2017 is Here—Let’s Make It Amazing

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Dear Reader:

When I started writing the first draft of “Saddle, Sore” three years ago, I thought it was going to be a publish-and-done affair. I had no idea that I was going to end up spending the next three years giving talks, hosting clinics and working on this website and an updated edition of the book. It’s never going to sell a million copies, but I know that it’s helping women (and men!) make their riding fun and comfortable again.

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It’s amazing to me when women tell me that reading my book or coming to a talk made them realize being numb while riding wasn’t necessary, or say that they cleared up a saddle sore after landing on this site in a flurry of Googling. And that’s freaking awesome.

But in 2017, it’s not just about the nether regions. (That was a weird line to type.) This site, and the talks, clinics and events that we do aren’t just about skin issues. This is about riding comfortable and happy—whatever that means for you. 2017 is going to have a huge focus on that idea for me. We’ll still be talking a lot about nether regions (I mean, that is the whole idea behind the updated edition!), but we’re adding so much more.

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We started with the Ride Comfortable, Ride Happy 3-Month Training Plan, and we’re going to be hosting more clinics, skills sessions, trips, talks and a ton more. (If you’re wondering who “we” is, I’m talking about myself and my partner in crime and life, SmartAthlete coach Peter Glassford.)

This idea of riding comfortable and riding happy is great because it’s so all-encompassing. Riding should be happy and comfortable, no matter what level of a rider you are. From beginner to pro, we deserve to ride without pain, we deserve to ride with huge smiles on our faces. Whether that happens from dialing in your bike fit, or learning to ride over a root on a trail, or figuring out how to ride in a pack without feeling nervous, or finally having the confidence to join a riding club—we’re here for you to make your ride better.

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Subscribe to the Saddle, Sore Newsletter

We’re coming at this from all angles: hosting more clinics and even planning some bigger trips, setting up more talks for Spring, working on improving this site and newsletterspreading some of my best advice around in different magazines, adding episodes to the Consummate Athlete Podcast that relate specifically to your riding and general athletic health, and of course, sharing the new book.

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So, here’s to a great 2017 full of riding with friends, or solo. Adventuring, whatever that means for you. Trying new things. Getting more comfortable, getting happier. It’s a huge proposition, but stick with me and we’ll embark on this together. Let me know what I can do to make your year really shine on the bike by commenting on our Facebook page, emailing me (molly [at] saddlesorewomen.com), or in here in the comments.

I’m excited!

Happy 2017,
Molly

Why You Should Care About Your Pelvic Floor as an Athlete with Physio Laura Powers

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Laura Powers MSC is a physiotherapist based in Collingwood Ontario. She is an avid cyclist and played varsity Volleyball so she understands what it takes to a perform at a peak level in a variety of sports.

Laura talks to us today about Pelvic Health, a general term that can refer to a few different conditions. In the fitness world incontinence during jumping activities, such as the crossfit popularized skipping double-under, running or trampolining are perhaps the most common but Pelvic Health is something that many people will need to (or should) look into at some point in their life, especially after child birth.

The problem is that many people do not know you can improve this condition, or eliminate it with the help of professionals like Laura.


This Episode is brought to you by Version 2 of Saddle, Sore – Check out www.saddlesorewomen.com for updates on the December Release and Release Parties !

Laura is also one of the new experts who will be in Molly’s upcoming Version 2 of “Saddle, Sore”, with expanded chapters on Pregnancy, Men’s issues and more information on Saddle sores including Case Studies!


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One of the most frequently ignored muscles in the body is the pelvic floor—it’s hard to work out, impossible to see, and until you actually have a problem, it can be difficult to comprehend the importance of taking care of it. So, to find out why it’s so important and what you can do to keep your pelvic floor in tip-top shape, Molly talked to Laura Powers (BPHE, MPT), a physiotherapist in Collingwood, Ontario. She’s been focusing on helping women—primarily athletes—rehabilitate their pelvic floors and regain daily activities, like jumping or running they had been avoiding. Laura has focused her practice on this area of physiotherapy for the past few years and considers educating the public on the topic to be one of her primary passions.

