Life before cycling- had you ever wanted to cycle before?
I have always liked keeping fit but in my 30’s I had a lot of health problems due to endometriosis, which meant years of no exercise. I had a number of operations, including a hysterectomy, and was advised to walk every day to help me recover. I was unfit and felt worn down by everything. I started walking and gradually built in some jogging. This developed into running and before I knew it, I increased my distance until I could do a 5km Park Run. I got stronger and fitter and joined the local running club. I had even signed up for a marathon because my training was going so well! My buzz came quickly crashing down shortly after when I had an accident and badly broke my ankle, and tore all my ligaments.
How did you first get into cycling?
Five months after breaking my ankle, I was nowhere near being able to run and I was feeling very frustrated at being inactive again. I started to use my hybrid bike to exercise our lively dog as it was easier for me than walking. I enjoyed being out on a bike and found it didn’t aggravate my ankle too much. My husband has always been a keen cyclist, and I always thought of it as his sport. But I woke up one day and decided I’d get a road bike and try cycling, so at least I could do something to help me get back to running.
Are there any barriers/challenges you have faced along your cycling journey?
I bought a road bike in the January sales and I can vividly remember my first attempt at going round the block. I felt very unstable and there was a lot to think about with brakes, gears and traffic. I could only manage with left hand turns as I was too scared to turn right and move across into the traffic! I also found it very cold and wasn’t sure it would be for me. I persevered and did a 10 mile bike ride, then 15, then 20 miles. I set myself the target of doing the 30 mile cafe ride at the cycling club, and felt a huge sense of achievement at getting to this milestone. I had a steep learning curve but I found other cyclists were supportive and happy to share advice. I started to cycle further and with faster groups, and after 6 months I completed my first 100 mile ride. It was then started to feel like a proper cyclist.
Tell us about Coast to Coast
My ankle was still causing me problems and last September I had an operation to remove bits of cartilage and bone spurs so it was back to cast, fracture boot and crutches. My husband signed up to do the Coast to Coast challenge, 150 miles in a day (from the West to the East coast). Even whilst I was on crutches I decided to sign up for it too! This gave me a real focus to get back on my bike. Just three months after surgery I was training and working to get my fitness back. It was hard to start at the beginning again, but my philosophy of just trying and doing a bit more each time gradually paid off. By Spring I was able to comfortably cycle distances of 70-80 miles. ‘Winter miles = summer smiles” was true for me.
How did you feel on completion of Coast to Coast?
The journey of training for the event and doing this with my husband was as enjoyable as the event itself. But I had a huge sense of achievement when we successfully completed 150 miles from Seascale to Whitby. We climbed up many hills, including the well-known “Hardknott Pass”, starting and finishing together in 12 hours. It’s an achievement I feel extra proud of and especially because of the obstacles I’ve overcome.
Are there other proud cycling achievements?
In addition to completing the Coast to Coast, I am also competing in some of the Cycling Club challenges which include strava segments and a hill climbing league. I have also had a go at a Time Trial, a Circuit race and a road race. I never imagined I would do any of this and it has taken all of my courage to give these things a go. I’ve found there is a lot of learning and growth with each new challenge. It’s true that we tend to regret the things we don’t do more than the things we do.
Why did you decide to do the British Cyling Breeze Ride Leader course?
I only found out about Breeze when I was cycling regularly, and I wished I’d known about it when I first got started. I felt motivated to share my recent experiences of ‘being new’ to cycling with other women – to help them get on their bikes and improve their cycling. It’s a big leap from going round the block to joining a cycling club where the easiest rides are still 30 miles. Breeze offers a perfect solution – a safe, friendly, supportive environment for women to enjoy cycling together.
What are the next steps for you in cycling?
My next steps are to continue cycling with the club and competing in the various club challenges. I also plan to do some Sportives and trying more races – both Circuit and Road. I may even get my next level race licence.
For Breeze, I am looking forward to continuing to lead rides from Roundhay. I often lead slightly longer rides, 20-30 miles for ladies who cycle regularly or are looking for their next challenge.
I am also facilitating sessions at the Brownlee Centre closed road circuit. These provide a safe place for women to try road biking, improve their fitness and get advice from other Breeze champions. It’s all free and bikes/helmets can be borrowed.
When I first got on my road bike I had no idea I would achieve so much. I hope others will be inspired by my story to get out on their bikes, and that they will get as much enjoyment from it as I have!