For those who have daily contact with me, or for those I’m friends with on Twitter, the way my life revolves around cycling doesn’t seem unusual- or at least it isn’t a surprise. For those who knew me during other phases of my life and have less than daily contact with me, this obsession might seem a bit strange and out of left field- I certainly wasn’t obsessed with cycling in college or high school and I didn’t even own a bike. So I thought I’d take a post to explain where it all came from. I’ve touched on my entrance into cycling in a few past posts and why it means so much to me, but here’s the official version.
Let’s set the scene: It’s 2010. July. I’ve finally finished grad school and my last paper is submitted. I’m only working part time, trying to find a job. So I spend a lot of time at home, watching TV. But it’s the middle of the day and it’s the middle of summer- double whammy against any good TV. So as I’m flipping through channels, I notice the Tour de France is on. I like France, and I liked to pretend that I knew anything about the Tour, and there’s nothing else on, so I decide to watch.
I recognized Lance, of course, and I recognized Andy Schleck from the brief viewings of the Tour the year before, when I was in France. That’s pretty much it. I immediately took a fancy to Andy, and his duel with Contador kept me tuning in day after day. And even though the Tour ended, my obsession with Andy did not. I started watching the Eneco Tour and even though I was quite confused as to why Andy was not riding with his team, I kept watching. I start understanding how cycling works. I continued to devour any and everything related to cycling- news sites, blogs, videos, YouTube, books, etc. Then the Vuelta a Espana arrived (another Grand Tour like the Tour de France, which takes place in Spain). By this time I was actually starting to understand how cycling and cycling tactics worked. This made watching the race even more exciting. When the Vuelta ended, I had a new cycling crush (Vincenzo Nibali) and firmly cemented love of cycling in my heart.
While all of this race watching was going on, I was becoming more entrenched in the cycling community on Twitter. Many of the people I followed were serious cyclists themselves. And I would read their tweets about their rides and their bikes and be a bit jealous. They were all so passionate about the bike- how it made them feel, how they felt on it, how they longed to be on it. I wanted that- I wanted to be part of that world and feel what they felt. I wanted to feel a love for an activity, a sport- something I’d never experienced before. And there was a bit of me that felt like a poser- writing and obsessing over cycling, but not actually owning a bike. I realize now this is silly, but at the time, I didn’t even like to admit I didn’t have a bike. These feelings, and Shannon’s encouragement, lead me to purchase my bike.
I know it’s clichéd to say, but cycling really has made a huge change in my life. I’m much more active than I’ve ever been. It makes me feel better about myself and my body. I (often) make better eating choices, as I hate the thought of “ruining” all the hard work I’ve done on the bike! While riding is exercise for me, I mainly ride because I love how it makes me feel and because it’s fun- and that really makes all the difference. I enjoy the kinship I feel with other cyclists, pro and otherwise- I can understand their pain and suffering on the bike and the love they have for their bikes. I now know what it means to have good leg days and bad leg days. I now know what it feels like to wish your time on the bike would never end and when it can’t end fast enough. I now understand how climbing, while painful, can provide its own set of enjoyments.
I’m starting to understand things about myself as well. I don’t like to suffer, but I can push myself even when I’m outside my comfort zone- mainly because I’m stubborn! I’m starting to realize where my limits are- while I like going fast up the climbs, mostly it just makes me want to die, so I’m better off going at my own pace, even if it means being off the back. I don’t dread climbing as much as I did (thanks RAGBRAI!), mainly because I’ve realized that climbing will never get easier if I refuse to do it. I have a hard time pushing myself when I’m alone, so group rides and training partners are best for me if I want to improve.
I’ve met some wonderful people through Twitter and my cycling adventures and I wouldn’t trade that for anything. Cycling is the one area of my life right now that truly makes me feel happy, even when it’s making me feel unhappy. I can’t explain why this is or what about exactly about cycling is so important to me, but all I know is that I want to keep doing it…