What did I get myself into, I thought as I burrowed deeper into my blankets. It was 5 a.m. on a Saturday and barely 32 degrees out. There was no need to get out of bed, other than the 10 mile bike ride I promised my friend I’d go on with her.
“You got this,” my guy texted as I continued to complain about how much I didn’t want to go, digitally lobbing every excuse I could think of at him of why I should just stay home. Eventually, I left the comforts of my warm bed and began to dress before packing a bag with everything I’d need for the ride — coffee, water and extra gloves.
The morning was dark, but I could still see my breath hanging frozen by my face as I struggled to attach my bike rack to my car, my fingers too cold to work properly. Before I loaded my bike up, I checked my tires, just as my dad had always done before our summertime bike rides. They were low so I aired them up, using the same pump he had during my childhood.
“Better safe than sorry,” I said to myself as I tossed the pump in the back of my car. My tires were aired up, but who knows, someone else might need to use it before the event.
Almost two months ago I had met up with two of my high school friends, women who are incredibly dear to me. Our visits are not nearly as often as we’d like, but the moment we’re together we pick up right were we left off. During our last visit, my friend Amanda told us she had recently gotten into biking. She was part of an online fitness group — a forum for women to encourage and motivate each other — and she had been inspired to start riding her bike, and who knows,she said, maybe she’d ride RAGBRAI next summer.
I was thrilled to hear this. “I’m so proud of you,” I exclaimed over my plate of pancakes.
For me, fitness and a healthier lifestyle has been a journey. I told myself for years that I needed to start taking better care of myself — eating better and working out — but I never took that first step, I made excuse after excuse. And then one day I was just ready, ready to start working on a better and healthier me. I started first by just walking after work. When the gym seemed too daunting, because I didn’t know what to do or how to do it, I started working out with a personal trainer. After a year, I decided to go it alone, relying on my own willpower and inspiration from my friends.
When I was struggling to stay motivated, I’d get online and see my friends posting pictures from their hikes, runs or gym sessions. If they can do it, I could too. So I’d get on YouTube, find a workout and do it from my living room. To make sure I’d finish my workout, I’d video it and post it online. If it was going out into the universe, I didn’t want to slack or quit halfway through. Amanda told me seeing my workouts online had inspired her.
A few weeks later, when she asked me if I’d sign up for the Ft. Madison Spooktacular Boo-athalon with her, a 10 mile bike ride, I couldn’t say anything but “yes.”
I was nervous for the ride. I’d ridden my bike twice this past summer, nothing more than six miles and I had to get off my bike and walk it up the one hill I encountered. How on Earth was I going to make it 10 miles? A hilly 10 miles at that!
Amanda greeted me in the parking lot at the Ft. Madison Port Complex with a giant smile and a T-shirt to match hers. That was it, that’s how I was going to survive the ride, with my best friend by my side.
As we got ready for the ride, we realized my tires were flat. Both of them. And no amount of pumping was going to air them back up. Amanda was quick on her feet and figured out where we could get new tubes for my bike. A nice gentleman changed my tires for me, because neither one of us had any idea how to do that. And when that starting whistle went off, we were by each other’s side, ready to take on the first hill.
The ride was great. The fall colors clung to the trees as the leaves gently swayed in the light morning breeze. There was no rush. Amanda and I weren’t there to break any records, just to finish the ride. And so we took that time to catch up. We talked about our jobs, our relationships and her sons. We laughed, we yelled, we cheered each other on.
“You got this,” I hollered to Amanda as we went up a particularly tough hill.
Her legs were shaking, but she was fighting through it. I kept yelling. Being silly. Being there for her. We reached the end of Bluff Road and looped around. This was it, the last section of the course, we were in the home stretch and we already knew what was coming around the next curve, where the next hill would be.
“We can do this,” I yelled for both of us as we pedaled up another hill, “just make it to that mailbox.” We did. “Look at that, we’re already at the top of the hill. Now it’s smooth sailing down.”
That was until we reached the next hill, she reminded me.
“This hill,” I said as we coasted down, “we already conquered it. You made it up this hill, this super steep hill, you kicked it’s (explicative) and now we get to enjoy the ride down. And that next one, you’re going to conquer it just like that last one.”
She did. The next one too.
As we coasted into the parking lot, Amanda spotted her husband and her two boys with handmade signs saying “Go Mommy!” We were at the finish line, but she began pedaling again, going all the way to her kids, showing them Mommy can do anything.
The thought from earlier in the morning, when I was so comfortable and warm in bed, entered my head again — What did I get myself into? This. This is what I got myself into. Seeing my friend set a challenge and cross the finish line, to her cheering family, even though it was difficult.
I got to cheer her on. I got to support her. And myself, I became inspired all over again. Inspired to climb the next hill no matter how steep.