Why does the pelvic floor matter?
It’s a major muscle, just like any other! We’ll get into the problems women can have with their pelvic floor, but those problems, when left unaddressed, can really affect everyday life: your self esteem, your social life, your confidence, what you enjoy doing… We can help women so much.

What are the most common pelvic floor issues you see in female cyclists?
One in four women have some kind of urinary incontinence, so if you take athletes and apply that to them, it’s not as uncommon as you might think. For cyclists in particular, though, it’s a low impact sport with no jumping, so stress urinary incontinence isn’t as common. Most commonly, I’m seeing women with pelvic pain, numbness, sexual disfunction—they just can’t get orgasms—all due to the prolonged compression on the saddle. There are a lot of nerves, veins and arteries that get compressed and can create those sensations. That’s likely what we see: deeper, inside pelvic pain, superficial numbness, or that sexual disfunction. If you’re avoiding sex because of discomfort, that’s a bad sign.

What are some early warning signs that a woman needs to do something about her pelvic floor?
As a female athlete, if you’ve had a baby, you should be doing pelvic floor exercises or seeking preventative treatment. I advocate for seeking some kind of guidance after childbirth. But in terms of early signs, those symptoms I mentioned in the last question often start out infrequently or in more mild forms. If it goes unaddressed, it gets worse. Pain becomes longer and more intense. So any of those symptoms are signs that something isn’t right: even a little bit of leakage isn’t normal. A bit of discomfort on the saddle isn’t abnormal, but if you’re having it, you should think about ways to make your ride more comfortable to avoid the issues getting worse.

What certifications should a cyclist look for when looking for someone to help?
A lot of physiotherapists claim to treat pelvic floor, but a lot of them only do external work. They’ll educate on positioning and how to engage your core, and that’s fabulous and greatly needed. But you probably want someone who does internal exams and assessment, who will internally palpate the muscles. That makes a big difference. When looking for one, look for a physiotherapist registered to do internal palpations for the pelvic floor. It’s the most effective way to assess and treat pelvic floor problems. Women come in all the time and tell me they’ve been doing Kegels, and I do an exam and it doesn’t feel like they’ve done anything because they haven’t been doing them properly. And what we need to assess is the tightness of the pelvic floor. There’s a certain tightness that’s considered healthy. In a weak pelvic floor, the muscles feel softer and that’s when you tend to have that stress incontinence. On the other hand, a high-tone pelvic floor feels tight and restricted. That’s when you see more pelvic pain issues. Both require very, very different treatments, and that gets missed with external treatments.

What can a patient expect going for the internal treatment?
It’s similar to when you go for a physical. But when women think of that, you think of the speculum and having your feet in the stirrups. But it’s not like that. You’ll feel some pressure, but most women say it’s not as bad or as weird as they thought it would be! It’s not very invasive, and it’s a comfortable setting. But people are nervous about the internal part—I just tell people they’re in complete control and we can stop anytime.

What are some exercises a woman can do to strengthen pelvic floor?
I’m a huge proponent of home exercises, because I only see women once a week. They need to be doing home exercise to maintain the work that we’re doing. For a cyclist with a tight pelvic floor, that means lots of stretches. I like Child’s Pose, deep breathing, anything to create relaxation. If you have loose muscles though, that’s when we’re doing Kegels. But really, it’s like any other training program—just like other muscles, they need that training effect. You’d go for regular massages and stretch if you had tight neck muscles!

Listen to the whole podcast here!

Need Help with Ride Food? Check Out My New Book!

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Guys, I am SO excited to announce my new book is out! It’s called Fuel Your Ride: Complete Performance Nutrition for Cyclists. I collaborated with an amazing woman, Nanci Guest (MSc, RD and PhD Candidate) as my primary expert for the book, but it took a year of in-depth interviews with other pro nutritionists, coaches and dietitians, as well as a ton of pro cyclists to learn their secrets.

