To me, fitness is not a destination, it is a journey.
You don’t simply wake up one morning and find yourself fit. You put yourself on a road that is filled with potholes, bumps, roadblocks and traffic. If you pedal along, hopefully one day you will arrive at your destination. The thing is, when you get there, you still have work to do.
My journey is still in progress. I take pride in that fact. Every time I clip into my pedals, I’m a little closer to my goal. Slowly I am traversing that road.
I ride because it keeps me sane. My life is stressful and filled with all the details that a full time working mother deals with every day. My time on my bike is about me. It’s my journey. It’s my success or failure.
My journey is intertwined in the cornfields of Southeast Missouri. I can clearly gauge my fitness progress by my participation in the annual Tour de Corn that takes place each June in East Prairie, Missouri.
The Tour de Corn is a family oriented event with several options for riders of all fitnes levels. There is a leisurely 15 mile out-and-back that is completely flat except for one small levee. There is a thirty mile ride if you want a little more challenge and a metric century (62 miles). For the hard core riders there is a 100-mile route that winds through the lush sweetcorn fields and through the back roads of the fertile Mississippi River Delta.
I should stop here and tell you about the people and the corn. You will never meet a nicer bunch of folks. The support that the "Tour" provides, be it the SAG or the volunteers at the rest stops that are cooking corn, mixing Gatorade, handing out cookies and peanut butter sandwiches, or playing music under majestic towering oaks, can’t be equaled. These are the type of hard working, corn-fed pioneer stock that built this great nation. They treat you like family, and you find yourself looking for them year after year, shaking their hands and taking a minute to visit with them before jumping back on your bike and heading on down the road.
The Tour de Corn, like my own fitness journey, isn’t about crossing the finish line. It’s all about the ride. It is about enjoying the beautiful sunshine, thanking God above for the clouds and turning a corner and suddenly having a tailwind to push you on in.
The first year I rode the Tour, I was new to cycling; so new in fact that I was scared of "skinny" tires. So my teenage son and I rode the thirty mile route on mountain bikes. The next year, I had graduated to a road bike. That year, my husband and my ten year old joined me on the thirty mile ride. I was amazed at how fast my little guy could ride when he knew that watermelon was waiting for him at the final rest stop.
The third year I was still on the road bike, but scared of clipping into the pedals.
That was the year of the ambulance chasing the lawyer’s wife...
The Road Bump
I decided to attempt my first metric century. I knew the route pretty well. I knew I had good SAG support. And besides, hubby was riding the 100-miler. I wasn’t going to let him outdo me too badly.
Three things stand out most in my mind that year. First, I thought I had been transported to Wichita Falls Texas and was in fact riding the Hotter 'N Hell Hundred. Secondly, there was an ambulance crew dogging every stroke of my pedal, and thirdly, I was only going to outlive Michael Jackson by a few days.
Although I had been riding quite a lot to prepare for the distance, nothing could prepare me for the heat. Somewhere in the backroads, I took to stopping and laying under random trees in strangers' yards, I picked up the attention of the ambulance, and even managed to drink all of their water. And I failed to finish. Four miles or so short of my goal, I pulled into a Farm Service parking lot and called my personal SAG (Husband) to come pick me up. I was proud to be alive. The ambulance crew was sorely disappointed that their efforts to finally haul in a paying customer had been thwarted. I consider that year one of those road bumps.
The next year I was back and I brought a friend. Thankfully the heat wasn’t bad but we did have wind. Sometime in the year between, I had become a full-blown cyclist. I learned to a tire on the road and I was clipped in to my pedals at last. Amy and I managed to finish the ride. I will never forget the pure joy of making our last right-hand turn a few miles out of town, and having the wind at our backs pushing us past the welcoming giant ear of corn and on to the finish line.
In the last few years, more friends have joined me. Our youngest son has joined his dad and me, and like his older brother he can be very motivated by watermelon.
The Tour is the beginning of our riding event calendar each year. We follow up each season with the Arkansas Susan G Komen Ride for a Cure, the Harpeth River Ride, and we end our season with the Big Dam Bridge Ride in September.
I have saved one detail for last. Do you remember in the beginning how I told you that fitness is a journey, not a destination?
I wanted you to respect my efforts, my challenges, and my triumphs before I told you. I am a plus size woman.
When I first started riding, I had trouble finding gear to fit me. (Most women’s cycling apparel only goes up to an XL and I found out the hard way that in the cycling world that means a women’s size 12-14.)
I’m still not skinny, but for the first time in my life I can buy a pair of boots that fit over my calves. For the first time in my life, I have found exercise to be enjoyable. I have also added Yoga to my schedule.
Other women have seen me riding or heard about me, and we now have a nice group of cyclists that bike together. We support each other. We teach each other, we learn together, and we aren’t intimidated to get out and ride. Women who thought that fitness was a destination they would never reach are out on the road drafting off me and then taking their turn at the front. And it is truly inspiring.
Come join me at this years’ Tour de Corn. You will have a blast and you’ll come back the next year and the next.
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single stroke of your pedal. My journey took me 1700 miles last season. If you come to the Tour, look for me. I’ll be the fluffy girl, still on my journey but now taking the ride on carbon!