This one is a little long. And...get some tissues...
I wrote a short blog in May briefly talking about why I didn't finish Campagnolo GFNY 2015. I wanted to zig by my body zagged. The decision to abandon was difficult. Even more difficult than you could imagine because I made it knowing this GFNY would be my last race as a ride leader and official member the Gruppo Sportivo.
It was a decision that I weighed for about five months and didn't make lightly.
The commitment to being a ride leader and Ambassador for GFNY is big. Really big (see this previous blog). People tend to only see the bike, the gear, the front corral start and they get a little starry-eyed and think it's all bells and whistles. What they don't see is the tremendous dedication and time the job takes and the responsibilities that it entails. The weekly commitment for six months with ride times getting longer as GFNY approaches; the events; the general safety and well-being of our riders; their growth as cyclists; acting as coaches, parents, teachers and sometimes therapists. It's more a passion than a job and I loved, loved, doing it.
Here's the thing...my son is leaving for college in two and half weeks (Wait. What? Yes...trying not to freak out or weep, but that's for a different blog). Since he is leaving, it seems a fitting time to start anew. Both for him, and for Steve and I. It really is that simple.
When Uli and Lidia asked me to be part of the Gruppo after the first GFNY, I honestly wasn't sure if I could do the job. I figured I would see how it went for the first year and if it didn't work out, well, no harm, no foul. I'd give the bike back and just be a happy participant. What I didn't forsee was that this small group of people, and then by extension everyone I've come to know through GFNY, would become like extended family. My cycling familiy. Sharing ugly hours on the bicycle in terrible weather conditions or conversely, riding on days where everything is perfect forges friendships and bonds like nothing else can.
At first, I felt a little like a "poseur". Everyone else had solid cycling bona fides. Uli and Lidia had been racing road, gran fondo, ironman and marathons for years; Wade was local legend; Hayden was wicked fast and a climbing specialist; Grant rode with Major Taylor; Paul had been riding and racing for 20+ years; Vito was an RPM instructor and 'guru'. I wasn't sure where I fit into the picture. I was just a gal who rode this 100-mile race and had her name chalked on the roads in Nyack. I hadn't realized my potential, neither as a cyclist nor as this version of me. But I figured Uli and Lidia knew what they were doing and saw something in me. So, in a very uncharacteristic-non-Heidi-non-type A-control-freak way, I just rolled with it and trusted.
The first time we all spent any real time together was on the first official video/photo shoot for GS-GFNY in January 2012. It was pretty amazing. We rode the streets of lower Manhattan while Alex Bruskin drove a van with Mark Smith hanging out of every window, door and rear gate to film us. After a few hours, we ended up at a rooftop photo studio for the still shoot. It was a perfect, cloudless and warmer than usual day in January. As we all sat on the roof, enjoying the sunshine, alternately being interviewed and photographed. We started talking, telling stories, getting to know eachother...then something happened. We all just clicked. This crazy, awesome, disparate group of people had this amazing energy together. The Gruppo became the Gruppo THAT day. It's true there have been some changes in the line up since that first photo shoot but even with that, each new person has that Gruppo Sportivo magic.
Over the course of four years as part of the Gruppo and three as Head of Group Rides, I finally figured out what Uli and Lidia saw. In the past I had labeled myself a little bit of a misanthrope, not so much a people-lover, not a people-person, an introvert. Through my job as a ride leader and Ambassador for GFNY, I came to understand that nothing could be further from the truth. The application of passion to communication and vocation made me realize I love being around people; I love teaching; I love leading; I love organizing; I love being a mom to 30+ people riding bicycles; I love helping people. I discovered skills I did not know I have. I also discovered I could ride a bike really well and I really love it. Being part of GS-GFNY has been a truly transformative experience for me.
I cannot adequately express my gratitude to Uli and Lidia. Thank you for having given me the opportunity to be part of this outstanding organization and giving me two of the most rewarding jobs I've ever had.
To my fellow team members: Hayden, Wade, Grant, Paul, Vito, Omar, Jared and James...you guys are, well, the best. Ever. As Dorothy said at the end of the movie, "I love you all!"
To all of you that I've ridden with over the course of five years. It has been remarkable to watch you move up through the groups, return each year to improve and build your skills, to become leaders along side me, conquer your fears, learn to trust yourselves or teach or help others who are just beginning their journey. You have all been part of this amazing, crazy, sometimes really painful, hilarious voyage. You are the reason I've love doing this job so much and you have been some of the best teachers I've ever had.
Mostly I need to say thanks to Steve and Devon. For allowing me the time to do the job right. Especially to Steve for being the most stalwart and supportive spouse I could imagine. Helping me at 5am every Sunday, driving me to Strictly, retrieving forgotten equipment, bringing me soup to eat in the car on cold days, "Do you have your Garmin/heart rate strap/shades/road id/hand warmers/water bottles?"...I could go on forever...really. He has been just amazing.
So that's it guys! Just Thank You! I'll see you all at Strictly in December for the first group ride.