My second year riding in the BikeMS City to Shore ride was also my second attempt at a century ride. This year's ride was difficult because I didn't ride my road bike much in 2017. With little saddle time in preparation for the ride, that meant I started struggling pretty quick. Again this year, we missed the century cut off (by minutes, total bummer). I was disappointed in myself but psyched I was able to raise $1,000 for MS research. The ride is an awesome experience & I would never regret doing it. My only regret is that I didn't do my best. I'm already signed up for next year's ride & will again set my goals at raising $1,000 & riding 100 miles. Please consider sponsoring my 2018 ride.
I received some news the other day that devestated me. It was end of the world kind of news, news that guts you to the core. However, the truth is. It's gut wrenching news only if you let it be. Perspective. It was the kind of news that sort of puts a fork in your road & you're forced to chose a path & one path will send you into a dark hole & the other will light a fire under your ass but it will take some work to start that fire. It's the kind of news you have to fight through so you don't fall into that dark hole but there's this little bridge laying next to the hole & you have the tools to build it, as long as you don't just lay in bed holding your dog & crying. So this, this is me trying to build that bridge so I can get the fuck over it.
A part of my new job is running groups with the clients in the women's unit. I run a few different groups each day, most of which revolve around how to basically just live life without falling the fuck apart. I work with these women to provide them with the tools to be successful in their recovery & here I am, struggling to use my own tools. I refuse to be a hyprocrite tho. I owe it to those women to walk the walk, ya know? They are doing the work. I need to, too. So, I'm picking the path that requires action & I'm maintaining my positive mental attitude & doing my best to silence that nasty voice in my head that won't stfu about how I'm "almost forty with nothing to show" for my life. Because really, that's so dramatic & sure, I don't have a lot but what I have I worked really hard for & that's cool.
2016 was rough for a lot of people, to say the least. It was an incredibley traumtic year & I worry it won't get much better anytime soon. But like most people, I am doing my best to focus on the positive & continue to work hard to be the best person I can be. It's time for us to listen & take action in ways that are meaningful while also working to maintain our mental health. 2016 had some solid moments. These are them.
I did a lot of awesome things in 2016. On New Year's Day my dude & I rode mountain bikes at High Rocks, a tradition we started the year before (that year we hiked) & continued this year. We also rode Trexler that weekend. Soon after, I got my own mountain bike. It's a Trek Antelope from 1994 that Brian dialed in for me. In early January I was a guest writer on the blog Fit & Feminist where I shared a piece I wrote about BMX. For Valentine's Day we took an impromtu trip to Pittsburgh to ride the Wheel Mill (my first time). It was overwhelming & awesome. The following weekend we drove up to New York to table the NYC Feminist Zine Fest, one of the most well-attended zine events I've ever been too. I also tabled Chicago Zine Fest in April, DC Zine Fest in July, Philly Zine Fest in August & the first ever Lehigh Valley Zine Fest in October. I was invited to be a reader in Chicago which was awesome. It was the largest crowd I've ever read to & while I think it could have been better, it had been awhile since I did a reading (I did another a few months later at the Rotunda as part of Philly Zine Fest).
I spent most of the year studying so I could finish my Psych degree & riding bikes. I was exhausted most days, emotional every day. But I did my best to surround myself with people who cared about me while ending relationships with negative & toxic people, people who saw no merit in social justice or fighting the good fight. I can't turn a blind eye to the blind eye of others, ya know? But I also don't need to be patted on back for doing basic shit like not being friends with shitty people. I did my best to spend as much time as I could with my family, my nieces, my nephew. I found out I'll be an aunt for the third time this Spring which is literally the best news ever. We took a bunch of bmx road trips including one up to Cranx for the final session before they closed (total bummer). We also went & saw a bunch of shows this year including Bleached at Johnny Brenda's which I think was probably the best show we saw this year.
In April my sister Veronica got engaged. In May I finally bought a new car, a 2003 Subaru Forester which holds so many bikes! Brian & I hiked the waterfalls at Glen Onoko in May, something that terrified me & nearly brought on the most epic panic attack I've ever had. Yet, was such an incredible day that ended with a swim in the lake & a bike ride at Nox. I celebrated six years sober on June 10th, an accomplishment I am amazed at most days. I wrote a zine called "Life Without Booze: Reflections on Six Years Sober" to celebrate. In July we drove out to Raystown Lake to camp & ride mountain bikes. It was my first time tent camping & what I learned is that nature is loud & it's not a good idea to arrive at the campsite late at night when the only spot left to pitch a tent is on a slight incline & it's too dark to do much of anything other than throw down the text & hope for the best. The riding was awesome, way beyond anything I had done up until that point & it kicked my ass. But the swim in Raystown Lake after made it totally worth it.
Somehow, I keep putting this post off. It's now May & I just don't have the energy to complete a single post about an entire year. So instead, I'm going to make a promise to myself to be more committed to writing here. Recently I did a zine reading at a local coffee shop. A friend came & brought a guy she had been hanging out with. He wrote on his Facebook what was basically a review poem about how totally uncool the zine reading was because it wasn't basically, edgy enough for him. At first I felt insulted. How dare this man dictate my art. But then I remembered there are a lot of people, mostly men who have an idea of what is art & they believe it needs to be driven by this primal desire to expel demons & express rage or whatever. I'm not there anymore. I'm not consumed by those feelings of aggression. I'm perfectly happy writing about how beautifully intense the world is & how good I feel when I'm present & experiencing everything life has to offer. So, I will try my best to document that for my own sake.
