Posts tagged ‘Cycletta’

December 20, 2013

Becoming a cyclist.

Last Sunday, I did my first ‘proper’ bike ride on my new road bike. I’ve done shorter bits of riding around Leeds before, but nothing above about 20 miles. On Sunday, we did 35. And most of them seemed to be uphill. Leaving North Leeds towards Harewood, then onwards to Harrogate and RHS Harlow Carr, we made our way along little side roads where possible, keeping away from traffic. Not always possible, of course, and on a couple of occasions I got a little nervous about the closeness and speed of some vehicles passing us. It felt a bit like some of the people driving massive Range Rover type vehicles really didn’t seem to know how wide their car was.

Having said that, the main way I was likely to end up having an accident was from too much nosiness! Lots of terribly nice properties, gardens, allotments and field of ponies to be stared at. None of which I should have been looking at when on a bike, so I had to keep reminding myself to concentrate and look at the road. Whenever we started climbing, I had no difficulty in keeping my eyes firmly fixed ahead of me, as I concentrated on my breathing and making my slow and steady way up the hills. I even managed my first Category 4 climb and did so without stopping, thanks to the support from my fabulous boyfriend. I had a little cry at the top of one of the particularly gruelling hills; cycling uphill into a head wind is not a lot of fun.

But despite the tears, the pain and the jelly legs, I loved the ride. Not least because we had a halfway stop at the poshest cycle cafe in Yorkshire, the famous Betty’s tearoom at RHS Harlow Carr. Not a cycle cafe at all, obviously, but they were as gracious to us in our cycling gear as they were to everyone else in their rather smarter attire. And, despite a bit of stiffness getting going again after a stop, it certainly helped on the way back.

Looking back it seems such a long time ago that I was terrified of cycling. I’d not ridden since a childhood accident, until I was caught up in the idea of trying my hand at completing a Cycletta, which I did on a hired bike. Then came my beloved, but ultimately ill-judged Pashley and now, I’m committed to the idea of being a road cyclist. Not someone who rides for speed, togged up in logo-emblazoned lycra, but someone who rides for fun. Maybe for a bit of touring over longer distances with a pannier and a youth hostel to sleep in. I’m not sure yet, but I’m definitely well on my way towards losing that fear. I’m excited to see the Tour De France come to Yorkshire next year, planning to learn more bike maintenance, booking my ticket for the Festival of Cycling, and fingers crossed, entering the longer distanced Cycletta at Tatton Park.

I feel like a cyclist now. Really and truly. And to have faced my fear feels brilliant. I recommend it!

Female cyclist

December 29, 2012

My 2012: the year in review

It’s been a while since I wrote a post. My blogging timetable has gone completely out of the window and I barely know what day of the week it is. I blame that period in between Christmas and New Year – perfectly named ‘The Lull’ by a Twitter friend of mine. I don’t enjoy The Lull, I find these days to be an utterly frustrating combination of post-Christmas comedown and impatiently waiting for the new year to begin. Anyway, enough of my whining. I hope that those of you who celebrated Christmas had a lovely time. I’ll probably be starting the new year with a carefully-scheduled post about plans and resolutions and all my usual self-challenging kind of behaviour, but for today, I thought I’d look back at 2012.

It’s been an interesting year, one that I was really looking forward to, and I can’t quite believe it’s over bar the New Year’s Eve rendition of Auld Lang’s Syne. I suspect that most British reviews of the year will talk about the London Olympics, although I think that Bradley Wiggins winning the Tour De France was my own favourite sporting event of the year, and I’m utterly thrilled that Leeds will host the Grand Depart of the Tour in 2014.

My review will be a bit more self-centred than everyone else’s because I’m going to have a look at my own personal highlights of the year.

Luckily, it’s easy for me to look back on these, because this blog is a good record of what I’ve done. It’s amazing to look back and think that I did all these things this year. The trip to Rome in the spring was a wonderful highlight. It’s an incredible city and I’m glad to have visited. It didn’t quite capture my heart the way that Paris has though, so I suspect that I’ll be back in Paris before I return to Rome, but the hotel we stayed in was a unique experience, and one I’ll always remember.

