I have just done a big thing.
I have just now, booked a place on my first marathon next year!!! In Manchester, on 16th April 2023.
Oh my giddy aunt. How scary is that!
It’s a crazy thing to do, especially on the back of being absolutely knackered after today’s cycle ride with PROBs (Pensby Runners on Bikes). But, it looks like I’m going to have to get on my bike with these guys a lot more frequently now that I’ve taken the first step of commitment for next year’s goals.
I am bushed to be sure, but it is the first time I’ve done nearly 50 miles in well over a year, so it’s a nice kind of tired. An accomplishment. And amazingly, despite the forecast thunder and rain, we managed to keep dry.
The forecast, however, seemed to have kept a lot of the regular crew away. A few of them are on a cycling tour in Hungary this week, near Lake Balaton, but we were still well down on numbers, and, as I got to the Old Dee Bridge in Chester, I could only see one bike.
Dave was leaning against the wall, by his lonesome, having ridden all the way from the Wirral, but I had taken an early train, so we had time to wait. I felt excited to be going along, for some unknown reason. I like going out on my bike, but not by myself, so these Thursdays, when I can make it, is perfect for me to hang with seasoned riders.
Like I said, Dave had ridden all the way from the Wirral to Chester before even starting the 45 mile planned route. As much as he’s a lovely guy, I wanted a few of the less able members to turn up too, because otherwise I was seriously considering forfeiting, as I would have really held them back.
Luckily, our crew grew to around nine in total, with Seta, the only other woman today, amiably rolling along next to me, so I didn’t bail, and we set off across the bridge and south.
We dipped in and out of Wales, I knew this with the number of ‘ARAF’ signs on the road (‘SLOW’ in Welsh). Those signs always tickle me, ever since Anne told me that she used to pretend to her kids (when they were very young of course) that they had to go slowly because that well known animal, the ‘Araf’ was roaming about. She has a very convincing teacher’s voice.
The coffee shop, Cleopatra’s, was a mere 10 miles away, but I had already realised that any inclines, regardless of their gradient, were giving my quads a bit of a battering. I thought I had recovered from the Half on Sunday, but it appeared, not quite. I decided that the medicinal thing to do was to attack a chocolate brownie with my tea, in order to give me a carb boost.
Lunch was at the Lockside Café at Grindley Brook, just north of Whitchurch. A good 15 miles further south from Cleopatras, and the section with the most hilly bits. Although I was getting more and more tired all over, my quads, happily, were less moany, but I still had to get off my bike in one section and push it up the hill. As Seta and Ian were already off their bikes too, I didn’t feel like a total fail.
Despite the insistent forecast, the heavens had not yet opened, and we were even treated to a bit of sunshine at the lock-side. Quite a number of boats seemed to pass the gates while I scoffed my jacket potato, and it was fascinating to see the mechanics in action. They are an example of ‘staircase’ locks. As the name suggests, the locks take the boat up or down a hill with a chain of gates, creating ‘steps’ in the water.
I was relieved that we’d had a good hour or so at lunch time, and my energy had returned a little, although my undercarriage was really started to complain about the state of some of the roads.
The return trip, was around 21 miles, with zero coffee breaks. And thirty seconds after swallowing my lunch, I found that the hilly section was continuing for a while longer. Not quite walking level, but tough nonetheless. At some point in this leg, our group had been reduced to four. Seta, her husband Peter, Ian (route coordinator for the day) and me. Some of the other guys were continuing their cycle beyond Chester and wanted to miss the downpour, which was now starting to threaten. The clouds seemed to gather apace and the skies were getting darker.
The three of them kept encouraging me, and Seta gave me an occasional Starburst (Opal Fruit in old money), for the energy boost, although I’m sure it took me more energy to unwrap the little swines. Ian pointed on the ground at the numbers that were periodically appearing. The Chester Marathon mile points were chalked in the road getting ready for the October event, and I realised that we were getting very close to 26. That gave me enough of a boost to push on. The final mile or so was a very steep hill into the city. God help those runners.
Ian cycled with me to the station despite his car being elsewhere, but he knew my sense of direction was pants even when I’m not tired, and I don’t know Chester very well. The rains did not come until about fifteen minutes after I’d made it home, so the timing was perfect.
So, along with my Strava’s nearly 48 miles, the two miles to and from Port Sunlight station by mine, makes a total of 50 ish. I averaged 10 miles an hour, which is my limit at the moment, especially over that distance. But if I keep going along to the Thursday rides, I will only improve. And I can use it as a cross-training day for when I start training for my first marathon of next year!
On the ride, someone had said that the Family were all gathering to see the Queen so it looked like she didn’t have long, and so it transpired this evening. I’m ambivalent about the Royals, but I do think that she, in her lifetime generally, and as a head of state for seventy years, presided over such extraordinary change in the world. She has been one of the very few constants in that world and acquitted herself with dignity, on the whole, in that long reign. I suspect the monarchy here will change in the next decade or two. It has to really, as it’s from a different time. There will never be anybody like her again.