I was never a "jock" in school. In fact, I was pretty much the last kid picked for the team no matter what the sport. Sure, I rode a bike and liked it, but never saw myself as even someone who exercised, let alone as a "cyclist". Well, after several years of reaping the consequences of not taking very good care of my body, I managed to lose some weight and develop some healthier habits, which eventually led to a spin class, which led to a new outdoor bike, which led to an inexplicable desire to ride…first around the neighborhood, then the bike paths, then charity rides. The Internet helped me make the transition to cyclist: I found decent training plans, a local riding group and a bike that didn't come from Costco. I can't quite recall how, but I managed to stumble across VQ and thought that maybe this was the logical next step if I wanted to keeping learning more and doing better.
I think one story that illustrates what VQ has done for me is my struggle with Mt. Figueroa in California. I first encountered the 10-mile climb up this monster at VQ's Solvang Camp in 2008. While I enjoyed the training camp immensely, I did not enjoy Mt. Fig. About halfway up, lungs on fire and legs quivering like Jell-O, I had to abandon the climb and get sagged up the mountain in a pick-up truck while all my fellow campers were able to ride to the top. It was a humbling experience, but one that I was able to look back on as a test I hoped someday to pass. Four years later, in 2012, I went back to Solvang. I was able to ride to the top! And, while my lungs were still on fire and my legs still like Jell-O, the feeling this time was fantastic!
There were lots of little things I could point to that explained my success. Yes, I was a more experienced climber, better able to pace myself, in a little better shape, with slightly better equipment, etc. But these differences, while important and real, don't explain things fully. What really was different the second time around was the four years of encouragement, support, friendship and camaraderie that I had under my belt. Robbie, Jason--my coach, Dave--the ultimate riding companion and all my fellow athletes really had taught me I could do things I never thought possible and succeed where I had previously failed. VQ is an environment that is unfailingly positive and encouraging, no matter what your ability, no matter what challenge you face and no matter how you meet them…provided you try. You can't get that from a book or on the Internet or even following the best advice on your own. Everyone has a mountain they need help to summit. There is no better helping hand than the one with the blue and gold glove I felt pushing me up the road that day on Mt. Fig.