I finally got back in the saddle last night. No, not the horseback riding kind - although that reminds me that I should make an effort to get out to the barn for ride, too.
I had my first outdoor bike ride of the season. I'd be lying if I didn't tell you that I had a major case of the what-if's coming into the ride.
What if I couldn't make it up the hills?
What if I didn't unclip from my pedals fast enough?
What if there was too much sand on the road?
What if I couldn't avoid all the spring potholes?
What if I just couldn't remember to ride a bike?
I thought about those what-if's all day long as I planned for my post-work ride. We've been lucky to have been hit with a spell of spring-like temps and bright sun - the kind that just begs me to do anything outdoors.
The weather, coupled with the recent time change (three cheers for Spring Ahead!), made for the perfect after-work bike scenario.
Since it was my first ride - and I was nervous, nervous, nervous - I decided I'd drive my route before I rode it (something I don't usually do). I mapped out a 15-miler. My fav 20-mile route seemed just a bit too long for the Maiden Voyage of the season and a 10-miler almost didn't seem worth it.
It was a route I hadn't ridden before, although I'd traveled most of it either by bike or by foot at some point since moving to Manchester almost two years ago. As I drove the reconnaissance mission, I kept my eyes glued to the side of the road, seeking out anything that might be a biking hazard - excessive sand, broken up pavement, pot holes, water.
Not surprising, I saw my share of all of those things. (They're pretty much everywhere in the springtime in New England.) But instead of shying away from the challenges of early spring riding, I decided to give it a go and get on the bike. (I will admit that there was a fleeting moment when I thought about just going out for a run instead. I feel much safer and confident in my sneakers than on two wheels.)
Once home, I got all of my gear ready - cycling shoes and shorts, gloves, helmet, sunglasses, water bottle, the directions scribbled on a piece of paper. Yes, I'd driven the route and made note of landmarks and turns, but I'm still a bit fearful of getting lost.
Still nervous about the upcoming ride (I mentioned that I was nervous, right?), I did a few back-and-forths in the parking lot of my condo complex to practice clipping and unclipping from my pedals. There's definitely something about being clipped to a bike that's a little unsettling to me. (Anyone who knows me can probably figure out that's just part of my personality - the same way I don't like cruise control or to be picked up. Perhaps a bit of a control freak?)
I gave myself a passing grade on the clip-unclip test and headed out onto the road. I instantly remembered why I like cycling. The wind on my face, the slight burn of my legs as my muscles propelled me forward, the fresh air, the feeling of accomplishment.
I made my way along the designated route, struggling a bit at even the slightest incline. I'd forgotten how hard hills can be on a bike! I practice the techniques that TC taught me last season - standing up on the hills, shifting before it's too late, using the downhills to gain momentum to help me up the next hill. At times, I definitely pushed myself through pain and discomfort to get to the top of the hill. (The faster I get to the top, the faster I get to enjoy the pay-off of the downhill on the other side, right? Thinking something like that seems to help, mid-hill.)
At times, my legs tingled and throbbed - just enough to remind me that I'm not in bike-riding shape. (I'll get better, won't I?) Somewhere around the middle of the ride, I smiled to myself as I thought that I might actually find it easier to run 15 miles than to ride 15 miles at this point in the season. Yep, 15 miles on foot seemed much less daunting.
I heard TC's advice and words as I pushed myself up the hills, sometimes getting frighteningly slow at the top. It's okay to push myself a little harder. A little pain is okay. I can do this. I can probably even do more than this.
Soon enough, I'd completed my loop through Londonderry and back by the airport. (I always find it cool to be running or riding alongside planes taking off or landing.)
I pulled into my driveway with what was probably a huge smile on my face. I felt great to have conquered all of those what-if's. I hadn't fallen or felt uneasy. I hadn't struggled (not too much anyway - at least not enough to force me to walk up any hills or even shift down into my smaller gear).
The first ride had been exactly what I needed. A good confidence booster and a good challenge.
I guess that saying comes from somewhere... yep, it's just like riding a bike.
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