Friday, April 15, 2011

An Interview with Rebecca

I met Rebecca Smith on a recent evening at the Bagdad Café on Hawthorne, where we could watch scores of different types of cyclists go by. We saw fixies, tall bikes, commuters, girls in skirts – you name it. I wanted to interview Rebecca to find out who’s been writing (and riding) the charming, dynamic descriptions Vancouver Bike Club members have been enjoying on the ride calendar.

Beyond simple curiosity, my hope was to find out what inspires new VBC ride leaders like Rebecca. Within a few minutes, it became apparent that my prepared basic questions were not nearly advanced enough. The unexpected happened – I had stumbled onto “Cycling Greatness”. That’s right. Cycling Greatness.

Without even a hint of arrogance or its snot-faced cousin cockiness, this intelligent-looking woman with a teddy bear broach on her lapel shared just some of her accomplishments with me. I marveled as she shared just a small portion of her list. Things like attempting Race Across America solo. Competing in RAO (Race Across Oregon), the Furnace Creek 508 and the Davis 12/24 in the same year (which no one else had done before). Beating the course record of the Furnace Creek 508. By three hours. “It’s easy to break records now that I’m over 60”. You know, the typical things you expect to hear when requesting someone’s “cycling portfolio”.

So, what’s next? How about a 600k in East Wenatchee, which is only a qualifier for the Hoodoo 500 in Utah this August. She’ll be doing both solo. That means no support – she can’t even accept a spare tube. Prior to that there’s the Lewis Clark 12/24 at the end of May. While I’m riding the Columbia Gorge Explorer tour, which involves a few hours of pedaling followed by many hours of hanging out, Rebecca will see just how many miles she can ride in 24 hours. She’ll also be competing in RAO again, solo. Maybe she’ll beat the 2nd overall placing she accomplished in the 2002 RAO. Even with this crazy calendar, she still finds time to lead rides.

What inspired Rebecca to lead rides for our club? Nothing too mystical, actually. She enjoys coming up with clever ride descriptions to practice her creative writing. But mostly she wanted some company on her training rides out in Washougal. Her advice to new ride leaders: “pre-ride your rides”. She learned this lesson years ago after leading her first ride (for the Portland Wheelmen) using only computer map cue sheets. There were a lot of disgruntled people that day. “There’s probably skeletons in the bushes out there with cue sheets in their curled-up fists.”

I went looking for inspiration and found it in spades. But it wasn’t the races and records and distances that inspired me. It was her attitude, which can be summed up like this:

“There’s nothing that will stop me from riding”

“It was cold and wet and miserable today but I kept going by listening to the different sounds raindrops make”

“After a while, your body’s fit. Then you’re just exercising your mind”

"People keep thinking I’m such a racer. I am not a racer. I am not some uber person. I just get on the bike and stay with it. I’m not a super strong rider. I just go do it.”

1 comment:

  1. She is an inspiration. Thanks for sharing.