Can't ride, won't ride.
I think the last time I rode a bike, honestly, was probably age 9. I had a boys black BMX that was indestructible and I would fly up and down the hill beside my Dad's house with no fear at all.
Then he left the country and that was the last time I saw him – and the last time I ever rode a bike.
They say you never forget. I’d like to offer definitive and conclusive evidence to the contrary!
Most people give me a funny look when I tell them I used to be a jockey. Definitive and conclusive evidence below in case you still need convincing.
It was my dream career and whilst I didn’t win the Grand National (but am super delighted that Rachael Blackmore has!) I was, for a short time, a professional sportswoman.
Roll on 20 years and the ability to spend the same on a bottle of wine as I did once on my weekly food shop, has piled on not just pounds, but stones.
I was heading for a car crash. Without burning thousands of calories every single day, riding up to 5 racehorses a morning and all the hard physical graft looking after them entailed, I couldn’t maintain my weight nor my figure.
Buying a house, a long term relationship and everything that comes with being ‘comfortable’ led to the point where I would avoid certain caving trips I once loved and dreaded black tie events as I no longer owned any nice clothes that fitted me.
I spiralled into further self-destruction – the more I hated myself the more I harmed myself by eating and drinking.
I continued to run, sometimes doing 5ks every other week. I continued to cave, sometimes carrying my KISS rebreather through boulder hopping caves. My back hurt, my knees hurt, my stiff necks and migraines became the norm.
But I was getting away with it all on experience and I knew soon, it would catch up with me.
The diving support vessel Boka Atlantis is my second home these days. The gym is not the best and most of the gym bunnies on board struggle with it.
I’ve used the treadmill and done circuits but exercising on a moving boat is always awkward. The food is amazing so the excuses just kept on coming.
I did eat carefully on one trip and managed to lose a stone. But I was still dangerously overweight and as soon as I got home, it went straight back on.
In the early spring I was contacted by a tv company to be filmed exploring a cave abroad. I wasn’t overly keen as it looked a bit gimmicky, but after some research I decided I could probably move some things around and make it work. It seemed the only thing I needed to do was get an HSE diving medical.
Panic set in. My BMI was ridiculous. Even as a jockey it hovered around 27 owing to the muscle I was carrying. You need to be strong to ride racehorses and I had never been a waif.
I was talking to one of our saturation divers one day and, feeling beaten, moaned that I had to choose which leg to cut off in order to pass my HSE medical as there was no way I could meet the BMI standard in just under 7 weeks.
He said; “I’ll help you”.
I had already decided I was beyond help. I had given up and everyone had also given up on me. Besides nobody was brave enough – nor stupid enough – to tell me I needed to sort myself out.
“You need to trust me”.
I figured anyone brainless enough to tell me to look in the mirror and tell myself that ‘that’ was no longer acceptable was on some sort of suicide mission anyway and I let him talk me into the most ridiculous eating and exercise regime ever. I more than halved my calorie intake and hit the watt bike every damn day.
I lost 7 lbs in the first week.
I kept going and the weight just kept falling off. I was getting stronger, I had a spring in my step and a smile on my face and everyone on board were confused and perplexed.
What was happening to the medic? And where had the rest of her gone?
I had bought a cheap, crappy second hand mountain bike to get me going at home. I spent the grey, mizzly winter lockdown days re-learning to ride it.
I couldn’t get up the short hill at the back of our village without stopping at least three times. Then it was two.
I came back from my six week trip on Atlantis and bossed my HSE medical – right at the point the tv company pulled the plug, blaming covid, quarantine, you name it…
But I didn’t care. I’d done it. But I still had a long way to go and still do.
I went straight up the hill at the back of our village without stopping and just couldn’t believe it!
Buying bikes, even new ones, is fraught after the lockdown boom. Added to the fact that factories were struggling anyway, never mind with the increased demand and I was having difficulty getting anything suitable in my size.
£2000 later and one Orro gravel bike had joined the family. It was lightweight, small and twitchy but I fell in love with it and even braved Burrington Combe – twice!
It’s funny how you only know what you know. I can ride a racehorse but could barely ride a bike. I can build and service a rebreather but couldn’t change a bike tyre.
I had been riding on my own pretty much to save myself from inevitable humiliation. I still make a hash of junctions and I cannot do roundabouts. Traffic scares me and quarry lorries are just assholes. Despite all that, I lost another stone.
So, it is with this lack of knowledge and no benefit of experience at all, that I did something really stupid.
I entered the Great Weston ride on 18th July. 57 miles.
The furthest I have cycled is 30 miles and I ached for days afterwards.
I’m going to raise money for the official charity of the event, Prostate Cancer UK and use my skills as a trustee for another UK charity to raise some funds.
Those of you who know me know that I am a determined little madam – but this is a big stretch for me. I’ve only been riding a bike for 6 months and have no clue what I am doing.
So, if you would like to support an excellent charity and put me through 57 miles of hell at the same time, please consider donating what you can. Thank you.
Caveat: If I get stuck offshore and miss this official event, I will do the same ride another day with a friend once I am home.
Christine Grosart is a Paramedic, working offshore mainly on diving vessels.
She started beach cleans around 2011 and has gone on to be a trustee, secretary, instructor and underwater photographer for the charity Ghost Fishing UK.
She wrote the first training course for scuba divers to remove lost ghost nets, in the world.
In 2009 she visited the far reaches of Wookey Hole cave and still holds the British female cave diving depth record.
In 2020 she became a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society for her work with Ghost Fishing UK as well as her cave diving exploration. In the same year she was included in the BBC Radio 4 Women's Hour Power List.