Machines for Freedom recently took a weekend trip east of LA to ride the Tour De Big Bear. In case you haven't been, Big Bear is a amazing place… beautiful vistas, crisp air, alpine lakes, and big pine trees. Big Bear is also an amazing place to ride… steady climbs, swoopy descents, lakefront flats, and oh, umm.. elevation. We were sure to give ourselves plenty of time to acclimate by driving out late Friday night for the event the next morning. 12 hours is enough, right? Before leaving on Friday, I had a brief call with my cycling coach about my training plan for the rest of the summer. I had just come back from a tour in Europe and with a few big events scheduled in the fall, now was the time to scale back the intensity and maintain my base.
“Okie dokie. Got it, Coach.” I nodded.
Then, “Oh wait, what about Big Bear? It is kind of a big day.”
“Go ahead and go,” he said, “Just take it easy. Waaay easy.”
I responded with obvious agreement, “Of course!”
Early up the next morning and we decide to ride from the hotel to the event. Nothing big, a few miles at the most, but enough to get our blood moving. At the race start there is an ocean of people corralled like cattle, waiting for their wave to roll out. “2 minutes to go!” the announcer’s voice drones through the loudspeaker, muffled by blaring 80s metal. As we sit and wait, I feel that surge of nervous excitement. Today is going to be fun! Next thing I know the sea starts to swell around us. And.., we are off! Jenn and I roll out together. Looking very “twinsies" in matching MFF kits.
We start out through the village, over a few rollers, then almost immediately encounter the first climb. Ok. Here we go, settle-in and find a rhythm, left right, left right. Jenn and I are climbing together, in sync and at a decent pace, especially considering we have 75 miles and 6k of climbing ahead of us.
Just then our friends pass us, jamming up the ascent. Without so much as a nod, we both compulsively follow their wheel. We press hard up the hill, breath shorter than usual in the thin mountain air. As we climb, pushing hard and steady, we start to pick-off other cyclists. One by one, we pass people with a cheery “Hey! Good morning!” There are mixed receptions... a few “Hell yeah, get it, ladies!” but mostly silence or sighs of frustration from being passed by two girls so early in the day.
As we press up the hill, I take a look at my power meter. Uh oh, I am way past the “take it easy” zone. Coach Ron’s voice reverberates in my head. “Take it waaay easy.”
Then the internal dialogue starts… Ok, what do I do? Think, Tracy. Listen to coach and scale it back. Look at this as a training ride. Look at this as a recovery spin. You SHOULD be chilling out right now.
Then, the excited kid voice comes in… Hell no, I WANT to keep going faster. I FEEL like RIDING today.
Back to the adult version… Calm down. If I go too hard then I will have to do a bunch of recovery… and I wont get my base training in… and I wont have properly rested before my next build phase… and my coach will be mad at me for breaking my routine AGAIN… and maybe I will cramp up… maybe I will blow up later for going too hard too early… maybe this, maybe that.
As my mind races through the inevitable complications and failures that will ensue, my legs start to race as well. Faster and faster, matching my anxious energy. Oh shit. I am making it worse! Slow down slow down! Then I see my friends up ahead… The kid voice is back… Look at them, they are going faster, I want to be up there. I want to go faster too. Push pull, push pull. Should want, should want. Pedal pedal, pedal pedal. The anxiety builds and builds to a breaking point. Then.. Fuck it! Want wins out. Again. I push hard on the pedals and race toward the top of the climb.
I can be quite an over-thinker. I get stuck between should and want, think and feel. I make things black or white with no room for grey. If I do what I should do, I’ll miss out on all the fun. If I do what I want to do, I will fuck everything up. (Can you tell I went to Catholic school?)
Maybe Jenn knows me well or maybe she is dealing with the same stuff but at that very moment, I hear her say… “Live a little.” Wow, that is exactly what I needed to hear. Maybe this one climb doesn't ruin the training plan for the whole day, the whole week, the whole year. Even if it did, isn't it fun to live in the moment and rock it out?! I can deal with the consequences later. Today I am choosing the grey approach. Why not live. Just a little.
And that is what we did…
Bacon at the sag station? We look at each other and laugh. “Sure! Live a little!”
Somewhat carelessly bomb a windy and rainy descent? “Fuck yeah! Live a little!”
Ditching our friends because we are having way too much fun and don’t want to stop and wait. “Umm… Yep.”
Flirting with random boys admiring our matching kits. “Did you say nice kits or nice tits?”
Live a little. The theme stayed with us both the rest of the day. What mattered is we let go of the overthinking. We let go of the shoulds. We didn't just do whatever we wanted. But we didn't chain ourselves back either. We stopped being so polarized. So black or white. We went grey. We lived. Just a little. And we laughed. Quite a lot.