Following a family health scare a few years ago Kaye and I decided that rather than work until we drop we would enjoy the present benefits of good health and do all the traveling and activities that an early retirement can offer while we are still able-bodied.
Over the past couple of years we had backed off on the work scene and finally decided that 2014 would be our first year of uninterrupted retirement. Not known for being able to sit still for more than ten minutes at a time I was a bit daunted at the prospect and thought I should have some sort of project to occupy my time. When you leave full-time education there is a raft of options to prepare you for a lifetimes working but I have not noticed an apprenticeship or university degree for retirement.
The two fixed items in the 2014 calendar were a seven week sailing trip that would fulfil one item on our boating list, that being an ocean yacht crossing and this would be with our good friends Pat and Stuart on their boat crossing the Pacific from the Galapagos to French Polynesia. The other item was the birth of our first grandchild scheduled for May. With these two items in place any extended cycling or sailing was out of the question so my thoughts turned to what I could do for a project near to home.
Having enjoyed cycling for the last couple of years I thought a challenge with the bike would be the answer and settled on an attempt to cycle 1,000 miles a month for the year, not a lot for dedicated randonneur but very testing for my first year of retirement. Given that I would be sailing for seven weeks and with four weeks of holiday to consider I modified my challenge to complete 10,000 miles in 2014.
The first thing to confess is that I kept this challenge a closely guarded secret for fear of failure and spent the year with the neighbours thinking I was not the full ticket, off out on the bike in lycra in all weathers on a near daily basis.
The year did not start well with floods, rain, ice and gales in January and only three-quarters of my intended mileage complete. February was much the same for the two weeks before we set off on our sailing adventure.
Returning in April to good weather was a bonus but seven weeks away had put a dent in the fitness and it took the rest of the month to rebuild and had me questioning whether I wanted to continue but as fitness returned so did the enthusiasm to try to complete the challenge.
May was a good month with the birth of Oliver and with Kaye on standby for grandparent duties I was able to get out on the bike but still be close enough to home if needed. June, July and August saw good weather and mileage but I was still behind schedule and doubting I would meet the target but determined to persevere and see how close I could get. In September we had a holiday arranged that was designed to help the mileage. We would drive down to Portugal for a family holiday and taking the bikes we would cycle part way with Kaye following me in the car on selected longer sections. The plan was sound but I did not take account of days off for the distractions of sightseeing, sunbathing and all the other items that come under the heading of holiday.
Returning home in mid October did not make good reading on the mileage target and it would take for me record mileage in November and December to meet the challenge.
One concern for cycling in November and December is the weather but somebody was looking kindly upon me and by cycling nearly every day in December I finally completed my target on the 28th with three days to spare. The other benefit of the December mileage was a confirmation that I could cycle multiple days which is always a worry if you are planning a first longer tour.
It may not have broken any records but it has supplied other benefits of fitness, weight loss and enjoyment. Completing set challenges does wonders for self-esteem and discipline and this has now got me thinking what I can do in 2015, I won’t be looking at any 12 month mileage commitments but perhaps some of the iconic rides that cyclists undertake with quality over quantity.