Before children I was active. Matt and I would go hiking or camping regularly. We members of a climbing gym which we tackled a couple of times a week. I bike commuted to work often but that was a short seven or so kilometres and flat. It was really just a relaxing way to get from A to B.
Our philosophy for raising our children has been to be outside and active when possible. We putter in the yard and forest. We go on kid hikes, goecaching, explore the beach. We are ramping up our skiing.
But all this activity wasn’t the same as my life before. I wasn’t restored by it – getting two little people ready to do anything is exhausting – it’s almost an adventure in itself. Without a doubt I am the enthusiasm for our family. If I don’t have the momentum to get us moving and out the door it will never happen. Generally I am up for it but as Matt’s energy waned with stressful work, it was taking more to get everyone moving and I was depleted. So depleted.
As much as I love my kids I was lost in them. I had focused on them for six years straight. My own health had taken a significant dive (another tale for another post) with the diagnosis of Rheumatoid Arthritis. I was at a cross roads. I felt I needed to do something or I would lose myself completely which is how I found myself on a beach making the decision to ride.
As the calendar turned to 2015 I started exploring training options for the Gran Fondo. I was pretty excited to stumble upon the My First Fondo program organized through the Whistler Gran Fondo. I was in. It wasn’t quite that simple. I am shy and I dread meeting new people – this would push me out of my comfort zone in so many ways. I tried to wrangle someone to join me but it proved too intimidating and time consuming for the busy moms I know.
I cleaned up my old heavy commuting bike. I bought myself some new bike shorts. I figured out how to attach our bike rack to the car and drove to my first session.
We shyly gathered at the MEC North Vancouver. We were greeted by our coach Rob and hesitantly introduced ourselves. We were university grad students, early-in-career professionals, we were seniors, we were parents, we were weekend warriors, we were over-weight, we were type-A executives. We were a rag-tag group with only one thing in common – we wanted to ride up a mountain.
Our weekly rides covered everything from safety and group riding to how to change a tire and nutrition. We progressed from riding a few kilometres to tackling some of Vancouver’s greatest mountain roads. Our group whittled down from about 20 to about 12. We lost some to injuries, some to schedule demands, others to simple lack of commitment.
The rest of us stuck to our weekly schedule of one training session, one short interval ride and one long weekend ride to build endurance. We broke off into groups of two or three and tackled all manner of roads together. These were important bonding and training sessions. We would need our teammates if we were going to accomplish such a big goal.
My life changed. Thursday nights and Sundays became the most important meetings in my calendar. This was the first time in six years people knew me as someone other than a mom. As my strength and experience grew, I became more driven. I went from merely wanting to finish the race to doing well.
I saw one teammate drop more than 50 pounds – his health transformed. I saw one teammate go from being out of breath after a hill a block long to doing training runs from Squamish to Whistler. I saw us all go from people who thought they could ride a bike to cyclists. We developed such mutual respect and held each other accountable.
The My First Fondo program was the game changer. I wouldn’t have found the courage or persistence to stick it out with the weekly sessions. I wouldn’t have gained important experience and skills that laid the foundation for me to grow as a safe cyclist.
If you are looking for a bike program check out the My First Fondo. The program meant our start line began months earlier but all of us who stuck with it crossed the finish line – faster than the goals we had set for ourselves.