In the last few weeks we have been getting to know each other. If you have been reading along you know that I am an American Expat in Europe. 13 years ago I hopped on a plane with a one way ticket, 50$,two suitcases and I never looked back. Which of course is only partially true, I look back every day and wonder if I could have done things differently. Maybe I could have made things easier for myself. Someone once said “If life is easy, you’re doing it wrong.” I guess that means I am doing it right.
Being an expat brings a dozen new challenges everyday, even after 13 years. I still have friends and all my family living in America. That can make it lonely here sometimes. My language is a kind of bastardization of my two languages. I like to call it Denglish, Dutch plus English. You can tell when my mind is moving too fast for me because it can not seem to choose which language I need to speak in. I lose words in English and words in Dutch. My grammar is often backwards in both languages because somehow my mind has mixed the two. All that being said, as long as the people I am speaking to understand me than I can stumble across my words all I need.
At first I spent so much time trying to convert Euros to Dollars because my brain just could not understand that the Dollar was no longer relevant to me. As you already know, I am not a mathematician, so eventually that conversion stopped and tho I may on occasion say Dollar when I mean Euro, it all means Euro in my head.
Then there is the metric system, which as you may well know, Americans do not use. So as I am talking to my friends and family about the places I go, the bike rides or hikes I take, they ALWAYS ask me the same question. “How many MILES is that?” It makes me smile that such concepts give us feeling and definition. As I see it 1000km is FAR, 1000m is FAR, that would seem enough information to me. Though to a Dutchman the IDEA of 1000km is impressive and to an American the IDEA of 1000m is impressive. That being said they are two very distinctly different distances. 1km is .6 of a mile, so just a bit more than half a mile. That makes 1000km 600 American miles.
Now, recently I achieved the goal of cycling 1000km in 4 weeks. Which I am still really proud of, it took a lot of hours on my bicycle. When my son, who lives in America asked me the inevitable “How many miles is that?” I told him it was 600. 600 miles in 4 weeks time on my bicycle is awesome! Yet, 1000 miles in 4 weeks FEELS impressive to my American side, just as 1000km did to my Dutch side.
That is the moment I decided to shoot for 1000 American miles in 4 weeks time. Last monday I set the counter to 0 and went out for a ride. It was a rough ride. An unleashed dog ran under my pedals and I fell from my bike. Luckily, the dog is fine, my bike is fine and I am fine. I got caught in a torrential downpour, and shortly there after in a thunder and lightning storm. I finally made it home with 100.5km in the counter. ( That is 60 miles if you are wondering).
In order to reach my goal, I need to cover 250 miles each week. That converts to 402.3km per week. Aiming towards 57.5km per day 7 days a week I would reach the necessary distance without a problem. That being said, that means 7 days a week, never once missing a ride. I live in the Netherlands, which means wind and rain. Lots and lots of wind and rain. Now cycling in a bit of rain is not a problem, but in these torrential downpours it is just a nightmare. This means I can not guarantee that I can cycle everyday that I am free to cycle.
This past week I achieved two long rides, one on Monday of 100km, one on Wednesday of 160km (100 miles). The rest of the week I’ve managed middle to short distance rides. Between 16 and 50km. At this moment in time as I write this I am at 327.3km , that’s 203.3 miles towards the necessary 250m this week. This means to reach my goal tomorrow evening I’ll need to go out for a 75km ride, and that will be target achieved for week 1.
Last Wednesday I did my farthest ride ever. 160km or 100 American miles. I was very surprised at how little discomfort I had the day after. The ride itself was fine, untill about the 120km mark and that is when it became challenging. I was tired, my ass hurt and the head winds were awful, they almost knocked me off my bike several times. There were a few times when I was so close to home and all I would have had to do was cycle 2km and I would be done. No one would know that I didn’t achieve what I set out to achieve. Noone would know that I gave up because it got hard, but I would know. That was reason enough not to give up. So I kept going, pushed my way through the last 10km. Once I was home, I fell onto the sofa and smiled.
Sometimes when Im on my bike I see road cyclists, in their fancy gear (of which I have some in the closet) and on their expensive bikes (which I do not have), and for a moment I feel inadequate. I’m just a regular girl, on a regular bike. Then I realize, I am just a girl, on a regular bike and I did it, because I wanted to. There was no-one cheering me on, there was noone stopping me. Just me. I did it, 160km (100m) in 8 hours and 22 minutes and I was proud.
That is the moment that I realized, the only thing that is stopping me, is me.
Until next time.