I woke up Sunday morning feeling ready to spew, the usual nervous routine! I choked down a bowl of porridge while trying not to look at Gareth and Gillian's cooked breakfasts… the sight of scrambled eggs and greasy sausages was totally giving me the boak!
Off to lovely Tatton Park. There were over 800 women taking part in Cycletta on all manner of bikes. We started in waves of ten. I did a cheerful "woohoo!' as we whizzed over a cattle grid then down through the park, sunlight streaming through the tree-lined paths. Then out onto the big bad open road!
First two miles were fast and fun, grinning to myself at the visual of chunky me on clunky mountain bike and tiny Gillian on her tiny Brompton folding bike.
Then Gillian says, "We're going pretty fast, don't overdo it now!". Good advice, whoops! I felt awful during Miles 4-6. My rubbish knee burned on every downstroke, I had that shooting pain in my glute and my stomach felt dodgy. I couldn't take my eyes off the bike computer, doing fractions to figure out how far there was to go.
Then a bunch of speedy women whooshed past in the opposite direction, already on their way back to the finish line (part of the course was a loop). They yelled "KEEP GOING!" in such cheery tones I wanted to slap them. Then I got overtaken by a woman on a poncy bike with a freakin' wicker basket!
"Well isn't that just DANDY!" I sputtered to Gillian, feeling really really cranky and lardy.
Then I remembered that I'd vowed to enjoy the moment as it was happening, instead of having to enjoy it retrospectively as I always do with these things! So I had stern talk with self… Dude… you've travelled a stupid long way for this and you have dragged your friend and husband with you, and you trained for ages and people have sponsored you and do you REALLY want to look like a whiny brat… so SUCK IT UP cupcake! Turn this around!
I made a conscious effort to look at the scenery, feel the air on my skin, notice how strong my legs felt, just really ABSORB everything going on… thinking about how good it felt not to be sitting brooding on the couch wishing life could be different.
We got to Mile 9 and I said to Gillian, "Make a note! Mile 9 and I'm enjoying it!"
Mile 10 was a food stop. I really didn't want to stop but I needed the loo. Admired my beetroot face in the port-a-loo mirror. They had lots of crappy chocolate and sweets which I avoided (memories of dodgy stomach at Moonwalk '08!) and had some orange segments instead… lovely!
The remaining 14 miles were BLOODY FANTASTIC. Sure I was dying on some of the hills, I hesitated too long at an intersection and nearly got barrelled by a car, my chain came off at mile 15, I got stung by a wasp at mile 16…
…but I felt so alive and kept thinking, enjoy this enjoy this enjoy this. We rolled past quaint pubs, cottages with thatched roofs and climbing roses, wholesome people on horses… and a dead badger. Poor bugger. Oooh, and I even overtook a few people!
"Make a note!" I yelled to Gillian, "Mile 22 and still loving it!"
Finally we were back in the Park! There was a sneaky bit where we thought it was over but there was another half mile loop to go… my knee was sore and I felt like I'd been kicked in the lady parts, despite padded saddle and padded shorts and a naturally padded arse. But then I saw the finish line! I was woohooing like a deranged woman. FINISHED!
Dr G was waiting nearby. "Soooo?"
"IT WAS BRILLIANT!"
He looked absolutely stunned. "Well! Never thought I would ever hear such a positive statement out of you while straddling a velocipede!" Bwahahaaaaa. Smart arse.
I looked at my bike computer: 02:01:39, average 11.8 mph! Sooo much faster than my training… all thanks to lack of Scottish hills + unbridled enthuasism 😉
Then I got a text with my official time: 40km/24miles in 02:10:24 – of course the bike computer paused while I was on loo break/chain fixing/wasp swatting. Still… SO PLEASED with that as the snaily pace of my training rides indicated a 2.5 – 3 hour finish.
Cycletta was a great event, very well organised. It was heartening to see so many women across a wide range of ages, shapes and cycling experience – it was a very welcoming, non-intimidating atmosphere. I'd been really worried after the event lost its closed roads status, but the marshalls made it feel very safe.
But most of all I owe the feeling of safety to The Amazing Gillian. 24 miles is a warmup for her so she just freakin' rocks for coming along and helping me not get run over. Thank you so much comrade! Also have to say a huge thank you to Gareth, for not stabbing me on the training rides. You rawk!
So, I'm really happy with how it went and glad I got over my internal BS and enjoyed it while it was happening!
Three days later I'm still feeling delirious and so fired up to keep going. I want to keep working on my Fear Of The Road and my inability to do hand signals. I also feel a new sense of purpose for getting back in shape – it's hard work hauling so much booty up the hills, I tell you.
It sounds so cheesy and perhaps quite pathetic, but this experience has reminded me that I am worth taking care of. That life is so much better when you treat your mind and body with kindness and respect, not dulling the edges with rubbish food and inactivity. It takes work to feel good, but I'm feeling like I am worth making that effort.
Why has it taken so long to remember this? To really feel it and believe it deep down? I really don't know. But I'm going to roll with it!
Disclosure: I was offered a "media place" on the Cycletta event thus my entry fee was waived. Click here for full details.
ETA: While I added a cheeky link in the post above, I wanted to shout out properly that I raised a few quid for the MS Society. Huge thanks to my family and pals who sponsored! If anyone out there fancies supporting this great cause, here's my link to donate. You can find out more about the work the Society does to provide information and support as well as funds for multiple sclerosis research on their website, www.mssociety.org.uk.