I never thought I was an athlete

by singlemomseeking on May 5, 2011

“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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Don’t be afraid to get lost | Single Mom Seeking
May 26, 2011 at 2:01 am

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

T May 5, 2011 at 12:06 pm

OMG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! You’re making me cry!!!!!!!!!!!

I’m SO utterly proud of you! In so many ways. I stand in awe at you! I wish I was there doing it and training with you. I would love to be the one by your side up that last hill, both of us silently cheering the other on. (Silently cursing those damn hills too!)

Very Very VERY proud.

So much love to you!

Reply

Crazy Computer Dad May 5, 2011 at 2:54 pm

Congrats on hanging in there and finishing!!!! It shows a tremendous amount of courage, determination, and heart to enter and finish something like that. Especially with all the training leading up to it, moving, and other challenges day to day that seem to get in the way.

I finish my 12 week body transformation challenge this Saturday. Final weigh-ins, measurements, etc. The last couple of weeks have been especially hard. I just want to finish at this point, but I did hit my goals and I’m in that last figurative sprint up hill to the finish.

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singlemomseeking May 5, 2011 at 7:35 pm

All right @CCD, what exactly is a “12 week body transformation challenge”? Do tell…

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grace @ahead May 6, 2011 at 7:01 am

good job finishing the race! you’ve got to love the feeling of success after the hard work!

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Crazy Computer Dad May 6, 2011 at 12:40 pm

Rachel,
12 weeks of torture! :-)
The challenge is a 12 week program of diet and exercise led by a group of trainers with a group of challenge participants. There were 12 of us to start out with, but I think we’ll finish with 8 or 9. The trainers weigh and measure us and we give them what our goals are. Then the trainers introduce us to a nutrition and exercise plan to help us achieve the results we want. We are both competing with the other participants and encouraging each other as well.

I ended up doing 45 mins of cardio twice a day and lifting weights in the evenings for six days a week. I’ve cut all my meals to between 200 and 300 calories, not exceeding 1500 in a day. Some days I was burning 1000-1400 calories in just cardio. So, at this point, I’m very very tired, but I lost between 40 and 45 lbs and completely transformed my body. I feel like I now look like what my mind always thinks I look like. My wife says I am now too skinny. :-)

I learned a lot about nutrition and eating along the way. The program is really built around what body builders do to get ready for a contest. I don’t see it all as sustainable at the exercise levels above, but the nutrition part should be easy to maintain.

When SGG and I went hiking two weeks ago, climbing up the hills and stuff seemed so easy. Then I thought about it and realized it was the equivalent of taking off a 40lb back pack. Plus, I’m in much better cardio shape.

I had to buy a new set of clothes….and I’m almost at a point where I need to buy another set. I don’t think I’m going to get there though.

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avigail74 May 7, 2011 at 11:55 am

Standing ovation.
Curtsy.
Big smiles.
I knew you could do it.
And, remember, for most athletes, the last 1/3 is a butt kicker. You did it anyway!
You’ve just made the road wider for our next generation of girls! Thank you!

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Sassy Single Mom May 8, 2011 at 7:51 am

Big CONGRATULATIONS! =)

How incredibly empowering it must feel to have accomplished what you set out to do! You completed the race. Despite the physical pain and mental fatigue – you did it! This is such a great metaphor for life and hopefully something you can look back on for a long while as motivation and inspiration for doing most anything you want.

I’m amazed, because I am also one of those “non athletic” types. But, it just goes to show you what can be accomplished with grit, determination and perseverance.

Maybe one day I’ll attempt a physical challenge … Congrats again, girl! ;)

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Kevin May 9, 2011 at 10:23 am

Let me just say this: I’ve never ever ever ridden a bike 73 miles. So proud of you and your determination.

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Anne-Marie May 9, 2011 at 10:37 pm

Seventy-three miles? Wow. You got my eternal respect!!

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shim AKA NappyKitchen July 10, 2011 at 7:37 pm

Oh my, I saw the 73 miles and thought it was a typo. That is an incredible distant. I am very proud of you! Most people would have chickened out. I probably would have been one of those cluckers;)
.-= shim AKA NappyKitchen´s last blog ..Breaking the Girl =-.

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