In September I started training for my very first Cycletta event - a 40 kilometer cycle in New Forest. On Sunday, 21 October, I crossed the finish line in 1 hour, 49 minutes and 36 seconds - over ten minutes faster than I had been training for.
Before last weekend, the closest I'd come to participating in a sporting event is shoving through tourists on Oxford Street. Now, I know what it's like to stick to a training plan, prepare for an event and put my training to the test. In short, it's the best thing I've done for my body and mind in a very long time.
Training & Preparation
As Victoria Pendleton tells Cycletta participants in her training advice,"being prepared is half the battle". During my training I found how important it was to think ahead and prepare for even simple things like making sure I had enough clean gym kit for the week or making sure I had my water bottle and healthy snacks in my bag before I left the house.
I stuck to my six week training plan like it was my own personal bible, and before I knew it, I was in my taper week. About a week before my ride, my Cycletta event pack came in the post. It included my time chip, my Cycletta number and my start time.
I also received a very clear email with all of the essential and important information about my ride, how to find the venue, etc. In addition, there was even a Cycletta Handbook I could download that gave a lot of information about what things would be like on the day of the event.
Basically, Cycletta give you all of the information you'll need before your ride, which is a huge relief to worriers and control freaks like me - right down to an online view of what the actual route looked like.
The Big Day
By the time my alarm went off at 6.45 on the day of my Cycletta ride, I was ready.
I knew my start time, but I also knew I had to get there 45 minutes before that - so we strapped my bike to the back of the car and hit the road. I was running a bit behind, and quickly learned that the 45 minutes they give you before start time is essential, as the parking lot was quite busy with everyone trying to find a spot. There were more than enough parking spaces, and once my bike was off the car and my stickers and numbers pinned to my back - I was ready to ride.
The atmosphere when you walk into the Cycletta Village is amazing. Never before had I seen so many female cyclists in one spot. There were women of all body shapes, ages, and cycling abilities with all different kinds of bicycles. Even better? There wasn't a MAMIL (Middle Aged Man in Lycra) in sight. (No offence, MAMILs.)
The entire village was very well organized, and it was apparent that the friends, husbands, wives and children that were there to support their Cycletta cyclist wouldn't get bored as we rode.
The cyclists are grouped into start times based on their ability or predicted time, although you'll be pleased to know that if you're a bit late (and desperately need the loo, like I did) you can start at a later time. The start process is very orderly, and you simply wait until you're near the front of the queue, and there send you off with a group of about 10 - 15 women.
The nervousness I felt pre-event quickly melted away the minute we were moving, and the feeling of knowing it's just up to you and your bike from then on was thrilling.
The route in Beaulieu was absolutely stunning, to say the least. From wild ponies to the lovely autumn colours of the New Forest, our surroundings couldn't have been better. There were very few cars on the road until nearing the end of my ride as it was later in the morning, and the entire course was incredibly well-labelled, with stewards pointing the way and helping to slow traffic for you at intersections.
As a newbie to such events, I was so grateful that everything was so clear. At no point did I feel like I didn't know what was going on, or that I was by myself on the route, nor did I ever feel unsafe.
If you're looking to get into cycling and you want a bit of a challenge, Cycletta embodies exactly what it says on the tin: fitness and fun. I had fun, but I knew that I had pushed my body in a way I never had before. It was the perfect balance.
I absolutely loved the Cycletta texted me about 10 minutes after my finish with my official time, and that I can go online to view a video of my finish, as well as the photos their official photographer took of me out on the route, as well as at the start and finish lines. Slick eh?
Everything was so incredibly well organized before, during and after the Cycletta event that I cannot recommend it enough. I am so thrilled to have taken part in the female cycling revolution that Cycletta has helped create, and I know that I will be back in 2013 to tackle an 80 kilometer Cycletta challenge!
A huge thank you to Chris Toogood, Dan Lipman and everyone at both Cycletta and Human Race. This entire process has completely changed my life.
All images © Iain Buchanan for BitchBuzz