My Journey Towards Cycling…

Introduction by Dawn. Written by Guest Blogger, Pam Thomas.

Believe it or not (especially to those people who know me and think I talk ALL the time) I can be ridiculously shy and uncomfortable in social situations. They are hard for me and I do not always rise to the challenge when I am in the midst of these situations. I should do better at this.

Where am I going with this you wonder? Well, when I first moved to Kentucky from Ohio (yes, I have lots of thoughts on my love of Ohio State athletics and the firing of Jim Tressell…but that is not for this…or any future…post) one of my passions was cycling. I loved it. I still do love it. Cycling for miles out on the open road is so freeing and liberating, not to mention a great workout. And I realized the Bluegrass region had some wonderful roads for cycling. But, well, I am not a huge fan of cycling by myself. I have done it plenty of times. Too many to count. And I was always lucky. I am not a great bike mechanic and always worried I would get stranded out there on my own so I looked for others to ride with. I do not remember exactly how I came across Pam’s name and contact information but I did. We connected. And we decided to ride together.

I had so many great times riding with Pam. She is truly a class act in the cycling community. I am sure there were many times she wanted to kill me because I was ALWAYS late for our rides…which is so against the grain of who I am. But she waited patiently and then off we would go. I don’t think Pam ever knew how much I appreciated her or the time we spent cycling. She kept after me to go on rides, at times when my shy side might have politely declined. So I would go. And I would love it. And be so thankful I went.

My first baby was not the first car I bought. While I liked that car, it did not bring me the same joy as my road bike. So I always considered my road bike my first love, my first baby. But then I had actual babies…and my bike got relegated to a corner. I had a hard time leaving Jackson on the weekends to go on long rides after leaving him at daycare all week. Eventually I sold my bike. One of the only true regrets in my entire life (I probably have less than 5 total). I still miss it…a lot.

It also meant I did not get to hang out with Pam anymore either. So I never go to tell her how much I appreciated her and what she did for me. Nor did I ever get to thank her. But now I can…so thank you Pam!

Pam is one of the best cyclist probably in all of our Bluegrass region. And she is dedicated to it…whether it is as a member of the Bluegrass Cycling Club, teaching cycling at the local Y or as an organizer of rides in the region, including the Horsey Hundred, she is at the forefront of the cycling community. So I feel very fortunate she agreed to be a guest blogger here with us today.

So…without further ado…


I will be 50 next month, and exercise has always been a big part of my life.  I started out at the age of 13 as a runner.  I dabbled in other sports and was better than average at most athletic things that I tried, but running remained my first love and favorite athletic and spiritual activity.  Running got me through break ups with boyfriends, bad jobs, difficult exams, fights with friends, annoying relatives, cranky children and a myriad of other stressful situations.  Running brought me joy and allowed me to maintain my focus and my center.  I did some racing and fared pretty well, although I found racing somewhat stressful so didn’t do that as much as I could have.  I made many good friends and had some of the best and most meaningful conversations of my life while running with my friends.

When I turned 30, some guys I worked with talked me into playing on an over 30 outdoor co-ed soccer team based on the theory that even though I wasn’t a soccer player, I was a distance runner and could therefore be on the field and run around so that THEY could play soccer. Truth be told, they really weren’t interested in me EVER touching the soccer ball, however women had to be on the field for them to have a qualifying team.  As it turned out that I was actually a pretty good soccer player, and I became a contributing member of team. I even scored a few goals!  I moved from outdoor soccer to indoor soccer with the same team.  At the age of 33, while playing indoor soccer, I had a bad foot plant while kicking the soccer ball.  I heard a horrific noise and felt a sharp searing pain in my left knee.  In that one moment, I severed my ACL and my MCL, smashed the meniscus and took a large divot out of the femoral condyle. (In layman’s speak – I messed my knee up pretty badly).  Over the next 7 years, I had 8 different surgeries on that knee.  I continued running through it all, even though the doctor told me each time that running was very bad for the knee and that I was looking at a knee replacement if I didn’t stop.  I couldn’t stop … running was my salvation… it is what got me through everything difficult I’d faced … It was the most consistent, steady and stable thing in my life, so I ignored the advice.  I carried on that way, mostly in pain, until about nine years ago, when I was scheduled for surgery #9 – my 3rd ACL replacement.  Before that surgery, the doctor told me there were no more fixes for my poor, sad, damaged knee other than a total knee replacement if I didn’t stop running. I thought a lot … I tried to be rational and act like a grown up … and finally I decided to quit running. I went on my last run the day before the surgery and cried the entire time … It was very painful emotionally and physically … and it took me a while to come to terms with it, but I really didn’t have a choice.

A few years before the last knee surgery, my husband and I bought matching road bikes with our tax refunds.  We rode them occasionally but not very often as we were both runners and preferred running together.  Cycling seemed risky and dangerous, especially in Central Kentucky where most roads don’t have shoulders and people seem to drive very fast.  Cycling also required more planning, more equipment and more time … all in all, much less convenient.  I decided after the last surgery that since I could no longer run or participate in sports involving lateral movement, and since I HATE (can’t emphasize this enough) swimming, and am completely bored by golf, that I would try cycling … and so I started cycling.  I was really clueless at the beginning. I knew nothing about my gears or how to use them effectively. I didn’t know the rural roads very well and got lost numerous times.  It didn’t occur to me that bikes work better when the chain is properly lubed and tires properly inflated and so I rode with a loud and rough chain and underinflated tires, which I now know made riding much more difficult for me. My bike was not properly fitted so I had some shoulder and neck pain, and I was afraid of the “clipless” pedals (which seems like a misnomer to me because with clipless pedals, you actually clip your shoes onto the pedals) so I used “trap” pedals, which I now know are much less efficient. I wore the wrong clothes and suffered from chafing because I didn’t know how to avoid it. I fell off my bike and got road rash on my shoulder and knee.

Despite all of this I fell in love with cycling.  It wasn’t immediate.  There is a lot to learn about with cycling – things you should do or not do to make the experience better.  I learned, and I made mistakes, but I can now honestly say that cycling is my first exercise love and that I really don’t miss running at all anymore.  I love the freedom the bike affords me, and the fact that I can cover great distances.  I love that I am able to actually see and be a part of the landscape, rather than being separated from it by a car window.  I love that my bike has a practical purpose – and that I can ride it to work.  I love, love, love my morning commute. I leave at 5:45 am just as the sun is coming up.  My commute takes me through rural Woodford and Franklin Counties. Sometimes horses run along the fence line with me as I ride by. Some days I take pictures of the sunrise or the horses or the deer and post them on Facebook because I want to share it with others, but it never really translates.  My morning commute provides me with that coveted “me” time when nothing else interferes and I can just live in and for the moment appreciating all that I’ve been blessed with in my life.  I also love group rides with the great friends I’ve met through cycling.  I ride with lots of different people – people I am sure I wouldn’t know but for our common interest in cycling. Some groups I ride with ride at a slower, more leisurely pace.  We talk, and laugh and have fun getting to know each other better. Other groups I ride with are very fast, the primary goal being to go as fast as you can for the ride distance.  These rides are challenging and fun in a different way.

I’ve been primarily a cyclist now for about 7 years.  Most weeks in the summer, I log between 200 and 250 miles per week (and just so you know, my weekly mileage isn’t “normal” it is much higher than most people, but since I commute to work, I get a lot more miles than people who ride recreationally).  I am pleased to report that since my switch to cycling, my knee pain is pretty much gone and I haven’t had another knee surgery. I’m thinking now that the prospects of avoiding that dreaded knee replacement at 55 are pretty good at this point!

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