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I will never look like someone from the pro peloton…

Posted on December 31, 2015

My kind of scales…just 15kg!

Those bloody New Year resolutions…everyone is writing about them, and everyone is writing about how to ignore them, and everyone is writing about how they fail. It’s old news – in fact, if you’ve read up to this point I guess that’s a little miracle in itself!

As a cycling coach I can’t tell you how many of these little promises people tell me they make, and how many promise me that they’ll turn up to more rides, or get ‘more serious’ after New Year, or work harder to get fit…oh my, I hope it’s not YOU I’m referring to. But as the year rolls on and we find ourselves thrilled at having to remember a whole new number when we write the date, and knowing that there will be a whole new kitch puppy calendar to hang on the wall, I think we can be forgiven for making silly promises to ourselves in the excitement. I know, I’m guilty as hell on this one!!

So I’m sorry, I’m not going to make any resolutions here. No dammit, I’m over it and I’m over promising myself I’ll climb hills faster, or that I’ll lose a stack of weight so I look like I’ve just stepped off the professional peloton, or that I’ll even smash that weekly ride record! Nope…don’t hold me to any of that.

The Wheel Women peleton.

You see, it was made poignantly clear to me today that none of that matters…it doesn’t matter what promises I make for tomorrow. What matters is the here and now, the moment and the experience. We spend so much time worrying about what we will be doing in a month, or 3 months time, that we forget about the present and the gift it gives to you and the people who are with you in that very moment. Today I realised that.

Just as I asked myself, and I pose this question to you too…why do you want to be faster up the hills? Why do you want to look like you are from the pro peloton? Why do you even want to smash that weekly ride record? Okay, I know some of this is about personal goals and that’s great, but at what sacrifice do we achieve these things…isn’t it about enjoying the ride and the moment? Ride for rides sake?

Let me ask you this: is getting up the hills faster really because you want others to think you are awesome, is wanting to look like the pro rider because you want to impress someone else, and is smashing that weekly ride record only because you want to beat your friends Strava records each week. I confess…I know I’m guilty of some of this. But today it was imminently clear as to why these resolutions I may have had were destined to fail…because it just isn’t what is really important to me!

Ride end…the gang who make me feel happy!

What I want are days like today, where I can go out and ride with friends, feel safe, feel happy and feel like I belong. To immerse myself in the here and now on a ride and cherish the friends laughing by my side, the friends who slowed at the top of every hill to wait for me, and to be amazed at the people who have entered my life because I ride a bike.

Today I was not just tired, I was injured; carrying a niggling case of achilles tendinopathy I was under instruction to go slow on the hills, no standing in the pedals and no sprinting (oh really…what a shame!). Our route was rolling hills so that presented a small issue…I shouldn’t really have been riding that route. But coupled with that were the rides of two previous days that had tired me out and left me with not quite enough energy. But I had friends.

There is nothing that can replace the moment of seeing my buddies up ahead waiting for me as I took it gently up the climbs, or seeing them stop and wait on the roadside until I rejoined the bunch, still smiling as I approached…or better still, seeing them ahead of me ask and check that I was on the back of the bunch. That felt so good to be a part of the group, even if I was travelling a little slower than I expected to. They never complained, they never told me to hurry…they just understood.

I was behind, but never forgotten on those hills.

But being in the moment was what brought it all home. As we found the downhill run I was able to let things run a little…time to open it up without a sprint and without having to worry about getting out of the saddle. That meant letting it go for just long enough to pass my buddies and have some fun as the bike and gravity kicked into gear…wind in the hair, sun on the face and squeals of freedom and laughter behind me. Then suddenly I heard it…’don’t slow down now!!’ as the bike whizzed past me from behind with the screams of delight and the challenge being laid down. I knew I couldn’t challenge the overtake, but it was the face of sheer joy that flew past me. Then I heard that whirr closing in from behind as the next one crept up to overtake, smiling and laughing but asking if I was okay on the way past…and then the chatter of the last two that I could hear approaching from behind and becoming re-assuringly close.

