About The Bike Ride (Post II)

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In the upcoming days I will be publishing a series of posts about the road that led me to one of my current pursuits - a 266 miles long charitable bike ride. This is part 2 of 3.

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Why Ride? / Commitment.

One of my favorite quotes, by Pema Chödrön, says that “when one sticks to one boat, whatever that boat my be, then one actually begins the warrior’s journey”, and I was intent on making that journey a reality for myself.

On October of 2015, I was inspired by a dear friend to ride a few hundred miles for a charitable organization named Action Medical Research for Children. I had been itching for a “a major challenge”, and instead of envying her adventure, I asked to go with her. So with her joyful support, I signed up to ride my bike from London to Paris in the summer of 2016.

When I did that, I was fully aware of the obstacles I would face, and they were physical, logistical, and mental. I knew I would have to overcome each of those hurdles in order to take part in this ride. I also knew that once I committed to it, there would be no cushion and no giving up. I was in it for the long haul, and I would give myself no other options than rising above my current limitations. But that was alright: I had been looking for a good “problem to solve”, and this epic ride was just perfect!

The First Stumbling Block.

I’m not in great shape. I’m in ok shape. I eat well and healthy most of the time (still committing my gluttony sins a bit more often than I like to admit), and I exercise moderately, in a manner that I enjoy.

But when I pledged to ride my bike a “tad” further than I ever had, I also vowed to put my best effort to get physically apt for it. I told myself that from amateur cycler, I would become a pretty-darn-good one in a matter of months. Now, how well I would manage to accomplish that feat, is another story.

Let it be known here that I am not super competitive. Of course there’s a small part of me who enjoys a nice trial with others, but by far, the biggest contests I set out to do, are with yours truly. I challenge the heck out of me on a daily basis, and yes, you can say that I am hard on myself. It’s both a goal achieving blessing and a torturous unforgiving curse. I’m working on balancing that act.

So as far as the physical challenge, here is where I am: I’m riding like I have no fear and eating the healthiest foods like “it’s all I ever enjoy”... which basically means I am faking it until I make it, because the honest truth is that I am terrified that a car will hit me as I coast along the road, and I also think about bread and sugar more times than I think about my mother.

But if I let my fear to get hit while riding take over, I won’t get physically apt by summer, and if I don’t make an effort to eat better, I will add unwanted weight and feel sluggish by ride’s time, and all this hullabaloo will have been for nothing.

The Logistical Issue Is a Mental Issue.

Deciding to sign up for the ride was easy. The cause was awesome, the ride promised to be beautiful, and I wanted it really bad. So after getting the encouragement of my friend to join her, there was no further deliberation, or “buts and ifs”: I simply signed the online form, paid a fee, and got a fundraising webpage set up. Boom. Done. 

Whatever came after that would have to solve itself. Correction: I would have to solve it. So be it and so it is.

So, as I mentioned before, in addition to getting myself into shape, I also committed to raising a significant amount of money for charity. And besides that, I didn’t own a road bike, much less the proper cycling equipment - so I “sort of” (without further reflection on the issue) promised that I would come up with that too.

Once the initial feeling of excitement gave way to actual practical planning, my first concern was “how do I get people to support my cause?” moreover “how do I move past my own issues with asking anybody for anything, hurdle all my resources, and engage the folks I know, into supporting me, and this great initiative?”Getting over myself and my (useless) pride was first in order!

And then something amazing and encouraging happened: 3 days after signing up for the ride, and before I even notified my closest friends and family members about what I was going to do, a very kind pet-sitting client of mine contacted me to cancel her upcoming booking. She was feeling sick, but because the cancellation notice was short, she still wanted to compensate me for my time.

I was touched by her initiative, and upon her adamance to pay, I said “ok, if that is the case, why don’t you just make a donation to my fundraiser?” and that she did. Waaaay more than I expected! I got a little teary eyed sitting in front of my computer, looking at the confirmation to my first sponsorship. I thought “things are happening!” it was very encouraging. 

From then on, I made a point to reach out and notify friends, family, co-workers, put a blurb on instagram, get over my shyness and talk to people about it, etc, etc.

As of this moment, I have raised over a third of my targeted amount. It has been one of the most humbling experiences, to simply ask the people around me for a little help and in turn, get their encouragement and support. The biggest lesson so far, is that people believe in me more than I believe in myself, and I aim to make this trend a little different from now on: I want to have as much faith in what I can accomplish as those around me do. I want to continue to get out of my shell, dare to do things, not be so concerned with “what are others going to think?”, or “can I? Should I?”. - so many people endorse me with no questions asked, so why is it that I waste my time with a boundless fountain of insecurity and self-doubt? I am sure there’s a better way I can conduct my thoughts and subsequently my life, and I am resolute on making it happen!

One Last Detail.

So, by mid-December, with the fundraiser taking wings, I was giddy with excitement. Alas, I still had no proper bike to train on. Since signing up in October, I had been content to train on my hybrid commuter/cruiser (Lucy!) working on my endurance, but I knew I would have to come up with a proper road bike sooner than later.

Road bikes can cost a big deal of money, and the thought of having to save for yet-another-thing, was stressing me out. I was working on convincing a friend to let me borrow his bike so I could initiate another level of training by January, but before then, another awesome thing happened. On December, during a trip out of town, my host and dear friend asked me “Do you own a road bike?” and then with her trademark confidence, she continued “you should have mine. I did a charitable bike ride on it myself. I have an emotional attachment to it, but I think passing it on to you and your cause is the right thing to do” and so it was… My friend had just blinked her eyes like Jeannie, and I had a road bike! I could barely believe it!

I was stoked beside myself at my good fortune - do I really have to emphasize how many awesome people I have in my life? And with that, my goal to start training on a proper road bike by January was going to fulfill itself. I was so grateful, and I couldn’t wait!

...And Back To That Boat!

So, inspired by the beautiful words of Pema Chödrön, I decided “to stick to that boat”: At whatever cost, I knew that “troublesome” road was going to do more than have me overcome physical and logistical challenges. I was to overcome my old, hard-wired mindset, my outdated beliefs and doubtful attitude. That is no longer me, and even when this old-self tries to make an appearance, I know better now not to let it take over and “steal the show”.

Preparing, training, fundraising, buying gear, getting myself across the Atlantic, managing to breathe, and remain sane through it all, are just bullet points to a much bigger picture: the picture about myself and my life... the one I am still painting, marveled at its colors, changing from sad, dull shades of self-doubt, to much brighter hues of faith and self-achievement. From here on now, forward is the only direction I move.  

(To be continued…)