In an age where we are constantly striving to go the extra mile and achieve everything before 9am – it’s key to point out that it’s OK to have an off-day once in a while. In fact, it’s probably quite healthy. In this post, Rebecca shares her story about admitting defeat on a recent bike ride from London to Brighton. Not only was it a harsh winter’s day – it was also her first time in cleats which is nerve-racking on its own! She discusses her reasoning on why it’s wise to take stock of the situation and work out whether it’s worth continuing when you’re body is saying ‘no’.

Rebecca Porter

“I’m standing on the street corner in the middle of country-side England screaming as the blood slowly and painfully works its way back into my frozen fingers. Amy and I look at each other’s blue lips, our wet kit, and our muddy bicycles, and decide, perhaps for the first time ever, to abandon the mission. Brighton will have to wait for another weekend.

womens cycling

Smiles despite the frostbite

Let me start from the beginning and tell you how we got here.

Amy and I are both North American, which I think is part of the reason why we didn’t think twice about heading out on a 56 mile bicycle ride on the coldest weekend in London. To be fair, it can’t all be blamed on our heritage (I know some very reasonable Canadians) –we’re both a little pig-headed as well. Plans were made earlier that week and we would be damned if we were going to let a little cold get in the way of training.

I should also mention that this was my first ride with clips.

We started out around 9am … in the rain. I suppose that should have been our first indication that maybe this wasn’t the best idea but being notoriously bad at knowing when to back down, we just continued on. Brighton isn’t that far to cycle to, right?!

The ride out of London was exactly what you would expect –cold, wet, and stop-and-go. I think we must have hit just about every red light along the way. I can proudly say that despite the lack of feelings in my feet, I did a pretty good job of clipping out at stop lights and not falling over.

That is to say, I was doing fairly well until I started to get cocky about it. Then I fell over. Three times. It wasn’t so much that I forgot to clip out, as that I clipped out on the wrong side. My foot went down on one side, my body on the other. I ended up falling over with one foot firmly attached to the pedal and the other one waving in the air. Well, live and learn. They must have been spectacular falls because some very concerned motorists slowly rolled by and asked if I needed anything. Some ice for my bruised pride maybe?

So anyway, we headed on, mile after freezing mile. To be honest, I don’t really remember the rain much, except that it must have been raining because I was soaking when we stopped for a pee break.

It was the pee break that did us in. If only we could have held it in for another 45 miles, we might have made it all the way.

But, of course we couldn’t, so we stopped. All in all, I think we only stopped for 5-10 minutes, but it was enough to cool us right back down to zero and chill us clean through to the bone.

After that fateful break, we just couldn’t warm up again. We tried, but there seemed to be no way to get blood back into our frozen feet. At mile 15 we realized that we hadn’t had any response from our fingers for quite some time and simply hoped they were still attached. By mile 17 I realized that despite the effort, there was no way that I was ever going to warm up my legs enough to stop my teeth from chattering. And at mile 19 it struck me that I was going slightly mad. At that point Amy and I decided we would cycle out to our half-way point, only 7 miles from where we were, and then re-evaluate. Two miles later we were standing on a street corner while I screamed in pain. Although the hill we had just climbed did help warm us up, it also made us acutely aware of how cold we had been.

Standing there waving my arms about in an effort to reduce the pain of post-frostbite blood flow I realized that, perhaps for the first time in years, I would have to stop. I had to give up on the goal and head back to the nearest train station.

I wish I could say that it was crushing to make that decision, but it wasn’t. My only thought was that we would have to go back down the hill that we just climbed up. The thought terrified me.

I’m happy to say that both survived the experience and, after some warming pub food, a wonderful server who dried our socks for us, and a hot apple crumble, we made it on to the train and back to London. Granted it took an hour of lying in a warm bath and an evening under the covers to fully defrost, but I’m happy to say that I am in sporting form again and looking forward to next weekend, when we’ll try it again.

Hopefully we’ve learned from our mistake and will bring warmer clothes next time.”