“One of the best rides of my life”

Featured

IMG_6459

We were talking about the essence of what made a great ride, what would be the pinnacle for us…exactly what would it take to get us there. It wasn’t tough criteria and actually it was unanimous about what was needed to tick the boxes. In fact, in many ways it seemed that we all agreed on something that was just so simple.

It’s a conversation I’ve had with a few close friends recently. Just exactly what does it take to excite the senses, ignite the fire in the belly, get the endorphins pumping and put that smile on the face that doesn’t go away for a long time. I was interested to know because I’ve struggled with having to re-think my riding plans for a little while now. My injuries are classified as ‘chronic’ now and if I’m to keep moving until I’m old, then I need to re-assess what will put that fire in the belly.

gooocr1

Our riders Left to Right: Dianne feeling pumped to finish, Sharyn wonders why no more hills, Elisabeth wants to kill me, Danika was just smiling the whole way!

 

I was super intrigued though when I kept finding the same answers from those I asked. Running a women’s cycling group whose mission is to get more women riding means we start at a base level. But for those who advance through the ranks and build up to achieving bigger and longer rides means the goal posts shift on a pretty regular basis – and that’s a good thing. What was once something that was exciting can become dull and uninteresting as the fitness grows. Challenges loom ahead of you like bucket lists dangling before you on a Facebook feed…we can get so sucked into the vortex of comparing what WE do, to what others do!

But the reality is that we all do what we can manage…is that 5km to the shop, 2 laps of the oval, or 100km on a road? It doesn’t matter…but what does matter is that we set the criteria for what makes a GREAT ride as something realistsic. Not criteria a magazine or a Facebook feed tells us is the pinnacle of great riding, not criteria that others have told you, not criteria that we see others achieve, but simply what it is that makes you LOVE riding your bike.

I don’t want to be misunderstood here, some of the achievements we see of riders doing massive distances on rides are to be admired and applauded. But yesterday I had one of the best rides I have ever had in my cycling career – it fell well short of epic distances and scaling lofty vertical metres. It also lacked in the hard-core conditions to make any of us qualify as heroes, and it certainly wouldn’t be considered something worthy of a medal, a trophy or even a blog post by most. But I beg to differ. Yesterday I saw magic happen before my eyes and that 30km will go down as one of the most exciting rides I’ve ever had.

But hang on, HANG ON! I’m the person who thinks nothing of 100km…or more, on a any ride. I’ve never been much of a climber, so for me it’s always been the distance that makes me happy. I’ve also figured that facing some of the distances and climbs in appalling conditions has been the trophy I can carry within to know I braved ridiculous conditions to ‘get there in the end’. Hypothermia, dehydration, nursing exhausted riders, nursing my own injuries,…it’s all the ‘pinnacle’. Until yesterday.

So what was it about yesterday that was so incredible…was it just me in a moment of euphoria? No, I don’t think so! It seems everyone who was there felt the magic…

Our Coach Natasha offered her perspective:

“Yesterday I had one of the best rides of my life. I’ve done a lot of different rides in the past from the shortest couple of kms to some really long ones (250+kms), I’ve raced and I’ve commuted.

One of the things that attracted me to riding and coaching with Wheel Women was the sense of community. It seemed to be the only group out there that wasn’t pushing women to ride further, faster. They accept anyone – big or small, fast or slow; and they help women with little confidence and ability grow into safe, skilled bike handlers. The great thing is these women usually continue to ride after they get back on, or begin for the first time.

DSC00047

Coach Natasha puts this down as one of her best rides ever!

 

I was personally a little sick of the idea that the only fun you can have on a bike involved speed (racing), long distances or steep hills. I was sick of being too slow, too weak, too ‘lazy’ to make it to every training ride, and sick of busting my gut to stay at the base level of fitness required to race in the lower grades.

So why was yesterday’s 30km Amy’s Ride so good? Firstly it was just long enough to be fun but also a challenge if you wanted it to be and were willing to push yourself a little bit harder here and there….

For some the 30km ride was a massive challenge and it was great to be there for these riders and experience the camaraderie as we cheered each other on. Some of the more social people in our group spent more time meeting fellow riders, some of us rode a little faster here and there so we could take photos of our friends and cheer them as they rode by. There were mums who were riding with their kids, there was at least one couple where the fitter partner was there to support their other half (and how amazing that they stayed with them and didn’t just do a longer ride on their own). There was gorgeous scenery and the strong scent of eucalyptus, and the descents were a blast!

