January 26, 2009

Inspiration

tinab_authorpic1Editor’s Note: Veteran racer Tina Brubaker contributes a great post on the recent Veloforma Team Ride. Tina’s popular posts include the previous Psycho Cross race report, and her video spot highlighting her stint delivering for UPS on a bike. For additional fun, be sure to catch the links at the end of the post for another report on the Veloforma ride from teammate Heidi Swift.

Today I am inspired by a tiny drop of sweat and I know it is going to be a good year.

We all find inspiration in some form or another with each passing season. Sometimes it’s found in sunset or a song, a new job or a new bike, or by special people who come in and out of our lives, but always we are inspired. Each year with racing, there are new faces, new teams, fancy new kits and sometimes even a new helmet, but always there are bikes. And year after year, I am given just the right amount of inspiration, at just the right time, to lure me into another season.

Tina, Heidi, and the rest of the Veloforma crew on a team ride.

Tina, Heidi, and the rest of the Veloforma crew on a team ride.

This year I am privileged to be a part of an amazing group of girls, and when I show up this morning to our team ride, I immediately smile. It is a smile that comes from somewhere deep inside and I realize I am genuinely happy to be here. I’ve always loved my bike, and year after year I seem to enjoy racing and riding more and more. Road, mountain bikes, cross, whatever, my bikes makes me smile…and today, this morning, these girls on their bikes are what make me smile. As we head out, I quickly assess how my legs are feeling and it’s not good….

We climb right from the gun and I’m not cool with this, but the roads are dry and this is a rare thing in January, so I just ride. UP. The selections are made quickly and I settle into a nice pace somewhere in the middle. The ride is fun and rolls along through the west hills of Portland. I push myself a bit, recover, sit back in, chat with some of the girls, chat with Joel and Mark, try to catch QuickDraw, who has the iPod advantage, and is flying up Thompson, and I realize that even though my legs hurt and it’s not a great day on the bike, I am still having fun, and it’s because of the people I’m with.

While we are climbing up Old Germantown, I drop back and let thoughts drift through my head. Thoughts of when I first started doing group rides with the boys. I think of my old Bianchi, my first road bike, it was purple with red cable housing that was cracked and worn and I realize while I loved that bike, I do not miss it at all, or those rides for that matter. I always got dropped on those rides, every time. I remember people would come back once in a while to try to help or encourage me, but all I really wanted was to be left alone with my suffering, to revel in it, and curse it and hurt where no one else could see my pain or hear my labored breathing. But people want to help because they’ve been there. And usually it does help, a knowing look, a kind hand offering a push up the hill, or a word of wisdom to be shared.

On this day, my mind is wandering and I am taking it all in, the cold, my teammates, life and bikes. I look up the road and don’t see HeartBreaker at all, I realize, in fact, I don’t actually remember the last time I saw her on this climb, she’s gone. But I see others, single riders, little groups of riders, around corners and up head and scattered all over this road, each one riding their own ride. And for some reason I really soak this all in this today. I am back with Swift, and I leave her alone for a while and I don’t talk, she is breathing hard. We just ride and breath and hurt together. It’s the best hurt I’ve felt in some time.

Corner after corner we pedal along, and at some point, I feel snow flakes hit my face. It is like someone gently reminding me to get me out of my own head and back to the ride. I look over and say, ‘dude, it’s snowing’ and when I look over, I see cascading waterfall of sweat flowing off of her face. Wow, it’s actually snowing and COLD and Swift is sweating. A lot. Beads of sweat running down her nose and face. I instantly know she’s suffering in a way we’ve all suffered on painful climbs when we are riding with people who are way faster than us. I know she probably doesn’t want company or anything resembling words of encouragement but I sit next to her anyway and we talk. I try to distract her from the pain, help her slow her breathing. I feel a kinship with her, a sense of sisterhood only another cyclist would understand. This is something I cannot share with my friends who don’t ride, they don’t get it or really have any desire to, but I feel what she is going through as if it is myself. I look over again and I see a single drop of sweat, sitting on the tip of her nose. I love this image and it is instantly burned in my mind and I shake my head and smile.

It is that. One. Drop. Of. Sweat. On. The. Tip. Of. Her. Nose. Waiting to hit the ground. That inspires me.

Related links to this post: Heidi’s ride report, and Heidi’s further thoughts on training, sweat and pain in the Oregonian.

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