It’s been three months since I returned from my epic ride and in that time I’ve come to really appreciate what it is that I achieved out there on road this summer. Initially though it was a road of doubt, isolation and deflation, something most travellers feel when a plan they’ve held dear for a long time comes to an end.
From the moment I arrived home until recently I wondered who I was now the ride was complete? I placed a map of this years ride, complete with route and dates, on the wall in my house and looked at it when I sat drinking coffee but couldn’t make any connection to it at all. Gradually over weeks, I began to see the people and places, scenery and events in a new light. The map came to life as I allowed my memory to explore it openly.
I also began to write a manuscript for a book. The process of writing is a wonderful experience that allows me to revisit every day of the ride and all the ups and downs that led to it, through it and beyond. It felt like the first time I’d connected to it and a pride welled in me as it sank in how much faith I’d put in the project just to get it off the ground at all, let alone to actually complete it. I’d risked a huge amount knowing I may have to pull out on health grounds, and it all came together beautifully as a four months journey through Britain, my mind and my body.
On returning I was unsurprisingly very tired and motivation to do anything waned. I had to learn that this was the cost of all those days of pushing body and mind to new horizons. My mind in particular felt like it was buckling and the scaffolding I had so carefully built came under a lot of strain, buckling as I tried my best to work out the answer to questions like ‘Who am I now?’, What does it mean to have done this?, Is life different as a result of this? and What on earth do I do next? What I was feeling was the same sense of berievement that I’d felt when I’d previously lost something really important from my life!! It knocked over old dominoes and they began to tumble one by one.
I was lost again, at least temporarily. Arriving home seemed to mean that nothing had changed and the life I had was still the same. With very little I would call ‘normal’ to return too I believed for a while that whilst I’d found the energy to complete this ride, I’d never have the energy to do another. As the ride was completely down to my own effort it felt as though I’d drained the barrel and wouldn’t be able to go back for more in order to create anything else, ever!!! then I started writing.
What was needed, as lots of friends told me, was simply to relax and learn to enjoy what I’d already done. As I said, the map and beginning to write, were the chutes of this process. I began to sleep properly, eat well and have managed to keep the weight I lost off which means when I go and ride now I feel freer and stronger. I began to do jobs on the house and to re-engage with the lovely community I live in.
The scaffolding held, just a little bent and panic subsided as a new perspective began to emerge. The questions changed over the the months that passed and I began to think new questions like ‘Now I’ve done that, what else can I do? Where shall I venture next? I slowly but surely began to find the faith again that I’d relied on for so long. I got back on the bike and began to really enjoy riding without any pressure to be anything or to go anywhere in particular.
Just over a week ago I sat in the kitchen having just decorated it. The large expanse of wall, where the Round Britain map used to be, winked at me. I’d already taken the time to view some maps and chew over some ideas for next year and felt a sudden compulsion to get something up on that wall that would convey an idea I have. Instead of ‘Ive done that, what now?’ it became ‘I’ve done that, what’s next?’
Money is an issue for almost all of us and with no direct way of earning any I wondered about how to fund another venture. That was the point at which I remembered that I had faith last time around and that there were avenues open to me that may lead to income if I just believed enough to follow them through. Instead of worrying about how to fund another ride, I should have faith and believe it will get funded, then I can use my energy to plan the ride I want to do which is much more constructive.
Another act of faith was actually placing the maps on the wall, not just thinking about it. One idea grabbed me above all others, an idea that would help me take another step mentally and physically without pushing it too far. I routed around upstairs for the maps I already owned that would cover this route and soon had them spread all over the kitchen floor, Sometimes I think it’s a good job I live alone!!!
The maps were ordered as a progression and one my one placed on the wall. I felt like I was creating a picture board for a film or a script for a new play. I got excited as the flat packed paper maps unfolded in front of me to create this picture, a big picture! Once I got them all up, I sat back and looked. What I saw is another amazing adventure with plenty of the the kind of wild places that I prefer to frequent. I saw a beginning and an end and it all felt really natural and right. It looks challenging and worthwhile and the more I look, the more I see.
I’d just finished this when an email came through. It was Michael from Santos Bikes asking if I could call. We talked for over an hour about future plans, the book I’m writing and the slide show I’m putting together to to try to illustrate to others what Ride2Recovery was all about. His faith in me and the future added to my own reborn faith and by the time I put the phone down I felt really good about everything that was happening in my life.
It must have been one of those days because I later went onto facebook where I found an invitation to an event. A young rider www.boyonabike.com who is planning to attempt to break the world record for a circumnavigation of the globe by bicycle has asked me if I’d like to ride out of London with him on the first day! I felt thrilled and honoured and I will do everything I can to take part in that.
The very next morning I blearily opened up my email to find that one of the writers from Cycling Plus, the UK’s biggest selling cycling magazine, wanted to know if I was up for an interview as a precursor of an article for their ‘Inspiring Rides’ page. I was so thrilled and since then the interview has taken place. The magazine for February will be out in January 2012. It was another pointer that many things have changed since the beginning of planning Ride2Recovery and more since I completed it.
It seems that having faith in whatever we chose to do is the factor that really makes a difference. I now have at least four slide shows to give and I haven’t really tried to publicise them at all yet!! I have maps on the wall to help me ‘dream and scheme’. The book sits at 160,000 words as I near the end of the section about the ride with the just aftermath and appendixes to go (before the huge job of editing begins!). Yoga and Pilates have come into my life and with a friend who instructs, we spend an hour and a half daily during the week doing these wonderfully grounding and strengthening exercises.
It seems appropriate that as 2011 comes to en end Ride2Recovery2 begins to emerge. I’ll let you all know in the new year where it will take me and who I’ll be riding for in terms of fundraising. My faith is now completely restored and I ride each time with an open mind and joy in my heart. I smile each and every time I remember any aspect of this years ride, my first long ride ever, but certainly not the last.