Part of being human means that we face daily challenges – some big, some small – and we face them at home, at work, in the gym and in our hearts. Life is full of them.
Some days in retail feel like a marathon. It’s all we can do is to make it to the end of the day with our minds still intact and our egos unaffected. Spring means baby showers, bridal showers, weddings, First Communions, retirement parties and graduation celebrations which keeps my team multi-tasking and setting priorities each and everyday.
But this blog isn’t about that … yet.
During the first week in January I received a text from a girlfriend, “Do you want to bike 40 miles through all 5 boroughs in New York in the Spring?” I laughed. I thought about my resolutions I had just set for myself just a few days prior. One of them was “do something that scares you”. Another was “challenge yourself physically”. And one I always revisit, “work on yourself emotionally, be more authentic and more vulnerable”. So before I hit my “are you kidding?” reply, I paused. Then said, “Let’s do it.”
As the weeks zipped by I realized that although I was still going to my Orange Theory workout classes, I wasn’t making it to weekly spin classes like I had planned. Maybe my legs + knees would not hold up through 40 miles of NYC pavement. I forged ahead and bought some proper biking shorts (best decision I made) and headed to the Big Apple on Friday, April 29th with excitement, hesitation and a good dose of fear, “Can I do this?”
We were a group of 4 “slow rollers” joining 32,000 other participants in New York’s Five Boro 40 Mile Bike Tour (the largest charitable bike ride in the U.S.). So while we were enjoying our weekend in the city shopping, dining and catching a Broadway show, Sunday’s weather forecast was looming. Chance of rain 100%. Wind 10 – 15 mph. High: mid 40’s.
Our start time was 7:30 a.m. which meant getting to our wave at 6:45 a.m. We donned our lovely and fashionable ponchos (that we purchased 2 days prior at the bike expo) and waited for the start. My head filled with self-doubt, fear and dread. What was I thinking? This wasn’t what I signed up to do. Didn’t the weather forecaster in the morning say “Stay Inside”. And before I could run, rather bike, in the opposite direction of the starting gun, we were off.
The rain was light for the first hour and we were protected by the buildings against the formidable wind. Soon we were biking through Central Park and I was so happy. The park was in bloom and the smell of spring was definitely in the air. The rain wasn’t going to stop me now. We crossed the bridge into the Bronx and I thought “I got this”. We were at approximately mile 10 and I was doing okay. We finally stopped in Brooklyn at the 19 mile mark for water, protein and rest. I was officially miserable. The rain was driving onto my eyeglasses, I couldn’t feel my toes, I was cold and then the saddest realization came upon me. There was no escape. I had to finish this. There was no where to go but home and home was 20 miles of bike riding no matter what.
Biking through Brooklyn was pleasant enough and I tried to soak in the few bright spots that made me laugh or smile. All our route planning for fun stops and photo ops fell quickly to the wayside as our only objective now became “FINISH” and get warm.
Then in Queens at approximately mile 30 came the foothills of the Verrazano-Narrow Bridge – the longest suspension bridge in the U.S. – with what seems is an endless ascent and a sharp descent. This climb, ride and yes walk, checked off all those New Years Resolutions set just 4 months prior. The rain had intensified as did the wind. We had just biked over 5 miles on a closed freeway (a nasty wind tunnel with the driving rain + wind AT your face). I lost my girlfriend at some point during the ascent, and with her went my water bottle/hydration as well. I had to do these last 8 – 9 grueling miles alone.
The next hour (pure guess) my mind was racing. I was near tears at some points, I was angry and I was scared. I knew that only ME and my body could get me to the finish line on Staten Island. “You can’t quit now, you are stronger than you know” said my inner voice. “This is life. It sometimes brings everything your way: rain, wind and cold and you have to deal with it. It doesn’t help you to remind yourself that you’re thirsty and you can’t feel your fingers or your toes, just keep moving forward. Just do it. Stop Complaining.” My inner voices grew stronger.
This wasn’t a physical challenge anymore. It was a mental challenge. And it dawned on me, it’s only our mental attitude anyone has control of each and everyday to face our daily challenges. Yes, I will cry when my feelings are hurt or my roof leaks or my store’s basement floods (again). But it’s not going to break me as a person. I am enough. I have a lifetime of tools at my disposal that can get me through to the other side of this bridge. It’s not always going to be pretty. And it’s not a straight line. But I can get there with my head held high and my spirits intact. When I started to descend the Verrazano-Narrows bridge and could see the finish festival just minutes away, I reminded myself, “focus”. It’s not over until it’s over. Keep on moving.
I crossed that finish line with my head facing the clouds. Tears of joy and relief washed over me. I was never so proud of myself for getting through a challenge when it seemed that all the odds were against me. It’s always during the struggle that we learn the most about ourselves and our inner tenacity to get through to the other side of the bridge.
P.S. I want to give a HUGE shout out to my teammates without which I would not have even been there to attempt to take on this challenge, and I certainly would not have finished without their patient, kind, un-judging support. Eric was our team leader, our hero, a.k.a. mom to all of us novices. He drove a truck to New York with bikes (I ended up renting mine in NYC), he organized dinner reservations, got our bikes ready, packed bike repair kits (oh the irony), took his truck to Staten Island on Saturday so we wouldn’t have to wait to get home, etc. etc. Thanks to Greg for his laugh, sense of humor and keeping our leader HAPPY. And my personal gratitude for Tracey who invited me, took me under her wings in SoHo and showed me the best of times in NYC. We packed a lot of stuff in two days while laughing and giggling along the way.
#NYFiveBoro #BikeNYC #TerryBicycles #OrangeTheoryFitness #cleverhood