The challenges of preparing for a ‘once in a lifetime’ cycling marathon
I am not a cyclist, this is my first blog and in 2 days’ time, with only 11 weeks’ notice, I’m cycling 430 miles across Ireland in aid of the Bath Rugby Foundation, when my work colleagues volunteered me as one of the only two able bodied staff at work to do it. Here is my story.
Day 1. Minute 1.
Sitting in a weekly meeting at work, third coffee into the working week, thinking today was like any other. One minute I’m talking client status, the next minute a short conversation about other staff member’s ailments turns into me taking part in a cycling marathon.
Day 1. Minute 3.
It dawns on me, being a practical person and working mum, that a) I have hardly cycled much for fun in the last ten years so where on earth does this marathon thing fit into my life and b) My bike is a women’s mountain bike, 13 years old, rusty with a puncture and covered in cobwebs – I need a bike and FAST!
Day 1. Minute 5.
Apparently the list of staff ailments included a bad back, damaged hip, home/life commitments and a recent sore posterior incident cycling across the small town of Corsham! It crossed my mind to think of a few minor ones of my own (listed below), but then I thought actually, why not, how often do working mums get handed an opportunity like this on a plate, I AM GAME ON, I just need to break it to my husband…
My fantasy ailment list;
- I have an allergy to wind in my face
- I have poor balance and have fallen off bikes since I was a child
- One leg is longer than the other and pedals don’t fit me
- I have a false leg that doesn’t bend
- I swallowed a bee once whilst cycling and nearly died
- My inner ear has fallen out with my outer ear, I can’t hear traffic and lose balance when cars come near me
- I have a phobia of saddles and since bearing children, let’s just say, I am more wary!
Day 1. Minute 11.
- I’m on board
- I need a bike fit for purpose
- I’m becoming more aware of the consequences of this by the second
- Another coffee required
End of Day 1. Home.
How do you explain you’ve gone to work on a normal working day and comeback having to cycle 430 miles in aid of the Bath Rugby Foundation, have no bike and are uncertain as to how we are going to feed and look after our children for a week in June. At least it’s June! Ages…
Husband returns from work, it’s fair to say he is pretty busy, in a different way to me – he has staff not kids, has no break at all EVER in a working day and has absolutely no idea I’m about to tell him this… Mmmm. Wine, he likes wine and pleasantries and amusing anecdotes about the day. Today is a cracker I say, try this one for size…
Week 2. Mission ‘Buy a Bike’
Since the previous week a lot of thought has gone into practical things, not least of all what to do about a) Training and b) a Bike and not necessarily in that order. Thankfully after a drink with a friend, I discover her husband has a training bike to offer up plus turbo trainer. I had no idea what a turbo trainer was but gratefully accepted both and arranged collection the next day!
Kathy and Chris were stars, the bike is great and the turbo trainer (now I know what it is) turns out to be a lifesaver for the training regime I am about to commence. Apparently I can now cycle indoors, not leave the house and there’s no need to manufacture some kind of children’s bike harness on my back! I can actually fit training around the kids and I will get fitter for this challenge quicker than I thought. The thoughts of rain sodden dark cycle rides, when the kids are in bed, has now been erased and I’m looking forward to getting stuck in.
The only downside is getting them off the machine so I can get on it to train, 7 and 8 year olds like the novelty of cycling and watching TV in mummy and daddy’s bedroom or should I say velobedroom as my husband has affectionately called it.
Week 2. Day 2. Training Plan
Delighted to receive a training plan from the Bath Rugby Foundation, which was immediately placed on the wall in the office for all to see, this was the moment my competitive streak was laid out bare. I thrive on a plan to follow and follow it I did… I ticked and crossed out any completed day, taking pride in each completed week – in my element and starting to fall in love with said bicycle.
The freedom, thinking time, fresh air, opportunities to explore local villages I never knew existed and farm shops I never knew where there, experiencing the general friendliness of the cycling community and feeling fit and healthy to boot, equates to heavenly. Time to take in the scenery without having to answer endless q’s from children – bliss! I will admit this felt like a rather selfish indulgence at times and certainly didn’t come without its guilt as a mother but with the perfect excuse, I simply have to train to get through this thing.
Week 2. Day 3. Bike purchase
My friends bike is great, but we both agreed a new bike would be a safer option for the actual event itself as I couldn’t bear the thought of breaking his bike through my training or overuse. Work have been fantastic and let me use the Cycle Scheme to help fund the bike knowing it was for a good cause. Cycle Scheme is such a brilliant concept and offered a fantastic discount.
Choosing a bike was trickier than I thought, the only bikes I had bought in the last 5 years were for small children and my knowledge of stabilizers was not going to be relevant here. I had some great advice from our local bike shop, who listened to my future endeavor with amusement and quite frankly disbelief. I was as ever completely unprepared in my high heeled boots and skirt and then being asked to try the bike for size, not one of my finest moments.
Bike sorted, scheme documents completed and the bike was ready for collection. Since then It’s fair to say the shop keeper has become a good friend of mine due to the amount of time and money I have spent in his shop. A top tip for would be cyclists is to get your kit list on the cycle scheme up front, you can’t go back and add things to get the discount after the original purchase as I discovered to my dismay!
Weeks 3-6. Early cycling adventures
Basically summed up as trying to cycle between 10 to 15 miles from home and not getting lost. As close friends know and I will be the first to admit, map reading is not one of my strong points. My husband finds it highly amusing and frequents the story to anyone that will listen, that I lived for over 30 years within a mile of the A3 but could not point out where it was on a map!
