I knew it was going to be good when I saw the sign at the entrance to the park:
Professionally printed, clear logo, easy to read. This is going to be a well-organized, thought-through event, I thought as I followed the signs into the parking lot for the first CTS ride.
“Good morning!” the gentleman in the yellow ride leader jersey called to me from the next car.
Friendly, too, I thought as I smiled hello.
I was very early for that first morning of STP training. I’ve been chronically late to all my pre-training rides, stressed and scrambling with the details of riding a bike: helmet and sunglasses and bike shoes and water and food and bike rack and pumping the tires. Different from running, where all I need is a jog bra, a pair of shoes (maybe), and my dog.
This biking thing has lots of details to keep track of.
I was bound and determined to be early and calm and ready to go for my first CTS ride. It does not, however, take an hour to drive from Seward Park, where I live, to Magnuson Park, where the ride started. So I had plenty of time to hang out in the cold morning wind and recheck my list:
• Tires pumped
• Glasses (clear and tinted)
• Bike shoes
• Gloves (warm and fingerless)
• Cue sheet
• Car locked
• Headlights off
I typed out that list a couple of weeks ago after I arrived late to a 40-mile ride out to Black Diamond and forgot sunglasses. My eyeballs still don’t feel right. I was so stressed about being late that morning that I forgot to lock the car. And then paused my GPS app rather than starting it. I wanted none of that drama for this first ride.
Calm and freezing, I was ready to go when my group, Yellow #1, rolled out of the parking lot, right on time. I thought about the proverb: the longest journey starts with the first step. I don’t care if it’s cliché: I was thrilled to be taking that first step with this group of riders around me.
Unfortunately for me, that first step was a ride to Seward Park, where I’d just driven from. “Hey Wayne!” I called to my ride leader when we stopped at Seward Park. “I live a half mile up the hill. You all want to come over for coffee?” Wouldn’t my partner have been surprised.
“Maybe next time,” he yelled back.
Prior to the start of CTS, I agonized over whether to sign up for Yellow (12-14 miles an hour) or Green (14-16 miles an hour). I asked lots of experienced riders and got all kinds of conflicting advice:
“Stretch yourself, you don’t want to be bored,” to “Every ride will be the farthest you’ve ever ridden, don’t make it the fastest, too.” I tried riding too far, too fast on a training ride and hated the weepy, frustrated feeling of being left behind. So I’ve decided to ride Yellow.
Riding in Yellow #1 was like a comfortable jog. Just right for distance, which will be stretch enough once we get to 60, 70, and 100 miles. I’m in the right group.
There are about 20 of us in Yellow #1 including ride leader, sweep, and many floats. Many, many floats. Did I already say there were a lot of floats?
As we headed south toward my stomping grounds, I felt a bit, well, like I was on a well-chaperoned field trip. When my pump fell off for some reason (note to self: stop when the bike makes a new noise), three men stopped to watch me Velcro it back on and tell me I did it wrong. Which I appreciated, but it is a bit intimidating to fix my bike with an audience.
I don’t like the feeling of being chaperoned and so I practiced feeling appreciative instead:
I appreciated feeling looked after and supported; I appreciated knowing people will stop and help if my bike breaks; I appreciated learning a new route through the backside of the UW; I appreciated the safety lesson about not riding so closely to parked cars; I appreciated the friendliness of the other riders; I appreciated how pretty the ride was; I appreciated that the rain started as we were pulling back into the parking lot at the end of the ride.
Most of all, I appreciated how easily my legs and my bike rolled over those 28 miles in the chilly spring weather. I can’t wait for next week’s ride.
Kathryn Saxer is currently enrolled in the Cascade Training Series, a 13-week training series designed to prepare Cascade members physically and mentally for the Group Health STP or RSVP. She’s a personal and professional coach in Seattle. When not learning how to bike long distances, she likes to run in the mountains, share adventures with her 7- and 9-year-old children, and cook terrible dinners for her beloved and long-suffering partner. She’ll be reporting on her CTS journey weekly.