Sunday, 12 October 2008

Fear in the round...

Yesterday was an exciting day for two reasons. Firstly Ironman Mecca (Hawaii) was fit to burst with endurance athletes all eager to take their winnings and their beatings on the Kona course and we were going to be there to watch it all unfold ... on the t'internet :(

And secondly our mate and fellow tri club member Andy Bewell had invited us to his birthday celebrations. Not the usual dinner and drinks, or jelly and ice-cream affair but an hours track cycling at Manchester's Velodrome - home to the Cycling World Championships and stomping ground to many of British cycling's heroes...Chris Boardman, Michael Hutchinson, Bradley Wiggins, Victoria Pendleton to name a few.

Having come to cycling (of the road kind) pretty late in life I've been on a steep learning curve since the day I decided to get into triathlon. And as many of you know there are many features of cycling that have tested my mental and physical ability, with a few left still to conquer.

Yesterday took my fear to a whole new level! But it's just a track you say? No cars? Fully lit?With friends?

Before we went we had marshalled (as normal) at the HPTT and gone for our social coffee with friends afterwards. One of our mates Dave (great character, he soaks all information up like a sponge and he's a great listener) he said something to me just as we left and it stayed with me for the whole of the day and was part of the reason why I didn't bottle the hours track session once I got there. He said...'Wow, that's awesome, you're going to try something you've never done before? That's fantastic.'

So I'll cut to the chase. I was off to try a new thing, but hey I can ride and it's indoors and I was a little apprehensive but what could go wrong? I've seen it loads of times on the box and never even contemplated any kind of difficulty. I'll assume that most of you reading this haven't been inside a velodrome and those that have will know just how high the banking goes...high, very, very high, for those of you who don't! Have a good look at the pic above.

Oh, and a track bike?... it has NO brakes, yup, that's right NO brakes. And they're fixed wheel bikes, which means they have no gears and so once you're cycling you can only slow down by not pushing so hard on the pedals and to stop you have to grab that rail on the left. And yes, your feet are clipped in too!

I can honestly say that there are few times I can count as an adult when I've actually felt fear in such a huge dose. I really, truly didn't want to do it because I didn't think I could. However, Dave's words rang in my head. Here I was with the opportunity to try something cycling related, exciting and completely new. Ian (the guy taking the session) gave us the low down and started us off gingerly and slowly. My heart rate going at about 5mph was already off the Richter Scale and that was only on the flat bit at the bottom of the track. How was I going to get out of doing it? Why hadn't my head fallen off? That would have been a great excuse. Then Ian told us to start cycling on the track.

Not one of our group had ever cycled on a track before so we were all in the same boat. I'll ignore the men (sorry men) because they all dealt with it very well. So, as I'm a woman I looked to the other four girls in our group. Two I knew very well (Khara and Harriet) and two I'd just met. Although I'm a more experienced cyclist than Khara, she's far more confident than I am. Khara's actually quite fearless and takes so much in her stride. In the past I would say that I would have felt threatened to not be 'the confident one' and would have endured the session, ruining it for myself and had an awful time. I'm glad to say though that the 'new' me allowed my fear to let Khara show the way. I knew that if she got on that track then so could I and so I did...after a few more laps on the flat that is. As I cycled round watching the men hooning their way round the track I watched the girls gain the confidence to get on there too. And then I followed and you know what... it was AMAZING!!

The thrill, the ease, the height, the speed (I can pretend I was super speedy can't I?) It was the most exhilarating thing I've done in a long time. And yes Dave, I did, I went and tried a completely new thing, and I loved it. I really couldn't wipe the smile from my face after we were allowed 20mins to go as fast as we liked out there. I didn't want to come off it in fact. But the reason why I had such a high from it was two fold. A) I wasn't afraid to be afraid or afraid to show I was afraid and B) I went from hating it and being truly scared to loving it and being so completely able to do it.

I'm discovering these things about myself all of the time and I'm enjoying the changes it's making to me as a person and as an athlete :)

And then on a high we watched the Hawaii Ironman Championships. Envious of all of those athletes that had earned their places, both of us eager to be there next year. As usual Chrissie Wellington was amazing, winning by a long way even after puncturing and losing 11 minutes to get it sorted. Craig Alexander won the men's race, hard earned and well deserved even though Macca dnf'd. There were a good handful of people out there who we've got to know and made friends with through various events and we were routing for them all. They too are showing us both the way. In our month of rest -which don't get me wrong I'm enjoying - I'm making the mental preparation for a tough Winter of training. October's rest I'm hoping is sorting out the physical fatigue while the mental fatigue fades too. I can clearly see the road ahead and I can't wait to get on it.

I heard a great quote in an after dinner speech that I was photographing this week and it's taking me to Kona...

Consistence is incompatible with failure.

Huge well done to Steven Lord, Mark Booth, Louise Tompkinson-Hill, all three have lived the dream and become Hawaii Ironman Finishers. Show me the way...

H. x


Khara Mills said...

You summed it up perfectly - it was AMAZING! I'm sure my confidence will get me in trouble one day when I perhaps take on some of your amazing long and tough cycling feats for example, but I'm glad my rather mad ways helped you have a great time :-) I take inspiration from you in all sorts of ways when it comes to this crazy wonderful triathlon world, so keep on going H, you're so gonna be ready for November 1st and beyond...! x

Jevon said...

H... sounds great... do you rent the bikes from the drome?

H said...

Jev, yes you rent the bikes, you just let them know you're height, inside leg measurement and shoe size (unless you've got Look cleats) and they set the bikes up for you so they're ready when you arrive. Looking forward to seeing you soon. x

H said...

laughing at my 'you're' typo dooohhh!!!!