As I reach the end of another year, I am reminded and encouraged by various emails from Strava to recap upon my numerical cycling achievements. I learned long ago that there is a huge difference between the data and the experience, so I don’t place too much emphasis on the figures anymore. After all, someone who has commuted every day for a year is always going to ride more miles than me, but they don’t have my memories from the top of the Tourmalet, the tingling nervous feeling at the start of the Dragon ride, or my photo albums.
First, I need to take myself back to the beginning of the year when the ambitions and dreams were mapped into sensible and hopefully achievable objectives. The Dragon ride in Wales had long been talked about for the simple reason it was hard. Climbing the Tourmalet was firmly booked in the diary so that was a no-going-back situation whether I liked it or not. And the rest were just statistical goals based on beating last year’s mileage, climbing more metres and just spending more time in the saddle enjoying myself. I am pleased to say I achieved all three.
So here are the highlights, in no particular order.
The Poole Run
This was the first time for a while that cycling endurance, at the level I was used to, became real. The first time that the 100 mile mark would not signify the end of the ride and a goody bag, but the notification that I still had nearly 40 miles to go. It was mapped out by Graham and I joined him, Archie, Steven, Nick, Stuart and Adrian on a magical mystery tour through Wiltshire and Dorset. Beforehand I thought the best bit would be arriving at the sea and riding along the front at Bournemouth and yes that was great. But as the sun came out in the afternoon and we meandered through country lanes joining the dots from picturesque village to village, it turned into one of the most enjoyable and yes tiring rides I have ever (and they had ever) done. It was one of those situations, similar to the Marshfield to London trip that Archie organised, that just proved what you could do and achieve in a day if you simply got off your arse and did it. But most of all, it was just one of those rides that you can smile about as you start a sentence with “do you remember when we rode to the Bournemouth beach.”
I’ve written about this before so I won’t add too many words other than to explain, rather obviously if you like, why it is in this list. At the time, it was very much about the numbers. The climbing, the 140 miles, the hours in the saddle and the whole finish line experience. As the months have gone on and as I am able to reflect from a weightier and less fitter position in December, I realise now that it’s more about the acknowledgement that these things can be done and that they aren’t for other people to do. The rides that I look at in various cycling magazines with scary names across Devon, the Brecon Beacons or the Lake District, are now just rides. Rides that I could and should one day add to the list to do. I like that feeling and I believe it gave the other riders in our group more confidence too.
So I thank the Dragon ride for raising the expectations, confidence and determination I can find within myself. Although I must admit I still like the medal too.
Col du Aubisque
The photos from this ride really do say a 1000 words and that’s fine with me. It was one of those rides with no expectations, no understanding of what it was, where it was or literally anything about it. It was just a ride that Nick said one morning in the Pyrenees that we were all planning to do that day and that was fine with me. As a result, it was purely about the experience. It didn’t matter if we stopped to take a photo because there was no clock running and no averge speed to worry about. We stopped for lunch half way up a mountain, something unheard of in our cycling trips when I think about it, and that aspect was what made this so special. And all this meant that when we finally made our way to the top of the Aubisque, and edged our way round the side of the granite mountain, we could stop, chat, smile and simply take in the beauty of surroundings and that real sense of privilege of being on the planet we all don’t stop to think about enough.
See full Pyrenees blog here.
Every Saturday Ride
An odd thing to put on here as a non specific ride, but it would be wrong for the above more iconic rides/challenges to dwarf the significance of these Saturday rides. Whatever the weather, route or distance, the feeling I got when I walked through the door back home was always the same and that was one of sheer content and satisfaction. They cheer me up from a mood I didn’t know I was in and they remind me of the importance of good friends, being outside doing stuff and of course the beauty that is cycling.
So as I sit here now thinking about 2017 and my mind starts to wander to next year, I will remind myself through these words that yes the data does matter because it’s confirmation of the hard work that goes into it. But most importantly, the moral of the story is get off your arse Crow and start planning these things today, as the year has gone so quickly and the thought of not being able to write something similar to the above scares me. Watch this space…