Writing my first blog entry is making me feel like I’m back at school, sitting an exam, staring at a blank piece of paper and wondering how to begin.
I’ve always been naturally sporty and being involved in sports has been big part of my life, taking part in a wide variety along the way. As far back as I can remember I owned a bike, and as a kid I would head out on mini adventures with my sister and friends for the whole day – it was our only means of transport living in a rural village, so the bike meant freedom and most importantly, fun!
As an adult, I enjoyed that same freedom while out running, but unfortunately pounding the pavement continuously would cause my knees to flare up and force me to take a break. After the birth of our daughters (Katy 6 and Libby 4 ½, I dare not omit the ½!), I decided it was time to lose the ‘baby weight’, so in April 2012, I dusted off my mountain bike and hit the open road. I quickly fell back in love with that feeling of freedom again, and it served as both my meditation and fitness training in one activity! After clocking up a few miles on the tarmac, my husband (David) suggested that I get a proper road bike -so we picked one out from the local bike shop and I collected it a few days later! I remember heading up round my favourite route, it felt like I was flying compared to being on the mountain bike – from that moment, I was completely hooked!
In May 2014, I completed the Etape Caledonia and GTM King of the Mountain Sportive for two charities close to my heart (SANDS and MacMillan) – I loved the thrill of riding with other likeminded people and pushing myself to cover the kind of mileage I had never attempted before. That June I took a trip to Huntly and met a friend who was heading out with a group for a blast on the bikes – I was only used to solo riding, so I didn’t quite know what to expect from my first experience in an organised bunch. The bike ride itself was great fun, but it would also prove to alter my future approach to cycling. In the group, I got chatting with Norman Ramsay, a keen cyclist with experience in coaching. To my surprise, he suggested that I had a lot of potential and from there Norman took me under his wing and gave me lots of solid advice on training plans and cycling in general. On training rides I was using Strava to track my performance and I was even managing to win some QOMs, it was through this handy little app that I met Emily Middleditch and Ashleigh Fraser (Deeside Thistle CC – DTCC) – we arranged a bike ride together, turns out we all lived relatively close by! Emily and I met up one night, we got on well and managed to chat away whilst we were cycling. Emily was telling me about some of the races that she had been doing – I left feeling inspired and by now the cogs were turning in my head.
In July we took our family holiday in Yorkshire to coincide with the first stages of Le Tour de France! We watched the Grand Departure at Harewood House and made it back in time to catch the final sprint in Harrogate. As fate would have it, the Specialized Concept Store was right next to the race finish, so naturally I had to go in for a look. To cut a long story short, we made our long journey back to the car with the girls taking it in turns to sit and be pushed along on my new full carbon bike! Now I had my Specialized Ruby, I was ready to really push myself!
A month or so later, Emily got in touch to invite me to a DTCC women’s training session that was focusing on an upcoming event – The Feewside Women’s Road Race. I went along to the training, a little apprehensive at what to expect – after all apart from the one ride in Huntly, all of my rides had been solo! It was a great training session with a fab bunch of girls and was so refreshing to meet women who shared the same passion for cycling as I do!
I decided to enter the road race, I figured I might as well, thinking back to the ‘potential’ that Norman had mentioned. My mantra was ‘don’t get dropped’ for the entire race. I ended up in the chasing group with about 6 other women. We quickly worked together to try and reel in the break, but we never did catch them and in the final section we raced for position in our small group to the finish line at the summit of Monument Climb. I was ecstatic with my result – 10th place! I was buzzing afterwards. David and the girls were there cheering me on along with my folks – what a tremendous feeling! I won the prize for 1st Cat 4 rider, which was the icing on the cake! The inner competitor in me emerged to the surface and I realised how much I actually enjoyed racing!
I signed up with DTCC and entered my next race a few weeks later – I wanted to ‘dip my toe in’ to see how I would fair at the end of the 2014 season. This race went event better and I finished in second place behind winner Ashleigh Fraser, making it a DTCC 1-2!
I entered the two remaining races of the year and finished with enough points to earn my Cat 2 racing licence! At the end of the season I felt really proud of myself – I never imagined when I dusted off the mountain bike after having two children that I would be entering road races!
I was looking forward to some winter training, which I was due to start in November 2014, however I had a lot of set backs with my knee, which had flared up and restricted my time on the bike. After a trip to a physio and then going to sports therapist Mike Mackay, I managed to slowly salvage some miles before the season kicked off. I have continued to work with Mike since the end of 2014, and have regular sports massages with him. Mike has been great at educating me about the stretches that I need to do along with the massages to keep my legs in optimum condition – he has even been so kind to take me on as one of his sponsored clients! He has been a real help and has always been on hand if I have any queries or injuries that need addressed, and for that I am very grateful!
2015 has been a great season in so many ways. I have learned so much and still have a lot to learn – it has been my first full season of racing, taking part in road, TT and CX.