September 23rd I did my very first charity bike ride. The BikeMS: City to Shore ride was the chance to ride 100 miles while raising money for MS research. I started my fundraising months before the ride, setting a goal of $1,000 which seemed hefty but possible. I requested off work for the ride, booked a hotel near the start line so we wouldn't have to wake up even earlier & drive to South Jersey & started training. The day of the ride arrived & just like the always-running-late-bmxers we are, we still woke up later than expected & didn't make it on the road until well past our hopeful time. But the starting area was electric. For real, just standing there waiting felt incredible. Hundreds of cyclists ready to spend the day on their bikes for a good cause had me already emotional. The reason we had tried to get on the road as early as possible was that, even though it wasn't a race, the century loop would be closed at 11am making it impossible for us to ride our 100 mile goal & that's exactly what happened. We missed the loop. Even with Brian's hand on my back for over ten miles pushing me faster than I was physically able to ride, we didn't make the cut off.
A few things happened during this ride that I wasn't prepared for. It was really intense to do such a large group ride. I had never been a part of something like that before & I should have taken advantage of the opportunity offered by Bike MS to learn how to ride in such a large group because about ten minutes into the ride, we approached an intersection with a red light and I stopped. This is how I ride my bike. If the light is red, I stop. Well, immediately I could hear a man behind me yelling furiously "DO NOT STOP" & the group rolled through the light with guidance of the local police who waved us through. This mistake shook me. I was embarrassed & bummed out that I had already made a mistake and we were only a few miles into a long day. I was mortified that this man yelled at me. For a second all I could think about was how much I wanted to ride my bike into the woods & disappear.
But that wasn't the point of this ride. I learned very early in my cycling life (which ok, is only like 1.5 years now) that I have to leave my ego behind. Riding a bike can be the most fun ever & yet, the most grueling & demanding thing ever. Some days all I want to do is ignore my bike & sleep in late but I get up & get out & after my ride I feel totally pumped. Even on days when my ride is hard & I am struggling, I still am thankful I did it. This feeling is something I have never experienced before I got a bike. I heard people who go to the gym or run talk about it but it, but it never resonated with me because it just sounded way too far-fetched. Like, how could anything that required so much physical activity feel better than just cuddling my dog for hours in my blanket fort?
Up until this ride the longest I had ever ridden my bike was 50 miles & I had just accomplished that a month or so before with a friend of mine. But my half century ride was on gravel so I assumed 100 on pavement couldn't be much harder. The truth is, it really wasn't & that was pretty awesome. The BikeMS ride was fully supported & every 20 miles or so there was a rest stopped stocked with snacks & water & porta-potties. There was music & swag. It was a celebration, a distraction, a welcomed rest from the physical & emotional strain a long ride can take on you (at least, on me, a new cyclist). At one rest stop a main approached me while Brian was getting a snack & said "he is an incredible rider. I saw him pushing you & he was riding so fast" & suddenly I was overcome with conflicting emotions. I was totally proud of my dude for being such a rad cyclist but also, I was totally bummed that part of my ride he was responsible for. I couldn't claim those miles because it was his hand on my back, his speed that got us through them. I was a fake, a phony. Suddenly I was embarrassed again & as the day progressed I refused to let him help me anymore. I had to do the rest of this on my own.
Since we missed the century cut-off Brian looped around to get his own 100 miles in. I knew trying to do that at my speed would take another two hours & I didn't think I had it in me, so I just kept riding towards Ocean City and as I came around a corner & saw those bridges that would lead me to the finish line I got incredibly emotional & began to cry. I had turned Beyonce on my phone which was perched on my handlebars, Lemonade was my soundtrack for those final miles. I was riding alone at this point, not able to keep up with any groups but still riding at a pace I was comfortable with. I rode past a ghost bike of a bmxer who had lost their life & was overcome with emotion again. I think I spent a solid fifteen minutes crying & pedaling because life is so fragile, so special, so incredibly difficult. Being such a new cyclist & a Scorpio & in recovery, I often spend my time crying over things that maybe a normal person wouldn't. Surprisingly, that's actually one thing I am not embarrassed about. My sentimental heart is what keeps this machine going & I was amazed at what I had accomplished so far that day & the ride wasn't even over.
Eventually I approached the finish line & finished the ride with 82 miles ridden in six hours & thirty-seven minutes. My dad & his wife were there waiting for me at the finish line. I parked my bike amongst hundreds of other bikes & found them, walking on jelly legs choking back even more tears because it meant so much to me that they had driven all the way down the shore to be there at the finish line. My dad was so proud & that was pretty rad. Even at almost forty years old it feels good to do something that makes your old man smile so big. Brian was still a few miles out since he had circled around, so we waited for him at the finish line. It was really special for me to be there when he finished his first century ride. It was even more special that now we were in Ocean City New Jersey, a city that held such a special place in my over-crowded heart. When I was seventeen I ran away from home & spent a summer sleeping under the OCNJ boardwalk, spare changing for money to get french fries & bathing in the ocean. I made friendships that summer that are still some of my most cherished. I had my heart broken that summer. It was only a few months but it was the most important time in my life & I hold that town very close to my heart. It was really nice to walk down the boardwalk & share those stories with Brian after such an incredible day, eating dinner & watching the sunset. I couldn't have imagined a better ending to the day.
I have already registered for the 2017 ride. I will keep you updated.