Beating the weather

Lately my life has been all about learning.

Learning new skills, learning that I can be the old me again, learning that old skills are still stored carefully in my brain waiting for me to dust them off again. Learning to have confidence in myself and trust in my abilities. Important stuff.

There’s a learning point that I’ve been thinking of in particular.

You never know if you never go.

You never know if you never go. This is slowly but surely becoming my new motto.

Instead of staying home just in case the weather is awful, the traffic is terrible, the people are critical, the class is long and boring, the walk is too steep and etcetera, I’m transitioning into a more cautionsly optimistic frame of mind.

Cautiously optimistic is a term coined by my GP and is used when we think we’re have a breakthrough but it could be nothing or it could come crashing down or it might stick. We’re hoping, based on not very much maybe, but we’re hoping.

So being cautiously optimistic would look like saying to myself, what if the weather is lovely, it doesn’t rain, the traffic is a breeze, they are all lovely and kind, I learn lots and the content is interesting, and I manage the walk and have the satisfaction of accomplishment? What if?

You know by now that I completed the Wheel Women-run She Rides program in Hawthorn. By the nature of bike riding the classes are held outdoors. I was happy to be enrolling in the autumn class rather than summer because I get hot easily. But of course the flip side is that autumn can get cold, and as it turns out wet. Wet was something I hadn’t really thought about beforehand but there was a lot of it around!

So every Tuesday for 8 weeks I committed to meeting the group in a car park at 10am to take the class. The classes were held over March, April and May. Other than the first class all of the classes involved some riding around of various distance. So I’d wake up on Tuesday morning and look out the window to see what the day looked like it had in store and what kind of riding conditions were out there.

I have a second storey window that looks west-ish. Probably South-West-West if I remember correctly from school, but it doesn’t really matter. The morning sun, if it is showing, bounces off the new plate glass type multi-storey construction in front of my window a ways away so I can sort of get the gist of east and west. All irrelevant detail really.

Sometimes it looked windy. Sometimes it was raining. Sometimes it looked clear. Sometimes it wasn’t rainy but looked ominous. And to be honest, sometimes it was beautiful and sunny. Somehow the story doesn’t have the same drama when things go well but of course sometimes they go well, and really well!

If I had pulled the pin every time that I thought the weather was going to mean the class was cancelled, I’d only have made about half of the classes. But there was no weather cancellation clause, the rider being that if it was truly too awful to be outside well at least we would all have coffee together and a nice morning anyway.

And you know what? In eight weeks we never got rained on once! The weather was never terrible, just a bit windy or a bit chilly. Now that winter weather has arrived the weather we had for those classes looks even better by comparison! And we had some really nice, lovely, enjoyable days too. Must mention the good days!

One time we had to move our class from the outdoors to the nearby cafe to continue talking about bike gear; but only for the last half hour anyway which may well have been spent the same way on a clear day.

One time we sat in the nearby rotunda and chatted while it dripped around us.

Every time that we went on a ride it rained before, or after, or both and a couple of times it started raining as we got into our cars to go home.

But every time we had a great class, a lovely social event and nice chatting over warm drinks and fun riding.

And the stats have gotten even better: it has now been 13 weeks since the first class and in all that time we have only cancelled one class. That’s it, one class.

We’ve sat in a cafe with our hot drinks until the rain cleared, we’ve had coffee instead of a ride once only, and last Thursday it started raining as we got in our cars!

The forecast has looked terrible, the radar has been worse but I have really learned a valuable life lesson over these weeks.

By treating the situation as non negotiable, it takes away all the umming and ahhing that I usually do, mostly from a sitting/lying in bed position. No procrastination, because it’s an inevitable event.

You are going. I am going. The other girls are going to be there expecting you after having organised themselves and gotten to the meeting point. Our dedicated coaches are waiting for you to show up so you have to go. Telling myself ‘if it’s really bad we’ll just have coffee and it’ll be fun’ got me out the door on the worst days.

And do you know what? That worst day by forecast we did a 14km loop into Herring Island and back, which is somewhere that I’ve wanted to go back to since the summer but didn’t realise there was a bike path that could get me there.

And so this day, and each and every week I have said to my self, and likely to some one else too cos I’m like that, ‘if I hadn’t come, look what I would have missed out on!’

I would have stayed home, probably in bed to be honest, trying to avoid the rain when in fact by going I found out that there was no rain (although it was jolly cold!)! At least not between 10am and 12pm. It was beginning to spit as we got in the car but we did it! A nice flat ride, interesting sights and a surprising location, great company and that feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment that is just so lovely.

