Several years ago, after my first son was born, my husband and I decided to start bike riding. Neither one of us had ridden a bicycle in years and at best, were casual riders when we were in our teens. But we knew that we wanted to bike with our kids as they got older, and enjoy family time together out for a ride. So I dug out an old CCM, my husband got a shiny new Supercycle, and we were off.
Slowly, as it turns out, because old, rusty, CCM bikes are a lot of work.
That, however, is a story for another day. Fast forward about six years, and I’m sitting in a very different place.
At the starting line for my local mountain bike race.
How did I get there? I’m not entirely sure myself. If you had told me six years ago that one day I would sign up to participate in a bike race, of all things, I’d probably have laughed. Actually, six weeks before the race, I still wouldn’t have believed you.
Somewhere over the course of six years I’ve managed to go from a new mom who had to push her bike up the smallest hill and who struggled to keep up to well, everyone, to someone who is not afraid of a narrow trail and is willing to tackle any new obstacle. It didn’t happen overnight and it’s something that’s still a work in progress.
But I LOVE it.
I love that I’ve found something that I can do for me. Something that keeps my body active and challenges my brain. I love that I’m no longer afraid of riding over that log, and that I can now (mostly) make it up that hill. I love the sense of accomplishment that I get when I complete a new challenge or ride a new trail. I love that after I go riding, I can sail through the rest of my day with ease.
I’ve come a long way in the last several years. That old, steel frame CCM is long gone, having been replaced several times over now. I’m less tentative, more determined and more comfortable. Faster, definitely. But it’s been a slow process. I’ve done everything on my terms and always kept to the idea that this is just for fun, and if it’s not going to be fun, I’m not going do it.
When I started my 101 Adventures in 1001 Days at the end of 2017, I had several biking goals. I figured that in 3.5 years I should be able to attain most of them. I didn’t figure that I would accomplish half of them in the first year. Riding in the Dairy Capital Stampede, our local MTB race, was something that was on the list. There was some faint hope that I might be able to try it a few years from now. But this past summer, instead of joining my husband once in a while for a casual ride, I was all suddenly making the effort to get out several times a week. I would sometimes go with a group, but often on my own. I’d become confident enough of my abilities to realize that I could do a little bit more, and still enjoy it.
The comments from my husband started innocently enough. “Oh, I think we might need one more person for our team”, “You could do it you know”, “You could be our fourth”. The idea appealed to me, but it was also terrifying. Me, out there next to all these fast guys that would be passing me and most likely leaving me in the dust?
I’m faster than I used to be, but I’m not fast. I’m confident on the trail, but it’s common knowledge that my asthma ridden lungs suck. There would be riders out there seeing how many laps they could complete in six hours – I’d be lucky if I could complete one 12km loop. I was comfortable on my bike, but more comfortable moseying along at my own pace than pushing myself to the limit.
I refused to commit, but I still did the work. I learned the trail so I knew every root, rock and corner. The humidity in the weeks leading up to the race was ridiculous, but I pushed my self to the point that my lungs could handle a 10-13km trail ride with only a few stops. I planned out exactly where it would benefit me to stop and take a break, rather than push through while gasping for air. My legs got stronger. I was paranoid about being passed by other riders on the narrow trail, so I had my husband and brother in law practice coming up behind me while I rode. I swore that if it was 40 degrees out I wouldn’t be riding. I wouldn’t be riding in the rain either.
The race started to become more real and I slowly started to accept that maybe I could do this.
The day of the race was freezing and windy, but the rain held off. I was part of a four man team that included my husband, brother in law and their uncle. My goal was just to get out there and prove to myself that I could complete a lap. Just one. I was terrified and nervous as I watched these semi professional riders, riders with club jerseys and crazy expensive bikes. It was crazy intimidating.
I might have been ready to bail. But in the end, when it was go time, my nerves settled by the time I got to the top of the first hill. I knew the trail, I was going to take my time, and I wasn’t going to worry about anyone else. I was passed – again and again – but everyone was super polite and friendly and that probably made all the difference for me. In fact, everyone I talked to that day was friendly and encouraging and the whole atmosphere was awesome.
And I did it. I completed my lap in 52 minutes and 53 seconds. Fast? No. But I did it. And hands down, it was one of the best feelings ever.
Will I do it again? Yup. It was fun and exciting and thrilling. I proved to myself that I could meet the challenge. I proved that I could step outside of my comfort zone to try something new – something that’s not always easy to do once your in you’re thirties. It’s not very often I can walk away from something feeling proud of myself, but I managed to nail it that day.
This post is on a more personal level than the ones I usually share here, but I thought it was important to share the unexpected journey I ended up on when I climbed back on a bike six years ago. I’ve always had the perspective that when it comes to sports, etc, if you didn’t start young, it was too late, but I’ve proved myself wrong, and I think it’s important to share that message with all of you. It’s not too late to put yourself out there and try something new. It’s been a fun and crazy ride for me, and one I hope won’t be ending any time soon.
Thanks to the Woodstock Cycling Club for putting on a fantastic Dairy Capital Stampede this year.
Thanks so much for stopping by! I often post about my 101 challenge and my outdoor adventure with the kids with the hashtags #101in1001 #101adventures or #asimplesomething. You can join me on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest. Or, you can follow me on Bloglovin or subscribe via e-mail to be alerted to each new post!