The volunteers were really supportive and at one point there were a few local ladies camped out by the side of the road to cheer! When we finished there were people to cheer us, and then we cheered others in kind, not like at other longer events I’ve done where most people have gone home by the time you cross the finish line!”

Coach Alicia also felt the same way…so what was going on here?

“Yesterday was one of my best days of riding. If you  think that means I completed a challenging ride or achieved a new personal best, you’d be wrong. I rode 30km! Yes there was some lovely scenery and an awesome downhill, but what made it a great day was being able to talk with and help so many other riders.

As I came to the first hill I could see riders ahead of me struggling, so I rode beside them and distracted them by chatting or offered them advice and generally encouraged them to keep going.  All of them were appreciative.

alicia

Alicia spent so much time chatting with riders she didn’t even know she was exhausted afterwards…but pumped knowing she had inspired so many!

 

After my ride, I stood on the side line with my Wheel Women buddies, cheering on every rider as they came to the finish line. I was touched to have some of the riders whom I’d helped during the ride, take the time to thank me for talking with them.

I felt a wonderful sense of community, that none of us was alone, we were here supporting each other.  That’s what made it one of my best rides.”

But what was it for me that made it incredible?

The air was still and the salt air of the beach permeated the bush smells. We rolled up the hills, puffing, sweating, laughing, chasing, and we screamed down the hills flying as we screamed with glee at the freedom. We’d regroup at the top, cheer as the Wheel Women riders rode past laughing at us, snapped photos of them, cheered riders we didn’t even know, then we’d take off again and chase the group until we could do it all again.

We chatted with riders we didn’t know, we made friends and most of all…we smiled and laughed the whole way. A few of our riders were finding the hills a little tough after my promise of a ‘flat ride’ (yeah sorry…you’ve heard that one before right?) and even they were laughing! Despite the threats to kill me at the finish line, and the promise to drown me at the end, they were laughing and finding the funny side to their moments of misery…they were awesome! We were dripping with sweat and loving it.

One by one our riders rolled in and each one received hugs and high fives. But it was only 30km (some did do 60km) yet watching the girls you’d think it was the end of an epic all day ride…the friendships, the support, the smiles for each other. I wanted to cry as I watched it. I have never felt so proud to be a part of such an amazing group of women. They weren’t out there just supporting our group, they were also cheering every other rider!

I felt like the luckiest person alive to be a part of this!

IMG_6461

There they are (well, a few of them): what an amazing group of women. I am so proud to be a part of this group!

gooocr2

Playing Ambassador, riding with besties, laughing with the gang who make my day…everyday!

 

NOTE: Thanks to the Amy Gillett Foundation for inviting me to be an Ambassador for the 30km Family Ride at the RACV Great Otway and Ocean Classic Ride by SME360, to Martin Wells of the Amy Gillett Foundation for being so supportive of the group on the day and getting me through a stressful start to the day…and to all those riders who said THANK YOU!

#AMetreMatters #ShareTheRoad

The story behind the photo…

img_5052

If only we took the time to really see the story in a picture and explore it’s depth, if only we knew the true stories behind the faces, then maybe the picture might hold more significance. This photo for me is not just a great picture taken by Georgie Wilson (@georginamonette), it is the story of courage, challenge, commitment and friendships forged through unlikely circumstances.

For a moment, my breath was taken away when I saw this: it reminded me of what Wheel Women is about and how far we have come in the just over 4 years we’ve been running, and what it means for all the women who have experienced the joy of a ride with us. I am lucky to know the extraordinary stories behind every rider.

For any person seeing this picture I guess it looks very much like a group of middle aged women, who ride bikes. In fact, this is the story of women who are single, some widows, some married, some not, some with children and some who never have, some who work and some don’t…in all shapes and sizes. But above all, it is the story of so many who one day took that first step to go on a ride…in the dark so no one would see, alone and wondering how they would ever manage, or those who just said dammit and dragged that old bike out of the shed. They rose to the challenge regardless of their age, size, fitness or care of what others might say.

pic-1

There are so many faces in this picture that started as beginner riders with us, some barely able to do more than a circuit of the park. Some are now coaches with us, some are ride leaders, some climb hills while others are just content with the endorphins from their regular social but active catch up. They are bonded by their love of cycling and their age, background, career or other detail is irrelevant…it is the bike ride that bonds them.

