Profile Series: The Queen of the Come-Back - Keri Bramford-Hale
As part of our profile series we are kicking off with our wonderful FLAB community member Keri Bramford-Hale. She’s 43-years-old, a scientist and a mum of three mad little cyclists.
Keri was never classed as ‘sporty’ growing up, so her passion for cycling came as a real surprise to her as much as it did to those that knew her. Her love of cycling began after the birth of her 3rd child. At the time Keri was trying to get back into running, but like many, encountered repeated injuries and was finally told that running was no good for her body. At the same time, her husband, an avid cyclist, surprised her with a second-hand bike. A lovely gesture but felt a little like she was being pushed into what she saw as ‘his’ sport so she stubbornly left the bike stashed in the shed for a year.
She found that the lack of running hit her hard and this, paired with her desperate hunt for a job, caused her mental health to spiral downwards. “Those days were well and truly bleak”. Keri expresses how she narrowly avoided being sectioned at this time and that those days were the hardest. Battling with her health, she needed time to recover so spent a few months at home whilst being supported by her amazing GP and family.
Eventually, she mustered the courage (good on you lass) and dusted off the bike in the shed. She decided to join a British Cycling Beginners Breeze Ride, of just 10 miles. “I had never ridden a road bike, or changed gear, or ridden in a group. I rode in my running kit and loved every minute of it. I was well and truly hooked!”. It was during one of these early rides that Keri was offered the opportunity to do some voluntary work. This then transformed into a paid position, something that she had been praying to find in those dark days.
Keri maintains that her biggest challenge by far has been learning to shut the negative thoughts off. In the early days of cycling, the little voice in her head constantly told her she was useless, fat and unable to keep up. “I covered miles with this awful negativity hounding me, until I learned to turn around and challenge it back”. The stronger she became the more she started pushing the boundaries a little by trying all types of cycling, from track to mountain biking, to prove to herself what she really was capable of. As she learnt, “we all are capable if we allow ourselves to be.”
10 months after that inaugural ride, she completed a 75-mile sportive and treated herself to a new bike!
Some challenges Keri has faced since have been taking part in her first race ever - a 10-mile time trial in which she was the only female and only novice entry. She embarked on a gruelling ride coast to coast across the UK only a year into her cycling career and during this past winter, she took part in an indoor ‘Tour’ with Sufferfest, a 9-day ride to raise money for Parkinson’s research. Finally, her come-back crowned by riding 100 miles through the night just last year!
Not long after her 10-mile breeze ride, she ordered some winter cycling jackets, a whole range to see for size and fit, and was disappointed to find that all of them were too short in the body/too long in the arms/poor fit. She expresses that “when that offering is there for someone who is struggling already, it’s like a kick in the teeth”. After some more searching, Keri came across FLAB and decided to order a jersey and has never looked back.
“To me, the FLAB slogan stands for the times I’ve been shouted verbal abuse at for being too ‘big’ to exercise – I might be at the back but at least I am there! You CAN have a ‘normal’ body and ride a bike in lovely kit!”
What's your favourite piece of advice you've ever received/your personal mantra?
You know, I learn something on most rides. The best bit of advice came from the FLAB community about shifting your body weight backwards on the saddle for a climb – it’s transformed my rides. My personal mantra is to just keep pedalling, even if it’s slower than a snail on peanut butter, just keep going. Oh, and sometimes, forget your stats, your Garmin. Ride for just being in the moment.
What's your favourite thing to do after a gruelling ride?
Eat scrambled eggs on toast followed by a wedge of cake! Although I am currently training, so yoga has become a post-ride ‘thing’ too.
Special thanks to Keri for being so fab and allowing us to hear her story which I’m sure many of us can relate to.