Wednesday, March 14, 2007

My Imagination is Evil! (Or, at least, lies.)

Well, hello again.

I've actually been running/walking, biking, and swimming (hey, there's a new one) for a little over a week now. But, there's really been nothing post-worthy. That, and maybe I've been a bit embarassed to write after so many false starts. (Wolf, anyone? With a side of crow?) Regardless, here I am, with a happy story.

About two weeks ago I find myself perusing the bike club calendar, looking for some nice easy rides. Wednesday Workouts starting, I notice. That's nice, but out of my league I'm sure, especially with how long it's been since I really rode. I click for the description anyway. Good for beginners? Interesting. Ettiquette and safety in groups? Definately appropriate. Expected ability: able to ride 10-12 mph nonstop for an hour? Hmmm.... Good question.

I hop on the bike that weekend and find that I can maintain a good 14-15 mph (on the flats, which meets the ride's description) for about 30 minutes. A few days later, I prove that I can maintain it for 45 minutes. That's enough for me... and yet it isn't.

Doubting myself, I call one of the ride organizers to describe myself (it's been a few well-fed and under-excercised months since he's seen me and I make that subtly clear) and ask whether the ride is appropriate for me. His reply is interesting. It starts with, "I'd say yes, but..." then ends with "actually, this ride is perfect for riders like you!" This doesn't help my nagging self-doubts, and he's unable to confirm that others with my challenges will be present to need extra help and patience. "I'd rather have one than zero," he assures. This almost makes it worse.

The $90 worth of new larger (sigh) jerseys I just excitedly bought are in deep trouble of being unused.

I ask others. Should I go? "Yes," they reply, bored at my incessant neediness. They don't understand, I dismiss. I ask the Magic 8-ball the same question. "Doubtful," it gloomily replies, confirming my fears. I even ask the universal decision maker . The negativity continues. Finally, I bribe myself. If I go, I can use my new gym membership afterward with a swim followed by a nice hot-tub soak. Allowing myself a particular shopping splurge may or may not have been promised.

The drive down is difficult. I'm imagining the worst. Elite college atheletes, scoffing at my size and (lack of) ability. I imagine the shame. I picture the not-so-hidden sneers. It'll be like high-school PE all over again, but voluntary this time. I feel the tears welling up. Yes, I'm nearly on the brink of tears.

I'm there, and I've parked. No turning back now. A woman pulls in behind me and confirms that I'm here for the bike ride. She's new too. I mention that I'm here to be majorly outclassed. Smiling, she's relieved to see another unsure cyclist. My arms shoot up in joyous relief. A fellow nervous newbie! If I'm miserable, at least I won't be miserable alone!

Turns out, we weren't the only two. Cyclists of various shapes, ages, abilities and experience levels abounded. We learned very basic pace-line procedures. We rode in circles, practicing. I kept up. I did well... until they hit 18 mph, that is. That's when I dropped back for a few recovery laps. I felt good. I was even complimented on my form. A spectator comments as I ride by, "You've got the biggest smile!" I realize that it's true. I wonder again why I don't do this more often.

The only negative of this ride, is that I should (and do) feel slightly shamed that I was willing to leave the fellow nervous newbie in the dust. My pride at needing to keep up (and being able to do it!) outweighed my decency and attention to her. (My old self-conscious-fat-hiker-with-something-to-prove mantra reared its ugly head: I'd rather die on the trail than be last.) The organizer who had reassured me took the time to to work with her, so I needn't kick myself too hard, but it's a lesson in the golden rule that I'm paying attention to.

My favorite moment: as I packed up my bike, another rider (not one from our slower/newer group) asked if I had fun. After a quick chat including my elite college athlete imaginings, he left me with this: "I hope you had enough fun to do it again." Really? Well, damn. Not a sneer to be found.