m a bit frightened of high speed on a bike so I was thrilled that I managed to hit 41kph today – obviously downhill, but the fastest I’ve ever gone and I might have had a little “Wheeeeeeeeeeeee” on the descent!
So despite a bit of psychological self torture near the end of the ride, I actually enjoyed the whole thing, I’m really proud that I turned up, I kept going and I did it.
But there were some lessons learned that I need to share … so you don’t make the same mistakes!
- Going out at all was a bit crazy really. I’ve been suffering with insomnia, I had killer DOMs and just yesterday was in agony with intercostal spasms. I pushed myself because I really wanted to get the first ride out of the way, but truthfully it was disrespectful to my body to push it so much after it was already tired and needed rest. Don’t do that, people!
- And REALLY DON’T DO THIS … I was rushing around doing the shopping before the ride so I (admitting this out loud makes me cringe) did not eat an appropriate breakfast before I left, nor did I have a drink 😦 This is just schoolboy stupidity. A banana and half a bowl of porridge – about 250 calories – is not enough to fuel a ride that took out 1750 calories. I got a bad headache on the return leg, and the lack of fuel wouldn’t have helped my muscles at all. I was literally running on empty and to be honest, I’m pretty sure it was just my bloodymindedness that got me there.
- This ride was HARD (lessons above would not have helped) and if I want to get to Paris – which I really do – I need to take training very seriously and train very, very smart. Just because I fancy a triathlon or a 4k swim or a HiiT class, I need to learn that I can’t do it all and I have to focus on what’s important. I’m like a kid in a sweetshop with all the things I could do, but I have to be smart. If I’m not I am absolutely risking Paris.
- I need to understand and admit where I am right now. In my head things sound easy and achievable – such as a 100 mile overnight bike ride – and I sign up and commit. But really I ought to remember that a 51k ride today was really hard, I’m still 30kg overweight and whilst I’ve come a long away I still have so far to go. Sometimes I think pride prevents me saying “I can’t do that” – and as long as I add “yet” to the end of that sentence that’s OK. It’s OK to admit that I don’t have a century in me just yet, or that I can’t work as hard in PT as I might like to. I’m not as fit as many, and I’m overweight so sometimes I need to be realistic and act appropriately. Not saying I shouldn’t push myself and I’ve got through so far, but a bit of honesty with myself would be helpful and make my journey more sustainable in the long run, which is what I really care about.
Overall, I’m so glad and proud that I went. The people were amazing and I’m grateful to them all. I see lots more DSR rides in my future. I had a great training session that did me and my riding a lot of good and I learned some things that I will use to make me better next time and in the long term.
Me and my trusty stead, Lara.