I was never really a fan of the “group ride”. Not because I am a snob or self-righteous, but because they always made me uncomfortable.
This is most likely because I am socially awkward and am an introvert at heart who was told throughout my youth that I needed to “fit in” and be more social instead of hanging out in my bedroom reading, dancing, singing, or acting out Broadway plays.
(Fun Fact: I used to perform these fantastic shows in the living room for my amused grandpa until I got busted by a group of mean kids across the street who endlessly made fun of me from that point forward. Ahhh, childhood.)
So, much like with my AMAZING theatrical performances, I had always been terrified of making an ass out of myself with witness…until one day I wasn’t.
That epiphany of sorts was long after my introduction to the group ride however…but also because of it.
Ahhhh, the group ride…
Much like in life, you are surrounded by people who are either more skilled, equally skilled, or less skilled.
Some will suck your wheel because they need it and some will suck your wheel because they are lazy.
Some will do stupid shit because they don’t know it’s stupid…and some will do stupid shit because they believe themselves to be more bad ass than is the reality. Some are truly stupid…and you have to just ride away.
Some will ride next to you and provide companionship and motivation, and some will sprint ahead.
Those who sprint ahead may do it because they have something to prove (to themselves or the group)…
Others will sprint ahead for health or fitness purposes.
Some may sprint ahead to clear their minds…
…and still others might just want to get the hell away from you.
It doesn’t matter. It’s not your sprint; not your business.
You may chose to chase one day or you may chose to simply ride on.
Perhaps you will chase and pass with smile….
…or pass and keep going without looking back.
In life and on the group ride you are sometimes social and sometimes not.
You’re either working, recovering, or relaxing.
You may enjoy everyone or you won’t.
You’ll suffer or have fun…or both…but the wheels keep turning.
Sometimes you will drop back and be alone.
Sometimes it will be a choice and sometimes it will not.
As in life, these are valuable times and teachable moments for ourselves.
Perhaps you need to ride alone.
Maybe you need to get out of the saddle and dig deep, push through, grit your teeth…cry.
Whether in life or on the group ride, you gain nothing by being rescued or not figuring it out for yourself.
You have to be willing and able to ride the course and find your way. No one can do that for you. They can show you the way, but they cannot get you there.
I had to learn that.
I had to start treating my life like a group ride in the solitary hills.
I had to realize that getting upset only made things worse.
I had to learn how to accept the guidance of others who had either been there or just had a different perspective…
It was even harder to accept the gentle hand on my back that was not a push, but was there to make sure I didn’t go backwards or give up.
That hand pissed me off the first time it appeared on the small of my back…but it was in fact exactly what I needed, but I just didn’t know it.
I kept at it no matter how much it or I sucked. I still wasn’t always with the group, but I was moving forward…and learning…and trying…and getting stronger.
Eventually, I was riding comfortably with the group and could relax and either sprint ahead or drop back without fearing my path, the line I took, or how I got there.
Some mash gears and some spin, but everyone gets there their own way; just like in life.
You should never get too comfortable.
To get stronger in this life, you have to get dropped.
You have to experience loss, frustration, pain, and discomfort.
And sometimes on a group ride, you may need to remind yourself of that.
I rode my first group ride in a long time the other day and the reality of all the things I have allowed to slip were abundant…
But unlike the girl of my youth (or the woman of more recent times), I was uncaring about how awful my skill or fitness was and I forced myself to push forward for the greater good…ME!
So, the next time you find yourself surrounded by people you would rather not be, remind yourself that you can always drop back, sprint ahead, take another route, or just tune it out.
The choice is always yours and there is no wrong answer…except wrecking someone. Don’t do that.
You have to embrace this group ride that we call life, because you are not in it alone and everyone has their ride to ride too.
It won’t always be pretty and sometimes you will have globs of snot and tears all over you…but it will always be beautiful.