It all started with me needing a challenge.
I started cycling to lose weight and, in April 2009, decided to do the London to Brighton ride and convinced a few friends to join me. At the time, I didn’t even have a bike. I started training by going mountain biking in the forest on my son’s bike. We then extended it to 30 mile road rides along with friends who were doing the L2B with us, each ride pushing a bit harder, as we tried to get faster and fitter.
The day of London to Brighton finally arrived.
15 of us were collected from Ascot, with our bacon butties for the early bus ride. Off we went! It was wonderful. The sense of achievement, the unbelievable feeling of riding the Ditchling Beacon, crossing the finish line – it was amazing. Hot, tired, excited, our bodies were in agony, but what a wonderful day we all had. By then the bug had bitten.
Every single ride I’ve ever done, I’ve felt like a child escaping. It gave me freedom
That feeling when you go for a ride first thing in the morning, when the roads are quiet, the air is cool and there isn’t anyone around - it's just marvellous.
When you’ve pushed yourself so hard and your legs are screaming at you – it’s so painful to pedal, but it’s also so painful when you stop pedalling. The burning you get in the back of your throat because you can’t get enough air into the lungs that are threatening to burst out of your chest, is just so uncomfortable. Your arms ache, your neck aches. You get to a hill and everyone flies past you and there you sit and struggle with each and every rotation of the pedals.
And when the torture is over, the pure exhaustion at the end of a ride is the most exhilarating feeling in the world.
You’ve done it and survived.
You check your stats and you find you were quicker than your last ride and you perhaps even went a bit further and you have burned over 1,000 calories.
Every single ride I’ve ever done, I’ve felt like a child escaping. It gave me freedom. I felt like I was out playing with my friends, and I’ve made so many friends through cycling and I’ve been lucky to have my sons join me on most of my rides.
I’ve recently been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. I was absolutely devastated. I’d just finished paying off my carbon frame mountain bike...
I bought a road bike and took part in organised events. The fun of a cycle event starts when you pack your bike into the car, you do your final check – helmet, shoes, nutrition for the ride, nutrition for after the ride, a change of clothes - then registration, so exciting, everyone paid to be there to go through torture! Then with everyone lined up on the start line, final instructions and then the silence before the whistle and everyone clicking in – it's so exciting.
When you finish, the sense of achievement, knowing that you pushed yourself as hard as you could. Your legs twitching with pain – sounds awful but it’s fantastic. Pure cycling happiness!
The happiest I have ever been on my bike was doing a three day Mountain Bike event in South Africa with my eldest son. We cycled from the Sani Pass in the Drakensberg to Scottburgh on the Natal South Coast which averaged about 60 miles each day off road. It has to be one of the very best mountain biking events in the world. We finished without any mechanical failure or any injury and loved every minute.
I’ve recently been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, which was such a shock. I couldn’t understand why I was so weak, why I couldn’t walk on the treadmill for more than 13 minutes at snails pace. I was absolutely devastated. I’d just finished paying off my carbon frame mountain bike...
I thought I’d never be able to get on a bike again. I thought I'd lost Tracy, I didn’t know how to make this new Tracy happy. But, I couldn’t just let me life stop. There was too much fun still to be had. So I got back on my bike with the encouragement of my son and my friends and I’m starting again.
I’m slower and the hills are a killer, but it would be like that for anyone who has been off the bike for a year. I ensure I keep myself fit by walking in my local park, anything from 3km-5km at least once a week and I get out on my bike at least once a week. Today I managed 35 miles and was slightly quicker than last week. So you see, I’m still Tracy, cycling still makes me so happy and I feel alive when I’m on my bike.
What has cycling done for me? Well, I lost weight, I got fit, I'm able to spend quality time with my boys and I’ve made friends for life. You learn about nutrition and how important recovery is. You learn to push yourself more than you ever thought you could, you see beautiful countryside and you feel free. Cycling happiness for me is about friendship, supporting one another, feeling fit and healthy and being able to surprise yourself with your achievements.
Tracy Chisholm, 48, is a Personal Assistant for a Property Investment company