”The end never comes when you think it will, it’s always ten steps past the worst moment, then a weird turn to the left.” This is what I was thinking on our final climb of my bike trip a few weeks ago. We were a lunch break and a few dozen miles away from Portland and all I could focus on was the pain in my knee and the steady climb revealing itself around each bend.
I had established a breathing routine and was attempting to tune out the positivity of my friend assuring me the end to the hill was near. My feet just kept pumping up and up.
Here’s the thing about hills, they used to scare the shit out of me. They were these unfamiliar beasts in a far away land. I live in Minneapolis, Minnesota where there are no hills, unless you count a parking garage.
Rewind to six days before the last hill when I was sitting in a rainy corner of Seattle scribbling down my thoughts and predictions for the tour. I wrote:
We ride to Port Angeles tomorrow, it doesn’t feel real quite yet. But I can say I am kind of afraid; I wonder if my body, my bike, my mind, all of it will be able to keep pedaling. I want to say yes, absolutely! But I suppose the only way to know is just to do it.
What will be the most difficult will be the unexpected.
It’s funny now because the unexpected seemed unrealistic at the time. I had imagined every possible angle of failure before I even arrived on the West Coast, there was nothing for which I didn’t feel prepared.
But that’s exactly what caught me off guard. For example, when it came to the relationship between me and my peers I believed the biggest wall would be my atypical Christian belief. But then the leaders asked us to practice changing a tire.
Suddenly I was faced with the emotions of pride in having changed three tires in my career, needing to prove my aptitude and then realizing I wasn’t as good at the task as I first believed.
A fact which was noticed my a more seasoned tire changer who instantly offered his assistance. I have always been a tie-my-own-shoes-at-all-costs kind of girl, so unfortunately for him I was immediately put off and could feel my internal arms folding and middle-child feet stomping at his attempts to assist me.
At the time, I feared our tire changing exercise had revealed the basic dynamics of my place in the group.
My whole life I’ve been told not to compare but that’s what I do best, especially if it pits me far from the bottom (or front) of the pack. It’s this competitive attitude which kept me internally frustrated for most of the five days we rode down the coast.
I wanted so badly to be a strong participant but I felt like the weak link.
A feeling which felt validated when I chose to opt out of riding for the morning of our fourth day. My breath still smelled like the breakfast I had purged on the church carpet as I buckled my bike helmet determinately.
Bill, one of our leaders approached me tentatively and suggested I consider taking a break for the morning. Twenty minutes later I watched the team pedal away as I waved from the church parking lot packing Alps (my bike) into the support trailer.
I may have been the only one on the trip who looked down on my decision to not ride, a fact which dawned on me just this week. This Sunday afternoon I met Beckah, the friend who cheerily kept assuring me the end of the uphill was near on our last day, she and I sat outside a new hip coffee shop sharing thoughts from our post-tour processing.
I told her I realized how relaxed I had been on the tour and that for the first time in years I had been able to be as goofy and “Krisi” as I had been before the professional world had taught me manners and self-awareness.
An inner jute box was released on the bike. I danced gigs for my fellow tour members and discussed bowel movements and sunrises and my love of chopping onions.
Whatever boundaries are required of me in the presence of my professional peers and clients had became irrelevant in the presence of my cycling teammates. There was space for me to be myself and it was the greatest unexpected gift I could have received.
When I finished expressing this revelation to Beckah she looked at me with sincerity and praised my vulnerability. She said one of the great values she took away from the trip was my ability to be fully myself.
I thought a bike tour would be about conquering all my weaknesses,
overcoming mental blocks whispering failure and physical constraints on my muscles. However the tour ended up being a reminder of my ability to be vulnerable and joyful, honest and reflective.
Last Monday, a week after the bike trip ended, I mounted ol’ Alps and went on a short ride around the city. In spite of my still raw behind, I yearned for a few good hills. Because hills taught me how much I love to work hard, even if i’m so slow I could have seen a Hoveround pass me on the road.
If I can can add to my original prediction, it’s not just what will be the most difficult but also what is the most joyous and liberating which will catch me off guard. A six mile downhill for instance.
I thought the current of this trip would remind me of who God is, but I think instead it reminded me of who I am.
That’s a good start.
(Beginning quote from “Not That Kind of Girl” by Lena Dunham)
Tour with Venture Expeditions.