Once people know you are setting out to ride across the country, the first thing they ask when they see you is “Did you ride here?” If you know me, you probably would be able to tell right away whether or not I had ridden someplace. I usually wear an appropriate cycling kit. I haven’t always done that. And I haven’t always referred to my riding apparel as a kit. I’ve ridden in jeans,”basketball” shorts, floppy t-shirts, and even swimsuits (when I worked as a lifeguard). In my recent incarnation as a cyclist, however, I do wear appropriate cycling gear, no matter how goofy I may look. I have finally learned that there is good reasoning behind it, whether it be for safety, comfort or performance. But I smile and politely answer “yes” or “no” accordingly. The “no’s” are almost always met with a mocking “Really? Why not?” retort. And we have a good little chuckle.
Years ago, when I first got into long distance cycling, I rode every day. It was compulsive, and I was obsessed. I rode about forty miles every day after work and every Saturday and Sunday; I rode at least a hundred miles. I would have little contests with myself to push faster and farther. I rode the same hundred mile loop over and over again and finishing a few minutes quicker felt like winning an Olympic medal. I rode in all kinds of weather and at all times of the day. It didn’t matter. I was possessed.
At some point, I just stopped riding. I really don’t know why. I like to blame it on different circumstances. I had to work. I wanted to spend time with my family, and they don’t ride. My joints hurt. My hands get numb. It’s too cold. It’s too hot. The roads around me are too dangerous. I’ve gotten too out of shape. I look silly in Lycra. I’ve heard them all and practiced saying them – inside my head. At the end of the day, though, I had no excuse not to ride. The only thing preventing me from doing so was me. I just needed to buck up and get back in the saddle. So I did –
Little by little I started to ride again. This time is different, though. In embarking on this “journey back to me,” I’ve had to come to terms with myself. I tend to be an all or none kind of person. I’m either all in and go at it with all my might, or not at all. I’ve shown signs of being that person again. Why else would I decide to ride across America? I’ve revisited the days of personal challenges too. Last summer, I did two 24-hour challenges. In June, I rode a 5-mile loop every hour for 24 hours. And then just to try and top that, in August I rode a 10-mile loop every hour for 24. Why? Just to see if I could. It is different this time, though. I’ve given myself permission not to ride. It has to be fun, and it can’t supersede all else. If something comes up that I want to do more, it’s OK. No guilt. No panic. No shame. And it feels good! So I don’t ride every day.
Sometimes you just have to trade out the silly white hat with the holes and walk the dog.