The Year I Found My Wings…

It couldn’t have happened anymore unknowingly.  I didn’t set out to prove a point or find something I was missing.  I wanted to honor my bike with riding …  without pause for distance, terrain or weather.  I happened into a relationship and a circle of friends that were ‘impassioned’ with the thought of riding bikes, too.  So we rode, beginning in December 2011 and didn’t stop.  We talked bikes, we talked classic races and racers, we raced ourselves, we trained … and we rode constantly.

During all that, I became unemployed for a good five months, which so happened to fall in the spring/early summer time … a precious time to dig in and find some legs.  I had the good fortune to be connected with others who had flexibility in their schedules and/or willingness to get out on two wheels. So we rode.

One friend (past team mate) became a major push in my "Volare":  . He, being a hub of ride groups, dragged me out, even when I feared I was too slow.  He told me to hang on as long as possible and next time will be a little longer.   He grabbed my wheel when he saw me fading.  He showed me the way to toughen up inside and out.  The pinnacle of our adventures together was attempting the Bone Ride – a fairly unpublished 120-160 mile fast ride across Wisconsin.  After putting it to ourselves on the Wednesday night CCC ride, we sipped our usual ‘recovery sodas’ at JJPeppers and my friend mentioned this ride.  I knew I could ride 120 miles.  I had heard there were a few hills along their route and they kept a certain pace.  Perhaps my legs were foolishly full of confidence, but all seemed doable, on paper at least.  11pm that night, as sensibility had started to sink in, we’re texting each other, “Should we?” “Wanna?” “Are we being dipsh*ts?”  After a good five minutes of lamenting, “Whelp, let’s do this.”

I won’t go into all the details, but it lived up to its rolly hills and swifty speeds (avg 24mph).  We gave it our best on 5 hours of sleep, a bagel/cream cheese and un-rested legs.  We held strong for the first 45 of 60 miles.  A sag wagon, quick lunch, failed attempt to catch back onto the return stampede, left us returning to Pewaukee alone.  Along the way, we found out just how flat Chicago truly is, that our legs could ride 120, albeit not in record times, and that a shared cliff bar / water are the foundations of lasting friendships.  Oh, and a can of cold, cold Coke is like heaven.

Many a narration has been written about bikes and the passion they evoke.  "The Need For the Bike": , for example.  A bike may seem a simple machine, but the feelings it musters up can be quite complex.

I continued riding and racing all summer long.  I saw improvements in both.  I got head nods from fellas on group rides, acknowledging a lady with some legs and ability.  I found myself being approached by faster racer women to recap races with.  I learned the meaning of "Do The Ride": .  I found "La Volupte": , that magical feeling as you float along.  I found confidence in me, on and off my bike.

My eyes well up when I put these words down, because I found my soul through all this, thanks to the perfect culmination of persuasion and companionship on the road….  I’m eternally grateful to the people and forces that put me here.

-Jen Groen