Other highlights included my kayaking trip, despite the near-death experience of falling into freezing water twice. Ok, that’s a touch over-dramatic, I know. Anyway, it’s not been enough to put me off wanting to have another go if I get the chance, even though I have a feeling that I’m never going to be great at watersports. I’m planning to go surfing in 2013, which feels even more ridiculous than kayaking as far as the potential for doing myself some damage is concerned. What the hell, you only live once, right?

Earlier in the year I wrote a post about why Twitter has changed my life, and that remains as true as ever. Over the past year, I’ve met some people through Twitter who have become incredibly important to me in a very short space of time. They know who they are. The ever-increasing number of people I count as friends from Twitter is a wonderful thing. Basically, if we’ve ever had some kind of beverage together, then you’re on my list! This has only happened in 2012, and yet in many cases, it feels like I’ve known people far longer, particularly the ones who are responsible for the dramatic increase in my coffee consumption because of our regular lunchtime meet-ups.

As far as this blog is concerned, the absolute highlight has to be my commendation from the Blog North Awards, which simultaneously reduced me to tears and boosted my confidence in what I write so very much. It was completely unexpected and I will always be grateful for being nominated.

Of course, some things didn’t go quite according to plan. I didn’t manage to do 35 new things in my 35th year, which ended in June. Partly because, as always, I forget that I don’t have endless amounts of spare time and bags of cash to do things with. Not sure I’ll ever really learn that lesson though. I do regret that I didn’t manage to do Cycletta again on my new Pashley, but I might have a go at riding it next year. The other thing I regret is that I’m very, very unlikely to complete my Goodreads Challenge to read 52 books in the year. I’m still about ten books away from completing it, with only days of the year left. Having decided to read children’s books in order to complete it, I’ve found myself reading Michael Chabon’s ‘The Mysteries of Pittsburgh’ instead. A good book, but not a particularly quick read. Still, I have learnt that quality is more important to me when it comes to my choice of reading than quantity, so it’s not been a complete failure of an exercise.

The things I did complete during my challenge were all good in their own ways – from pop-up tea-rooms to drumming lessons – and I loved doing my challenge. After that finished, I’ve managed to do most of the things I wanted to get done in the latter half of this year, which has mostly revolved around my allotment and setting up Sage and Thrift with the most important person I’ve met in a long time, the wonderful and remarkable Josephine Borg.

So, a good year. As I’d hoped. They do seem to get faster and faster though, which is a little terrifying. Once it gets to this point in December, I never really want to bother with New Year’s Eve. I want to tidy up the Christmas decorations and get cracking with the next year. I know, I shouldn’t wish my own life away  but there is lots to look forward to in 2013 and I’m impatient for it to arrive…

June 8, 2012

My New Plans.

After a year of challenge, there was no way I could just stop, so I’ve spent quite a long time thinking about what I want to do next and so quite a few things on this list are a natural progression from my 35:35 Challenge.

I’ve realised that although I enjoyed the rather haphazard nature of my last challenge, I actually need a bit more structure. I want to do a few more tangible things in my 36th year that should hopefully show definite results, so I’ve grouped my plans into four main categories and I’m going to record my progress for the year in each of them. There is obviously going to be crossover between them, but broadly speaking, they’re as follows:

Food: From Allotment gardening to Michelin starred restaurants.

Jam making. Allotment gardening. Cookery classes. Michelin starred restaurants. Street food. Apple Day. Agricultural shows. Cooking with my kids. Bee project. Exploring new food. Pop-up tea rooms and restaurants. Cheese making. Patisserie. Market shopping. Discovering new local food producers.

My main plans:

  • Cookbook Challenge. A continuing challenge to cook something from each of my 64 cookbooks and record each one on my Tumbr account.
  • Developing the ‘Leeds Cookbook Collective’ (this is a new project that I’m starting with a friend and something I’m quite excited about)

Outdoors: Being Active in the Natural Environment.

Cycling. Horse riding. Walking. Climbing. Running. Camping. Sailing. Kayaking. Teaching my kids about wildlife, nature and the seasons. Picnics in the park. Walking in the woods. Sandcastles in the summer. Snowmen in the winter.

