There are certain experiences in life where the phrase ‘once is enough’ is more than apt. You know, like having your wisdom teeth pulled. Or high school. The marathon-length bike race I participated in on Saturday? That’s another.
Don’t get me wrong—I loved the experience. I’m so proud of myself for doing it (alone), and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. But after I finished, the first thing I said to my friend was, “I never thought I’d say this, but I’d rather run than bike.” So, there’s that 🙂
The day started at 4:15am. Woof. I fumbled sleepily into my gear—including the size XL spandex, tapered-waist legit cycling jersey. Which, I mean, fitting into that was accomplishment enough for me!
After struggling in the pitch black dark for a good 20 minutes trying to secure my bike to the rack on my car, I stopped at Starbucks (naturally), then proceeded to a nearby gas station to top off the air in my front tire, which had seemed a little low the night before.
The second I tried to fill the tire, the entire thing went flat. There I was, mere hours away from a more-than-daunting bike ride, alone, in the dark, with a flat bike tire. The option to forget the race and go back to bed was extremely appealing.
Instead, I sucked it up and headed out to Minnetonka, where the race was happening. Thankfully, the Universe was on my side, and the rather handsome gentleman who parked next to me offered me his bike pump. Tire filled with air, I solved crisis
#1.I met up with some of my co-workers before the race (which was a fundraiser for our organization), and then headed to my corral. The nerves were working overtime.
And then, just like that, me and 3,000 other riders were off! The first five miles wove around Lake Minnetonka—a gorgeous spot. At the mile 5 rest stop, I stopped to grab a drink of water and kept right on pedaling. This wasn’t so bad!
And then the hills started. Followed by my mental and out loud swearing.
Those hills didn’t stop, either, my friends. They were literally non-stop for the next 11 freaking miles. Up and up we climbed, with very little downhill relief. Plain and simple, it sucked. I made it up most of them, though, only partially walking up four total. Yes, I counted. Thank you, spin class!
Right at the base of one of those giant mothers, right around mile 8, my handlebars decided it was a good time to go ahead and give up. Normally, when holding your handlebars, you fingernails are parallel to the ground, right? Well, because of the way the handlebars shifted, mine were literally pointed towards the sky. The pressure on my palms was ridiculous—in fact, my palms are the only part of me that really aches now, two days later.
After much frustration, and a few futile attempts by me to fix the problem with my limited tool kit and even more limited bike knowledge, I finally made it to the mile 16 rest stop. I had the option to quit here. But no. Forget that. I grabbed an apple and filled my water bottle, listened to the polka band playing the Beer Barrel Polka, then pulled up to the service station they had set-up. I tell you, this was the most organized race, filled with the most helpful, kind people. Not two minutes later, my handlebars were fixed, I felt the sugar from my snack kick-in, and I set out to conquer the last ten miles.
Thankfully, the majority of those last few miles were on a beautiful dirt trail. I was singing to myself (yes, aloud), doing a little dance, and then I suddenly felt myself just completely overcome. And I was crying. Typical. But I was suddenly just so proud of myself. I was completely alone, attempting this crazy ride with no prior experience, no idea where I was going, still weighing over 300 lbs, still struggling with all the baggage of all that. But there I was. Still pedaling.
The tears were replaced by pure exhaustion and anger, though, as I reached the final two miles and saw the crazy bastard of an ascent that was in front of me: three giant hills up to the finish line. I now understand what athletes mean when they say they hit a wall. I stopped to catch my breath and collect myself, wondering how in the world I was going to finish this. My legs felt like they couldn’t go another foot, let alone two miles uphill.
When moments like that happen, you have to shut off your mind and just go. Just do it.
Those last miles were the worst. But I literally and consciously turned off all my negative internal chatter and just focused on getting my body through it. Up the hills, across the finish line.
Three hours, 2,600 calories, and 26 miles later…I was done. I finished!
In situations like this, I’m always looking for the lessons. What did this experience teach me about myself and the world around me? Here are my takeaways from this race:
1. First and foremost, I don’t push myself hard enough. 26 miles on a bike with little conditioning? I can accomplish so much if I just go out and do it.
2. People are, in their heart of hearts, truly kind and good. Everyone involved with this race—before, during, and after—was so helpful, so encouraging, so supportive. I was continually blown away by this. I returned the sentiment, as well, cheering on individuals I saw struggling on the route, saying ‘thank you’ to every volunteer I passed.
3. No matter where you are in life, what struggles you face, what you’ve yet to accomplish…take time to appreciate and be proud of you: where you are, who you are, right now. Driving home post-race, with the sun pouring in my windows, sweaty hair blowing in the wind, my favorite song on the radio…I’ve never smiled so big. I was so proud, so in the moment, so insanely, big-time in love with me and what I had just achieved.
4. Keep going. Always keep going. You are stronger than you think.
Thank you all for your love, support, and encouragement throughout this whole ordeal. It was quite the adventure and, frankly, quite fun!