The Weekend That Was Supposed To Be

Holkham Half Iron was today.

I was supposed to be racing it.

I didn’t.

Anyone that has been following this blog (hahahahaha) knows that I transferred my place to Outlaw X in September. A most wise and excellent choice. To the point that although the weather looked perfect – I didnt feel bad about not doing it. Although I did remind myself that I need to run.

So what did I do instead?

I surprised myself.

It is becoming a bit of a bad habit to say yes to the random things my mates suggest. About a week ago one mate sent me a link to race he had signed up for – up near Consett on Derwent Reservoir. Asked if I fancied it – and camping (with my new tent). Well bit of a daft question. I read through and debated it – but then it dawned on me I could use this to my advantage.

I decided I would use this as the perfect opportunity to head north (what a surprise!) and go cycle in my favourite part of the world – Northumberland.

I decided not to race but still go and camp and support my mate racing, while also riding my bike.

It was actually quite hard getting myself up and out on the Saturday morning to be honest – there was a little voice in my head wondering whether it was worth the money (fuel) and time going all the way north just to ride for a few hours when I could do a 40 mile ride at home. I had already printed off some OS maps just to keep in my pocket as I don’t have a cycle computer, and my bike was in the car – sod it. I overrode the little voice of doubt and thought it would do me good to go.

It was. Road trip central. I set off at half 7, donned in lycra from the start. I stopped at Scotch Corner as per normal and got some funny looks – which considering the lycra was unsurprising. I made Beadnell for 10.45. Driving North makes me so happy!

The weather was absolutely lovely but as I sorted out my bike and got ready to go (this is quite a quick process when you are on your own!) I realised that my route meant that I was going to be cycling back with a headwind!

Ah well.

My route was taking me towards Boulmer via the coast and then back round towards Lesbury and up to Rennington before heading over North Sunderland and into Bamburgh – this was a long tough slog actually – headwind and up hill – but the view was worth it (see the picture!). The other thing that made it worth the slog was the tail wind from Bamburgh through to Beadnell and some amazing speeds and top 10s on Strava!

It was bliss! I stopped eventually at the harbour in Beadnell for an ice cream before cycling back round to the car and heading back to Derwent Reservoir. It was mixed feelings though – it was an epic ride in terms of scenery and just sheer enjoyment – I was over the moon with myself at cycling so far away from home (without the usual back up) on my own! But equally – I really would have liked to have had someone to share it with. The joy of a good bike ride is like nothing else!

However I was feeling – it definitely helped reset the happiness/wellbeing button in my own head.

So looking forward to riding up there again and planning my next trip up there!

Emotional Recovery

This blog post has been written and re-written a few times over the last week or two It is also rather long! The original draft I blurted out after a week of being very tired (and suffering DOMS) and emotionally a bit out of sorts – not helped by watching Rocketman at the cinema.

But seeing as tonight is the year anniversary of the official beginning of the end so to speak, it does feel fitting and somewhat cathartic to sit and reflect.

This post is very much about emotional recovery as opposed to physical¬†(although I’m catching up on rest now and realise I need 7 hours of sleep a night to really function!).

Brief background

Today is the Summer Solstice – this time last year I was swimming in a lovely little lido in North Yorkshire – knowing full well something wasn’t right. I knew things hadn’t been right for a while but I’d put it down to stress. This particular night though he was mega distance – more so than normal and driving home I just knew.

I texted him ‘You don’t want to be with me any more do you?’ and the response?

‘I didnt want to do this over text’

So essentially – he didn’t want to be with me. His behaviour highlighting his cowardice more than anything. I had to pull him up. I had to hit the nail on the end. Eight years. Just like that. All for another woman essentially. Far from repeat myself – take a look here for the full story.

So one year on….

I am still single.

But emotionally I am in a far better place. Don’t get me wrong, there is some lingering bitterness – understandably but it’s fading. Rising above it all and in the words of a mate ‘remaining classy’ has, at times, being very difficult – but same said mate is my voice of reason and go to when I need reminding of this!

