So as I've alluded to a few times now, I've been busily at work ever since I realized that this whole Oxford situation was actually NOT a crazed fever-dream but in fact a real event that was indeed happening (exactly four weeks from today!) to try to find a way to stay active and fill the massive crater that stopping riding is going to leave. And yes, yes, I know: England is a horsey place, and I'm sure my two years abroad will still provide as many horsey opportunities as I care to cram in. I am still packing my riding helmet and boots, just in case :)
But on a day-to-day basis, I have to come to terms with the fact that, without a horse (or two) of my own to ride every day, the structure of my life is going to change fairly dramatically. I'm used to spending several hours a day, every day, at the barn, and did so all throughout college, even when my academic workload was insane (I was one of those people that would skip parties before I would skip a day at the barn every single time). Going to the barn was a way to mentally free myself from all my stresses and worries for a few hours, to blow off some physical steam, chat with my friends about non-school things, and get myself into a good headspace so that when it was time to leave I was ready to dive into my next research project or paper.
When I was in Oxford before, it was that daily routine and stress release that I missed most: I obviously missed pretty much everything about Ringo and Kiki, but just getting to spend a few hours in their calming presence every day was what I truly craved.
So, enter the quest for replacement activities.
Last time around, taking up running again and aiming for a marathon was the way I met the needs of my long-standing adrenaline/endorphin addiction. However, I don't think I'll be doing that again this time. I enjoyed the peace and quiet of a good run through Christ Church Meadow and the burn of a great long-distance workout, and the fact that it was something I could do any time, anywhere, with very little in the way of expensive equipment. But, I was plagued with injuries and found it often found it lonely and dull.
This time, I wanted something that was as adrenaline-inducing as riding, as endorphin-producing as long distance running, and was something that I could do in a social setting with my fellow Oxford students.
I bought a road bike. And named him Marcel.
Oxford has a cycling club, which appears to do weekly group rides and host social activities together in addition to more competitive things like racing in the British University League (which I'm not super interested in, especially since I'm still such a beginner that it takes me 2 solid minutes to get my feet clipped into my pedals, and I'm still at the point where I've yet to go faster on a bike than I have on a horse, which makes me think I might not be cut out as a racer).
I'm hoping it will be a way to meet some fellow students, see some beautiful English countryside, and get some much-needed extracurricular activity time. It's not riding--but what else is?--but I'm really enjoying myself so far. It's a start.
And why Marcel, you might ask? Well, my father got into cycling about a year ago and decided to name his bike after his favorite professional cyclist, Tejay van Garderen. I decided to follow the same route, so mine is somewhat ironically named after my favorite professional, Marcel Kittel, who is the fastest sprinter in professional cycling at the moment and most certainly would rather die than get caught riding my slow, solid, steel-frame bike. Oh well! He's pretty sick to watch so I'm going to take him as an inspiration, no matter how unrelated he may be to my actual cycling goals.
(We have the same gloves, too! Though mine are almost certainly the much much cheaper versions)
(He's also known for having a SICK Vanilla Ice/Dolph Lundgren/Iceman haircut. I approve.)