Cait Rawson is your typical Canberra mum, juggling full-time work with looking after a family and managing a household. But these days she’s finding a little time each week for herself after discovering – and falling in love with – cycling.
“I’ve always known how to ride a bike but it was all about horses for me as a kid. Once we had the girls (now 5 and 7) I wanted to get a horse, to ride every week, but it really wasn’t a practical option. I was in a real rut. I was stressed at work and at home and trying to work out what I could do to get healthy and when.”
Cait’s husband Mick had started commuting by bicycle from their home in Ngunnawal to work in Fyshwick.
“I just didn’t get it. Why would you ride all that way? I’d occasionally ride to my work at ANU but it was such a chore, especially on the way back. Plus most days I had kids to drop off and pick up. Mick started mountain biking on the weekends as well. It was great for him but my life remained fairly sedentary.”
Soon Mick was taking their two daughters for short rides on trails or out with other family groups who also rode. Cait realised that, as the girls grew, her family were likely to cycle further and for longer and she would still be at home.
“I just hated the thought of missing out, of not being there with them as they explored new places and learnt new things. At the same time, a friend of mine had been nagging me to go on a regular Sunday morning trail ride with her and another friend. I decided to take the plunge even though I was really anxious about riding on dirt.”
Despite riding what Cait now describes as “a bit of a rattler” she started to feel more confident on the bike after a few outings with friends and family so, when her riding companions suggested a longer ride along the northern section of the Centenary Trail, Cait reluctantly agreed to go along.
“That really was the turning point for me. I was already tired when we got to One Tree Hill near Hall but I had no choice but to carry on. I was utterly exhausted, emotional and all but broken. This off-road cycling thing was clearly not for me, I decided. I was thinking the whole way down the hill ‘I just have to survive this’.”
She did survive. She was completely spent and it took a day or two to recover.
“But I felt great! I had been to rock bottom physically and still kept going. In one horrible, hard ride I had conquered the bike, the hill and my own fears. I fell in love with cycling.”
Cait and her family now live in Hackett and she commutes to work at ANU at least once or twice a week. As a result she is less stressed, sleeps better and is generally healthier. In turn that’s given her the motivation to also do a weekly pilates class. She has a new mountain bike and on weekends she also rides regularly with Mick and the girls.
“That is by far the best outcome. Bike riding as a family is one of my very favourite things to do. I love going on adventures and learning to ride alongside my children. It’s so much better than staying home and cleaning the house while everyone else goes out and has fun.”
Cait recently achieved one of two goals she set herself soon after that fateful day on the Centenary Trail: she rode up Mt Ainslie. Her next challenge is, not surprisingly, a return to her nemesis, One Tree Hill.
“I’m going back to ride the same trail section again but this time I’ll be fitter and stronger, physically and mentally. It will be a real measure of my progress and I can’t wait!”
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