Things that I have realised:

I have had a lucky escape – so many people have mentioned how boring the ex is/was. Family and friends. Even now ‘he seems a bit 2D’ – this made me laugh. I’ve thought about this and actually theres some truth, though I wonder how much of this is related to him falling out of love with me and falling in love with someone else – but I don’t know so much – when he left old job, I hoped that we would do more spontaneous things – and we never did. In 8 years we never even lived together. Clearly he wasn’t the one, and thank the heavens we never got married. His loss will be someone else gain. Hindsight is a wonderful thing and two failed marriages which didn’t last as long as our relationship, and then our eight year relationship – he has some serious issues to sort out (as soon as any woman demands commitment out of him he bolts/behaviour changes). My dad always said he’d never marry me!

Being single and independent – is A LOT OF FUN! Don’t get me wrong, sometimes it’s quite hard and I’ve had to make myself go out and do things. Quite often though I have managed to rope others in! I can suit myself without considering someone else – which has been an amazing feeling – after being in a relationship for 12 years and never being single as an adult…. anyway – lesson learnt – retain some independence. Be my own person. I do miss having that person who always has your back, if that makes sense. I was talking to the girls at work and they got what I meant!

Friends (and family) – I’ve found out who my mates really are and what they are made of – this includes virtual friends I have made over Twitter! I am in a far better place because of their love, support and enduring patience. As well as a lot of ribbing and piss taking. They keep me grounded. There are no words to explain/convey my love and gratitude for everything over the last year and in general. Someone mentioned that I am pretty strong emotionally – and I had to explain that most of this is because I have this amazing set of people around me – that I have surrounded myself with, that I draw my strength from. I have accepted the support, leaned on them and moaned a bucketful and all they have shown me is love, care and support. Without them, I would not be where I am now.¬†I’m also one of the youngest out of the lot of them and I trust their usual wisdom. Normally anyway. Apparently I am the bad influence. I don’t think I am. If any of my mates read this – some know about my blog/Twitter – massive thanks and love – you really are awesome!

I am more capable than I believed – I’ve done more random things in the last year than I think I ever have – honestly – buying a business, racing on my own, travelling about, on my own, fixing things, being self-reliant. Finding my own two feet and what makes me tick! Finding out who I am in relation to me, and not in terms of ‘a couple’.

Good sex is out there. Just saying.

Being selfish – first time single as an adult and I have been able to be completely selfish – and I’ve enjoyed it. Doing things/races I want to do. Sometimes you need to be selfish and be true to yourself – this links quite nicely back to the bit about being independent!

I also need to take less crap from blokes and probably be a bit less laid back in relationships – I hung around and waited 8 years for nothing – never demanded anything, had low expectations.

Making up for lost time – I have filled the last year with adventure – with saying ‘yes’ to as many things as possible, to living life to the fullest and doing stuff that I never dreamt I would. My bank balance isn’t happy but – I have no commitments and ties – and to be fair, I’ve done some serious adulating and sorted out my credit card. For all my little emotional wobbles – being single at 30/31 – has been be best adventure I have had for a long time but this does lead to some worries/concerns which are probably only natural.

General worries:

Starting again – will I ever trust anyone so completely again? Head is weary, heart says yes. I use one of the girls at work as living proof that things will come good.

Children – I don’t know if I want them. Part of me screams yes. Part of me is enjoying life too much to want them – no-one ever sells the joys of motherhood. This really worries me. I am worried about being an older mum. About settling down.

My expectations – My mum thinks I am being too picky – well I don’t want to waste another eight years on someone that isn’t right. I was talking to my boss about this just this afternoon and she doesn’t think its a case of me being picky but more a case of me having higher expectations, less willing to settle for second best and having a better idea of what I want in life/a partner.

Being lonely – sometimes I am, which is unusual. I miss having a partner-in-crime, a go-to person, someone to spoon/watch dodgy telly with. To spend time adventuring with – its always better with someone else.

Getting ‘stuck’ with the wrong person again. Goes without saying.

Not knowing what I want – I don’t plan ahead anymore – I don’t think, oh in x amount of years I want to have done/achieved/be… in the words of Graeme Obree – ‘be more seagull’. I am very much a believer that things happen for a reason – and always when I try and plan too far ahead – it never pans out like that.

