Three Bromptons, a Moulton, and a Bickerton

The horizon had released it’s grip on the sun, the fabulous-pink dawn was over. As glamorous as the dawn catwalk had been, the morning itself seemed to have a hangover. After-party dull grey: the latest “must have” colour for your kitchen. As we cycled away from the Northallerton Scout Hut, droplets of misty dampness settled on our clothes.

Freezing mist: not as joyful as it sounds.

Wheelbase in Darlington had helped me out with a distress purchase the day before this ride. A pair of thermal overshoes and some new thick winter gloves. I’m so fed up with being cold. Getting clothing right for a bicycle ride at this time of the year can be a challenge. The first and last hour of a ride which may start and finish in winter dark can be miserably hard.

We left the Scout Hut at 8am, and although the sun was well above the horizon, the temperature was bitter, and the mist dampened everything it touched. I found myself at the back of a large group of riders moving fairly fast. As my glasses became increasingly covered in water droplets all I could really see was the rider in front, the potholes, and the white lines. My concentration gave me no spare capacity for sight-seeing, so I allowed extra space in case my reactions were slower. I yoyo’d off the back of the group: they would accelerate away from junctions and us wheel-suckers had to ride hard to get back to the group. My arms were covered in dry frost. My sweat (and the morning mist) was freezing on my arms and shoulders, but I wasn’t wet. My gloves, jersey, arms, legs, and feet were all “just right”. I brushed the frost from my clothes.

Two hours later we rode into Tadcaster. 60km. I knew the road beyond the town would drag uphill, and that we’d all be stopping at the same Co-Op for a receipt… and I knew I’d be off the back of the group up the hill, and last into the Co-Op. I pulled into the all-night oasis that is Tadcaster petrol station, and had an early stop for coffee and cake.

Dean’s route is an easy 200km ride for February: fairly flat up and down the Vale of York, with a little bit of Richmondshire. As a result there were a lot of riders for a late winter Audax in the north of England. This was my first calendar event since Paris-Brest, and it was lovely to be among friends again.

Once the mist lifted, we were blessed with an entire day of warmth and sunshine. The combination of familiar and flat roads, warmth in my body, and the Pilates I’ve been doing for 6 weeks seemed to give me a confidence boost: I bounced through the Sherburn and York controls, merely picking up receipts for bananas and sushi which were stuffed into my saddle bag. Today was going to be my fastest 200km calendar event.

I paused at Tollerton for water, and again at West Tanfield for coffee.

I have been wondering how I managed to ride a very brisk 200km ride, and I think that Pilates has made a much bigger difference than I expected. A friend told me “you can’t fire a canon from a canoe”, and although I’m no Canon (church-joke, boom), I have found that I was less fatigued during the harder efforts I was making.

The comedy off-road Dean had introduced between Catterick and Moulton didn’t even phase me. In fact, instead of looking to the end… I found myself slowing down on purpose to drag the ride out. I had only 20km left and I wanted the ride to go on longer. I’m coming to the point where the ride is more important than the finish. Maybe having a stronger core is making a difference, but while I’m on the ride I’m where I want to be. I looked for birds in hedgerows. I looked for flowers in the verge. I concentrated on my breathing. I slowed my heart rate.

I have never felt like this before.

A colleague and friend reminded me (early in January) that Pilates is self-care. Why would anyone skimp on self-care? In the same way Morning Prayer is a spiritual discipline which enriches my soul… I’m going to keep this Pilates malarkey going… it enriches my core.