“One of the best rides of my life”

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We were talking about the essence of what made a great ride, what would be the pinnacle for us…exactly what would it take to get us there. It wasn’t tough criteria and actually it was unanimous about what was needed to tick the boxes. In fact, in many ways it seemed that we all agreed on something that was just so simple.

It’s a conversation I’ve had with a few close friends recently. Just exactly what does it take to excite the senses, ignite the fire in the belly, get the endorphins pumping and put that smile on the face that doesn’t go away for a long time. I was interested to know because I’ve struggled with having to re-think my riding plans for a little while now. My injuries are classified as ‘chronic’ now and if I’m to keep moving until I’m old, then I need to re-assess what will put that fire in the belly.

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Our riders Left to Right: Dianne feeling pumped to finish, Sharyn wonders why no more hills, Elisabeth wants to kill me, Danika was just smiling the whole way!

 

I was super intrigued though when I kept finding the same answers from those I asked. Running a women’s cycling group whose mission is to get more women riding means we start at a base level. But for those who advance through the ranks and build up to achieving bigger and longer rides means the goal posts shift on a pretty regular basis – and that’s a good thing. What was once something that was exciting can become dull and uninteresting as the fitness grows. Challenges loom ahead of you like bucket lists dangling before you on a Facebook feed…we can get so sucked into the vortex of comparing what WE do, to what others do!

But the reality is that we all do what we can manage…is that 5km to the shop, 2 laps of the oval, or 100km on a road? It doesn’t matter…but what does matter is that we set the criteria for what makes a GREAT ride as something realistsic. Not criteria a magazine or a Facebook feed tells us is the pinnacle of great riding, not criteria that others have told you, not criteria that we see others achieve, but simply what it is that makes you LOVE riding your bike.

I don’t want to be misunderstood here, some of the achievements we see of riders doing massive distances on rides are to be admired and applauded. But yesterday I had one of the best rides I have ever had in my cycling career – it fell well short of epic distances and scaling lofty vertical metres. It also lacked in the hard-core conditions to make any of us qualify as heroes, and it certainly wouldn’t be considered something worthy of a medal, a trophy or even a blog post by most. But I beg to differ. Yesterday I saw magic happen before my eyes and that 30km will go down as one of the most exciting rides I’ve ever had.

But hang on, HANG ON! I’m the person who thinks nothing of 100km…or more, on a any ride. I’ve never been much of a climber, so for me it’s always been the distance that makes me happy. I’ve also figured that facing some of the distances and climbs in appalling conditions has been the trophy I can carry within to know I braved ridiculous conditions to ‘get there in the end’. Hypothermia, dehydration, nursing exhausted riders, nursing my own injuries,…it’s all the ‘pinnacle’. Until yesterday.

So what was it about yesterday that was so incredible…was it just me in a moment of euphoria? No, I don’t think so! It seems everyone who was there felt the magic…

Our Coach Natasha offered her perspective:

“Yesterday I had one of the best rides of my life. I’ve done a lot of different rides in the past from the shortest couple of kms to some really long ones (250+kms), I’ve raced and I’ve commuted.

One of the things that attracted me to riding and coaching with Wheel Women was the sense of community. It seemed to be the only group out there that wasn’t pushing women to ride further, faster. They accept anyone – big or small, fast or slow; and they help women with little confidence and ability grow into safe, skilled bike handlers. The great thing is these women usually continue to ride after they get back on, or begin for the first time.

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Coach Natasha puts this down as one of her best rides ever!

 

I was personally a little sick of the idea that the only fun you can have on a bike involved speed (racing), long distances or steep hills. I was sick of being too slow, too weak, too ‘lazy’ to make it to every training ride, and sick of busting my gut to stay at the base level of fitness required to race in the lower grades.

So why was yesterday’s 30km Amy’s Ride so good? Firstly it was just long enough to be fun but also a challenge if you wanted it to be and were willing to push yourself a little bit harder here and there….

For some the 30km ride was a massive challenge and it was great to be there for these riders and experience the camaraderie as we cheered each other on. Some of the more social people in our group spent more time meeting fellow riders, some of us rode a little faster here and there so we could take photos of our friends and cheer them as they rode by. There were mums who were riding with their kids, there was at least one couple where the fitter partner was there to support their other half (and how amazing that they stayed with them and didn’t just do a longer ride on their own). There was gorgeous scenery and the strong scent of eucalyptus, and the descents were a blast!