My main plans:

  • Riding – I’m going to get back on a horse again this summer. If I enjoy it, I plan to re-learn to ride again from scratch. This is a huge undertaking, as I’ve not been in the saddle for three years and if I’m honest, I have in the way of little natural ability so it’s hard work.
  • Train for an event. Probably a walk/run/climb of some kind. I want to do this with another person. You up for it? (This is possibly the Leeds Half Marathon with @wandapops. There, I’ve said it…)
  • Get back in a kayak. Much like getting back on a horse, this is something I need to do. Preferably in calm, sunny waters!
  • Cycletta. Complete this on my new Pashley Princess. Which means I’m unlikely to beat my old time, but I’m going to enjoy it nonetheless. Come and say hello if you’re doing the Tatton Park ride too!

English Adventures: From Northumberland to Lands End.

Exploring the parts of England that I’ve never visited before. Sharing the Isle of Wight of my childhood with my children. Traditions, seasons and special events. Day trips to the seaside. Pony trekking in the Dales. Camping. Festivals. County Shows. Steam railways. 

Main Plans here:

  • A weekend away in the autumn much like our Cambridge visit. All ideas for places to visit will be very much accepted.
  • A family holiday to the Isle of Wight.
  • Making the most of weekends to visit somewhere we’ve never been before.
  • Taking the kids to Countryside Live.
Literature
Reading some of  the Classics. Penguin book collection. Vintage Vogues. Ruby Ferguson First Editions. Second hand book shopping. World Book Day with Eve. World Book Night. Leeds Big Bookend Festival. Ilkley Literature Festival.
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Main Plans here:
  • Complete my GoodReads Challenge to read 52 books in 2012.
  • Search for the missing books in my Ruby Ferguson collection.
  • Top Secret Project. This is a big project and one that is definitely Top Secret because it’s self indulgent and a bit ridiculous. Apart from the fact that I’ve already told loads of people. Mostly because I need their help. You know who you are…
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So there we are. A busy year, but one that is definitely more focused on fewer subjects in more depth than last year. I’m also feeling as though I want to spend more time at home and re-visiting things that I’ve loved for a long time, so that is definitely reflected here. There is something about this time of year that always makes me a little rose-tinted about being in England. I’m also enjoying setting goals from one birthday to the next instead of from one January to the next. It feels like a better way of recording my own life. So, the next thing to work out is how I’m going to get all of this done…
June 6, 2012

A Final 35:35 Challenge Post

So, I didn’t get to 35 things. That’s ok. I feel as though I’ve learnt so much over this past year, that although I really wanted to make it, I don’t feel as though I’ve failed simply because of a number.

Highlights:

  • Completing Cycletta.
  • Completing the Yorkshire 3 Peaks and raising lots of lovely money for Bliss.
  • Drumming.
  • Learning to kayak.
  • Joining Twitter and all the wonderful things that have happened and people I have met as a direct consequence of that.
  • Strengthening older friendships, especially with Hillary, who taught me drumming and kayaking.

Lowlights:

  • The sheer bloody pain at the end of the Yorkshire 3 Peaks, which made me cry.
  • Falling out of a kayak twice.

Having said that these are lowlights, they are also some of the most memorable parts of the year, so I don’t regret them for a second. It turns out that I have a little masochistic streak that actually likes finding things a bit painful – it makes the success that much sweeter.

Other things I have learnt this year:

  • I am more capable than I think I am.
  • I don’t have to wait for someone else to join me when I try something new. I am brave enough to do things on my own.
  • I like physical challenges more than my laziness and ‘curves’ would suggest.
  • The scatter-gun nature of this challenge has been partly successful. It has made me better at saying ‘yes’ to things.
  • However, it has also made me realise that I now want a bit more structure to my projects.
  • As much as I enjoy being sociable, I also enjoy being alone sometimes to have time and space to think and read. This means balancing out my social activities so I don’t feel overwhelmed by them.

As we all know, the act of recording things changes them, but I’ve also realised that it is a really good way of getting a truer picture of what I manage to achieve. I sometimes have moments where I think that all I do is go to work or do the laundry. At those moments, I look at the list of things I’ve done over the year and it reminds me that I’ve managed some brilliant things, on top of being a good mum, employee, friend etc. So I will continue to record what I do, irrespective of this challenge.

So, what’s next?

PS: This means it’s my birthday today…

May 29, 2012

Choosing a New Bike.

I’m in the process of choosing a new bike, and I need your help!

