Monday, 28 November 2011

Let me take you back ...

What maketh a man a man?  Mountainous pecs, thunderous biceps, wealth and women?  No, I tell thee, nay do these things maketh a man.  Spunk, grit, awesomeness.  These are the makings of a real man.  I have all these qualities, in very small quantities (ha, tities).  Before I cycled Land's End to John O't Groats I had none of these attributes.  When I set off from Land's End on that slightly-chilled, slept-on-the-front-seat-of-an-Astra morning, I was but a shadow of the man I am now.

What followed was the bestest, worstest, hardest, awesomest, most eye-opening experience of my young life.  Let me give you a very quick run down of the events of those nine days:
Day 1 - Hills and miles
Day 2 - Hills and miles  
Day 3 - Miles and miles  
Day 4 - Miles and miles and miles
Day 5 - Miles, hills, Scotland and miles
Day 6 - Hills, hills, hills and miles and hills
Day 7 - Miles and miles and hills
Day 8 - Pain
Day 9 - Hills and miles and smiles

Woah, woah, woah, I hear you cry, that's a lot of miles.  You're right: about 920 to be almost exact.  How does a budding man prepare himself for such an olympic-sized task?  The answer is cycling, as much cycling as you can muster, or in my case about half as much as I should muster.  Not to worry, I had a secret weapon, blind optimism.  As it turns out that's all you need.  A man can cycle himself fit, but if you're lacking in mental strength you'll never make it.

You experience many emotions on a journey such as this.  I experienced mostly anger, anger because it was too hot, too cold, too windy!  Wind is the cyclist's worst enemy, wind of the sky and wind of the bottom.  Sometimes a man needs a poo, the worst place to need a poo is on a bike, but we'll talk about that later.

You would have thought it enough to cycle the length of the UK; but no, I'm not satisfied.  My soul is hungry and it must be fed.

So what's next?  More of the same?  Nay, for we must strive to push ourselves further and further, both physically and mentally.  I hear tell of a mystical journey from sea to murky sea and back again.  A mere mortal would look on this and say 'Pah, three days says I, be the time betwixt whence to complete such a challenge'.  But we are no mere mortals Lady Wordsmith and I, we are Titans.  Thusly, we WILL complete this challenge in no more than 48 hours.

As you might have gathered from this introductory post, I'm no writer (my big sister checks my grammar and spelling for me).  But I have tales to tell and advice to give, and tell and give I will.

As a great man once said:

'Live strong, die hard'.

You join us towards the End of the Beginning

If I'd have thought about it earlier, it would've been better.  As it is, here we are, at the end of the beginning.  Hope you can catch up.

Let me explain, in bullet points.

  • Terry Peter Rawlinson did LeJog, which is, for those who don't know, Land's End to John O'Groats, a tremendous cycle for Titans of cycling.  (He'll tell you all about it; you only need ask, or check this tag in weeks to come: 'Terry's memories of LeJog')
  • Delicious meal at Babar Elephant to celebrate Terry's incredible achievement - only five months of training (for the cycle, not the meal)
  • During the meal Pete, Janine and Linda Anne Rawlinson discussed possible challenges for Linda to do, because Linda was jealous of all the attention her brother was receiving
  • Linda fancied climbing Everest; Janine suggested swimming the Channel; Linda began to think that an eating challenge might be more her style, or perhaps a movie-watching marathon
  • Terry suggested The Way of the Roses (a west coast to east coast to west coast cycle, covering 340 miles), which is usually completed over three days: Terry likes to be arrogant, and said he would like to do it in two days
  • Linda thought 'oh dear', and said 'err, possibly' since she could see that Terry had hit upon the very idea that he would now pursue with deadly determination
  • Terry sagely left the idea with Linda, for her to think on
  • Linda asked Terry to accompany her on a trial cycle to see what she felt like (and also to make sure she cycled further than the end of the street, which is where she undoubtedly would have stopped had she been alone)
  • Linda and Terry cycled to Glasson Dock and back (20 miles) and Linda realised that cycling long-distance on a mountain bike was not going to be possible - too heavy, good work-out mind, but ... oww on the buttocks
  • Linda enjoyed herself, however - despite being told off for walking up a hill - and did a few more cycles on the mountain bike, until ...
  • Linda's mountain bike broke.  Fifteen miles from home, at Pilling, her bike seat fell off.  Buggered.  Rescued by Pete, dad, who came to Pilling to do an emergency and temporary repair
  • Linda had to buy a new bike.  Alright, she could've bought a new seat for the mountain bike, but she had already decided that, since cycling seemed to be the sport for her, she might as well do it comfortably.  She bought the Felt F85, because it had green on it, and came with white wall tyres
Meet the Felt F85
Yet to be named properly

