balance

Road Bike Ramblings

Checked the tires. Helmet on. Out before dawn.

A pre-sunrise neighborhood bike ride was on the docket. Thirty minutes. Easy peasy. Just cruising to get the blood flowing early on a Sunday.

I live at the top of a hill. So the very first thing I get to do is fly. Fly down the hill, wind in my face, breathing deep. Yes, all you Safety Susies, I left my Airpods at home so I could pay closer attention to any traffic at the early hour. As a side benefit I also enjoyed the sounds of the crickets. The frogs. The quiet of morning. A line from a poem came to mind…”to be the only one awake in a house wrapped in sleep.” There is a special peace in that (and maybe a few giggles thinking how many safety cameras I was tripping off.)

Once the wind hit my face on that downhill I remembered how much I love my road bike. Just getting going on it makes me smile but flying down a hill is such a special feeling of freedom. So it makes no sense that I don’t ride more often. I only get out once a month or so. I keep saying I am going to do a triathlon this year. But I realized I am in a mode where the distance between what I say I want to do and what I actually do is great. I want to slim down to feel better but I don’t adjust my nutrition to achieve that. I want to write more but don’t take the time. I want to express gratitude to people who have helped me but the thank you cards still sit in their wrapper. Something I thought about as I rolled under the streetlamps.

Back to biking…I have been doing an endurance program at the gym once a week on a stationary bike. It’s been good for my pacing and endurance control. I tell myself it’s triathlon training. But it doesn’t replace time on an actual road on a bike.

When it comes to the road bike, I hate the uphills. I fumble with the gears trying to make my legs hurt less. My neighborhood is basically all hills of various lengths and gradients. (This is one reason why I sometimes don’t get on my road bike. It takes time and effort to transport it to a flat course.) But as I was riding this morning, I embraced the hills. I took my time getting up them. I sat with the pain instead of resisting it. And then, I enjoyed the coast down the other side. The reward for the work. The time to breathe.

I thought about many friends who I know are facing that big hill in their lives. With a job. With a family member. With a relationship. With themselves. They don’t want to climb it. They would rather go around or just stay put. (This is me, too! In more areas than I’ve even shared.) The only way to get that feeling of freedom is to do the work of getting up the hill. Some times of life are just smooth effort, puttering along on the flats, enjoying the scenery. But exhilaration, the relief, the satisfaction of wind at my face comes after I’ve pushed myself through a challenge. Time to summit the hills I’ve just been staring down, hoping they will disappear. I have been given these mountains to show they can be moved, as they say. Or, so that I can enjoy the beauty and freedom of the other side.

balance

A Peaceful Stroll

Today I took a quiet stroll.

Alone.

My stroll wasn’t preplanned rather it was spontaneous. Off I went. The air was cool and crisp. The shade of the trees added a drop in temperature to 8-10 degrees lower. Unexpected chill but maybe that alerted my senses more.

Hands in pockets watching the trees blow around me. Enjoying the scents in the air on this morning. My path wasn’t set. I was just shuffling along. Sometimes on pavement. Sometimes on gravel. I had the option of grass but didn’t drift that way.

On my stroll I thought about many things. I listened to many sounds. I viewed and observed all of what was around me. I genuinely felt thankful for where I am in life. For the good times as well as the bad times. Sometimes taking a back seat to your own life allows you to see your fortune. Not the fortune of money rather the fortune of life and living it. Experience.

I have experience. I can bend and flex and fit into any mix of people or settings. A skill I have worked on all my whole life. Experiences have helped me mature enough to know when I need to bend and flex. When to reframe the gloomy outlook. When to spark creativity.

My mind works in overdrive during the oddest times. Sometimes it’s in a sleep state. Sometimes on a random stroll. The beauty of a quiet mind yields results. I had a recent conversation with a teenage boy. He mentioned how long it takes him to fall asleep. I questioned why. He noted his mind takes time to wind down.

How I related in many ways. In life we all must find a balance for not only us but those closest to us. Kids especially have an always on mentality. Even more so than me. The younger generation is overactive online making it hard to flip the off switch. They are less likely to take the stroll alone I mentioned above. Therefore we should check in on those around us to see how we can help them recharge in non-traditional ways.