To feel like, I’ve really done something today! I wasn’t going to go, I thought it would be awful and difficult but I went (kudos for that), I participated (easy once you’re there, getting started is always the key!) and I had a great time and now I can rest mentally knowing I’ve done something worthwhile for myself and I’ve been a team player and it’s such a nice feeling!

Rather than wasting away the day waiting for the forecast and the outlook to be better before venturing out. Turns out you really do have to JUST DO IT! And more times than not, it will be well worth your while and you have experiences and enjoyment that you would have missed waiting for the sun to come out!

Bike learning

Last Wednesday I drove out to the Yarra Ranges for a bike ride with Wheel Women.

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You remember Wheel Women? They are the awesome group of women who have teamed up with Cycling Australia to run the empowering She Rides programs for women around Melbourne.

I’ve finished the course and now I’m in that tricky phase after completing any kind of training or education; implementing the knowledge and making changes in my life. But with the great Wheel Women She Rides version it isn’t really a difficulty at all! Each and every week there are several rides posted by Wheel Women for us graduates and other female riders (and occasionally males), and the majority of them suit the level I am at now.

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Not the level I want to get to, or that my husband or friends are at, or that I have been told or feel that I should be at; just the level that I am at. Which is very encouraging to keep on keeping on with regular bike riding.

There are a variety of rides from different starting points with different groups. I participated in the first ever Hawthorn She Rides program, but there have also been programs in Docklands and Knox and Geelong, and I think one in Bayside…don’t quote me on that one. I know the Hawthorn girls pretty well after eight weeks of classes and practice rides and coffees and tech nights together. So I’m always happy to go riding with them. But I’ve also been on a Docklands ride and a Knox ride and one of the all-in rides out at Warburton. And so far I haven’t found a single lady/girl/woman/chick that wasn’t lovely and helpful and kind and considerate. Also encouraging!

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Take the Warburton ride last Saturday. The large majority of the riders started at Lilydale for a 70km round trip to Warburton for lunch and back. In the classes and in my first ride after with the Docklands group (group being an optimistic term as there were two of us plus the instructor!) I’d only done up to 20km; not sure that we’d actually hit twenty. We’d done a 2km round trip to practice starting and stopping and turning, and about the same to practice signalling.

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I’d been terrified of doing really any riding at all before the class because I was, and still am a bit, scared of the effort involved in riding up hills, and that I couldn’t do the distance, being so much less fit than when I last rode. The only ride I’d done in the last two years was an excruciating 5km on the Eastern Freeway trail with my hubby. I wasn’t ready, I wasn’t fit, there were hills and it was just a struggle! It hurt and I wanted to get off and not get back on.

But those first two rides were fine. Then we did a 6km ride into Richmond to the Total Rush store to learn how to fix a flat tyre including taking the wheels off and putting them back on, adjusting the chain and derailleur, taking out the tube and patching or replacing it and putting it back in. That was a great and very empowering session!

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The ride was pretty good but I got too hot going into town from Hawthorn. I always get hot, it’s just a fact of life now that I’m on the antidepressant venlafaxine. I overheat, I sweat, I wipe off the sweat and repeat! I’m so excited for winter! Well outdoors winter, not indoors winter…heaters are the bane of my life!

Anyway, I got hot and that reduces my tolerance for pushing myself. I get exasperated and just want to do anything to get cooler. It’s such an unpleasant feeling, and I hate that people can see all the sweat on my face, and its still my number one side effect to get rid of on my dreamboat wishlist. I’d followed the clothing choices of everyone else with lots of layers including gloves and neck warmer. But I’ve learnt since that in most situations I’m better off in Tshirt and pants. I get hot riding but the breeze goes through my shirt to keep me cool and I’m happy; it works. I take extra just in case, but don’t put it on until I need it.

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Anyway, the ride from Hawthorn to Richmond is a pretty flat ride with a couple of little rises but we’d only learnt gears the week before and I’d had a chest infection and hadn’t practiced. Of course I’d used gears before this course, but not correctly it turns out. Gears makes so much difference when you know how to use them! So being hot and exasperated and still coughing from my chest infection I ditched the 6km ride home and caught the train instead. With a flat phone and scant knowledge of the Glen Waverley train line I somehow got off at the right station and found my way by bike the 2km back to the car. I wasn’t that far behind the others.

But the idea that I couldn’t keep up, and riding was hard had received a boost!

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Luckily the next week we tackled a 14km ride to Herring Island and back that I found easy! From can’t do more than 6km to easy 14km! I don’t know how or why but it happened!

I was worried beforehand, but I ended up chatting to another girl all the way in (the distraction really works!) and at the end I felt like I could have ridden further; I had effort still in the tank waiting to be used! That was a nice feeling.

