Posted by: britgirl82 | October 12, 2010

August – Heat, cycling and grazes

View from the Mini-Mountain

Yep from that title you can imagine what this post is about….but it is somewhat doubtful whether you will be able to imagine the pain, hatred and sweat generated from this one event.

So, lets explain. It was a gorgeous August weekend and BritGirl was happy – it was sunny, she had a job and she was going back to the UK for 2 weeks in the near future. BritGirl and her boyfriend spent Saturday at the beach in Arcachon- the nearest and most beautiful beach that BritGirl had ever been to in France (perhaps this will change when BritGirl has explored more of ‘le hexagon’ but in the meantime, Arcachon still stands as the most amazing beach resort near Bordeaux).

A day at the beach had been BritGirl’s bargaining power…her boyfriend had arranged for them to go on a bike ride in the Aquitaine countryside, along the banks of the Garonne Canal on the Sunday. Now, if you are reading this and know BritGirl in anyway, it is likely that you will immediately question whether BritGirl had agreed to such a day trip or was happy about it? The answers….yes, BritGirl had GRUDGINGLY agreed to the day trip but no she was not happy about it.

In BritGirl’s mind a hot, Sunday was meant to be spent picnicking somewhere or lying on the beach or strolling along the river – not sweating buckets cycling! But nevertheless, BritGirl’s boyfriend made the plans and borrowed the bikes (yes to prove her point, BritGirl didn’t even have a bike to call her own and hadn’t had a bike of her own for a good ten years – BritGirl is planning to keep it that way too!)

Sunday morning at 9am, where was BritGirl? Yes, she was cycling along the river to the train station – not in the hope of escaping the city or the planned day trip, oh no!! To get to the cycle route we had to take the train…now, this is another embarassing pickle that BritGirl found herself in.. circa 10 people arriving at the train station all planning to get onto a train to join the Garonne Canal. Now, have you ever tried to get 10 people, plus bikes onto 1 train?! No, well, in all honesty, BritGirl can advise you not to try it! It was a nightmare – people throwing bikes through tiny doors and then trying to arrange all the bikes into the train and get themselves onto the train in time….bruises all across BritGirls legs already and it was only 10am…this was not her idea of fun on a Sunday at all!!

So… eventually BritGirl and all other cyclists (point to note here, BritGirl DOES NOT wish to call herself a cyclist!) arrived in La Reole – another bruise was received by BritGirl as she fell out of the train – again, have you ever thought about getting 10 people and their bikes off a train in a very small village station?!

So, La Reole looked beautiful – the river and  canal in the sunshine were pretty. Terms and conditions for this bike ride had been made in advance -BritGirl had been assured that it would be flat cycling, no hills. So what was the first thing the group ended up doing but climb three HUUUGGGEE hills in La Reole to find a church!! Warranted the views across the countryside were beautiful but even at 11am, the temperature was 30c and BritGirl’s bike was not really her size so her arms and legs hurt already….this was not going to be a fun day!

It was at this point, that BritGirl not only ruined her day but also made herself look like a prize idiot – bien sur. Already a little grumpy at the up-hill cycling (if this was the first hour, what would the rest of the day hold in terms of hills??) and the heat, BritGirl’s mood worsened as she took a tight turn on gravel too quickly and fell off her bike, sliding along the floor – yep, along the gravel in an instant!

What a prat! BritGirl was in tears, blood was streaming down her legs and arms! Thanks to the quick thinking of one fellow cyclist, the blood flow was stemmed – by a sanitary towel! Yes, not only had BritGirl fallen off her bike like a child cycling for the first time without her stabilisers and then proceeded to cry about it, she was then found sitting outside a church on the gravel with a sanitary towel stuck to her leg!!!

With the blood cleaned up, BritGirl got back on the bike. She was shaken but not stirred – she couldnt embarass herself further by going home without even leaving the first village – although it has to be said, the concept of cycling any further was nearly enough to turn her around. So, shaking and proudly taking up the rear of the group BritGirl carried on – teary and very red faced!

About an hour later, the group stopped for lunch…..at this point BritGirl was regretting her decision to continue and not go home with her tail between her grazed legs!! Her arm and shoulder were aching from the fall, her hip and leg felt bruised and the grazes were stinging with the heat and sweat – what a sorry tale for a Sunday lunchtime! Lunch was enjoyed (?) along the canal with some of the girls jumping in a pool for a swim – not BritGirl she was feeling too tender and a little self conscious.

