For as far back as I can remember, I was either riding a bike or running. Whether it was riding circles on our back patio, playing jailbreak, speeding down the street to go a friend’s house or cruising around the neighborhood with my friends, I was always on the go. My absolute most favorite memories are between the ages of 7-10 when I felt like I was invincible on my bubble gum pink Huffy! I was a tomboy, no doubt. I’d race anyone who wanted to, chase anyone who tempted me, come to a speeding halt at the bottom of a bunch of giant pine trees, climb up, jump from tree to tree and then slide down the long prickly branches. Then I would hop back on my bike and continue on my pursuit to catching whoever it was I was determined to capture.
The uneven pavement was my favorite spot to “pop a wheelie,” which often times had me landing sprawled out in the street. I was covered in scars, ripping open wounds that were heeling and making new ones constantly. The ones that hurt the worst were the ones on my shins from the pedals gouging into my skin. But it didn’t stop me. The only thing that did stop me was this one giant tree house-way up in a humungous tree in the woods behind my friend’s house. That’s where the boys would go so I couldn’t catch them. I remember yelling at them to come down or I was going to torture them! Needless to say I LOVED riding with my friends.
Fast-forward 10-20 years later, I graduated from college, started my teaching career, got married and had 2 amazing children. Throughout these years I always belonged to some kind of gym. I took kickboxing, yoga, spin classes, and weight trained. Around the year 2011 I got back into running. I ran my first 5K and never felt better. I started to train for the Broad Street Run and my knees just couldn’t handle it. The doctor said I should not run anymore and suggested cycling, as it would have less impact on my knees.
In March 2012, my girlfriend’s husband, Mike, convinced me to buy a bike after having several conversations while we were cheering our kids on at soccer practice. For a couple of weeks, I went to 4 or 5 different bike shops, asked tons of questions and test rode whatever bikes were suggested.
In April of 2012 I bought a Fuji hybrid at Danzeizen & Quigley. Mike (my neighbor) took me out on the road and taught me about safety and gave me some lessons on drafting. I struggled to keep up with him, but I didn’t want to slow him down so I pushed as hard as I could.
We ended up signing-up for the Irish Pub “Tour de Shore” July 2012. I remember registering for that ride and signing that online waiver. I felt like I was signing my life away. I almost didn’t complete the registration. But I did! The morning of the ride Mike and I were set to go. Mike gave me a pep talk and the plan was that he was going to ride with me through the city and then when we hit the bridge he was going to break away on his own. I was just going to follow the route and keep a steady pace until I made it to the finish. After a lot of ups and downs and talking to myself and making a few friends along the way, I cried as I approached the finish with everyone cheering. A few months prior I had no idea events like this existed, let alone that I would actually be one of the participants. I rode my bike all the way from Philadelphia to Atlantic City!
After riding all the way from Philly to Atlantic City my confidence was growing. The guys at D&Q suggesting a local bike team that I might like to join. Throughout my life I always participated in activities and fitness programs that were individually based. I was never part of any kind of team. Needless to say, I was very nervous when I finally sent that first email to Team Evesham requesting information about their rides. Brad Davis responded to my email and he seemed very friendly, and joining the ride didn’t sound too scary. He said there would be people there to help me.
One Sunday morning in August, I went to my very first Team Evesham ride. Many people introduced themselves and welcomed me. I was a nervous wreck inside but just smiled and tried to take in the whole scene. During those first few early rides where I didn’t know anybody; Ross Polinow, Dennis Dahms, Brad Davis, Dave Bennis and Sandy Student all went out of their way to make me feel comfortable. But it was already August, Team Evesham was preparing for the MS City to Shore ride. I was not ready to sign up for something like that yet. So the season ended for me.
But wait! There was a 50-mile local riding event for Harvest Fest in Marlton that October (2012). So I signed up and with a summer of riding under my belt. I felt comfortable tackling this. Little did I know when I set off on that ride, that it would be one of the most memorable cycling struggles I would face. Basically, somewhere around Kings Grant I bonked. I didn’t even know what that meant at that point, but that’s what happened. What’s even more amazing is that a small group of complete strangers noticed me and slowed down and helped to pull me. I was in pain and thought it was the end of me! I fell back a few times but each time I was approaching a stop sign or a turn, they were there waiting for me.
When I finally made it to the rest stop, there were many others offering advice and handing me all kind of drinks and snacks to eat. I thought I was going to have to call for a ride back to my car. But these people wouldn’t let me give up. I ended up finishing that ride because of a few strangers. Little did I know, these strangers were, and still are members of Team Evesham!
After that day, I called Sandy to tell him what happened. I told him that I wanted to pass this on and that if there was anything I could do to help with the team to please let me know. The season officially was over for me and I went into hibernation for the winter. Surprisingly, every once in a while, Sandy Student, would reach out to me throughout the winter. In the Spring he called to make sure that I was coming back to ride when the warm weather returned.
May 2013 marked the beginning of my first full season of Spring/Summer group cycling. Throughout this time with Team Evesham, I learned more about people and friendship than I had learned or experienced in 30 plus years of my life. I started riding with the C group and through the gentle pushing and huge amount of motivation and support from my new friends and amazing ride leaders I made it up to a B+ ride by the end of that season. I rode my first 180 miles in one weekend when I participated in the MS City Shore Ride. I was on a high for almost a month after that ride. I had an epiphany the day after the ride when I awoke in the morning. “Life is a journey, not a destination,” is a pretty common quote. It’s printed on calendars, posters, pillows and little trinket boxes. We read it, think to ourselves that it makes sense and maybe we even tell ourselves that we will try to focus more on the little things. But after going through the physical and even more mental challenges of completing 180 miles in 2 days, I internalized that quote. I lived it that weekend. Yeah- I felt like a super hero after riding so many miles- I made it to my destination. But it was the journey along the way, the entire season of training, the friendships, the support, being with people who share the same passion, the bad rides, the cramping, the wind, the hot sun, laughing and dancing, the rough roads, all along the journey that had become my life. It wasn’t about the end result anymore. “Life is a journey, not a destination.” I live my life more in the moment than I have ever done before. I follow this mantra in my personal life as well. I still set goals that have an ending or destination, but it’s the struggles, the triumphs, the laughing and crying, the building of lasting friendships and all of the little details along the path, my journey, that defines my life.
Fast forward to present time. A few things I learned. First, I am proud and honored to be part of such an amazing group of incredible people. Second, the friends I have made on this team have become family. I’ve gone through some life events that were challenging and my AWESOME, CRAZY, CYCLING OBSESSED friends have been there through it all. Third, be careful if you tell Sandy Student you will help. I had some extra time on my hands so it started with picking up the balloons and helping with decorations for one of the MS Dinners we had for the team. Then it became organizing holiday parties, writing recaps, participating in and organizing safety and ride leader training courses, organizing spin classes, social events, managing the on-line store, organizing Sunday rides…you name it! Sandy- thank you for remembering when I called you to tell you about how those strangers helped me on that Harvest Fest bike ride when I felt so alone. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to give a little back in this great big world.
And to think, all I did was buy a bike. Thank you Team Evesham.