200-mile challenge

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We’re six days into February, January had been rubbish health-wise (both mentally and physically, but mostly physically), I was back on track. I had good sessions in therapy week after week, and I was generally feeling pretty good. However, I wanted to do something in February that would take all the negative energy from January and turn it into a positive. 

A friend at works boyfriend had sent her running data to a company called Race at Your Pace last year, and she got a medal for however far she had run that month. Remembering this, I thought to myself ‘I want a medal to show how you turn crappy health into a positive.’

Here comes the 200-mile challenge. 

I didn’t feel up to running at this point. I still had some physical illness lingering, and I wouldn’t be as motivated to run when I know I haven’t been in running shape for years. But the good news is, I could cycle my challenge and do it from the comfort, more like discomfort, of my spin bike in the home gym. 

I wanted to do something in February that would take all the negative energy from January and turn it into a positive. 

200 miles, though, is quite a challenge to set yourself when you’re already six days behind and the month of February is a couple of days shorter than the other months in the calendar year. 

Me being me didn’t care, and I embraced the challenge. I knew that to hit my monthly target, I needed to do 20km on the bike every day and still have a little leeway should I need a rest. Sounds easy, right?

Day one – 2 km on the bike and I was more than done for the next few days. Not because my legs couldn’t take it, but my bum (you’re going to read a lot about my bum in this post, apologies) just isn’t made for a studio spin bike. The seats are so uncomfortable! Needless to say, I got off the bike and headed straight to Amazon to find a solution to fix this problem. Fortunately, you can buy gel seat covers that drawstring over your existing seat. Happy days. Let’s get on with the challenge. 

Day two – I’m waiting on the seat cover to arrive, but I’ll do my 20km and suck it up like the good sport I am. My bum had other ideas. Absolutely not. Way too sore. No, thank you. 

The seat cover arrived on day three, and even then, I was too sore from sitting on that bike. So here we are, three days into the challenge, nine days into the month, and 20km is all I’ve been able to do.

The positive? I’m back in the gym training again. This is something that I haven’t been able to do since my breakdown last April – at least not consistently a few times a week as my former self would. If I couldn’t cycle, I’d lift some weights and know that I’d had a workout of some kind. 

Once the seat cover arrived, and my bum had recovered from the initial shock of the most uncomfortable seat in the world, we were back in business. However, I was now behind schedule.

Most of my cycling sessions ended up being around the 30km mark. Even then, I could only manage to cycle every other day. Gel seat cover or not, your bum needs a break. Those seats are tiny and, not to brag, my bum is more muscular than cushion. It’s not a good match. 

The positive? I’m back in the gym training again.

During the challenge, I knew I needed to rack up some serious miles at the weekends to account for the time missed at the beginning and only cycling every other day. Friday nights I did 30km. Saturdays I would do an easy 10km as a recovery cycle/taper off on the intensity to lead up to the big session on Sunday. The Sunday sessions (two in total) were 50km. That’s 30miles in one sitting, in my small home gym on one very uncomfortable seat despite the extra cushioning.

Those 50km sessions were a mental test more than physical. Other than my bum being sore, I didn’t encounter too much aching in my legs – apart from the 50km sessions. 

My brain, legs and bum had different ideas…

Breaking up these sessions to allow my legs the chance to de-jelly (technical term I’ve just made up). I’d mix it up with some upper body weight circuits to ensure that I was getting a whole-body workout. Sometimes I’d throw in some squats just for good measure – if I’m already training legs, I may as well go hard or go home. 

But the real secret to the success of these 50km sessions was keeping the mind focused on something (other than how sore my bum was). Enter Harry Potter. No, he didn’t wave his wand and make the miles magically disappear or make the seat more comfortable. That would have been a wise option if it was available. Watching Harry Potter on my laptop during these sessions kept my mind occupied despite watching them regularly – such as January when I was ill and laid up in bed for two weeks, I think I watched the series twice through.

Enter Harry Potter. No, he didn’t wave his wand and make the miles magically disappear or make the seat more comfortable.

As good as it was to be training again, and trust me I was pleased to have that consistency and fitness mojo of mine back, the mentality to keep the challenge going to get the medal at the end started to waver on the final few days.

The final 50km left me with 35km to complete to reach a total of 200 miles. I thought to myself ‘Perfect, I can complete that in one session’. My brain, legs and bum had different ideas, and we completed those final miles in two days.

However, I finished the challenge 4 days ahead of schedule! To start the challenge 6 days late and only cycle 13 times (if not less) to reach the goal – what an achievement! 

My takeaways from setting myself such a challenge:

  • My mental resilience had come on a long way since this time last year when I was beginning to spiral and breakdown. I knew when enough was enough. I had learnt that I didn’t need to complete the challenge and it was more than ok if I didn’t because I was doing this for me, not anyone else. I wouldn’t be letting myself down at all as the real winner would be getting back in the gym and enjoying training again consistently.
  • I hate cycling. I have a spin bike because I can’t fit a treadmill in my home gym. This challenge has not changed my perception of cycling at all. It’s obviously better when you’re out in nature surrounded by the scenery, but it’s still not for me. I’ll again cycle as cardio, but it won’t be for the sake of a medal. 
  • You can smash personal bests without even setting a target. I was hitting PBs left right and centre without noticing. At the beginning 10km would take 15minutes, by the end I could get it down to 8minutes at 100% exertion.
  • My legs are stronger and have leaned up. I’m not a particularly big fan of my legs. My skin is very dry (thanks genetics), and they’re short and stocky kind of like rugby player legs. However, this challenge has given me a new appreciation for how strong they are. That strength was visible in how much my quads had grown in size. Bravo legs. Thanks for doing all the miles for me. Shout out to my bum too. I’m sorry for all the pain, but even you have firmed up more than before. These physical changes in my body were not planned or expected. They are a welcomed bonus, though. 

So now that the 200mile challenge is complete and my medal is in the post what next? I don’t want to lose my momentum for training again. I love it, and I have missed it. Cycling distances isn’t for me, so I’ll be jumping off the bike and hitting the streets to start training for a 5km race. It’s well within my reach, but I haven’t run 5km in one stretch in a few years. I also can’t pace myself as I’m a better sprinter than a distance runner. This is going to be fun.

From me, my sore bum and tired legs, thanks for taking the time to read about my 200mile challenge. If you want a medal of your own for fun, you can sign up every month at Race at Your Pace for £10. This isn’t sponsored at all, but it’s always nice to share the challenge with other people. 

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