I bought a new bicycle three months ago. When I was choosing between two models, I told the salesman that I wanted to "go fast", and he sold me a bike that I've been riding (obsessively, just like I do everything else) since then. Although I am by no means a "cyclist" proper, I talk to people about biking now. Everybody. Most of them ask, "Have you ridden "The Loop yet?" Until today, I had to say no.
"The loop" is a route that takes a rider across the Kenai River up one side between Kenai and Soldotna, and then across it again down the other side. Without shortcuts, it's 24 or 26 miles, depending upon who you're talking to.
By the first of July my goal was to ride the loop before I left for college in Anchorage on the 29th of August. I was riding 12 miles or so per biking session by then. By the end of July I had ridden a round trip of one leg of the loop (19.2 miles), including three gnarly hills each way. Gasping for breath and sure that my heart was going to pop out of my chest, I might add. I continued "training" for the goal. I could see muscles bulging in my thighs and calves, and my rides ranged between 11 and 20 miles, several days per week (whenever weather permitted). By two weeks ago I was sure that I could handle the 24 or 26 miles and the three gnarly hills, but was afraid to ride the first leg of the loop: a three mile stretch of busy highway with no bike path - just a bike lane along the shoulder. That leg crosses the "flats" that flank the Kenai River, and is close to the mouth where the river feeds into Cook Inlet. I had been told it's "always blowing" there and was reluctant to take the plunge, so to speak.
I am a goal seeking old woman. Today (the 28th of August) dawned sunny and still. I strapped on my (new) helmet, (new) biking gloves, charged my iPod and made sure I had plenty of water. Here's what I found.
Had I been too afraid to ride the first leg, I'd have missed this view (that peak in the background is Mount Redoubt, an active volcano that's part of the peninsula that eventually becomes the Aleutian Islands):
Without riding that leg, I would have missed the llamas at the ranch. I love those llamas and it was wonderful seeing them close to the fence that divides their domain from the bike path.
I'd have missed smiling and nodding at other cycling individuals, couples and families I passed along the way.
I'd have missed this view of the Kenai River as it slices through the town of Soldotna:
I'd have missed running into (not literally) my former Chemistry professor (a truly admirable and brilliant man who also has a sense of humor) as he made his way along the loop in the other direction. He had been one of the people who asked me if I had ridden the loop a couple of months ago. He had also given me pointers as to how to tackle the first leg. It was delightful to see him, and he "high fived" me when he heard that today was my first attack on the route.
Most importantly, I'd have missed achieving a goal had I allowed my fear to stop me.
My butt is still numb and my legs are a little wobbly, but MAN do I feel good. Not only that, I promised myself that I would have ice cream tonight if I burned off enough calories by riding 22 (according to my odometer) today, and I'm looking forward to that.
What would you do if you weren't afraid to try?