Sports or working out of sorts helps as the fatigue will wear one out.

A day at the beach can help. The sun. The sand. The limited reach of electronics. All add a level of fatigue.

An outing such as a hike, bowling, top golf, go-karting, kayaking, and so on. These little outings can provide a change of scenery. A lot of laughter. An escape from the planned days many are accustomed to. Adventures will let the mind settle and possibly add a dream state of what could be next.

Add mindfulness to your day or week. My Apple Watch tells me it’s a thing. Something to remind me to do daily, however I already know this. I am hopeful this post will spur thoughts or action in you or inspire you to influence another. 

Practice mindfulness.

Set a goal of peace for yourself.

Challenge yourself to do something different.

Riding your bike to work one day not driving may be just the variation you need. Not all can do this but if you can, try it. See how it goes. 

adventure

Staycation

I had a staycation this spring break. It was amazing. I didn’t need an expensive beach trip. I didn’t need the crowds of Disney. I didn’t need to figure out travel restrictions from state to state.

Instead I opted for easy. Simple. No frills. Just a local staycation. I stayed and played. Lunch dates sitting outside enjoying the sunshine and company. Outdoor activities with friends and family. From bike rides to hikes to just playing fetch with the dog in the yard.

A little catch-up on the home to do list. A little planting. A little too much shopping. Some driveway car washing. Home cooked meals some which were good and some not so good. That is funny in itself.

Slept in a few days because I could not that I should. A little mix up in the routine and mundane. Let the laundry sit in the dryer an extra day. Spent some time visiting on the spur of the moment. A little thing I missed during the pandemic.

No rules. No have tos. No timelines. Come and go as I please. Something as simple as camping in your own yard or toasting marshmallows over a fire pit can seem like a vacation. Whether you stay or whether you go is up to you. You can make memories either way.

For me a staycation was just right for me. Now my family may say otherwise but this Chick enjoyed the stay. As simple as it was.

adventure, fitness and nutrition

I Hit the Road

For the first time in 2021 I hit the road for an 11 mile bike ride. Just me, the pavement, my trusty bike, a travel buddy, and some AirPods.

It was a spring day and the sun was beating strong. The breeze was just right when I went downhill. I took the scenic route on some roads that a small town noted as a great trek. I have no clue how many others take this trip but it was a fabulous ride today.

Good Hope, Georgia was the starting point. A postage stamp town of sorts. A gas station / general store and Dollar General were about the biggest storefronts I came across. That was fine by me today.

Instead of city life, I saw some chickens and lots of cows on the trek. I stumbled upon a historic landmark and breezed by what seemed liked a ton of cemeteries. Oddly enough the cemeteries were intriguing. Some had fresh flowers displayed and were well maintained while others were hidden gems in random spots where all else around them were either developed or forgotten areas. While riding my bike I very much enjoy seeing what is in plain sight. Some things we can easily miss when riding in a car rushing to our next destination.

The scents of the air were different with the passing miles. There was some fresh cut grass. There was the scent of animals lingering by the roadside. There were some nasty and foul stenches that smelled like the worst poop smell ever. Burning poop is all I could think of. I’m pretty sure some farmer was burning manure. The smell could cut straight through the best face coverings. Guess I know what to burn if I need to annoy my neighbors!  Onto more pleasant aromas. The floral smells definitely were more enjoyable as many flowers and trees were blooming around.

The sounds of the ride were also fun. Listening with one ear for approaching cars or trucks. Guessing what kind of vehicle will pass you as you feel the car approaching your rear. So many drivers are courteous to bikers enjoying the day however others could be annoyed and want to cut a little close to you. Listening to engines crank for tractors and lawn mowers. Hearing kids giggle when you pass a pool.

The cows were not only chatty with their moo moo here and there but also with their interest in humans. They rose from their naps, came close to the fence lines and just stopped chewing the grass to see what was passing by. It was definitely an experience. Take the back roads. You never know what you may see!

I guess you are living on the edge when sharing the road with cars while you are on two wheels. Similar to a motorcycle yet self-propelled. It’s great to explore new places, try new things and just escape the ordinary. That’s exactly what I did today.

