A bridge too far for the ET wannabe
It occurs to me that I better follow up on the post of last week lest anyone thinks I either chickened out of the cycle or that I’m lying in a half-dead heap in a bog in Mayo. Neither thing, I’m happy to report, is the case. Although… it was a close-run thing.
It turns out, you see, that when I said I wasn’t a cyclist, I was right. I started out on Sunday thinking that I’d surely manage the 22km Newport – Westport round trip if I took it handy and paced myself. Everything was working for me – the weather was perfect and the other half had assured me when I asked that the route wasn’t too hilly. I donned the magic padded shorts, hopped up on Grace and off we went. Hey ho for the open road, and all to that.
From the get-go, I was struggling. After a kilometre or so, I reckoned I had a clear choice – either give up or just die. The other half was cruising and trying to offer words of encouragement. To no avail. The more I struggled, the more annoyed I got. By the end of the second kilometre, I was like a witch. The gentle words of encouragement were wasted on me. I blamed him for misleading me. ‘Flat… you said it was flat. It’s not flat. Far from f*cking flat. This is not cycling. This is mountaineering’. That was the general gist and tone. I was in serious snarl mode. Couldn’t keep a civil tongue in my head. And then, bless him, he switched on the Go Pro camera thingy mounted on his helmet and told to me smile. Such a brave, misguided soul. He got an earful. Suffice to say I didn’t smile. Couldn’t and wouldn’t.
At about 3km or so, we came to a bridge and I just had to stop. No way could I generate the momentum to get over it. I was in a total lather. I had to stop and remove the woolly layer under my outer shell and prevail upon himself to stash it in his rucksack. I carried on, all the time hoping the terrain would level out. I looked wistfully at my little front-mounted basket and fancied that if only I had a blanket-covered alien in it instead of a picnic, I would be Elliot and magically become airborne. I wished and wished. At 5km, it took all I owned not to call a halt. I was wrecked.
And then, magically, it all started to come right. The ground levelled out, the wayside was prettier and I was managing to manoeuvre my way through the various obstacles – the obstacles being the many gates, posts and way markers which I found extremely challenging. But I was starting to get quite comfortable and confident. Starting, even, to enjoy it all. I even smiled at people we met along the way. Even had a few kind words for himself. By the time we got to Westport, I was positively charmed with myself and proud as punch. The little Greenway station at Westport is just the cutest thing you ever saw and we brewed up tea for our little anniversary picnic and had a lovely time. We reminisced about 34 years ago on that day when we tied the marital knot. The first horrible 5km were forgotten. I was all pleased with myself. In my head, I was planning my next cycling adventure.
After our picnic, we set out on the return leg. Such a pretty route. And all credit to the landowners who live along the way. Some have built little resting areas and have sown wildflowers to make it all lovely and pastoral. With the sun shining and a gentle breeze in my hair (well… in my helmet), it was turning into quite the perfect day. I’m good at this cycling lark after all. A natural, maybe. No bother at all.
In no time, we were in sight of the bridge that had defeated me on the way out. As I approached it this time, I started building up a head of steam. This time, it was not going to beat me. This time, I was going to cycle over it rather than get off and walk as I’d done earlier. This bridge is not going to get the better of me.
But it did. Oh I cycled over it, all right… it’s just that I couldn’t stop. I had built up such a head of steam that I reckon I did a little bit of ET-style flying – I think I was probably briefly airborne – and I panicked. I put my hand out to try and grab at the bridge wall to slow me down and I lost control and landed in an inelegant heap on the other side. Another fall from Grace. Happily, I had a helmet on and my legs were denim clad so I didn’t break skin. There was no blood, at least. But I gave myself a right thwack. I’d had about 10km of pride… then I had the fall. There is, it appears, more to this cycling lark than I’d imagined. The laws of gravity apply, it seems. Who knew?
Anyway, after establishing that all my bits were still working, I got back on Grace – who, incidentally, was totally unmarked – and gingerly finished the run into Newport. A pot of tea and a few Digestive biccies in the Grainne Uaile made it all seem OK again. But I learned my lesson: Don’t get cocky on a bike when you’re a mere novice.
Would I do it again? Yes… but differently. I’d beware of bridges. I’d have more respect for gravity. I’d try not to snarl at my husband (whom our daughter has christened ‘St Thomas of the Greenway’ for his saintly patience and serenity in putting up with my bad temper of the first 5km).
And I’d try to smile more.