Riding at my own pace

women mtb groupComing back from shoulder surgery has been hard. Really hard. (apologies to friends, family and random strangers for going on about it all.the.damn.time). I’ve had to deal with a lot of pain, frustration and ridiculous contortions getting out of a sports bra.

But mainly, I’ve had to deal with my head.

Having to fight my inner achiever at every turn.

Of course I can ride my motorcycle. Carry my bike rack. Downward dog. Lift a kettle bell. Tackle a rock garden. Carry the groceries.

Why am I shrieking? Oh that’s just how I do this now.

Not only have I been fighting the obvious challenges of lifting, carrying and moving but on a more basic level, just being stationary has done a number on me. Apparently sitting on your butt for 3 months nursing a bottle of Vicodin isn’t great for your fitness level. Or your mood. Or what used to be your waistline.

FYI I now call it my ‘straightline’.

This was really brought home to me this weekend when I rejoined my cycling chicks for our awesome monthly ride/eat/win stuff/yak (Girls Rock Santa Cruz.. check it out if you possess a vagina and a set of wheels).

Even the drive to the ride gets me excited. Its my chance to connect with non work people, talk in detail about riding minutia and have a laugh.  As I headed off with my usual “Intermediate +” group I was zinging with caffeine and ready to rock.

Except I wasn’t. If you ever watch the Tour De France and there’s a guy who’s dropped off the back and is just way way way back from the peleton (and you sort of feel bad for him but wonder why he’s even riding if he can’t hang)?.  That was me.

Panting like an out of shape pug, thighs screaming louder than my shoulder pain, red faced and apologizing to the sweep girl behind me, I was torn between worrying whether I was having a pulmonary embolism and the humiliation of being so out of shape. As we rode on, the sweep girl started floating the idea of me ‘dropping back’ to the “Beginners+” group who were a few minutes behind.

My ego immediately stood firm “hell no.. I got this.. just give me a few… weeks” while my legs started gumming up with lactic acid and the sweat poured between my boobs. I’m NOT a beginner. I’ve been riding since I was 7.

I wrestled with my superiority for another few switchbacks, falling further and further behind, until my shoulder bitch-slapped me into reality. I’m not fit. I’m still in pain. And riding at this pace would not only ruin me, but remove all the fun for the rest of the group as they waited patiently for the hot, red, slow chick with the massive ego.

I considered that maybe I need to ride at the pace my body was telling me. Slower. Less aggressively, at a pace where I wasn’t going to asphyxiate. After all, the joy of group riding is in the shared experience of a warm autumn ride in one of the most beautiful forests I know. And struggling to catch a group who are happily chatting and rock hopping around for the next 3 hours would be hell. The ride didn’t need to be about pushing. It could and would be more enjoyable if I rode where my body was comfortable.

So I dropped. I sat down and took 5. The Beginners + group started riding up, gritting their teeth and panting.. just like me. After a  warm welcome I hopped back on and resumed the climb. At a pace I could handle. Heck I was able to chit chat. Laugh. My legs stopped screaming. And as I sat mid pack, surrounded by women having a blast and all dealing with their own challenges (how to jump a log, take a berm, ride off that cold), I realized that they weren’t slower. They were just all riding at their own pace. Within their limits.  Enjoying the ride.

Riding at your own pace. Radical huh? In life, in sport, in work and in play. You can appreciate the scenery, make new friends and have more fun.

Who could argue with that?

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