I belong to a tribe of wild-hearted women.
I belong to the motion of legs moving.
I belong to the sound of my breath in the morning, panting in the gym.
I belong to the deep pull, the cycle through, the calm rotation through ten and up past six.
I belong to around and around and around.
I belong to my heart beating.
I belong to the sweat dripping.
I belong to the seven a.m. alarm and up and out, bike in hand.
I belong to peanut butter and bananas.
I belong to quenching not only thirst, but a desire to satiate dreams.
I belong to equality.
I belong to openness of ideas.
I belong to improvement.
I belong to failure as a way to victory.
Most weeks, I train three times a week and next week, I’ll start at four. I get up. I make a coffee, yogurt, granola. I put on my bike clothes and I drive to the training facility. I sit on a bike and for an hour or an hour and a half, I spin my legs, over and over and over again. Why do I do this? Why do I insist on this monotony of motion?
Because I belong in this sport.
The other night, I sat at a table with my team. Glasses of wine, pens and paper, and calendars were out in front of us. We were having our first team meeting of the 2015 season. As I was sitting there, I realized how much I belong here. The funny thing is it is not because of talent. It is not because of innate skill. It is because of my own belief in myself and my desire to work hard. Each of these women is a powerhouse of force. We laugh. We joke. We talk some rot about beating other teams (with the affection that comes with competition of course). We want to do well. We want to compete.
This past season I did not do well in terms of skill and ability. I lost most races. There was a moment in the fall when I thought that I would stop all this. Why do this? I’m a writer, not a racer. However, after talking with a teammate and having some internal reflection on a train to Montreal, I realized how much I need this sport in my life. I thought about how much I wanted to work in this training facility this winter. How much I want to race at Larkin Crits in the summer. How much I wanted to do the Buffalo Omnium again. It is not because of glory. I won’t come in first for a long time, if ever, but maybe I’m already winning something else. Maybe I’ve won the spot to belong.
So, I go to the training facility and I work my heart out. I sweat and I feel tired and I push and push and go deep inside and pull out strength and effort. I pull out fast feet and strong legs and cruel minutes ticking by. I train. This is my victory. I have already improved my watts and my miles per hour. This is my victory. I have already improved my endurance. I was training next to my teammate and she looked at me and said, “You’re going to be strong this season.” I won’t keep up with the top pack, I know, but I’m trying for the middle this season. I’m trying to be a competitor. I want to do well in the second race that will happen in some of these races (the race will sort out–the top cyclists will take off in their own race and then the other cyclists will fight for the “second” race).
I can feel it in my bones. I can feel it on the soles of my feet, in my legs, my calves, the irises of my eyes: I am getting stronger.
I belong to the self that sees possibility in all things. I belong to the notion that if one wants to try and work hard, she can do well. I belong to hope. I belong to effort. I belong.