Venus de Miles (the organized women’s bike ride through Longmont, Colorado) is named after the Greek sculpture, Venus de Milo, or Aphrodite de Milo. It’s a play on words.
Venus (and Aphrodite) is the goddess of love and beauty. The sculpture was found on the island of Milos located in the Agean sea. She was found in a pile of rubble and word on the street is that they were never able to find the arms, leading researchers to believe that maybe she was never meant to have any.
This idea of a war-torn statue shows us that you can be imperfect yet still be considered beautiful. I struggled with accepting imperfection. As a perfectionist, I hated making mistakes. I hated feeling like a failure. I hated looking down at my body colored purple, deep blue, and grey from the bruises that sprouted all over like some weed infestation. I didn’t like the scars I had from falls and surgeries. I felt a lot less beautiful and unworthy of love.
Cycling kept me from falling into a pit of self-hatred. It was knowing that I ride hundreds of miles and call it “fun” because my body is strong, like the marbleized Venus, who stands at 6 feet 8 inches. Powerful. Unsmotable.
It’s realizing that like the Venus, we lose limbs and patches of skin, and still ride our bikes to the finish line. I know because it happened to me.
I was riding with the lead pacer group, my jersey flapping against my sides, slicing through the wind like Wonder Woman. We were coming up the first Aid Station and with fresh legs, I planned to continue on the ride. The girl directly in front of me had a different motive.
The direction of her body and bike signaled she was pulling off to the right to stop at the aid station. I was right on her whe. She turned her chin to the left and looked directly at me. I sped up to pass.
And like a crumbling statue, my bike and I slammed against the ground together; pieces of us strewn along the gravel road, while cyclists clipped clopped their way around the debris.
I still had all my limbs and my bike was okay. I gently lifted its poor frame and walked it to the aid station. The amazing thing about Venus de Miles, that, like the statue, it’s well-supported. Medics and volunteers rushed to my aid: testing my bike, checking its components, and giving it a good once over. They examined my helmet, cleaning my scrapes, cuts, and gashes. I felt the sting of the solution in my toes and they curled in my clip shoes as the medic applied it to my raw skin.
Women in tutus, costumes, and crazy shirts took turns checking on me, offering Advil, aspirin, and more often than not, whiskey.
I called my mother to tell her I was going to be late crossing the finish line. I told her not to worry, it was just a “flesh wound,” and that she could expect me around 3. After another chug of water and self-deprecating joke, I jumped back on my bike, Thunder, and began mile 16 of 100.
The further along the route we rode, the harder it became to use my left arm. The Advil had worn off and the full ache consumed my shoulder and reached to the tips of my fingers.
By mile 85, my left arm dangled by my side. I let it rest as my right arm and legs guided the way. I didn’t myself at that moment; I convinced myself it was my fault I fell and my body’s fault for being so ripped up, but I loved the beauty that surrounded me. The endless horizon and amazing people who offered me help. I loved knowing I’d cross the finish line with my body still intact and my family cheering me on.
Maybe we aren’t happy with our appearance or current abilities. Maybe there’s an injury we feel that’s holding us back. Maybe you’re a perfectionist like me and hold yourself to a crazy high standard. We’re all perfectly imperfect. And it’s amazing. Rejoice in the fact that cycling exists and through cycling we are offered love and beauty.
Celebrate the spirit of sisterhood at @VenusdeMilesRide, Colorado’s largest women’s bike ride on August 26. It’s an unforgettable day of fun with lunch & cocktails, pampering, and a commemorative t-shirt. Visit venusdemiles.com/colorado for more info and to sign up now.