Ever since my first road-bike ride with Brent back in the ’70s, I’ve been hooked on cycling. I admit, it’s been an “on-again, off-again” relationship.
Umm… with the bike, not with Brent.
Many times the weather wasn’t friendly enough. Or I’m simply not in the mood to ride–though I’ve often found that if I just pull on the shorts and ride anyway, the mood will follow.
One thing that motivates me is a looming rally–an organized ride of, say, 30 to 50 miles with maps, port-a-johns, traffic cops, free food and Gatorade, etc. I train for those things, people. There’s nothing worse than shoving off with twelve hundred other riders, only to get dropped on the first hill by a scrawny eight-year-old. Or worse yet, lacking the stamina to finish the distance.
I used to try to keep up with faster riders. Not racers, of course. They just blow my doors off–or would, if my bicycle were equipped with doors. As it is, whenever racers flash by me I feel the bike shift a few inches to the left from the vacuum they create.
No, I’m talking about the threesome or foursome that passes me oh, so gradually. As they pass, I try to match their speed, hoping to stay in their draft and keep up.
This blissful state of affairs generally lasts less than a mile. Then I watch as a gap between me and the stronger riders forms, growing wider and wider until they pull away over the horizon. Typically, I fume at myself for being so puny. The ride stops being fun. Cycling is too demanding a relationship partner.
Until the last Paluxy Pedal rally, that is. This early-October ride, at Glen Rose, Texas, offers plenty of hills to climb. Plenty of opportunities to get dropped and feel inadequate.
But last fall, it finally clicked: I’m not a racer. Why should I beat myself up over my lack of speed? Why not go at my own pace and enjoy the day? What, seriously, is the rush?And so that morning I rode along, happily greeting riders who passed me — as well as the few that I actually passed. I soaked in the feel of sun on my skin and the wild beauty of the rolling prairie. Reveled in my changing pedal cadence as I shifted gears, finding the “sweet spot” that made for efficient climbing. Twice I stopped at the top of hills to take pictures.
Why, it was. . . it was fun!
As in any relationship, my “romance” with bicycling improved dramatically once I laid down my unrealistic expectations (in my case, that I should keep up with “those” riders). I have to accept myself for who I am, accept each ride for what it is–terrain, weather conditions and all. Then just roll with it.
Of course I still train. I work to improve my technique and gain strength. When I push myself, I get to where I can enjoy bigger challenges. Meanwhile, during each ride I try to remember to be content with where I am right now.
How about you? Do any unrealistic expectations keep you from enjoying life? Do you work at change or improvement? If so, how do you balance ambition with contentment? Tell me about it in the comments below.
Thanks for reading!