Have you read/heard that I ride? I ask that sarcastically; pretty sure I’ve mentioned it enough times now for you to know about the last 7 month’s bike riding journey for me. Today is me bragging!
Riding, or cycling? Personally, I don’t care whether you consider yourself a cyclist or a bike rider. Apparently some elitists consider bike riders to be the newbies, the beginners, the around towners, the ones with baskets and pannier brackets, and the cyclists to be the pros, the Lycra wearers, the 100km in a huge bunch knocked out in just a few hours. I know I’m a bike rider, and I’m proud of that. Nothing to the contrary.
Today I did a 40km bike ride. I’m writing about it because I think today, and leading up to today, shows how far I’ve come on my journey to get back on my bike, and shows the possibilities that are open wide to everyone of any ability who wants to get in on the fabulous fun of cycling.
For example, among the first people to pass me (there were many others!) was a man with a prosthetic leg clipped in to his pedal and his primary school aged son. If they can do it, everyone can do it! I was mentioning this to my husband, and as he recalls the man had a prosthetic arm on the same side as well! But they were going strong.
In fact kudos to every kid who did the 40km course today; what a bunch of superstars! And all the kids doing the fun runs, and ably running the sausage sizzle cash box and drinks; I hope you had a great day, and it made my day seeing you all out there. What a community spirit! I’ve never been into that sort of thing, but the atmosphere on the day kind of picks you up and carries you away!
Today was the Bass Coast Cycle Challenge (BCCC). Ever since I started riding in March and gradually found myself comfortable with 1, 4, 10, 14, 22km rides I’ve had in mind to do this challenge, to test myself. This is a ride, not a race but each person does get timed via a chip on your number sticker in case you want to set yourself a goal, and you don’t have a Garmin cycle computer or a Strava account online! My husband still maintains the official count cost him 9 minutes, and 18th place instead of 9th, but we don’t have time to go into all that!!
The ride is set in beautiful Inverloch on the coast, and all courses go via Wonthaggi then along the stunning coastline from Cape Patterson back to Inverloch. Depending on the distance, each course goes out further in different directions, but if they were anything like ours, they were a scenery dream! Green paddocks with cows feeding, scrubby bush, the whole ocean out on display, windy undulating roads and landscape; just a delight to be out and about.
My husband has ridden this ride twice before, both times in pouring rain and frigid conditions! But this year is the first year that I even dreamed of doing part of it. It was always way out of reach before! Of course he rides the 121km course that starts at 8am, and it was never ever my sane idea to go along with him. But there were other options. I dilly dallied between 53km and 40km, and in the end I chose 40km, and it was a great choice. The 53km course goes up some hideous 2km hill apparently, which I think would have been the decider between me having a good day, and a very bad day!
I was worried about this ride. I’ve never done an official ride before. I’d never actually ridden 40km before. I would be riding alone,with no one specific looking out for me. Would I be able to cope with the weather? And the hills, oh the hills, would I be able to manage the hills?
The furthest I’d ever ridden prior to this ride is 35km on the Warburton trail from Woori Yallock to Warburton return, and the last few kilometres weren’t a great excitement to me. Although that was in my gym pants which got sweaty and chafey; now I’m in my bib nicks with padded bottom and Lycra fit, and I’m never going back! I know Lycra is a thing with people, but honestly, however bad you think it makes you look you will be well and truly repaid with comfort and prevention of chafing!
Every ride that I’ve done around this length, say 25km or so, we’ve always stopped in the middle for coffee or lunch. This ride was going to the 40km pretty much non stop. I mean there was one refreshment stop with oranges, bananas, home baked treats and assorted drinks; but I was worried about the keeping on going.
The only time I’ve ridden solo in recent history is when I was riding out to meet my husband; and when you know someone is waiting to meet you, you’re not really riding alone. I rode 16km of the Warburton trail on my own, then rode back with hubby. And I’ve been riding out about 7km to meet him on his way home from work a few times lately. But I imagined it’d be a different thing to be just with yourself and your head and your thoughts for 40km, on unknown terrain in an unexperienced ride. Especially when the thoughts are like a whining child!
