The Prudential ride was held last week-end in London. Two years ago I walked past Green Park when the ride was happening, navigating the hordes of people in their bikes in the "Fun Zone" and wondering if I'd ever ride a bike with their ease too.
Fast forward to last Sunday, when I biked for 18 km, just for fun! Not in the race (although it could have been funny to see a Brompton-powered cyclist), but just around London. How different things are now--for the better!
Although I got the bike in late November 2014, I just started to track my rides at the end of March, out of curiosity (how fast am I? how long is my daily ride?). Since then I've cycled 445 km, in 66 rides that have taken me about 32 hours total.
I'm quite distrustful of all other drivers, cyclists and pedestrians, and the only time I almost got hit by a van was because I trusted them too much--then they "cut a corner" and almost crunched me against the pavement; luckily I was quick to yell at them and jump aside but I still got a very minor bruise on my arm. Still I think it's a good rate of accidents per kilometer, and I intend to keep it that way.
I am now super fast at unfolding/folding the bike, and also lifting it upstairs. I replaced the front light that the shop sold me initially with a rechargeable USB light which has also WAY more lumens. I've also learnt to pump the tires myself and to grease the chain--it's very relaxing and satisfying! I also got a camera on my helmet--a bit for documental reasons but mostly acting as a deterrent (the red LED on front when recording seems to have put an end to the territorial behaviour of some drivers, it seems). I wish I hadn't had to get the camera. Ah, if only the police were doing their job... If only the multiple traffic cameras in London were put to a good use... If only...
But other than that, my worst issue right now is that sometimes I'm in too much of a good shape and my muscles are too much for my bike, and so even with the longer speed I am still too fast for these wheels. I keep having to remind myself that this is not a road bike and there's no need to bike SO FAST. I also wish that my issues are always like this.
In parallel to getting a bike I also kept up with my running, using one of those couch to 10K apps. I started tracking it as well--I've run about 240 km since then! And now I do not dread running for buses or planes as I used to. It helped me catch a plane on time on a very tight connection last month. It was worth the effort!
In contrast, the first time I intentionally went running, a little less than two years ago, I barely ran for 100 metres before I got totally out of breath. My lungs hurt. My throat hurt. It was a horrible feeling and I was ashamed to hear the answer to what have I done to my body in the last 20 years?! But now I can run 3 km non stop in a good day, and still walk after that.
I do not want to brag with this post--all the contrary. I want to share my joy and amazement at the fact that even the couchest of potatoes can turn into a somehow fit human.
The trick is to practice and to be persistent.
And not comparing yourself against others, but against yourself. Every improvement is a win, even if small! Last year I'd run 2.4 km on a good day. Nowadays that is less than my fun runs.
Many times I wake up and don't feel like going anywhere but then I remind myself of that nice exhilarating feeling when I'm running up a hill that I used to have to stop mid-way because it was too steep, and now I run in about three minutes non-stop, and then I put on the sporty clothes and just do it. And if I don't run, walk or bike on a given day I feel like I'm missing the activity!
Something else that is cool: I don't mind if it's rainy or sunny anymore. There's again something really exhilarating about both aspects. If it's raining I just love that I don't care that it's raining--I just put my hood on and do my thing. Yes, drops get in my face, but I just brush them aside. If it's sunny, it tends to get pretty warm so I can wear tank tops and that means I get tons of vitamin D! So many people are complimenting my tan this year but... it's just the English sun! ;-)
It also helps if you have an encouraging circle of acquaintances and friends. There's a ton of people in the office that are into sports and they would always talk about going to the gym or to the climbing centre, or cycling, or... Jen was also a great inspiration when she shared, nonchalantly, that she couldn't run for more than a few metres before, and now she was running kilometers! And Belén started running as well and shared her progress and tips. Apparently at some point I figured that if they could do it, so could I!
And if I could do it, so can you! :-D