Hi, I’m Esther, I am the wrong side of 45, I live on the south-west coast of Scotland and I have 23 years as a Police Officer. I am writing this blog to share my experiences as a time-trial cyclist.
I think it’s important to share that I have no natural sporting talent and I have the body shape of a curvy lady. If I was a dog breed, I would be a rottweiler. I would describe my fellow competitors as greyhounds and whippets! And this year I finished third at the Emergency Services Time Trial Championships.
I came to competitive sports in 2004, when my now husband introduced me to triathlon – he taught me to swim and got me a bike. I had cycled as a teenager, spending the summer holidays out all day exploring the great outdoors, enjoying the freedom it provided, but as soon as I passed my driving test the bike was retired, and I cycled no more.
Being back on the bike as an adult was daunting but I worked through it, progressing from flat pedals onto toe clips, and then onto cleats – and yes there were several falls when I forgot to unclip!!!
The shift pattern for a police officer is primarily what is referred to as the triple two system – two early shifts, two lates and two night shifts, then four days off. Despite the disruption a shift pattern presents, you do find routine around the non-routine, you learn to understand how your body functions and what you can or cannot do. I know colleagues that will train after a late finish, hitting the gym at 1-2am, or would get up and train before a 7am start. This never works for me; I don’t like to train before 11am or after 7pm.
You also need to factor in your home environment and the discipline you are training for. I am fortunate, we decided not to have children, so we lead a selfish lifestyle, and I can generally train whenever I want. I have total admiration for those that manage to juggle it all. I hate late finishes and how much it affects your schedule. There can be weeks when you are consistently finishing late, and I find this leads to feeling more fatigued.
I have learned that sleep is far more important than training. In the past I have tried to push through fatigue and found that this usually leads to burn out or injury. Having said that, sometimes you just need to have an hour to stop your thoughts, to escape the day. In answer to the question ‘Can you balance sport and being a Police Officer?’ I would say yes, it can be no more problematic than any other occupation. For me, it is all about how you manage your time.
So why this sport, why ride a bike? I could have picked any discipline from triathlon to focus on, why choose cycling? I can’t say I miss running. As Liz Hatch said “Running would be much better if they invented a little seat to sit on and maybe some kind of platforms for your feet to push….Oh wait!”
I do miss the swimming but getting to a pool around shifts was problematic, and with cycling you can do it anytime, anywhere. So, since 2016 I have just ridden my bike, spending hours riding around the Machars, or on my indoor trainer.
I love that this sport has taken me all over the world and from two wheels you get see a different side to a place. Time-trial events are relatively cheap to enter, and I find it a no-frills adrenaline thrill. I love the friendship and camaraderie; I have met some of my closet and dearest friends through this sport. There are few sports where everyone is equal, where the start line consists of those from varied backgrounds – from the young to the old, those that have recovered from a heart transplant to the professional cyclist. It is all just about you, the stopwatch and the mercy of the weather. Not forgetting the council for the road surface!!!
To get started you don’t have to spend a fortune, although you do need a bike. I would never cycle without glasses. To compete in time-trial you also need a helmet. Join a cycle club, ride alone or with a friend, you just need to find what works for you. Set yourself small steps – 10 miles in a car is nothing, but on a bike can be a challenge when you are just getting started. My advice is to find out about local Breeze rides, which are designed to support women (back) into cycling, with many ‘easy paced’ rides on offer, and friendly and knowledgeable ride leaders, who will support you to build up your confidence and experience on the bike.
Want to discover the discipline of time-trialling for yourself? Find out more here.
If you would like to share your experience of cycling for our monthly Scottish Cycling BlogHer article, please email Melanie, our Women and Girls Development Manager on: [email protected]