Fuel Your Ride, a comprehensive guide to performance nutrition for cyclists, pushes the fun without losing the science. With simple omnivorous recipes, the book includes meal plans for a wide range of dietary needs that are easy to make-perfect for any cyclist training from 5 to 40 hours a week. Recipes include gluten-free pancakes (with just 3 ingredients), guacamole, veggie burgers, chocolate-cherry cookies, and no-cook peanut butter balls. The book also covers hydration, supplements, gut health, and weight loss-everything a cyclist needs to know to reach peak performance.

Get It Here:

Interview on Saddle, Sore is Up on Canadian Cycling Magazine!

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It’s always interesting being on the other side of the interview, and chatting with Matt from Canadian Cycling Magazine while we were at Canadian CX Nationals a couple of weeks ago was no exception. Super awesome guy and fantastic magazine, so chatting was fun and easy. I talked about what made me write Saddle, Sore, and a bit about the best advice I got from it, as well as what I’m doing next. Watch the full interview here, and check out the magazine next month for a review of the book!

Salt, Blood and Tears: This is the Land of Strange

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by Alexis David

In this land of strange, the gifts are small.

This land.  This land.  This woman clipped into her bike.  This woman falling into the mud.  The unclipping of the chain.  All is lost.  All is lost.

I am a thousand dreams at the starting line.  I am picking my lines.  I am clear eyes and clear thoughts.  I am in my first cyclocross race of the year and my heart is beating strong.  My legs feel good.  My stomach, heart, mind: full.

And then the countdown and we are off and I am there.  I am so there.  You should have seen it.  You really should have seen it.

I’m up the hill and I’m picking a line and I can feel how powerful I am.  I am not anything but power at this moment, out here, in this strange land of trails and tape and sport and beer.

And, I am up past my teammate.  I am past her.  She is the line I was planning to follow.  I was going to catch her the whole time, but now I am past her and it’s so odd to be ahead.  And I am following the lead woman, maybe one or two behind, but I am there.  And, I keep thinking, “Maintain this.  Maintain this.”

But, I do not maintain.  My breath gets the better of me.  I feel it, like a child on the verge of a tantrum, it will gut me of my poise.  I hear it heavy in my throat and I am in the forest of the race and I’m also in the forest of my thoughts.   Smell the wood.  Smell this day.  The spirit and vigor of racing has left me, “This is just too hard.  This is just too hard.”

And I am passed by my teammate and I feel it: a tidal wave that pulls at my feet.  The women start to pass me and I am up and around and down and over, hop, over, hop, over the barriers and then down, left and up and back through the forest around.  Then I am up the curve and there it is.  There it really is.

I have fallen.

I am in the mud and my chain is off.

And the chain of my mind, the gentle click, click, clicking of my thoughts has released as well.

My cycling heroine tells me to keep your head above water.  She says, “You must redefine winning.  You must leave this race with your legs trembling and if they are trembling, then you have won.”

Carry on, you legs.  You have a foolish, no good captain, but carry on your work.  My dentist friend from the cycling community slips my chain back on and I am dazed, but so happy he has helped me.  He has crossed under the tape to do this.  I am back in the race, but I can feel the wind of these women passing me.  They are cheering for me and I am smiling at them, trying to, but I don’t feel like smiling.  I feel like keeling over.  My fitness level is stronger, but not strong enough.  I was in it for the first lap, but now my breath has been taken.  I am a stranger in this strange land.  I am racing against myself now.  I pick someone and think: she just passed you and now you must pass her.

And, I do, but I can feel that my place has slipped quite considerably and I fall twice more.  I feel it on my hip in the ground.  It is soft though and is not any real pain.  It is what I expect when I ride my bike in the middle of a field at 10 a.m. on a Sunday morning with this wild lot of cyclists in this wild plot of land.

I hear my name being called from the sidelines.  A man dressed as a beer can tries to hand me a beer, but I don’t want it.  I can’t risk it and I don’t want it.  I don’t even realize until later who he is: one of the owners of Nickel City Cycles, the team for which I race.

I have no idea how many laps this race will be, I think, “Six more?”  Then I see the lap counter and it delightfully, smiles “Two.”  I am happy.  I can do it.

