We’ll Never Get This Again

It still feels like it’s all go at the moment, even though everyone’s like ‘enjoy the time-off, we’ll never get this again’. Constant news updates riddled with people arguing about what’s right or wrong. My poor dog subject to people ringing up Radio 2 when I leave to go to the shop purely to moan. And I’m not going to even start on the Twitter and Facebook politicians.

Life’s still happening on Lockdown. Everything hasn’t just stopped. I mean we’ve all got to have learnt a new language by the end of it, no? I’m still learning things about myself everyday. One of the biggest is the fact I’m happiest when I’m ‘on-the-go’. I struggle to just chill. When my mind’s occupied on something, anything, it stops me over-thinking a conversation I had 5 years ago and what I might have said wrong. And, my gosh, I didn’t realise how much going to work helps me sleep! Unless I’ve had a bad day and I just lie there staring at the ceiling wondering what the hell happened. But I’m still here, so it can’t have been that bad.

Despite my blog being quiet, I’ve actually been writing a lot more now I can’t disappear into the Welsh hills on my bike. I’ve come to terms with going out locally purely for my own sanity. I go out early when it’s quiet. I also head to country lanes I know, which allows me to focus on one thing and not how far away I am from everyone around me. I come across people every now and then obviously, but on the whole it’s just that ‘ahh’ feeling of taking a deep breath.

We’ve also caved into getting Netflix when I’ve always been dead against it. I didn’t want to waste my days glued to a TV screen. Basically we’ve completed All 4 and iPlayer, so we’ve had to find something new to watch. We got to 90210 on All 4 about 10 years too late, and we’ve not found anything to be our go-to programme that is easy-watching without being too intense. So now we’ve come to Riverdale like 4 seasons too late…ha. Having got to the end of season one, it blows my mind that someone’s sat down and written it with a plot so complex.

Netflix also meant I could watch Taylor Swift’s Miss Americana documentary, which is probably why I’m typing another blog post. Hearing song’s from her earlier albums took me straight back to being a teenager and realising why I listened to some of them on repeat so much. It’s scary when you look at how much she’s achieved since those albums. With each album and it’s songs ringing true with my life when each one was released. From ‘Mean’ to ‘I Forgot That You Existed’.

I look at myself and things I wish I could change. Being naturally a quiet person, which at times can put me in frustrating situations. I want to put my point across, but my voice just doesn’t raise above the person ranting on. Confrontation isn’t something I’m familiar with, so I guess I’ll get use to that. Then I realise the ‘good girl’ image I battle with and how people think it’s just a free ticket to walk over you because they know there won’t be a backlash. And then I do backlash and there’s just silence…pure silence at the shock of it. The ‘good girl’ image Taylor had to hide away for a year to get rid of. I mean, you get taught everything at school, but dealing with life itself.

Yet, how you see yourself could be completely different to how everyone else does. I got a message the other week from a blog reader saying she wanted to be like me when she grew up because I was a strong woman and amazing at whatever I do. I may or may not have sat there with a little tear in my eye, but with the girl-boss role models I had growing up it felt like I was almost repaying the favour to someone, somewhere, by inspiring someone in the same way.

I’m always going to have strengths and weaknesses. I’m just still learning how to use them. It’s just that whole thing of it’s how you look at a situation. It’s more ‘I can handle this’ rather than thinking of just about every reason in existence on why you can’t.

Following New Paths

TulipWaking up with a bit more ‘go’ in me this morning, the thought of doing a 2 hour session on my Wattbike seemed like a good idea. I had a bad case of cabin fever yesterday and I just couldn’t get it out of my system. It was definitely an occasion for Lucy to disappear into Wales and sprint up some hills, but I can’t do that right now so we adapt don’t we.

It’s a weird scenario right now where I crave human interaction, but when I go out I’m avoiding people at all costs. It’s definitely made me realise how much I thrive on being able to go outside, which luckily right now is what the daily dog walk is allowing.

And that is where this blog post has come from I guess. Don’t worry the Elfyn Antics will resume shortly…

On my regular scrolling through Insta Stories to see what everyones doing to occupy themselves, Cara Hammond’s Instagram popped up. A female artist from my hometown who’s living it large in London. Cara’s live sessions on Instagram are a good way to spend Wednesday lunchtimes at the moment and this week she was doing a 24 hour song writing challenge and was asking fans to send ideas in. So I sent an idea in:

Following New Paths

I’d started the day getting a bit carried away walking Elfyn. Lucky enough to live near a good loop of country lanes, this was where I was heading. You might have to deal with the smell of cow poo (which Elfyn loves…) but walking past all the fields takes me back to my childhood every time. When I use to watch the lambs run around the pond in the field behind my parent’s house as a kid. Watching them try to figure out they could actually run all the way around it, not just half way. When I used to go and feed the calves in the calving shed at my Nain and Grandad’s farm. The closer I am to a farming environment, the more at ease I am.

So walking along to pause near a gate to a field full of fluffy little lambs, it was enough to put a smile on face. Especially as I watch Elfyn weighing them all up in his little head. He was on the lead obviously as we were still stood on the road. Lambs are just such lively little things the way they prance around the fields then snuggle up next to each other to sleep. They’re coats so pure and clean. They’re always a sign Spring has come for me and I wasn’t sure I was going to see any this year.

I thought I had a route in mind for the daily dog walk. I was doing the longer walk to tire the crazy pup out. However, getting to a certain point where I could carry on using a route I’d done quite a lot recently or turn left to carry on along a bridleway I wasn’t sure which way to turn. It wasn’t a life changing decision obviously, but my indecisiveness took over. The turning left option was a path I’d never bothered to explore before. I thought it was a long drive to a posh house. There was no cattle in it as the field had been ploughed. With the sun shining and the ground solid underfoot I thought today was as good of a day as any to try it out.

I’ll admit there was a slight hint of guilt that took over me as I was passing through. Farmers must be working on overdrive right now doing all they can to get food on our tables. There’s no ‘calling in sick’ for them. If their cattle go into labour, it’s on them to help deliver them. Field’s don’t get tended to without someone driving the tractor. So getting to any gates I made sure I covered my hands with hand sanitiser before and after touching them to open (and close!) them. Luckily there was only one gate to deal with.

Wandering through the fields I wasn’t all that far from home, but it was enough to feel like an escape. To take a deep breathe in for the first time in what felt like forever. A pair of buzzards had caught Elfyn’s eye as I saw his nose following them round as they hovered in the sky. A sky that was blue and cloudless. Random trees in the middle of fields breaking the line of the horizon. So many scents filling up his brain as his tail wagged at a million miles an hour.

Yes it’s fab to say I was in Mallorca not too long ago, but you can’t beat the British countryside can you?

Exploring just a tiny bit of the world I’d not seen before just brought a sense of relief that I’d needed for so long. This was where the idea I sent to Cara came from, following new paths. It’s funny how words to one person can mean something completely different to someone else. I may have just followed a new path with my dog that day, but it matches everything going through my head right now. Where us as a human race are so vulnerable right now, so how we spend our time becomes so much more valuable. Our whole lives have been flipped upside down, so you start to reassess how you’ve been spending your time up to now.

Was what you’ve been working towards actually what you want?

Or are you just scared to do something else because of the leap of faith it requires?

Are you just going to stick to somewhere where you don’t really slot it?

What do you regularly waste your energy on? Worry. Stress. Jealousy.

Do you just want to plod on and live the path laid out in front of you, or deep down is time to switch it up and take the jump?

All those ‘quotes’ that hit you hard suddenly start running round in your head and you’re wondering who the hell you’re suppose to be listening to. Or does the grass just seem greener because cabin fever has set in?

So when Cara’s live session was playing when I started writing this post, I loved hearing her take on the idea I’d sent over. The session is still over on her Facebook page if you fancy a listen.

The whole thing about how people interpret a collection of words got me thinking as well. Would a 24 hour blog writing challenge work? So this might be something I try whilst there isn’t much cycling to write about.

