Who goes out and joins a racing team without having ridden their bike consistently for ten years?? Um, I do. Which is why I couldn’t help but describe myself as a cyclist, complete with air quotes for a very long time. Sometimes a laugh would slip out when I said it because the idea of me, as a cyclist, seemed so preposterous.
All jokes aside, I was serious about becoming a cyclist. So I started to ride. I rode at every opportunity that presented itself in the fall of 2011. At first the rides were short, but they gradually became longer and faster as my fitness improved. I had a lot of ground to cover ~ literally and figuratively ~ if I wanted to become remotely competitive with the other women on my team and in the sport.
I quickly realized that I needed to formulate a game plan for my “inaugural” racing season of 2012. When the racing schedule came out, I picked the races I would do and began to “train” accordingly. My first race would be the Oredigger Classic Lookout Mountain Hill Climb in Golden, Colorado in March of 2012. To ride from my home to the top of Lookout Mountain and back is a round trip of about 35 miles with about 2500 feet of elevation gain, depending on the specific route ridden. To an experienced cyclist, this seems like a very easy ride, but to someone new to the sport, this would fall into the category of “long ride”, perhaps even “epic ride” given the right circumstances. Complicating my training was the fact that most of it would be happening outside between December and March – winter in Colorado.
My approach to training was to check the weather forecast at the beginning of each week. On the warmest day (or two, schedule permitting), I would plan to ride up Lookout Mountain. This also required driving to Golden because I was unable to ride the entire round trip from my house in Arvada. As the weeks passed, I began to park further and further away from Golden, gradually building up my ability to not only pedal up the hill faster, but endure the miles before and after the climb. Eventually, I simply left my car in the garage and pedaled to Lookout Mountain from my driveway.
Upon reflection, my approach to training for that first race was similar to the way that I had approached other challenges in my life. Break the problem or challenge into smaller, more manageable pieces. At the same time, try approaching the problem from different angles, similar to how I moved my car from place to place to build up endurance. Sometimes a fresh approach to a problem is all the perspective you need to see the solution.
On race day in March of 2012, I certainly didn’t come in first. I’m proud to say that I didn’t come in last either! At some point that year, I was able to refer to myself as a cyclist without the air quotes; but I still smile and laugh about it because riding the bike has brought me a profound amount of peace and joy.