on getting better

If you had asked me in high school–when I was sometimes riding the 2 miles to school on my bike–if I’d like to go for a 70-mile joyride, my itty-bitty high school self would have thought you were crazy. Heck, if you asked me in college, when a bike was how I got around, if I could ride for 70 miles, I still would have thought you were crazy. I probably would subsequently have done it (especially if, in asking, you intimated that you thought I couldn’t do it;), just because I’m feisty like that, but I would have never thought to do it on my own, unprompted.

I’ve been thinking about that since I went for a ride to Multnomah Falls last weekend. Asta, Theo, and David, three lovely people I’ve met through randonneuring, were pre-riding a 100k route, and, ever psyched for a pretty ride, I managed to invite myself along.

(Crown Point, one of many reasons why this ride is so pretty)

Since it was only 100k–see? That’s what I mean: somewhere along the line, 62 miles, something that in high school and even college would have been unfathomable to me, is a short day’s work.

How does that happen? How does one get from biking two miles to school, then biking 5 miles to downtown Portland, to biking 62 miles or 100 or more, to craving the feeling of biking all day?

What I decided while I was biking today is that I didn’t do it by myself, nor did I even mean to do it at all. Like anything in life, biking long happens in increments. I can still remember the first time I biked to the gorge, with a post-college suitor. It seemed like such a long ride, and I was so proud of myself for doing the whole thing. Since we only went to Latourell Falls, the first thing you get to once you go down the hill from Crown Point, it probably wasn’t any more than 40 miles, but at the time it was amazing. And I only did it because someone else did it with me.

It was the same thing the first time I ever biked 100 miles: I signed up for Reach the Beach, a fundraiser for the American Lung Association, and rode the 100 miles from Portland to Pacific City with a whole host of other people. I can still remember how overwhelmed I felt when I got within 5 miles of the end and realized I was actually going to do it, I was actually going to have biked 100 miles. But again, I don’t think I would have done it by myself, without the support of an organized ride. And bike camping? The first time I ever went bike camping by myself, an experiment to see if I could do it, I only went to Ainsworth State Park, maybe 35 miles away, and was so scared all night that I hardly slept. It’s funny to think of these things now, since 100 miles or a solo camping trip or anything else seem so normal, but each one at its time was a new milestone, a new challenge to overcome.

(so glad I proved to myself that epic bike camping is possible!:)

That’s what I mean when I tell my grandma, always scandalized (though I think secretly proud) that I bike or run or walk so much, that it’s no big deal. To me, it really isn’t, because I’ve worked up to where I am now in an organic and logical way, one step and then another and another. To jump from my 4-miles-round-trip high school commute to a 300k brevet would have been ridiculous, just as jumping to a 1200k ride right now would be:) But all the intervening rides and people and challenges have bridged the gap, just as they will bridge future gaps.

So I guess I’m feeling thankful today, thankful that my choices in life and the people I’ve known have brought me to where I am right now–which, though hopefully not the best it ever will be, is pretty damn awesome. But more than that, I’m feeling indebted. Whether it was my college boyfriend buying me a helmet so I’d stop riding without one, or some guy in the Bridge Pedal teaching me how to draft, or someone showing me that it’s not actually that hard to change your tire, or a suitor showing me I could ride to the gorge, or friends encouraging me to go further, the fact that I am able to bike for anything I want to do now is so dependent on others. I hope that someday when I look back on what I’ve done with this gift, I realize that I’ve actually been able to repay the favor.

(Multnomah Falls ride pictures here)


  1. I am so inspired by your description of getting better at things organically and logically. Especially bike distances! Thanks!

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