This is probably a bit of a random blog post to put out there, but despite having all the time in the world to write right now, I just haven’t had the lightbulb moment. Until now. Which is why I’ve interrupted the Elfyn Antics post series.

So whilst we try to work our way around all the problems the world is throwing at us right now, just know we’re in this together.

If you need to chat, drop me a message.

If you just need a good rant, that’s cool too.

We’ll get there. Eventually.

If you want to listen to Cara’s Live Session, you can have a listen here

 

Seasons of Change

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We’re certainly into off-season now aren’t we? The leaves are falling and hill climbs are happening up and down the country. A blog post on the Horseshoe Pass hill climb will be coming your way soon. I didn’t compete after my non-existent race season, but loved hearing how everyone’s race had gone. From the juveniles right up to the over 80’s! Hill climbs are certainly the most inclusive part of cycling as a sport.

With a break in the weather this weekend, I made the most of it and got out on my bike, which was a far cry from where I was a few months ago. My week went from bad to worse, but all I could think about was getting out on my bike on Saturday. There was a new cafe to visit, which obviously came with a new route to follow. Cheshire lanes with coffee and cake and sunshine in the sky to match.

Cycling in Cheshire

I could have got my Winter bike out,  but with the weather as it was I wasn’t quite ready to put my Liv away. I needed the feeling  of riding fast and it just doesn’t feel the same on my Winter bike. I collected all my bits and bobs together; I don’t know how, but I always manage to fill the pockets of my jacket/jersey pockets. My excuse is how small my cycling kit is…

It was the first time in a long time I felt comfortable out on my bike. I wanted to be out on it. The sunshine helped obviously, but I would just take each mile as it came whatever they entailed. With a few turns here and there I was lucky to have a route that avoided any long stretches on main roads. There’s less pressure. You can stop when you like (for Instagram of course), or ride as hard as you feel. Whatever my legs would allow me to do.

Cycling in Chesire

The roads were fairly quiet and 90% of the time I was passed by cars with plenty of rooms. Meeting Ryan at the cafe after he’d been out to walk the dog, we could chat about anything and everything whilst the pup slept. It seemed to be the start of a new tradition for us. The hole of not being able to ride together anymore seemed to be closing and we’d not even anticipated it.

It’s just a new part of our lives we’re slowly adjusting to I guess. It’s not perfect yet, but life never is really, even if it is hard to swallow. I joke about Instagram, but it’s so  important to remember Instagram will always be the best bits. The parts of life that made you smile enough to capture in a square on Instagram.

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Full of coffee and cake, I could make my way home. I was in my own little world with a clear head for once. Not focussing on everything that isn’t great right now. I started to feel a little more myself again. Attacking the hills and hammering the pedals. Just having fun out on my bike really.

Cycling in Cheshire

The internet has been full of Mental Health Awareness this week and it’s easy enough to get lost in it all. People saying how you should and shouldn’t deal with it. Life’s hard at times and it just seems to get worse the older you get. There’s more stuff you’ve got to  worry about. Stuff consumes your mind until you snap. I think sometimes you’ve just got to appreciate what you’ve got going on whether you think it’s affecting you or not. The reality is it probably is. Take a breath and watch a funny film. Go running in the rain. Put your phone down. Walk in the hills. Jump in a lake for a swim. You might have an endless to-do list, but you’ll feel a whole lot better tackling it if you can ease the weight  of the world on your shoulders.

Life’s not perfect.

Our body’s aren’t perfect.

But as long as we’re living the best life while we’re here, that’s the important thing right?

I haven’t felt like myself for a while, but hopefully I’m stepping in the right direction now.

The Old Shoe

The Old Shoe

If you know the area around Llandegla and Llangollen well, you’ll know the Horseshoe Pass is the Sa Calobra of the region. With the Ponderosa Cafe at the top, it’s a good climb to conquer with a guaranteed cafe stop at the top!