The volunteers were really supportive and at one point there were a few local ladies camped out by the side of the road to cheer! When we finished there were people to cheer us, and then we cheered others in kind, not like at other longer events I’ve done where most people have gone home by the time you cross the finish line!”

Coach Alicia also felt the same way…so what was going on here?

“Yesterday was one of my best days of riding. If you  think that means I completed a challenging ride or achieved a new personal best, you’d be wrong. I rode 30km! Yes there was some lovely scenery and an awesome downhill, but what made it a great day was being able to talk with and help so many other riders.

As I came to the first hill I could see riders ahead of me struggling, so I rode beside them and distracted them by chatting or offered them advice and generally encouraged them to keep going.  All of them were appreciative.

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Alicia spent so much time chatting with riders she didn’t even know she was exhausted afterwards…but pumped knowing she had inspired so many!

 

After my ride, I stood on the side line with my Wheel Women buddies, cheering on every rider as they came to the finish line. I was touched to have some of the riders whom I’d helped during the ride, take the time to thank me for talking with them.

I felt a wonderful sense of community, that none of us was alone, we were here supporting each other.  That’s what made it one of my best rides.”

But what was it for me that made it incredible?

The air was still and the salt air of the beach permeated the bush smells. We rolled up the hills, puffing, sweating, laughing, chasing, and we screamed down the hills flying as we screamed with glee at the freedom. We’d regroup at the top, cheer as the Wheel Women riders rode past laughing at us, snapped photos of them, cheered riders we didn’t even know, then we’d take off again and chase the group until we could do it all again.

We chatted with riders we didn’t know, we made friends and most of all…we smiled and laughed the whole way. A few of our riders were finding the hills a little tough after my promise of a ‘flat ride’ (yeah sorry…you’ve heard that one before right?) and even they were laughing! Despite the threats to kill me at the finish line, and the promise to drown me at the end, they were laughing and finding the funny side to their moments of misery…they were awesome! We were dripping with sweat and loving it.

One by one our riders rolled in and each one received hugs and high fives. But it was only 30km (some did do 60km) yet watching the girls you’d think it was the end of an epic all day ride…the friendships, the support, the smiles for each other. I wanted to cry as I watched it. I have never felt so proud to be a part of such an amazing group of women. They weren’t out there just supporting our group, they were also cheering every other rider!

I felt like the luckiest person alive to be a part of this!

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There they are (well, a few of them): what an amazing group of women. I am so proud to be a part of this group!

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Playing Ambassador, riding with besties, laughing with the gang who make my day…everyday!

 

NOTE: Thanks to the Amy Gillett Foundation for inviting me to be an Ambassador for the 30km Family Ride at the RACV Great Otway and Ocean Classic Ride by SME360, to Martin Wells of the Amy Gillett Foundation for being so supportive of the group on the day and getting me through a stressful start to the day…and to all those riders who said THANK YOU!

#AMetreMatters #ShareTheRoad

Finding the fire in your belly…my little New Year message!

img_3099-1Pink has always been my colour…it’s just something that has stuck. And like a lot of things, they get stuck – including me.

It’s been a tough year I’ll admit – loss of passion, loss of friends, loss of motivation, injury, illness and a bunch of other crap that just seemed to always get in the way of a good time. I’ve struggled to keep fit, struggled to maintain a positive body image and been frustrated that I have not been able to ride as much as I would normally. Continue reading

Out of the comfort zone…folded into a new adventure!

dsc03224You can see my little Brompton has now been embellished with some Cherry Blossoms, after her name!

 

I was so excited to have received a spur of the moment, very short notice invitation to go on a ride with Dayna Andreussi of the Melbourne Brompton Club that I just wasn’t going to pass this up…I don’t often get invited on rides. The perception is usually that I’m too busy, too ‘pro’ (yeah right!), too ‘visible’ or maybe just not interested in riding with anyone else…not so. I jumped at the chance because it was not just an opportunity to have a ride without being encumbered by responsibilities of Wheel Women, but also a chance to meet a fellow women’s riding enthusiast…only this time the bikes were different.