  • Terry was disgusted with Linda's girly reasons for choosing her bike, but approved of the choice nonetheless
  • Terry and Linda decided to start testing out the bike, as well as Linda's stamina and strength - it soon became apparent that Linda was incredibly unfit for a relatively thin person and that much needed to be done
  • Terry and Linda did some 30mile cycles.  Linda started to get very drowsy ALL THE TIME, rather grumpy in the mornings, and very, very hungry, and also noticed that quite a lot of her body bits hurt most of the time
  • Terry, probably, worried that the challenge was beyond his weakling little-big sister and started to tell her how crap she was, in a Sgt. Foley kind of way - Linda took the abuse in good fun, and battled on
  • Terry and Linda eased off the gas a bit, because they are both inherently lazy.  Not much cycling was done for two or three months, because both had little sniveling colds and stubbed toes and any number of other lame reasons for cancelling planned cycles
  • Terry decided something had to be done, training had to start properly.  He made Linda cycle up the hill to Jubilee Tower in the dark - Linda was valiant, and despite the absolute terror induced by pitch black roads with invisible bends, bats flying at her head, and shadows moving in the periphery of her vision, she cycled up that damned hill, cycled up it and marvelled at her own Titan-ness
  • Terry felt some hope, at last

And you're almost up to speed now.  Since then we have done quite a few more cycles, at weekends, and my PB distance so far is 60 miles, which I cycled with relative ease just two days ago.  I cannot stress to you enough, just exactly how unfit I was, and how much pain I was in on the days after those first short cycles.  I was worried, worried I tell you; I did not think that I would have it in me to undertake a 340 mile cycle in just two days.  Now, I have some hope.  Terry has some hope too, I think.  Once I got past the 50 mile ... err ... milestone, well that was it: something changed in me, something clicked into place, some realisations occurred.  Apparently that's what happens at the 50 mile mark.  And now it seems ridiculous that I ever struggled to cycle 20 miles.  And don't imagine that I was being modest when I said that I was unfit at the beginning - not in the slightest: I was ridiculously unfit, and being a mother of three, that's quite something.

I'll tell you what made the 60 miles easier on Sunday though: Aerosmith on Terry's iPod.  Cycling up the A6, singing to 'Love in an Elevator'.  Now that's living.  I'm taking my own iPod next time, and sticking some Wagner on there.  'Ride of the Valkyrie'?  I'll be blasting along at 30mph with that blaring away, oh yes.

And before I finish, here are some things I like about cycling:
  • Bragging.  It's very satisfying to stand in the playground on Monday morning and tell my other mum friends how far I cycled - they might not be genuinely interested, but I can see slight looks of wonder in their eyes (they might be thinking 'you are mental', but I'm fine with that)
  • Lycra.  Seriously.  It's comfortable.
  • Rain.  I have a new appreciation for rain (which I had a faint stirring of already) - there's not much nicer than a sudden downpour when you're all hot and sweaty after doing a few climbs; very refreshing
  • Downhills.  Now they are a very special treat indeed.  You've just nearly made your lungs explode getting up a massive hill, and then you see the road stretch out before you, all down, twisting away into the distance, with no cars on it at all.  Amazing, incredible, exhilerating.  How fast can you go?  My fastest so far is 37mph.  Dare you do the whole stretch without touching your brakes?  
  • Achievement.  

So that's that for now.  In our next entry, we will chat about that 60 mile cycle that we did on Sunday.  I'm sure you're dying to hear all about it.  We have photos!