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Cycling Out of Your Comfort Zone

By Sheila Ascroft

Photo: Tim O'Lett

Do you ever go out of your comfort zone? I did this summer. Deliberately. I extended my Friday rides to a time and distance I’d not done alone before.

One day I set out to cycle 110 km – the only caveat was that I had end up in South Mountain by 2 p.m. to hitch a ride back to Ottawa with a friend. Fortunately, I had a tailwind riding south for the first 50 km to Kemptville, so I had energy to spare even after two hours in the saddle. I knew this route and felt comfortable. However, Kemptville was too close to South Mountain for me to simply head east and still put in the other 60 km. I had to improvise.

I had no map, no GPS, but I had Googled the area before I left home. I figured I’d simply continue south on Rte. 44 to Spencerville next. I’d never been on this road before. How come new-to-me back roads seem to take forever? It was full complex twists and turns, lousy chip seal paving, and had a bunch of increasing long rolling hills. Still, it did have a wooden hippo and giraffe! Seriously. I passed a small art gallery with life-size hand-carved wooden animals on the front lawn. The giraffe had its head in the trees like it was eating. Cool.

I rolled into the village of Spencerville in the heat of high noon and after three hills beyond my comfort zone. It’s a pretty little historic village. Found a small store with cold water and yummy ice cream. Eighty km done, water bottles refilled, I felt refreshed and ready to head east. I hoped to find a familiar road that would take me north to South Mountain.  Familiar roads, unlike new ones, always seem shorter and easier because their curves, hills and vistas are known. I wanted familiar soon as I was tiring in the heat.

It seemed like every hill was up not down, the headwinds were building, and I only had a vague sense of where I was. I rode on in faith. I wasn’t pedalling as fast and worried that I’d run out of time. It wasn’t until 96 km that I found the South Nation River road that I knew I was exactly 14 km from my destination. How bang on was that!

Now that I was heading for the proverbial barn, I felt good. I’d stepped out of my comfort zone and coped okay. I’d cycled a good distance relying on a vague mental map and my body’s ability to endure new stress.  Now I now know I can go further.

Sheila AscroftI’ve been cycling for 20-some years and writing about it for the last 10. My articles have been published in newspapers and magazines — and now on the women’s cycling website! I’m a member of the Ottawa Bicycle Club and the Canadian Kilometer Achiever Program.

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