Last Saturday, I finally made it to one of the official AIDS LifeCycle Training Rides. The group ride was 63 miles; the total for the day approached 75, counting the trip from my home to the meeting place and back. The longest distance I ever rode in a day! By far.
The official meeting was at 8 AM at Chrissy Field. A bit early for a Saturday, but definitely an excellent time to ride through the city. Not much craziness anywhere yet.
While waiting to turn onto Polk Street from Market, I sneakily read a shirt of another bicyclist at the light and ventured a guess that she was going to the same place. She was! So we rode together for a while, although as usual, I was a bit slower.
I was nervous while waiting and watching people gather at the meeting place. That was many strangers at once, and they looked so accomplished! I knew I could manage the ride, and there would be some support available, if needed, but I also wished I had a friend to look out for me there. I suppose, a more extraverted person could have used that time to make new friends. While I said hello to a few folks, I knew I had to pace myself with that, so I don’t get drained even before the start.
Once we got going, it got better, although I still felt apprehensive. I reminded myself that this feeling of butterflies in the stomach, adrenaline rush, is a good one. That’s the creative energy, that’s my body preparing for the positive if challenging experience.
This ride is dedicated to my friend Andreea, who always inspires me to go a little further. Not only she is smart and beautiful and has the most delightful children, but she is just unstoppable: always striving to accomplish and to learn. I am grateful to have a friend like her and to know that she roots for me!
Andreea’s example reminds me to face experiences as they are, to feel them, to learn from them, and keep going with positive attitude. And so rather than fretting about what can happen, I remembered that I was in training, and therefore the real question was:
What am I going to learn from this?
Here is what I learned:
- How to ride extra safely. I deliberately practiced making full stops and signaling clearly. Normally, I don’t follow all the rules strictly, and there are valid arguments for, say, bicyclists having an option to yield rather to stop under some circumstances and other “rule breaking”. Still, most of the time when I rode with the people from my group last Saturday, it was so neat to be taking care of each other through clear communication! More experienced riders were really good at pointing and calling out “stopping!” or “rolling!” I learned a little bit of that too. Although the next morning I was still practicing the full stops and the friend I was riding with rode into me at a stop sign, because who ever stops fully on an empty street. So there is that.
- What does the rhythm of ride about 15-20 miles, take a break, repeat feels like. Having planned rest stops with food is great: makes it much less daunting.
- What riding 75 miles in a day feels like. While manageable, and I got home okay, it was no joke. I definitely was edgy and dumb for the last few miles. Still had some wits about me and not completely flying off the handle, so that was good. And I still have a couple of months to keep getting stronger.
- That a grainy bagel with avocado and egg for lunch is divine and just what I need on a ride! That those huge cookies that say that they are vegan, have 16 grams of protein and have nothing bad in them don’t really work that great for me.
- That the pink sneakers while cute and causal and work for a 30 mile ride, really start bothering my toes after about 50. I am still hoping to avoid getting the shoes with cleats. In general, this ride was a good gear check.
- That having lost a phone, it’s pretty tricky to just rely on a cheap back up phone with almost no memory in it. I am still on the fence about getting a new powerful smart phone, but I got a refurbished GoPro for pictures and popped an extra memory card into the back up phone so I can know where I am and can get out of there if needed.
- That even though I am a slow rider, and the group ride was not as well supported as I imagined, there would be help there when I need it, and I am capable of more than I think. There were miles and miles when I rode alone, and there were times when I felt lost and then found somebody nice and less lost to ride with for a while. On the way back, I realized that I didn’t know how to get from Sausalito to the Golden Gate Bridge optimally, because all the times I rode there, I was with somebody else who knew the route. This time, there was nobody I knew in sight, so I took a wrong turn, but that wasn’t too bad, and I got where I needed to be sanely and safely.
- That even though I don’t see my friends frequently these days, with all this training, and I miss them, their friendship and help reaches to me and impacts me. For instance, it so happened that most of this ride overlapped with the route I rode with Laura a few weeks ago! That made this ride much easier, because I didn’t waste energy worrying about the entire route, just the unfamiliar parts.
This was quite a ride and I learned a lot! I am grateful for this experience and to all my friends who support me. Extra thanks to Andreea! Your friendship means the world to me, and you inspire me to be strong, and to be my best.
If any of my readers fell compelled to sponsor my participation in AIDS LifeCycle, a 545 mile ride from SF to LA, June 2-8, 2019 you can do that here. You can read more about the Thank You Rides here.