I’ve always been the sporty girl; since the age of six I have raced, “taken part” and “had a go” at pretty much every method of game, sport and physical activity. Was I particularly good at it? Not really. Did I win every race that I entered? Heck no! Did I love what I was doing? Absolutely.
By the time I started secondary school I had built a good cardiovascular engine that enabled me to maintain a pretty good speed on land, and hold myself very comfortably in the water. I had started to develop into more than a participator. My parents encouraged me to compete in cross country, athletics, swimming, surf life saving, games and dance. Their support meant everything to me, and there is no way that I would have stuck it all out if it wasn’t for them. I can remember taking part in lunch time and after school clubs, to then be driven by my Dad to Cornwall Athletics Club, over to an hour of dance, and home to any school work, a home cooked meal and a bath ran by my adoring Mother. Some may say that I was committing to too much, but these days taught me not only physical endurance and strength, but cognition, discipline and balance. I was a blissfully happy child; building strong relationships with team mates, travelling the country and learning more about myself every day.
Secondary school saw me change into a potential athlete. By this point I had a pretty firm idea of my areas of physical strength; I was an endurance athlete; and loving every second of it. I swam with Dad in the mornings before school, ran to the beach before spending hours in the sea, and took time out from studying by mountain biking through the woods. Team sports kept me grounded, and dance will always be the expressive side of me, but I had to make a decision, and individual sports won. I ran for the county and won national medals in surf life saving. My friends were my support network, and my parents remained supportive throughout the entire process – I owe them (alongside my coaches) everything.
But it wasn’t all plain sailing during this time. With dedication comes sacrifice; and I paid the ultimate price during my time in further education. Determined to achieve three A’s at A Level; I quit sport all together. I gained weight, lost my motivation and became extremely unhappy. To top it all off; I was diagnosed with a chronic medical condition; my self esteem plummeted. It was by pure coincidence that I walked into Bike Chain one Sunday with Dad. It was then that I met Ricci. Road cycling isn’t something that I had ever dabbled with, the Camel Trail was probably the pinnacle of my riding experience, but there was something about Ricci’s passion that inspired me. Dad and Ricci had been friends for a long time, and I had heard of his ability to develop potential athletes (of which I was far from at this point). But something clicked with us that day, and before I knew it I was clipped into my first Trek road bike and being pushed down the road towards a looming set of traffic lights (disastrous). But there was something about the lightness of the bike and the speed generated from pedalling that intrigued me. The following Sunday I joined Dad at Bissoe for a group bike ride. Petrified of traffic and anyone getting to close to me; I managed to get round. My lack of fitness frustrated me, and there was no denying that I as clueless when it came to group riding and bike technicality. When Ricci asked how I felt; my face said it all. But he wasn’t going to drop it there (and thank goodness he didn’t). Ricci spent hours teaching me the ways of the bike and how to cope with Cornish roads. I would ride around air fields practising hand signals, group positioning and bike lingo. But more importantly – I learned confidence. Thanks to Ricci’s time and effort; I learned to love the bike.
It was invited to join the Tuesday Rides from Falmouth. The team comprised of more experience riders (the majority being men) – a scary pursuit for a young female rider. We spent hours touring the Cornish coasts; exploring beautiful scenery and drinking gallons of coffee. I learnt so much on these rides; not only about cycling, but about sports nutrition, the psychology of sport, and the importance of team mates. I gained an amazing group of friends (you know who you are) and craved the thrill of riding. My confidence returned and I finally started to appreciate what I was capable of.
Over the next few years I worked very hard to develop myself as a person. I graduated with a First Class Honours Degree, experimented with training methods and remained dedicated to the bike. I came home every weekend for the Sunday rides (and a home cooked meal) – it was the perfect antidote to a tough three years of studying. After graduating I decided that I needed a challenge. In 2012 I completed my fist half marathon, and set a World Record in Concept 2 Rowing. The following year I entered the same half marathon and won it; finally the hard work was paying off! Ricci and the group remained supportive throughout, and cycling still featured strongly in my training regime. I was high on life and the feelings that came with sporting success. But there’s that famous saying – “what goes up must come down”, and it certainly did for me. In 2013 I lost my grandmother to cancer and split from my boyfriend of three years. I was crushed and rejected anything to do with sport. I had been offered a place on the PGCE teaching Secondary PE; it was at this point that I had to two choices – lose it or use it. I took a leap of faith and entered for the 2014 London Marathon (crazy right?) Running gave me the solitude that I desperately needed. I trained vigorously, ran the race and achieved a respectful time of 3.22. London will always go down as one of my greatest accomplishments, not only because of the running, but the psychological strength that I needed to even get there. It was in no way a smooth ride, and I wouldn’t of got there if it weren’t for my parents, my friends and the support of Bike Chain Ricci.
Since then I have graduated as a teacher and completed my first and overcome a lot of emotional and physical barriers. I upgraded my Trek road bike to a newer model and successfully completed The Ride for Precious Lives with Dad (and loved every second of it). It was cycling up the brutal Cheddar Gorge incline that encouraged what therapists call “the light bulb moment.” The following thoughts arose in my head - I can cycle, run and swim at a relatively decent level, so why on earth aren’t I doing something about it? I approached my parents with the idea of triathlon; something which they’ve always thought about for me. With no hesitation they voiced what they thought needed to be done, but on one condition – I do it for me, and I enjoy it. Consider it done! There was only one thing to do at this point – contact Ricci. Without a glimmer of hesitation; Ricci’s coaching expertise kicked in; phone calls were made, training programmes were revised, and Bike Chain’s Le Col apparel purchased, we were off!
Professionalism aside, Ricci’s ability to approach the whole person is the reason why I wanted him and Bike Chain on board with my transition from participant to athlete. My relationship with Ricci and Bike Chain is platonic; it’s mentoring, coaching and friendship rolled into one. Now, at the age of twenty five, I have the confidence and resilience to try something new, and not for anyone else, but for me. My parents, friends and coaches have given me the best possible start, and my experiences with Bike Chain Ricci have been invaluable. I owe these people everything, but I also owe it to myself to give this a go. Stay tuned for the next part of my journey – it’s going to be one hell of a ride!