Last fall, I bought my first road bike. It was at the end of the season and due to the weather conditions, I never got to ride it until this spring. While having coffee with a friend, she mentioned that her company rides the Reach the Beach event every year. She told me that it is a foundation ride that supports the American Heart and Lung Association. I was instantly excited to support the event because my mom and I both have asthma and she had a heart attack two years ago. My friend and I agreed to ride the 26 mile stretch together and I told her that I would sign up right when I got back to my computer.
Now, I am not sure what happened while signing up but somehow when I got the confirmation email it told me that I had signed up for the CENTURY Ride 105.5 miles and not the 26 mile ride. I was instantly overwhelmed but later informed by my friend that it didn't matter which ride I had signed up for, I could start wherever I deemed fit. (sigh of relief!) She then told me that she was no longer able to ride the event and I would have to do it alone (aargh).
When attending the RTB Launch party in March, I met a woman named Ann with the Portland Wheelman Touring Club and she invited me to some of their training rides. Before riding with them, the longest I had ever ridden was 11 miles and my average pace was slowwww. She assured me that the group rides that she led only went as fast as the slowest rider. I wanted to say to her, "that will be me!".
My first ride with the Wheelman was a flat 18 mile ride on the Spring Water Trail. We stopped half way through the ride for coffee and snacks and I was feeling rather accomplished! Everyone that I rode with was really nice and supportive and invited me out the following weekend for a 32 mile ride.
The weekend of my first 30ish mile ride, I was feeling very nervous. I didn't know if I could do it but I have always had a "try it" mentality. At our midway coffee break, someone asked me if I was planning to ride Reach the Beach. I told them my story about how I accidentally signed up for the Century but was only planning to ride the 26. One of the ride leaders Kathleen, looked at me with a funny face and said, "why wouldn't you ride the century? You are already riding more than 26 miles today. You can do it!". I thought about her words and said, "well, maybe I will do the 55 mile route". She said, "yes, you could do that or you could ride Century like you signed up for. You can do it.". Right as she said that another man chimed in and said, "I am riding the Century too. You can ride with me." Again, I thought about it for a second and said, "I guess I am riding the Century!". Kathleen said again very nonchalantly, "you can do it".
I knew that if I wanted to ride the Century, I was going to have to not only physically prepare but mentally prepare. I had about 6 weeks before the big ride and when I had told several friends and family members what I was about to do, I got a mix of responses. Some were very encouraging and some were very doubtful and discouraging. Those that know me well, know that doubt only encourages me more! I told the doubters that they would either need to get on board to support me or would need to not talk to me until after I proved them wrong. I said, "right now, I need to surround myself with people who believe in me."
For the next 6 weeks, I trained. Every week I would increase my mileage and some weeks I would double it. I continued to ride with the Wheelman and rode two organized group rides before the big event! Each week the Wheelman would ride with me working on the basics: how to change a tire, basic maintenance, how to be more efficient with my pedaling and gear shifting etc. Every week I got stronger and stronger until it was the Friday before the big ride.
A phrase kept running through my head the whole week before the ride, "the question is not COULD I but WOULD I?" I knew that at this point, I was out of time. I could not possibly train anymore and to finish the ride would mean I would have to ride 40 miles further than my longest ride. An old friend of mine from childhood who rode his first Century last summer said, "after mile 70, it is all mental". I knew his words were true!
From the picture, you can see that I finished!!! During the last 10 miles of my ride I remember thinking, "it is not about how STRONG you rode but how STRONG you FINISHED!". I rode my last 10 miles faster than any in the entire 105.5 mile journey. A friend of mine who was sitting at the finish line with my dad said, "I bet she is getting tired right about now". My dad said without hesitation, "I doubt that. You've never seen this kid finish strong. I bet she is riding her fastest and hardest right about now!" He was right, I FINISHED STRONG!
I encourage you to think long and hard about the "I could, but will I" statement. What will you accomplish in the next few weeks even though others might not believe you can!? YOU CAN DO IT!