The person I am now if very different to the one I was a year/eighteen months ago. Far more outgoing, no longer in someone else’s shadow, more confident and outgoing, braver and stronger. I’m a older, improved version of the 17 year old me I think. And for all her spunk – I rather like her!

The heartbreak, the split, life experience shapes you, but more importantly, life is what you make of it, and its there for the taking!

Enduring Inspiration

I am never going to be particularly fast – I know that – not the fastest swimmer, not the fastest cyclist, not the fastest runner. Seeing gains and improvements is always satisfying but the ‘fastest’ at anything isn’t my style. I could go for endurance though – and I suppose this is why I find endurance athletes the most interesting and most fascinating.

I follow quite a few endurance athletes via social media such as Nicky Spinks and Sean Conway. I’ve also met both of them. I’ve also recently been reading Mark Beaumont’s books, so when I saw he was on a book tour – there was no way I wasn’t going to go.

For those of you who might not of have heard of him, Mark Beaumont is a well known adventurer – most famous for his cycling exploits – included racing Africa as well as two around the world cycling trips – most recent one being Around the World in 80 Days – an amazing feat (go read his books!).

I am not a fan of driving into Leeds to be quite honest but this was worth it. Parking up at the Light and walking across the Carriageworks Theatre I arrived in good time. Which always amazes me as I usually cut these things quite fine.

Either way, what followed was broken down in to two parts – the first half gave background to how Mark Beaumont got to the point where cycling the world in 80 days became a possibility. Everything that had gone before leading up to it. Working out what was possible – what the intention was. Not just breaking the previous record but setting a goal and working out what was possible – like he said, good project management. It was genuinely fascinating – I am currently half way through the book but it won’t spoil it I don’t think!

Then the second half focused solely on the 80 days – the difficulties and how it was actually possible – I could have sat and listened for hours – how it seemed actually possible to develop and create your own trip on your own terms was what really stood out to me. Considering how much I love a good road trip made me think about how much I missed having a tent! I’ve been moaning for a month or two about how I left a perfectly good tent at the ex’s! Not amused.

This nicely leads on to the fact that I actually won a tent last night. Vango currently sponsor Mark Beaumont so there was a competition to win a tent – tweet or Instagram a picture from the evening with the hast tag #forwhereveryougo and you stood a chance of winning.

Possibly the best tweet I have ever written – though from my other twitter account!

So come the end of the show I went off to claim it and actually met him. I am rarely shy but I was last night. Ooops.

I also got talking to Ed Pratt who has cycled the world on a unicycle – honestly – that to me is mega crazy – over three years. My biggest question was along the lines of – whats your cadence like on a unicycle?! I am genuinely intrigued – and I would love to go see him talk. That might be my next trip….

Anyway – if you haven’t read Mark Beaumont’s books – I would really recommend you do! I’m off to plan my next adventure!

Beryl Burton – Cycling Legend

The chances are you have never heard of Beryl Burton – arguably one of the greatest female cyclists ever. Her achievements were phenomenal and, despite having died in 1996, her 12 hour distance record still stands.

On Friday night, a few friends and I went to see the play, ‘Beryl’ – a play written by Maxine Peak, originally for the West Yorkshire Playhouse. It tells the story of her life and her achievements – not only on the road or time trialling but also on the track in pursuit.

She is still relatively unknown by so many people – yet even with today’s modern technology and bike, knowledge of training and nutrition, she still holds the record, as I mentioned, for distance travelled in 12 hours (277.7 miles if I remember rightly!). At the time, she even took the men’s record – which took another two years to be beaten.

The play itself was fantastic and I thoroughly recommend going to see it if you ever get the chance. Having read the screenplay while away on holiday, I knew the play but to see if performed live was really special. I also had a bit of a heads up on my friends so it was a pleasure from my point of view to see their reactions to her, and introduce them to the wonder that was Beryl Burton. A wee bit of a cycling heroine in my eyes – with an absolute compulsion to compete and win!

She wouldn’t believe it!

