I recently accomplished one of my fitness goals which I had entertained over the past few years. I completed a full century cycling event. I had contemplated riding the 100-mile course in the past but never committed to doing it. Last month, I procured a road bicycle with intentions to dare greatly and participate in the century ride before summer's end. I was all excited about taking on the challenge of the century ride, with exception of one inconvenient detail.
I purchased the road bike and all the necessary accessories, including cycling shoes, cleats, and Shimano SPD-SL bike pedals. Nearly all of my bicycling experience in my life has been with the traditional flat-surfaced pedals, and I had never used the cleats-and-snap-in-pedal system before. I immediately realized that I had committed to cycling 100 miles with foreign pedal system which I had no experience with. Scary thoughts of falling while mounting and dismounting from my bicycle in middle of congested traffic filled my mind. Here I was, with plenty of experience cycling, but an absolute beginner with these fancy, efficiency-enhancing clipless pedal systems.
So I did what absolute beginners do. I embraced the unsexy parts of the clipless pedal experience. I took my new bike to a nearby playground and practiced mounting and dismounting from my pedals. I spent several half-hour sessions taking the Karate Kid approach to mastering a simple task: clip in, clip out. There were no exhilarating recreational rides through the neighborhood or picturesque tour through the wine country. While youthful skateboarders were busting out nifty aerobatic moves in one corner of the playground, I was riding in circles in another area, learning how to safely ride my new bicycle. I felt like a complete neophyte, but adopting a beginner's mind helped me embrace the new exercises.
After I became comfortable with the new pedal system, I started regular riding sessions and hill climbing exercises. I gained confidence riding safely through my neighborhood. There were apprehensions racing through my head right before the century event, but I reached into the mental and physical repetitions that I gained from practice sessions. I wasn't going to set any world records for a fastest course time, but I was determined to complete the event. I finished my first century ride without any incident.
Gaining new experiences also open the doors to new possibilities and attainable challenges. Participating in multi-day distance rides, like Seattle To Portland (STP) or Cycle Oregon, may be within reach in upcoming years. In meantime, I will continue to challenge myself: I'm participating in another century ride in five weeks' time.