Motivation and Challenges of the Subaru Elephant Rock Century Ride

12729001_240796452919893_465454179791581738_nOur Ambassador Jessica McWhirt completed the Subaru Elephant Rock Century course in 2015.  In her blog post, she shares her motivation to continually grow as a person and as a woman cyclist.  

I am constantly finding new ways to challenge myself and grow as a person.

The best way to get me to do something is tell me I can’t do it. Even better, to tell me I can’t do something because I’m a woman. Then I’ll prove you wrong.

As a child, I pushed traditional gender roles and boundaries through my clothing (baggy shirts and shorts), my hair (bowl cuts were all the rage in the 90s), and my diction (sailor mouth). I played and fought with boys when I was 9 and I continue to challenge the status quo.

Jared, my cycling buddy, challenged me to the Century course for the Subaru Elephant Rock Cycling Festival as I walked out of the bike store with my new (yet outdated) road bike on a cold, January evening. He laughed as he told me, “We should do the century ride for Elephant Rock.”

I said, “What’s a century ride?”

“100 miles” he replied.

“In six months, you think I’ll be able to ride 100 miles? Are you kidding?” I said.

“What? You don’t think you can do it?” He asked.

“Let’s do it” I said.

The rest is history. We came up with a training plan and I added 10 miles each weekend to prepare for the century ride. And it sucked.

Explaining to friends and family you are riding 100 miles on a bike for fun just doesn’t register with non-cyclists. For most of us, it’s difficult to fathom where you’d even venture to add up to 100 miles.

Confusion washes over faces when you say you can’t go out on a Friday or Saturday night because you’re waking up before the sun’s out to ride 100 miles. Or that you can’t drink this, can’t eat that because it’s not part of your century training plan. “One beer isn’t going to kill you,” they say. “Just try some of my cheesecake, you’ll burn it off on your ride tomorrow anyway” I’m told. What they don’t realize is that I fuel my body with foods that’ll power me through 100 miles. Pastries and alcohol slow me down, they do not speed me up. My friends and family don’t get that.

When I first started training for endurance events, like ERock,  I was met with a lot of cynicism. A lot of comments like, “That sounds awful,” “How is that fun?,” and my favorite, “You’re out of your mind.” I think people become defensive when they don’t understand something. Cycling 100 miles is one of those things that’s hard to wrap your head around.

The longer and harder I trained, the more support I started to receive. My mother has always been at the finish line for my cycling events. She’s always been my biggest fan, holding signs and ringing cowbells.

I seek to challenge the status quo:  the notion that women can’t ride with men; that we aren’t strong enough, fast enough, or tough enough. It always comes back to me though and completing these rides for myself – not for anyone else – that’s what keeps my wheels spinning. I do it for me. I endure the hills, the distance, the battles, to grow stronger.