“You look nervous,” a woman with pigtails says to me outside the bathroom at 7 a.m., just before I start my 73 mile ride in the Grizzly Peak Century.
“I guess it’s nervous excitement,” I say.
I’ve never cycled 73 miles before. Let alone, climbed 5,750 feet while cycling. That woman in the bathroom was perceptive: I DO feel shaky.
Outside the restroom, the Samsung SH100 camera team is waiting for me. Just days before, Samsung contacted me days about their Coast to Coast Photo Post Campaign: Samsung is on a month-long road trip across America during May to capture bloggers at local hidden gems with its new WiFi-enabled social media camera. (You can read more about the campaign in the New York Times this week.)
Was it crazy fate that the same weekend this camera team was departing the Bay Area, I happened to be cycling through hills that overlooked one of the most gorgeous gems in the world?…. The San Francisco Bay.
The Grizzly Peak organizers had warned: For slower riders attempting a full century, it is a challenge! You need to start early and keep moving! So, I’m stretching at 7:05 a.m., but I wish I’d arrived earlier. That’s when I break into a jittery laugh. If Samsung had come here to capture a real athlete climbing these hills, maybe they should turn the camera on any one of the 100s of men who were cycling with me? (I was scoping out the other riders — and this particular ride is very men-heavy.)
A real athlete. Since high school, I’d always given that label to the skinny girls who made varsity swim team. And me? I was the kid who got cut during swim try-outs. Swimming was the only sport I’d every known, and at age 15, I saw that door shut. This was the moment I decided that I was not an athlete — and I gained at least 10 pounds during high school.
During my 20s, I discovered yoga and still love the practice. Yet after having a baby and entering my 30s, yoga wasn’t helping me fit into any of the jeans I used to wear. But it was more than that: my body was feeling so heavy, and so was my mind. That’s when another single mom convinced me to try kick boxing. And for the first time as an adult, I started doing cardio.
And then, I met Thunderpants-the-cyclist. When we were dating, I invited him to spin with me at the gym. A year later, he was the guy who inspired me to take cycling outdoors. When I mentioned the Grizzly Peak Century, he bought a ticket for me. (Yes, he rode the Century, too — with a fast, experienced cyclist friend.)
For the first 50 miles of the ride, I’m pleasantly surprised: I feel very strong. Here I am, at the top of one of the first hills:
When I take a breather at one of the three rest stops, I remember what I’d promised myself:
1. To finish the ride
2. To stay on my bike up every hill — and not walk
3. To have fun.
I’m not going to lie: last 15 miles are so hard. My legs are shaking. My shoulders and neck hurt. As I climb that last steep hill that doesn’t seem to end, I start to cry. That’s when my friend, Jim — who bravely battled cancer — pops into my head. Tears fall down my cheeks, and I almost hear him laughing at me, proud and full of love. This gives me strength. I stay on my bike.
Note: All photos taken by the Samsung SH100 camera
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