Don’t lose heart in a headwind
I step off the plane in Italy, I’m psyched about my trip of a lifetime cycling adventure that has finally come to fruition. I wait patiently at the baggage carousel for my luggage. My bike is really all I’m longing to see… but it never comes.
My heart sinks. Now what Rachelle, you’ve planned your whole trip around biking. I said to myself.
As I made my way out or the airport without my bike and having no clue of its whereabouts, I had two choices: Accept what’s happening, be positive and choose a peaceful state of mind; or fight against it, be miserable and begin catastrophizing. I decided to be like a bike and roll with it.
Don’t get your chamois in a bunch
When circumstances extend beyond our control, we still have a choice as to how we’ll respond. It’s okay to acknowledge the shittiness-factor of the situation, while also incorporating a sense of resilience.
Like coming upon a strong headwind on your bike, there’s nothing you can do to change the whims of mother nature. It’s how you deal with the wind, however that can impact the effect it has on your ride.
Sometimes even more than death, we are terrified to embrace uncertainty and unforseen circumstances. We like a sense of control in our lives. A certain level is required for sure, but if we avoid uncertainty, we deprive ourselves of all of the wonderful possibilities that can come from the unexpected. If your plans are too regimented it’s also much harder to deal when things don’t go as planned.
While the unexpected is sometimes painful, it’s from that pain that we find nuggets of wisdom to help us grow.
After attempting to contact Air Canada and gaining no insight as to if or when I would get my bike, I tried not to feel disheartened and chose to begin making alternative plans.
My luck turned around when I met some ex-pro cyclists at a local bike shop who were incredibly kind and wanted to help me. They set me up with a bike and I was out the door and rolling, not too far behind schedule!
Part of life’s beauty is that it’s unpredictable. Few things are permanent and most are constantly changing. Moments can happen that will transform who you are and have an impact on your life and with the right perspective it’s often never without some positive aspects.
My week in Ascoli Piceno with my Italy cycling guide The Italian on Tour was unbelievable, despite my bump in the road. They really went out of their way to make sure I still had a fantastic time. We cycled through the beautiful hillsides, stopping to enjoy prosciutto sandwiches and fresh mountain water, we enjoyed great local agriturismo restaurants and we toured around the sites in the Marche region.
At the end of my week in Ascoli I returned the bike to my new found bike shop friends and set off on my next adventure.
Say yes to adventure
Still not having my bike, I re-jigged my plans and ditched Tuscany for something more adventurous. I’d always wanted to go to the Dolomites and as my luck kept on its roll, the early season weather up there was in my favour. It was a 7 hour drive from Ascoli Piceno, but I was thrilled to be on my way.
With sweet dreams of my wheels hitting the tarmac of the famous mountain passes, I set off in my rental car and followed my GPS north to the destination “Corvara”.
As my day stretched on and my bag of food got leaner and leaner, I finally came upon what appeared to be the start of the road up to Corvara. I drove along the windy road and after what seemed like 40,000 switchback corners, my GPS announced in her very proper british accent “you have arrived at your destination”. I didn’t see my hotel so I pulled into the only one I saw to ask for directions.
Two ladies appeared in my view as I entered. One behind the front desk and the other just beyond her in a kitchen, baking something mouth watering. My stomach grumbled.
I asked them if they spoke English. “A little” one woman said. I asked where the Sport Hotel Panorama was and she looked very confused. I showed her the address on my phone and she was further confused. “This is 200km away from here” she said in a thick Austrian accent…
Unmmm what the F***. I thought.
The women huddled around me with their map and began to point out our where we were and where I was supposed to be. Apparently there is more than one Corvara in Italy (seriously people?). I was in a town called Moos in Passeier on a street called Corvara!
“Did you come from Austria?” One woman asked. I proceeded to have a panic attack inside and then cut to the chase. “So what’s the fasted route please?” I got my answer, thanked them, jumped back in the car and took off.
It had started raining and getting dark with clouds. I was feeling anxious and my heart was racing as I thought of how much further I had to go on this gnarly road. I considered giving in to my frustration, but decided to accept this as just another twist in the adventure of my crazy life. So I hit the gas, did a 4-wheel drift into the next hairpin corner to put the grin back on my face and pressed on!
Stay balanced and keep rolling
I’ve learned through life’s ups and downs that when you can maintain composure and take a step back, you’re often able to see opportunity within adverse circumstances. Not unlike ripping down a trail on your bike, crisis results when composure is lacking and you panic. When you panic you abandon your skills, mentally freeze and lose focus.
My detour lead me to a picturesque little gem of a town that I never would’ve visited if I hadn’t gotten lost. I snapped some great photos and enjoyed taking my rental car to its limits on the twisty road—so hey, it wasn’t all that bad after all!
Never regret anything that made you smile—Mark Twain
My drive took me another few hours, but I finally reached the right Corvara—Phew! I pulled up to the hotel and was greeted by a sweet chocolate lab named Choco—I had a feeling this was where I was supposed to be! I stuffed myself with food and hit the hay.
Sometimes when you get lost, you find yourself
The next morning I woke up psyched to start the day. The perks of being in the Dolomites is that it’s one of the most iconic destinations for pro and amateur cyclists. This means you can rent any bike imaginable. I chose the Ferrari of bikes, Chris Froome’s Pinarello Dogma F10. Drool.
I couldn’t tell if I was feeling high from being at 5,000ft or from the excitement of attempting some of the famous passes featured regularly in the Giro d’Italia. In any case, I was ready to crush a big bold item on my bucket list!
I started my first day with the Sella Ronda, a twisty alpine route at the foot of the Dolomite peaks. Featuring Passo Gardena, Passo Sella, Passo Pordoi, and Passo Campolongo. This solo mission was more than miles, it was my first test of mind, body and my training. I annihilated my expected time and was left with a new found dogma about myself!
I continued on my passo-crushing journey the next few days, I was feeling incredibly strong and proud—Especially when some Italian dude sucks you back wheel for 2km and then explodes and you take off!
As my mind-blowing week of fun was coming to a close, I stretched out on my bed and opened up the Dolomites map. Trying to decide what would be my final ride, I went down the list of remaining routes and stopped at Passo Giau. The description read “A mythical beast, 2,236m of climbing, viciously steep and not for the faint of heart.” Hmmm that sounds perfect! 🙂
I was nervous, but I knew if I could execute my skill with patience and perseverance, I could do it. People have told me that I am brave and fierce… I’ll admit that I also get scared, but it doesn’t have to and rarely does stop me from doing a single thing I want to do!
When you’re doubting yourself or questioning if you can do something, ask yourself “What’s the worst that could happen?”. Whether you’re attempting a grueling mountain pass, deciding to move to a different city or contemplating following an entrepreneurial idea, the answer is often less complicated than you imagine; You take a taxi home, you move back, it doesn’t work out and you learn something.
I conquered the Dolomites most arduous test that day. With an average grade of 10-13% for 10km, over 2,300m of climbing and 84km of suffering, I dug deep, went all in and left nothing on the table.
I left Italy ready to take on the world! Like Passo Giau, I know nothing for certainty, but having the courage to start and to keep moving will surely get you further than standing still. So when you feel nervous, scared or you’ve come upon an unforseen or seemingly insurmountable challenge;