I love riding my bike, I mean I really love it… Ok first maybe some introductions are necessary. My name is Jemma, I live in Leeds in West Yorkshire, I am a mum of two, I have a busy day job, a fascination with bridges, a weird phobia of eggs – and I LOVE riding my bike. That hasn’t always been the case though, in fact I had a pretty gnarly accident aged 11 involving a mountain bike, some sharp braking and a tree, and it would actually be another 15 years before I would even consider touching a bike again, and another 5 after that until my husband bought me my first road bike and this grand love affair really started.
I’d been a runner until that point. Running was my outside love, but soon after getting that bike I decided to enter the Ride London 100, and I got a place, meaning I needed to get comfortable quickly and start to be able to get the miles in, and that’s when I knew I had found the one. I don’t think there is anything more head clearing than a ride out into the countryside (I live in Yorkshire so we are absolutely blessed with that). The relaxing rhythm of your legs turning the pedals steadily, and the sound of not much but your own breathing and the whir and click your wheels make when you freewheel for a bit. Glorious.
Following that I started to spend every bit of free time I had on my bike, long rides, time in the glorious Yorkshire Dales, more sportives, some crit races – I really soaked it all up. I started to combine it with running because I just wanted that bike to be involved now. I had a go at a duathalon, then a triathalon, then a half ironman and we even spent our honeymoon cycling in France. So I was really truly heartbroken at the start of this year, when my health took a turn for the worst. Juggling two years of lock downs, parenting and working from home, bereavement, Covid, really took its toll on me, and I suddenly went from 50 miles on a bike Sunday being my staple – to 5 minutes’ walk being the hardest thing I could ever have completed and needing naps to just get myself through a normal day. I had to literally stop everything for 4 months completely – which was honestly tougher than any of the events or rides and runs I had ever before.
As I started to feel somewhat better, I was desperate to get back on my bike. But I quickly realised I was starting again from zero, which was so frustrating and I am the queen of dwelling on past comparisons. I was in a new situation where I had to really think about my body’s signals, and deal with many ups and downs as I started to come back to exercise, so as to not burn myself out again. It was as I started to get a bit of strength back that I saw the Vox Performance Project was taking in applications again. It would have been super easy to pass over it as an opportunity to look out for next year and not the right time, but it was my absolute desire to get back on the bike that drove me to throw my hat in to the ring. I was very honest when I applied. My goal is just to be able to ride my bike again for a very very long time.
I have chosen to target a 200k ride, which will be the longest I have ever spent on my bike in one go, and probably 10 times longer than any distance I had ridden for months before I joined the programme. I am looking to do an Audax event, that has little to no time pressure, and really gives me time to just enjoy every pedal stroke. My other key goal that I really wanted to achieve is learning how to work with my own body in order to achieve my goals. Not suddenly being on the same page as your body is really hard for any active person, and was definitely a big shock to me. I am almost embarrassed to admit, after telling you that I did a half ironman, that fuelling myself during an event had often been an afterthought to the training itself. It also may or may not have relied on Haribos, whatever else I had in the cupboard and peanut butter and marmite sandwiches. Whilst getting myself fuelled pre and post event was probably never even considered.
Being part of the programme gives you an amazing opportunity to work with Supersapiens and Precision Fuel & Hydration, and to get the tools that really help you to understand how to get the best from yourself. Having access to this has been a real eye opener, I can maybe write a bit more about that in my next blog – but it has definitely made me made me 100% committed to starting to get things right for myself. I was able to put the information we received in our first call on Pre-event nutrition to good use a few weeks ago and help me to my first 50k ride in a long time! That’s a quarter of my distance already.
I have no doubt after the last couple of years we have all been through that my journey might resonate with a few people out there. I really hope my blog can provide even the tiniest of boosts to those who need it.
Until next time!