If there’s anything we’ve learned in the past week, it’s that there’s nothing like a good wind to make everyone go a little paceline-crazy. And it has become a treasured concept to me, the idea of sharing among people who may not even know each other. It’s no longer about the lone cyclist — it turns a group of strangers into a team with a common goal: share the effort, help each other out, get some respite on a rough ride.
It’s not a concept that I embraced initially; not on the road, and not in life — particularly in addiction recovery. I thought I had to tackle every problem on my own, fight every headwind with my own strength. And it slowly dawned on me that it is SO unnecessary; in fact, that by allowing people to help me, they may actually get something out of the deal themselves.
Phoenix Multisport works exactly that way, and this tour has been a great mix of the two things. Riding along Route 17 on Thursday, wearing my Phoenix kit, I would hear occasional yells of “Phoenix!! You rock!” from passing pacelines; and even one yell of “Go Bill W!” (a reference to Bill Wilson, a pioneer in the recovery movement.) It makes the ride so much richer, the idea that many people share this experience.
Phoenix was founded on the idea of replacing destructive habits and self-doubt with healthy pursuits and growing confidence. Whether it’s learning to road ride or to lead a pitch, train for a triathlon or hike a difficult trail — people who participate begin to realize that they are capable of much, much more than they realized. Old fears and doubts are replaced by self-confidence and most of all, the desire to be part of something bigger than themselves. Like a paceline, for instance.
Now I have folks at aid stations recognize the Phoenix Multisport kit and come over and talk about their own experiences, especially their gratitude to just be alive, to be able to ride 90 miles in a day and meet so many interesting, driven people. Even on days like Thursday, when everyone was looking a little beat down by the mileage, the hot sun and worries about the Friday route changes. There was still that feeling of, “Wow! Look what we’re all able to do!”
Don’t get me wrong: I don’t always feel that way. I need occasional nudges and reminders. After waking up in a bit of a funk Tuesday morning, I got on my bike and heard one of those “Hey, Phoenix!” whoops from a passing cyclist. As we made our way out of Durango, I ran into (and I mean that almost literally) a fellow Phoenix team member who was doing the ride for the first time, and blazing through each route like a pro. I also happened to be riding with my mentor in all things recovery, so you can’t get much more gifted than that.
And the rest of the day was filled with those little miracles — people coming up to say hello, riding through blazingly green farmlands, seeing a bear skip across a river. All gifts. People leading pacelines in rough headwinds outside of Alamosa — a gift. People stopping to help another cyclist change a tire — ditto.
And it’s gone on all week, this constant stream of gifts. And it all comes from shifting my focus from myself to the people and beauty around me.
So my hope is that as you roll through Colorado Springs on the final day of Ride The Rockies, you will see the immense gift you’ve been given in this experience — even in the most uncomfortable, irritating or stressful moments of the week. Because in the end, you’ve experienced something few people will ever get a chance to experience; met people you won’t soon forget; and found that you’re capable of inspiring other people in ways you never imagined.
— Ingrid Muller
A little postscript: This ended up being the last RTR for my Jamis road bike, which was stolen in Colorado Springs Saturday. A gift in itself? Not so much. But the real gift is that it carried me through eight fabulous Ride The Rockies tours — not bad for a very ordinary little bike!