Lessons from Cycling: Choose Yes!
This is my 7th time playing bikes in Costa Rica and running the Pura Vida Cycling Challenge. Whenever I land in San Jose, it still feels like a dream. Like I cannot believe this is my life.
7 years ago, I could not ride a bike. And now, for 5 epic days, I help to guide cyclists through some of the most spectacular and challenging climbing in the world. That is what happens when you say yes to yourself, yes to a dream, yes to something that sounds crazy hard and go all in anyway.
At some point during the 5 days, when I look up and see a wall of asphalt I am about to ride up, I think of the day 7 years ago I drug my old hybrid bike out of the storage closet. Flat pedals, a helmet that didn't fit. I had zero idea as to how to change gears. All I knew was that I decided, after 13 years of thinking about it, I was going to do a triathlon.
The day I finally made the choice to stop leaning into the 13 years of thoughts and reason why I should not try to do a triathlon.
“I can’t ride a bike”
“I never learned to properly swim”
“I am not an athlete”
Instead, I choose to think:
“I can learn to do anything.”
“So what? Maybe it is all true, but I am going to try anyway.”
I woke up that day and decided “yes, I want to be a triathlete” and I have chosen to stay in that yes for the last 7 years.
I started swimming again while I was pregnant. I was a self taught swimmer and by no means fast, but I knew the 400m sprint distance was no issue. I always ran as a kid on the trails behind my parents house and could easily bust out an 8 mile run whenever I felt like it with zero training. I have always been that way. Cycling was the unknown factor… It scared me. I did a ton of spin classes at the local gym over the years, but riding outside? It was overwhelming and I did not think it was a place I belonged.
I started on the canal and with a cart for my daughter to ride in attached to my bike that we would take to the park. It was not fast, but oh did I love the freedom of the bike! The same joy I had as a kid riding I found again. In those miles, I wasn’t a full time mom to a 2 year old or a stepmom to a 16 year old. I wasn't managing the house and everyone’s schedules. I wasn't unsure as to who I was anymore. I was just… free. Free to be whatever I wanted to be.
I very quickly realized my hybrid was heavy, slow and uncomfortable. It was not going to cut it if I wanted to ride longer. I upgraded to an entry level road bike and started working with my coach Marilyn. Her training plan? Go ride outside and ride for 1hr, and eventually for 2. I used the gym spin bike for more concentrated work. No trainer, no training peaks, not V02 Max sessions. The only goal was to get me comfortable on the bike. I eventually got clip in pedals and hilariously fell about 10 times in front of my house making my neighbors come out to see if I needed help.
My feeling of freedom continued, I got stronger, braver, more confident in my cycling abilities. I fell in love with triathlon that first sprint tri and went all in on the sport. I knew that my internal nudge was right, triathlon was the place for me.
What I never expected when I said yes to triathlon in that first sprint triathlon was where my love of cycling would take me. All the way to the Costa Rican mountain ranges, riding up insane, make you laugh out loud steep roads, surrounded by incredible humans with a shared love of cycling and exploring.
Saying yes to triathlon didn't immediately open the door for the Pura Vida Cycling Challenge. It took many yeses along the way. Yes to getting stronger and better on the bike, yes to many hours of training, yes to full Ironmans, yes to trusting my friend Dan when he said you have to come check out these roads in Costa Rica and I promise you can ride them! Yes to starting a travel business during Covid and yes to all the hiccups along the way.
But what I do know, is that without that first yes. That first decision to drag my hybrid out of the storage, get on it and go for it, I would not know what it is like to climb Sacramento (Queen stage of Pura Vida). I would not have had the experience this week of guiding other women up that epic climb and seeing their tears of joy when they reach the top. I would not have met so many beautiful humans, I now call family. I would not be who I am today.
You never know when that one yes will lead to a dramatic change in who you are or rather an uncovering of who you can be. For 13 years a part of me was asking to be acknowledged, to be given the space to explore to be an athlete. To see what happens if I did learn to ride, if I did push myself out of my physical comfort zone.
It is never too late to say yes. It is never the wrong time in life to say to yourself. Our journeys are not set in stone. Every day you are saying yes to something, you get to decide what that is.