Through the forest and by the lake, it smelled of pine. It was up and up and up and then down, so glorious, down. Thirty-three miles per hour of pure freedom, of flying down the hill, of this is why I do this, of I am in love with the world.
I was a bit nervous to go to the Cyclofemme ride in East Aurora. I didn’t know anyone who was going. I had chatted over messages to the coordinator, but I had yet to meet her. It was important to me to go though. I like that this is an international event. I like that it is for a purpose: to celebrate women’s cycling. However, I was still nervous as I have been having some trouble with my food intake and I didn’t know how I’d do on twenty-five miles of hills. Twenty-miles of flats the other day at Grand Island was terribly hard because I didn’t have enough food in me.
This day though it was all sunshine and smooth East Aurora roads and I was doing way better than I thought. I was keeping up in the front no problem. Then, we went up the first hill and my spirit broke: how am I going to do this? The hill wasn’t what I’m used to on Tuesday night rides in Buffalo or out in Lancaster for training. This was an actual hill. It was up and around a bend and up and around a bend and up and around a bend and keep going and my breathing is heavy and people are passing me and I’m thinking, “How are you doing this so easily?” Then the coordinator comes up to the side and she is sunshine in human form. She is light and bright and easy going and gives me some tips and I understand more about gearing and I say, “Are we last?” And she says, “No! There are people behind you. Everyone’s going their own pace. You’re doing great!” So, my heart is lifted and I respond well to positive feedback and I feel motivated and I kick my legs into working order and I get my breathing back and this is when I do the scenery trick.
The scenery trick is as follows. Instead of thinking I’m a pro cyclist who is in the Tour de France and there is this insurmountable pressure on me, I think of myself as my grandmother riding her bike in wartime England. My grandmother tells me about this quite often. She tells me how she used to ride in high heels and a dress from Birmingham to Stratford on Avon and back again. She actually met my grandfather riding a bike. I love this idea. In my head, I become the woman in high heels just riding along, enjoying the scenery. I am not competition or frustration or self-doubt; I am simply a woman riding along.
So, I play the scenery trick and I see the peeling paint barns and the grey barking dog and smell the wood fireplaces and I see the smooth roads winding and winding upward and I just think: what will I see next? There is so much to see out here in this beautiful place of the arts and craft movement. There is so much to see in this world when one is traveling by bike.
I get through each hill and sometimes it is still hard and one time I take a drink of some water and drop my water bottle and have to circle back and I become almost the last one, but then I catch up and I’m back in the ride and I’m chatting with the other women and it’s fun. My legs are warm and my heart is full from being outdoors in the sun and the breeze.
And, I am simply a woman riding along.