By this point, the temperature must have hit 35c in the sun…..the cycling continued – with no let up in pace – many of the cyclists were regular bike riders hitting the 20-40k mark regularly, however, most people were not so struggled to keep pace. BritGirl was one of these – the chain on her bike kept pinging off at inopportune moments, her hands were greasy and sweaty, her leg and shoulder was throbbing from the fall, the sweat was dripping into her eyes and her bum was sore – who on earth invented bike seats and the sport of cycling!?!?!

Then, what should BritGirl encounter?! She would like to say an ice cream van or a helicopter to whisk her home or a car! But no it was another hill – and this time, it could perhaps pass for a mini-mountain and guess what, yes the plan was the group were to cycle to the top of this hill for the view!! BritGirl nearly lost it! And in honesty, did lose it with her boyfriend, the rant was something like this, “I said NO hills, I dont give a **** about the view I can see from here, I want to go home but we are stuck in the middle of bleeding nowhere, we don’t even know where the hell we are…” If you will, imagine a child stamping their feet in a paddy and BritGirl probably looked a little like this!!

BritGirl did reach the top of the hill without smile or joy – the view – yes, it was lovely, see picture above. In this temperature, with the blood and grit on her legs and sweat rolling down her neck it was not pretty enough and it certainly was NOT the casual cycle BritGirl had wanted if she was ever going to go on a bike ride on a hot Sunday lunchtime.

So, the bike ride continued…it had to! We had nowhere to go but along the canal until we found some form of civilisation and a train station back to Bordeaux. And although the canal at first was pretty, after kilometres of the same view – with little movement on the canal and the same trees standing over it, even that became wearing. BritGirl was just not happy -she hurt, she was uncomfortable, she was so hot she didnt know what to do -so she did all she could, head down and pedalled through the pain!

At one point the group split in two – one group cycled a further 5km to see a small village away from the canal, but BritGirl made a stand at this point. Unless the village was en route to the station she was not going….BritGirl, her boyfriend and another struggling cyclist (with cycle helmet) continued along the river to a stopping point….which was miles and miles and miles and miles away.

At this point BritGirl collapsed on the ground and was close to tears – a mixture of the heat, tiredness, aching muscles and very sore grazes and bruises. Here BritGirl took her shorts off and realised the size of her bruise – her whole thigh was black -nothing needed to be said – it was clear how unhappy BritGirl was!

But at this point, the group reconvened and finally the end was neigh-  it was another 5km to Marmande – the town with a train station. Now, BritGirl had imagined that the whole bike ride would be 5km, let alone the last stretch, but nothing was stopping her – she took to the road and made sure she wasnt lagging at the back – the end was in sight and BritGirl was going to try and finish it with her head held high (if possible). 5km along a road, with the heat still pounding on her back, BritGirl finally got to the finish line! It was 18.00….she was tired, hungry, sweaty and fed up, but she had reached Marmande!

A stop at the church (this is France, every town, you have to see the church) and then a beer at the train station – by that point BritGirl could hardly walk, let alone sit comfortably…but for a beer she could manage, it was the least she deserved!!! So, again, the process of piling 10 people and their bikes onto a train took place but BritGirl cared little about any more bruises or grease she got on her -she felt disgusting! No other word for it!!

Ahh St Jean Gare a Bordeaux – BritGirl never thought she would be so pleased to see the train station…but hang on, BritGirl had to cycle home from here-  another 2km!!! BritGirl had left her flat at 09.00 that Sunday morning with a few doubts, but she returned at 20.00 tired, aching, sore and teary!!!

The shower showed the full extent of BritGirl’s bruises and bumps… she felt so stupid at having fallen off her bike within the first hour, but also proud, it turned out BritGirl had cycled between 30-40km that day, in 35c temperatures. That was more exercise than she had EVER done! And in fact, her legs were not sore, her muscles were not screaming at her – the only pain was from her fall (again, how embarassing!).

For a week afterwards, BritGirl struggled to wear trousers (which were needed when she got to the UK!), her bruise and bump on her thigh was troublesome; it got blacker, then purple and then a lovely shade of red as the days past. The scratches left scars amongst her darkening tan….the heat, cycling and grazes will forever be a memory of BritGirl’s summer Sunday en France!!!

Pre Fall BritGirl

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