Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right. ~Henry Ford
I recently had the extreme pleasure of spending six days in Northern California with approximately two dozen amazing women. A dozen or so women, myself included, were there as newly crowned ambassadors for Specialized. Ambassadors from North, Central and South America converged on the West Coast for the 2017 Specialized Ambassador Summit. We spent two days on campus at Specialized’s headquarters in Morgan Hill, CA, then shuttled over to Felton, CA, for two days of personal growth workshops, yoga, biking and food (lots and lots of glorious food).
We received the event agenda a week in advance. I was excited for every facet of what the company had planned for us, but riding was high on my list. I couldn’t wait to experience new and different terrain in a less hot and humid climate. As both a mountain biker and someone who gravel grinds long distances, the ladies at Specialized elected to give me a riding experience closest to my riding style of choice in South Florida—a gravel bike, but to be ridden with the group of road riding ambassadors. Understand, however, aside from short forays here and there, I’ve never really ridden on the road. To be completely transparent, I’m actually kind of terrified to take to the roadways on a bike. I find drivers to be not only distracted but aggressive, as well.
When the day came to ride, we changed into our kit and boarded vans for an hour or so drive to the mountains nears Santa Cruz. I was as stoked as my counterparts to try out our new whips. After bike adjustments and photographs we were finally ready to hit the trails and roads. Climbing started rather quickly. Additionally, the roadways were rough and pockmarked in places due to last season’s heavy rains, resulting in washouts and landslides. I had to keep my eyes wide open for all sorts of obstacles. And, let’s not forget the traffic, both oncoming and from behind. I lost my composure early on, never to regain it. Additionally, I suffer from asthma, which I control with a treatment inhaler. Once my breath got away from me, I was unable to recover, in any way, shape or form. I don’t think I had fully acclimatized to the altitude. I only made it about 13 miles into a 30+/- mile ride. As much as I hated to do it, I climbed into the support van. Yes, I felt physical relief, but I also felt like I failed. Once I settled in and caught my breath, I had to fight back tears. I felt like such a fool. I felt I was less than my fellow ambassador counterparts. When we returned to our lodging, I disembarked from the van and hung my head in shame as I made my way to the entrance to greet the returning riders. I forced a smile as I cheered them on, feeling overwhelming embarrassment for my inability to keep up with the group.
I harbored this shame throughout the evening’s activities and into the night. I was unable to sleep, consumed with feelings of inadequacy and worried I disappointed the brand I was eager to represent. I awoke dreading the day’s ride. Following breakfast, we participated in a yoga session interspersed with personal goal setting exercises. I enjoyed both, but couldn’t shut down the nagging voice in my head screaming, “Failure! Fraud!”
Lunch followed the session, but before heading to lunch, the roadie group had a brief meeting to explain that a decision had been made to split the group in two—a challenge group and a chill group. Riders selected the group they wanted to ride with. Having been part of an earlier group conversation about the ride details, I inquired about the climbs and length of the climbs. (I heard they were going to be even more difficult than the prior day’s ride.) The chill ride leader confirmed this. I internally began to panic. She then told me it would be okay to stay on the property and have some downtime. This was absolutely not what I came to do, nor wanted to do. I came to be a part of this experience and to ride with my newfound friends. It was at this point that I began to cry. I was completely overwhelmed with the feeling of failure. The ride leader quickly realized my consternation and listened as I voiced my fear and concern. I absolutely did not want to have a repeat of yesterday. Bless her soul. She urged me to give it a try. She assured me the support van would again be tailing us and, if worse came to worse, I could bail on route. I collected myself, dried my tears and headed toward my cabin to change. On the way, I rang my husband and again burst into tears. I asked him to say a prayer that I would complete the ride. He sensed my anxiety and talked me down, all the while telling me I would be fine and reminding me of the many rides I’ve done in the past, many of which were probably tougher than this. We hung up. I changed, grabbed my bike and reported to the van.
We shuttled to the drop location, disembarked, and took off, beginning the ride with a steep descent. I intentionally positioned myself directly behind the ride leader, as mentally it boosted my confidence, as opposed to starting at the rear of the pack. We descended and climbed, descended and climbed over and over again. The riding was spectacular, and the views even more so. When it was all said and done, we completed a 25-mile loop through Big Basin Redwoods State Park, ending back at the van. I didn’t want the ride to end. I still had a lot left in the tank. I was on cloud nine! I had conquered my first mountain. I had completed my first true road ride through the mountains. I felt invincible!
Had I let my fears—fear of the ride, fear of failure, and fear of proving myself a fraud–get the best of me, I would’ve missed out on one of my greatest experiences to date. I am so glad I had people who listened to me, encouraged me and lifted me up. Had it not been for them, I may not have embarked on something so challenging and monumental. I will remember this ride (and the following day’s equally challenging and even more spectacular ride) for the rest of my natural born days.
While at the Summit, we ambassadors had the pleasure of working with internationally recognized transformational coach, lifestyle strategist, and mind/body teacher Amber Campion. Ms. Campion reiterated a statement several times that really stuck with me. I’m paraphrasing her words, but she said something to this effect: It’s not your story people hear. It’s their story in your story they hear. That being said, some of you may hear your story in my story. Some of you may have had, or one day may have, these self-defeating thoughts. You may hear the tiny yet loud, nagging voices of failure, frustration and fear of being labeled a fraud. Dear friend, push them aside. You are so much greater than this. You are fierce, formidable, a force to be reckoned with and all around effing fantastic! Own it, my friend. Own it!