I follow a few different cycling clubs on Facebook for all my relevant updates, mostly with mountain biking trails, closures, all those useful things. Somehow, I stumbled across an unofficial event with the Rapha Cycle Club, the Tour des Plages. Four check points, a potential of 160kms, teams of 4, tackling the weekend traffic of Sydney roads, and almost non-stop rain after the first checkpoint. I had recently connected with a fellow Sydney rider through Facebook, thanks to my blog posts through Roxcycl, who I thought might be keen for a crazy day of riding like this, and who may know more people to make up a team. Thankfully, she was! So the team, Wheelie Tyred, was set.
Immediately, I was doubting myself. Could I even make 160kms? I am so slow, will everyone get annoyed at me because they are constantly waiting for me? This self doubt has always plagued me, and I see it in others as well, especially women, especially those new to physical activity. Why do we do that, that self deprecation? I had been working on a blog post about this, about my efforts to stop people I know from talking that way, and stopping myself too. It’s hard, and putting my hand up for this ride definitely made it a struggle to fight against.
Our little team of 4 instead turned into the mega team, with 3 hitchins! Such friendly, smiley, lovely people that made me feel so welcome and excited for the massive ride that lay ahead. We scuttled through the city, but when we hit the more serious climbs, I started to notice something. Everyone was waiting at the top of a climb for me and as soon as I’d get there, in need of a break, some refueling, they’d roll off again. I was too embarrassed and ashamed to ask them to wait, and this really, honestly, made me doubt why I endeavoured to attempt this ride, to get on the road again with others, when I felt like an unwelcome burden, slowing the group. I wasn’t as strong for the climbs. My self doubts felt they were being fulfilled and I felt like I shouldn’t have been there.
But Karen noticed.
Then everyone noticed and realised. This wasn’t a race. This was a day out riding around Sydney together, supporting each other through the ride. Suddenly, the feel of the ride completely changed. I think no-one was really aware of my abilities, having not known me before the day, completely understandable. They were used to riding with each other, so as I fell to the back of the pack, it wasn’t initially noticed. But once it was, my gosh, I have never been on such a ride, as the slow poke, and felt like I wasn’t a burden. I felt welcomed, encouraged, that we were all in the ride together, and was even included in future long ride planning!
After our first check point, through a miscommunication, we lost our 3 extra teamies. The rain had started, and we decided we would head down to the second check point at Manly, see if we could find our teamies (should have swapped numbers!) and then hop on the ferry across to Circular Quay. The ferry ride gave us a chance to eat some more substantial food (read donuts) and warm up with some hot beverages. We ran into a couple of other teams doing the tour and had some super friendly chats. One team was doing a tour of pubs and yum cha for the day, the exact kind of attitude suitable to a rainy, windy, long riding day!
Two more check points lay ahead, and every kilometre of this ride was new for me. The girls in my team were confident in Sydney traffic, knew where they were going and gave me great confidence in my ability to mingle with the drivers. They encouraged me to join more training rides with them, difficult given where I live and where they start from, but it was so heartening to have that encouragement. The rain continued, the winds got stronger, but I felt awesome! I felt like I could keep riding all day long, the attitudes of my team mates was awesome, I was just so happy and ecstatic even with the rain, it didn’t impact the day for me at all!
In the end, I always knew I could do the distance. I knew I had the mental strength to keep plugging away until I made it to the end, I’ve got the endurance. My doubts were about my ability, being too slow, holding everyone up, that I’m just not good enough to ride.
We need to stop saying these kinds of things. It is holding us back, as we doubt ourselves and become crippled by that doubt, believing that doubt, we do not move forward as quickly as we could be. We hold back from great opportunities, like this ride. We don’t attempt new obstacles because we are so convinced we can’t do them. But what if we ignored those feelings of self doubt and instead believed in ourselves. Who cares if I’m the slowest, the only way to get better is to keep riding – but what if I hadn’t turned up at all? I’m only hurting myself and my progress through this kind of talk, so, despite how desperately I was feeling those things, I am glad that for once (and hopefully forever more), it did not stop me from going on this ride, it will not stop me from trying that next obstacle, for putting myself into new scenarios that challenge me.
I highly recommend these two blog posts on this topic, they have resonated with me a lot.