My biggest fitness goal yet: MuMenTum Monday

31 May

…well, technically it’s Tuesday, but given the bank holiday yesterday I’m a day behind.

Last week’s goal has been on the calendar for a while – in big red letters: TOUR OF WESSEX cycle event. Two years ago, I completed two days, the first being 112 miles and the second day 106 miles, last year (with a four month old baby) I’d signed up to one day, but someone was on my side and our car broke down en-route. This year, no excuses and with a peloton of me, plus two friends, I had no choice.

At 4.45 a.m. on Saturday morning my alarm reverberated through my head. It was time to get up and go. Actually, with a toddler and Tom in tow, it wasn’t quite that simple. I’d set my alarm 15 minutes ahead of the time we actually needed to get up in order to get things moving smoothly. I reluctantly dragged myself out of bed and down to the kitchen to put a pot of coffee on. My aim was to will Tom out of bed with the waft of coffee. I then went back upstairs for a very noisy shower. I hoped Tom and Toby would both have risen by the time I got out, but peering out the door left me disappointed. There was nothing to it. I had to start nagging. The pleading for them to get up only lasted about five minutes and with everyone up and ready by 5.30 we were on our journey to Yeovil, Somerset.

The journey up was fine. I managed to get a few more winks in before my tough day ahead, but about ten minutes from our destination a gasp left my lips. I had forgotten to shave my legs. My heart sunk. The majority of male cyclists at these kind of events usually have hair-free legs so I was going to look like a gorilla in comparison to EVERYONE. Getting Toby ready had left me neglecting myself. Luckily it was cold enough to warrant leg warmers, so the majority of my stubbly legs were covered.

We arrived at 8 a.m. on the dot to find my two cycling heros – Bekka Caush and Emma Waterfall – by their tent almost ready to go. I headed to the registration tent and grabbed my number and we were all sorted by 8.30 and off. The ride was 76 miles and by far the longest I have attempted since pre-pregnancy. I was nervous I could complete anything over 60 miles and – I’m not sure whether my weakened core post-childbirth, my heavier weight or my general lack of fitness is to blame – but I cannot climb hills any more. As soon as we hit even the slightest incline, I fall off the back of any group I’m with and have to sprint at the top to catch up. I was incredibly scared about the hills on this route – not least the climb up cheddar Gorge. Anyone that’s been to Cheddar Gorge will know how breathtakingly beautiful it is. Equally, anyone who’s cycled up it, will know how long it is. 2.5 miles of non-stop uphill cycling puts fear in my belly.

The first half of the ride was fairly flat and even though it felt like we were cycling into the wind the whole way we managed to make good time. We covered about 22 miles in the first 1.5 hrs. At the bottom of a dubious looking hill we took the time to take in some liquid and up we went. Of course, I was dropped by the girls, but managed to keep them in my sight – something I wouldn’t have been able to do even a month ago. Every mile I ride, I feel fitter and that’s the real joy and a great bit of motivation.

The route from here on in was undulating. The next significant climb was Cheddar Gorge and at the bottom, the inevitable happened – I was dropped. With a sunken heart I told them I’d see them on the other side, but then something clicked into place and I was suddenly gaining ground quite easily. A third of the way up, I’d caught up and managed to get to the top relatively unscathed. I think I may have overdone this bit, but when you feel good you sometimes just have to go with it and with a feed station only a few miles away, why not.

At 30 miles I felt amazing and the fear had left. Of course I could complete it. However, it’s funny the difference even a few miles can make and I hit a low point at aound 35 miles. With the knowledge of feed station number two being only ten miles away I managed to push through. The beauty of being a mum is that it’s a rare event to be without child so every moment is precious and enjoyable. The weather was rubbish, my legs hurt like hell, but I was enjoying it. Nothing could beat it. When I used to do these things, I’d get into a bit of a mood at low points and hate every second. That simply doesn’t happen anymore – pain really is pleasure and because of the inflexibility of motherhood, you simply don’t know when you’re going to get your next dose; you linger on every inch of it.

The second feed stop, at mile 45 was amazing. There was tea… and I couldn’t have been happier with that. We had a sit down, a natter and enjoyed being out of the painful saddle. We were over half way and there was a distinct air of celebration.

Back on the bikes and only 30 miles to go, which actually all blur in my head. We all suffered at varying points, which was great because when one of us felt weak we were propelled by the others feeling strong. We worked quite well as a team, taking it in turns to lead the group (the person at the front takes most of the pain, with the two behind sucking at their wheel reducing the effort you have to put in). I felt like a rider in the Tour de France peloton – only a lot slower and with a much smaller group – and it was very satisfying. I haven’t cycled in a group for ages and it really makes a difference.

By the time we got back to the finishing town I had completely blown up. The head wind in the last ten miles had shattered me and the finish line couldn’t have been more welcome. The best thing about it all was that Tom and Toby were waiting for us in the campervan with a cup of tea and I could eat as much as I wanted after all that exercise.

So what have I learned so far on my journey back to fitness with the MuMenTum ladies:
1. Anything is still possible
2. Give yourself a bit of a break and enjoy things – if you can’t quite keep up with the pace, don’t let it worry you, every mile of running, swimming or cycling, is a step in the right direction
3. They say women come back harder after pregnancy and birth – perhaps that will happen for me (I can only hope) – as you really do make the most of every spare second you get.
4. Having a little monkey waiting for you at the end is the best bit of it all.

And I’d like to say thanks to all the MuMenTum ladies – great support network!

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8 Responses to “My biggest fitness goal yet: MuMenTum Monday”

  1. would like to be a yummy mummy May 31, 2011 at 6:28 pm #

    Wow, what an achievement…fantastic. Definitely a role model for all of us MUMenTum ladies. You should feel very proud of yourself 🙂 x

    • Claire May 31, 2011 at 7:15 pm #

      Thanks. Looks like everyone’s doing well this week. Finding having to share stories over at MuMenTum a real driver! x

  2. Liska May 31, 2011 at 7:04 pm #

    Oh my God I felt like I was reading a short novel. I was right there with you, hanging on every word. What a page turner, and YOU HAVE SO MUCH STAMINA wow!!!!!
    Well impressed xx

    • Claire May 31, 2011 at 7:16 pm #

      It is a bit long, but had a lot of emotion to share.

      Looks like you’ve had a fantastic week too. x

  3. HELEN JESSUP May 31, 2011 at 7:06 pm #

    Wow! I felt quite emotional reading that, you must be very proud of yourself.
    Some great words of wisdom at the end there – I think they should be put onto a poster for us all to read!
    x

  4. Claire May 31, 2011 at 7:17 pm #

    Perhaps we should generate a tag cloud with motivating words for us all. Loved reading your MuMenTum post! Good luck with this week. x

  5. Carole May 31, 2011 at 7:27 pm #

    Wow what a great account of a fantastic achievement – I felt as if I was with you in that saddle all the way.

    You should feel very, very proud of yourself, well done you! 🙂 x

  6. Claire June 2, 2011 at 10:43 am #

    Well done you!! I hope you are enjoying being part of the Mumentum ladies and that the support is helping you! xx

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