When I first got on a bike, I thought I had reached the end. The end of my running career, the end of my identity, the end of enjoying the mountains so freely and simply. The end of myself as I knew it. I never would have expected the bike to not only make me a strong and healthy runner again, but to become something I loved and needed as a means to explore the world.
“If I was ever going to run again, I wanted to rediscover the beauty of that process and movement, rediscover why I ever wanted to run in the first place, separate from competition.” – Out and Back
Rediscovery and learning complement each other. When I first got on the bike, every day I was learning. I was humbled by how experienced cyclists could just roll away from me, even though I had the lungs, heart and legs of a professional athlete. At first, I let myself get discouraged, caught in a game of comparison. But as I began to build strength on a bike, and improve my skillset, I began to lose my fear. Letting go of fear allowed me to fully embrace cycling. I singed up for races like Unbound Gravel 200 and Oregon Trail Gravel Grinder after only 2 months on the bike. I was more excited to be on a bike, trying my best, rather than fearful of being in a race and not making the podium – of not being an elite athlete anymore.
As I road more miles on my bike, that confidence only grew – and it took on other forms. I was forced to broaden my scope of what an athlete looks like, how they trained and enjoyed the process of learning new things. The more I embraced the novelty of a new sport, the more confidence I gained in myself, the more I enjoyed being a beginner and not being good at something. One of the highlights of the Oregon Trail Gravel Grinder this year, was seeing my progress on a bike. I felt more confident on technical and steep terrain and I was having more fun. It was fun to not compete and be in awe of elite ladies like Sarah Sturm, and Serena Gordan, who battled it out every day – then laughed together post race as they ate, and recovered just to do it again the next day. It’s just like the trail running community – where we are all outside, getting dirty, trying our best, and pushing ourselves to be our best – although one of these communities does have a little more spandex.
Being a beginner and letting go of expectation has made me a stronger cyclist and runner. I’m reminded that my best involves lots of uphill, smiles, good food and good people. I’ve found that in both the trail running and gravel cycling community now. So why would I ever choose just one?
Thanks to Saris for getting me here. They keep me on a bike (even when the weather doesn’t cooperate) with their indoor trainers and make adventuring with a bike that much easier with their racks. I wouldn’t want to go anywhere without my bike, and now I don’t have to.