October 30, 2023

Ride Like a Girl: Being the DFL

This is me.

Laying on the ground.

Trying to catch my breath and muster up the energy to finish a ride after a whole lot of “hike-a-bike” up and over a couple of mountains.

A friend took this picture saying to me while she snapped the ridiculous moment, “I love the way you recover.”

Was she joking?

All I could think about was how am I going to dig in deep enough to get the energy to ride another three or four miles back to camp?  How many more mountains was I going to have to push my bike over?

There was no more standing to catch my breath. If I was going to make it back then I was going to have to just lay there for a few minutes. My poor husband is always a champ. He was working out whether he was going to have to get the car or not.

I was alright. I knew I was alright.  I just needed a minute and so I took it proudly.

It’s part of my process for surviving mountain biking adventures.

If you have been following along with my writing for any time then you know this is all pretty typical for me.  I put myself into these situations where I go on these self guided adventure trips that I then find myself on this uncomfortable edge of no more fitness but all around me are beautiful views.. I crave this edge.  And, it’s my favorite way to grow myself - both emotionally and physically.

I laid on the ground for about five minutes while we laughed about the ridiculous climb we just did - you do see the tree we had to hike a bike around, right?  Did we even remember where we left the car - of course we did, but to get back to it we were going to need a map.. and the trail that was there that was also completely not there.. We laughed about the slippery pine straw downhill with tight switchbacks, noting that the whole time we were worrying that we were going to go flying over the handlebars or our wheels were going to slip out and we (I mean me) were going to tumble down the mountain.. Who built this trail that isn’t really a trail anyways? 

Man, I live for this stuff.. A good day is a depleted day where it ends with me laughing at the absurdity of whatever the heck we just did - ideally in the middle of nowhere.

I am not a fast rider. I am usually DFL on a ride like this.  I am usually the first person off my bike going up a steep climb.  I am also the person who talks my people into this stuff.  They still go with me knowing they are going to have to wait on me and my weak lungs from time to time.  For some reason they still show up for the adventure.

So the real question is why?  Why do I keep making plans to do this stuff?  Shouldn’t I have outgrown it by now?  I guess not.  Going on bike rides that put me out of my comfort zone not only helps me grow in my fitness so that I can continue to do these things for many years to come. it pushes me to see what I am capable of now and what I hope to be capable of later.

Do I ever tire of being the DFL rider on big rides?

Absolutely. In the hardest moments I get jealous because I feel like I work hard to be strong, to be more fit, to be all the “bike” things.. After all, I work at a bike shop so I’ve got to be one of the best out there, right?  

No.  I do not.  What I have to be is me - the best version of me on a bike I can be every time I go out for a ride.  That philosophy applies to every aspect of my life.  I need and want to be the best version of me I can be.  My best changes from ride to ride and from day to day.

The truth is, I have a different set of challenges than the riders I am often with.  I also know - mostly from life experience - that we all have challenges we have to deal with.  We all have things we are working through while we tackle the terrain we have chosen for our rides/lives.

At the end of the day everyone knows - me included - that the last rider works the hardest.  Not only are they trying to keep up, but their recovery is usually shorter than everyone else's since the rest of the pack is usually ready to roll when they reach it.. and then there is all that ego the last rider has to sift through when they finally reach their ride group.  It’s a tough place to ride - last..  It’s tough to not get into a self defeating story of not being enough.. And yes, it would be so much easier to just sit on the couch and watch tv than to get out on a mountain biking trail, but the effort is worth the reward.

Why do we do it? 

For FREEDOM.  For that feeling of being a young and free, for the adventure, and for the presence that comes from being on the bike.  We do it for the knowing we can do hard things and survive them.  We do it to push ourselves and to grow.  And, because for some of us, getting lost is becoming found.

Now, go ride your bike. Climb that hill - even if it sucks. You'll be a better version of you - maybe after you lay down and catch your breath.