I mentioned previously that I am foolishly taking part in a triathlon in September and that I was a bit concerned about the large chunk of cycling required to complete it. I went cycling yesterday to start my training.
I almost died BUT at no point did I ever fall off my bike.
Caius, Liberty’s Boyfriend and I took a morning road trip up to Tissington Trail – they were intending on a bit of a marathon cycle to a cafe 13ish miles away and back. I was intending on seeing if I could cycle anywhere anymore.
They vanished off into the distance immediately after we started (once Caius had reminded me how to change gears on my bike…) and I began a mental battle with myself that I hadn’t been expecting. I knew I was a bit of a nervy cyclist but mostly had that down to a fear of traffic and other cyclists. Turned out, as I cycled along the basically deserted trail, that I now had a general irrational fear of being on a bike.
I’ve not had many panic attacks in my life – from what I remember I had one when I was trying to sort out accommodation for uni and one when the kids were and I were ill and home alone.
Yesterday I had one that topped those two by miles. I couldn’t breathe and I couldn’t see properly. I was tense and crying and all I wanted to do was curl up in a ball and wait for the world to go away.
Part of my brain was telling myself to stop being ridiculous and just get on with it – it was only a bike ride for heaven’s sake. But that voice was mostly drowned out by my laboured breathing and almost constant muttered mantra of ‘just keep breathing’.
I kept breathing and, more notably, I kept pedalling. I cycled through almost 3.5km of panic attack and then carried on. At about 5km I encountered a very over-excited young Hungarian Visla which ran at me from behind and then proceeded to try to ‘catch’ my front wheel and pedals. My life (and the poor dog’s life) flashed before my eyes as I tried to both stay upright and not run him over whilst his owners desperately called him back and struggled to get him back on his lead.
Luckily I reached a bench soon after this and could stop and calm down. By calm down I mean cry for a while until I felt a bit more human.
Then I climbed back on my bike and continued up (literally. Boo for uphill slopes!) the trail until I reached Tissington where I fell onto a bench and decided I had hit my limit. I had cycled 6km and just couldn’t face going any further.
Sadly I knew I had to go back.
I had a bite to eat, drank some lucozade and met the Visla and owners again and had a bit of a dog fix and relaxed in the beautiful sunshine for twenty minutes before deciding to head back to the car.
It turns out if you don’t start the whole thing out with a panic attack (and it’s a forgiving downhill slope), cycling isn’t all that terrible.
I made it back twice as fast and without any tears at all. In fact, I felt so much better for non-terrified cycling, I turned round at the end and went back up the trail a kilometre and then came back again before walking the stupidly steep slope to the car park. Where I promptly decided to carry on through the old railway tunnel to the next town and then come back making my total distance on the bike for the day almost exactly 15km.
5km short of the triathlon distance.
Considering it was my first cycle ride in over four years I think that’s pretty good. I am also proud of myself for not giving up at the point where I couldn’t breathe for panicking. And for not falling off.
I am still not a confident rider. But I’m better.
I hurt like billy-o today after it but I did it. I even went swimming this morning and swam my fastest time for the Triathlon distance yet (5m 40.9s).
I came home and ate chocolate after that though.
I really needed that chocolate.
And I didn’t fall off my bike.