Charlie Brown once said to Snoopy, “We only live once, Snoopy”. He responded, “Wrong! We only die once. We live every day”.
People often ask me, “How come you ride so much”? “How come you travel so much”? “Gee you have a lot of holidays”! One even suggested I will be “crippled” by the time I am retired.
Who knows what tomorrow holds? I do not have those answers.
I do know this – I have been to far too many funerals for people who died far too young – they had dreams and aspirations that went unfulfilled!
I made a conscious decision to work to live! I am doing today what I may not be able to do tomorrow. I get it that not everyone understands that, or agrees with me – but then, this is my life and not theirs. I am fortunate that I have a husband who happens to agree with me.
We do what we want these days – and do not try and fulfil others expectations, as invariably, we fail!
Yes, I know that I have physical limitations that make these rides bigger challenges, but I try to balance it by being as fit as I possibly can.
If I had a dollar for every time I have been told I could not do something, I would be rich! Negative feedback tends to do the opposite and fire me up!
As a child I was restricted for many years after being diagnosed with exercise induced asthma. 10 years later I’m hanging off ropes in dark caves and sporting a wind surfer (that I was hopeless at). I was bush walking carrying heavy backpacks and canoeing. I ran at track and field and cross country events. Ventolin was a god send!
In my late teens, I was restricted after a skiing accident resulted in major knee surgery, taking me two years, and a lot of rehabilitation, to walk without a perceptible limp. I fluffed my way into the Australian Defence Force much to the horror of my parents.
I prolapsed two discs in my back as a young mum – and kept working despite the pain and did not take one day sick leave. I have had pneumonia and pleurisy to an extent the doctors wanted me hospitalised, and I refused.
In my 30’s I had an undiagnosed ruptured appendix (gangrene and peritonitis) for 3 days and played it down enough that the doctors thought I was not as unwell as I was (that was my closest escape in life…as I was told after surgery that I would likely have died within a further 24 hours).
After my fourth knee surgery, three and a half years ago I was told by my orthopaedic surgeon that I could not ride more than 5 km on my bike.
Since that day, I have ridden over 95 000 km. I’m now the leading female distance rider on Zwift globally (65,000 km). In addition to riding on the roads in Australia, I have also ridden some 10,500 km in Europe and 4,000 km in New Zealand.
Last year I broke a couple of ribs in Europe after coming off my bike on the cobbles in Switzerland and still managed to ride myself to hospital. I then went on and did a further 1000 km through Europe. Most people had no idea about my broken ribs. Did it hurt? Absolutely! I kept it fairly low profile as I did not want the travel insurance company to tell me that they would not cover me if I kept riding, or that I had to come home early!
Last year I rode solo 1150 km in what was a massive, personal challenge in New Zealand. Day 2 was Cyclone Hola with big winds and incredible rains. I had friends telling me not to proceed. Did I give up? No!
So I know I have guts and determination in buckets that is not always understood – but for me, it has been a survival instinct for some of my other life experiences and challenges (not the subject of this blog).
Reality is I know I am one of the tougher chicks I know (regardless of age) and I know what I have to overcome to achieve what others either avoid totally, or do more easily. I know how hard I train!
My experiences show that those that criticise the most are often the ones who talk the talk, and never walk the walk. To criticise is easy.
So the impending challenge is my biggest yet.
I thought Pas de Payrol, Puy Mary (Massif Central, France) in 2015 was my limit, with 3 km of 13% gradient near the top! I know I was cussing near the top!
Then I did London to Venice with even bigger climbs including Fluela Pass in The Alps (below). A brilliant trip.
The following year I tackled The Pyrenees (France and Spain) en route from Bordeaux to Barcelona. The climb below is heading up Superbagneres.
Last year I conquered Colle della Finestre (Italy) when I was riding with the Italy Bike Tours gang. That is my biggest single ascent to date.
These photos are on the descent. The last 8 km of the climb is gravel. I am a nervous dirt rider so was unsure as to my ability to get to the top within the required time parameters (remembering I did this climb with 2 broken ribs). I did it with time to spare. Check out the wall of snow on my right hand side, and a number of the hair pin bends (55 on this climb).
This year Team Yaxley is undertaking what is a huge challenge, by anyone’s measure. Certainly the biggest for either of us.
4,300 km riding, 33,770 metres ascent, 10 countries, one month, self supporting. That means we carry all our gear for the month including basic mechanical gear. We do have the luxury of staying in accommodation with beds! We have ‘rest’ days scheduled for Budapest and Split.
There are risks. Life is risky.
The countdown is on, and we fly out this Saturday afternoon.
Upon arrival into Prague, I have provided one full day rest for jet lag, particularly important as jet lag is one of the major triggers for my epilepsy.
Our first day is a mere 172 km (910m ascent) or so heading into the eastern section of the Czech Republic. Day two is another 174 km (1540m ascent) taking us into southern Poland. Baptism by fire.
By the fourth week, we will be in the Dolomites (Italy) and I have some unfinished business there – as last year we were unable to complete the planned day ride looping through a number of climbs. Last year it was very cold and the decision was made to descend asap rather than risk pushing on.
This trip there will just be the two of us – no support crew, no riders we can cruise along with. Based on my touring experiences to date though, we will meet people and create many new memories to share.
I look forward to sharing our adventures with you – and thank you for your continued support and encouragement. It is humbling when I know how some of my ‘regulars’ look forward to each blog, including Tony’s Uncle Jim, and ‘older generation – young at heart’ friends Noeline and Margaret!
Ooroo for now!