In my musings about reviewing 2016 (Looking forward to 2017 – why now is the time to start) I encouraged the reader to think forward to the coming year, considering what they would like to challenge themselves with and achieve. For many, it’s certainly not a task done in a day and can take days, weeks or months of deliberation. For others, the goal will be firmly fixed in their minds already.
It’s important to remember that nothing is set in stone; plans are fluid. Just because you set out aiming for one particular objective at the start of the year does not mean that you will be chained to it for 365 days. It’s taken me months of careful thought, planning and a whole lot of luck to come to my current standpoint, so I thought I’d share my story with you.
I’ve been unhappy for a while, only life had just been so hectic I could hardly realise. Following the sensible career path after University, I had spent three years working hard for a multinational company to get as much experience as I could. I’d moved from pillar to post across the country, hundreds of miles from home and travelled as far as Scotland and back regularly, living out of a suitcase with no sense of routine. I really couldn’t complain; I had a fantastic and inspirational team who really valued what I said – I was a big part of a small start up business and that experience is invaluable.
When I had the opportunity to relocate back to the South West, moving into a sales role, I grasped it with both hands . I was still travelling up to six or seven hours a day in the car but at least returning home most nights. Back on home territory in Devon I developed a healthier relationship with my family and got to explore the beautiful sights of the SW and Wales too. Moving to Bristol was a monumental change – I was faced with the vibrancy of city life; the culture, the variety and of course the many, and many different kinds of bike riders.
Parts of my job were hugely rewarding and enjoyable, but the thousand-miles-a-week lifestyle began to grate and wore me down. It was a really hard slog in sales and seemed to consume my whole life; whilst my new friends were meeting up for coffees and impromptu bike rides I was sailing down some motorway hundreds of miles away.
The money was great and I was finally back in the South West – I’d barely thought about quitting. But after meeting Aoife Glass from Bike Radar at the Rapha Women’s Prestige in London and quizzing her all the way back to Bristol on the train, I was inspired. Aoife pointed out that women’s cycling is a rapidly growing arena, with more brands looking to promote it and find suitable advocates. I assumed that you had to have years of experience, have working in a bike shop and know mechanics inside out, have raced, etc etc. What Aoife said turned all of that on it’s head. I already had what I needed – bags and bags of it – enthusiasm.
The plan kicked into action. I started to write, immediately discovering a new interest. The internet was scoured daily for cycling related jobs, emails were pinged off with fingers crossed hoping for work experience, anything that would get me an ‘in‘. I had no qualifications and no experience bar riding my bike, but I knew that if I could spend my days working on something that I’m truly passionate about, I’d surely be happier. Something that I saw on a tshirt one day had put me in the right frame of mind;
Take risks. If it works, you’ll be happy. If it doesn’t, you’ll be wise.
Jobs came, were applied for, and went. Work experience seemed nigh on impossible to get and I started to become a bit disillusioned. At the same time I was speaking to more and more people in Bristol who do similar things, collecting snippets of ideas, putting feelers out. The day that I rang up the Rapha store to see whether they’d got my application and found out they’d already hired, my friend Simon rang. Simon is a freelance adventure badass, specialising in mountaineering, climbing and riding. We met last summer and hit it off, both a little displaced and in need of an adventure buddy. Simon had rung to say that the business that he had worked for all summer were recruiting – it was the perfect, perfect role.
The job advert was posted online, application sent, first interview, second interview, contract done all within a week; to say I was keen would be the understatement of the century. With just a month at my job to finish off before Christmas and it would all be change.
As if that wasn’t all exciting enough, I decided to do something else a bit mad, I bought a motorhome to live in. With a new job in Taunton Monday to Friday and bases back in Bristol and Exeter for weekends it seems the perfect solution – only time will tell. Starting 2017 in a new job, in a completely new industry and a crazy new home becoming a proper nomad will be my first challenge of 2017, and we haven’t even got onto the cycling bit…
Amidst all the life change of late 2016, I struggled to decide what I wanted to do in the following year. There was one thing that I knew I wanted to do; my first 200km ride. I’ve been frustratingly close at 198km last summer at the PROPS sportive in Wales, having ridden out and back from Bristol – and I was absolutely ruined.
It was New Year’s Eve and chatting at a house party full of local cyclists the topic of 2017 ambitions came up. Some people wanted to race, some tour, a Transcontinental hopeful. I shared with Alex, member of Audax Club Bristol and long distance enthusiast, that I didn’t really have a plan bar riding 200km, and was immediately corrected. 200km for you would be easy – that’s not a challenge at all. Do a Super Randonneur in your first year instead – now that’s a challenge.
Alex explained the Super Randonneur (SR) and in my champagne-fuelled state I agreed. Waking up on New Years Day with the realisation of what I had done, I started to research exactly what was involved.
Super Randonneur: Audax UK’s traditional award for the top 10% of hardened night-riders. Ride a series of 200, 300, 400 & 600km all in one season.
It’s a huge challenge and I’m overcome by a dizzy mixture of excitement and anxiety about what I’ve let myself in for. If nothing else, I’m a woman of my word so I’ll be doing everything I can to get that SR in 2017.
The best is yet to come
2016 taught me that some of the best moments come completely out of the blue; a last minute, unexpected message from a friend or a grand proposition from a near-stranger. Who knows where you’ll will end up this year, what events might come up, races even or tours to be ridden.
The most important thing is remembering to say YES.