Are we there yet? How much longer? Has it only been 5km? This hill is hard, can I stop now? My legs hurt, my butt hurts, when are we stopping? I’m hungry. I’m thirsty! My butt really hurts! This hill is so long, is it still going, why is it still going? Where is the rest stop? I’m all sweaty. Now I’m cold. Now I’m hot. Give me a tow, someone!
You know how they say a problem shared is a problem halved? That is totally true of cycling! I told you a delightful lady called Zoe from Leongatha pulled up beside me? That was probably at around the 1/4 mark. She commented on my nice kit for plus size women; I told her about Wheel Women, and we chatted all things enjoyable biking the rest of the day! It’s just nice to have your own companion and to look out for each other. We cycled together, taking turns in front and behind at a comfortable pace til the end, and she got us to hold hands and do a victory salute as we crossed the line. How cool is that?! I hope I meet her again, on some ride or other. A ride is always better with friends!
When you’re chatting and enjoying yourself on the bike, time and kilometres go by and all of a sudden you’ve done 5 or 10km without thinking about it, or checking the Garmin! Whereas on my own I have to really make myself not check the distance every minute. 1.37km done, 3.2km now, 4.56km…am I really going to get to 40km?? And there’s nothing to distract you from the burning legs going up hills, or the muscles around the sit bones demanding you get out of the saddle.
Looking at the weather a week out, it was meant to be around 20 degrees with breeze. And it was, to my relief! The perfect blue sky day at a comfortable temperature with a light breeze not heavy enough to disturb cyclists. No 40 degree raging heat wave, no sleet and gale force winds; just a lovely, enjoyable weather situation! Although I’m a hot bod, I dressed warmly. And I was glad of it. Going down hills, when the wind whipped up, and going along at 20kmph tends to be a lot cooler than standing around or walking. I stood outside before I put on all the extras (arm warmers, neck gator, vest) and it felt alright, but at the last minute I decided to put everything on; I could always take it off. And I wore everything but my neck gator to the end! I did take my vest off at one point, but ended up putting it straight back on.
So,here’s my kit top to bottom: neck gator, jersey top, Lycra bib nicks, base layer singlet (excellent recommendation Tina!), sleeveless waterproof vest worn open, arm warmers, helmet, Road ID/beyond blue/official race bracelets, socks, runners.
Speaking of kit, I had my very first pair of cycling socks! Perfectly matched to my kit by my awesome hubby, and they went like a charm! No more sports socks bunching in my shoes giving me a numb pinky toe, no more jamming puffy socks into runners; perfect.
Despite my deep mistrust as to why hills are placed in my path, I was taken a step further towards liking hills today. A delightful riding companion who attached herself to me pointed out, as has been pointed out to me before and is slowly sinking in, that at least with hills you get to go down the other side. Obvious stuff, but when you’re on a 10km stretch of road that’s just constant pedaling you do look for the relief of the (obviously) small uphill then a downhill coast and stretch and get up out of the saddle, most importantly! That’s right, I said I was looking for a hill to give me some relief. You can even quote me!
So, how did it go?
Actually, I had fun 🙂 I got to the end and felt like I could go a bit further! I felt like I still had some energy, and a bit of strength to go on, which I was pleased with; it’s nice to feel how far I’ve come in energy and stamina! I also found that looking out for my hubby who promised to meet me at the 3/4 mark kept me distracted and looking forward and not feeling the hills so much. That anticipation is just another form of distraction, as was the gorgeous ocean views and even the farm scenery. They all help keep you rolling on.
I also felt that it went quite fast. Because I’ve never done a start to finish ride of similar distance, I had a weird sense of how long it would take, and guestimated 4 or 5 hours! In fact I finished in 2 hours and 3 minutes! And I wasn’t amongst the winners that’s for sure, I think I got 181st or something; the fastest rider finished in something like an hour and 25 minutes! I hadn’t needed all of my water or Gatorade, I’d had a nice 5 minute sit in the grass with a Coke and orange quarters at the halfway mark; all in all I was feeling well apart from tight quads and sore sit bone muscles.
So I think the sum of the matter is that I greatly over-exaggerate the harm that will come to me on the bike, and highly underestimate the progress that I’ve made that will ease the way, and even result in an enjoyable day out on the bicycle! Time to be more optimistic about my skills and abilities, and worry less about what can go wrong!