This post has been flitting through my mind without even realising it until today. I’ve partly categorised this under ‘Matters of the heart’ because it is a subject that is close to my heart – education…

Random thoughts this morning while heading to the gym to swim included the thought that one day I would like to write a book. I’m not sure if I ever will but if I do it will probably be related in some way shape or form to triathlon. I say random thought but I think it was triggered after seeing that Sean Conway’s new book is available for pre-order. This then got me thinking about who I would dedicate it to – which links in with a random tweet from someone the other day about school PE and former PE teachers.

To put this into a bit more context. The tweet in question was something along the lines of how being a chubby (fat) child, people presume you would be bad at sports – yet there she was having running an ultra as an adult. I was a chubby child, more academic than sporty. Sorry. Academic and non-sporty. I was rubbish at sports and dreaded PE. I had this the other day with some lad over on POF when I announced my dislike of team sports, he presumed that it was because I was rubbish at sport – not an uncommon assumption. He carried on to say that it didn’t matter if I was the slowest etc – I could still train and play – or words to that effect. I clearly put him in his place (don’t get me wrong, I’m not the fastest but I’m definitely a competent swimmer and reasonable cyclist). I just don’t like team sports such as netball (or football etc).

So all these thoughts and things coming together – if I wrote a book that was sports related – I would dedicate it to Mrs Houlston – one of my PE teachers from secondary school.

As you’ve probably guessed, I really did despise the majority of PE in school. Most of all team sports. Netball topping the list. Being picked last is demoralising. I hated most of it. Although ironically, considering my love hate relationship with running, I never minded XC and I loved badminton (the only sport I ever played as extra curricula at school – we were just allowed to play, it was run by the male DT teacher and with hindsight was probably rather dodgy!). That’s about it. You may have already noted – these are usually solo events. Even now I hate team sports or anything like that – although relays are fine. I put it down to school mostly but when its a solo sport, you’ve only yourself to upset/let down really, anyway this is going off point a little.

Where does Mrs H come in in all of this? Why would I dedicate a book to her?

By the time I was in Y11, I was walking a lot more, being generally more active and I’d started to lose the puppy fat that had plagued me for as long as I remember. No-one ever said I was fat or anything like that but I wasn’t slim and my mum always just called it puppy fat. There was a complete transformation in my appearance – when I show people my Y7/9/11 school pics they don’t believe its the same person.

There is one PE lesson, or rather snippet at the end of a lesson, that really stuck in my head. It was summer, we were playing rounders. Yes I’d been picked last again but as I wasn’t carrying the weight any more suddenly I was managing to run and get half/full rounders. We were walking back to the changing rooms and Mrs Houlston was walking beside me and just happened to say something along the lines of how well I’d played or compliment me on how much faster I was/fitter I seemed. I told her about the walking, she seemed impressed. I don’t quite remember the words, but I remember the feeling. I’d had a compliment/praise from a PE teacher! I was secretly proud as punch – praise was less meaningful in other subjects as I was pretty good academically. The other thing to note about Mrs H, especially compared to my other PE teacher, Mrs P, Mrs H was always more understanding of us less sporty girls – encouraging yes but never berating us for thinking we weren’t putting the effort in or make us feel awful. It’s like she knew how much we despised it and tried to make it tolerable (she did know, I’m sure of it!). Mrs P always seemed full of over-enthusiasm and had obvious favourites – the sporty ones. We always copped it.

That feeling that I got from the quiet praise and the fact she had noticed, means that Mrs H will always be a bit of a hero when I look back. Its been the comment thats stuck with me more than anything at school. It’s probably inspired me more than I realise too as I often wonder what she would make of what I get up to now! I’d like to think that she would be a little bit proud. She will have no idea just how much of a lasting impression her words have had and I would love to just bump into her one day and tell her. My inner teacher is reminded that teachers hold more sway than they realise sometimes and sometimes its the littlest things than make the biggest impact.

So if and when I do write that book… I will dedicate it to Mrs Houlston, with a massive thank you for recognising that I maybe wasn’t quite as rubbish as I thought and for just making my last term of school PE ok.

 

(I’m starting a triathlon coaching course this weekend. I don’t think she’d believe it!)

 

Mirror Mirror

‘Christmas is a season not only of rejoicing but of reflection.’ Winston Churchill

Wise words from Churchill himself.