Although I would really love a stable of bikes, so that I’d have one for every eventuality (wouldn’t we all?) I need to start with one.

Reasons for choosing a traditional bike:

1) I don’t get to ride very often and this is unlikely to change in the future, so I need to think about the kind of riding I do get to do

2) Most of the cycling I’ll get to do will be pottering around on local rides or riding with the kids as they learn. This is likely to be in local parks, trails and quiet areas.

3) Aesthetically, this kind of bike is really pleasing

4) I’ve always wanted one!

5) I still plan to get a more rugged hybrid kind of bike too, for things like trail riding with my husband, when I get the chance.

6) I would have a new bike by the time I go to Cycletta.

7) Cycletta is only one day. This bike would be for life.

Reasons not to get a bike like this:

1) They’re pretty, but how practical are they?

2) I wouldn’t really be able to ride it off-road very much.

3) How will I look at Cycletta on this kind of bike, surrounded by road bikes?

Hmm. Anyway, if we assume that I am going to get a traditional bike, I’m still stuck with indecision and this is where you come in.

Help me choose between these:

Pashley Princess Sovereign: This is the classic Pashley bike.

Pashley Brittania: This is based on a Princess, but it’s red!

Pashley Poppy: This is based on a Princess frame but with a straighter handlebar, no basket. It comes in this pale blue or a pastel pink.

Genesis CDF Cyclocross bike.

Finally, this is a bit of an odd inclusion, but I do love this bike. It’s a cyclocross bike so would be useful for any occasion but I’m not sure if I will like sitting forward in a road bike style. Mostly, I like it because it’s cornflower blue!

So what I want you to do is help me choose. A little disclaimer here, because I might not end up buying the one you pick, but it will help clarify my thoughts. Then I’m going to Edinburgh Bicycle Co-operative (where the photos are from) to have a test ride and do some shopping!

January 23, 2012

Energy In, Energy Out.

So, running again yesterday. It was hard. Much harder than last week, which lulled me into some false sense of security. Today, the wind was blowing a gale, all the frozen ground had turned into a good few inches of mud and it was really difficult. I had to stop and walk in places, because it was so slippery I couldn’t get a grip, and given that I’m only just recovering from one injury, I didn’t want to end up with another. So, I spent quite a bit of the time, walking, swearing and watching my much-fitter husband disappearing into the distance.

See what I mean?

In the summer of 2010, I was the slimmest and fittest I’ve ever been, if you discount the year when I was 19 and working full time in a riding stables. I even fitted into a pair of size eight jeans. For about half an hour. Although I am fine about being bigger ( I don’t think I’m ever really destined to be a size 8 again) I am less happy about my level of fitness dropping so much and truthfully, I don’t want to let myself get any bigger than I am now. A combination of injury, greed and laziness has resulted in me putting on quite a bit of weight and losing muscle tone and although I’m still fitter than I was at my lowest point in 2006/7, I am still unhappy about it.

So, time for a plan. As well as the weekly outdoor run, I will make a better effort to get to the gym for two mixed cardio and weight sessions a week and also try to find something that will help my ever-decreasing flexibility.  Although my body is far better suited to cycling than it is to running, the reality is that running gets me fitter, faster. I simply don’t have the time on a regular basis to put in the miles of cycling. So that will have to be for occasional fun, with completing Cycletta being the highlight of my cycling year.

The simple truth about losing weight and getting fitter is this: Energy In vs. Energy Out. That’s it. Although there are a million ways (all complete with a best-selling diet book) of doing it, they all rely on that one fact. Granted, there are better and worse ways of obtaining that energy, but I’m not a nutritionist, so I’m not going to try to describe them. Suffice to say, more of what you eat should be in the form of vegetables than Mars Bars. But that’s it. If you put more energy into your body in the form of calories, than you expend through living, breathing and exercising, that energy will be stored by your body. Use up more energy than you put in, and your body will use up those stores of energy. The bonus is that muscle uses up more energy than fat, even at rest, so you continue to benefit from the exercise even when you’re not actually in the middle of it.

Of course, what this doesn’t take into account is our emotional relationship with food. If I tell myself I’m not going to eat cake for a week, there is barely a second goes by without me thinking of cake. So, the deal I am making with myself is this – a bit less cake, a bit more exercise. Just enough to tip the Energy In vs. Energy Out balance. We’ll see how I get on.

