Sunday, 17 May 2015

Back on the Bike

For a chunk of time that seemed like a forever, I was convinced I would never get back on a bike again. The panic attacks, the flashbacks and the still-visible injuries from my double-hit disaster last year had made me completely ride-phobic and I couldn't even begin to imagine finding cycling enjoyable ever again. I came close to selling the beautiful replacement bike that had been sitting unridden in the garage.

It wasn't until a group trip to the Brecon Beacons in March that I felt a teeny pang of jealously that the crew on roadies had found some bonkers hill to ride up; for the first time in over seven months, I wanted to ride my bike.

Unfortunately desire alone wasn't enough. The fear wasn't going away and bursting into tears every time a car overtakes does not a good ride make.

My very patient and protective friend, Holly, managed to get me out on a quiet Friday afternoon. The journey involved walking on the pavement of the busy bits, a slightly unacceptable amount of swearing and lots of flinching. Luckily the roads were mostly quiet and above all, we completed the ride without any tears.

A bout of hypnotherapy, a lot of research into NLP techniques and a huge amount of support saw me back on the bike doing a bit of commuting and getting all over-excited about Strava segments once more. Confidence was building.

Climb to the Lighthouse
We booked a very last minute holiday to Las Playitas in Fuerteventura, where the roads are remarkably smooth and the drivers - get this - pass wide and slow. Four days of (vey boiling hot and windy) cycling was enough to regain my faith in humanity and boshing out the brutal climbs in 35.C made me fall in love wth cycling all over again.

From Gatwick we headed straight to Snowdonia. This was the real test. I had entered one of my favourite triathlons, the Snowdonia Slateman, as part of a relay team. Originally I was going to be the runner but as things turned out, I was on the bike, and my team mates were very excited about it.

After grabbing the timing chip from our very frozen swimmer, the aforementioned Holly, the red mist descended. It is almost like the very act of racing is a fear barrier, there is nothing to think about except catching the next cyclist. Halfway up the Pen Y Pass I was already blowing. I could just spy Chris, our partner team's cyclist in the distance and convinced myself I was going to catch him. I was completely disillusioned of course but I ticked off plenty of others before eventually making it to the top where I felt like a total superhero being cheered on by the enthusiastic locals.

The descent from the Pass was a dream but after turning onto the A5 toward Llyn Ogwen it was a massive slog into a full on headwind. Turning the corner just after the lake and heading toward Bethesda was a relief. The Welsh are absolutely brilliant when it come to local support, people were everywhere cheering; on their driveways, on bridges, outside pubs and just at random spots on the side of the road. It is so great that people support these events and don't try to sabotage them as is so often in the case down South.

30kms in and I was feeling the burn. The mood was lightened with plenty of race banter with my fellow competitors. I had loads of back and forth with a smiley chap named Alastair. With 10km to go I had to stop playing with him though and push on, with no run on the horizon there was no excuse not to leave everything on the road. I was very slightly ahead of my time last year and was determined to beat it.

The very last section into Llanberis was finally with the wind and on a lovely new bit of tarmac. It was the perfect finish and I had just enough left to peg it through transition and hand over the baton to a poised and ready Emma.

The best bit about all of this was that to our total surprise, we were the first female team (and before you ask, not the only female team..). Wild shrieking and celebration ensued, after which we plotted to enter and win every team event going.

A team victory was a fabulous way to finish the weekend but the personal victory for me was getting out there and loving the ride. Words can't even describe how happy I am to be back on the bike, let's just say it is very very very very very.

p.s. Go Team Bradford Jones!
The very serious Bradford Jones team

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