Meriel's Blog

Written by Meriel.

Thank you to Cycling SA and Skinny Lattes for making cycling accessible for women!

Without the support and encouragement of the Women’s Group I would not be on the brink of competing in my first State Championships and Australian Masters…only eight months after riding a bike for the first time!

One night at book club, one of my friends suggested we all read the designated book AND try something new.

The stars aligned! I tripped over a hybrid bike Patrick had bought for Phoebe to ride to uni. She was unimpressed and left the silver Avanti languishing in the hall.

I squished my body into some track pants, old runners and a baggy top, found a particularly ugly helmet in the shed and treddled around the local streets. It felt good looking into people’s gardens. Before I knew it I was half way up a hill and wondered how changing gears would make it easier. I resolved to ride every day during January.

I tackled the Freeway bike track and thought I did well to get to the kennels! Descending was a revelation! How good it felt to go that fast! probs 25kph…but I was hooked…the grovelling up was such a small price to pay for the exhilaration of the descent!

Then I spotted an ad on the Cycling SA web-site about women only sessions at the SuperDrome on Saturdays. I couldn’t sleep the night before my first session. I was terrified. I reassured my self I wouldn’t see anyone I knew. I sent Tish out to buy me knicks because I felt self conscious about going into a bike shop to buy gi-normous knicks for myself!

I rocked up at the track. Pretty much the scariest thing I had done for ages. But when I look back over the past 9 months, I have done scary and challenging things every month since then.

Meriel at the Women on Track sessions, first day on a track bike.

Going to that first track session was a turning point. Someone crashed and an ambulance was called. I rode around without going on the track for about an hour, on a bike with no brakes. I looked at the big incline and focussed on keeping breathing! The other women were friendly and at all levels of competence and confidence. I noticed with some amazement that one woman was wearing a kit that indicated she is a world champion! She is Vicki Birk and goes along to ride with us and shares her knowledge so generously and democratically. At the Women’s sessions no-one cares if you are a raw beginner, chronologically gifted, budding SASI sprinter or a world champion!

The important things are “having a go” and watching out for each other.

Going quite fast is important, and feels good. I fell off on the bend cos I went too slowly the first time, but I hopped back on. I was so ridiculously proud of the burns on my elbow. Which is lucky, because my elbow is the landing point of choice when I fall off. This has been often. Most people don’t fall off as often as I did.

After a couple of sessions I realized what good value the $10 sessions are! A loan bike, coaching and they are a serious aerobic workout! There is so much to learn. We all learn at our own pace. Kerryn and John know just the right amount of challenge to give everyone.

Kerryn and John (and Lee) are the best and most encouraging coaches! When John suggested I get cleats I was amazed! Cleat pedal things were fitted to the hybrid. I learned to use an alan key and a spanner and I fell off heaps more. Once at an intersection, a driver stopped and respectfully suggested I should give up on the cleats. Well. That just fired me up to persevere. I continue to be challenged to get my feet in quickly…but I don’t panic anymore J

The track sessions led to the road sessions with the Latte Laps and the indominatable Max Stevens. I didn’t sleep before my first road session either. So nervous about my inadequate skills, hybrid, and fitness…I envisaged bringing down the whole peleton, not being able to keep up, or making some major fashion faux pas (teenage daughter alerted me to the serious side of cycling style).

The sessions are fantastic. No one cares what you wear. Or what your helmet does to your hair.

I cannot believe how far I have come with the strong support of all the Skinny Lattes and Cycling SA Women’s Program. Who would have thought pretty much anyone could take up a new sport after the kids don’t need you to drive them to theirs any more?

Eight months after wobbling around my suburb I have a real road bike, a decent helmet, and a program to help me compete in the State Championship Time Trial and the Master’s Games later this year.

My goal is to finish. Anything better is a bonus.

Don’t wait any longer. Have a go. You won’t know what you can do, until you try! There is no pressure to compete. Mostly, I take pleasure from knowing I can continue to achieve personal bests, try new things and also that my body is the fittest it has been for a long time.

See you out there!

Meriel at the 2011 Australian Masters Games receiving her silver medal with former Masters World Champion Shirley Amy.

2012 update

In a very short time Meriel has charged ahead and now holds the State Best Times for the following WMAS 6 (55-59yrs) events on the track.  She also tackled the Masters National Track Championships in 2012 and was successful in bringing home bronze medals in the 500m time trial (TT), 2000m IP and the sprint.

State Best Times:

  • Flying 200m 15.132 sec
  • Flying 250m 19.180 sec
  • 500m Time Trial 46.740 sec
  • 2000m Individual Pursuit 3:02.150

 Click here for Meriel's next blog...going to Goulburn Nationals 2012