A reflection on fear, or, is there really such a thing as ‘ready’?

Photo: http://www.velocate.co.uk/best-places-to-cycle-in-yorkshire/

This might be a bit of a downer, so I’ll keep it brief. I just need to break the silence, as I’m conscious that I’ve not written anything for a while, and sometimes it helps to process my feelings through the medium of writing.

I’d love it if all I ever wrote about was epic bike rides through the countryside and fiddling around with bottom brackets, but that’s just not the way I roll.

I’ve spoken extensively before about the fears that govern the way I ride, and I’ve been having to deal with some pretty heavy mental barriers this past week. The 200k ride around the Yorkshire Dales is one week away, and suddenly I feel sick to my stomach.

I’ve been trying to get out as much as I can at the weekends, to get some miles in and do some so-called ‘training’ for this ridiculously steep learning curve I’m about to embark upon. But the fact is, life gets in the way. Last weekend was all about looking at bikes rather than riding them (hello, Bespoked), and now we’re at a lovely 4 day weekend, I should in theory have racked up some miles already, right?

Wrong. I literally spent the whole of yesterday lying on the sofa drinking endless cups of tea and eating pastry after pastry while watching Rick and Morty. Today I rode a mile up the road and left my bike at a friend’s house. Later I’ll grab it so I can ride into town.

I guess what I’m getting at here, is my motivation is starting to sag a little. Adam and I have talked about going for a long ride tomorrow, but have yet to settle on a route.

What’s holding me back is that every route option I’ve come up with, contains something that terrifies me. Think sharp inclines, followed by sharp descents. You know what I’m like.

Adam keeps saying (rightly so), ‘there are hills in the Yorkshire Dales, you can’t avoid the hills’. I know I can’t avoid them, but I’m scared. That’s all it really comes down to. I’m scared of being out in the middle of nowhere, exhausted, with no energy left in my legs, facing a huge climb that I physically can’t do, and feeling like a big fat failure as I get left behind.

I’ve got my SPDs now, and I know how to ride clipped in. I also understand the concept behind how they give you much more efficient power usage, by using an up-pull as well as a down-push motion. That’s all very well, but I haven’t spent much time riding like that. Those muscles haven’t had time to develop. I had a go at climbing Park Street – a climb I do with ease every day on my commute – and I exhausted myself before I was even halfway up. What chance do I stand in the Yorkshire Dales?!

I signed up for the 200k ride because when I first heard about it, I’d just ridden 130k to Oxford, and it was nearly two months away. I wasn’t to know that I’d spend the following two months dealing with a cycle of illnesses which led to bouts of exhaustion. I thought I’d just keep riding for longer and longer.

The opposite has happened, and I feel less fit than I was before simply because I’m using my legs in a way that I never have. That, and my body hasn’t been very good to me for a while. Now it’s a week away, and I am freaking out.

Advice encouraged. Please.



12 Replies to “A reflection on fear, or, is there really such a thing as ‘ready’?”

  1. I would say ‘Stop being so hard on yourself’. Life does get in the way sometimes and things knock us. But I’d also say that you’ve already done 130k and it’s not such a massive step up to 200. You *can* do this. You’ve got a case or nerves and self doubt is all. So what if it’s 200k? It’s just riding a bike and you know how to do that! So what if you walk some of it. So what if you decide to ditch the SPDs for now and do it in flats. So what if it takes you longer than you thought it may. It’s beautiful out there. Just go. Go ride your bike. I’m not going to wish you luck, you don’t need it. I believe you can do this and other people reading your blog will believe it too, I promise.