December 28, 2011

2011: A Personal Review

At the end of every year, I always get an unsettled, ‘must-do-something-but-not-quite-sure-what’ feeling. How much of this is caused by the sheer amount of food I usually consume at Christmas I don’t know, but my usual remedy is to review the year and then think ahead to the next.  I’ve already written my plan for 2012, which is here on the blog, so that part is settled. I have a good feeling about 2012. Not sure why, but I do.

I didn’t write a plan for 2011. Which is why I ended up with 35:35 because I like to have a (flexible) plan for my time. When it came to reviewing the year, I just couldn’t think why I’d not written a plan and what on earth I spent the first quarter of the year doing. Then my lovely friend reminded me that I’d actually spent the whole time fighting for my job. Ah…

How quickly the mind forgets. My husband and I both had to go through months of fighting for our jobs. Months. It was a horrible time, filled with sleepless nights, tears and too much coping alcohol, all whilst trying to keep our stress and fears away from our children. Thankfully, we were the lucky ones, who got to keep the jobs we are both so passionate about, even though I did end up needing counselling at the end of the year to help me cope with everything that’s happened. It’s not finished though, there will be more changes and challenges ahead. Life is change. But we will survive.

Once the dust had settled in April, albeit with a different team, management structure etc etc, I started to focus on my personal life again, starting this blog and my 35:35 Challenge, to do thirty five things I’d never done before in my thirty-fifth year of life. I didn’t want it to be a huge challenge, but something to shake me up a bit out of life’s routine, do something positive after a difficult period, learn something new and have a few happy experiences. I read a study once that said new experiences are the way to slow time down. Following nothing but a routine means that weeks become months, which become years, without you even realising that so much time has passed. Puncturing that routine means that the brain remembers time better, which in turn makes it feel as though it’s not passing so fast.

So, from April, it’s a bit easier for me to remember what I’ve been up to this year. Highlights include my daughter starting school and thriving there (even though I was shocked to realise that girls can be mean from a very early age), taking her horse-riding for the first time, the completion of the Yorkshire 3 Peaks, and getting on a bike for the first time since childhood and completing Cycletta. Cycletta, a women-only bike ride, was a particular highlight because initially I was supposed to do it with someone else, who ended up having a family responsibility on the same day and so couldn’t make it. I nearly pulled out, but in the end I went and completed the ride on my own. It was such a brilliant, positive experience and I was thrilled to complete and chat to so many wonderful women the whole way round. After finishing the ride, I realised that I shouldn’t wait for someone else to want the same things as me before doing something. I have a habit of doing that, but sometimes it means that I never end up doing things I want to do. If I want to experience something, I need to just pluck up the courage and go for it.  I also realised that riding bikes is brilliant and that my body is far better suited to cycling than it is to running.

Other highlights have been a drumming lesson, various massages, and my annual visit to Paris, including a visit to Chanel.  Oh, and I was thrilled to be part of the annual Radio 4 Woman’s Hour phone-in too. I have completed 15 of my 35 Challenges. The first half of 2012 is going to be filled with trying to get to 35!

So, it’s been an interesting year and I have my plan for 2012. I’m feeling more settled, and ready for whatever comes next.

Happy New Year everyone!

What was your highlight of 2011? What are you hoping to do in 2012?

October 3, 2011

Cycletta North

The day of Cycletta dawned bright and early – at 4.20am to be precise as my adrenalin fuelled body decided that was the time to wake up. Despite this, at a more sensible hour, we set off for Tatton Park and I did my usual helpful passenger thing of falling asleep the minute we set off.

When we arrived at Tatton Park, I went to get my hire bike, passing Olympic Gold Medal winner and Cycletta Ambassador Victoria Pendleton on the way. I’m such a name dropper…

Just got my hire bike, and going to the start!

