I passed by these two ladies a few times on this particular morning; on the first fly-by they were both walking beside their bikes. I was just about to pass an older gent on a slight downhill section of path, Flora and Fauna (names have been changed to protect the innocent) were walking towards us on a slight up-tilting bend. Both were smiling, laughing, enjoying the moment. As we passed each other one lady, I believe it was Flora, exclaimed "we're just beginners." I may have discerned a small fraction of seriousness in the comment, a means of explaining the situation as, not one but two, obviously accomplished riders sped by. But no more than a small fraction. They weren't really attempting to explain why they were hoofing it while others pedaled along. There was nothing to prove. Mostly what I detected, was a lighthearted means of sharing a brief encounter, of bridging a gap.
Anyway, I continued on - I was doing some 16 mile loop laps at the time, which meant that I passed them another two times during the ride. This would be an insignificant part of the story if not for the fact that they were riding both times. It means that, even though the effort got the best of them for a moment, they did not give up and call it a done day; they got back on their bikes and kept going. When I smiled and laughed along with them at our first passing, I hoped that they would realize that I understood. We all start somewhere, this was their place, their turn.
A while ago I wrote about the forlorn bikes I see in garages as I ride past their open doors. My brief encounter with Flora and Fauna got me wondering how many of those bikes ended up where they are because their owners just did not have the right attitude. How many beginners approach their first rides with distorted memories of youth and its boundless energy? How many beginning riders have watched long-time road warriors pedal past with seeming effortless style and think it looks so easy? How many novices hop on a new bike only to realize that not all roads point downhill, that even the slightest bit of breeze works against their forward momentum? How many get discouraged?
Theodore Roosevelt once said, "Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty ... I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well."
Yet another inspirational leader, Winston Churchill, said "Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference." Sometimes riding a bike is easy; once, maybe twice a year, everything comes together and I feel like those two wheels and I could take on the world and come away victorious. The rest of the time varying degrees of effort are required. No matter what the case may be, the destination, the distance, the situation, I am sure the effort is worth it. Sometimes it is immediate - the downhill at the end of the long climb. Other times it is more distant, some as yet unseen point in the future. Whether they knew it or not, these two women, self-proclaimed beginners, were doing things right; they refused to surrender, they refused to not believe in themselves. What they did was ride with the right attitude, they "smiled when it hurt most" (anonymous). Attitude and effort got them through.