The problem with being injured all summer is that instead of playing in softball tournaments every weekend with my friends and travelling around the country, I’m stuck at home with too much time on my hands. Unfortunately, sitting at a computer actually makes my shoulder problems worse, so I can’t even use the time to get more work done, useful though that would be. I’ve been trying to keep busy with walking in the Peak District and odd trips away, since at least I can still use my legs even if my shoulders don’t work, but it’s driving me a bit stir-crazy, so I’ve resorted to idly browsing the internet for possible excitement. No, not that kind of excitement. I’m talking about weekends away doing active things and making new friends (since many of my existing friends are away at softball tournaments). Good things have come of it already though, as evidenced by my weekend spent near-dicing with death in the Brecon Beacons with Country Adventures. The “near-dicing with death” wasn’t exactly the good bit (nor was it as exciting as it sounds — it just happens that we got caught in a thunderstorm which killed 2 people that weekend, and which could very easily have been us). The good bit was finding a company that offers great trips, having a great time exploring a place I’d not really been to before, and making new friends, as well as getting me away from the computer.
Anyway, on to the point. Idly browsing the internet for interesting ways to spend my weekends, and having booked a Christmas holiday cycling in South Africa with Exodus, something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time, I thought I’d see if there were any weekend cycling breaks that were up my street. In particular, I wanted to do something over the August Bank Holiday weekend, which traditionally I spend every year in Edinburgh playing softball. This turned out to be a fatal move, because I came across an opportunity to cycle the C2C, a “challenging” iconic route from Whitehaven to Tynemouth, with Saddle Skedaddle, a company offering cycling holidays that I’ve looked at before but never actually booked a trip with. I’m not sure whether I’d had a few glasses of wine at this point, or whether I was just feeling particularly adventurous, but the bit about “challenging” seemed to escape me, especially given that I know just how steep the hills in the Lake District and the Pennines are, and given that I’m not a particularly good cyclist and certainly not good at cycling up hills. In fact, I hate cycling up hills, which is why I don’t cycle much in Sheffield. If only I lived in the Netherlands. Still, one of the main purposes of this blog is to talk about pushing one’s limits just a little bit beyond one’s comfort zone, and why it’s a good thing to do. So now I’ve been hoist by my own petard. With only a month to go until the trip, I’m absolutely terrified about those hills.
The night after I booked the trip, I couldn’t sleep. Why on earth had I booked such a challenging trip when I hated hills and wasn’t nearly fit enough to do it? Hills are also particularly challenging on my blood sugar levels, as they tend to drop my levels like a stone if I’m not careful. When I spoke to the lovely man from Saddle Skedaddle about my capabilities for the trip, it was only really a formality because I’d mentioned that I’m partially sighted, so he wanted to check all would be well, which was fair enough. He didn’t really ask about my fitness, though when I mentioned that I wasn’t sure if I was fit enough, he just urged me to get practising on some steep hills, which didn’t do much to allay my fears! The other thing which I hadn’t really thought through until that moment was that since there is no cycling guide, we have to route-find our way. This is always a bit challenging for me when cycling because I struggle to read both road signs and maps (from a sight loss point of view, not because I’m a rubbish map-reader!). On the other cycling trips I’ve been on, there’s always been a guide and the routes have been mostly very straightforward with no route-finding skills required. I just hope that there’ll be someone else on the trip who’s as slow as me, so they can help me with that bit!
On the positive side, however, it’s made me realise that I really need to get out on my bike (sadly neglected for nearly a year, since it’s always too windy or too cold or too wet or too sunny or I’m just too tired). I’ve been motivating myself by buying some new kit. My helmet was 12 years old so I decided it was time for a replacement, and went for a jazzy HardNutz hi-viz yellow one that my friend Lizzy had recommended. Her son Duncan is a unicyclist and apparently falls on his head a lot, so if it’s good enough for him, I figure it should be good enough for me! Not that I plan to fall on my head a lot, but you never know. And since Halfords had the cheapest offer on the helmet, and had a 3 for 2 offer on, I thought I’d buy some new cycling sunglasses (absolutely crucial in my case, due to my photophobia) and some new gloves (my old ones have mysteriously disappeared – I think I must have donated them after my Namibia trip last Christmas, which says a lot about how long since I was last on my bike!). I also bought some new shorts when I was idly browsing in Sports Direct and saw some jazzy Muddy Fox ones. It’s always exciting having new kit, so it’s motivated me to get out on my bike again, and oddly enough, I’ve actually been quite enjoying it, though also bringing it home to me just how rubbish I am at hills. A friend of mine is currently cycling LeJoG (Lands End to John O’Groats), which is also incredibly motivating, as my puny C2C fades to nothing in comparison (even if he’s a much better cyclist than I am!). So I’m attempting to man up (or woman up). Or as we used to say at school, and the phrase still makes me giggle today, if I don’t do this, I will be “a weed and a wet”. After all, how bad can cycling 140 miles up a few hills really be? Don’t answer that.