Highs, Inclines and Lows of My Ride in a Group (of Thousands)



When I first starting biking last September, the thought that I remember most is, “I wasted a lot of money on this cheap bike. How can I possibly bike when my thighs catch on fire before I get to the end of the block!”

Somehow, I persevered. It had a little to do with not wanting to feel like i wasted my money. A little more with Strava which fed my data-hungry mind, fascinated with statistics, trends, and seeing progress, albeit a few seconds at a time. Riding segments made understanding my biking ability better. But mostly it had to do with this keg covering my six pack. After all the reading I did on how to stay healthy, it gave new meaning to Ride or Die.

This past weekend was a milestone for me. It wasn’t the distance because I’ve ridden further in one session before. It wasn’t the riding in the rain which was a first but nothing to blog about. It was the riding during the day, surrounded by thousands of other riders, any one of them who would hear me gasping for air as if I was having an asthma attack. I finally overcame my ego shaming me into biking only when it’s dark at night!

Seriously, I participated in DC Bike Ride, and it was great. I can be pretty anti-social, so being surrounded by thousands of others was a bit unnerving for me. That and I was in a short sleeve jersey, teeth chattering, bones shivering, waiting for the ride to start. But once we got started, man it was great to be out there.

There was a sense of accomplishment when I finished, albeit anti-climatic since it wasn’t quite a race. Whenever I saw someone’s post on Strava, or read something online about the event, I could say I was there as well. Riding the car-free route was bliss. The route could’ve made more of DC’s amazing scenery, but when else do you get to ride the Whitehurst, I-385, E Street and so on?

Humbling Experience

But it was also humbling. For example:

We were going up the ramp over 12th Street. It’s about a 4 percent incline, but felt like 8 percent to me. We were only a few miles to the end of the course and my ego relented. It said it was OK to take a break. Walk the bike the 100 yards or so to the top of the ramp then finish the ride. We don’t know these people.

And just when the neurons fired messages to my muscles to start the dismount, I hear a woman behind me say, “C’mon, mom, you can do it.” I looked back and saw this woman, maybe in her 60s, head down, eyes focused, back parallel with the road with a fierce determination in her stare; and she said, “Don’t worry. I’m not getting off this bike. I’m not walking up this hill!”

And that’s when my ego snapped out of it and said, even though I’m getting passed by someone’s grandmother, I couldn’t walk the bike now. Thighs be damned! So in the lowest possible gear and with a cadence of nearly 100, I made it to the top and finished the race.

DC Bike Ride was great. I will be an annual participant. Maybe next year, the wife will join me and I won’t struggle as much with those tiny inclines.

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