Sunday, August 17, 2014

Just Keep Pedaling

Bike...check. Helmet...check. Fear...check. Anxiety...check. For many people a bike ride is something that brings joy and happy memories.  But for me, cycling  is a dangerous sport and not something an uncoordinated person like myself would prefer to do, especially on a family vacation.

I love the sport itself.  I always enjoyed watching it on TV, the Tour de France, the dedication of the riders, and what it takes to be a successful cyclist.  My family takes the sport very seriously and rides often.  This is what motivated me to finally want to get a bike of my own and overcome my fears.

I started to think about why I felt a pit in my stomach towards a sport everyone else loved. I looked to my childhood bike rides. They were very different from today.  Our bikes were cheap, we had no helmets, and I was not a skilled rider. Our homes were far away from our destinations in West Bend, so that meant that we needed to travel far distances on country highways.  I remembered the horror of the cars speeding past me at 55 miles per hour. The dangerous rides were never worth the trinkets or the candy we purchased at the stores once we finally arrived, especially since we had to turn around and ride the same distance home. Luckily I survived and found other forms of exercise that were more enjoyable and less dangerous.

A few years ago, cycling tried to bully me into giving it another go on a girl's weekend in Shawano, Wisconsin. There were many women who were there to relax, but others wanted to use this time to take on new challenges.  I was torn, because one of my dear friends and role models, Jolie, arrived. She was a skilled cyclist and was going to try the infamous bike trails nearby.  I was so inspired by her. As she got her bike ready, she shared her fears with me.  I love that about her.  Even though she is so talented, she is not afraid to express how she is feeling about what she is about to do.  I watched her ride towards the wooded area and I admired her so much.  I wondered if I could get past my own fears and try this myself. While she was gone, I sat in my chair and read my fashion magazines with such mixed emotions. I was enjoying my relaxing time, but was also jealous that I wasn't getting down and dirty on those trails and facing my fears on that bike.  A while later, I saw Jolie walking next to her bike.  She screamed, "Julie! I scraped my leg!"  I ran up to her and saw she had torn her leg open.  There were left over artifacts from the trail remaining in her open wound.  I was heartbroken for her.  The trails were so tight that riders could barely fit through.  It must have been so painful.  I was so proud of my brave friend for even attempting to tackle these treacherous trails, but I was once again convinced that there are better ways to exercise and spend time with friends outdoors.

I was able to escape the cycling curse a few more years until we started a tradition of taking a trip to Door County each summer with my brother's family.  The first two years I was in the clear because one year I was pregnant and the second year Jackson was too little to ride.  This year there were no excuses.  Everyone was hitting the trail, including me.  John, my father-in-law, gave me his bike which was in wonderful shape and my sweet husband got me all the other equipment I needed.  He got everything else ready for our boys too.  As luck would have it, a few days before our Door County trip I had dinner plans with Jolie, so I could talk through my fears with her and ask her some coaching questions that I didn't want to ask my husband (all you married people out there know EXACTLY what I am talking about).  One thing that worried her was my pedals.  I had clips on my pedals.  She suggested I get rid of those.  It really helped to have this time with Jolie before the trip to not only ease my mind, but also build my confidence.  I will be the least experienced rider, and I don't want to let anyone down.

We arrived in Door County and we were blessed with beautiful weather. Everyone was excited to get on our bikes and head out on the trails, including me! I couldn't decide who I was ultimately doing this for. I felt such mixed emotions as I headed out on the trails.  I wanted to prove to my entire family of skilled riders that I could do this too, but I think I really wanted to do this for myself.  I have gone through a lot of changes personally and professionally lately so I wondered if achieving this small goal would replace the feelings of loss I have felt.  At first I was uneasy on the bike. I didn't understand the clips on the pedals and I had to think about the gears. Soon, I felt the wind off Lake Michigan and the sound of the birds. I forgot about the pedals and I listened to the crunch of the wheels on the trail as my speed increased and my heart raced.  I found myself giggling and hoped that no one could hear me.  I loved it.  It was a sport where I could take it all in and enjoy the time with my family, and most important, my computer was at home.  I had no way to work except to just process in my head. I finally got it.

I was feeling so confident that I had accomplished my goal that I forgot that I was an inexperienced rider. We were coming to a busy road. I suddenly stopped and forgot that I had clips on my pedals.  I couldn't get my shoe out fast enough and my bike tipped over.  Of course it was at a spot where other riders were also stopped.  I quickly picked up my bike and examined my scraped leg.  I had flashbacks of Jolie's leg as I heard Ethan say with a concerned whisper, "Mom, are you ok?"
I held back the tears, and said, "Yes buddy, I'm fine."  Physically I was fine, but emotionally, I was crushed. I could have cared less about all the strangers who just saw me fall.  I tell my students all the time to take risks and not to worry if you fall.  I truly believe that.  But what broke my heart was that my boys just saw me fall.  I don't ever want my kids to think that I can't accomplish something I set out to do.  I know that sounds silly, but I want them to believe Mom can do anything, at least for a little while, and I just fell.  I, of course, wanted to scream at my husband since he put the clips on my bike, but it wasn't his fault.  It was just one of those situations where you need to brush yourself off and get back on your bike and keep pedaling. So that's what I did. As I look back on that day I realize that this is a better lesson for my boys to learn. More often in life we remember the imperfect bike rides, not the perfect ones.  I want them to remember both, but I want them to know that if they do fall off, it's ok!  They should just brush the trail off, get back on the bike and keep pedaling.