0 to 250 miles in 6 months! Part one…
I’m Helen, a newish member of Cycle Seahaven, 42 years old and Mum of 4 and in a few days I am going to get on a plane to Tanzania and cycle 250 miles over 5 days. And I am looking forward to it!
Rewind 1 year and I signed up with some friends to do the ride because my sister had been hit by breast cancer (she is doing well now) and I felt lucky to have good health and be able to do something to support women who had been afflicted by cancer. At the time I thought I had loads of time to get fit and would wait until better weather arrived to start training.
One damp October morning, my husband and I went out for a ride to get started. It ended in tears (literally) when I couldn’t make it up Chapel Hill, just outside Litlington. I wasn’t fit enough and didn’t understand how the blooming gears worked…so frustrating!
Fast forward to June. I had gone out for a few more rides with my husband / son / friend, but aside from a weekly spinning class, hadn’t really been putting the miles in. I wanted to cycle, but was worried about cycling on busy roads, and wasn’t sure of any decent cycle routes to go on by myself. I had seen people mention Cycle Seahaven online and even looked at the ride calendar, but was a bit nervous. I thought I’d be the least fit, everyone would be speeding past me and that I wouldn’t manage any hills. So I put it off and was starting to get more and more worried about my upcoming challenge.
One warm Sunday, we visited an event at the Downs Leisure Centre. Cycle Seahaven had a stand and my husband prompted me to go over and have a chat. I explained what I was doing and Paul immediately introduced me to Jo, who had done a similar challenge last year, cycling London to Paris. ‘Why don’t you come out on Wednesday night?’ she said. ‘I’m leading a ride out to Brighton Marina and back, about 25 miles.’
Wednesday night came. Everyone was really friendly and welcoming. Even though at that stage I STILL hadn’t quite got to grips with gears for the hills, everyone waited for me and the pace was absolutely fine. I really liked that fact that everyone stayed together as a group, so no-one got left behind, even if there was a mechanical problem, which was reassuring.
I thoroughly enjoyed the trip to the Marina and back, I hadn’t realised before that there is a quieter cycle track which runs parallel to the A259, then drops down onto the Undercliff. It gave me enough confidence to do the same trip again with my son at the weekend….and again…and again…, gradually building up my bike fitness over the next few weeks.
‘Paul is doing a really good off-road ride on Sunday. 24 miles around Telscombe Tye and back, you’ll enjoy it’. And I did it! I had to push my bike up one of the hills as I wasn’t quite fit enough, but everyone supported me and gave me advice, which was very much needed on the downhill sections which were scary but brilliant fun. By the end of the ride, I was totally knackered and could barely swing my legs over the saddle, but I was also exhilarated and energised!
I continued to ride almost every Wednesday night and even whilst on holiday, kept cycling, towing my 4year old along on her tagalong bike which was great for improving my fitness, but also fun for her.
As September arrived, I signed up to do the Chestnut House 103km sportive ride, starting from Bentley Wildfowl. I was a bit nervous, as the longest ride I had done to date was around 45km. ‘Don’t worry’, my friend reassured me, ‘it’s pretty flat’. Famous last words….but at least by this stage I had worked out how to use my gears.
A couple of weeks before the ride, the route was published and I realised that not only was the ride 103km long (twice as long as I had ridden previously), but also covered a whopping 4200 feet of elevation! Undeterred, I kept training, enjoying two fantastic Sunday off-road rides with Gus. We went up and down the South Downs like yo-yo’s, finishing one long ride with a climb up Eastbourne Lane in Jevington, then down through Friston Forest.
At 7.30 am on 29th September, we set off on the Chestnut House ride. Despite initially being a bit worried at the pace being set, once we warmed up and settled into a rhythm, the miles (and hills) just rolled by. Jelly babies at the top of each hill certainly helped! I was delighted to find that I managed the hills without too much problem, and even though I was glad to see the finish line, I could have kept going if necessary.
That ride really gave me confidence that I could and WOULD do the ride in Africa.
It was a couple of weeks ago now and my Tanzanian trip is just over a week away. I’m ready for it and I can’t quite believe that I’ve gone from zero cycling to being ready for a 250 mile ride in 6 months – all down to the lovely people at Cycle Seahaven for their support!