Is there anything scary, hard, or exciting that you never intended to do, and did? How did it feel? Is there a backstory?
I’ll start with something I couldn’t imagine doing.
When I was brand new to riding my bike in a cycling group I heard someone mention a “century”. I had no idea what they were talking about, but when I found out it was a 100-mile bike ride I couldn’t imagine why anyone would do that.
“No thanks”. “Nope”. Not for me.”
A bit of history…It was 2003. I loved riding my bike.
My sturdy hybrid was great for running errands, picking up groceries, and drop-offs to school and lessons with a trailer or bike seat. I took kids on long rides to parks and beaches.
I sometimes saw people on fancy, skinny tire bikes zooming past and I wondered where in the heck they were going so fast, and I thought they looked silly in their skin-tight outfits on those skinny tire bikes.
I was invited to join that cycling group.
Maybe because they saw me out on the road a lot. One of the members was an encouraging neighbor, and my 4 sons were beginning to race their bikes and do long events.
I showed up at the first group ride and I looked and felt so out of place.
My trusty (and a bit rusty) heavy bike still had the kid seat rack still on the back, a handlebar cup holder, and a huge saddlebag. There was a mirror attached to my mushroom-shaped helmet and a dorky baseball cap underneath. My pedals were flat.
This group, all guys and only one woman, were all wearing cycling gear (called a “kit”) with shoes that clipped into the pedals.
After several grueling rides on hills on that heavy bike, I got a lighter bike, and after several embarrassing falling-down incidents I learned how to confidently clip in and out of the pedals, which are called “clipless“.
I needed to learn this new language.
Besides the hills, the learning curve was steep.
There was all that lingo, and I found out that I also needed to learn how to look and act like a real cyclist.
The other riders explained as we pedaled how to draft – how close to the person in front of me?! – how to do a pace line – a what??! All the lingo and riding etiquette too.
Why would anyone do that?
Then I heard it. They were talking about what…a century? WHAT IS THAT? Why would anyone ride 100 miles?
I had no intention of doing that, but I was hooked.
I met the group at dawn for a couple of hours ride several times a week and often rode on my own. I got a bike computer and a much cooler helmet. I found out that I was pretty strong from all those years riding that heavy bike and lugging kids.
I learned to draft confidently and to take my turn in a pace line training with the group and training with my son, who was a rising professional cyclist. He encouraged me to join a team and sign up for local races, a super scary and empowering experience that I never imagined I would do.
And my kids bought me a new bike!
Here’s how it happened…
Years went by. I got a power tap wheel, and hired a coach to help me train for a metric century: 62miles, the longest distance I thought I could complete in the New York Granfondo in 2012.
I was feeling wonderful on that gorgeous, blue sky day in early May.
Among thousands of riders, our group split up and I got off course. I kept riding, up, up, and ended up at the top of Bear Mountain, with no idea that I had been following the 100mile route! It was 40 miles to the finish, which I completed feeling great. The feeling of surprise and elation was indescribable, and built confidence, enabling me to complete multiple centuries after that one, as well as things I never thought I would do, like entering and winning a powerlifting competition in 2019 at age 65. I plan to do that again next year when I’m 70 – because now it’s a thing I know I can do!
Hope to hear your stories of doing things you didn’t plan to do, and how you felt about it.
I’ll bet it was great!