I gain some momentum, but someone calls out, “Your bike is broken.”  I can feel it.  A spoke maybe.  The derailleur.  Something.  Don’t give in to defeat.  “You’re finishing this race.  Do not DNF.  Do not do it.”  Keep on.  Keep on.

If I shift this way, it is alright.  If I shift that way, it is not.  Shift this way, then.

Half a lap left and I am third to last.  I started third to first and I have sunk like a quarter in a pond.

Push you goddamn legs.

And, I do.  I push and I push and I hear my heavy breath and feel my sinking heart and once again propel myself one rotation after another.

This is what it is.  This is what it means.  One must always push on.  In third place or in third to last, it is about the carrying on.  Even if your gift is small, a tiny morsel, crumb of a thing: you finished and you didn’t finish last.  It is a small gift, but it is something. This is what it means to be human.  This is what it means to be in a bike race.  We finish the race.  We receive the small gift.  We bow our heads, say our thanks.  We have carried through.

 

Salt, Blood and Tears: The Conversation Has Begun with “Half the Road”

by Alexis David

Palms are sweating.  Stick hands in pockets for comfort.  Look down at the floor for relief.  These are your friends.  These are your friends.  These are people who support you.  You like these people. They have come to watch this movie, “Half the Road.”  You are holding a microphone.  You should be talking.

And now I’m talking.  Yes, I am really talking.  I am saying words.  Are these words sentences?  Are these sentences are in English?  Hope they are nouns and verbs that work with one another.  Forgot to say my name.  Forgot to say so many things.  Forgot, forgot.  Remembered to say “This is the beginning of an important conversation about cycling and women.”

The theater dims.  The movie plays.  It is a movie about many things, the essential one being that there is more to be done for and by women. Women continue to make breakthroughs in sports even among adversity.   I feel my heart beat.  I feel this intense sensation in my throat; often I feel this same sensation at weddings when couples exchange their vows.  It is passion and determination.  It is looking at the women in the film and thinking, how do I go from here to there?  How do I do make things better?

And now it is two weeks later and I am standing in the back of Campus Wheelworks, my local bike shop.  I have a PBR in my hand and it’s getting warm.  My bike is hanging upside down on a hook.  I just rode on the Tuesday Night Group Ride.  It was fun and easy and I can feel the strength building in me.  I am talking to a group and then my friend pulls me over.

“Alexis.  We’re talking about the movie.”

It is my friend who helped with Athena Cycle.  She is intellect and strength of mind.  She is someone who can literally be in any group, any situation, and emanate comfort and poise.  She is standing talking to a man I have joked with but never talked to.  I have talked to his wife.  They ride a tandem.  They are unique in this way among the solo cyclists.

And, then it hits.  A storm of thought from the three of us: my friend, this man and me.  We are ideas.  We are hope.  We are talking and agreeing and nodding our heads.  Feminism is not over.  It is still needed.  Biking is a tool.   We are all some kind of feminists in our group right here. It’s a word, a light little thing said in a breath.  It’s some kind of new wave that brings hope through movement.  We are talking about bicycles in Afghanistan.  We are talking about the suffrage movement.  We are a thousand ideas and it is like a song in a night that carries you through.  If nothing else amazing happens to me tonight, this will be it.  This conversation is my missed dinner.  It is my tired eyes.  It is my wanting to take a shower.  It takes care of all of that because it offers me hope and equality and meets me on my own terms and I am pure adoration of these people.

Yes.

This is how we begin.  This is change. “Half the Road” screened and the conversation has begun.  The man explains this is a “meme.”  We are creating a “meme.”  What is a meme?  It is an idea that spreads from one person to another in a culture.

The conversation will take us from here to there.  To seventy-seven cents on the dollar as my new friend says to one dollar on the dollar.  This is equality.  This is me getting to ride my bike as fast as I can without any limits.  This is you and you and you and especially you getting to ride your bike in that same exact way.

