Despite COVID, social distancing, a few false starts and two postponements, in August 2021 I succeeded in achieving my goal of completing the Etape Loch Ness Sportive. 106 kilometres, tens of them arduous, 1200+ metres of climbing, one monster akin to a horror movie, 3000+ riders, wind, rain and some sunshine, surrounded by some of the most stunning scenery in Scotland.
Completing the route within 5 hours was a stretch target, but outstandingly and rather proudly, I pedalled home in 4 hours 12 minutes. I rode 106 kilometres without so much as one stop. My feet remained attached and inseparable from those pedals throughout. What a team.
I had been massively lucky to have secured a Pinarello Prince Fx (affectionately christened my ‘Prince’) a couple of months previously. Despite global steel shortages, COVID and Brexit, it was a treat to myself for packing up my vices. I proudly pitched up at the start line with the most beautiful specimen of self-powered machinery I’d ever seen, let alone owned. My absolute pride and joy.
To say I was delighted really would have been an understatement. My bike. My time. To many of you, this route would have been easy. What’s all the fuss about? But for me, this was a tremendous feat. One of epic proportions in fact. Not only was my physical fitness under scrutiny, but my mental strength and confidence too. They were the known unknowns. And they each hung out there, blowing wildly in the wind, fully exposed, waiting patiently to be proven.
And proven they were.
It was a moment in my life I doubt I will ever forget. With the exception and misfortune of dementia, I’m sure the memory of the final 20 kilometres will last my entire lifetime. Never mind crossing the finish line. Just wow.
Happiness, exhilaration, excitement. So many emotions rolled into one. The stand out? Pride. Every molecule of my being felt it. Walking around afterwards with my Prince by my side. We had completed it and I couldn’t have been more proud of our partnership.
Two and a half years previously I was a bystander cheering my partner over that same finish line. It was the driving force behind my cycling getup. When the adrenalin wore off, it was replaced by the beautiful realisation this was now my finish line too. My moment. My achievement. I had done it. I was on a self-induced high for the following week.
As an aside, there is a Scottish movie called “Trainspotting” which follows four drug takers and recounts the highs and lows of their ‘sport’; there’s a slight twist in the tale where one decides to take a different path. It’s both hilarious and harrowing. I digress, however, the strap line is “Choose Life”.
During the final kilometres, crossing the finishing line and the moments following, I very much felt I understood what it meant to have ‘chosen life’. And for doing so I very much felt life had repaid me in bucketloads.
So why share this story today? Well, today is the day I signed up for 2022’s version. The excitement is truly palpable in my tiny part of the world.
I know 2022 will be different. This year I simply wanted to finish, next year I aim to reach the top 100 women finishers, in under 4 hours. I will give it everything I have and sometimes a bit more. I know what to expect now. Most notably, I know I can do it.
That’s quite nice.
Bring. It. On.
All my love