And for the very first time in years, I felt that exhilaration, euphoria, sense of everything being well and life being exciting that they tell you comes from endorphins! Which was a real revelation! 18 months after my diagnosis of depression/bipolar I finally felt that benefit of exercise that everyone’s been yackedy yacking about! I can see now why they say exercise is good for your mood…but I just couldn’t get anything like that with walking. It was sometimes pleasant but not euphoric. Going to the gym sometimes gave me a taste. Playing squash had gotten me part of the way, but my fitness can’t manage that now. But bike riding really nailed it!

After that ride we rode a longer distance into Fed Square which I managed well, then my Docklands crew ride was 16km, dead flat and along the beach on a glorious day! Perfect!

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So the Warburton ride. I’d made up my mind that I would tackle the 35km loop on the trail from Woori Yallock to Warburton and return. I could have chosen the 20km loop from Launching Place but I wanted to see how I went extending myself. I was reallly enjoying my riding by now, and had proved myself to myself a bit, and was aptly a fitting graduate from the She Rides Confidence program!

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I’d wanted to ride the Warburton to Lilydale rail trail for YEARS but never felt fit enough. And herein lies the beauty of the Wheel Women community. A ride that my husband would do, but which wouldn’t really be as valuable to him as his 100km+ weekend road loop. He would enjoy exploring and the scenery, but I’d feel a bit babysat. I don’t have any other friends who ride right now. And going out there by myself is something I’d never think of! But here is a ready made group of women who also want to ride the trail, don’t have anyone to ride with and we all turn up and do it together! Brilliant!

We were told beforehand what speed range we should be able to hold to keep up with the group. I knew that I could maintain that speed based on previous rides, however I failed to consider the difference between riding on asphalt/concrete and fine gravel; the latter is quite a bit slower! But the leaders put me at the front of the group so that my speed would dictate the speed of the group and I wouldn’t get dropped (a cycling term for being less fit/skilled/able than other riders and getting spat out of the back of the group as they gradually pass you by virtue of their better skills/fitness/abilities!). This still happened to me, twice! But I was never left behind.

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The combination of a slight incline, gravel, starting with no warm up, the group being warmed up and ticking along at a good pace meant the first few kilometres were a struggle! I was maintaining a speed about 4km/hr slower than intended but the first time I was dropped I caught up with the group at a road crossing. I got put at the front but still got inevitably passed one by one as the incline and my quads fought each other! That time I stayed behind for a few kilometres with a very patient partner-of-a-coach tagging me all the way.

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That’s what I love about Wheel Women; they leave no man behind…or whatever the modern expression is. You are noticed, you are part of the group, you are looked out for, you are helped and supported along the way, and if things go bad thay’ve got your back. Although we’ve been taught how to fix our own mechanical issues its nice to know you’re riding with experienced women who can back you up with technical assitance and spare parts.

Speaking of mechanical issues. I went back out to tackle the Warburton trail on Wednesday with the Knox group, also lovely ladies. I rode two easy kilometres to where I was meeting them for the Launching Place 20km loop. My mum and grandma were driving out to meet us for lunch. And lucky they were! As I was waiting I heard the unmistakeable gush of air passing out of the tube valve, and my back tyre went dead flat! Not good, but the group were coming and they could help. Here was a steep learning curve that I needed and won’t forget. The group leader: Where’s your spare tube? Don’t have one. Okay I’ll see if mine fits, no it doesn’t. That’s okay we’ll patch it, where are your patches? Don’t have any. Okay I’ll use mine, start taking off the tyre, where are your tyre levers? Don’t have any…spoken very quietly!

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Oh dear!

And the reason I didn’t have them? So silly! The week before I went in to Total Rush to get all the bits and pieces, but I forgot the $100 Specialized voucher that comes with Wheel Women membership. So I postponed buying until the next week when I would be passing by for my GP appointment. Sadly this ride came the day before that appointment! Missed it by that much!

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Suffice to say I now have all of the above and more! Because the outcome of the day was no one had the right sized tube to lend me, the patch didn’t hold and the valve got damaged and wouldn’t hold any air. The one bike shop didn’t stock my tube size, so they day ended with an emergency pick up from the family, lunch, and a drive home! Very disappointing but I won’t repeat it! 2km total on a lovely mild day with fair weather all round! Dulp!
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But stay tuned for photos of me doing all the mechanical work with my two bare hands while my hubby commentates from the sidelines. You haven’t seen the last of me!

*Much of the photo credit must go to Tina, possessor of the genius behind all that is Wheel Women. Your talent at taking photos while riding knows no bounds! Thanks for documenting my progress in pictures 🙂