I’ve posted a couple of photos since Thursday when my partner and I purchased two Brompton folding bicycles for a reconnaissance visit to Japan to check out some new cycling routes for our Wheel Women Tours. It sure has been met with mixed reactions…some are excited, some wonder what the hell I’m doing and others think I’ve given up my beloved Specialized Ruby…hardly! No, this is just a chance for trying a different kind of riding for a whole bunch of reasons. Continue reading

45 Minutes To Fitness…oh really? The Before and After of a 100km ride.

Are you serious…that’s all it takes? So for just 45 minutes of my life I’ll be fit, healthy raring to go. Well bring on the active wear, hand me the sweat bands and let’s get this fitness thing sorted once and for all!

Forty five minutes…yep 45 minutes! As I rode past the call to action sign I couldn’t help but cast my mind back to the days when I was unfit – and trust me, it was longer than 45 minutes ago!

TinaThat’s me, several years ago before I set out on a path to feel better about myself…and me now, looking a whole lot happier about everything! It didn’t take 45 minutes…it’s taken years.

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A reminder of the small things….

Sometimes you just have to smile at your feet. Stop, look down at the happy, crazy socks, marvel at the fact those little plastic things on your cycling shoes make a cool clicking sound at light changes, or perhaps contemplate changing your shoe laces to something loud and fun with bobbles on them. Whatever you do, stop and celebrate the small things.

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From self doubt to self belief…the journey of the woman cyclist.

As she crossed the line at that 50km gantry at ride’s end, she was laughing, and smiling, and crying…all at the same time. The emotions flooded in and crossing the line was almost impossible as the tears clouded her vision and the laughter took her breath away. Exhausted, barely able to get off the bike and depleted of every last bit of energy, she did it…and she believed that 6 months ago she would never do this. We hugged as she suddenly burst into sobs of joy.

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What if I’m too slow, what if I’m too unfit….the Wheel Women Awards. Be inspired!

Sigh…I can here you say it. ‘Not another bloody It’s-Christmas-haven’t-we-had-a-fantastic-year blog post’. Yes you can stop reading right now if you wish…but what if you were to read on? What if there is something good in what I am going to say…better still, what if there is something that inspires you?
There is a lot to say after a year at Wheel Women and we just can’t possibly fit it all in one post. And that’s been the problem for me…so much happens at Wheel Women that I’m usually just far too busy to even do all the blogs and writing I’d love to do. Sometimes so much happens I don’t even know where to start.

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Denial…the before and after.

We all love a before and after shot right? All those lumps, bulges and bumps that are so humiliating for the person in the photo, and then the stunning, though possibly Photoshopped forward step in time.

But what if you were the subject of the photo? How would you feel about showing the ungracious truth of what you really look like? Seriously, think about…despite the fact it might have the fairytale ‘after’ shot, how would you REALLY feel to let people see you at your worst?

Well, I decided to do that today. I have posted everywhere what I think is the most embarrassing and humiliating photo ever…and I did it intentionally too.

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A little while back my husband told me he had been looking through some old holiday photos. He wasn’t specific about any one photo, but rather just commented that “you should have a look at the photos from New Zealand…I’m glad you like riding now.”

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Do it YOUR way!

I’m usually pretty quick to post our ride photos. But I decided today to hold off for a while and just digest what for me, was a very moving moment yesterday.

When I go out riding I think my overwhelming emotion is ‘This is FUN’, but I also get a huge sense of freedom – just being able to forget a few of those usual burdens for a while is such a release and a great way to focus. But yesterday I was overcome with a different emotion; an enormous sense of satisfaction! I could see in action something occurring that was really one of the ultimate aims of setting up Wheel Women. And for me is by far the most beautiful part!

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Does my smile say how I feel on the bike?

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A woman on her bike is a truly beautiful thing

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‘Look out!’ yelled the male bike rider as he zoomed past some pedestrians on the track. He was sitting on my tail for a little while as we approached the walkers; they had no clue as to what was happening as they stepped out their evening exercise with ears blocked by headphones. But they sure did hear his aggro yell, and I guess were a little aggro themselves at the attitude.

To tell you the truth, I was a little aggro too! Why is it that this guy decided to scream “Look out!” in the tone he used (which I can assure you was not a passive request). Why was there a need to use such an accusatory tone with the innocent walkers, as if they had no right to be on the track…surely a tingle of the bell and a call of ‘Passing” would have sufficed.

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