From the perspective of cycling, 2014 was at times a thoroughly frustrating year for me as a cyclist. This was chiefly down to constantly nagging knee problems which have hampered my cycling for over half of the year. However, ultimately I’ll always remember it as my defining year as a cyclist.
I feel like I truly define myself as a cyclist now. It’s undoubtedly my primary passion at this moment in time; much like my eight year old self thought incessantly about football, the 31-year-old me thinks about cycling with no less ardour. Constantly dreaming up new rides, or new ideas relating to cycling. I no longer just “commute to work” and “do the odd ride”. I’m a cyclist.
I am constantly studying how I can make myself better. Not from a competition point of view you understand, but as in how to push myself with new challenges and how to try to do things better to ensure I don’t get these constant knee issues – strengthening/stretching muscles with yoga, looking into strengthening core muscles etc. – so I can really begin to enjoy cycling more miles.
Part of my progression over the last year (and a few months over that year), has been seen in longer rides, bigger climbs and more frequency in those rides. This is no better illustrated than my main cycling achievement of the last year – well, probably my main achievement of last year all round – of completing the ‘Way of The Roses’ coast to coast ride back in April with three of my good friends: Gav Morrison, Craig McGowan and my best bud and main cycling compadre , Richard Knox.
It’s without doubt the hardest but most rewarding physical (and mental) challenge that I have completed in my 31 years on this planet. It took a lot of training in the early part of the year: going out in pissing rain; climbing Isle of Skye road in Greenfield in zero visibility and sub-zero conditions and generally grinding out the miles through to torrid winter months in order to best prepare ourselves for the challenge. It took my cycling to a slightly different level, to almost let your life be lead by your hobby a little. “No I won’t have another pint, I gotta be up early for the ride tomorrow”….anyone who knows me will know this is the ultimate sacrifice! Joking aside, it’s something that I enjoyed and always have done: hard work, paying off with a reward that is personal to you. Just knowing how hard you worked to achieve something and needing no further reward than that. (The few hundred pounds that many of my friends donated for a mental health charity I donated to was also a very nice reward but it wasn’t the primary reason for my ride. Thanks again to all who donated!).
For a lot of my non-cycling friends, I can imagine that the thought of 187 miles in three days with around 9,000ft of ascent would be quite far down their list of things they’d love to do. Add to that an incredibly sore arse (or “The Baboon” as we affectionately referred to it on our trip), the inability to bend your knee at the end of it and bag strap marks singed into your shoulders and I can fully appreciate that it would be akin to approaching the fiery gates of hell for most people. However, it’s only added to my desire to do more challenges like that one. Just for clarity, here are my first few goals I’d like to tick off in the next year:
- Cycle more miles than I did in 2014. This was about 3,088-ish miles. Take THAT , 2014-Me!
- Ride at least one, but hopefully three sportives/organised rides. I’m already booking the Macmillan Challenge Cancer North (Leeds to Manchester) and the High Peak Hog (in and around Glossop) when I get my January pay.
- Complete the amateur cyclist holy grail – a century ride of 100 miles.
- I’d love to grow Allez Prestwich Cycling Club into something that the people of Prestwich and surrounding areas really enjoy and can buy into (not literally ‘buy’, it’s freeeee!). I realise this isn’t the most measurable of goals. Okay: get at least one person who isn’t currently a friend to come on at least one Allez Prestwich ride in 2015: that’s measurable :)
Other cycling highs this year included scaling Holme Moss both ways in one glorious ride with Rich.
Attending the UNBELIEVABLY good Tour De France grand depart from my home county of Yorkshire with my other best friend Paul and his son Jude. Walking (Mr Elam didn’t have a bike) 6 miles and seeing stage 2 on Woodhead Pass with Rich and Paul Elam and seeing thousands of cyclists attending was a real special moment that I’ll never forget.
Last but not least, setting up this club, organising ride routes, trying to make an effort to write this blog and promoting the club by social media, is something that I am also proud of starting at the back-end of the year that was 2014.
With those duties in mind, I’m now going to finalise the route plans for January’s Allez Prestwich ride. It’ll be from 10:00 on Saturday 24th January. Hopefully I can tick of that final goal that I mentioned above.
Oh, I’d like to wish anyone reading a very happy new year. I hope you all achieve whatever you set your hearts and minds on!