Gotta Start Somewhere

Andrea Cohen dives into the rollercoaster of life, dreams, plans, motivation, and the compounding problems those can self-create…and the solutions that can be found riding bicycles on gravel roads.

Now I’m here..

SIMPLE AS THAT. I am in the process of pulling my head out of my ass. It’s my own problem really. The feelings I feel and why they stop me from doing things I like and make run on sentences feel like a good way to write. It’s easier to ignore the hard work when I am constantly creating more things to do. Words to write. Projects to accomplish. Instead of sitting down and looking at what is right in front of me.

I don’t have a lot of time to talk right now. Class or something has to happen.

What I wrote beyond this page is what happens when I pay attention. I don’t really remember when I wrote this, sometime last year. Probably after Landrun, because I worked real hard at that and it felt good. I didn’t go through the paper again either. It has something to do with bikes, hopefully about me liking them…or something.

You’re going to start seeing more of me (me says to myself). I am pretty stoked on that.

*sometime/where in 2017-

I like to joke around about not liking things. Then the joke got too real and I got a little lost. The things I love were starting to be affected by this. Riding my bike mainly. It turned into a chore. Doing workouts and sharing stories. It didn’t feel good, so I stopped. In 2016 I did Dirty Kanza and then I didn’t do anything else, other than camping and building a sweet Marrakesh. To say 2016 was hard would be fair, but it was also a year of change. It was my fifth full year of doing the same events and I was burnt out. Plain and simple. It had gotten to the point where I couldn’t see the reason for doing my gravel races anymore. People ask all the time what my plan is, and my answer had become, “I don’t know.”

How would I steal back my love.

There are no particular steps to follow and I am still in the process – it’s ongoing. Every day I feel better. The first step was convincing myself to work less. That was easy because I am surrounded by a extremely supportive family at World of Bikes. Around that same time I went back to Crossfit and worked my buns off. From July 2016 to January 2017 that was all I accomplished. Next up was deciding to lead a Monday Night No-Drop Gravel Ride out of World of Bikes. This was big for me. Committing to lead a group of people around every single week. Not my favorite thing to do honestly. I love people, but I had never committed to something like this. Plus, I didn’t even do rides like this for myself. This ride would be just as much for myself as it was for everyone else.

People actually showed up for the ride. Lots of people, excited people, people who have never ridden gravel, or who have ridden thousands of miles, people who knew the gravel roads better than I, people who would become friends.

People who I convinced to go do Almanzo with me.

People who had never ridden 100 miles on gravel. Are you getting where this is going?

The friends gathered at my house to prep for Almanzo, a show of hands represented all those who had never ridden 100 miles of gravel, and then I told them they were on their own. Of course I would offer every kind of support, question answering, tent spot finding, ride there and back, and coordination. But I wanted them to find the questions, the mistakes, the wrong road.

The Monday Night No-Drop Gravel Mega Fun Time Ride is exactly what I needed. The smiles, laughs, and hollers are helping me remember what I lost. Watching people see a b-road for the first time. Try to traverse fresh gravel and hate it. Yell at head-winds and side-winds with me. Moo at cows and pet horses. Being able to go on rides because others have organized them. Taking people on rides that are too long, even though I said the ride would be done by 8:30pm… and we are still outside and now it’s cold. I am not sorry. Sunsets with friends. The farm dogs are scared of our giant awesome group. No man or woman left behind. Also… more women show up than men most times; that makes me smile. Helping people figure out their tire pressure or teaching them how to set up their tires tubeless. Riding in terrible weather that I don’t even want to ride in. The list is endless.

They are stoked to learn everything. All the things I am supposedly tired of are brought back to life through this group. Everyone is allowed to be a part, too. There is no dress code, no required bike. Really, no timeline. We will wait for you if you keep on pedaling.

We are the United States of Gravel. There are many places to exist within the cycling world. I have chosen the United States of Gravel. The melting pot of bicycles. Whether you rip downhill, crush time trials, or just commute to and from work… you have a place. Everyone gets a chance to ride an endurance gravel event how they want to. There are no rules about how to complete these events. Of course there are obvious factors such as eating food, drinking water, not getting lost; but deciding to actually finish. That is up to you.

Gravel is just little rocks… It has never been about the gravel, though. It has always been about the people, the community. Getting to learn about how someone found cycling or why they are attempting something like Dirty Kanza is so interesting. This is harsh… I don’t care about the bike, the tires, the food I am eating, the route, the Garmin, the watts, how long it took me, even where we went. Bobby told me to unlearn things at Land Run. Take it all away. This is an evolution.

You are all welcome on the gravel. Not just welcome, we want you there.


Read more from Andrea on her blog; Andrea From Iowa…

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