This man and I are standing in our kits and we look the same.  We wear the same clothes.  This is our freedom tonight.  We have earned this.  I don’t have to wear a corset.  I don’t have to wear anything but what I want, what I choose to wear.  I wear a hat and my crazy sweaty hair sticks out of it and no one cares at all.  This is not about traditional beauty.  This is about muscle and mind and riding.

My Athena friend’s eyes are glowing and I look at her and the moment is so meaningful it could sing us a sonnet.  We are three people talking together about ideas, about our meme.  We are dispersing information and isn’t that what a documentary is about?
Katherine Bertine did this.  She gave us this information.  She dispersed it so we could understand and learn.  A light goes on in a dark room.  Ideas are illuminated like the sun in a forest.  We are learning.  Katherine Bertine’s film sells 131 tickets.  People come from all areas of my biking life.  I see people here who I am so flattered have chosen to come.  Even though it’s not my work.  This isn’t my documentary, but in some small way, I am a part of this.  Her ideas are the match and I am in the pile of wood.  We are all on fire tonight.  We are burning with ideas.

Our First Official Bike Life Clinic!

We had our first official Bike Life Clinic and Conversation on Wednesday night in Toronto, and it was awesome. While Peter has hosted plenty of clinics and skills sessions and I’ve done quite a few of my Saddle, Sore book talks at this point, but it’s the first time we combined them. Like I said when I first started talking about the Bike Life concept, we’re trying to improve on foundational skills on and off the bike to make riding—and daily living after riding—100% more rad. After the Toronto event, we packed up and headed to Boston for a talk I gave last night and this weekend, we’re racing at Gloucester, so stay tuned for a lot more from both events, plus a bunch more on the horizon!

Peter, the skills guy in charge of the “clinic” portion did this writeup of our event:

Well, our first BikeLife night at Joyride 150 Bike Park went very well !

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We had a great group of women come together for our first time doing our clinics at an indoor location such as Joyride.

The group was a great representation of what we are trying to do with this BikeLife movement. They had different skill levels, different experiences, different goals but a common desire to learn more and be more rad on their bikes.

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We started the night with a discussion of the night’s goals. This idea that regardless of our goals there are foundational skills and concepts that make all disciplines and applications of our sport more enjoyable.

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Quickly we were out getting used to the ‘dirt jumper’ bikes Joyride 150 rents. These bikes are 26 inch with a very low seat and intimidating to many cyclists initially but as a group we quickly were on the bikes, standing up and rolling around confidently.

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For 90min, we worked on standing, ready position, getting over obstacles, cornering, using the pump track, exploring the XC track and applying the concepts we learned and we might have caught a little bit of air in there somewhere too!

The change in confidence and amount of fun we had in the clinic portion was amazing and everyone was tired and ready for some snack and some conversation.

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Molly took over and the group quickly got chatting about all the important topics from “Saddle, Sore“. The best part of these talks is the open dialogue where participants can share their problems and their solutions … Molly always comes away with more ideas to share with other groups and keep this movement rolling to the next group, club, team or community.

Thanks to the ladies who came and pushed their limits, we had a blast.

If you want to find out more about upcoming clinics please visit www.bikelifeclinics.com ( Oct 8 at Joyride, Oct 9 Hamilton, Oct 10 Rochester, Oct 10 evening Rochester, Oct 25th Manitoba and more ! )

“The Race.” Salt, Blood and Tears: A Column by Alexis David

The crew. © Alexis David
The Nickel City crew. © Alexis David

I’m all dreams and hope here. I’m new cycling shoes strapped tight.  I’m up early and I’m driving.  I’m coconut water and two shot blocks in my jersey.  I’m “Surreal and the Soul Providers” playing this song. I’m my fingers tapping on my steering wheel.  I’m my mind happy. I’m at the lot of the race.  I’m alone, and I’m smiling to the men who are here, no women yet, although there will be some.  Give it time.  Give it time.

I’m out of my car and I see my teammate and she’s mad power packed into lean muscle.  She’s bright and awake and drank a coffee. I forgot, thought you weren’t supposed to.  She’s smiles and jokes.  She’s confidence in eight a.m. light.  Then another pulls up and she’s sun and humor, too.  She’s cool calm.  Her voice is strength.  These teammates of mine: they’re kinetic victory.  They’re winning just about to happen.

