I lived in a neighborhood with a bunch of kids. There were 4 roads that weaved into a dead end. It was perfect. All summer long we'd 'ride bikes.' I actually remember learning to ride on two wheels. I remember Scott watching me as he sat on the split rail fence. He and the other big kids clapped when I 'got it' and then we just rode off. We zipped up and down the roads, over lawns, into ditches, through the woods to the store for penny candy, and eventually up and down the street with newspapers propped on my handle bars so I could deliver them right to each door. I rode my bike all the time. When I was 12 or maybe 13, I saved my paper route money and bougth my first Ten Speed! It was a blue Schwinn. I loved it! I think it cost me $186. That sticks in my head but I could be way off. Soon, I rode that bike to and from the Strawberry fields on the other side of town where I picked and picked as fast as I could to earn $.25/ quart. I'd ride home over the Spurwink Hills with my free quart of berries propped on the bars. No helmet. We never had helmet. Not until tragedy struck our small town and a young boy, buddies of my brother, was hit by a truck and killed while riding with his Dad and Sister. After that we all wore helmets. In college, I rode my white mountain bike everyyyywhere. It's how we trekked around the UVM campus all four years. We all had bikes. That trusty bike is still in my garage.
Now, I still ride bikes. But it's different. It's all business. I have more gear than I know what to do with. When I was small, I also ran. I ran and ran and ran around the neighborhood. I ran XC meets here and there as a pre-teen. And eventually, I ran on track teams and XC teams. I think that early running helped me to be the runner I am now. Yes, there are days that I feel like a runner.
I wish I could say the same about biking. I don't think all my years of 'riding bikes' has made me a stronger cyclist. I'm not a cyclist actually. I'm a Triathlete. I ride my bike. I am a swimmer. I am a runner. But I don't think I'm a cyclist. Why not? I do not know. I think it's because I continue to struggle to find control. I don't feel like I have total control when I am on my bike. When I swim, I am in charge. I go where I want to go. I move how I want to move. My effort dictates my speed. If I push hard and am smart with my stroke, I will go faster. When I run, I feel the same. My body and my head are in charge. I have control over the road. My legs move where they are supposed to.
I rode 90 miles last Tuesday and nearly got thrown into a ditch. The winds were nearly record setting for a random day in May. I was tossed across the lanes and had the sensation that my back wheel was angled at 45degrees and ready to toss me to the ground. I faced headwinds that resulted in speeds of 11 mph instead of 24 on the sight downhill I rode. I had no control. A few days earlier, on Mother's Day, I forced myself outside for my workout. Seven miles in, I had a flat tire. Wasn't it Mother's day? That tiny rock didn't care. It wedged itself into my wheel and burst tube. I pinched the next one and then got to stand on the side of the road waiting for my rescuer for 40 min. Lame. No control. The machine was in charge. And the machine was not my body. I have been riding day after day this month, and last, in the rain. It's been foggy, and misty, or pouring and windy and as a result, cars aren't seeing me. They don't expect to see bikers out there on the steep winding hills of Western Maine. The giant log trucks fly by me going >50 mph and they're just a few small feet from my little self. Talk about vulnerable. Not a lot that helmet would do for me.
I have bursts of the athlete in me piercing through all that. My mind can take over and talk my way through the wind. I am slowly but surely learning how to deal with that, mentally. I can't move that much faster when it's alive forces push me backwards. But I am crumbling just a bit less inside. I have segments of road that are free from giant trucks and careless cars when I can put my head down and ride hard. I feel my legs and heart working and focusing on the sport. That is why I am out there. I love this sport. This sport of Triathlon. And biking is part of it. So I will keep trying. Keep trying to become part cyclist too.