|Sometimes it's difficult to keep going|
Looking back to the pre-pandemic glory days of 2019, I note that ‘challenge’ was the word I used to describe the year. If only I’d known what was just around the corner, as 2020 has certainly been the year of challenges so far. Some were expected, like the ones I set myself on the bike, some were not. Covid-19 rocking up and locking us all down, and the knock-on effects hampering Adrian’s ability to travel and work, were not what I expected, but then neither was losing our nephew Ben to suicide, and the huge hole that he has left in our family.
There are some days when I still struggle to fully comprehend where we are now, and I find it quite difficult to think about what lies ahead. Which might explain the lack of recent blog posts. I’m not sure that the three of us have grieved properly for Ben yet, and not being able to spend time together with our family in the UK (many of whom are vulnerable and still self-isolating) hasn’t helped.
During lockdown it looked unlikely that I’d see any of my cycling challenges come to fruition, but as restrictions were lifted, we realised that in this extraordinary year, we owed it to ourselves to seize every opportunity that came our way. Cycling has given us the focus and motivation to keep going, and that started with us taking part in the virtual cycling challenge From Loughborough to Istanbul; For Ben. Being just a small part in this amazing event, which has raised over £30,000 for charities working to prevent suicide in young people, was very humbling but also a great help.
The challenges I set myself this year were in two sets of twenty. The first being to ride in twenty different French departments (states/counties), and as August draws to a close, I've managed a respectable thirteen.
The other twenty was made up of:
Climbing five mountain cols (passes).
Five consecutive days cycling over 50 km a day.
Five 100 km in a day.
Five shopping trips using the bike instead of the car.
Conquering the Cols in the Pyrenees
Living somewhere flat meant the cols were conquered whilst on holiday in Provence and the Pyrenees, and earlier this month I smashed my target having climbed thirteen cols and got to the top of Mont Ventoux.
August has been a month of milestones. Last week I clocked up a pretty impressive 418 km, making it the furthest distance I’ve cycled in a week this year, as well as completing my five consecutive days cycling over 50 km, and the second of my 100 km in a day.
This August I have also beaten the 2019 mile (3250 km) target I set (and achieved) last year, despite hardly using the bike for the two months of lockdown and I’ve hit another first; cycling over 1000 km in a single month.
In the Marais Poitevin, August 2020, 1000 km cycled
Yes, you did read that correctly. Almost 49 year old me, with my short legs, small frame (me and the bike) and little wheels, has cycled over one thousand kilometres this month, almost three thousand five hundred this year so far and nearly seven thousand since buying my Brompton #KTTinyTourer at the end of 2018.
Market shopping in Montbrun-les-Bains
The one I'm struggling on the most is the shopping, which I thought would be the easiest. Thanks to Covid-19 we have stopped popping to the shops for a few bits but have been more organised doing a regular big shop by car and eliminating some of the risk of going to the supermarket. We have, however, managed to reduce the amount we use the car by making the bikes our main mode of transport for social journeys and tasks like picking up prescriptions from the pharmacy and even parcels from the local delivery point. Friends are now so used to seeing us on the bikes we’ve had a few comments when we’ve been spotted out in the car, along the lines of “not on your bikes today then?”
I've climbed Mont Ventoux, all the way up there
Some of the things we have challenged ourselves to, including climbing Mont Ventoux at an altitude of 1912m, the Col d’Aubisque (1709m) and the Col du Tourmalet (2115m), have been hard work on the body and the mind and I’m still amazed I did it. One thing it has taught me is that there is something quite cathartic about pushing my body to its limits, hearing my heart pumping and feeling my lungs bursting with air, knowing it is a privilege to be alive in a year when so many have been lost.
I may not be quite there on all my challenges yet, but for a weird year, I'm pretty pleased with my progress so far. I do have a niggling worry though, what if I have peaked too soon achieving all this in the year I turn forty-nine, rather than in the run up to my big 50? I’ll just have to hope that 2021 has something much bigger and better waiting for me to achieve.
Our next challenge is to get Ed back to Poitiers for a safe university rentrée and to adapt once more to life as empty nesters.