Rides To Remember: Coach Landry's First Ride
The great thing about bicycles is that it can make an ordinary day something truly special. Every time you go out for a ride, you write a new story. I’m thankful to have the ability to ride a bike and see the world. I thought it would be fun to do a blog post series about some of the most memorable rides that I have had. For this blog post, we’ll go all the way back to the beginning: Coach Landry’s first bike ride.
My First Ride Ever - I came into cycling by chance, when I happened to run across a poster for a local junior cycling club as an 8th grader and thought “that looks fun!” As a kid, I had dabbled in the traditional American sports but never really got into them. I had done Taekwondo for 3 years and was very close to getting my black belt. However, I was no means an athlete—I much preferred to sit at home, eat Pizza Rolls, and play PlayStation. My dad probably thought it would be good to get me outside as well and so he bought me a blue aluminum Trek Alpha that must have weighed 23 pounds. He also bought himself a nearly identical bike so that he could come along on my club rides.
It was the last day of school that year. No better way to start summer vacation than going on your first ride, right? We drove 30 minutes downtown to the start of the Front Rangers Junior Cycling club ride.
There were some cool kids wearing Garmin-Sharp jerseys. I figured they must practically be pros. I rocked some basketball shorts, a hoodie (Not sure why I went with the hoodie because it was 80 degrees out), and tennis shoes.
I was nervous and excited to see what I could do against the other kids. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. We rolled out and for the first 3 minutes I had no trouble. I was staying glued to the guy’s wheel in front of me and staying out of the wind, just like I had seen on the Tour de France.
“Isn’t this fun?” I said to my dad.
“It’s okay.” He seemed unimpressed (Note: he likes bikes a lot more now).
I felt like I was doing a great job, until we made a left turn onto Gold Camp Road. Before I knew it, things started to feel hard. And at about 6 minutes into the ride I was dropped, gasping for air. At that moment, I realized the first 6 minutes was just the warm-up.
There’s nothing particularly scary about Gold Camp Road for any seasoned cyclist. 4% for 4 miles isn’t anything crazy. But at that point, the biggest hill I had ridden up was my neighborhood street.
I was completely maxed out and lactate was flooding my legs. Those other kids were long gone. The ride leader and my dad had thankfully stuck around. They were hardly even breathing as I struggled to haul my body up the daunting 4 percent grades. I went on for what seemed like an eternity, staring at the tarmac in front of me, heaving as much air as possible into my lungs.
We came to a fork in the road as the grade eased up. Surely this is the top, I thought to myself.
Much to my dismay, the ride leader said to take a right turn because the climb kept going. I asked him how far we had to go, he said we were about half-way. That was almost more than I could bear after digging so deep, but something inside of me wanted to press on. I was determined to make it to the top of the climb.
About 10 minutes later, the other kids on the ride were coasting down Gold Camp in the opposite direction as I was still making my way to the top. Apparently, they had already made it to the top and had time to come back down. They made a U-turn and sprinted past me and rode up to the top a second time. It was unfathomable to me how fast they could go.
After some more slogging, the ride leader told me to take a left turn down hill to bail out on the climb. I had made it three quarters of the way to the top, but the others had already been waiting for a long time for me, so sadly I wouldn’t be able to reach the top.
I was equal parts frustrated and relieved. The rest of the ride included a few more hills that seemed like very large mountains at the time. Each one was the most painful thing I had ever experienced.
When we finally crested the last hill and made it back to the car, I was completely exhausted—and hungrier than I had ever been. Yet, I had a deep feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction for having finished the hulking behemoth of a ride.
The final distance: 16 miles. It must have taken two and a half hours. I went home and told my mom about how far we rode. 16 miles seemed like it was really far at the time.
I ate a several large plates of fried rice when I got home. Even though I was suffering from start to finish, somehow, I was hooked. I was already looking forward to the next ride in two days time.
I think what motivated me the most was the other kids on the ride. Me, being the hyper-competitive person that I am, promised myself that one day I was going to be as fast as those kids.
The rest of that summer was spent getting dropped. A lot. By the end of the summer, my longest ride was 36 miles (which seemed insane at the time—I think it took a solid 4 hours). But I loved every minute of it.
Every time I ride on those same roads, I am reminded of that first ride. It’s always motivating to reflect on the progress that I have made. Whenever I feel unmotivated, I just think back to where I used to be: that kid in the hoodie and tennis shoes who couldn't make it up Gold Camp. I realize that the whole reason I am where I was today was because I stuck with it and never gave up, even when everyone else seemed so far ahead.
It is truly amazing to me what the human body is capable of. You can write your own story. You can either sit on the couch and eat pizza rolls, or you can go out and ride your bike. Your body will adapt to either.