As I start a new season with Team in Training, it is easy to forget that I haven’t even been cycling for that long. The “newbies” on this year’s team look at me and assume I have been doing this for years and that I have always been fit. That is far from the truth.
It was in May of 2011 that I first started with Team in Training, and the first time I had ever been on a road bike. In fact, it was probably the first time I had really ridden a bike in 15 years. On that first training ride of 12 miles, I recall my teammates checking on me to see if I could even finish and clapping for me when I finally arrived back at the start.
Back then, I was what many would say is “skinny fat”. I was within the normal weight range, but I was weak and my cardio fitness was poor. I remember feeling embarrassed because I was always last to finish the rides. I also remember reading blogs and books on how to improve my fitness.
It wasn’t just my fitness that was lacking. I also struggled with the “simple” things on the bike. I had trouble getting used to clipping in and out, shifting gears, braking smoothly, etc. I also had to figure out how to take a drink or a bite to eat while riding. And, of course, there was the tactical stuff like how to attack a climb and riding in a paceline.
It was all daunting, but I just kept at it. I listened to my coaches and teammates, read more blogs, and asked for advice from everyone. I signed up for personal training and a gym membership. But the biggest help was just spending more time on the bike.
Each week I was improving. I was eating better, getting stronger, and riding more efficiently. As I improved, so did the challenges. The week that we were to tackle Lookout Mountain for the first time was really stressful for me. I don’t think I slept that well and I was almost hyperventilating before I even got to the mountain. I made it up that day. Sure, I stopped 3 or 4 times, but I met that challenge and many other along the way.
It all added up and I completed my first century ride in September 2011 – the Moab Century Tour. It felt like such an amazing accomplishment. But I didn’t want to stop. I kept training and I kept involved with Team in Training. Since that time I have completed eight more biking events including the Red Rocks Century which is one of the toughest around. I dropped my body fat percentage from 24 down to 13 percent and lost two inches on my waist (while only losing 6 pounds).
I feel really, really good, but it still surprises me when people think this is how I have always been. I forget how far I have come and that others don’t know my story. It feels good to have the newbies think I’m some kind of expert. But I want them to know where I started and how I got here. I want them to feel the same elation that I felt completing my first century ride. All they have to do is keep pedaling, and they will!