My plan is to just jump on both their wheels and let this team trial unfold.  My plan is to pull for a quick thirty and then I’m done.  Thank you very much.  Speed, speed, speed and pop back in.  That’s my plan and it’s theirs, too, and we are one jersey.  We are Nickel City Cycles in blue and white.

And the race begins and it’s all talk of Teenage Mutant Ninja turtles and wacky inventions for peeing on the side of the road without a squat and the race director is counting us down and I’m in the middle and I see that line ahead of me and I know it’s going to be about the paceline because it’s always about the paceline.

Ten seconds to start and it’s quiet.  Thoughts turn inward. Align my foot halfway up the circle to get some leverage and the mind is quiet and the breath is just on the brink of getting scared but I’m hydrated and fed.  I’m one day of rest and three before of work.  I’m practice and practice and practice and now this is performance.

And then it’s a go and we go and we are going and we are in a line and we are movement and we are spinning these wheels against the wind and we are fluid and we are calling to one another, “I’m on.”  I’m on.  I’m on.  I’m on.

The wind is against us but we’re changing gears, click it, find it, click it, find it.  My teammates call to me, “You okay?  You okay?”  Yup.  Feeling good.

We move like it all makes sense.  We move like this whole entire world makes sense.  It is simple.  It is take your turn, push hard and then fall off without falling off.  Drop back and take your rest.  Find that cadence.  Find that wheel.  Find that breath.

And then we go up a slight incline and it gets me and the fear sets in.  That dark dangerous fear finds me and says, “You can’t do this.  You imposter.”  The fear that reaches its claws on my neck and plants little ideas into my mind.  You in fifth grade sprinting against the boy in gym class and the boy beats you because the boy always beats you. You losing.  The split between your teeth and the thin little legs that couldn’t churn it out.

And then I hear my teammate say, “Cool that breathing.  I can hear you.  Get that yoga breath.”

Yoga.  Yoga.  Power in pose.   Cool on a mat and I am strong.  I can lift myself up.

We make turns around the island and it’s all right. We’re doing it blind.  Advice from the coach.  Do it blind, ladies.  Do it blind.  I love technology.  I don’t want to lose my gadgets.  Gadgets make it easier.  I don’t like this being blind, Coach.

“Halfway there!” she calls and it’s good and bad because I thought we were farther, but we’re halfway. We are the middle.  We are the paceline moving along the perimeter of this island.

Then, a team passes us again (second one of the day) and it’s a bit devastating for me because I know my team is going slower for me.  I know they could easily beat these other teams because it’s a time trial but they’re keeping with me.  They’re sticking with me.  I’m their third.  It’s about the paceline.  The paceline.

And now thoughts of tea again.  Thoughts of a café au lait.  Thoughts of a book and a shady tree and my legs up.  Destroy these thoughts.  I’m in a race.

“Two thirds done!”

And this is the struggle.  My mind breaks.  I know exactly when it happens.

“I’m off!”  I yell; I’m dropped.  I’m in the back of the paceline and they are faster and I can’t keep up and my legs are burning and what would stopping feel like?  It would feel good.

The last third I am suspended by the kindness and diligence of my team.  I am ten second pulls.  I am at the back drifting farther and farther and my teammates fill in the gap and they pull for so long.  Pull and pull and pull.

Then my teammate calls “last mile” and I feel it take over.  I feel the sprint.  My legs want to move.  I am in my drops and we are just speed.  We are fast.  We are moving so quickly because we’re working together and we’re sprinting and it’s heart achingly wonderful.  It’s wind through the hair.  It’s legs so fast.  It’s form and function.

And it’s crossing, together.  My teammates are calling, “Shoulder to shoulder!” and we cross just like that.  Three of us together and bow on our bikes and it’s just peaches and cream.  It’s completion of something hard and I’m done and I can drink as much of this water as I want.

