I’m sat typing this blog post right now and it’s quiet. The boys have gone to school and I should be getting myself ready for work. But instead I’m mulling over Sunday’s bike ride and how even though bits of me are still aching I feel like I really could take on anything I put my mind to now.
When my friend Simon asked me last week if I fancied a trip out on the bike I assumed we would take on one of the usual routes, some where between 30-40 miles. I know that the Velothon was looming next month but I’d heard that on the day you can downgrade on the day from 140 km to 55 km. I just didn’t see me completing the long course and had images of being swept up by the bus. But then Simon said we would be going to The Mumbles. In other words we would be cycling to Swansea from where we live, which is just outside Cardiff.
Well of course I said yes. And then gulped as I worked out how far that would actually be. To get from our village to Mumbles would be over 30 miles. 37 is the longest I have cycled to date. And now I would be doubling that in one foul sweep. It was a do or die scenario and I decided to risk it for a biscuit, or in this case the nice bit of cake that I was promised. I would be lying if I said I didn’t have the jitters before hand and was seriously wondering if I would make it, but it was too late to back out and I definitely didn’t want to be a jibber.
This post isn’t really a route or ride report though. It’s more a ‘things that I contemplated’ as I cycled through Bridgend, the Vale, alongside the M4 and the steel works and along the sea front in Swansea. As we passed through Briton Ferry I remembered that Twin Town was filmed there, a famous Welsh film about two brothers, drugs, corrupt coppers and absolutely nothing to do with cycling. I did recall that at the end of the film a male voice choir sing the beautiful Welsh ballad Myfanwy on a pier. Was it Mumbles pier I wondered to myself? And then brought myself back to reality as I needed to clip out at lights.
We passed Port Talbot and I couldn’t take my eyes off the thick wall of smoke that billowed from the huge chimneys, filling the air with putrid smells. The sight of it was such a contrast with the rest of the green landscape. It reminded me of Mordor in Tolkien’s Middle Earth, all grey and black and gloomy.
20 miles in and Simon declared break time. A quick pit stop for snacks and I devoured all three of the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups in one pack and half a flapjack. There is definitely one thing that I love about cycling and that is the snacks and treats that I get to pack into my pockets. Fueled up and raring to go I was assured that we weren’t that far from our destination. In fact we were more than ten miles out and one of our group decided to take us through a market place with ‘NO CYCLING’ signs everywhere so we could avoid the busy main road.
As we cycled on again I remembered that Catherine Zeta Jones and Michael Douglas have a house in Mumbles. My day dreaming brain went into over drive. Wouldn’t it be funny if as we were cycling along the cycle path into Mumbles, I almost topple and Michael Douglas, who happens to be walking along the pedestrian path, catches me and invites us all back to his house for a cuppa with CZJ? Woah roundabout, must stop drifting off.
As I wondered all these random things and more I found myself looking out to the sea beyond Swansea and in the distance I could see The Mumbles pier. Cake and a cuppa’ were calling. What struck me was how good I felt. I had cycled 33 miles and I hadn’t once felt like grumbling or complaining. This amazed me as I was sure I was going to struggle with just the distance going out there. But I hadn’t even considered phoning my husband to come to Swansea and pick me up. For me this was a huge mental boost.
A quick pit stop at Verdi’s and we got back on the road, conscious that at 4.30 pm, we all felt rather far away from home. There is no doubt that the way back was much harder. I always question whether we stop a bit too long for coffee because my legs always feel so stiff once we get going again. What is the optimum break for coffee time? You don’t want it too short and you want time to have a coffee but you don’t want to start lingering and getting stagnant for the homeward leg.
The wind had decided it was going to be in front of us for the ride home and this dampened my spirits slightly. Our group started to split and I decided to hang back so one of the girls behind had me in her sights as she caught up. I then lost sight of people in front which ended up in three of us stood by the side of a road near Port Talbot wondering if the rest of the group had taken the same exit as us. Fortunately we all found each other again and I ate some more Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Honestly, these cups are my fuel injection.
The ride back through the Vale seemed to have more hills than I remembered on the way out, but tired legs were starting to feel every little bump and wobble. People were talking about how many miles we had done but I didn’t want to know, I had my eyes set on home.
Gradually other riders started to drop off as they went off in the direction for home. I would be the last stop of the ride. I could have phoned my husband to pick me up at the meeting point where I had joined the ride but I decided there was no point. I would be roughly five miles from home. I would just tell my legs to shut up and keep moving.
As I walked in to the house I noticed that I was doing just that, walking. I didn’t feel totally physically battered as I had expected to. There was no wincing or limping. I looked at the clock in the kitchen and had a bit of a shock. It was half past eight. I had started out at half past twelve. I had been out for eight hours.
I had no real idea about how far I had cycled. I hadn’t put Strava on because everyone else had it on their phones (and I wanted to save my battery, just in case!). I hadn’t really wanted to think about miles at the time because I wondered if that would have a negative effect on me mentally. I think the result of this was that I enjoyed the ride much more. It was fun instead of just a task to get training miles in.
But obviously I would be daft not to try and work out how far I had cycled. With the group I had cycled 66 miles. With the added 5 odd miles home I was hitting over 70 miles. I couldn’t quite believe it. 70 miles is 112 km. If Velothon is 140 km then I’m not too far off. I know that there are more hills in the Velothon route but as an inexperienced rider, to hit that kind of distance I am thrilled. Mentally this takes a huge weight off my mind. Yes, I didn’t sleep that well on Sunday night because I ached so much but I know that during the ride I was fine. The Velothon is on June 14th and with a month to go I think I might be able to keep just ahead of the sweeper van and for the first time I’m thinking I won’t have to downgrade the distance. After 70 (saith deg in Welsh) miles on Sunday I feel like anything is possible, as long as I have friends and some Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups!