Biking today up a popular climb in Bend, a guy in a car slowed, nosed over toward the bike lane and yelled out the car window at me…
First. I wasn’t doing anything wrong and we have a really wide bike lane — I was way to the inside of it. He was the only car on the road. He wasn’t pissed at my biking skills or road etiquette.
Second. C*^% is just a word. Not one I own, accept or use. It’s just a word to me. But he had some intended meaning and anger behind it and I understand that it is vulgar and offensive.
Third. DO NOT CALL ME FAT. That’s my own personal weapon of choice. I am the only one that is allowed to call me fat. I usually use it when I’m beating the shit out of myself. Don’t try to validate my emotionally-messed up thinking by using my favorite self-loathing word… Asshat.
Fourth. Hugely threatening to be solo on a stretch of road and have someone nose their car over (only enough to yell – I never worried about him hitting me with his car – just to be clear), slow… YELL. Then pull back onto the road. I’ve heard too many stories about riders of all sorts being harassed by drivers. I’m pretty damn sure this wasn’t even me as a female being targeted. This was simply me as a cyclist.
Fifth. You made me slow down on a climb and I had to jack with all the gears just to keep moving and not tip over in my clips. Asshat X2.
I quickly texted Spencer so someone would have location/time stamp. Also because if I didn’t do something I was going to start crying. And if I got crying, I was going to need someone to come pick me and my bike up off the road….
There’s no crying in cycling.
I hate being called fat. I hate feeling intimidated. Crying is how I respond to most of that. I fight the tears HARD, but then they usually fall. My reaction to stress has always been to cry. I am not a sappy crier. I’m a pissed off/embarrassed/ashamed/overwhelmed crier. Those types of emotions and situations are MUCH more likely to trigger tears.
When the car was gone, someone knew my approximate whereabouts, I still had a hill to climb and a workout to get in…. I started pondering the episode and trying to decide whether to be pissed or cry.
I pretty quickly opted for pissed.
The word ‘fat’ is my own personal weapon. To have someone else lob it in my direction hurts. Always has. The worst memories I have of being bullied in high school and beyond include the word fat. Followed by ugly. They were usually paired up. I hate both of those words. And it always scares me that they’re right – that I really am fat, ugly and ALL the emotional-laden BS that I attach to those words that they have NO CLUE even exists for me….
I have spent a lot of time trying to ‘grow’ past that notion. It took me about a mile of riding to realize…
This was NOT personal, this guy doesn’t know me. I wasn’t even going to ride this route today until the last minute, so it was in NO WAY personal.
I felt unsafe, but I was prepared. I’ve spent time thinking about exactly this type of situation. I texted a friend with basic whereabouts/time because it didn’t feel like it was at the ‘911’ level. I was watching for other people to help or turn to. I KNEW I could steer and ride my bike around/out/down and escape. And baring something really whacky or scary — I could jump off my bike and run up the mountain. Even in bike cleats. I know I can. (Thank you trail running).
So… I took some deep breathes. Pedaled a bit. Decided I wan’t going to let him have MY workout that I’d been looking forward to all day. I didn’t own the ‘fat’ or ‘c*^$’ part of the yelling because I just didn’t want to. I didn’t cry. I was wary and eyeballs open for the car, to be sure, if he decided to turn around I was going to be ready to react. I never saw the car again for the record.
So I kept peddling.
Mostly to prove to myself that I wasn’t ‘fat’. The difference this time around? It wasn’t punishment peddling; ‘you are fat, he said you’re fat, get moving fat ass.’ It was like ‘NO, you worked hard to be fit, you’ve waited all day for this ride. This is your bike, your body and peddling is what we do when we’re working up a sweat; now get down to rocking this workout like you know you can. And don’t let that asshat get in your head.’ I don’t know that that distinction will resonate with everyone. But it sure made my brain happy that I could choose NOT to own something and re-focuse pretty damn quickly on the task at hand which was trying to push hard up Skyliners.
I got to the turn around point, texted Spencer ‘I’m at the bridge (turn-around). I’m pissed. Might be one of the best climbs I’ve done. F*&^%er called me fat. That pisses me off.’
This is going to sound a little backwards, but I’m always a wee-bit grateful when these little reality bumps hit and I can see how much I’ve grown in my thinking and reactions. I don’t love being called names or feeling threatened. Yet in the end it just kind of highlighted the right things, the healthier thinking, the better reactions in my life. I’d kept my wits, had thought through a safety plan, thought through how I wanted the words to affect me and then chose to just kept peddling.
And by the way….
I PR’ed up and down that road like I’ve never PR’ed before. So — um… Thank you? Mr. Asshat for properly motivating me to ride that stretch as hard as I knew I was capable of riding it.