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It's amazing what you can achieve, if you believe in yourself!

It's amazing what you can achieve, if you believe in yourself!

So there I found myself all ready at the briefing, on what was my first sportive and wondering how I got here. I am forever setting future targets, but life just gets in the way and I miss them....before you ask I have a lot of excuses, but also a very hectic lifestyle :) If you ask my husband how much cycling I do, he would probably say I have had more come backs to cycling, then anyone he knows. 

So a bit of background ....

In the past I have always found that my bike and cycling is the first thing I drop when life gets crazy....yes I can hear you shouting saying NOOOO  it's the one thing that probably keeps you sane! So this year for my annual come back to cycling, I was going to change my ways and get a better work life balance. 

So towards the end of 2016 I had my first winter of indoor turbo cycling (Thank goodness for Netflix) and visiting the gym to do weights.

I started to realise I also needed a target/goal to keep me on my bike, and challenge me so the Merlin Ride seemed like the ideal choice. At this point I never committed to a distance, just the fact I was doing it - yes my mind works in strange ways, but at least I was part way there :)

Training in early 2017 was going well, I was commuting to work and adding longer rides on the weekend and also doing a few Park Runs in between. However as with life, things don't always go to plan, and things start to get in the way and training rides gets shorter or less frequent and work and travelling take over - but I had set the goal and was going with it regardless of fitness.

So it's now the week before the event, and training of long rides not going the greatest, in fact before the 20th I had only been on my bike for distances up to 3-10 miles at a time...panic was setting in, but there was nothing I could do, apart from 'just have a go' and perhaps the 54 mile course would be best. So that's what happened, I turned up at the event and finally decided that's the distance for me.  

As it was also my first sportive and not sure what they were all about, Kelly was my ride partner for the event. However, having never ridden with Kelly, I then go into panic mode (not sure if anyone else does this?) ...will I be able to keep up with her? How fast does she ride? Am i going to hold her up due to my lack of training? the list went on and on!!

There was nothing I could do now apart from get a good nights sleep. It's strange how these 'good nights sleep' never happen when you need them - the night before we stayed locally, however seems our choice in hotels wasn't the greatest! Having woken many many times through out the night with pub goers on their way home shouting, boy racers doing what they do, and then the wonderful cockerel call to wake us up!  I mean who has a cockerel in a city?? This all added to a new level of tiredness even before I left the hotel, and not even coffee could fix. The Cockerel even thought it nice to greet us in person on leaving.


So I find my way to the start and meet Kelly and we roll out on a lovely misty morning. After about 10 minutes panic sets in and am doing nearly 18mph going slightly up hill with a body that takes at least 30mins to warm up! ...... Does Kelly really ride at this speed?? - thankfully no, and the excitement just carried her and everyone else along.  So we get into a good steady pace and by the time we got to the first feed station at about 25 miles, there was no way I wanted to go home yet.  So after some lovely potatoes, jelly babies and chocolate covered donuts I decided the 72 mile route was where it's at and said goodbye to Kelly who had to get back for a party and was doing the 54miler.

So I roll out of the feed station with a new sense of 'I can do it', although looking back now I hadn't even looked at the route, terrain or even knew where I was going and jumped in blind - and thank goodness the route was brilliantly marked out! So heading out the cross winds decide to pick up and I think, this is going to be fun - but i managed to sprint (no idea how) to 2 men in front to jump on their back wheel.  Here I rode head down, hanging on doing a speed my legs weren't used too - but it was that or get blown backwards and ride alone.  I did manage to thank my riding partners as they too went off on the 54mile route and I went off the other way.

The next part of the ride was beautiful, with many hills and descents and as I rode around, I met many other riders on route, stop chat and ride with them, before moving on and finding a new train to jump onto - By this time I felt like I could take on the world!!.

On my way up Half Way hill, as I said hello to my passing riders, I started noticing the same people I was passing, and when I was slow they would overtake, and vice versa. At the top was the second feed stop, and another opportunity to restock and get more fluids. Much like the first stop, I was only there 5-10 minutes as just wanted to get back on my bike, and carry on, and take on the last 30miles!

A few miles down the road I started riding with Chris, who was to be my final ride partner for the event. Unknown to me (must look at routes in future) the next part of the route was quite exposed and we didn't see anyone for an hour and a half. This section was beautiful, but at this point the rain had started drizzling, and I was glad to have company, as we both seemed to go though points of tiredness and each supported the other with chatter and pulling on the front.  At this point I had ridden the longest distance to date,and Chris had ridden this longest ride since getting knocked off his bike - so these happy thoughts and enthusiasm kept us going to the end.

The hardest part was the run home, where I had done over 60 miles and going into an unknown area, and sense of the end and wanting to get home was pushing us on.  Even after all those miles, we still manged to go through and off, and keep the speed between 18-23mph and my average at 14.5mph - which is not my normal speed!

Afterwards my Garmin told me to have 29 hours recovery time :)

There was nothing nicer then seeing the turn to the finish point and knowing I had achieved far more than I set out that day.

All I wanted to do was share this with James (my husband) who is my biggest supporter, however he was still out on the 100 mile route which gave me time to reflect on my ride and enjoy a lovely BBQ pork, stuffing and apple sauce roll - Yum Yum 

My first sportive has enlightened me, and made me realsie that it doesn't matter what type of cyclist you are, just have a go. I don't normally ride with other people as think I am too slow, or couldn't keep up, but here there is always someone like minded out there who is happy to ride with you and just enjoy the ride.  I will be be back, and now I just need to find another ride to challenge me and keep me on my bike!

Thanks to County Cycles for another great event!

Judith is wearing the Hotness 2.0 Helix Jersey & Icon Helix 2.0 Bibs Shorts