Two steps forward, one step back

I’ve always believed the only way to conquer fear is to face it but I was snookered  today because, to do that effectively, surely we need to know what it is that is scaring us! Try as I might I just didn’t know why  I was hyperventilating and  shaking as soon as I started cycling on the canal path.  But, let me backtrack a wee bit……..

After a gap of about 15 years I have started cycling with the help of an Ageing Well project along with my partner, Walter and our fellow ‘Intrepid’ Sid.  I wrote another blog about how scary this was for me – see .  After 5 weeks we felt gallus enough to try a ride from Glen Ogle to Lochearnhead and, despite initial waryness, I had a great time, as did we all, and my confidence was increasing leaps and bounds.  I even manged to “weeeeee!” down about a third of the steep slope at the end.

Photos: Sid and me at the start of the route /   Walter and Sid on the Glen Ogle viaduct. / Me on the steep path down

After this adventure we all all made good progress at the next Ageing Well session, especially me because I eventually got the hang of pushing off properly instead of scooting first.

So we agreed to go on the Union Canal path, a section of which started very near Sid’s place.  I admit I was doubtful right away because I knew the canal path was narrow with water very close (sic!) but Walter pointed out there had been a massive drop on the Glen Ogle route which I managed fine – so we scheduled it for today.  This morning the wind was quite brisk so I felt even more uncertain.  My main reason being that I wobble a lot and if blown by the wind as well – on a narrow path with water alongside…….you get the idea maybe.    As a result of my doubts, the boys initially agreed to cancel the ride but then I felt really mean and cowardly so I changed my mind and we set off.

On the side roads to the canal I was OK but as soon as I started on the towpath the horrible fears started – but they were nameless!   I tried so hard to reason with myself…  Am I afraid of falling?  No, not really cos I’m going slowly enough to stop easily.  Is the wind too strong?  No, it’s not having much effect.  Am I afraid of other people on the path? Yes, but I can slow right down or get off if necessary.  Am I finding it too much physically?  NO, I am quite fit – I can walk for miles and not feel any effect.  Then what the ***k is the matter?!!!  I don’t know!  All I know is my heart is pounding, I can hardly breathe, my mouth is completely dry and my hands are shaking.  To be honest, I was finding the actual riding difficult because my arms and hands were so tense I was wobbling all over the place but this was ‘chicken & egg’ – the more tense my arms, the more I wobble, the more I wobble, the more tense…..

I can see the tension in my face in this shot taken as we stopped for a drink and as I walked across the aquaduct the first time.

Eventually I just had to stop – my system was protesting so much.   I realise the problem (whatever the heck it is!) is mental and emotional but it becomes physically inhibiting.  I suggested the boys finish the trip to Ratho while I went back on my own, but they were both adamant that it is “All For One And One For All” so we made our way back.  Now – surprise, surprise…not!…I was nowhere near as stressed going back – by gum the mind’s a funny thing.

I can see the stress in my face here as well, even though it was far easier by then because we were on the way back. We covered about 4 miles in total.

Walter has suggested that one of my problems may be not looking far enough ahead, hence making me wobble and starting the whole viscious cycle (pardon the pun).  So at the next Ageing Well session I shall concentrate on rectifying that. Then the boys and I will have another go at the Sighthill/Ratho Union Canal ride next week. The debilitating fear has to be conquered. It was two steps forward, one step back this time but stay tuned – I shall overcome.

The end of the route – phew!

6 thoughts on “Two steps forward, one step back

  1. Jenny Arata

    I love that your bikes all have matching rear panniers! Confidence grows each time you ride! And being with a friend or in a group helps a lot too! I have a group ride on Saturday to downtown Los Angeles… about 10 miles through city traffic, then taking the subway most of the way back (just because I like the idea of taking a bike on the subway!). I would love to ride the paths you do… perhaps when I get to Scotland, we can ride together… and you’ll lead the way with confidence!

  2. annieogg

    You guys are doing really well, there is no way I could have done that canal route it looks far too near the water. I jealous tho as it hard to motivate myself to to out sometimes on my own . Keep up the good work x

    1. susanannwales Post author

      Thanks Annie. It wasn’t too near the water really – most of the way there was a wee grassed edge between the path and the canal. It’s just that the path itself wasn’t very wide. I know what you mean about motivation on your own – I am lucky to have the boys. 🙂

  3. florencebrady

    You ought to concentrate more on the fantastic progress you’ve already made. Treat your fear as something perfectly natural, get off and walk if you have to. You will soon be doing everything just as you would like to be able to. There’s no mad rush anyway, is there? Walter and Sid are brilliant friends, so they won’t mind you taking a bit of time to become comfortable with the bike. Lots of love and good luck.


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