The following piece was written by Shelby Tramel, NYC-based cyclist and Director of Operations for Deux North, a cycling adventure brand. If you’re a cyclist, and even if you’re not, their escapades are worth following. Visit them here, and check out their latest “Hunt” to Spain here.

– Zoe Balaconis, Editor

[divider]The Essay[/divider]

When I began to really get involved in cycling is when some of my main characteristics as a human became evident. 

Cycling brings everything to the surface, both the good and the bad.  Through it, I discovered my “proud” character, which has been a struggle and takes a conscious effort to overcome.  It’s taken countless times of me pushing myself too hard, not recovering when it was needed, and becoming ill from forcing myself to train in extreme conditions to realize how important listening to your body is.  It takes you growing up a little, putting your ego to the side, and remembering why the hell you do it in the first place before you can have solitude in everything that goes along with becoming a better cyclist and doing what you love.  Most importantly, it takes you understanding that turning around is not always giving up. 

This past weekend was spent in Pomona, CA, right outside of Los Angeles.  I went to visit friends that I met a few weeks ago in Brooklyn at Red Hook Crit  and who so nicely were willing to show me their city and what “real climbing” is.  On Saturday, Luis and I rolled out around 11AM from Pomona to Claremont where the base of Mt. Baldy begins.  I went into the day positive, as always, and knowing that although I’m not the best climber that I’d be able to do it.  I was on a loaner road bike and the fit was a bit off.  I noticed quickly the pain in my lower back that was a result of the stem being too long.   I ignored the pain and climbed the mountain, 5,000 ft. of elevation, to Mt. Baldy Village, which wasn’t even to the very top.  When we got to the village I admitted to myself that the pain was indeed real and that I couldn’t go any further.  We then descended back down the mountain, which was a reward in and of itself.

On Sunday the group wanted to do Mt. Baldy again, but this time go past the village, up the switch backs, and then descend the 22 miles down GMR.  The thought of it sounded amazing, especially because I am all about a 22 mile descent, but I knew I was in no condition with how badly my back was aching from the day before.  Naturally, I kitted up anyways and headed out with Luis and his two brothers.

The entire way to the base of Mt. Baldy I knew it wasn’t a good idea.  I felt weak after not properly recovering, dehydrated from too much beer the night before, sun-burnt from my idiotic decision to not wear sunscreen on my fair skin, and also really damn exhausted from climbing a mountain the day before.  I spent the entire 11 miles going to the base trying to convince myself to just do it.  That Luis had also climbed Mt. Baldy the day before and he was doing it without any complaints.  I thought that if I quit now and don’t climb then I wasn’t strong and giving up was too easy.

We arrived to the base of Mt. Baldy and I stopped.  I felt a wave of nausea and throbbing pain in my back.  I told the guys to please go ahead, to finish the climb, and I turned around and road back to Pomona.

I can’t explain the wave of relief that came with what a year ago I would’ve called “giving up.”  At first, I felt bummed for not being able to tackle it the second day.  I stopped on the way back to Pomona to text Dylan.  I told him what happened and that morale was dead.  He responded with, “Lots of times “morale” is your body telling your head “fuck you, Imma rest.” I nodded my head in agreement and took my sweet time riding back.

At the end of the weekend I was happy with what I had experienced.  I was thrilled to have been able to see first hand the views that I’ve only seen via social media.  I was grateful to be in California doing what I love and to be with doing it with awesome people.  I look at myself today in comparison to a year ago and see how far I’ve come mentally and physically.  My biggest victory being noticing when something doesn’t feel right and not feeling like you failed just because it wasn’t the right time to do it.  Being a “proud” person makes you stronger by how hard you push yourself, but admitting and acknowledging yourself as proud helps you make better decisions that benefit you in the long run.

[divider]Guest Contributor[/divider]

Shelby Tramel is an NYC-based cyclist and the Director of Operations for Deux North, a NYC-based cycling adventure brand.