Once upon a time in a life miles away from this one I was a cyclist. I grew up in a family of cyclists, six of us went out every Sunday almost without fail.
My parents wanted us to have a sport we could do as a family, it was a toss up between sailing and cycling and as they had both been cyclists before children arrived cycling won the toss.
Charlotte and I were very young, Charlotte was in a little child seat on the back of the tandem with my Dad and Jo, I was on the tandem with my Mum while Sophie was on her own bike. As we all grew up there were various other combinations until we were all on our own bikes.
Cycling was something which we did but when I was very young I am not altogether sure I particularly liked it! It seemed that we would go out for miles, meet other cyclists who my parents then seemed to spend forever chatting to and we went in all weathers except torrential rain. Charlotte and I secretly expressed our pleasure to one another when we were lucky enough to get a rainy Sunday! Clothes were nothing like the kit cyclists wear today, we went out bundled up in itchy Arran sweaters and about three pairs of socks…it isn’t sounding like too much fun is it?!
Once Charlotte was four we could visit Youth Hostels which was lots of fun, we met other families at the hostels. One family I remain in contact with to this day. We went on to go on a number of cycling holidays with them and for many years spent Boxing and New Years Day with them, now they were fun times.
The anticipation before reaching the hostel was always great, wondering what it would be like and we stayed in hostels of all shapes and sizes, some were certainly nicer than others. Some had a Warden who gave us a warm welcome and the hostel at Houghton Mill had a Warden who my Mum always ended up arguing with!
I am not sure quite when my absolute love of cycling began but from about the age of 12 I like my sisters and parents, was hooked. I did enjoy other sports too, Cross Country running, swimming, netball and gymnastics but cycling was always the priority.
All my sisters and I raced with varying degrees of success, Sophie was very good at time trialing when she was a school girl and junior, Jo was doing very well on the track when she very sadly died suddenly at 18, Charlotte was a great all rounder and she could sit on almost anyone’s wheel.
Me, well I never really had that need to succeed, I was fine in training and could grit my teeth and sit on for miles but when it came to racing when the going got tough the tough got going while I headed back to the race HQ! My real love was track racing and I probably showed most potential there but a couple of face plants, broken bones, concussions and a very good friends Campag pedal leaving a life long scar on my left eye meant that I lost my confidence and would never sit on a wheel closely enough to really be in the race!
Cycling was such a massive part of my life and despite stopping racing in my early twenties I continued to cycle to some degree until I had Zach.
I dabbled at a few other sports. I found running less time consuming when I was working so did that for a while, in the late 80’s went to a really hardcore aerobics class a few times a week, thong leotard (who invented them!) sweatband and leg warmers up in situ!
I also did a class called Work out for men, it was at a local sports center and in a massive room. It was a mixture of men and women and every week without fail a very hairy man would find his way next to me, I have nothing against hairy men or women but this mans sweat used to fly off him onto me. Sharing sweat with him felt way too intimate!
When I was pregnant it was my plan that I would be out running within weeks of giving birth. Things certainly didn’t go to plan, an emergency caesarian after a marathon labour and John having to go back to work the day after Zach and I were discharged from hospital didn’t help. I couldn’t even drive for six weeks let alone run.
I have attempted to return to exercise in the last 19 years, a brief go at Netball when I pulled my hand string so badly I could barely walk for two weeks, runs (actually not quite jogs) in the dark when nobody could see me, fair weather gentle bike rides never more than 10 miles.
When we moved to Wellington Street we found that the very steep stairs which lead from the bottom of Bengeo to the top were a very good aerobic workout so I decided that each evening I would run up and down them 10x! Ten very quickly became 5 and when a commuter walked past me while I was running I decided that I could find better things to do with my time!
A few months ago I went to see my GP about a pain which I have had in both my thumbs for some time. The GP requested a number of blood tests including cholesterol, Rheumatism and blood sugar. The results showed my cholesterol is higher than it should be and that I have Rheumatism.
Six weeks ago I decided I would go out on my bike three times a week every week in an attempt to get some degree of fitness and get my cholesterol down. My bike is an old but nice MTB, I have had it for over 20 years. I thoroughly enjoyed feeling my fitness increase and find myself not struggling so much up the hills, increasing my mileage and average speed.
I loved seeing the countryside and wildlife, imagining myself to be some sort of Snow White character(!) talking to the rabbits and birds as I went along. Cycling is giving me some head space to stop worrying about what I need to be doing for Zach and thezachproject.
I had mentioned to John that it might be nice to pick up a second hand road or crossover. As the third of four sisters I have only ever had one brand new bike in my life which was my 20 + year old Raleigh Team Titanium MTB.
Imagine my surprise when I came home a couple of weeks ago to find a beautiful shiny cute little road bike (it has to be little for me!) My initial reaction was that it is too nice a bike for me and for what I will be doing on it, I also felt some degree of pressure to ride it!
It is without doubt the nicest present I have ever had and riding it is fantastic. I feel like I am flying even though I am only just about hitting evens. My mileage and average speed are going up and I want to ride my bicycle!
Getting the balance right between being the parent of a young person with severe disability and getting some time out for yourself is tricky and up until now I haven’t been getting it right. I have quite stupidly felt a degree of guilt when I take time out for me but with things going well with thezachproject and my health suffering now is definitely the time to start.
Thanks so much to Senova Cycles of Hertford and of course to John for sorting out the best bling I could ever have wished for. I no longer feel guilty about having such a wonderful bike when I am a plodder I just look forward to the next time I can get out on it 🙂