Gretchen Ho Writes About What Biking Has Taught Her
When will it ever end?
Patience, patience, my dear.
Said the voice in my head,
Every hardship will come to an end.
Oh, but wait! After this uphill climb, there’s the reward of the cold wind breeze going down the mountain!
Then, what?! Yet another uphill climb?!
So, as they say, all good and bad things come to an end.
Why climb the mountain if you’re gonna come back down?
Hahaha. Where the hell is my mind going?
Focus, Gretchen. Focus.
Throughout the long arduous ride, I would constantly be in conversation with myself.
Riding 60km is no joke. The Gran Fondo was announced as a 50km ride but my measuring device said the whole stretch from Subic to Bataan and back counted 60. Before doing the Gran Fondo, I did a 40km race in Bonifacio Global City, but man, this one’s different. The 40 had a lot of flat stretches of road while this race had a lot of uphill and downhill rides.
To be honest, I didn’t train for this, and having finished strongly in the 40, I was kind of confident I’d make it. My goal for the race was to simply enjoy my first out-of-town ride, check out the scenery, see how my body can take the distance, and witness how the pros do it. I wanted to finish with a good time though, or at least feel like I did better than my last race.
One thing (or person) that helped me throughout the whole race was my trainer, who was with me the whole time. What I realized about riding is that if you want to finish good, you can’t just get into a bike and ride. You have to apply the right strategies and shift into the right gears and plates for different turns, climbs, flats, and downhills.
Just like driving, you have to ride smart, or else, you’re going to burn out faster. Good thing, my coach was with me the whole time, reminding me to pace it through. Power is not always the solution. 1…2… 1…2...
When you’re a beginner like me, it’s always better to ride with a companion. Why? You’ve got extra motivation to keep at it. You’ve got someone to enjoy the roads with. During the long stretches, you’ve got someone to talk to. And God forbid, if anything happens during the ride, someone can back you up.
That’s the great thing about biking—it’s not all about the competition with your fellow bikers. I asked one of the top riders in the world, our very own, Fil-Am Coryn Rivera, if she ever faced discrimination while racing against taller, bigger Europeans and Americans, and she said that the sport is difficult enough on its own for riders to even think of bringing each other down. What you have to love about biking is seeing riders help each other through the race, greet each other on the road even if you’re strangers, and just that positivity everybody gives off while trying to conquer the bigger challenge that is the road.
While riding, one thing that you can never underestimate, though, is the importance of rehydration. As a volleyball player who grew up under the traditional way of Philippine coaching, not drinking water was a sign of being strong and having great endurance. However, in today’s more “scientific” world, depriving yourself of water is just a sign of stupidity. You need to rehydrate every now and then to make sure you have enough gas in the tank. Pouring water on my face also helped battle the scorching heat of the sun. Since I don’t know how to drink while on the bike yet, I had to (humbly) stop a few times to quickly drink from my bottle and ride on again.
It’s important to never forget to enjoy the ride while you’re on it. Even though the race is long and difficult, you have to savor the pleasure of the wind, and the journey you’re traveling. It’s no easy feat to go from one town to another—and on a bike, no less! Seeing the everyday lives of people, their hustle and bustle in the morning, witnessing the sun’s rays go through the trees, smelling the fresh grass of the countryside, and going through the chaos of the road—these all make the ride even more memorable!
Of course, being my giddy childlike self, I couldn’t let the ride pass without greeting the people I passed by with a "good morning." Umagang kay ganda! Umagang kay ganda! I was greeted back by smiles and some laughter, as they were caught by surprise. Some of them recognized me from the morning show, and were delighted. However, those who didn’t, greeted me in a surprising manner, “Uy! Babae!” I wasn’t sure how to respond to that. Was it that shocking to see a woman on a bike? Throughout the course of the whole ride, I heard more than a handful say this, including females. I didn’t know if I was going to be happy or sad, but I chose to take it in positively, and ride with my head held up high. I was a woman, riding the 60km, from Subic to Bataan, independently, and finishing strongly! I felt proud of myself and proud to be sending a message.
Biking, as I’ve learned, is just like mastering any craft. It requires a lot of humility and patience. You need to be humble enough to recognize that you need to take it step by step, as experience makes you better. Falling is inevitable, but it will make you bolder and stronger. You need to be humble to respect the road and the distance you're going to ride through.
Patience. Patience is needed for gaining confidence on the bike. It will not happen overnight. You will have to learn when to power through, how to pace your rhythm, and when to rest and let the wind take you. Little by little, you’ll get there. But it all starts with the decision to get up on the bike, risk falling and try.
I finished my race in three hours. That feeling of crossing the finish line is indescribable. I was so proud of myself for having raced better than the last. I got off my bike and had jelly legs afterwards. But my heart felt stronger. I felt alive and stronger for it!
Editor’s Note: Gretchen Ho covered Ride London for TV Patrol last year and was inspired by the biking culture of London, as well as the impressive win of Fil-Am Coryn Rivera in the Female Elite Division. She has been biking for about a year now. She recently participated in PruRide PH in Subic.