I was never much of an outdoorsy kid. I was the stay at home and read books by myself kind of kid. I remember vividly that my elementary school was having a bike-a-then when I was 10 years old and I really wanted to ride in it. Eager to nurture my desire to leave the house, my parent bought me a new bike. Not just any bike, no, a brand new bright red 10 speed. I loved that bike. I rode it in the bike-a-thon and continued to ride it.
One day when I was riding down a hill I hit a patch of sand and fell off my precious bike. I skinned my knee, hurt my elbow, and ate a mouthful of icky dirt. I walked my bike the rest of the way home. That was the beginning and end of my bike riding life. I put the bike in the shed and never did I ride it again. Some people say you fall off a horse and you jump back on. I was of the thought that when I fell of my bike I learned that I am not a cyclist!
Flash forward over 30 years and the script has changed. A woman from work was participating in the Ocean State Tour de Cure for Diabetes Research and she was very passionate about the cause because her daughter is a diabetic. I was intrigued because my husband Jeff is a Type 1 Diabetic and I know first hand how challenging and devastating this disease can be. There’s no shortage of fears with diabetes. Blood sugar levels too high or too low can be fatal and in a moment things can change. Diabetics live their lives in a constant state of maintenance and run an alarming risk of losing limbs, their eyesight, and more.
Jeff has always been my number one supporter especially on my quest for better health. I wanted to ride in this race for him, for diabetes, and to see if I could ride a bike again after so much time. Jeff likes to ride too so we got some bikes and rode around a bit. I was surprised I liked it. I was a bit nervous around cars but I got the hang of it pretty quickly.
The Tour de Cure has 5 different distances you can elect to ride: 7, 15, 30, 68, and 100 miles. My friend said she did 7 miles the year before and it was really short. She was going to do the 15 mile this year. Despite my history, I told her I would join her on the 15 mile ride.
The morning of the race I was ready. How long could it take to ride a bike 15 miles. This will be fine. I was convinced. As I’m walking my bike down this huge hill to the check in area I see something shocking. The people doing the 30 mile race had just left and they were biking UP the hill I was walking down. Then it hit me. THERE WILL BE HILLS! How did I not think of this? I live by the beach where it’s relatively flat so HILLS were not even on my radar. I was a little panicked.
I check in and I see my friend. We get ready and as we head to the finish line she’s introducing me to some of the other riders. One group she was really excited to see again. She exchanges greetings and tells me that these guys helped her with her flat tire last year.
As my heart sinks into my stomach we begin the race. We agreed to go at our own pace and I just begin to ride my bike up the hill and it wasn’t so bad. Once I got moving it was actually really peaceful and serene. When we got to the bike path I fell in love. Riding my bike, wind in my face, and just the beauty of my surroundings just did something wonderful. I was so happy I did it. The first 7 miles were a breeze and riding confidently through Narragansett was amazing. The ocean was so beautiful and I couldn’t believe I was already halfway done.
On the way back I learned something else I didn’t expect. All those wonderful easy hills I was able to coast down I will now have to ride UP. There was one particular spot on the bike path that I noticed my thighs were feeling that I’ve gone 10 miles and I was on this slow, painful incline. I’m pedaling like a crazy person but I’m too afraid to stand in my pedals because I barely understand my gears but I’m keenly aware of my lack of balance! I’m just chugging up this hill and really, seriously considering just hopping off the bike and walking. I know that I did that then the odds were high I was going to walk the rest of the way. The struggle was real. I was working it but I wasn’t sure how much I had left in the tank.
In the midst of my struggle, I see this little tiny kid on a little tiny Huffy just sail past me like he rode that bike since he left the womb. As my embarrassment was about to peak his little tiny cycling mom whizzed by me as well. Their ease in riding gave me my much needed second wind. Instead of hopping off my bike I hopped off the Struggle Bus and rode the wheels off my bike until the end. It was a huge sense of accomplishment. It took me 1:40:10 to finish and I felt like a million bucks.
It took over 30 years but I finally picked myself up, spit out the mouth full of dirt, wiped the blood off my knees and got back on the bike!