Updated: Dec 1, 2021
I don't write for ages then two in a fortnight!
So, I delayed writing my JOGLE blog for ages, partly because I had actually been asked to write one for a well know ladies cycling company. I double checked, did they really want me to? Yes, I queried the spec etc, wrote the thing and then NOTHING. What I find really difficult is ghosting, and this felt like that. I haven't bought from them again, probably won't. Writing a blog that actually might get read is time consuming, not like this when anything goes.... My beloved single reader is so kind it's just a rather fancy platform to a conversation I'd rather have with her in person! Actually the writing doesn't really take long, the idea fermentation sometimes does, but the magic window needs to be perfectly aligned, it seems most posts get written only when I have lots of other stuff on, and today I have 37 reports nudging at me and several lesson plans. I can't write if I have time.
So here is my JOGLE DLOGLE ever so slightly rehashed to omit their details/any creeping brand sycophancy, but very scant on loads I would have added if it wasn't for their brief:
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The lifecycle of an adventure
I’ve always cycled a bit; a few miles get to jobs or the shops when young, on my Army base for convenience and even the odd trail race or a blast around the cliffs at home. I have always known riding is freedom and had both boys on a Weeride as soon as possible, and then on wheels as soon as their legs were long enough, but I seemed to have a 10 mile limit and it was always a bit ad hoc. Whilst pregnant with my second son and living East of San Francisco, the peak of Mt Diablo was visible from my house. It had a road to the top and we would frequently pass cyclists when heading there for picnics. I just knew I needed to ride up it before we left America, so I did. 14 miles and about 3,800ft of ascent on a borrowed bike in bargain basement kit and cleats, a steep wobbly learning curve. I was quite bemused on being handed a crying, hungry baby at the top. Home again in England, work and mothering took centre stage and I became more a facilitator for my family's adventures, with me often waving them off on trips I’d organised.
After being a guinea pig on a resilience weekend I had an epiphany; I chose to rewrite my future but with me as a central adventurer.
I planned 42 challenges to complete in 3 years before my 42nd birthday, of which 5 were bike based; I'd had hip surgery in America, so sat-down sports have become central to my existence. To cycle with my elder son to his school (4.5 miles), a cycle to my new job (17 miles return), London to Brighton (50ish miles), the South Downs Way (100 miles) and JOGLE... as time does, it moved, I started ticking off some. The one-off cycle commute became a twice weekly across the Downs, through consistency I became more capable, more resilient and better kitted, even in the wet and darkest depths of Winter. I had embraced Strava for route selection which gave me mini goals during the lockdowns, and then embarked on the South Downs Way last June in a Met Office Amber weather warning.
Despite riding up Diablo being my first bike challenge, road cycling was still a sticking point so I kept putting that off... and was still without a suitable bike, but time was ticking and JOGLE was supposedly 6 months away, but apparently December can be a perfect time for long road rides. So with no training, less my commute, no route map other than a list of place names on a piece of paper in my pocket, and a borrowed bike I cycled to the station to get to London, nonchalently setting off to discover that roads such as the B112 on a map are actually named ‘The Hill' when you happen upon them, and Ditchling Beacon after well over 50 miles (detours) is no breeze.... but after that was completed the realisation that I had only 180 days remaining to prepare for the biggie hit me. John O'Groats to Land's End had been written down on the list but I don't seem to know how it got there or how I had even envisaged completing it when I blithely wrote it down, only that being a West Country girl, to arrive at Land’s End was a given... (ultimately I didn't finish there - post the obligatory signpost photo I cycled the rock path to Sennen, one of my favourite places in the world and a far more fitting and possible finish for me on my gravel friendly bike).
As soon as I started the planning it became obvious it is a gigantic undertaking, perhaps the biggest decision is how much time you can possibly fold it into. I knew I needed to choose as many a backroad as possible for safety, but without making it unassailable distances and getting lost was not an option. The only time I could envisage off was during May half term, which gave me 9 days... but with some rearranging I was able to negotiate 1 extra day and suddenly 10 days seemed bizarrely achievable. With much tweaking and fiddling the routes, it became fixed around places I could stay. Planning this became such a welcome relief from all the worries of teaching, and even the covid which constantly threatened to cancel it. Maps and timetables are wonderful rabbit holes.
Finally almost everything was done apart from a decent bike kit to traverse a country in and some suitable garments to wear. I now have bib shorts that I adore; can unsnap in a jiffy, and pee almost as quick as a man, and a top so joyful that when I am still wearing it hopefully decades from now, it will remind me how capable we are. The wet/cold weather kit I carried all trip long didn't get unpacked once, but without it it would have rained for sure. My rain cape got used more as a sunshield when one day when I was burning under a Scottish sun!
We never know how a journey will pan out in the initial planning, and there is only so much you can do in advance: weather changes, as do freedoms... hearts, lungs and minds get stronger, but knees might ping. A constant worry up until I was sat on the Caledonian Sleeper was whether I could get my bike there, I had not got a slot for it although luckily I'd managed to get the last cabin. One of the people I spoke to said collapsing it was a last chance option, but it needed to look 'un-bike-like'. Twice weekly checking to see if cancellations had occurred didn't give joy. Two days before, and after checking if my final configuration carried everything, I broke my bike down and packaged it in cardboard and big blue Swedish bags. Trying to subtlety hide my cargo as I boarded soon became silly, as I could have almost unicycled on juggling, without a batted eye. Getting the last cabin actually meant I had been issued an accessible one, so lots of room for a semi re-build. The wheels and saddle went back on in JOG carpark, but in a rush and keen to start my longest ever day ride I must not have done things right so unexpected knee pain surfaced. The internet, and a few hardy friend's advice was really useful for urgent tweaking suggestions, but cycling alone gives plenty of time to think, and I actually came to terms with being okay with not finishing JOGLE. Through this combination, miraculously the pain seemed to dissipate, even if some discomfort remained!
Successfully cycling across a country has been the culmination of so many unspoken dreams and an overcoming of so many concerns. My family joined me for the middle section, from near Glasgow to Bristol, meeting me at night for company and moral support. They shared parts of the adventure and got woven in, without being glued to my exact itinerary, this way everyone had the freedom to let each day unfurl naturally and might even have been one of our best family holidays!
This trip, only several (now six) months ago, hardly now seems real. Thank god for photos and the people I met along the way to stop me thinking it just happened in my head. Before starting my longest ever ride was 70 miles; this was 10 days, 949 miles and 52,400ft of climb with 7 days of head winds. There were 0 ibruprofens, tears or tantrums, 2 ferries, 10 incredible hosts, 1 puncture and many amazing moments. Strangely the West Country days were the hilliest of all. My next bike adventure is a tour of my postcode riding every lane, this looks to be about 64 miles and 6,500ft of ascent, Devon sure is uppy-downy! I’ll happily share any of my accumulated knowledge with anyone wanting to plan long trips in and around childcare and work; there's nothing like marking A level Physics papers beyond midnight the night before I went North, thanks OFQUAL!
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Gawd, rereading this nearly 5 months later seems weird and nice. I did tour de PL8, and some other spectacular rides since.