Let me introduce myself, I am Shawna Anderson and I am an average middle-aged woman. Your neighbor, friend, co-worker. I am not athletic, I don’t do crazy things – with the exception of my purple hair. I guess there is one other crazy thing I am doing. I am one of the three participants in the “From the Ground Up” project that is taking three ‘average’ people and preparing them for one of the hardest mountain bike races in the country–the Leadville 100 MTB race. Recently the FTGU team was in Leadville for camp and while the riding was a challenge, the time to think deep thoughts was the heavier lifting. Following are some of those heavy thoughts…
There are two sides to camp. Amazing, breathtaking views at every turn. Literally. When I remembered to look up and take them in it was inspiring. The other side is the hills. No, not hills, mountains. They grow big mountains out here. I walked more than I would like. But I walked. I paused more than I would like but I kept going. I discovered that if I sing to myself I know I’m breathing. (Swearing really loud achieves the same goal – just depends on the moment). I am forever grateful for this opportunity to challenge myself in ways I’ve never done before. I’ve learned so much about myself. I have adjusted my expectations for race day some. I’m still going to come and give it my all and leave nothing behind, and whatever I accomplish is amazing. I need to remember to be proud of every foot of climb I do.
After being home for a couple of days now and I’ve had time to reflect on camp. It was tough. I knew it would be, but to actually see those mountains is a whole other thing. I thought I was ready mentally but I quickly learned that I need to up my mental game. I also quickly learned that the elevation is no joke. I had to have many conversations with my heart and lungs to remind them that they were indeed ok.
There is a picture of me coming in at the end of Day 1. I was last, which I don’t generally care about, but this was different. There were still people there to cheer me as I came in. There were words of encouragement and support–and not just from my team. It made such a difference. Without them, I am honestly not sure I would have been able to get up and go on Day 2. It was a very strong reminder to me about the importance of being there for the underdogs, for the stragglers. To be there for those who aren’t setting records but are busting their ass in their own way. While the physical aspect of this whole adventure is no joke, the mental and emotional aspect is even harder. Little things like a high five make such a difference. The life lesson take away? Take a moment to see someone struggling and give them some recognition. Doesn’t have to be big or elaborate, just acknowledge that you see them fighting and working for whatever their goal is. It may be the thing that gets them one small step closer to their goal.
There is another picture of me from Leadville camp where you can feel the space, the vast size of the surroundings as I ride down a trail through a field. While these moments allow for some great reflection while on a ride, it also allows the brain to go to levels of thought and reflection you don’t normally have time for. Those thoughts can be scary/overwhelming/intense if you don’t keep them in check, which I’m happy to say I did a better job of on this ride. But those thoughts can be profound/inspiring/meaningful as well. Over the course of the camp, I battled with both sides of the ‘thought bubble’–and it is a battle. There’s lots of arguing going on in my head at times. But on sections like this, when you can just be present in the moment and enjoy, the thoughts for me turned to, “How can I get more people like me out here?” Ok, maybe not to Leadville right away, but more people like me on bikes? I’ll be the first to admit, I’m a middle-aged, overweight, purple-haired woman who has never been athletic. But with encouragement and support, I’m out kicking ass and taking names. What I want most out of this project (that I didn’t know until recently) is to make a difference.
Yes, riding Leadville on race day will be amazing and something that will change my life, but how can I help others see they have this potential too? I would love nothing more than to see a ‘gang’ of ordinary human beings out riding and supporting each other. Not the guys with the top-tier bikes, matching kits, and latest data, but adults who have lost their spark for fun, who want to get outside but don’t know an axle from a derailleur, who will experience excitement and accomplishment with a 3-mile ride. The ones who think, “That looks like fun but not for someone like me,” when they see a bike go by.
So, while I’m training the body, the mind is turning. If anyone has any great ideas/plans/suggestions/connections, I’m down to chat. (Yes, I’m looking at you sponsors.) I want to be part of a bike revolution so I’m not the only truly ‘average’ person on a bike. I want more people to feel this fun, freedom, and badassness.
So who is in?
Who wants to go back to our childhood, riding bikes and laughing?
Who wants to see more people like themselves on two wheels?
Who wants to feel the wind on their face as they cruise down the street or trail?