As I was riding on my own, I was green with nerves at the start of the race, but was hugely encouraged by the positive and friendly atmosphere and managed to chat to a couple of other riders before we set off. Then, with a cheerful ‘good luck’ we were off, straight over a cattle grid, down the drive of Tatton Park and on through several local villages. Once we had set off, my nerves settled and I started to enjoy myself. The roads were relatively flat, with a nice long stretch to get us all into our stride before a series of junctions through the villages. My cycling ability, despite a worrying lack of training, was better than I’d anticipated, thanks to my gym trainer Lenka, which meant that I was easily keeping up with some of the people I’d set off with, despite riding a hired mountain bike (with, it has to be said, rather wonky gears) on the roads.  Of course, some of the elite riders who had gone out early were starting their return journey by this point and due to the course doubling back on itself, we were rewarded with the sight of them on their way to the finish, which I found quite inspiring.

As the roads were not closed, I did have to keep an eye out for traffic, but the whole route was really thoroughly marshalled and signed, with someone to support us at every junction. This was of great help as I didn’t have to spend ages worrying about getting away from a junction, particularly on the right hand turns. What was more worrying was my inability to stop myself from being nosy and looking at the houses we were passing – in one case a stunning manor house, with land and an indoor swimming pool which was up for sale, so if I win the lottery I know where to look! In a particularly ironic moment, I did swerve a bit as I saluted a single magpie for good luck, which I do automatically. Quite how I would have explained away any resulting accident, I don’t know…

After what felt like a really short time, but actually about fourteen miles into the ride, was the first rest stop, where I had a litre of water and some fizzy cola bottles before setting off again. Chatting to a few more people along the route, it was lovely to hear the stories from people about why they were riding and in some cases, how they’d been inspired to ride so they could join Cycletta. I didn’t stop at the second feed station, but did hear from other people that Victoria Pendleton had been there and chatting to people – what a great Ambassador for the event she was, even coping with a giant snaking queue of people waiting for her autograph later on.

In what really seemed like no time at all, but actually 2 hours, 3 minutes and 17 seconds after I started, I crossed the finish line with a giant grin on my face and a feeling of huge accomplishment and joy. I’m really happy with the time I made, even though I know that I could probably have gone faster if I’d chosen not to chat to some people and to take over others, but in truth, part of what made the event feel so great was being part of this wonderful group of women, all so very different but all sharing the same experience. I even managed to say a real life hello to some wonderful people I’d met on Twitter through a shared Cycletta ambition, which was a perfect finish to the ride.

Then, after a re-fuel at the Cycletta village, and a lovely mini-manicure, it was time to have another sleep in the car on the journey home.

Huge, giant thanks to everyone involved in Cycletta, you were all amazing. I have been extolling your virtues ( and that of Skyride, British Cycling, Breeze network, the lot…) pretty much relentlessly since I got home and if I get my way, I will be bringing along a team of women to next year’s event, at which I will be riding my own bike and finishing in under two hours!

Happy cyclist – glasses to make sure nothing gets into my eyes – contact lenses are a pain…

September 5, 2011

Cycletta training

On Sunday, I went out on the bike for a 15 mile ride as part of my training for Cycletta, a 40km women only bike ride.

I’ve written before about my fear of riding a bike, and it’s only because of Cycletta, and my 35:35 Challenge, that I find myself riding at all. Since a childhood accident, I’ve spent such a long time thinking that I couldn’t do it, that cycling was just something that wasn’t for me, and yet year after year, I’ve sat glued to the TV for three weeks watching Le Tour De France knowing it was one of the greatest sporting events of the world.

We set out on a sunny Sunday afternoon, and thanks to my lovely husband, who has long been a keen cyclist and a Rights of Way officer, did a beautiful route, mostly off road along bridle-paths, parts of the Trans-Pennine Trail, and following the Aire and Calder Navigation. Although he is obviously much faster than I am, I was happy to ride along behind him, negotiating all the A-frames, as well as avoiding all the wayward Labradors and small children that such a sunny afternoon had produced. I even managed to go at a decent pace downhill, having finally realised that if I go at a snail’s pace with the brakes on, I am actually more likely to fall off.

Cycling, unlike running, doesn’t seem to leave me in such a pink and breathless state, as in between the hills and the difficult parts, come other bits where you can coast along to catch your breath if you need to, so at the end of the 15 miles I didn’t feel as though I wanted to keel over. Along the way I’d realised a few things. Firstly, that I am not actually as scared of riding in traffic as I’d thought. Having adopted the attitude of being brave, bold but mannerly, and assuming that if I am these things, and ride according to the rules of the road, that drivers will do the same, I am finding it a lot less worrying than I’d envisaged. Of course, I know that there are going to be drivers that don’t see me, don’t care or are just not very good, but by keeping myself as aware as I can of my surroundings and of upcoming traffic, I can do my best to account for such drivers.

