First, if you are going to read this. hit play.
This post has been a long time coming.
When I was in high school, there was this mean girl who used to call me thunder thighs. I was really socially awkward, and anxious and depressed a lot on top of that, and not being one of the skinny popular girls who seemed to fit in so easily, during highschool i spent about four years hanging out in the art rooms painting rather than be teased and humiliated.
I turned avoiding PE into an artform. Anytime I was forced to participate I could see and hear the other girls making fun of me the whole way - I struggled, I was slow, I was unfit, I was red and puffed in the face, and I was fatter than them.
There's this other dual part of my life growing up though, that never fit - I come from a family that spent a lot of time at the coast, bushwalking, bodyboarding, camping, fishing - and when there was no one around to make fun of me, while I wasn't a superstar, I'd stay out the back of the waves longer than anyone else.
I also did a lot of secret sport on the side; you'd probably be surprised to know that I was a grade V ballroom dancer, that I have a whole bunch of showjumping ribbons from horseriding, that I have a few medals hidden somewhere from figure skating, which I used to love (mostly just the going really fast bit) until one day at school one of the boys looked at me, and looked at this other, thinner girl who also figure skated, and said to me "dont you need to have a figure to be a figure skater?"
I quit not long after. My ballet career ended much the same way, with the teacher telling me my stomach was too big and I was too overweight for Ballet. One by one, everything I would try, I would eventually give up because I felt bigger and like I looked bad doing it.
I started playing music when I was 12, and was performing regularly in bars from age 15, and in 1997 we had three songs on triple j. But I always noticed the different reactions that really skinny, pretty girls playing guitar got, were different to the reactions to me and this played a big part in my not going further with it than I did.
I became a swimming coach in my early 20s, but attempts to actually train in an adult squad were thwarted by needing to wear swimmers in front of coworkers. And from age 15 to my mid 20s I was not only bulimic on and off, but using various drugs to try and lose weight. You could never really tell, I didn't get that skinny, I was just miserable and in pain all the time. I've also spent significant periods of time in relationships with guys who would openly tell me they thought I was too overweight for them.
I took up mountain biking in 2006 and started hitting the local gym pretty hard, but never seemed to see the results I know now were probably there. I continued to feel that high school mentality, discovering rock climbing and loving it, but not continuing it because I had a whole lot of friends who were really good climbers (and being good climbers they were super skinny) and I just visualised how I must look to them, climbing up a cliff face with my legs in the harness....
I don't know what changed really, I think getting a bit older helps a lot, but there was a point when I had just started to like riding, especially by myself, because I could challenge myself, prove that I could do things, and there was no one around to see how bad I looked in cycling gear. And when I made the move to Canberra, I gave myself the present of a brand new Felt F5, full carbon road bike, with the intention of riding more and more.
It took me two years to join a club, because I was sure all the other girls would be skinnier and look better in their kit than me, and I remember my first V-Mobile session, Verity was there and she looked super pro to me, that (as per a previous post) I nearly gave up then and there.
The support though, of vmobilers like Ben, Brad and Rob kept me coming and gradually, something changed.
The focus became about speed, skill, kms, hills and not so much about what I looked like.
Winning the Club Champs time trial was actually a huge deal for me, I've never ever won anything that was a race before and it was a really big moment for me personally.
The DBR results helped too, and the more I train, the better I feel about my body and my capabilities.
But the point I wanted to make, was that there was a day a couple of weeks ago where I was doing hill reps on Stromlo, and after the previous attempt where I couldnt get a single rep right, I managed to do 6 perfect strength reps in a row, all thanks to the work of my Thunder Thighs, and I was so buzzed that I composed this whole post in my head. But before I got a chance to put it up, there were some pics taken at the Novice crit and I instantly went back to feeling awful about myself. Funny thing was, while I could only see myself in the pictures looking awful, the more other cyclists I talked to, the more they were pointing out how bad thought they looked in the photos!!
Almost every one of us were feeling the same thing!
So this bring me to my point I guess. Whilst riding recently with our WA champ, LisaK told me that she too used to get called Thunder Thighs. I was a bit dumbfounded by this as we are totally different shapes, but it just goes to show that we all have this kind of body image natter in our heads.
So I'll share with you something I read in a magazine when I was a kid that has always stuck with me:
Thunder Thighs at least implies a kind of power, that sparrow legs will never have.
So I guess thats cycling for you, and one of the things I love most about it.
It eventually wears that self image focus out of you, and its not about the body and all about the strength, power, determination, and also, tan lines.
Yesterday I had an amazing race, light years better than anything I have done before, I really raced the whole thing and coming second in B Grade I really made the first placed woman work hard for it.
On top of that this week I have:
-taken my Stromlo hill rep count up to 7
-taken 25 seconds off my PB up stromlo
-hung on to a WA crit for four laps and then brought home a second place in B
And all of that, thanks to my Thunder Thighs which pulled me up each and every climb.
Thanks Thunder Thighs...oh, and to the mean high school girls along the way?
....you've been thunderstruck.