Saturday, December 18, 2010

Fear Factor

Rainbow over Coburg Hills

I was off for a solo thirty miler.  It'd be my longest ride to date.  As I pedaled, my mind drifted to my first few rides on my new bike.  What a nervous rider I was!  Shifting took so much effort and concentration.   I dreaded stopping because I'd have to clip in and out of my pedals.  Most of all, I had a fear of being hit by a car.  When I wrote out a bucket list last year for my birthday, becoming a fearless cycler made it to the list.  How long would it take?  Was it even possible?  I did not know.

I'll never forget my first long ride, an 18 miler with the local women's cycling group, the Poplollies.  Being in a pace line, drafting off cyclers made the ride much easier.  It was reassuring having leaders look out for and signal road obstacles.  They knew where every crack and  pothole was on the road and when there was glass, encroaching blackberry or even dog poop on the shoulder.  In the rear, a leader would holler "Car back!" whenever she heard cars.  I felt like a duckling embarking on her first walk between the protective space and watchful eyes of momma and poppa ducks.  

Even with the supportive and encouraging group of women, I was scared stiff.  I was about as far out of my comfort zone as I've ever felt before.  I worried about being able to keep up with the group, falling off my bike, dropping my chain, being hit by a car and crashing into fellow cyclers.  Fortunately none of those things happened.  While there was conversation over the entire ride, I didn't participate because every ounce of my concentration was needed to ride.  I recall being thirsty but being too afraid to take my hands off the handle bars and eyes off my the road to reach for my water bottle and grab a quick drink.  I am sorry to say that I never got the opportunity to join the Poplollies for any more group rides before they ended their cycling season.

To build my confidence, I found it really helpful to practice maneuvering and clipping in and out of my pedals in a parking lot.  From there, I turned my attention on shifting and using my water bottle.  With these baby steps, I was able to progress as a cycler and grow to love the sport.  Cycling makes me ridiculously happy.  I can cover so much ground and see so many things while riding.  With little effort, I can ride for miles and miles at speeds of 15 to 32 MPH!  There's a certain thrill to the speed that I catch going down hills.  The first few times it happened, I gripped my handle bars with iron fists and prayed that I would make it safely to the bottom of the hill.  Today I dropped my body as low as I could, beamed and whooped with joy as I flew down the hills.

My ride from my house, through city streets to the scenic gentle rolling hills of McKenzie View Drive, was my first ever "fear free" ride.  It was absolutely amazing!  I didn't want it to end.  From the leg-burning climbs to the flying declines, it was a fabulous ride.  Glass on the road? No problem.  Put my hand over the wheels with my gloved hand and clear it off.  Cars behind me?  No worries, just slide over to the shoulder as far as possible.  Gravel on the shoulder of the road?  Trust yourself and your bike and glide over it.  How liberating it was to be free of these fears!  This doesn't mean that I wasn't cautious or a defensive rider, it just meant that I wasn't obsessed with fear.  

Being free from my fear allowed my senses to take in the beauty of this ride.  I marveled at all the critters I saw...  cows, calves, horses, goats, sheep, chickens, turkeys, llamas and much to my delight, three slumbering deer in a wooded area.  It was magical and brought tears of joy and appreciation to my eyes. I followed the quickly moving McKenzie River as it roared over the river rocks.  I took in the sights of bare trees swaying in the woodlands and the ominous fog that clung to Coburg hills.  Before I knew it, my ride was coming to an end.  I still had plenty of energy but it was time to be reunited with my family.  I returned home with great gratitude and a calmness in my spirit.  As I reflected on this ride with my husband, I realized that I never once felt fear on this ride.  By putting aside my fear, I was able to experience something far greater than I could have imagined.

What are you afraid of?  How can you embrace that fear and to move beyond it?  I assure you that in my experience, wonderful things lie on the other side.

A little dirty after my thirty

Post cycle glow

1 comment:

  1. We'd love to have you join us for the all womens ride in February in Arizona. Girls Gone Riding on Feb. 19th.