They passed, and I was behind again. But I wasn’t worried, I felt like I was just there…having fun, enjoying the safe and secure sounds of friends, enjoying the laughter, enjoying that they didn’t care that I took off when I could, and enjoying that they didn’t care that I was on a ‘go slow’. And that’s what matters. I didn’t need to make promises and I didn’t need to be anyone but me…not some pro peloton shaped hack thinking I was better than I am, or some person who wanted to impress them with my speed up the hills, and not the rider who has the biggest weekly Strava tally. Nope…it was just me, doing what I could, like we all were.

Let me give this another angle. Somebody once told me that the reason so many start-up businesses fail is because there is no real passion behind them – the founder may see an idea for a quick dollar, or a hole in the market, but do they REALLY believe in what their cause is. Do they really feel that the business is their life calling…I speak from experience. Unless you are completely and totally passionate about what it is you want, it is destined to fail. I guess I see that with some of my silly New Year resolutions…the passion hasn’t really been there.

So I have decided on a few things.

First. My aim to climb hills faster so others will think of me as amazing, or super fit, or perhaps even have more respect of me as a rider or coach is out the window – it’s irrelevant to me now. I will climb hills to get to the top, I will climb hills to enjoy the moment of hearing my heart beat, the rhythm of my laboured asthmatic breathing, but rejoicing I can even do this, and then there’s the sweet clunk every so often as I shift gears. I will smile at the top, even if everyone is there before me. I am taking the pressure off to achieve something that was full of shallow wishes…I don’t need anyone to think I am awesome, except myself.

Climbing up Mt Buffalo…doing it in my own time.

Second. And it’s a big second. I will never look like someone from the pro peloton. I’m 5’2” for goodness sake, and built with the hips the generations before me lovingly bestowed upon me. I have the chest size that says no XS jersey will ever fit me regardless of how many sugar free days and low fat choices I make. But I am fit, I am happy, I bulge where I don’t want to, but my body can do things it has never done before! Like climb hills, or ride 100km plus. Life is too short to worry about whether my tummy is sticking out a little, or to abstain from the good things in life I love…like food and wine with friends.

Those times that I, or Wheel Women may have been overlooked for the sponsorships, or the photo opportunities because I/we don’t fit the mould of what a cyclist ‘should look like’ are rejections based on shallowness and lack of understanding that great riders come in all shapes and sizes. I am not tiny and I am not young, yet compared to many women my age I reckon I’m doing okay, and frankly, I’ve got to be happy with where I have come from several years ago…seriously overweight and inactive. Those people who rejected me/us for the photo shoots don’t know those stories behind the women we are. I will remember that next time I have the burning desire to starve myself…weight loss has come from several years of passion filled bike riding and a total change of lifestyle, not from starving myself!

Third. That weekly Strava record…okay I’ve been a little slack lately and I’ve been missing the rides. But they were missed through paying too much attention to things which make me stressed, to things which suck the energy from me and to things which in the long run don’t matter. The rides need to happen more because I know mentally I needed them most when I felt like I was drowning. I don’t need to beat my friends weekly Strava records, I need rides to just ride! So I won’t be looking at any tally…I’ll be looking at how much fun I had riding during the week. What moments have uplifted me and made me feel that thrill and freedom of riding.

A cherished moment of madness…look Mum, no hands!

Spontaneous selfies mid conversation…great riders come in all shapes, sizes and ages!

Being in that moment is what drives me, feeling that freedom and seeing my friends around me laughing and enjoying the rides, the moments and the friendships just as they are is what I am passionate about. I don’t need to be faster up hills for them to appreciate me, and I don’t need to lose weight for someone who thinks I should look a different way, and I don’t need a Strava tally to tell me the rides were awesome! One of our riders always reminds me to ‘stop and smell the roses’ and it’s become a running joke…but actually, it’s no joke. Stop, look, contemplate.

So my friends, when I raise my next glass of champagne I will enjoy the very moment. I will cherish who is around me who appreciate me just the way I am…slower on the hills, a little on the ‘not-quite-pro’ side and hell of a lot of fun to ride with because I am passionate about the ride and what it has brought to my life.

Enjoy the moment. Raise a glass…here’s to you my friends!

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