Horses have taken up the best part of my life but when breast cancer came along and tipped life on its head, I had to have a re-think. Big, strong, young horses are not the easiest things to deal with at the best of times but when you have been pretty sick and surgery has stripped you of your upper body strength, dangling in the air from the end of a lead rope doesn’t hold the same charm anymore.
So, skip forward a couple of years and the horse saddle has been swapped for a bike saddle (here on in to be known as the butt burner!) Seriously, I cannot begin to tell you how bloody uncomfortable the butt burner is in comparison to the soft, well-worn leather of a horse’s saddle. Over time, the horses saddle warms and moulds to the individual form of both horse and rider and after a couple of hours, you can feel as though you’re sat on a giant marshmallow. Your toes are toasty inside your boots and even your severely unflattering hard hat has warmed and melted to your head. At the end of a horse-ride it’s hard to slide off when really, all you need is a back rest and you could happily sit there all day. However, I can confirm that this is definitely NOT the case with the butt burner. The longer you sit on that narrow piece of steel, covered with a patch of leather that has been cured and hammered into a rock hard hide akin to another layer of steel, it continues to further ingratiate its way into your most precious of nether regions. Your head may be looking and feeling cool in your bright neon helmet and your feet may be cosily enveloped in your snazzy bike shoes but you’re not likely to appreciate any of this as with every bump and pothole the butt burner bashes the hell out of your tush!
Cycling for me was something I only ever did when I needed to travel the few hundred yards to the shop for bread or milk but couldn’t be arsed to walk and felt too guilty to drive. Bikes took on a more important role in my life when on a deluded whim (I seem to have a lot of those) I decided to have a go at a triathlon. Hailing from Yorkshire, it was obvious that the ‘Brownlee’ spirit would run in the blood of many a true Yorkshire Lass so age and ability never really factored into my plans. I told the husband (HJ) of my idea and I was both surprised and delighted when he (not having been on a bike for about 30 years and then only to ride across a field) offered to join me. It didn’t take very long for us to figure out that my idea was a tad ambitious and so the plan was adapted into a relay effort and after a quick call to a runner friend we had our team!
In my previous life (that’s life before breast cancer) I had done quite a bit of windsurfing (badly) some water ski-ing (really badly) and a bit of scuba diving (actually – surprise, surprise, quite serenely!) all of which had led me to believe that I was quite obviously, a very good swimmer….as it turned out, I wasn’t! After trying and sinking in front crawl, I took to youtube for some swimming lessons (who needs water?!) but after discarding any further attempts at front crawl, I instead, managed to improve my breaststroke technique just enough to avoid a flash crowd of well-meaning spectators, diving fully clothed into the pool to save me from my apparent drowning.
While I was doggedly splashing my way up and down the lanes of our local pool, HJ had taken on a whole new persona. There was no more falling asleep in front of the TV or complaining of backache, instead, he was transformed, as if by magic, into a lycra clad superhero, speeding through the country roads as though on a mission of derring-do. Within a few weeks of haphazard yet dedicated, trial and error training, we were ready. and on a sunny September day, along with the ‘Athlete’ of our team, Gibok, we managed to complete our first ever triathlon. Not only did we complete it but considering our ages and inabilities, we also managed to achieve very respectable times. OK, so we were in the geriatric section but at least we weren’t last!
Anyway, back to the bum burner. I’m sure you’ll all be wondering, “Why bother riding the bike if it’s nothing but an instrument of torture?” Well, the answer to that is even more torturous than the riding of the bike. In another of my, ‘moments of delusion’ I signed up to a charity bike ride but not just any bike ride. Having only done the occasional short ride, I could have gone for one of the local 10 milers or a nice, steady park ride but no, I had to sign up to cycling from London to Paris! That’s a whole ruddy 250 ish miles, all to be done in just three days! Delusional or not, I’m not just doing it for the hell of it, I am hoping to raise lots of money for Women’s Cancers and thankfully, I won’t be alone, there will be another 249 ladies doing it with me.
I say thankfully, as I will need to be surrounded and cosseted by other riders due to my innate fear of wobbling along the main roads. Aside from the potholes, stone walls and ditches that are to be avoided, there’s the risk of my shorts being caught on the wing mirror of a passing car and doing several miles at hair-raising speed with my bum exposed to the world! Therefore, my plan is to be somewhere in the middle of the bunch, trailing slightly to allow me to coast effortlessly along in their slip stream, (another delusion) or, as a last resort, I’m thinking of doing it in fancy dress, I’m thinking a Mr Blobby suit should afford me all the protection I need.
Originally, when I signed up, the image I had in my head was a gentle peddle with a few like-minded ladies eating croissants and admiring the scenery of the British and French countryside. However, it now transpires that in order to complete the challenge in the three allotted days, I am going to have to get my head down and my knees going like the pistons of a V8 engine! There really is no hope for me is there?
Thankfully, the event is not until next year so I have time to learn to ride a bike in a straight line and hopefully, stop screaming every time a car passes. It’s not going to be easy but I’m hoping it’s going to be fun. I’ll be reporting back with my progress of cycling tales and training fails and I hope you will have a giggle with me along the road from London to Paris ( garlic and onions optional.)
To read about me and why I am taking on this challenge you can find me here –