Meditations of a Long Distance Rider

Meditations of a Long Distance Rider – Preparation

As many of you will know I completed a 108 mile charity bike ride on Sunday. It was an epic journey from London to
Addlestone via Brighton. However, the 7+ hour ride on Sunday, was really only the climax of many hours and miles of training over the last 6 months. During that time and through the process I’ve learnt a few things about myself along the way and I thought it might be worth sharing some of them. I’m going to spare you the things I learnt about saddle sore etc, you can look at my other blog for that, instead I’m going be a little more philosophical here.

The first thing I learnt about was Preparation! I have never attempted anything like this before so I knew I needed to get my body ready for the ride. I researched various training plans that build up from riding 0 miles to 100 miles and then got to work. One of the early bits of wisdom I gleaned from the online experts is that you need to train for the type of ride you are going to ride. It’s no good training with fast sprints on the flat if you are going to
be doing a long endurance ride over hilly terrain and vice versa.
So, knowing that the ride to Brighton included 4 large hills, culminating in 750ft up Ditchling Beacon (AKA The Green Monster), I set about practising on as many hills as I could. In doing so I found that no two hills are quite alike. For instance I never found Box Hill too difficult, it’s long but at a quite gentle gradient and with a very smooth road surface, whereas Tite Hill going up to Englefield Green, which is a lot shorter just gets steeper and steeper the further you go up, the road surface is pretty ropey and it is always hard work! I had no idea what the hills were going to be like on the route to Brighton so I made sure I tried as many hard hills as I could in training so that I was ready for whatever the ride threw at me!
I also learnt that technique is also important in climbing hills. About a month ago I went out with Chris on a ride over a pretty hilly course. My technique for going up hills was to select the biggest gear I could physically manage to pedal, thinking that this would be the fastest way to the top. Chris, however, selected the gear he could easily keep his pedals spinning at a constant speed and always seemed to disappear off up the hill ahead of me.
I decided to adopt this ‘low gear quick pedal spinning’ technique the next time I was out on my own and knocked 40 seconds off my personal records for each of the three climbs around Englefield Green that I had been doing for the
last 5 months! Technique, so I found, matters.

And so to my point!
This all seemed to be an illustration on the approach we probably ought to take to life. If we were able to look at the route map of life, we would soon see that it includes inevitable ups and downs. We may not like to face the prospect, but the reality is that life ahead of us will include the uphill climbs of things like serious or long term illness, financial insecurity, family crisis, the death of loved ones and so on. We may not know when to expect these things but if we are honest with ourselves we have to acknowledge that these hill climbs will be on our route at some point or other. So it would seem sensible that we engage with some training to prepare ourselves for what lies ahead!
There are no doubt many ways we could do this, but I think one major way is to engage with the lives of the people around us, particularly when they are going through uphill struggles. In doing so we will no doubt get a better understanding of the hill that is being climbed as well as learn from others different approaches on how to climb it. As we walk with people through times of adversity and struggle we gain invaluable experience of life in all it’s fullness, equipping us to climb similar hills ourselves, as well as help others as we continue to walk with them.
Failure to prepare may mean that the hills we encounter could become overwhelming, but with preparation we are better equipped to keep going and overcome them.