Today is the day I sail to the Netherlands, for the biggest ride of my life.....except it’s not. No passenger ships are sailing, there is no race in the Netherlands or anywhere. I thought I was ok with this.....
As it’s a new year, and a new decade, its likely that a you’ve been looking ahead and setting goals. Last year I set myself a goal to cycle 6000 miles by the end of the year. It was a target I missed the year before but would be my highest annual mileage ridden. I like to set an annual mileage goal as it helps me to commit to getting out regularly. This in turn helps me achieve some of my other goals around keeping fit and healthy, riding long distances and encouraging others to ride.
Being a long distance cyclist was accepting that it was all I could become. Yes I could cycle a long way, and I loved to do this, but I felt I was deluding myself if I thought I could ever be even slightly competitive as a cyclist. Completing a long distance event in time, let alone a good time, was something that more capable & usually younger women did, not me. I would enter, because I liked the idea of a particular ride, and my aim was simply to complete it, hopefully in time.
So what’s change my perspective?
The strong desire to travel far away and to many different places
For as long as I can remember I have loved to travel. As a child, I would explore the local countryside, often travelling much further than my parents would have approved of. No matter what was going on in my life, my bike gave me the freedom to either escape or explore. The desire to leave the world behind for a few months, with nothing to think about other than eat, sleep, ride appeals.
In the early 19th Century, the first bicycles were developed by men, for men. Until the turn of the 20th Century, bicycles were considered only suitable for men since they couldn’t be ridden effectively sidesaddle – which was felt to be the only way that delicate ladies could ride anything!
I want to pay homage to some of those early female pioneers that broke the mould and went on to spectacular achievements at a time when women were still not supposed to exerting themselves, due to it being considered too dangerous to health, and also the stars of today, that still continue to inspire and break not only women’s records, but also some of those set by men. Who says women aren’t strong?
Shortly after my PBP ride, my daughter Abi sent me a message that took me by surprise a bit...
"Mum, I think I'd like to ride LEL in 2021"
My response, "Blimey, you don't do things by halves, do you? Have you any idea how hard that is?"
I was so proud, and then promptly set about sending her advice about all the things she would need to consider, and ways to build up her mileage and progress to the really long miles. This 'advice' was mostly unwelcome, but that's what mums do, and it's certainly what I do.
I had unfinished business with this ride. 4 years earlier this was my first attempt at a 600k, and a massive eye opener with regards to fuelling and sleep deprivation. However, all that aside, I had loved the ride, and the support and organisation made it one of the best Audax events in the calendar, especially if you were a novice like me.
I turned up in Chepstow, and looked around the rather smaller than normal group of entrants. Everyone looked very fit and capable, and then I also noticed the lack of women on the ride.
In normal years the ride attracts a mixed bag of riders. There’s no doubt this is a challenging event...after all, it covers the width of Wales, and ventures into the Brecon Beacons in both directions. But, it is such a beautiful and iconic ride that many Audaxers like to give it a try.