Inspiration

I have been thinking about inspiration a bit – a forum that I frequent asked “who are your fitness idols?”

I posted to the forum that I’d signed up for the triathlon. I explained that at that point in time, reading about all the Ironmen and women who don’t like doing swim training was most reassuring! I’m certain that it will be the hardest part of the event for me, so it was comforting to know that there are people out there who swim ridiculous kilometres and still find it hard.

I thought of what was my inspiration to sign up to the triathlon, and I have to say that it was watching the Busselton Ironman. Last December we went down to cheer on a guy from the bike shop who was competing, and it was watching all the competitors that made me realise that I didn’t have to be ‘athletic’ to be a part of something like this (even if it was just an enticer triathlon). At Ironman there were people of all shapes and sizes, and differing abilities. The Complete instead of Compete people. The Completers were my people. They are the people that pedal up to the top of the hill. They aren’t the first ones up, they might even be last, but by God, they will get up there.

I had gone to spectate at the Women’s Triathlon a few years ago. Again, I was there to support a friend who was participating. It was her first triathlon, and she came first in her age group. (She was rather chuffed, but declared that she had no need to do another one). I saw all the people who were participating, and while there were all the obvious ‘proper’ triathletes with their tri shoes, and skilful Transition manoeuvring, alongside them were all the ‘regular’ people who were just having a bash. I was excited for them all, but it didn’t make me want to enter the event.

When we went to Ironman I hadn’t expected the ‘normal’ people. In some odd way I’d known that ‘regular’ people compete in Ironman too, but it hadn’t occurred to me how regular they were. They had heavier bikes than me, they had basic runners instead of those expensive Day-Glo trainers that I see in the back of the triathlon magazines. They wore shorts and a t-shirt for the run leg, instead of a salt encrusted tri suit. They wanted to finish, rather than win, and that was when I understood the appeal and the motivation.

I might have said before how I’m not competitive. When I was in school, I was so hopeless with no hand-eye coordination that being competitive wasn’t worthwhile. It was a certain path to failure and if you failed you would be made fun of, so to avoid being teased, you don’t go out there with a competitive attitude; you go out to have fun. I can’t imagine that an Ironman could be counted precisely as fun, but I think personal achievement fits into that category. At Ironman, unless you’ve trained and raced practically full-time for a year, you’re going to have difficulty winning, but if all you want to do is complete it, it is quite possible.

Every time I’ve felt good about myself in sports it was when I had improved at something. I was only ever competitive with myself. I started to cycle, and went further and further and felt good, even after longer rides. Very rarely do I go on a ride and say “I want to beat X”. More often I’ll say “I want to go up Mount Street without wanting to vomit at the top”. It hadn’t occurred to me that triathlon was like that too. You hear of people who have won Ironman, and that doesn’t interest me. I’m impressed, sure, but I’m more impressed by the people who work a full-time job, or have kids and a mortgage and still manage to train for and complete an Ironman.

One of the first times I went up Welshpool Road was the same day three friends did the Women’s Triathlon. The whole time I pedalled up that really steep part I said their names like a three part mantra with each pedalstroke. Beat – beat – beat. One – two – three. One – two – three. I was inspired by them going out and doing something difficult, but I never imagined doing a triathlon myself. Until we went to Busselton, and I saw people like me running past.

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Why I ride.

Rob Arnold at Ride Cycling Review asked people to send in letters about why they ride for the April 2010 issue. I sent this in in January 2010. Rob liked it, but wasn’t able to publish it because it was too long 🙂.

I was always bad at sports at school. It always involved a ball that I couldn’t see, or hand-eye coordination that I didn’t have. I have a theory that I probably should have gotten glasses 4 years before I did: I didn’t know that you were supposed to be able to clearly see trees at the other side of the oval, but it wasn’t until I couldn’t see the sums on the board in maths class that someone spotted that my eyesight wasn’t brilliant. It also explained the permanent “needs to improve her hand-eye coordination skills” message on my primary school PE reports.

I was working as a librarian at a law firm, and I knew I was unfit, but it wasn’t until I’d had three colds in five months that I started exercising, walking every morning and watching the pelicans land on the Swan River like sea planes coming in to land. Then just walking became a bit boring, and I thought that the people pedalling past every morning looked like they were having some fun, so I went to the local bike shop and rented a hybrid for a month – I wanted to know that I’d enjoy riding before I went and spent money on a bicycle that’d fill up space in my small flat.

I loved it. I remember the first time I rode something like 10km; my bum had never been so sore, afterwards I had to sit down like a pregnant woman in her third trimester. It was hilarious. I bought my own bike, an Indi Riverside hybrid. I went for 20+ km rides, and liked it. I rode to work and back, and loved that and decided that if I could ride all the way from my flat to Scarborough Beach and back again (50km) in one morning then I’d enter the Great Perth Bike Ride and do the 53km river loop. I completed the Great Perth Bike Ride with reasonable ease, and so I then decided that I should book leave for six months time and do the NSW Big Ride around Taree: 500km in 9 days.

It was on the Big Ride that I decided that I wanted a road bike. As part of my training for the Big Ride I’d been doing spin classes at the local bike shop/spin studio/cafe in Fremantle, and during class I’d look over my shoulder at the roadies coming into the cafe after the Saturday ride. I thought that it looked like fun. A few months after I got back from NSW, Mickey (the local bike shop guy) had me properly test ride a few bikes before he let me buy one – and by properly test ride, I mean the full Saturday 50km+ river loop with the beginners. I got a Scott Speedster S20 with Shimano 105: I wasn’t about to buy a bike that was more expensive than my car, but I wanted a reasonable quality bike that’d last me a few years.

I ended up being a regular on the Saturday ride – I usually rode with the beginners group, at first because that was what I was, later because they went at my sort of speed – while I liked to go faster than on the hybrid, I also like to actually be able to see the scenery; watch buildings appear and the seasons change. I’ve never been a fan of pedalling for dear life for 60km+ staring at the backside in front of me.

I crashed this past winter: on the Saturday ride, I hit the tyre of the bike in front and went over the handlebars, opening my chin and left knee on the bitumen. Hazards of the beginners group. I can highly recommend Royal Perth Hospital on a Saturday morning – just make sure you get there before the football and DIY injuries arrive. The accident has knocked my confidence a lot, and now I’m not very keen on drafting, and certainly not keen on riding in a group. Hopefully I’ll get that back one day. What it has made me more interested in is going into the hills and riding – I’m so slow going uphill I get dropped like a stone, which means I don’t have to worry about running into the back of people!

My fiance Jez keeps telling me that I’d be so much better at riding if I put more effort in, but I always say that he rides to the death, whereas I ride to the shop. He goes off and does 100km, 200km, 300km, with an eye to Perth-Albany-Perth and Paris-Brest-Paris, while I’d just like to do the Welshpool Road hill at a speed faster than walking and without so much wobble.

Jez has got me going mountain biking too – we’ll go off and pick a bit of the Mundabiddi Trail to ride, and afterwards go to the Artisan Bakery in Mundaring or the Jarrahdale General Store to devour our bodyweight in food. He’s training for the Gibb River Road Mountain Bike Challenge, and I’m training myself to stay upright and in a vaguely straight direction while going through pea gravel.

I love cycling. Here is a sport that I can do, hand-eye coordination be damned. I might not be very fast or very strong, but I enjoy it. And that’s all that matters.