You probably thought this post would be about something much more fun given the title. I am sneaky to suck you in like that. But keep reading - you'll get to the ass part.
I have a great quote by Elenor Roosevelt that I keep on my bathroom mirror. It confronts me each day. And I stop in my tracks to read it, each day, as it always hits me like it's the first time I am ever hearing the words. "You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself. "I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along."
A couple days ago I got on the bike (my "skinny tires bike" - not my cruiser bike I had been on with my "baby steps to get back out there") for the first time in Boulder since the August crash. As if the 2007 crash wasn't bad enough, this latest one I fear has sealed the coffin. I've been enduring some trainer rides of late, but not because it's cold, because I'm scared out of my mind to ride again. And that, dear friends, is why I must. Bike riding has become a near phobia now; I can't have that. The only way to conquer something is to stay with it, again and again. I am not there yet....I am most definitely flinching as fear stares me down...but as of now I will keep trying to get back in the battle.
Right now my only objective is to try to enjoy riding again. Well, no, my true objective is to NOT CRASH. But I have no thought whatsoever about pace or power or how horribly out of shape I am. Right now my greatest accomplishment is simply pedaling, steering, avoiding potholes, and trying to find slight relaxation amid any speed faster than 15mph. Baby steps.
Zeiger offers to start my ride with me on this day. She knows I am scared shitless. I appreciated the support just to be there with me for a short time before she needed to go do her own training day and not be slowed by me. I easy pedaled the 4 miles to her house, just trying to fricking RELAX. I am completely squirrely. "Man, these tires feel THIN", I say to myself. I am jumpy and nervous. The slightest noise startles me and my heart rate skyrockets. Good grief. I keep probing myself to relax, and keep the self encouragement streaming nonstop: "You're doing great, Carole. Just settle in. Relax." People have no idea how lucky they are just to get on their bikes and take off, with no hint of fear. I used to be that person. I am envious of her now.
I scoop up JZ and we chat side-by-side for a few minutes as we pedal our way towards Hwy-36. I am jabbering like a runaway train, total motormouth. JZ saw right through that with the keen eye of a friend who knows me, and she cut me off.
JZ: "The first thing you need to do is relax. Your shoulders are so tense."
Carole: "EVERYTHING is tense."
JZ: "Well relax your shoulders for now."
I took a deep breath. Inhale relaxation. Exhale fear.
JZ: "You look good, Carole. You'll be fine".
We rode side by side for a couple miles, chatting, until our typical pattern happens: I can't hold her easy pace without blowing so I drop back and sit on her wheel. I took the moment in and smiled at the nostalgia...me staring at JZ's ass...I've spent a lot of hours doing that in years gone by. Thank God she has a great ass (she does, actually. Hate her!).
Carole: "Well this is a familiar sight.", I scream up to her.
JZ: "What is?"
Carole: "Your ass!"
She looks back and laughs.
I lasted a few minutes on her wheel before the pace was too hard for me and I watched her start to put more and more distance between us. It was like a ship sailing off into the distance. I didn't care at all - I was happy (or tried to be) just to be out on the road again. Baby steps.
While on her wheel my mind went back to a great JZ story. It's pretty funny so thought I'd throw it for you to read.
Back in.........oh, Summer of 2006 (?), I was visiting Boulder and doing a ride with Joanna. She was pulling me all around neighboring towns and it was a great ride. We were a couple hours into the ride and came to a turn. We made the left and a guy SHOT OUT LIKE A CANNON from the back of us. He'd been sitting on our wheel for who knows how long, sucking the draft, and then like a total asshole, just steamrolled by us in the moment he was freshest and could assert dominance. I am a pretty docile rider, minus getting beer bottles thrown at me from a car not much riles me up, but even I thought that was assholish.
"What the F***!", JZ screamed out.
I saw her body language change. I knew what was about to happen.
JZ: "HANG ON!!", she yelled back to me.
Oh God. Please no. I'm too tired for this.
Within milliseconds JZ launched the vicious attack after the dude. Mach 5. I pushed with everything in me, heart beating out of my chest, in utter agony to stay with her as we began reeling him in. I cannot begin to describe the pain.
Carole: "This isn't Sydney!!!!", I screamed up to her at one point, referencing her Olympic debut in 2000.
She ignored me and maintained relentless attack.
Finally we were on him, JZ just looked at him as we rolled by..... my intention was to give him the finger but I was in too much pain to do anything. (ha!)
He turned a different direction and our locomotive engine finally slowed. I was completely blown.
Carole: "Was that ENTIRELY necessary???!!!" ......I angrily yelled at her from my imploded body, vomit literally sliding down my jersey. (I am laughing now remembering that. Homegirl made me throw up with the chase. Funny.)
JZ: "Yes, that asshole!..."
:) Good times. Moral of the story, don't pull that crap with Joanna. More to the point, if you're going to attempt to prove you're actually the man out on the road (which, by the way, be prepared to be proven wrong on that), please make sure I am not riding with her. It took me 3 days to recover from that attack and my own coach was pissed. :)
Ok, back to 3 days ago.
Things got a little better as time went on, but they were never great. Still, I was pleased I was staying out there, staying courageous.
At mid-point I ran into JZ who made a detour to loop back and check on me. (What a good friend she is!)
JZ: "How ya doing?"
Carole: "Scared. But getting a little better. Each time will be better".
I rode for a little over 2 hours and when I pulled back into my condo, felt victorious.
I have such a long road ahead of me. I am quite certain I will never be the cyclist I once was....I cannot imagine I will ever bomb down a hill or push a descent with intention like I once did. I think that woman is probably gone forever. But I'm going to keep trying........I'm going to keep trying to conquer the fear of riding and in just doing that - I hope I can be a good example for people.
Giving up, even when you're scared - ESPECIALLY WHEN YOU'RE SCARED - is never an option.
Overcoming obstacles is where self respect reigns......
((you can do this, carole....))