This Saturday was the Fort Lauderdale Triathlete’s ride on Hector’s Tour to Inspire. As I mentioned in my last post, I was terrified of going to this event as it was a one hour group ride and I had never ridden with a group before. At some point or another, you have probably seen a group ride. When I see them out and about, I always watch in awe as dozens of riders move like one large wave. It reminds me of the way birds fly together in unison. The riders always look so fluid. All I could picture was this graceful fluid motion with some Mr. Bean like character at the tail end of the group flailing about like some idiot. That idiot would be me, or so I pictured. My wonderful hubby tried to convince me otherwise. He really pushed me to go. I thought about it and decided I would show up, but prepared to just listen to Hector speak. That was what meant most to me.
I pulled into the parking lot with a lump in my throat. I was kind of frozen in my car. I had to bring myself back to my strategy of choosing one small thing to just move forward. I decided I would just get out and at least meet everyone. I could always just join in the run. I walked up to a gentleman in a Fort Lauderdale Triathlete kit and introduced myself. He just so happened to be the person I spoke with on the phone. I said “I brought my bike, but I’m thinking I will just try for a couple of miles and if anything, I’ll drop off the group and turn back around to meet you guys for the run.” He said that was fine, but that he figured on a newer group hanging back a little so they didn’t plan on dropping anyone. I was doing my best not to be a nervous wreck at this point. I turned around and Hector was there so we introduced ourselves and chatted about various things until others started arriving. The group was surprisingly small. I felt much more comfortable, but still terrified. They weren’t as intimidating as I expected. We got together for a quick group shot.
Just before we were about to head out, this group of what seemed like a dozen or so riders whipped into the parking lot. Ah, that’s that intimidated feeling I was expecting. There was no way I would ever keep up with these guys! It was like out of one of those movies where the cool kids in their leather jackets drive in on their motorcycles and do donuts around the less cool kids, except these guys were decked out in their FL Tri kits and peeled in on way cool tri bikes. Man, I’m a geek. The other difference was, while these guys were totally cool, they were really nice salt of the earth people. Introductions were quick and they chatted about how they planned to do somewhere around 20 mph. The lump in my throat grew more by the moment. We split into two groups, the speed demons (as I would call them) and a somewhat slower group.
We started out and our less aggressive group consisted of another woman named Christina, a woman whose name escapes me at the moment, Matt and Norman. We got going and I was doing ok keeping up. I was like a kid on a carnival ride. I was terrified but probably had the biggest goofiest grin on my face. I’d say about 15 minutes in, I realized I hadn’t started my Garmin and I definitely wanted stats on this ride so I hit the button and figured some data is better than no data. I realized about 30 minutes in that I had a death grip in my handlebars and need to relax a little. Norman was amazing. He was my wing man, and my coach and motivator. He told me I was doing really well, almost exactly when I needed to hear it. I told him I really needed to work on my turns as I was turning way wide, which could be bad if traffic was around. He gave me some tips, which I applied to our next turn and felt pretty good about it. He told me I’d look like a pro in no time. I really started to feel it about 45 minutes into the ride. The two leading ladies seemed to decide to really crank it but then I realized that they were probably going the same speed, I was just getting tired. I really admired the one woman, she had a really sleek tri bike and amazing calves. The back of her knees and legs looked like two muscular babies smiling at you. Yeah, you pictured that right. I was super relieved when I saw the plaza ahead. Matt said I did really well considering it was my first group ride. I was on cloud nine. I had completed my first group ride free of crashes and I kept up with the group, the slower group at least. Now, if only my legs would work for the run. After that ride, I wasn’t sure they would!
We headed out for the usual Runner’s Depot course, which starts of with running up and over an overpass. I was not looking forward to that. I pushed hard, but wasn’t sure I could run a full 5k at this point. Luckily, after a little over half a mile, the group decided to turn back for sake of time. Oh boy, back over the overpass. I really wanted to walk at that point but I was able to push past the pain and make it back to the store without walking. I was completely beat and starving. The Einstein’s store in the plaza had set up some bagels for us so that was awesome. I dove right into that. After everyone chowed down and wiped off, we went inside for Hector’s talk.
Hector started off by telling us who he was. A husband, father, triathlete, real estate agent, actor, etc. and then he ended the description with “oh, and I am a double arm amputee.” He says the reason he ends with that, is because it is not what he wants to define him. He went on to tell his story. He lost his arms, one near the shoulder and the other just below the elbow, in a work accident when he was 26 years old. Listening to him, you can just feel his energy and zest for life. This is someone who had every opportunity to feel sorry for himself. To complain, to lie down, to give up. He decided that he would not lose the rest of his life lingering in misery, but embrace this as a challenge like none he has ever faced. He had to relearn how to do everything over again, this time without arms. Triathlon was just another challenge that he decided to face and conquer. He has ridden thousands of miles, across various states to help bring some joy to children struggling with illness or injury.
I cannot thank my hubby enough for really pushing me to ride at this event. I would have probably gone to hear Hector speak anyway, but it was that much more impactful after having pushed myself past fear. I felt like I really lived life to the fullest in those moments. This is something I want to try to do more often. This is something I challenge anyone reading this to do. Think of just one thing that you want to do, but might be afraid of doing and go for it. I have said before that I think of the worst case scenarios way too often, and that is true, but I am doing my best to recognize that the worst case scenario is rare. Risking that scenario in comparison to the feeling you get when you do something amazing is well worth it. It was a great day filled with lots of laughs and some great new people I hope to call friends. We parted ways and I told them I couldn’t wait to do it again. That’s great, because there’s a ride next weekend, they said……… oh boy!