There’s something very wonderful about a meandering river, lazily making it’s way to the sea. It might get caught in gentle eddies, it will take as long as it takes. I can be jealous of this lethargy; so often it feel like there’s somewhere I have to get to, and I need to get there now. I wonder (when I get the time to think!) whether this is just who I am, or whether the twenty-first century instills this in me, through the expectation that we’re all doing everything, all the time. Do you feel like that? I think that
the myriad of self help books and podcasts for slowing down and learning to appreciate the day tells me that it’s not just me. My energy helps me head that way, but I’m not convinced that it’s all that healthy.
The other side to this is that having a goal can be very motivating and allow you to do more than you imagine you’re capable of. We all know that without a goal to aim for it’s impossible to score, and that our targets should be S.M.A.R.T. We read these things online in pastel coloured glib and pinnacle posts. When I was midway through my chemotherapy, a goal was offered to me. A pal had signed up to do a charity cycle from Leeds to Manchester, which is over the not inconsiderable Pennines. What a great idea, I thought! It was in September, I’d have 6 months to recover from my treatment, and train and get fit. It would help me lose some of my Michelin man steroid weight, it would get my fitness up, it would raise money for a cancer charity, it would be brilliant.
This blog post wouldn’t be very long if I now wrote that I did just that, starting with small rides, gradually building up and then completing it with barely a trickle of sweat, a healthier trim and toned me. You've known me for a number of posts now, it wasn’t likely to happen that way! I did do some things. I bought a nice bike. My steed pre-illness was an old 1980’s Peugeot shopper. I loved it, nobody was going to nick it, not least because it weighed more than a small car. It was comfy and as I pedalled my 5 miles to work in Salford, I could imagine myself gently solving crimes, like a modern day Miss Marple. To this end, I wore a tweed jacket as I cycled. No lycra for me. I was slow, and happy. Riding to and from school was a very therapeutic way to delineate the day, and be a bit more active; for whilst I wasn’t breaking any land speed records, I was moving more than I did driving my car.
So I bought a bike, a lovely lightweight hybrid and sold the shopper. So far so good. I went on a couple of rides, notably trying to ride to work on my first ever day back in, a 5 mile journey in which I cycled very slowly, almost exhausted myself within 3 miles, got a puncture, had to leave my bike at the wonderful Popup bikes in Manchester, get a taxi, be kindly told off by our super HR lady for pushing myself too hard, and catch 2 buses to get back to my bike to then cycle home. I had underestimated the effects of my treatment, not for the first time, or the last.
I started doing some very small cycles. The charity ride was 60 miles, and I was clearly nowhere near that. 5 miles became more than possible. I cycled from my house to Glossop. That’s about 10 miles, with hills. I was wiped out, but chuffed. I cycled home again too (after food and things). I must keep this up I thought, cycle over to meet my pal in Glossop once a week. Then I can build up to longer cycles. I’ll be at 60 miles before September then.
I didn’t. In fact, Ive never cycled to Glossop since. I’m not about to this week either, it’s January and freezing at the minute! I didn’t really do any training for the ride, and I know how stupid that is. So September came around, and my mum, kindly/foolishly offered to drive me and the bike to Leeds for 7.30 in the morning. I’d done some things, I’d got some energy gels and things, and fitted water bottle holders to the bike. Filled my water bottles. I had bought and got used to riding with SPD shoes on, which clip you to special pedals. I’d fallen off a few times when I couldn’t unclip fast enough in getting ready, but they’re so much more efficient, that I persevered. I’d raised over £500 in sponsorship. I’d had porridge for my breakfast. Whether I was really ready or not, I was lined up with everyone else and it was happening now!
It was the perfect day, bright, but not too sunny so I wasn’t going to burn. No real wind in any direction, and as we set off, people settled into smaller clumps of riders. There was a great feeling of camaraderie and we did the first 15 miles. There were 3 official stops, and it was well supported and catered, which mattered to me! The next 15 or so miles were fine, I buddied up with a guy who had also set himself the challenge of the ride, done more training than me (not difficult) but was feeling nervous too. I’d never really cycled with anyone else before, and I was glad of his company.
The lunch break was fine, I tried not to stop for too long, and set off again. I was feeling pretty good. The next stop was the furthest away with a stinking great hill in the middle of it. I got off and pushed. A lot. This section wasn’t that enjoyable, but we did it, collecting some more folk who were just pleased to be managing it on the way. Stop 3. I posted pictures of my frizzy post chemo haired self at each stop, looking gradually more delirious and sweaty. As we set off for the final stretch to Heaton Park in Manchester, my legs didn’t want to propel me any more. My bum didn’t want to be on the saddle. I wanted to be at home. To my shame, I can’t even remember my cycling pal’s name now. But we got to Heaton Park side by side.
I learnt a lot from that cycle.
I learnt that people get you through things.
I learnt that I’m stronger than I think.
I learnt that I like cycling and I continue to enjoy it.
I leant that I’m a fool who should be more disciplined.
learnt to not sign up to things that people post on Facebook, in a fit of enthusiasm!
I learnt that I was past being ill then.