And then there is the bike shop guy. Not afraid to admit most of his clientele are women these days, I think all of us can say we are treated with respect, patience and a willingness to teach us what we need to know. He’s also happy to share a beer with the girls at the end of the week. We are not demeaned and we are treated with importance, as we should be. He is very much a part of Wheel Women and we like that! He is a role model for the supportive males we need in women’s cycling.

What also makes this photo special is seeing the commitment these women have made not just to their own mental and physical health, but to the cause that is Wheel Women. They are representatives of so many with INCREDIBLE stories of adversity, challenge and showing that they CAN.

Every woman I see cycling with us is an Ambassador for Women… to get healthy, ride more and inspire others! The women above reminded me of that. When other women see you out riding, they see themselves in you – they see your shape is theirs, your age is theirs, your grey hair, brown hair or even your cellulite on your legs is like theirs, that tummy that has a few folds is like theirs, and your laughter, smiles and friendships inspire them.

Keep doing what you are doing…you are all the change-makers!!

pic-2

NOTE: Cyclic Bicycles, 56 Pin Oak Crescent Flemington for the supportive bike shop guy Evan

Finding the fire in your belly…my little New Year message!

img_3099-1Pink has always been my colour…it’s just something that has stuck. And like a lot of things, they get stuck – including me.

It’s been a tough year I’ll admit – loss of passion, loss of friends, loss of motivation, injury, illness and a bunch of other crap that just seemed to always get in the way of a good time. I’ve struggled to keep fit, struggled to maintain a positive body image and been frustrated that I have not been able to ride as much as I would normally. Continue reading

45 Minutes To Fitness…oh really? The Before and After of a 100km ride.

Are you serious…that’s all it takes? So for just 45 minutes of my life I’ll be fit, healthy raring to go. Well bring on the active wear, hand me the sweat bands and let’s get this fitness thing sorted once and for all!

Forty five minutes…yep 45 minutes! As I rode past the call to action sign I couldn’t help but cast my mind back to the days when I was unfit – and trust me, it was longer than 45 minutes ago!

TinaThat’s me, several years ago before I set out on a path to feel better about myself…and me now, looking a whole lot happier about everything! It didn’t take 45 minutes…it’s taken years.

Continue reading

From self doubt to self belief…the journey of the woman cyclist.

As she crossed the line at that 50km gantry at ride’s end, she was laughing, and smiling, and crying…all at the same time. The emotions flooded in and crossing the line was almost impossible as the tears clouded her vision and the laughter took her breath away. Exhausted, barely able to get off the bike and depleted of every last bit of energy, she did it…and she believed that 6 months ago she would never do this. We hugged as she suddenly burst into sobs of joy.

IMG_6788

Continue reading

Where did you get all that gear?

It’s amazing how many times I get asked where I find certain bits of gear I use when I’m cycling. I thought everyone was obsessed with finding that PERFECT item for their cycling adventures and scoured the web in search of those elusive items like I do.

Okay, so maybe I spend too much time scouring the web and not doing what I should be doing, but I have managed to find some COOL stuff that might be helpful. Since I seem to get asked the same things over and over, I decided to just blog it all! Continue reading

Do I look fat in this?

Don’t you hate that question? How many times have you asked yourself when you put on your new cycling gear? Okay, okay I hear you say…’no lycra necessary’ right?

One of the reasons I use that little line with Wheel Women is because I know that so many women feel really put-off not so much by what lycra is and how it looks or feels, but because of what it represents to them. Think about it – when we think lycra and cycling, we think guys-in-lycra-going-fast-and-yelling-at-us-and-telling-us-we-have-no-place-in-cycling. So it is really the analogy we instantly make about what lycra represents…but there is more to it than that.
tina pinkThis week the whole lycra thing was at the front of my mind for several reasons: first, I was handing out the team jerseys for our Around The Bay ride, and second, I was reminded of the ‘lycra-lesson’ this week with two brilliant and honest blogs from Sarah Connolly (http://prowomenscycling.com/2013/10/09/trying-to-find-cycling-clothing-as-a-curvy-girl/) and also from Anna the @Blooming Cyclist (http://masteringtheuphillshift.wordpress.com/2013/10/09/body-image-and-cycling-clothes-an-unhappy-relationship/). Their articles struck a BIG chord with me.

Continue reading