I have actually done some reflecting, not quite intentionally, as a result of a random dream and random recent events that I won’t go into too much detail about. This year has been one of many ups and downs.

Well, I say many ups and downs, it started up, then went down majorly, then improved – more than I thought it would. In all honesty, I am in a far better place than I thought I would be and I am really excited about 2019 (my credit card isn’t so happy). I genuinely cant believe I’m sat here, six months post break up, in such a better place.

It is the first time I have been single for twelve years. Written down, that looks more tragic than I feel it is. I am starting to enjoy being single and as cliche as it sounds, finding out what makes me tick and makes me me again. A friend said to me the other day that she thought it was a good thing that I was still single and finding my feet. Clearly my ex wasn’t actually good enough for me (or good enough for any woman? or just not right for me? Not sure). I’m at the point where his new girlfriend is most welcome to him as when I sat and thought about it, I think I was too laid back and actually, I’ve realised quite a few things that again, for various reasons, were just not normal/right in a relationship that lasted that long. I suppose after the former boyfriend, things seemed more normal. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, and I do believe things happen and people come into your life (and out) for a reason – even if it isn’t clear at the time. The fog and confusion of a major break up is just about clear (some things still hurt occasionally but for the most part, the voodoo doll is away).

Anyway, on a more positive note…

As daft as it sounds, I feel like I’m reverting back to the teenage me, or rather, the 17 year old me – and I quite like her! Although I hope I am somewhat wiser than the 17 year old me. The flirting, having fun, no commitment, no considering other people’s plans – another mate asked me how I seem to be attracting blokes, but in all honesty, I like blokes, and even though the last one eventually showed his true colours, I know not all men are the same. In the same breath, I am also more aware that not all men are knights in shinning armour/have honest intentions – but so long as the intentions are clear – I am rather enjoying being single.

I am really looking forward to 2019 – I’ve so many things I want to do and develop – I’ve a new business that I want to build up and expand on, exciting races planned, training penciled in, a holiday booked and so many other things I want to do – I feel the world is at my feet. It’s just up to me to embrace it and see what happens.

So while I have been reflective – I am also rejoicing – the love of family and friends has got me through so much and I am eternally grateful for that. I am rejoicing that I am stronger than I thought and emotionally in such a better place.

2018/19, I think, may prove to be the making of me.

 

I am just a little bit excited!

Velodrome Fun

I’ve been on a mission to do and try new things and so when the Velodrome at The National Cycling Centre was mentioned – there was no chance I was going to miss that!

I had debated staying in Manchester last night and having a mooch around but decided a 6am alarm and picking up friends for a road trip was a better idea. The car was backed – cycling kit, helmet, bottle of water, baking (obviously!) and said friends picked up – the velodrome awaited.

It was eerily quiet there actually. We were early but not quite the first there – hiring shoes and waiting for everyone to turn up, chat turned to nerves. We got changed and headed to get our bikes and as we walked up in to the middle of the velodrome nerves really hit as I saw how steep the banking was. The same nerves as I get before a race. We all got track bikes, put our shoes on and headed up on the the side of the track, lined up along the grab rail and were given an introduction to track cycling.

I was starting to wonder if I would remember everything. We set off, one by one. Pushing ourselves off with our left hand and turning the pedals. Its the first time I’ve been on a track bike but also the first time on a single, fixed speed bike with no brakes. Bit of a shock to the system. Two laps on the concrete later and we stopped again – next bit of knowledge before being allowed on to the boards.

I did a couple of laps on the light blue boards at the bottom and slowly ventured up, moving up on the straights. Oh my! You are convinced when you look at the banking that you will never be able to get round or that you’ll have enough grip, but the more you go round, the braver you get. It actually didn’t take long for me to start sneaking up the banking – I even made it to the top – it was so much fun. Hard work but fun.

The nerves went and I spent the whole session wishing I was as fit as I was at the end of TT season. Flying round the track knowing I was no where near as fast as the pros has given me a new found respect for the professional track cyclists. The space of the velodrome and what we were doing just seemed so special – especially when doing it with a bunch of mates. One friend, who was so nervous, spent quite a lot of time on the light blue boards at the bottom but eventually braved moving above the black line and towards the red and blue – I was so proud!