This weekend I was the victim of an assumer.
I hate assumers.
Here’s the story:
As you may know, I’m training for the Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic. That’s 200 miles of butt-numbing, pedal-pushing, hill-climbing work! To get ready for the big event, I decided to sign up for a training series and this weekend they held a “pre-ride” to help people who are still new to cycling and group riding get ready for the miles and miles ahead.
This wasn’t my first group ride, but I was still very nervous. I always get nervous before things like this. I worry:
- I’m too slow (I’m not).
- I won’t make it up hills (I usually do).
- I don’t have the right gear (I really just need new shoes and possibly a jacket).
- I don’t know anyone there (I’m getting to know people).
- Etc. etc. etc.
The first group ride I did the weekend before last was great. Cycling people are friendly and I did a little over 26 miles, climbed every hill on my bike, and finished like a champ. It was an amazing uplifting experience, so I went into this weekend looking for more of the same.
Things started off great.
I tried to stay close to the leader (which I did successfully for over 15 miles) until we got to the hills. I knew I’d be slow, so I just gave myself a mental break and took my time pedaling up as best I could. When we hit the hills I noticed our group was pretty evenly divided: There were people who could stay with the leader and people who could not. For most of the hills I was smack-dab in the middle. People were passing me and keeping up with the leader, but I was also so far ahead of the people behind me I couldn’t even see them after awhile. I was squarely in the middle of the pack and often found myself alone.
At around mile 18 we lost the group of people who were behind me (they took the route we were supposed to take) and we encountered a big, big hill that wasn’t on the original route plan. It was so big I had to get off and push my bike up it. I was embarrassed, but I told myself I was still getting stronger and had made it 18 miles through hilly terrain so I needn’t worry about it. Plus, there were a few lighter people pushing right along side me.
When we got to the top of the hill the group leader told us about losing the people behind us and let us know we picked up a new sweeper (group leader who would be at the back).
That’s when the assuming started.
The new sweeper immediately started to talk with me. I think she needed a project or someone to help (but, hey, I’m just assuming…). She told me to unzip my jacket because I looked hot. Yes, TOLD me. She also TOLD me to roll up my sleeves.
Then we started off again and she stayed near me asking me all sorts of questions. When as we started up another hill she yelled at me, “Get into a lower gear!”
I looked down at my bike.
“I AM in a low gear.”
I was confused. Did she see something I didn’t? Am I doing this wrong?
I was admittedly feeling rather defensive because I had to walk up the last big hill, but I continued to pedal, slowly puffing up the hill, determined to make it and she started asking me really rude questions and giving me advice.
“You really need bike shoes, it looks like your feet are really working” (I’ve known this for awhile and have been waiting to buy clipless shoes until I’m sure I’m ready for them).
“Is your bike steel or carbon fiber?” (Steel frames are heavy, Carbon fiber is much lighter. I found myself wondering why she was even asking this. I told her it was aluminum and she butted in with “Well, your fork is carbon fiber” — Which I know and was going to tell her).
“You know, it’s easier if you stay up by the leaders. The people back here have to peddle harder to catch up” — “Uh, yeah, I fell behind“
“Do you ever get a chance to do cardio during the week?”
At this point I teared up…
…and actually felt my throat close up as I fought tears. My determined mindset was shattered and I became an insecure self-doubting mess. I couldn’t believe this woman. She has absolutely no idea what I’ve been doing with myself. She has no idea that I’m probably in the gym more than her (again, I assume), that I’ve lost 70 pounds, that I’m aware of the gear I need to get, that I know my bike and I certainly don’t need “helpful” commentary and condescending interrogation).
I tried my best to calm down before responding to her that, yes, I go to Group Kick at the gym.. (“What’s that???” She asks).
This is when I started to consider confronting her.
I wanted to say, “I know you’re trying to help, but what you’re doing is actually really insulting. I’m doing just fine, thanks.”
But, I didn’t because I knew I was feeling defensive and not in the position to make a thoughtful, well-reasoned response.
Instead, as soon as we were passed the hill and I caught my breath I got away from that woman. I pedaled hard to get as far ahead of her as possible. Then I tried to calm myself down and play devils advocate. I heard my husband’s voice in my head:
- She thought she was helping.
- I was just feeling defensive.
But, all I could really think was, she assumed that because I was big, was struggling up the hills, and didn’t have the right shoes I needed her advice.
The more I think about it the more angry I become, and the more I wish I would’ve confronted this woman. Instead, I’m writing this rant for everyone to read:
Don’t assume and don’t assert your fitness and health “wisdom” where it isn’t requested. A person’s outward appearance is no indication of their health, their knowledge, and/or their determination. Unsolicited “helpful advice” can actually be quite harmful to a person’s self esteem, not to mention rather insulting. Do me and everyone else a favor, and keep it to yourself unless we ask for it.
Is this too much to ask?