You Just Keep Pushing

It’s no secret that I’ve just embarked on my cycling journey and the main ride for this journey has been a 13-year-old Cannondale that I like to call Ruby.  When I bought Ruby all those years ago, she came with Shimano Ultegra components.  At one point, those shifters worked like a dream.  Although now it has been so long ago that I can’t remember how that felt, or when it stopped feeling that way.  What I know now is that it takes a ridiculous amount of muscle tension and effort to shift one gear on either the big ring or the rear cassette. Post ride, I was frequently left with achy fingers for a souvenir.  However, at some point my fingers must have adapted and gotten stronger because I continued to ride and muscle through the gears, but the finger pain subsided.  Eventually, I came to accept that this is the way shifting was – effortful.

Then one day as I was out for a group ride through a clinic called “Ride with a Legend”, Alison Dunlap settled in beside me.  As we chatted and pedaled along over the rolling terrain in Golden, Colorado, I became aware of how effortless shifting was for her.  She extended her open hand down toward the shifters and sort of wiggled her fingers in mid air, as if she was tapping her fingers absent-mindedly on a counter top while thoroughly pondering whether or not she did, in fact, wish to change gears.  Then, with one finger ~ quite possibly a ring finger~ she quickly and lightly tapped the shifter. With one soft but distinct click, the process of changing gears was complete!  In that moment, I was certain of two things:  she very likely had never experienced achy fingers from shifting during a ride and that I, too, would one day shift gears effortlessly!

When it came time for me to research bikes and all of their options, I heard from many of my teammates who were vocal about not buying this or that component group because “they’re used to what they have”.  I decided to be open to whatever components came with the model of bike that I wanted.  I figured I’m a human, I can adapt….it’s what we do.  My only requirement was that I would be able to shift effortlessly.

The new Cannondale I got earlier this winter (see my blog post “the gift of a new bike”) has the SRAM RED component group.  It’s completely different from my old shifters.  The other day my husband stopped to admire my bike as it was leaned against the wall in our entryway.  “How do the shifters work?” he asked.  I replied, “You just keep pushing.  You have to push through shifting up to shift down.”

Isn’t that true about so many things in our lives?  You just keep pushing.  For my cycling journey, it has meant that I just keep shifting and pedaling regardless of how effortful or effortless each ride is.  Because I know that every time I’m out there pushing myself through a ride, I finish the day as a stronger, faster, and perhaps most importantly, happier cyclist, wife, mother, human being.

pushing

Becoming a “Cyclist”

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.

lookout

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.

lookout3 lookout2