But then there’s the Old Shoe…

The road that used to take people out of Llangollen, but is lesser known thanks to the Horseshoe Pass being built.

You climb up a road as if you’re going to the Horseshoe Pass, but turn off down a country lane. A country lane that went down way more than I would have liked, only because I knew that would only add to the pending ascent ahead of me.

Through a little village I didn’t even know existed, I passed a few roads I wasn’t sure if I was suppose to turn down.

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Then a straight road going undeniable up appeared in front of me. Locals looking at me in disbelief questioning if I knew what I was letting myself in for.

Certain words came to mind when I realised people had definitely not been over-exaggerating how tough the Old Shoe was.

How I was going to get to the top was still unknown to me.

I was over dressed and my legs instantly felt the burn. Cars were even pulling over behind me rather than make me get off so they could pass! One managed to squeeze past by the un-welcomed cattle grid half way up and beep his horn as if to keep me going…ha!

Thinking back to it now I still don’t know how I reached the top. My body and mind were completely done. It felt like my chest was going to explode, yet somehow I couldn’t bring myself to unclip my pedals and stop. Thanks to my Winter gloves it was a battle to keep my hands on the bars and three layers on top meant I desperately wanted to de-layer.

I was waiting for the section where I’d done my photo-shoot with Cycling Weekly, at least then I knew I’d be somewhere near the top at least.

By this point, it definitely felt like I couldn’t get enough air in my lungs.

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Thankfully I managed to keep my pedals turning just enough to stop me having to get off! I sat on the wall outside the Ponderosa wondering what the hell I had just done. I certainly didn’t look like I did in these photos…more red faced and just generally knackered!

That being said, I’d already been up the Horseshoe Pass that morning after taking another rider, also called Lucy, who happens to have a same bike as me too, on a Breeze ride. I’d delved into Ryan’s route knowledge and took Lucy on a loop from Llangollen that followed country lanes to Corwen and back. Hopefully I’ll be able to share the loop with you all soon!

 

The British Way of Thinking

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Being typically British…we moan…a lot! Conversations will contain something negative and we’ll soon find ourselves absorbed into a negative way of thinking.

“This isn’t going the way I want”,

or

“I deserve this”.

Life generally isn’t going the way we planned.

But whilst lost in this bitter way of thinking, life is passing us by.

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We turn on the TV in the morning, instantly fed negative news stories where reporters find the most minute of things that are wrong with this world.

Yet all the great things go unpublished.

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Social media feeding our minds with ideal lives we haven’t got.

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But what have we got?

Exactly that.

Life.

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We can wake up each morning, whether that be to rain or sunshine, to live another day.

We may not all be travelling around the world.

We may not all be able to afford a CHANEL wardrobe.

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We may not feel we possess the ideal looks everyone admires to have.

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But what does everyone reading this have?

We have a life to fulfil. 

Fill full of laughing until you can’t breathe.

Fill full of laying around when the sky turns from a sunset to become full of stars.

Fill full of doing rather than overthinking the ‘what ifs’ first.

Change “What can I do today” to “what can I do for someone else today?”.

Not being so quick to pass judgement when you don’t know the full story. It never truly boosts your self-confidence does it?

Sticking to what you love and not changing to conform to the majority, so wear last season’s clothes because they make you feel good about yourself.

Wear the outfit that’s a little bit ‘out-there’, which has been sitting on your private Pinterest board for months.

Try everything out of your comfort zone, because what have you really got to lose? You might decide to put it on the “Not a Fan’ list or find your newest obsession.

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Whatever life we have been give, it’s important to make the most of it. Cliche, but it’s true.

Springtime Cycling

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We’d not done a ride with a cafe stop for a while. I just prefer getting back home to a warm drink rather than stopping half way round, but it just felt like the type of day where a cafe stop was a good idea. No record timings were required either with Ryan racing the following day!

With a cafe set in a little Cheshire village in mind, off we went.

Any ride out into Cheshire is a favourite of mine. I just love how there are so many country lanes that intertwine to make up so many different routes.

We even decided to film this ride, so I’ll let the video show you where we ended up.

