The Beauty of Lancashire & Lemonade!
By Lesu Miah
The winding roads of Lancashire and the North of England for that matter, are well known in the cycling community and around the world. You have long stretches of road, traversing some amazing scenery and hills. Your eyes can feast on some beautiful greenery and vistas as the roads snake around some steep, winding inclines and fast down slopes.
My week is perfectly reflected in the description of Lancashire’s roads. After the mental high of my first ride, my confidence was up. I felt great and was eager to get going so, on Sunday I’d arranged with Mostofa to join me on a ride through a route that I thought knew like the back of my hand. It’s a route I do every day between 7 and 8am. My regular commute to work, the A671 from Burnley to Bacup. This is by no means an easy route, I felt It would be a huge challenge, but one I felt I could do.
That was probably my first mistake! I got carried away with the tiny success of my first ride and got over confident and was about to come back down with a bang! Cycling for anyone new to it, is exciting but it’s TOUGH! Even for those in relatively good shape. So for someone who’s clearly out of shape, it’s a lot tougher so you HAVE to give it the respect it deserves. It means planning your rides and day around it. It means you prepare yourself physically and mentally for each ride, if you are to get the most out of it. I failed to do this and paid the price.
It started off well, I got up nice and early at 7am. I’m an early riser so this wasn’t an issue, or so I thought. I had some water to hydrate, did my stretches, suited up and got out. Gulab was on time and we set off. I felt more comfortable on the road now and wasn’t worrying about the traffic as much (although I’m still conscious of vans, I still don’t trust white vans!). So far so good right? I thought the same until I got to the hill just past the entrance to Towneley Hall and I HIT THE WALL!
NO! Not an actual wall, this is a metaphorical wall that hurts almost as much as the real thing! It hurts you physically and mentally! Cyclists like to call this the BONK, but as this is a family friendly blog, I’ll be calling it the “wall”. Whatever you want to call it, it’s essentially a condition of sudden fatigue and loss of energy, which is caused by the depletion of glycogen stores in the liver and muscles. That’s the science, but what it feels like is something akin to being Tango’d! And it hurts! Hurts the most fragile thing in a man’s armoury…his Ego…I certainly felt it!
I had got overconfident and was getting my just desserts! In my description of getting ready you’ll notice that I missed one essential part of preparation. I MISSED breakfast. The most important meal of the day. I had no energy stored, a HUGE faux pas. I had failed to give cycling the respect it deserved and was paying the price! I had to stop and fuel up. Luckily I brought some Ajwa dates along with me and I was praying for it’s healing properties to kick into overdrive for me as I’d barely started the hill! I stretched and got going again, I made further progress maybe a mile, maybe not even that, but I had to stop again. I was really struggling. It was such a weird feeling as I felt I could do more in terms of distance but I just didn’t have the strength or energy to get… up… this… Hill! I finished my last batch of dates and set off again! As I knew the route, I felt I had to get to the traffic lights at the junction at least. It took a huge effort but, by the skin of my teeth, I got there. It was nowhere near where I’d hoped to get to. I felt I could go on but didn’t want to get stuck further up as it only gets steeper, so decided to end it there, and make my way back.
I was hoping to get to Bacup, but I’d barely got to the borders of Burnley!
So, ego severely dented and my tail firmly between my legs, I turned around, asked Gulab to complete his ride, and as I knew the route, I made my way back. This was a lot easier as it was downhill. I built up speed, the world looked beautiful again, and I got a third wind? I’d lost count by this time but I felt sufficiently energised to at least get some miles into my legs. I turned into Towneley Hall and did the uphill section that Gulab showed me on the tutorial ride, then set off. Surprisingly, I still felt ok in terms of cardio so I went past my house and towards Brierfield and then back home. I managed to turn a big disappointment into a 11.69 mile ride. Like the hills of Lancashire, I was up again. I then made the mistake of checking my messages. Gulab sent me a selfie of himself outside Old Trafford, the home of the greatest football club in the world! Aaaand I was back down again! Cheeky sod! My revenge WILL be sweet!
When life gives you lemons
Life or my bad preparation combined with poor fitness, gave me lemons, I would’ve preferred to make lemon drizzle cake if I’m honest, but in the end, I managed to make lemonade!
My second ride of the week was on Tuesday. As I never wanted to see a hill ever again, this took place at the Steve Burke track in Barrowford. It’s no exaggeration to say that this is fast becoming one of my favourite places in the world! The ride down there felt easier, I was still nervous around the roundabouts and junctions at Barrowford, but it didn’t hold any fear and once I got to the track, I was determined to put some good laps in. It’s a 3 mile ride from my house so my plan was to try and complete 10 miles at the track which I have been informed is 17 laps, then with another 3 miles back home would take me to 16 miles. This was a real challenge as the 10 miler the previous week had nearly been the end of me! I planned on taking it easy if I had to, the main aim was to get some miles into my legs! I still felt the old pride kick in when people including kids were whizzing past me but it was a case of putting the ego aside, gritting my teeth and getting the job done! I started to really feel the pain around 7 miles in but seeing other people doing their laps helped to keep me going and I managed to get the 10 miles at the track in. The ride back which was so hard a week ago, while still difficult, felt better and when I got home, I was able to at least talk for a few minutes before collapsing into a nice warm bath!
I felt that my ride time was irrelevant (or as my wife said “too slow to mention here!”) however, I had reached a new milestone. A new Personal Best of 16 miles. I’d planned what I was going to do, did the preparation (porridge, bananas, fruits and a bucket full of water!) and managed to achieve my goal. In the previous ride, I’d just tried to “wing it” and whilst it wasn’t a disaster, it was real eye opener. So I’m now putting a lot more thought into what I’m doing and have some clear targets to aim for. Here’s the thing, what I feel you have to commit to, and not to get too technical here, is steady progress and marginal gains. Dave Brailsford made this approach famous and put a significant amount of Team Sky’s phenomenal success in the Tour De France, down to it. That and a good doctor!
Small attainable goals
I fully embrace that mentality both at work, in one’s private life and certainly for this endeavour. When you’re starting from the bottom, lofty goals are good to inspire you into action however, once the day to day grind starts, it can break you as well, because, it just seems so far off, when the hard work and difficulty kicks in. Therefore, small attainable goals work much better. These small goals or targets when added up, work towards the greater goal without it overwhelming a person. That is my plan and this ride really did wonders for rebuilding my confidence.
So. That was my third week. Full of ups and downs, reminiscent of the beautiful area and its roads I reside in. It’s been a very revealing week, it helped me answer the question, “Do I really want to do this?” And the answer was a resounding YES! Alhamdulillah. There are much bigger challenges to come but I’ve got some good miles in, I’m improving my strength and cardio and the lemonade tastes great.
PS… my wife made me Lemon Drizzle cake so….winning!