Reasons for doing the ride:
To literally and figuratively get back in the saddle, whilst doing something good for a cause which I feel passionate about (see profile for detail).
Cycling experience/miles per day:
Hmmm, haven’t been on my bike in over a year, having lost my bottle and desire to train. Extensive training and racing experience in 1994-2004 (well over 100,000 miles, much with top class amateur riders and groups). Continued to ride and race triathlons at a lesser level until 2010 – apprehensively looking forward to getting back on the bike and some miles under the wheels.
Oops – please prune and crop – verbose rubbish! Team Mash added ‘It’s all lovely Beth!’
I wasn’t an athletic child, but rather having been born with congenital heart defects (like a number of other riders in this group) and had a number of surgeries, physical activity was not massively encouraged. I seemed happy with that, and never thought that I was missing out. This all changed at university, when I acquired the usual ‘freshers five’ or in my case fifteen! I found enjoyment running, and although not fast it became an acceptable activity to keep my waistline in check.
This unlikely passion further developed 1994, when upon graduation I moved to Florida and my athletic pursuits took on a more dedicated nature. What started with 5 and 10km races, turned into half and full marathons, and then, faced with inevitable over-training injuries, cycling and ultimately triathlon. Although not athletically gifted (you did read the first bit about the congenital heart defects?), I found that with hard work and dedication, I was still able to excel. It was not unusual for me to ride several hundred miles every week; in fact it was unusual if I didn’t! My faithful Trek and I have racked-up more than 100,000 miles, although it is looking considerably better for it than I am!
Alongside running a computer business, I became a personal trainer, Spinning® instructor, triathlon and running coach. Life in the sunshine was grand, and I was able to train 20+ hours per week for many years, and had some rewarding race results to show for it. In 2002 I returned to the UK, and although I continued to train, I knew that something wasn’t right. At first I thought it was the shock of exercising in the hills (Florida being pancake flat), or perhaps getting older as I hit my 30’s, but after some rather ‘interesting’ medical visits, it became apparent that I was in need of further open heart surgery, valve replacement and a rather overdue annual service!
I was in and out of the workshop in 2005, and although ‘the engine’ may never perform at its previous level, there was still adventures to be had. I continued to coach and train, albeit at a much lesser level, alongside my other work as a science journalist. In late 2012 I had something of an early mid-life crisis, and faced with the realisation that I wasn’t getting any younger, I recognised that my opportunity to ‘leave a legacy’ was going fast (note: it sounds rather grander than it is, but with no children of my own, I feel like I want my time on earth to have meant something to someone other than just me). In January 2013 I opened my own fitness and rehab studio, hoping in some way to help people who were struggling with their own health or weight issues.
What started with a female fat loss programme and cardiac rehab classes, now also offers a place for those with many health conditions to explore their own physical capability in a controlled and nurturing environment. With group classes for those with cardiac and pulmonary conditions, cancer, stroke, diabetes etc., or just those just getting older and looking to feel better about themselves, every day contains a lot of joy and laughter. It hasn’t been plain sailing, and financially the report card would read ‘could do better’. However, on an emotional level I know I am following my life’s passion, and I will triumph in the end.
Whilst giving of myself, what has been somewhat lost is the ability to give ‘to’ myself. Much of my earlier athletic achievement came at the expense of being selfish with my time for others. It was seemingly a necessary part of the training hours which I put in. When I saw the ‘Team Mash’ ride, I knew that it marked an important opportunity to have a more altruistic reason to train, and a chance to do something good for someone else – whilst at the same time hopefully improving my own health and life balance.
I think that in life, we get back what we give out, spiritually and emotionally. Something deep down is telling me that I need to be a part of this, and that by giving my own time and effort, I will get so much more in return. I can’t wait to share the journey with an amazing group of people who I know will become friends. You certainly will Beth!!