So… After the whole intro…the buying of the bike…the equipment…the gear…after all the chat and banter, the reality has just hit. I have now GOT to do this…and…it…is daunting!!
I told my wife, “It should be easy, it’s the first ride so it won’t be anything too difficult. I’ll just get used to the bike.” My son asks if he can ride along, my response, “Don’t worry Salahuddeen, give it another week or so baba and I’ll carry you on my back while I ride!” Easy!
It was all bluster as inside, I was dreading it!
The thing is, some people can be in denial when it comes to the state of their fitness and delude themselves into thinking, “I’m ok, in my day I used to do so and so…” and “I’m not that bad now…I can still give these young pups a run for their money!”
I’ve been that guy!
There’s also people who know they’re unfit but still think they’ll be ok and get by, as there’s not been any reason to panic or warning signs. Most think, I could do better but I could be a lot worse.
I’ve been that guy too!
The fact is, until you put yourself out there and do a task, activity or challenge, you just don’t know how unfit or unhealthy you are. There’s no barometer for these things. So when you ride along a road that you’ve walked, driven and even cycled up a million times before in the past, then all of a sudden, start struggling, panicking about if you’re going get to the crest of what is actually a small incline… There is a moment of clarity… Here the penny drops, and you think, “So, that’s where I’m at!” That’s my level. This can be inspiring for some… For others, it can cause a panic and break them… For me, the reaction was somewhere in between. I felt, “Ok, so this is it…Now it starts – I have a reference point.”
So, that was the story of my first ride. It was a gentle ride, mainly on flat roads with the main aim of getting used to the bike and the road. My destination was just past Towneley Park. Alhamdulillah the support from my cycling coach Gulab Mostofa member was great. It felt like I was learning to ride again, as I’ve only ever ridden mountain bikes before so the road bike felt alien. As I got into the ride, I got more and more comfortable, but I still wasn’t confident. I was swaying all over the place, the position on the drop handle bars felt strange and I kept worrying about the cars on the road! Despite all this, I thought I handled it relatively well…that is until I was on my way back!
I hate climbing
I never realised how steep Colne Road was and I’ve been using this road all my life! To experienced riders, it probably feels no worse than a straight road, but for me it felt like a mountain! Alhamdulillah, to my relief, I persevered. I got a 6 mile tutorial ride in! In my younger days this would’ve been embarrassing, however, right now, it felt like a good start.
Next, onto the second ride… I was dreading this even more as I’d have to actually do a “proper” route with minimal stoppage and instructions. However, I was committed now. I’ve talked the talk and now I’ve got to actually start the walk or in this case, ride.
The big day arrived – my first ‘official’ ride. I’d built it up in my mind and mentally prepared myself, got hyped up, suited up… Then.. The heavens opened up! This gave me the perfect excuse to postpone it. “I’ll see what the weather’s like tomorrow!” The next day came and it was no surprise when it rained again! Another day bit the dust and I have to admit I felt relief at the delay!
If I’m honest, these are the sort of excuses that we use in order to stay in our comfort zone. I’ve done this for years. It goes something like this…
Football today at 7pm. Well that’ll be the usual, “I’ve got a bit of a sore knee lads so can’t quite make the football today”. See? Easy as that!
Gym today at 6:30 – Childs play! “I’m just so busy with work, I’ll have to give the gym a miss today” – and then I’ll proceed to watch Skysports news for an hour, with the same news on a loop every 15 minutes!
It’s just easier NOT to do it
The truth is, we can think of a million excuses to NOT do it, because it’s just easier NOT to do it. What I’ve realised is, it’s just as easy to actually DO IT. Nike have that slogan for a reason. It’s amazing the tricks your mind can play on you as in actuality, the only thing stopping you is – whatever reason you want to tell yourself at that particular moment. The difference for me this time, was that I believed in and was fully invested in what I was doing. I’m doing this for a healthier life for myself and my family Therefore, I had to snap out of it!
Also, living in the UK, Burnley Lancashire at that, am I really going to wait for good weather? If I do this, I may get 10 days a year, which quite frankly, isn’t going to butter any parsnips!
So when it rained again on Tuesday, I thought to myself “if it stops for a few minutes, I’ll risk it and give it a go, even if it’s just round the block!” So I tried to stay positive, did my stretches and warmed up. Thankfully, my prayers were answered, the rain abated just after 7pm and I got that little window of opportunity that I needed. I thought, “Let’s just go for it!”
I was still nervous about riding on the road, in busy traffic and wet weather but I just had to blank that out and get out there. Alhamdulillah! I’m so glad I went for it as this ride made a huge difference to my confidence and mentality. The ride to the Steven Burke Hub track in Barrowford is mainly flat and downhill, so I felt fine on the way there. The tricky part in terms of the ride was going onto the dual carriageway at Nelson – in particularly manoeuvring the large roundabouts, which was really hard work. Luckily, having Mostofa from AICC there to follow, made a huge difference. Although we’re social distancing, where he’s either a few metres behind (which must be like snail’s pace for him!) or he’s ahead when I approach these large junctions. It is very reassuring to have the support there on these early rides.
The race track in Barrowford was great! I can’t believe I didn’t even know this place existed! It’s perfect for getting some miles in your legs. I was going hell for leather here (or what classes as that for snails) but it felt great, that is until I realised that I still had to get home! so I saved some gas in the tank and slowed down. I’m so glad I did, as on the way back is where I really felt the pain! The route had a few uphill sections that felt huge to me! I was already tired from the ride, but I was determined not to stop. Maybe it’s due to playing a lot of sport in my younger days, that the competitive edge creeps in, or maybe it was due to the fact that there was a huge storm brewing and I did NOT want to be out in that!
In hindsight, the weather was a blessing, as it meant that mentally at least, giving up wasn’t an option. I had to push myself to the max in order to get home before the heavens opened. Whereas normally I might slow down to rest a little and recuperate, I had to maintain a decent speed in order to beat the storm. It was tempting to stop at Nelson Town Centre and again at Brierfield, but I just had to ignore all that and keep plodding on! This part of the ride felt more like a mental challenge, but I managed to push on and through gritted teeth, I got home just before the storm started!
Everything is relative. This won’t be much of a ride for most cyclists, but for me, it was huge! I was SHATTERED! I felt pain in places I have never felt pain before and the fatigue was real but despite all this, it felt great to have got through my first proper ride.