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Gears We Never Use

There was a time in my life where I could have given Ferris Bueller a run for his money in the arrogance department.  I’m not saying that I’ve arrived and become the paragon of humility, but let’s just say that I’m coming along.

Once upon a time I would have entered my first cycling race and lined up with way more moxie than sense.  But, at almost 46, if I chose to have plastic surgery at some point I want it to be elective and not because I’ve crashed out doing something exceedingly stupid.  I also have come to the point in life where I’m acutely aware of what I don’t know.  So, before my first race, I contacted a group of women from the cycling group Magic City Cycle Chix based out of Birmingham to find out who was planning on entering the Women’s Sumatanga Training race on Sunday, March 9th.  I heard back from quite a few women and I was especially glad to know that both Kim Cross and Maaike Everts were going to be there.   Kim and Maaike are two very talented riders with a real heart for advancing the sport of women’s cycling. I was also thrilled to know that my teammate, Jacqy Stone, was planning on riding with me.  Jacqy knows her stuff when it comes to cycling and I know Jacqy well enough to know that she would have my back and call me out if I did something patently stupid.

We got to the line and I introduced myself to Maaike Everts.  It went something like this, “Hey, I’m Clare Purinton from Huntsville.  This is my first race and I’m here to listen to you, watch you and learn everything I can from you.”  And, thank God, she’s the kind of woman who didn’t think I was a stalker.  She understood what I meant because she’s a girl who desires to pay it forward.  Both Maaike and Kim could have gone out and dominated the women’s field, but that wasn’t their desire.  Their hearts were bent towards using our race as a clinic and training ground to raise up a group of women who had a desire to learn and grow in the sport of racing.  What I saw at the Sumatanga Women’s race was humility in action.

We started out at a very comfortable pace.  After the first turn we began practicing how an effective pace line works.  My natural tendency was to pull too hard when I took my turn at the front.  Maaike kept reminding me to keep my effort constant and when I pulled off the front to ease off the effort and move towards the back.  After telling me this  about six times I finally heard, “Good job!  Much better.”  I’m such a slow learner.

Maaike talked with me about understanding my strengths and weaknesses.  She told me that in a race I would probably do well to attack on a climb if I was having a good day.  I have a good cardio engine from my 35 years of running and I’m all of 5’1”.  She also said that I should probably start my finishing sprint a little earlier than someone bigger like her.  As we came around the first loop the road was opened up for us to sprint for the line at the 200m mark.  I started too late… Completely forgot what I’d just been told.

On the second loop Jacqy said to Maaike, “My teammate, Clare, needs to get comfortable riding in close quarters.”  Let me be clear, I like my personal space.  I even get kinda creeped out by people who stand too close to me during conversations.     We all know a dreaded close talker.  So, you can only imagine how I felt with someone riding a bike and practically touching my elbow… Dang, that’s freaky.  And, yes, I know… It’s part of the sport.  So, we practiced double pace lining.  Initially, I was fairly certain that I was going to have a panic attack.  In fact, I may have.  But, I pushed through it. Right before we turned onto the chip seal section of road I said to Maaike, “I’m not a woman who tends to overestimate my abilities.  I’m just not comfortable riding this close to someone on the upcoming chip seal section.”  It wasn’t a problem… We went back to the single pace line and worked that skill again.

As we came up to the 200m mark the road opened up and people started to move.  Well, most people.  Me, not so much.  I found myself boxed in, not really sure where to go, praying I wouldn’t wreck my new bike or, God forbid, take someone else out. Honestly, I was probably most concerned with taking someone out or wrecking the new bike.  A couple of weeks ago Dave bought me a Cervelo S3 because we finally found out that the reason I was so darn sore on my Cannondale was because the bike was too big.  I’m still trying to get used to the fact that I have such a kick butt bike and, largely, don’t yet have the talent to justify the ride.  Oh, and this will impress the heck out of you… I wasn’t able to collect any data from the race.  I am such a low tech girl in a high tech world that even after Dave explained how the Garmin works about a half dozen times, I messed it up and somehow turned it off at the start.

If you’ve read this far into my post and you know my husband, Dave, you’re probably wondering how we’ve managed to stay successfully married for 23 years.  He’s competitive to the core, uses every bit of technology to his advantage. Can talk about bike components the way I can quote poetry.  And he’s a natural athlete always up for the challenge of an adventure.  I think that’s where we find our common harmony in cycling.  We’re both athletes at our core and we both love an adventure.

I don’t mind the challenge of the learning curve that comes with cycling… In fact, I willingly embrace it.  It means that I’m moving forward, gaining dimension and tapping into potential I didn’t know I had.  It also means that as Dave and I near becoming empty nesters, we are starting a new chapter.  A new adventure.  And a new way to share this life we’ve been given.  As Charles Shultz said, “Life is like a ten speed bicycle.  Most of us have gears we never use.”  I don’t want to live with regrets.  I want to use every gear that I’ve been given and leave this life wishing that there had been one more so that I could have pushed myself even further.

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Clare is new to racing this year. She began running when she was 11 and has competed in every distance from the 400m to the marathon. While she believes she will always be a runner, Clare is transitioning to more cycling. After a few Gran Fondo rides, she did an individual TT early this season and enjoyed the experience. Cycling for her is one more way to experience life and the adventures around every corner. She’s looking forward to learning the ins and outs of the sport and is very thankful for the women who are willing to invest their time to make her a stronger and safer rider.

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Comments (1)

  1. Brian Sumners says:

    Super Fun! I was right there with you as I read that. I was also very much looking forward to reading some of your stuff and I was not at all disappointed. Talk about raising the bar. Thank you Clare!

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