The Upside of Losing

By Meghan Rabbitt

Soon after I moved from New York City to Boulder, Colorado, I had a humbling experience that I thought, at the time, I’d want to forget for good.

I went on a bike ride with the Boulder Triathlon Club. I was eager to start riding in my new town—a veritable mecca of all things athletic—and I’d been part of a triathlon club in Manhattan. Maybe they’d be my new Boulder cycling friends, I thought.

I showed up at the designated meeting spot—a coffee shop literally teeming with cyclists—and felt ready to go, if a little nervous. Through the crowd of spandex, I saw the Tri Club members huddled in a small circle, standing next to their very nice bikes. Expensive bikes, which typically mean fast bikes.

Despite the fact that my five-year-old ride cost about as much as my new friends’ pedals, I took off with the group, never doubting my ability to keep up. After all, I was physically fit. I could keep up with most cyclists I rode with in New York. And I was determined (aka competitive), the type of gal who was willing to endure a whole lot of pain to prove that she could hang with the best of ’em .?.?. or at least hurt herself trying.

We started at a reasonable speed—one I could easily manage. This won’t be so bad, I thought.

Of course, mere seconds after those thoughts popped into my head, the cyclists ahead of me picked up their pace. Before I knew it, I was breathing hard, desperately trying to hang on to the back of the pack. I looked down at my odometer every few seconds and saw the number climb—17 miles per hour .?.?. 19, 22, 26. And it was then, as I was pouring sweat and starting to fear that at age 28 I might actually have a heart attack, that I had to slow down. The next time I looked beyond the patch of pavement directly in front of my wheel, my new biker friends were gone.

On my way back into town just 20 minutes later, I felt a little dejected. I couldn’t remember the last time I was
unable to keep up. That had never happened, in fact. And in the days following that ride, I actually thought about
putting my bike away for a while. Maybe it’s too intense out here, I mused. Maybe I should hit the gym before getting out there again. Maybe I’ll never be able to hang with these guys.

I’m not sure if it was the image of getting dropped that played over and over again in my mind or the fact that I was new to town and wanted to be fast enough to actually talk to my new cycling pals, but the following Saturday I got back on my bike and headed for the coffee shop to meet up with the Tri Club again.

Did I hang with the pack on my second try? Nope. But I knew one thing: In the weeks ahead, I’d certainly have fun trying.