Paris during the Lockdown: Elisabeth’s Story

In this series, we’re sharing the Covid-19 experiences of friends and contributors from around the world. It seems that everybody in France (and beyond) knows Elisabeth as an incredible long-distance cyclist. I’ve ridden with her in the Concours de Machines, met her at Paris-Brest-Paris, and marveled at her adventures on Instagram (@elyasmina75). She lived through the lockdown in the center of Paris. Translated from French.
—Jan

Tell us about yourself and where you live.

I live in the center of Paris. I’m a high school teacher of French, Latin and Greek. My students range in age from 13 to 15 years.

You’ve lived through some of the most severe restrictions in the world. Tell us a bit about what that meant.

We were under a lockdown for 2 months, from March 16 until May 11. All schools were closed, and I had to work remotely, teaching my classes via Whatsapp! We weren’t allowed to leave our houses expect to do shopping that was absolutely necessary, to catch fresh air, and to do sports for one hours at less than one kilometer from home, before 10 a.m. or after 7 p.m. Each time we left our houses, we had to fill out a form, and sometimes, the forms were checked.

What did you do when you could go outside?

The weather was exceedingly beautiful during the lockdown, and running or cycling in the empty streets of Paris was quite pleasant. I didn’t exercise every day, but roughly every three days. The instructions were to stay home to avoid spreading the virus, so I’ve given up endorphins a bit during those two months… However, since there was a maximum of one hour for being outside, I worked on intensive efforts, whereas I’m usually an endurance cyclist.

Where did you ride during the lockdown?

I live at the foot of the Moulin Rouge. Climbing the hill of Montmartre six times takes one hour, with 430 m (1,410 ft) of elevation gain. The gradient varies, all the way to more than 10% on cobblestones. (My Loup Loup Pass tires came in handy!)

We hope your family and friends are all fine…

Yes, I’m lucky and nobody close to me has been severely affected.

What was the most difficult part during the lockdown?

I didn’t find it very difficult, since I was living under good conditions. At my partner’s house, there is a nice terrace, a barbecue and the Canal Saint Martin invites going for a run. At my place next door, there are always repairs and cleaning up that need doing, and then we have the hill of Montmartre for cycling. Paris was empty, quiet, full of birds…  It was a beautiful experience to see my city so peaceful! The most difficult was not being able to teach my students face-to-face. I won’t see them this year, as my school is still closed.

How did you keep your spirits up?

By nature, I don’t get bored, and I had a lot of work since I had to interact with every one of my students. It was also an opportunity to do what we usually put off for later: taking care of my place, cleaning out my stuff, organizing, putting away and fixing things…

How did you keep in shape and stay healthy?

I slept in every morning! Normally I have to be at work at 8:20. Since March 16, I’m still asleep at 8:20. I organized things with my students to make a timetable where we start a bit later. And since my partner and I love cooking, we ate very well. (I gained 3 kg!) A little sport outside, a little bit of riding on the home trainer – one hour from time to time, but it’s very boring and not at all what I love about cycling. Obviously, I lost some of the benefit of my winter training, but that’s not a big deal.

How did you deal with stress during this time?

I didn’t stress, simple enough!

What did you learn during the lockdown?

I learned that withdrawal from cycling isn’t too bad (cycling is a drug). I did other things. I found it easy to adapt to a temporary sedentary lifestyle.

When you could go outside again, where did you go on your first ride?

I went for lunch with my father in the countryside, 115 km (72 miles) from here. There and back in a day, it was the start of a new cycle of Dodécaudax (riding 200 km every month for 12 months). Starting again wasn’t difficult. It went well, and I had no sore muscles afterward. The weather was beautiful and despite a headwind and some traffic on the way back, it was great to ride and to see my family.

Now that you can ride again, what has changed? Can you ride as before, or do you have to change your routes, not ride with friends,…?

I can’t ride more than 100 km (62 miles) as the crow flies from my house, so it’s not possible to go see the ocean in Normandy or head out on vacation. The rules to keep within these security distances are very strict. We’re also not allowed to ride in large groups (no pelotons), but since I almost always ride alone, that doesn’t affect me too much. It’s a pity for my club, the Audax-Club Parisien, because our friends had planned rides every Saturday and Sunday, and I was planning a 200 km brevet in Mai, but that’s just postponed. We have to be patient and careful.

What plans do you have for the future?

It’s difficult to make predictions right now. If things normalize further, I’ll ride the Route du Diable (1424 km/885 miles) in July and Born to Ride (1200 km/750 miles) in August. I’ll certainly do one or two Diagonals (rides from one corner of France to another), one or two Super Randonnées this summer and some mountain biking in the foothills. I have two months of vacation and few constraints: ideal for heading into the beautiful landscapes of France with a bike, a credit card and a small bikepack!

5 Responses to Paris during the Lockdown: Elisabeth’s Story

  1. Art Wimble May 28, 2020 at 7:44 am #

    Jan,
    Can you tell me about the bike Elisabeth is riding? Builder, model, specs?

    • Jan Heine May 28, 2020 at 8:49 am #

      Elisabeth has many bikes! Check out her Instagram feed for more photos from her adventures.

  2. Garth May 28, 2020 at 7:57 am #

    Thank you for this post, it definitely provides a sense of positivity and solidarity during this time.

  3. Yan Fargeot May 30, 2020 at 10:53 am #

    From Tuesday here in France the 100km restriction is removed…..

    • Jan Heine May 30, 2020 at 11:35 am #

      Good for you! It’s nice to see things returning to normal, while still being careful.