Let me know what you think!

Things You Learn from Cycling with Your Other Half: From Ryan’s Point of View

Since meeting Lucy, we’ve been on loads of bike rides. From the Cheshire plains to the hills of North Wales, as well as some off road stuff too. Our first ride together was one of the early dates and now it’s almost a weekly event.

Through our numerous rides, I’ve learnt a fair few things…

1. We’re both out of our comfort zones.

When you first start riding together, it’s likely to be a new experience for the pair of you, and we were no different. The pressure of navigating; trying not to get lost or make the ride longer than planned. Trying to set a pace that she can cope with and not run out of energy miles from home. It all adds up to a decent bit of pressure.

“Trying to set a pace that she can cope with…”

Conversely she’s going to be thinking the same sort of things; how far are we going, will I be able to keep up. The key thing is to communicate (which sounds simple I know) but if you talk and plan things out it can be a much more enjoyable ride.

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2. It’s not the same as riding with my normal riding buddies (but that’s not a bad thing)

Riding buddies tend to all be of similar abilities and you can all ride at a pace that requires effort, but everyone still manages to stay together (sometimes only just!). This isn’t the case when riding with your partner. There is going to be a difference in your abilities plain and simple, but this isn’t a bad thing.

“There is going to be a difference in your abilities…”

From my point of view it allows more time to chat and take in the views, which is what cycling is supposed to be about right? I can’t believe the number of nice views I’ve noticed on roads that I’ve ridden hundreds of times before, but always been too focused on the road ahead to notice them.

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3. It still counts as training.

As a competitive cyclist I attempt to follow a training plan. While riding with your partner might not be a hard interval session or a mega long endurance ride, it gives you something that is often massively overlooked by cyclists. Recovery. And more specifically active recovery. You might not be pounding the pedals, but going for an easy ride with your partner is a great way to allow your legs to recover from all the hard training and help you reap the benefits later.

“You should’t set off with the expectation of riding at a certain speed, riding with your partner is a time to forget about numbers and just enjoy the ride.”

4. Wear more clothes.

This is one that I’ve got wrong on several occasions and is more pertinent to the colder months. Through years of experience I’ve got to a place where I can open the back door in the morning and almost immediately gauge the amount of kit I need to wear to keep warm, but also not overheat. But when you’re riding with the other half at a lower intensity (getting that all important recovery) your body generates less heat and all that wisdom goes out the window. I now understand to put on more kit than I initially think I’ll need, otherwise I’m going to be in for a cold couple of hours.

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5. Always have sweets on standby.

This one comes from one ride in particular. We’d decided to go on an off road adventure through the Denbighshire moors, which was one of my favourite rides of 2016. The ride took much longer than we’d both expected and after running out of food at the halfway point, the last few miles were a right battle, both of us running on empty.

“I had a bag of emergency sweets stowed away in the car.”

Fortunately I had a bag of emergency sweets stowed away in the car. These were a godsend and perked us both up. Since then I’ve always kept some on standby just in case…

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6. There’s always more to talk about.

I’ve never been the most talkative person in the world, but there’s something about being on a bike that makes me turn into Mr Chatterbox. Even if I’ve been with Lucy solidly for the previous week I can always think of something else to talk about. And that’s great, chatting away makes the miles fly by, there’s nothing worse than riding along in silence.  At the end of the day your partner is someone you enjoy spending time with and going for a ride is just an extension of that.

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Opinions. Not Facts.

“The less you care about what other people think, the better life becomes.”

A saying I’ve heard time and time again, but acting on it is another question. Even more so nowadays with the likes of social media allowing people to post their opinions daily.

Opinions.

Not facts.

Which is what many tend to forget.

Instead of accepting someone’s lifestyle, no matter how much it differs to your own.

Everyone is writing their own story. You might be in one chapter of that story or many. But it’s up to them to decide on that.

No matter who passes judgement on where you’ve been or where you’re heading. Family. Friends. People who barely know you at all. The only person who can write your story is you.

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