The defining moment for me happened last April.
My fellow Rapha Ambassadors and I were headed out for our final and longest day of riding. I looked around at my ride group and took inventory: “fast, fast, great climber, pro, fast, lives on the podium.” Out of everyone, I was the newest to cycling. I knew these ladies were faster than me, but the weekend had evolved into one of the Top 5 weekends of my life, so I was mostly relying on my endorphins and excitement to get me through the 64 miles ahead of us. We clipped in (the sound always gives me the chills) and took off into the sunrise as one big group. Less than 5 miles in, we came upon our first hill.
My heart started to flutter. I knew what was ahead. I was used to it.
I settled into my lowest gear, spinning at an easy cadence and focused on calming my mind. Just as my breathing becomes hard, my legs quickly become heavy. Happens every time. I’m inspired by the ladies in my group who are crushing it, holding a steady yet quick pace as they soon become tiny spots in the distance. Cynthia, who noticed I was trailing off the back, turned around to make sure I wasn’t riding alone (a very pro and selfless move, by the way).
I turned to her in between heavy breaths, “I’m sorry I’m going so slow. You don’t have to wait for me. I’ll catch up with you guys at the top.” The last thing I wanted to do was keep the group waiting for me every time we came upon a hill or slow down their pace, putting us behind schedule. In a stern but kind tone she said, “Kelly, I’m riding with you today. We’ll go your pace, whatever you want that to be. But I have one rule: no apologizing. For anything. You’re not allowed to say the word sorry.”
She was right. There was nothing to apologize for. I was out there doing what I loved — riding my bike with new friends and mentors, exploring unfamiliar territory and pushing myself. What was there to be sorry about? Throughout the rest of the ride, I struggled. As the day became hotter, the climbs became harder. Then we hit a nasty headwind and I was losing momentum. We rode as a team — better yet, a SQUAD — as they kept a pace I could hang onto. I sat on everyone’s wheel that day. Everytime I began to say “Sor…,” Cynthia cut me off almost immediately. She’s pro like that.
The day ended up being humbling, not to mention a true display of teamwork. From Jolene and Cynthia pushing me up hills (seriously, they are half my size), to Abby stating “If you’re in, we’re in” at the last 10 miles when I didn’t think I had it in me to finish, to the entire group waiting for me after a climb, then encouraging me take off on a sprint when I had the energy — I walked away with a new perspective on how I view and treat myself. I left that weekend replaying Cynthia’s words over and over in my mind. Then I came across this wonderful piece on self-deprication and the female cyclist. It hit home and took me back to that day in April on the bike. I thought about how many times I’ve said “I’m sorry” for things that simply don’t require an apology. Namely: pushing myself on the bike, stepping out of my comfort zone and trying something new, asking a question I don’t know the answer to, or declining an opportunity or viewpoint I don’t believe in.
While I do think there’s a certain courtesy when it comes to being transparent about your abilities so your group or instructor can keep an eye out, like, “I’m getting over the flu, so I’m going to ride my pace,” or “This is my first yoga class, so I’d love extra guidance,” there’s zero to be sorry about.
So here is my ask of you: let’s move away from apologizing when we’re out there trying our hardest and focus more on what you accomplished.
Didn’t ride as fast as you normally do on that road? That’s ok. You got out on your bike and made a healthy choice. Couldn’t keep up on the run with your pals who had to wait for you at the water stop? That’s cool too. You know how good it felt to see them there, so you’ll reciprocate when you’re faster than your pals. Channel your inner Cynthia when you’re working hard and keep sorry out of your vocabularly.
Be kind to yourself. Be honest with yourself. Be proud of yourself.
I mean, do you think Beyoncé apologizes for being amazing?
I doubt it.