I had high hopes for the club ride I was going to join this morning. When I read the description for the ride originally on the website, I assumed it would be a little challenging, but not so much that I won’t be able to keep up, even if from more than the distance of a few turns of the wheels, so to speak. It was billed as suitable for beginners.
And so I turned up at the appointed meeting place in my cycling duds, including the brand new leg warmers, my new helmet without the visor that screamed amateur, and my bike, even if its pedals are still reversible for clipping in or not, depending on the fear factor involved on the ride.
As soon as I caught sight of the group, most of them clad in club jerseys and looking very fit and spiffy, I knew I was in trouble. Not that they weren’t super nice, but it was obvious I was the oldest there and the least experienced, even if I tried hard to look the part. The awkward pedal setup coupled with my cyclocross tires (I would like to think) would have been a challenge for me even if I had been younger.
So out we rolled across the streets of San Rafael heading toward Paradise Drive to do the Tiburon loop, a route I’ve never done because of fears. Even before we reached the tunnel that connects San Rafael to Larkspur Landing, I was out of breath, way behind, and my heart rate more than double that of my rpm, as well as that of the heart rate of one of the ride leaders whose job was to make sure no one gets dropped. My fancy new leg warmers, too, were slipping south, so to speak.
Once we reached the US 101 onramp bridge, from where the ride would actually be smoother, with less city riding, the poor guy who had been saddled with shepherding me advised me to drop the ride. Not that he wasn’t encouraging of my cycling efforts, but clearly, he wasn’t going to get anywhere with me trailing on my cyclocross bike and bearing down on the pedals as if stepping through mud, not to mention with my heart practically in my mouth.
And so I watched the group disappear over the bridge. I stood there for a while, my heart beating a lot less ferociously, but about to sink into the cold, dark water of despair. I thought of going back and forth along the bike path, maybe getting on the grass and practicing with the cleats. I thought of calling my spouse and asking for a ride home.
I watched a lone pelican take off from the middle of the creek and fly in the direction of Tiburon. I looked at the mountain, but there was no answer, or even a question to be had there. I got back on the bike, and without a thought one way or another, or about anything in particular, I started to pedal with my back to the mountain. There I was, headed in the direction of the arc the pelican’s flight drew.
Eventually I found myself on Paradise Drive. At first the going was rough. I feared the traffic. The gently rolling hills had me experimenting with shifting, not always successfully. I stopped looking at my bike computer and worrying about my heart rate or rpms. I started to look at the scenery around me. Seems like in no time at all, I was taking delight in rounding the curves of the road. Up and down I went, climbing up and rolling down as the terrain changed. I felt like a kid on a bicycle….
As I neared the town of Tiburon, a group of cyclists whizzed by, coming from the other direction. It was the group I had to drop, on their way back. We waved to each other. I felt like thanking them. Really. Were it not for how fast they were going out of the gate, I would have never discovered how stubborn I can be. I might not have a roadie’s legs or lungs, but even of my fat-tired cyclocross bike, I have the determination to get where I am going … eventually.
And so, after a brief coffee stop in Tiburon, I ended up in Mill Valley on my way to Sausalito, while waiting for the spouse to pick me up. Along the bike path near Richardson Bay, I took the bike into the “dirt” a bit along the side of the road. The bike hummed, pleased to get a bit dirty. It also gave me a much smoother ride than what I had on the paved road. Maybe the next ride will be for the bike, so it can show me what it can do, instead of my forcing it to mind the straight line.
Near the end of my ride, some 26 miles into this adventure, I stopped to look at Mt. Tam again. It still had no answers, or even questions for me. But there is no need for either the questions or the answers. It is more than enough just to have the mountain in sight.