The other thing that I realised, is that I am already becoming a better cyclist than I am a runner. I started running after the birth of my daughter. As I posted before, she had to be delivered very early because of my pre-eclampsia. I’m doing the Yokrshire 3 Peaks for Bliss, the premature baby charity, this weekend. When she was two, we decided that we would love a sibling for her, and I went to see a consultant about my chances of suffering with the condition again (which they said was one in ten) and what I could do to reduce that. I was told to to get fit. Running helped me to do that quickly, cheaply and outside. Cycling is helping me to do the same, but without the horrible pressure on my joints and feet. It suits my body better.

Plus, I’m having so much fun. It feels intrepid, especially cycling off-road or downhill. The things you get to see when out on a bike are lovely – I’d never seen parts of the route we rode on, and it’s such a pretty area, and so close to home. The main danger is that I get so carried away looking at my surroundings, I forget to look where I’m actually going. Horses, gardens, old Land Rovers, sheep, allotments – these are the things I look at. Nosiness and envy are rather a dangerous combination when you’re on a bike, and I often find myself riding in one direction, whilst peering desperately in the other. I suffer from severe allotment-envy, despite having one of my own that’s had a decent summer. My newly re-energised passion for horses also had me looking in every field and stable yard we passed. Plus, if anyone can dream up a new career that justifies me having an ancient, held-together-by-baler-twine Land Rover, do let me know, because I’m desperate for one!

When I think of the years I’ve wasted being too scared to ride a bike, it makes me sad. Cycletta has given me a chance and an opportunity, not just for one 40k ride in October but for the rest of my life, and I am very grateful. Plus, just think of the fashion opportunities. Liberty prints, Superga pumps and a Pashley Princess. Or perhaps Alexander Wang, a courier-style bag and an urban hybrid. Not to mention the new Henry Holland bike jacket for Skyride!

August 22, 2011

35:35 Challenge update

I thought I’d just add a quick Challenge update here. Although I’ve not been writing a lot about it, I have been working hard on the Challenge.

On 10th September, I will be climbing the Yorkshire 3 Peaks; 26 miles of walking, with three significant climbs ( they’re not quite mountains, but challenging enough!) within 12 hours. I’ll be doing this to raise money for Bliss, the premature baby charity and will add a JustGiving link from this site in case anyone would like to support us.

In October comes Cycletta, a 40km women only bike ride around Tatton Park on the outskirts of Manchester. This is going to be particularly challenging for me, as it’s only recently that I’ve got back on a bike since a stupid childhood accident put me in hospital and put me off the bike for good. When I was younger, I used to ride my bike all the time. One particular day, I was riding down along, steep and gravelled hill from a family friend’s farm. The sun was shining, the wind was in my hair (no helmet in the eighties!) and riding downhill felt like I was flying. So, (and here comes the stupid part) to make it feel even more like I was flying;

I closed my eyes…

As you can imagine, moments later, I hit a massive rock in the middle of the road and shot off the side of the bike, into a ditch. Not my brightest moment, and until recently, the last time I rode a bike. So, Cycletta is a big challenge.

Following these two physical challenges come a few different ones. I am signing up for both a falconry session and a silversmithing course. Fashion  has long been important to me, and I have decided it’s time to make more of a practical leap, so silversmithing, and then some other fashion related course  may follow.

Along with carriage driving, which is something I’d love to try. Horses are a long term love. In fact my degree is a BSc Hons in Equine Science and Management ( which, as you can imagine, is terribly useful in the wider job market but still remains a highlight of my life) but riding is a source of frustration as my personality means I don’t ever want to devote the amount of time to one subject that it would truly take to become as accomplished as I’d like.

I’ve decided that my final undertaking, and a fitting end to the Challenge will be the flying. Previously, I asked which method of flying I should try and the result of the poll was hot air ballooning. So, I’ll be doing that next May or June as a final flourish to the year and hopefully as number 35 in my Challenge list!