Saturday, November 24, 2012

the mastery-confidence-joy cycle

when my children were small we had a grand collection of videos.  animated fairy tales, fables and stories were favorites, and often played on our television in the family room.  the swan princess fell somewhere in the top ten, and every time it played, I would smile when the song practice, practice, practice came on.  it became my standard response when any child would ask how I became so good at drawing straight lines, cutting out circles, baking perfect cookies, all of those things we parents do . . . practice, practice, practice.
I would sing it, the kids would cover their ears and say stop mom, I know.
then it became how do you ever get good at math?  how do I get better at piano?  how can I be better at lacrosse?  how will I ever learn to drive a  manual transmission?
practice, practice, practice.

and here's the thing:  we practice, we practice some more, we practice again and again and one day we realize that we have gained some bit of mastery.

I love cornering.
I love being confident going into a curve, leaning into it, swooping around and down descents.  I am not the world's best corner-er, but I have mastered it for my level of cycling ability, and I love it.

I love writing and editing.  I love tinkering with words, fixing sentences, assessing and creating new ways to make something more readable.  I'm not the world's best editor or writer, but I'm pretty darn good and find great pleasure in both tasks . . . I've gained some mastery over the written word, and I love it.

when we gain this mastery, we feel confidence in our actions--whatever they might be--and what then trickles in is this delightful little thing called joy.
which doesn't arrive without that first event:  practice.
but once you reach that place where your lines are straight, your circle-cutting is smooth, your cookies turn out great, you can corner with confidence and edit succinctly . . . you realize the joy of mastery, the joy of confidence, the joy of doing something well.

practice, practice, practice.
and when mastery finally arrives, let the joy completely fill your being.
grin, laugh, shout, scream woo-hoo . . . and sing, if you want.  you've earned it.

Friday, November 16, 2012

the new toy

preface:  this is not about cycling.  (well, only a little, and only at the end.)

prologue:  I hate making coffee.  measuring grounds, filling the reservoir, all of it.  hate it.  but I like drinking coffee. there you go.

chapter one:
2 years ago I visited my brother and his family in texas.  they had a keurig coffee machine, and I fell in love with it.  I popped a pod in, pushed a button, and voila, had a cup of coffee.  sigh.  bliss.  I decided then and there that when I hit my stride, had enough money coming in to feel secure and comfortable, I would treat myself and buy such a machine.  it would be an indulgence, a luxury, a goal to shoot for and one day reward myself with.

chapter two:
I got married.  john drinks regular coffee, and I drink primarily decaf.  for the first 3 months of our married life we had 2 coffee pots on the counter . . . his and hers, regular and decaf.  in planning a kitchen remodel we considered a built-in, cup-at-a-time coffee maker (that housed both regular and decaf beans) to eliminate those 2 cumbersome machines.  boy are those things expensive.

chapter three:
someone suggested we try a keurig.

chapter four:
we bought a keurig, some decaf pods and some regular pods.  john brewed the first cup, sipped, smiled, and sighed in contentment.  I brewed a cup of decaf, sipped, smiled, and sighed in contentment.
we no longer had to fill our coffee machines the night before, we no longer had to guess how much coffee we wanted to drink before we drank it, we no longer needed two separate machines in the morning.  we learned we could have a cup of fresh, hot coffee in about 30 seconds.  we glowed.

chapter five:
I am now a happy camper, with one small not-too-expensive, neat machine on my counter, a happily caffeinated John and a happily not-too-caffeinated me.  we and our keurig plan to live harmoniously for the rest of our days.  or at least until they invent a new coffee-making method that improves upon the one-cup-at-a-time keurig.

some toys are worth every penny you pay for them.  my bike and my keurig top that list.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

the last .1 percent

a while back (on my other blog) I wrote about the final mile.  about making it 999 miles, and feeling like the last mile in your effort to reach 1000 will possibly break you.
this was more about mental and life journeys than about real cycling . . . that is, until a climb I rode a week ago brought this sharply, clearly, fully in focus, right in front of me.

last week I was in maui (I know, not one bit of empathy out there from all y'all, that's okay), home of Haleakala.  the volcano.  my sweet john rented road bikes for us for the week so that I wouldn't go stir crazy and start chomping on or throwing things, and if you have the slightest idea of who I am, you'll figure out that I decided I had to ride my bike up haleakala.   john, willing knight, dropped me off at the ocean and I started pedaling up baldwin avenue toward the crater 35 miles ahead.  up.  up ahead.

I spent the first ten miles swiveling my head from right to left, up and around, amazed by the lush greenery surrounding me, the neat plantations, the old buildings, the low lying land off to my right.
while panting.
because the road was gently but consistently arching upward, with a gain of 500 feet in elevation every two miles or so.
about 10 miles into my ride I hit "the rodeo road"-- a cut-through that led me from olinda (which took over from baldwin avenue) to the haleakala highway-- a blessed down-and-up level half-mile stretch before the climb once again resumed.
at about 15 miles I hit the turn-off to the crater, where john had parked the car and started pedaling, elevation 3500 feet. and I kept climbing, john somewhere up there ahead of me.
I watched the painted messages on the side of the road ("breathe," and elevation numbers with every 500 feet gained), stopped when I needed to, sang praises for the visitor center (bathroom, water refills) at 7000 feet, and just kept pedaling up switchback after switchback after switchback.
when I reached the visitor center at the top, I saw a road stretching dramatically up to a smaller observation center higher up on a peak.
no, I thought, as I circled the parking lot, looking for john, for john's bike, for an excuse to stop.
no john, no bike, no excuse.
I headed up that last steep incline, gritting my teeth, telling myself I had enough left to get there.  after perhaps a quarter mile, I saw a cyclist waving at me from beside the road where it leveled off . . . it was a happy-to-be-there john.
and then I saw that the road hadn't yet ended . . .
there was one last extremely steep-looking climb to the round observation center on that little peak.
we sat and talked, we breathed, we drank water, we both looked at that last little climb and said, no.  our legs were fried, we were fried, and enough is enough.  we'd ridden 99.9 percent of it, and I was done.  done.  done.

then john looked at his garmin, which told him we were at an elevation of 9928'.
not the 10,000' we'd been promised.

we looked at the road up, looked at each other, and climbed back on our bikes for that last push.
as we crested the ridiculously steep little climb we saw the small wooden sign pounded into the volcanic rock on the right side of the road,  ELEV. 10,000 FEET.
we road on up to the lot, circled a time or two, and returned to the sign for a picture.

I honestly didn't think I could make that last push, that last tenth of a mile, that last teeny little climb.
but I did.
we did.
and life is all the better for it.
nuf said.