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Riding on hope (17 days till “The Ride”)

June 6, 2012


Training finally pays off! (Photo by Patrick McPartland)


   With only 17 days left till I ride for real, I’ve finally lived that magic moment during which everything comes together at once. I hopped onto the bike without wobbling. I got my left foot pedaling without falling during the re-adjustment. I blew past the kids and Patrick on more than one occasion when they thought I was yards behind still struggling!

   Yesterday was the beginning of the end of my novice stage. I had asked Patrick if he would bring along one of the “big guns” – that is what I call his awesome, professional cameras – to record some of my riding experiences. We hadn’t captured much on film yet, so I wanted to gather some memories of when I was still an unsure, cautious and sometimes entertaining rider. I figured many would still feature me on the ground. To my surprise, we found a problem – I was too good! We returned to the community center lot where I had run countless drills so I could practice more, circling the basketball court and making right turns because I thought I was still shaky, but I was on fire, unable to crash or topple no matter how fast I pedaled or how hard I tried! Since I seemed to have already mastered these feats, I decided to practice sharp turns by following a square drawn on the blacktop. One corner points right at the brick building, but I avoided the collision expertly each time, even when waiting until the last possible minute to jerk the handlebars. Patrick ended up with many great shots of me smiling and riding along, but only a few illustrated that I was having any problems with my lessons.

   Feeling a great boost of confidence, today I asked Patrick if he would accompany me for my first attempt at using a bike path. I had avoided this for so long because I was not completely comfortable with the thought of another cyclist riding alongside me, coming or going, while I was fighting to keep my balance and stay between my lines. I was fully convinced that I would take someone else out.

   Patrick accepted the invitation, and he opted for running to practice for an upcoming 5K race while I rode. The path we chose along the Niagara River is beautiful, even if the view is interrupted by large, steam-spewing industries. But these businesses work in my favor, as they keep the path less crowded than it is a few miles north, where sprawling parks and eateries are featured and many more outdoors enthusiasts gather. I’m better off in an area with less moving targets in my way.

   Before we took off, I imagined that I would fall behind Patrick, pedaling along carefully as he whizzed past me, but the opposite occurred. From the very start, I was traveling quicker than I cared to because of the slight declining slope of the path. This taught me to coast without pedaling and to hold my balance. Physically, I appeared to be in control, but mentally, I was panicking until I hit an incline.

   We traveled 2.5 miles round-trip, and as I was nearing the end of the session, I kept thinking, “I can’t believe I haven’t fallen!” I jinxed myself. Traveling straight and not having to stop for many signs and vehicles afforded me the opportunity to experiment with looking around, lifting my feet off the pedals and swerving and regaining my balance. I also practiced glancing behind me so I could make sure Patrick was still in earshot and eyeshot. Being nearly blind in my left eye, I had no choice but to glance over my right shoulder to quickly look for Patrick’s orange jogging jacket bouncing up and down before turning forward. I did this about five times during the trip and saw the orange sign of, “I’m still here!” without a problem. That was until we were steps from the car, and I was way ahead of Patrick. I glanced and couldn’t see his jacket, so when I took a longer second look, not only did I see orange, but I also saw green as the ground came toward me. Apparently, I gave the glance a little too much turn at the hips that time and threw everything off.

   It wasn’t the falling, the new bruise to add to the collection or the bent-out-of-shape handlebars that upset me. No, it was the fact that an undercover police officer was driving by at the moment I crashed. He pulled over to make sure I was OK just as Patrick caught up to me. It reminded me of the time when I crashed my car into a snowbank in my own driveway just as a paramedic truck was driving by, and I knew one of the emergency medical technicians who exited the vehicle to help dig me out. I always end up looking like the distressed damsel. So embarrassing!

   Even with the tumble, I am feeling more confident about this than ever. I needed a pre-test of a bike path before doing the actual ride – I needed to know that I could be comfortable and in control with other cyclists around me. I can’t wait to explore the actual route for the Ride for Roswell this Saturday – it will be the final piece of the confidence-building puzzle. I’m finally at the point where I truly believe that I can honor the pledges I have received and ride eight miles with no problem.


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