And it was always about the paceline.  We’re Nickel City in motion.

Salt, Blood and Tears: A Column by Alexis David, Part 2

20140630_122004by Alexis David

There are times in this life when you must ride alone.

This is one of those times.

I ride to get better. I ride to escape.   I ride to get far away. I ride to get closer.

I am on a bike path and there is a creek to the side of me and a woman sees me and she smiles, proudly. I ride on. There is a path and there are trees and I see another woman and she smiles at me, proudly. I ride on. Perhaps they smile at me because of my jersey. Perhaps they smile because I look like a cyclist. I play the part. I wipe the sweat. I wear the gloves. I have the kit. I am an imposter who is getting closer to being authentic. Perhaps they smile because these are women who are older and on bikes and enjoying the day and perhaps they are just happy to see a young woman riding as fast as she can in the sweet, sunny morning of a Monday when the cares of this world sweat off all of us.

Now, I am on a busy road and it is crowded with people and a truck passes me very closely and does not seem to care that I am just bones and muscle here. I am hardly anything at all. Not steel. Not engine. Not high off the ground and almost a lane big. I am so small compared to this blue dump truck that passes me within inches. I am just so small. I’m just a heart and a mind and legs that keep on turning these pedals, over and over and over. I am a hope and a dream. I am mostly water. Some air.

Now, I am on a road and the smell of cows crowd my nose and my legs are churning and I can feel the sweat on my back and the sun on my legs and I see all that is up ahead of me. I see straight up a road for miles to come. I am in the country and I pass a sign that say “Hay Bales For Sale” and I pass another that says “Brown Eggs $2.” Wide country and my heart is a Patsy Cline song and I just keep on riding. Open wide sky and green pastures and a crooked sign that says “Niagara Wine Trail.” I stop and take a photo. I let my breathing cool and I soak it in. This is why I don’t work full time. This is why I budget like a bandit. I need days off. I need time more than money. Any day of the week I’ll take time, oh so lovely time.

And, I am on another road. I am on the road of my mind. The solitary road of miles by myself; it’s empty, but it isn’t lonesome. It’s just me on that road right now. I’m the youngest on my team and I’ve got so much work to do. I have so many miles to log, so many miles before I sleep.

I am on the road of my mind and it’s lovely and full of memories: the smell of fresh cut grass coming through the windows of my middle school, the dream of being a filmmaker when I grew up, the lavender scent of my grandmother’s bathroom, the creak of the lines on the boat in September. All these memories are here as I ride.   I ride through them. I ride with them.

And then I snap out of the flow state and I’m an adult on a bike team. I usually ride with other people. I try to ride with my team as much as I can, but there are just some times when I need to ride alone. I don’t need to be dropped. I don’t need to be in a group ride on a Tuesday night. I just need the road and my bike and my imagination and these legs. These goddamn, thick, beautiful legs that carry me from here to there and back again.

I am on my way to Lake Ontario. It’s thirty-two miles. It’s not that much, but it’s a lot to me. I’ve never ridden by myself to a destination—only in a park, on a trail, in a safe space. Here, out in this countryside of Wilson, New York, I am a traveler. I am going eighteen to twenty-three miles per hour and feeling pretty proud about that. I’m moving. The wind is right. I work on my form. I work on my mental state. I work on my breath. I am not panicking like I do when I’m training with my team or in a race. I’m not hyperventilating. I am simply an exchange of air for air, molecule for molecule, outside then inside then outside. I am a simple exchange.

And, I ride by “Linda Lou’s.” I smell the bacon cooking and two young girls yell out and wave to me. Do they think I’m something real? Do they think I know what I’m doing? I smile at them, happy for this interaction. I see they are in soccer clothes and my heart swells a little. All is not lost in this world when two young girls in soccer clothes think a thirty-one year old amateur cyclist is cool enough to say hi to. All is not lost.

I take a right by the graveyard and a left onto the road that takes me to the lake. I hear the gulls. I see the billowing sails of a boat coming into the harbor.

And I am here by myself by this lake with my bike. I am here. I have arrived.