It was 2012 when I started cycling. It started after I had left my husband and I needed to get to and from work. I do no drive, I had no car, and a very limited budget for things like
the bus. Rather than make a problem out of it, I just started cycling to work, 40 km a day on a rickety old “moederfiets” ( a ‘mothers bike’ is a bike with child seat on the back, basket on the front, and grocery bags under the backseat) It was not a nice bike ride, the bike was heavy and uncomfortable, that being said I believe in working with what you have. The early morning sun rides were stunning. The sun rising up over the misty pastures.I began to realize what cycling did for my mind, my body and my soul. The thing about my divorce was that it left me with the most important thing, my child, the rest of it, money, things, housing was gone. This meant my budget was low, but I had a great deal of free time in the weeks my daughter was with her father. What was I to do with all that time.
In the summer of 2012 I decided to buy a road bike. I had 0 understanding of what that meant, so I just got online and found a really cheap used bike and bought it for what I could afford. 25 Euro. The bike was almost as old as I am, and definitely born in the 70’s like I was. The gears were on the bar, not on the handles, the wheel had a bit of a curve that shouldn’t have been there, the handlebars were too far away from the seat for me and at the time, none of that mattered. It was MY bike and I was proud of it. I clocked 1,000’s of kilometers on that bike, I lost 30 kilo on that bike. ( Unfortunately I found 15 of them again, depression will do that to a girl if she let’s it) That bike was a piece of my heart and soul that I will never ever forget. It helped bring me out of my shell. It is what brought me to the place I am sitting at today, writing this post for you.
Living in a foreign country brings with it more challenges than you can imagine. In the case of The Netherlands the biggest challenge is the language. I am lucky enough to be considered fluent in the language after 13 years in this little country, and yet sometimes my vocabulary just isn’t sufficient, and sometimes I *think* I know what a word means and it turns out I’m using it completely wrong. That’s what happened in of August 2012.
I have this uncanny ability to believe that in my “un-knowing” I can do anything, the minute I think I know how much work,effort and energy a project will take I become overwhelmed and can no longer do it, because of this trait there are some things that I just close my eyes, take that proverbial leap of faith and as Nike says, ‘Just do it’. I had been cycling a few months now, and I was curious what it must feel like to be in an actual race. I was never a competitive person so that drive to ‘win’ wasn’t really a part of me, but as a collector of stories a bicycle race seemed to be a fun one to add to my collection, and this my friends is where the language comes in. So I started doing a bit of research and I looked for an “amateur” race that I could take part in, what I did not realize at the time was that in Dutch amateur means semi professional. Something where I didn’t need a super fancy bike, or any kind of license, just a regular old race for the fun of it. I found one, in a small town about 25 km from where I lived at the time,the “Ronde van Goor”. So I signed up and continued cycling until race day.
Before I knew it, race day was upon me. At the time my knowledge of Twente wasn’t very good so I chose to take the train to Goor so as to avoid getting lost. I got there, and went to the sign up station and I’ll never forget as long as I live the look on the registration guys face. He looked at me, looked at my bike and said “You are going to race on THAT THING?” In my un-knowing I smiled, and laughed at him with my reply “Of course! Its my bike and it works just fine!” I still really had no idea what I was in for, and that’s when I started to see them. The *real* cyclists. Bicycles that cost more than my rent! Outfits covered in sponsors and team names, fancy shoes and helmets and oh my word the replacement wheels just in case they got a flat.
I started to feel intimidated, standing at the start line behind the Rabobank Team, I really began to question whether or not I was going to go through with this. I looked like a complete idiot standing there next to my 40-year-old bike in my mountain biking helmet and mix matched clothes. That is when it hit me. What a year 2012 was. 8 of my friends and loved ones in America had committed suicide that year. I had left my husband to try to learn how to finally stand up on my own two feet. I could have walked away, no-one would have noticed. No one would have said anything. I didn’t have to play the clown and do the race, but I did. Screaming and swearing the whole way on my bike. I just kept reminding myself, I am never going to see any of these people ever again. Just push, give everything you can and go as fast as you can. I realize now it was probably stupid, and dangerous, but that is a discussion for another day. The cyclists were all finished long before I even did half as many rounds as they had. I didn’t care.
I did it.
I know what it feels like to be in a bicycle race. I even won a prize that day. It was the ‘oh my god we can’t believe that you did this so here is a prize for you’ prize. It felt good, I stood up on that podium and looked at the 100’s of people looking back at me and I thanked them, I laughed, I told them why I did the race and I laughed. Even now tears fill my eyes when I remember the courage, the bravery, the bravado and yes, the stupidity it took to be a part of that race.
That race changed my life. I met the owner of a local gym here, who ended up giving me a job and teaching me how to be a spinning instructor. I spent a good 3 years there, learning, teaching and cycling. It was good. Until next time.