  2. I really want to write something here which will erase all your anxiety. Honesty, I don’t know that I can do that. What I can tell you is that you did already ride 130kms. Tacking on another 70, though it may sound big, really just means another 3 or 4 hours. If you rode the 130 without clipless pedals, then this will be even easier.
    Yes, you should have prepared more, but since that time is past, there is nothing you can do about it, so it really isn’t worth worrying about anymore. Deal with today’s challenges, not yesterday’s.
    I meant to write minimally, and ended up writing a paragraph. Enjoy the ride. I wish I could take it, but seeing as I am in Canada, it is a little too far…..though I do know a guy named Craig who lives somewhere around there. Maybe he will be on the ride. I will ask him. If he is, I am sure he will be able to offer some encouraging words.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Apart from a possible excess of perfectionism and catastrophisation, what you’re feeling seems entirely normal to me.

    Here’s a question: who are you measuring yourself against? Chris Froome? He’s the only kind of rider (along with all other pros) for whom 200k would be a non-event. My point is that I doubt there is a single other entrant in this 200k ride that isn’t manifesting the same pre-event nerves about it as you are right now.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. STUWJ2001 expressed my thoughts perfectly. 200km is a big deal and it would be strange not to feel anxious about it.
      You’ve achieved some steep learning curves very quickly (clips and Oxford) so I think you should be proud of yourself! Clearly you’ve got grit and determination.

      There’s no point thinking about the training you didn’t do. I can only suggest thinking about the reasons you like cycling and the pretty scenery and camaraderie that you’ll encounter in Yorkshire. (I particularly liked coming across Bolton Abbey so keep an eye out for that.) The other suggestion is to consider a slightly shorter course this year. If it means less anxiety and you enjoy the experience and want to do it again (or different audax) next year, then it would be a successful strategy!
      Personally, I’m not a super endurance cyclist and I shudder at the thought of 100km, let alone further. Shudder may be an understatement. And I still get anxious that I’m not fast enough, not skilled enough, scared of new hills that I don’t know I can climb, scared of gravel/mud segments, scared of getting lost. And I’ve been road cycling for 8 years! I’ll let you know if the anxiety ever goes away! All I can say from my 8 years is the anxiety is unfounded 90% of the time and surviving the other 10% gives you damn good stories and street cred.
      Not sure this is quality advice but there is definitely quantity 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve done a few crazy physical challenges (100km walk!) And the thing I fear most is embarrassing myself in front of other people. You’ll be physically tired, but you’ll find yourself mind is strong enough, and your body can keep going for a few long time after you feel tired. And, how would you feel about someone else who is struggling? Would you be irritated by waiting? Would you think less of them? We have a tendency to think that others will be less patient or nice to us than we would be to them. So put yourself in the mind of the others around you and you’ll realise no one will mind or be judging you. Remember Mat Johnson has just some 100km on a tall bike (maybe talk to him, as he was really nervous) and I managed that distance on foot, so I have no doubts of you getting round (admittedly double…)! What if you need to get off and have a break on a hill? Does it matter? Thank you for sharing! It’s really important to talk about the fears.


  5. You sure do like to worry, don’t you? It’s a bike ride, dude. Do it. Or don’t. I won’t give you permission to back out though. Seems like that’s what you’re really after.

    I think you can do it.


  6. You have had a serious amount of illness just recently and you’re not 100% even now. Are you sure you’re fit enough? And if not, who cares that you put your health first?


  7. if you’ve been ill and exhausted i’d be wary of riding a hilly 200km. it would be very easy to slip back into exhaustion, which in turn will fuel your anxiety. this wouldn’t mean a sign of failure but being sensible and chosing your battles wisely.

    if you do attempt it then break the route down into smaller chunks and take each bit at a time. i never consider a big ride in it’s entirity, i break it down and also factor in possible short cuts should i need them.

    good luck whatever you do!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah you’re probably right. We’ve actually been sent all the different ride options for the weekend now, and there’s the option to do 92km on the Saturday and then 100 or 112km on the Sunday, so that might be a good idea, to break it down over two days. Otherwise there’s a 200km option for the Saturday, but it means I probably won’t be riding anything on Sunday. I’d like to get as much riding into the weekend as I can, so I may go for the 2-day option 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s