By Jason Richards
Back in the old days training on a Sunday involved an early alarm, early breakfast, somewhere between 15 and 25 miles cycling, with an early finish and a nice early bath. These days it is a much more leisurely affair however the addition of my twins means there is often still an early alarm (or wake up at least) but the rest of the day is an altogether alternative approach.
The recent dry weather in February has drawn the three of us out on several bike rides. I almost dare not call them training sessions as the pace is more sedate and our mid ride nutrition usually involves an ice cream rather than an isotonic sports drink.
We try to find quiet roads or cycle paths as the twins still seem to meander and the three of us usually get a few looks from passers-by who inadvertently drift all over the roads as they peer at a racing wheelchair and two seven year olds on bicycles. Despite our lack of straight line prowess, and the added width of my racer, we try and adopt a safety-conscious approach with light and reflective clothing, helmets and gloves. Thankfully there have been no incidents thus far, despite the frost still sitting heavy on the road during our most recent ride out.
On our last adventure we were joined by the twins’ Grandfather who, at the age of seventy, still cycles up to 6 days a week and is currently in training for a 65 mile event later this year. So the four of us set out on the quiet back roads around Thirsk and Sandhutton and as we rode our plans and tactics were discussed. Although I am no longer training to race for Great Britain, the twins seem to have inherited some of my competitive flare and always strive to be the first one’s home. This last ride was just 3 miles long with a stop off at the park for some adrenaline fuelled zip wire activities for the kids. I don’t think a second went by when secret codes, passwords, tactics, sprint finishes and the optimum gearing weren’t discussed by one of us.
It was on the return leg that all of these plans began to hatch; various attacks were launched with both tension and nerves running high. We got into pairs me with my daughter and my son with his grandfather, and so began the dedicated quest to see which team would be victorious. The short sprints and attacks make great training for me and keep the twins entertained as I am usually trying to take their mind off the cold and subsequent numbing in their fingers. However, on this trip it was the heat generated during the sprints that was an issue and my little girl was forced to pause to remove her coat so that she was primed for the final approach to our finish line, the pub in Sandhutton.
As the village approached on the horizon a very determined little girl and I were at the head of the pack and our plan was to attack up the final hill and then coast down the other side to glory. As we lurched into action her little red face shone in the winter sun and her breath hung in clouds in the cold February air. Her little legs pedalled like crazy but despite our carefully considered tactics her brother and Grandfather were rapidly catching up to us. Half way up the hill her legs stopped and despite her immense determination, her heavy breathing turned to pants and a little boy on a bright red bike sped past, followed closely by his silver haired team principle who was coaching him by screaming out words of encouragement. Our heads sank and despite another surge down the hill to the finish we were sadly beaten.
As the twins and their Grandfather pulled in to the drive I sped on and enjoyed a four mile lap of freedom and joy in the morning air, bringing back memories of those glory days and the constant strive for perfection, British records and victory.
These fabulous family days are made possible by my Ford S-MAX. Carrying 2 bikes, a racing wheelchair, an everyday wheelchair, twins and an adult to our starting point is no easy feat but the S-MAX easily swallows up all we need it to. The warmth and comfort of the cabin on our way home, combined with the effort expended that morning certainly made for some children with sleepy eyes and a big smile on my face as I glanced in the rear view mirror reflecting on how much joy days like these bring to our family.