In road racing, I saw a steady improvement in results throughout the season, which was reassuring after the injury setbacks during winter. I started working with my coach; Jon Entwistle (Enthdegree Ltd) at the end of June, although prior to this he was already a trusted person who I would regularly seek advice from. It made sense following the purchase of a power meter that I work with Jon as he is a guru when it comes to working with power and his work ethic and outlook is very similar to mine! I got my Specialized Shiv TT bike at the end of 2014 and was looking forward to trying it out, starting with the DTCC Evening League. I still remember my first event, turning up to Garlogie Hall and not really having a clue how to approach this discipline, but within a race or two I had found my stride with my new routine pre-race and soon got up to speed with things. I have thoroughly enjoyed TT – I relish the simplicity of it being just me against the clock. There have been clear improvements in my performance throughout the season, ultimately picking up The Gray Trophy for winning the DTCC Evening League.
As a coach, Jon is very inspiring and is keen for me to explore a variety of complimentary cycling disciplines. When I mentioned getting a new winter training bike, he was quick to suggest CX! After some research I ordered up my new Specialized Crux Elite through Velocity 44! On 3rd October, I handed the baton over from Road/TT by winning the SCNEGR (District) Hill Climb Championship in the morning and then onto racing my first CX race in the afternoon! It was an exciting and quick race and I wasn’t too sure what to expect. The DTCC CX guys did a terrific job designing the course. At one point, I got a bit excited and overshot a corner going from grass to gravel and came down hard. However, adrenaline and sheer determination saw me finish the race. I went to get cleaned up by the first aider after the podium presentation and ended up having to head to A&E for stitches in my arm and knee!
What a year and a half it has been! I have loved every minute of it – it’s been a huge learning curve, and I am sure I will continue to learn lots this coming season – every day’s a school day!! Next season I will be racing with Velocity 44 Stirling and I can’t wait to get started. The people that I have met along this cycling journey so far have been inspiring, encouraging and motivating. Cycling is a real community sport and I am delighted to be part of it!
I hope this gives a wee insight of who I am and how I got into cycling – I am a Mum, a wife, a Guidance teacher as well as a passionate cyclist! I hope to be a positive role model to my girls, they love coming along to races to cheer me on, and it certainly spurs me hearing David, my girls and family rooting for me! The pupils at school have been really supportive and like regular updates with what’s been going on during the racing season – they love to tell me their cycling adventures, and I love to hear them!
Keeping me on the road for a full season’s racing is not a small, individual task. Bike maintenance, physical fitness, coaching, equipment advice and training sessions, are all aspects where people have kindly contributed their time, hard work and guidance. So a special thank-you goes out to Jon Entwistle; Norman Ramsay; Mike Mackay; Colin Duncan; Paul Allanach and Velocity 44 Stirling; DTCC girls and Evening League crew for their greatly appreciated efforts.
The support I receive from my family has been amazing – David has encouraged me at each step on the journey from recreational cycling into racing; having him and the girls cheer me on is just the best! Our parents are always on hand to help out with the girls and provide encouragement at races. David is often away with work, so my Dad is frequently down at races with me for moral support!
Next task: co-ordinating this season’s races – which will include road races and time trials before switching over to CX at the end of the year, with a possible new venture at the start of 2017! I am looking forward to the upcoming challenges and learning more along the way.
Thank you for taking the time to read my blog – look out for updates throughout the season. Here are some more photos to sum up the journey so far!
Here’s to 2016!
- 11th GGCC Women’s Road Race
- 10th (1st team prize: Ashleigh Fraser; Emily Middleditch; Amanda Tweedie) – MFCC Women’s Road Race
- 9th Sharon Argue Memorial Trophy Women’s Team Race
- 8th Scottish Cycling National Road Race Championship
- 7th Balgay Park Criterium
- 10th Scottish Women’s Road Race Series – overall position
- 3rd Massie Shield 25TT (reduced to 16TT)
- 1st AWCC Classified 10TT
- 3rd The Bob Souter 10TT
- 1st Glegg Trophy 10TT
- 7th Feewside Women’s Road Race/SCNEGR Championship
- 14th Scottish Cycling National Hill Climb Championship
- 1st Three Braes Hilly Time Trial
- 1st SCNEGR Hill Climb Championship
- 1st DTCC Evening League – The Gray Trophy
- 2nd Alford CX ‘Race Snakes’
- 13th SCX Knockburn Loch
- 9th SCX Strathclyde Park
- 15th SCX Meedies Madness
- 14th (9th Senior) Scottish Cycling National CX Championships
- 10th SCX Series – overall position in category
- 10th (1st Cat 4 rider) Feewside Women’s Road Race
- 2nd Sally Anne Low Memorial Race
- 4th (1st team Prize: Jayne Taylor; Laura Sarkis; Amanda Tweedie) Sharon Argue Memorial Trophy Women’s Team Race
- 5th Lancaster University Autumn Points Grabber
Photo Credits: David Tweedie; Dennis Dow; Andrew Innes; Paula Stronach; Douglas Weir Photography; Anthony Robson