Opt outside. Take a ride on a bike or maybe try skates. Just opt for active and enjoy the outdoors. I am sure I will write more about my cycling adventures in 2021 as I am opting to travel to new spots to see what adventures unfold for me.

Until next time. These two chicks will leave you with some stinky reminders of the burning poop field. The fact that we stopped to take a photo indicates we have issues. Just saying! 

Thanks to @waltonwellness for the shout out on Instagram and the great trail experience. Be sure to find your local Share the Road project.

fitness and nutrition

Keeping Pace

When I was growing up, July was all about the Tour de France. It was on TV for hours a day at my house. Before TiVO, my Dad would get up in what seemed like the middle of the night to watch. For the most part, I found it completely boring. Hours and hours of rolling along. The scenery was nice…French towns and the occasional sunflower field. I was mainly irritated that the TV was occupied for so many hours a day.

Inevitably, my Dad would try to explain some of the strategy to me. How the teams worked, drafting, and so on. After many years of boredom, I became sort of fascinated with the many roles on these teams. Most of the athletes were not there to win for themselves. No, most of the guys had specific jobs that served to ensure the team’s leading rider came out wearing the maillot jaune.

Imagine it: you’ve been chugging over kilometers by the hundreds, even the thousands. You’ve summited mountains, taken treacherous downhill curves at high speeds. You’ve churned your legs day after day, through training and trials, and it all comes down to the final mile of the day. It’s a sprint finish. Your team sets up, a few of you lurking toward the front of the pack, staying out of trouble and in good position. Watching…watching…as so many other teams are doing the exact same thing….then….

BOOM. Almost imperceptibly, there’s a nod and someone flies off the front of the pack, his trailing teammates sprinting to stay in a cluster. Over a few hundred yards the tip of the spear, then his right hand man eventually peel off, their work done, their legs spent. If all goes as it should, the team leader comes out the winner of the day. Wears the yellow. The leadout men, who did the heavy sprint lifting, are left to come in 18th, 20th, 40th, who cares. Wherever their spent legs will coast them in.

After years and years of watching, I came to appreciate the pacers and their role. The dedication to a leader. The special craft in that support. All the teams working and split second strategy did make it an exciting few seconds of sports.

Sometimes pacing isn’t so hectic. We ran a half marathon a little over a year ago. One of the surprises at the pre-race expo was learning about the pacers. There would be people in the race running while holding up signs with times. Fifteen minute increments…2:00, 2:15, 2:30 and so on. If you were trying to meet one of those finish times for your race, you could hang with that pacer. In my case, I found a pacer and kept them in my sight. She had a flock of people running with her. Interestingly, she would stop and walk every once in a while, I guess to be sure she was hitting her goal on the nose. I passed the pacer a few miles in and in my mind I knew if she was behind me I was doing ok. I later wondered, was she a professional pacer? Her whole job was to make sure people made that goal?

I’ve noticed this in other contexts. Hearing my daughter tell stories of running alongside her teammates to help them make their benchmarks. People in health and fitness challenges jumping in to pace others over their personal finish line. And then there are people I pace off of, in the gym and in other areas of life, who may not even know they’re playing that role for me. People who just work hard naturally and I use their example as a model to keep in my sights.

It’s not really keeping up with the Joneses. There will be people who have habits and lifestyles I admire but pacing off them doesn’t make sense. It’s more about knowing the path I am on…sometimes the path I want to or need to be on, and finding partners or examples to pace off of. They’re moving along that path, ideally a little bit faster than me. Hopefully they’re willing to let me draft off of them for a while to make the path easier. At some point, like in the Tour, it may be my turn to take the headwinds at the front.

I am a helper. Maybe that’s why the idea of pacing people to their goals fascinates and resonates with me. Being a part of them moving along. Helping on the way. I’m not often the leader but I like being on the team that helps a leader succeed.

Who is pacing you out in life? Who is on your team, explicitly or implicitly? Who is on your path, smoothing the way or lighting the direction? Lifting your cadence?

On the flip side, are you pacing someone else out? Maybe without even knowing it? What does that mean for the choices you make? What direction are you leading in?

Another little something to think about.