Well today I went out with a new group of ladies, I do like to share the love! I was made aware of this group by a guy called Darren, a British Cycling Coach, who had noticed that I had done the marathon this year (how clever of me to get the London marathon mentioned on a cycling blog!) and he wondered if I would like to have a place on the Prudential 100! That's a London cycle ride of a 100 miles, taking in Box hill! Well, I thought about this for a good few seconds, and then declined his kind offer! But he did tell me all about a ladies group who go cycling on a Monday morning! So I thought why not! I love meeting new people, and it's not as if I am the shy and retiring sort of person!
And anyway, everything is always nicer in a group, so I thought I would go join in. The first week that I made plans to go I had to stay in, I had the roofers coming on that day! The second week I planned to go it was cancelled due to inclement weather! The following week, well the following week I had the Bupa 10k in London! I was beginning to think that maybe the stars were conspiring against me!
But this week! This week I managed not to have any commitments, the weather was ok, at least the sun was shining. I hadn't had any contact from Darren or anyone from Panagua, so I thought I would just turn up and say "hi!" I hadn't thought about the fact that it might not be on today, or if I needed to register, like the Breeze rides, I was just going to plonk myself among the ladies and hope for the best.
I got up early, had a quick shower and donned my cycling gear "Longs or shorts?" I was thinking. I opted for the shorts, be optimistic! I looked at my Spesh, and noticed that my bits and bobs bag wasn't on there so I quickly went to the shed to grab my bike bag. Before I put it on I noticed that my back tyre was a bit soft! "Oh no, I can't have a puncture" I thought, "not now." I didn't have time to check whether it was a puncture or just gone down, (I have not been on it since I changed the tube anyway, but I guess I could have missed what caused the puncture in the first place!) I had to go down to the shed again to get my Giant!
I quickly put the bag back on and then out of the door, I hate being late! There was still plenty of time to get to the rendezvous point at Panagua Bikes, in Hayes, but I wanted to get there unflustered! I didn't think it would be a good look to turn up looking worn out straight away! When I got there I still had about 8 minutes before the 10:00 start. I was the only one there! Maybe it wasn't on today, maybe it has been cancelled! I asked in the shop to see if they knew anything.
But after a couple of minutes I saw a lady rider pull up, and then another, and yet another came from inside the shop! I knew then it was on. I also knew that this was probably not going to be anything like a Breeze ride! The ladies all looked very sporty, not that the Breeze ladies don't look sporty, in the named jerseys and Lycra, but they were all riding on road bikes!
You know how you feel when you turn up at a party and feel totally under dressed or you are the one that is dressed up to the nines while everyone else is in jeans and sloppy tee? Well I felt like that just then! Although I had my lycra and jersey on, my Giant looked totally out of place! I am sure 'she' (my bike) almost shrunk against the bike stand! The ladies all seemed friendly though, and one of them assured me she would be the slowest one! I was thinking, "That will be me now!"
Another lady had joined us, I had found out that she was the ride leader, so now we had them all here waiting to start. Their names, and I hope I have remembered correctly, were Fiona, she was the first one to turn up, the Lynn, followed by Sian and then Vari! I am not quite sure of the spellings!
So now we were ready, we set off towards Keston, up hill! I couldn't help thinking that I am usually coming from the other direction, and that it's all down hill! I knew we were going to Downe Village so it's not as if I wouldn't have done hills anyway. We started riding out, and before we got barely a 200 meters we were surprised with a deer crossing from left to right across the road! What a lovely start to our ride!
It seemed strange heading to Downe Village this way, at least I won't have any 'mile markers' to think about, we were even going to go up the other road to get to the village as well! I was put behind the leader, as these rides always go at the slowest persons pace. I just hoped that I wasn't too slow! Fiona was the sweeper, or tail ender!
It wasn't too long before we got to Shire Lane, and I was already feeling those hills! I followed the leader as she turned right heading up the road to the village. I was plodding along, trying hard to keep up, or at least to keep up a reasonable speed! The other two ladies, Lynn and Sian had better legs than me and cruised on up, Vari and Fiona kept me sandwiched between them, or came side by side to chat and find out about me.
I was pleased that I got to the village without stopping and without walking, I don't think I could have hidden my blushes if it did, mind you, my face was probably crimson anyway! Although I wasn't under any pressure from the other riders, I put myself under pressure to at least keep a good pace going. From there we turned right down Single street. I was thinking, "Ok, so this is going to be a short ride!" Of course I was presuming that we would be going all the way to the end of Jail Lane and then turn right to go through Biggin Hill!
I was feeling a bit more comfortable as I rode up one of my regular routes! Although I was still just plodding along. Fiona was very reassuring, that it was ok. And Vari had obviously told the other ladies to ride on at their speed to a specific place, and then she came back to join me at the back!
It really did feel like the first time in a group, the first time in my running group that is. I was always at the back (still am now actually but I volunteer to sweep after running group 0!) And I was always apologising for being at the back, and for being slow! Fortunately my running club is all about encouraging and including beginner runners!
I also knew that I did improve, I did get faster and I was even in with the front runners of group 1! I hoped that these ladies have the same patience while I build up my strength and stamina to keep up.
When we turned left, before we got to the Main Road, I was a bit surprised. I shouldn't have been really, as I was told we would be doing about 17 miles ish and going right would have made for a very short ride indeed. But I couldn't think where this road would take us, maybe it takes us to that Berry Green place, with the huge hill, or maybe up to the Shampan on the Main road! As we rode along my bearings suddenly kicked in (quite unusual for me, as I can get lost on a straight road), but just to check. I asked Fiona behind me. She told me that the Shampan would be on the left hand side just further up the road. I was right, thankfully not Berrys Green though, which meant of course we were heading away from home!
We took the road on the left that took us past the Shampan, but the rain had started to fall and we took shelter for a couple of minutes in the car park there, while the worst of the rain came down. A great photo opportunity I thought! Here are my riding party today!
|The Panagua Monday Group|
It wasn't that long before the rain stopped, just a few minutes and we headed on down Grays Road, an undulating road but after that it is mainly down hill till we get to the A21! Grays Road felt different to me, as usually me and the Old Boy are riding in the opposite direction. The road was still a complete mess, with pot holes all over the place thankfully it looks as if they will be doing something with it soon as there are white marks all around the pot holes.
Going down Cudham North Lane was GOOD! The last time I was on my bike on this road, I was riding in the opposite direction! "I hate hills!" That was my mantra as I rode up it! And now it was "I love hills" I wonder why!
It wasn't long before we were at the bottom and turning left along the A21. There is a turning on the left that goes straight to Farnbourough Village, UPHILL of course! My legs we letting me know that they had done some cycling. My focus was now on coffee and cake! AmeriCarlos Cafe in Farnborough village. The last time I was here I was with Denise, as I out took her on her first bike ride for some time! I wonder if there is any of those delicious muffins today?
"Just pull up behind the red car on the right" Said Fiona. Now what I had forgotten to let the ladies know that without my left hand outstretched, making the 'L' shape with my thumb and pointy finger, left and right mean nothing to me! 'Driver side and passenger side' usually helps me when I am driving my car! But on a bike, well, I shall have to try and think of something!
It was a great ride. I just hoped that I wasn't to slow for the other ladies, including Lynn, who said that she is usually the slower rider! Not today! That position was held by me! I wonder if I get a wooden spoon?