Learning the subtle difference between a challenge and utter foolishness on the Rapha Women’s 100.
Sunday 17th July was Rapha #womens100 day on planet earth. A day to celebrate women riding road bikes all over the world, and indeed, a PR initiative dreamed up by the clever people who charge £130 for one cycling jersey. But publicity cynicism or no, it’s a win-win for the cycling brand and women alike, whether they like bikes or not.
For the brand, if done well, a cycling + women (trying really hard not to say ‘women’s cycling’ over here) initiative is PR that drives itself. A cracking example of this is the Giant Liv campaign, encouraging women to take photographs of their cycling #actuallyIcan moments. I doubt that the phrase ‘Actually, I can.’ will ever be solely synonymous with a bike brand, but that doesn’t take away any genius in the beautiful simplicity of this inspiring campaign.
I can own my journey. I can be proud of who I am. I can trust myself. I can live my dreams. — Giant Liv Campaign 2016.
The message of this campaign, is indeed the very reason I have fallen hopelessly in love with cycling. Liv nailed it. I feel closer to ‘owning my journey’ in the literal sense on the bike, but also off it, not having to rely on others on a ride or an adventure, than I ever have before — thanks in large part to cycling.
It’s a shame then, that sometimes I take my cycling legs, fitness and motivation for granted and push so hard that I become less of myself. It’s during these rides that old fears come back to haunt me, of not owning my journey, and not trusting myself. It’s after these rides that I can’t see my friends because I’m too exhausted, and I can’t feel pride in those moments, for the person that I have become.
Sadly, the Rapha #womens100 day was one such event for me. Around Facebook, Twitter and Instagram I saw my friends celebrating on 100km rides, and women who I didn’t know, all over the world, taking part in a wonderful event that celebrates women and that celebrates the strength, companionship, sense of community and freedom, that we find in our beloved hobby.
Yet, I agreed to do a 200km ride for a double trouble, so good I had to do it twice, challenge. And a hilly one at that. It was a very hot day by England’s standards, and whilst I was excited about riding my bike through beautiful Devonshire countryside, I knew that my body would struggle a little, since I’d already run three times and cycled once that week…
I won’t bore you with the details. It was long. It took me nine (NINE. Neighn.) hours to cycle 140km (85 miles ish), where I stopped, inhaling a scone with jam (see above), before driving 100 miles home to bed, where I promptly fell asleep.
I had to stop, because at 120km, I lost all sense of normal feeling in my arms and wrists and had flashing lights in my vision. This gave me anxiety, which was quenched in-part, by a subsequent jacket potato.
It won’t be the first time I have said this, but in future, I’m going to think about which challenges I decide to take on, instead of being so blase about them.
I think I still compare everything to Ironman, which isn’t a good comparison, because whilst I completed that in good health; before, during and after the race, I followed an extremely strict training programme over six months, which included the right nutrition and rest. I didn’t just ‘rock up’ to it.
The Rapha Women’s 100 is designed to celebrate the ride, to have fun, and to grow through the challenge. Whilst I did indeed set out to do all of those things, I ended up with a lesson I wasn’t expecting, but nevertheless one of great import, like silk or coffee.
There’s a fine balance between positive growth and self-harm in endurance sport, and the trick is being able to find it.
Also, I need new cycling shoes.