I did have the help of “Map-my-ride” which is really handy for recording how lost I got. My record so far is attempting a 30-mile ride and turning this into a whopping 58 miles due to taking a wrong turn.
One way to prevent myself getting lost was to stay as near as I could to the largest main road near my house, which I would not recommend, and many cycling friends looked at me in horror as to why I ventured onto the A420 on so many of my rides when I have beautiful countryside west of where I live – the truth is it is one of the few roads I remember and it was a magnet I used for getting me home. I have subsequently seen sense…
Another lesson about biking I had to learn the hard way was that no matter how light your bike is or easy biking is compared to walking or running, hills are still HARD. Thank god for granny gears, I have lots of them and they became my friend tackling the incredibly undulating Wiltshire countryside.
Stuff I bought as well as my bike (in order of importance)
- Padded seat! (I cannot recommend this enough, as a novice cyclist)
- Padded cycling wear in general (in case the padded seat fails me, I have got 430 miles to sit on this thing)
- Hat (vital)
- Pump (vital)
- Bottle (vital)
- Cycling clothing
- Lock (heavy thing but useful)
- Saddle bag (handy for cash, inhaler)
- Measuring thing (still in the box)
- Inner tubes (no idea what to do with them)
- Puncture repair kit (as above)
- Energy gels (still working out when best to use these)
- Cleats (see later notes, they are a cruel mistress)
Weeks 6-10 Training with friends
I have the bug and cycling has changed my life. I’m getting fitter, I have a new hobby and one I can enjoy with the family too.
I had dabbled with jogging and the odd fun run in the past but since taking up this new hobby I have completed the Bath Color Obstacle Rush, run a 10k fun run, trained with many friends and raced people around Castle Combe Race Track on my bike. The Colour Obstacle Rush was a great experience, I did comment that the old me might have looked back on it and said I could have had the same effect tidying up while my kids were painting at home, without leaving the house and getting out of breath, but it was genuinely fun and I have Oppo & the Bath Rugby Foundation to thank for getting me in my new state of mind!
Training routes are now rising nearer to 50 miles and I’m still getting lost quite a lot.
Week 7. Met my fellow marathon cyclists for the first time
One sunny Sunday in May I met up with some of my new team mates for one of my first longer 40-mile distance rides. I joined them on a bike ride from Corsham to Tetbury and back and what a fabulous morning it was. Very different to cycling alone, cycling in a group was great for pushing the endurance, speed, I learnt lots of rules of the road, had wonderful chats and got to know everyone a little bit. Great to feel part of a team and the camera dory of the exciting event ahead! I’m sure on the event days to come the miles and Ireland are going to be made much easier in the darker moments, when I have motivational friends like this to keep the spirits up.
Week 9 Cycling in Cornwall/Family cycling
With a bank holiday weekend in Cornwall on the cards, my bike made the journey and to continue on with the training I managed to clock up over 70 miles in total, discovering a beautiful coastline – idyllic. Hours of self-indulgent pleasure and an experience I won’t forget in a hurry. This was followed by an afternoon on bikes with family, frequenting the camel trial from Wadebridge to Padstow and back. Pure joy to witness family getting into this way of life too and coming to join me willingly (not always an easy task with children). We all now have the bug and it’s great, I have the event to thank for that. Youngest daughter has now managed to cycle 10 miles without stopping which was unheard of this time last year, a real achievement.
Fundraising in aid of a great charity: The Bath Rugby Foundation
Rebecca and I have been VERY busy over the past few months; turbo biking outside a local leisure centre, Bath street collecting, setting up a bake sale at a local school, running various raffles, raising cash via pub charity buckets and rallying round many family and friends for support and sponsorship.
For all fundraisers and friends we can’t thank you enough and I am certain Bath Rugby Foundation would agree you have been amazing.
A special thankyou goes to Dave Attwood, Bath and England Rugby player, who has been a great supporter and not only generously donated but also came to see us to give us some motivational advice which frankly money cannot buy.
Training nearly complete – ‘The Cleats story’
One week prior to the event and I try out cleats for the first time, what was I thinking?! With my dogged determination and quite frankly insane outlook on life I assure myself this plan is a good one. My keenest cycling friends said cleats improve performance by 25%, something to do with getting more power from the up as well as the downward pressure of your pedals.
Two miles in, one stop to have a check of the GPS on my phone, forget to decleat and fall in slow motion into the middle of road with bike still attached to my feet.
Cleat Injury No. 1 list
- one bleeding scrapped knee
- one about to be very bruised knee
- a slightly battered chin
- a very scratch up hand
Oh and not forgetting my pride in tatters…
Pulled myself together, decleated (I was like a stranded tortoise up until then) and in typical style got straight back on the bike, took a pic of my injuries, sent to my poor training partner Rebecca and set off again.
All was going well until about another 10 miles in, tackled a nemesis of a hill, struggled to the top and in my exhaustion couldn’t find the energy in time to decleat. A fall again in exactly the same style as before but with a different audience rather than cows, this time in front of a whole pub garden full of people enjoying their Sunday lunch. Not one of my finest moments and a key lesson.
At home, cleats back in box and returned to the shop for money back. Pride and common sense restored and with one week to go to our event to recover.
To coin a phrase from another blog I read, “Sometimes life throws amazing opportunities at you. Sometimes, things come along that you never imagined you would get to experience.” Being given the opportunity to cycle across Ireland from Cork to the Giants Causeway is one of them!
OPPO Digital UK have been proud sponsors of Bath Rugby since 2015. To find out more about OPPO Digital UK, follow this link
If you would like to sponsor us please follow this link
And finally here’s a link to find out more about The Bath Rugby Foundation