This weekend was the second meet up of the Revolution Cycling coaching programme for 100-mile sportives. I got to know Kerry Bircher at Revolution through my lovely friend Adele and Kerry was kind enough to ride with me last year when I was experiencing some really big issues around fear on my bike.
I've mentioned before that since having Violet my balance is all off, and I have also found myself just more fearful in general, on my bike and in everyday life. In fact last week I had a very nasty near-miss with an ambulance (while driving my car, not on my bike) and it was so terrifying I came over all lightheaded and panicky on the motorway! Luckily my dad was with me so he drove for a while until I felt calm enough to take the wheel again.
I think it's just a biological reaction to being responsible for two very young vulnerable lives. I can see logically that the world hasn't become a scarier place, I take the same risk going down a hill fast on a bike or driving a car as I did before. But I think something is going on on a more subconscious or possibly a hormonal level. I have a lot more to lose these days. I have to be more careful with myself.
The thing I loved about riding with Kerry last year was that she was completely understanding but also very encouraging. She's a mum herself so she gets how I feel, but she also seems to know exactly how much pushing I need. Since I started this training programme I have felt so much more confident on the bike and I have been motivated to really make time to train. I can't realistically get out on the bike daily, much as I'd like to, but I can get up early and run, or do some yoga, and most weeks I'm managing three rides a week.
Trainers ℅ adidas
Having somebody like Kerry and her lovely colleague Holly on hand to motivate and push (gently) as well as support and encourage me has been a really major factor in me taking the whole endeavour of RideLondon 100 a lot more seriously.
On Saturday we went on our first group ride, a 30-miler around some of the RideLondon 100 route and nearby roads. It was a great way to practice group riding, something I haven't done much of, on actual roads after an introduction at the Hillingdon circuit last month.
The ride itself was a combination of riding as a close-knit group, and going at our own pace up and down some decent climbs out in the Surrey Hills. I find group riding takes a lot of concentration. There seems a lot to think about, staying on the wheel of the rider in front, road hazards, cars, pace, brakes, gears, signals and communication. It's very absorbing and the miles seem to just whizz past.
Once out into the countryside I turned into an excited child and while some of the riders took hills at a more sedate pace I tore up and down them like a dog chasing a tennis ball. Holly commented that I was obviously feeling strong - I'll say. I don't know if it's the training, the fact that I've cut added sugar out of my diet, or just the fact that I had a morning to myself on my bike in the company of some awesome women, but I was definitely on my game.
This week I was interviewed by a big health and fitness magazine for a feature on getting more women on bikes. The journalist asked me what the best advice I'd ever been given around building confidence was and I found this a hard question to answer. There is no one thing a person can say or advise to build confidence on the bike. The way to build confidence on a bike, is to get on a bike.
My confidence was low last year and I didn't have enough time to dedicate to riding to really improve it. This year I am more committed and I can feel myself getting more and more confident every time I ride. The group rides and meet ups are pushing me along in leaps and bounds. I'm more committed to my fitness off the bike too, and last weekend I ran seven miles without even realising it.
Maybe it's just the promise of spring and warmer weather, but I'm definitely finding more energy and motivation and the more I train the more I want to train. It's a very happy circle. I'm looking forward to next month's ride already!
Noel and I are both riding RideLondon 100 for Tommy's, if you would be so kind as to sponsor us to raise money for this amazing charity please do so here.
Jersey ℅ adidas