This short essay sent in by Danielle St. Louis is the last of 5 finalists picked for Road Holland's Cycling Shorts Essay Contest. All finalists and the grand prize winner will receive some incredible cycling gear! Enjoy.
If a relationship started out this rocky, it wouldn't make it to a first anniversary. Yet here I am, almost six years later, still in love.
The first time I was on a bike as an adult was a seven mile ride to get gelato on a loaner hybrid. It had poured the night before, making the country roads something closer to quicksand, and I had no idea how to change gears. It was grueling, but I was hooked and ready to go all-in. The second time was on my new Focus Mares AX 2.0. Unable to multitask, I crashed into a curb while trying to drink some water.
My third time on a bicycle as an adult was my first grand fondo – the thirty-four mile route of Tour de Trykes in rural Oklahoma, which was fourteen miles further than I'd ever ridden. But I didn't know any better. The ride started at a brisk pace as my friends and I got caught up in the excitement. A few miles in, I knew enough to recognize that the pace was unsustainable. Letting up, my friend Michelle agreed to ride with me as the rest of our group sped ahead.
Michelle is practically Lance Armstrong as far as I’m concerned. A Major in the USAF at the time and a finisher of multiple Iron Man competitions, she graciously let me slip in behind her, where I managed to hang until we turned to head west back into town on the shoulder of highway 412. The wind that had been keeping me on Michelle’s wheel was now pummeling me in the face without respite.
I got dropped over and over again. At the rest stop at mile 29 I tried to stretch my back, which felt like it was forming into a hump that would have made my grandmother’s osteoporosis proud. My hunchback and I back on my bike, now Michelle had me lead so that I could set the pace. I could tell it was a challenge for her to stay behind me – to go so painfully slowly. I wanted to give up and cry, but I refused to do so in front of a military officer/IronMan. So I just forced myself to pedal, pushing one foot down and then the other on my flat pedals.
My back and psyche were both screaming as we got closer to town. I finally eked my bike over the finish line and with the feeling of relief came the swell of tears. Michelle was safely out of earshot. “THAT WAS NOT FUN!” I yelled through sobs.
If this had been a third date, my relationship with riding would have ended with that tearful exclamation. But it didn't. My bike and I worked through this rocky introduction and grew closer with each consecutive ride. Here I am almost six years later, totally in love and looking forward to my next ride because every ride is worth it's own story – no matter how monotonous the route or uneventful the miles. It's all part of my cycling love story.
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