Sunday, October 27, 2013

it's good to have a goal

it's good to have goals.
some people give you all kinds of rules for your goals, such as that they be measurable, written down, specific, attainable, and that you can explain why the goal motivates you.
I find that when a goal is important enough to me, it's enough for me to hold it in my head (and heart) and quietly work toward it in the best way I know how.
I often set goals for riding miles each week, or to make it up a specific canyon so many times during the summer, or similar events.  and today, I reached a goal that I've had since oh, about august 27th.

after my accident last august, I was off my bike for 6 weeks.  many things change in 6 weeks, including  fitness level, ability, muscle strength, and endurance.  when I began biking again I constantly had to remind myself to be patient.  constantly.  
I wasn't very fast, and it didn't feel great.  in fact, it was hard and it hurt. (the muscles around my ribs and scapula lost most of their strength and have become the first place to ache as I ride.)   but I wanted to get back to what I knew I was capable of, I didn't want to let that crash take away everything I'd worked so hard for.
so I kept riding, trying to accept whatever I was able to do on each ride.  I obeyed my physical therapist and (mostly) rode only every other day.  I tried to add a few hikes on my off days.  I got a little faster, and I reached a point where I could ride for two hours without exhausting myself.

back before I could really get out and ride again I knew that--more than anything--I wanted to be able to ride up Big Mountain before the fall riding season ended.
none of my rides told me that I was ready for that.
the furthest I went was to the beginning of the switchbacks, which is about 2.25 miles from the top.
then last weekend I rode my mountain bike 4 days in a row, and did a strenuous hike as well . . . and I felt okay.

and today, today, I rode up big mountain.  without stopping.   woo hoo!
on august 25th I had two large-bore chest tubes removed, on august 26th I was discharged from the hospital, and today, october 27th, I rode from home to the top of big mountain and back.
I met my goal.

there've been many days I thought it wouldn't happen, or that it would take me forever and I'd have to keep stopping along the way.  I was never certain I'd make it, but I knew I would give my all to make it happen.

it's good to have goals.
it's awesome to accomplish your goals.
and it's especially good to keep a little woo hoo in your heart as you reflect upon what you've worked so hard to achieve.  so do.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

four days three falls

I am not a mountain biker.
have I said that before?
some would tell me I need to change my thoughts and words to "I am a great mountain biker" and then I would become one . . . however, I believe in speaking the truth.
I am not a good mountain biker.  yet.

the white rim trail is a jeep road that takes one from the top of Canyonlands National Park down the side of the colorado river gorge--about 1500 feet down--where a trail winds along another "rim" another 700 feet or so above the river itself.  there are campsites along the trail---every 10 miles or so---and the campsites we had permits for were all in the first 30 miles of trail.  therefore, we did an "out and back," retracing our path on the final day for our exit.

during our descent down the gorge I squeezed my brakes so hard I thought my hands would give out, and I experienced more than a little bit of fear.  picture a road cut into the side of the grand canyon wall . . . this is how we descended.  thankfully the road isn't technical;  it's just darn steep.  I survived.
after we set up camp we went for an exploratory ride, searching for the "thelma and louise" jump-off spot, looking over cantilevered edges down into the winding river far, far below.  I kept up pretty well on the uphill, and got skunked on the downhill.  call me chicken:  I retain a bit of fear about falling.
funny, that.

the second day we rode to our next campsite, then went out on another exploratory ride, during which I encountered a slightly-too-technical-for-me uphill and . . .  I fell.  just a little fall, the kind that happen when you're barely moving and then all of the sudden you're no longer moving and gravity pulls you down.  of course it was onto my left side--the injured side--but I gained little more than a few scrapes and a lovely bruise on my left hip.  

that night I fell again, but it was only off my air mattress while I was trying to fall asleep.

the third day we hiked from the white rim trail to the top of the gorge, as a third of our party had to leave and this was the quickest way to get them back to their cars which were parked at the top.  again, picture a narrow trail cut into the side of a grand canyon wall . . . with thirteen of us hiking up it, the toughest (not me!) taking turns carrying the 5 mountain bikes that had to be hauled up. unbelievably tough, these friends of mine.

the final day I fell again.  squirrelly sand got me, sucked my tire in then sent me off the road . . . this time, however, I fell on my right side.  whew.  a little scrape, some sand in the mouth, another blow to the ego . . . but that was all.

so, four days, three falls.  I wasn't always comfortable on my bike this trip, in fact, a significant portion of the time I was anxious and even a bit afraid.  I didn't want to get hurt; I didn't want to fall.  but fall I did.

it's said that growth occurs only in the area outside our comfort zones.  neale donald walsch (conversations with God) goes so far as to say life begins at the end of your comfort zone.  

I have a long way to go to become a great mountain biker, and I might never get there.  but if I don't spend some time outside what is safe and comfortable, I'll never get one bit better.  just as babies fall hundreds of times before they become consistently stable walkers,  I guess I'll keep trying, risking, and occasionally, falling, as I continue my own growth through this life.

life begins at the end of your comfort zone.
yikes.  I'd better get moving.

Monday, October 14, 2013

the bonita

my cycling life began with a bonita.
white with blue trim, solid and sturdy, with shiny disc brakes, the novara bonita was the mountain bike I chose back in the spring of 2005, replacing the bike I'd had stolen out of my garage a few months earlier.
the bike that had been stolen was a mountain bike, and all I'd ridden as an adult were mountain bikes.
however, I lived in suburbia and needed to fit rides in between work, kid activities, and keeping my single-parent household functioning, so my rides started at my driveway and made loops that returned me home within 45 minutes or so.
then I moved closer into the city, and decided to get a little more serious about riding.
which led to more uphill, which led to the canyon that's mouth was 2 miles from me, emigration.
which eventually led to my purchase of a road bike.
cycling up the canyon on a road bike was much more freeing, and soon I discovered dozens of other routes that left from my driveway and returned me there, eventually.  I became a roadie.

the bonita stuck around, though, and I continued to ride it once a year, sometimes even twice.  I am not much of a mountain biker, having spent most of my time pedaling the bonita on roads instead of dirt.

where bonita and I will soon be
but now the bonita is getting ready for a trip, and I get to go with it.

this friday we leave for the white rim trail in canyonlands national park....and we'll be traveling with people who are expert campers and mountain bikers.  me and bonita will be trailing along behind, doing our best to hang in there and survive.  we've mountain biked a bit in the moab area, but never for four days straight, and never while camping.  I think we're both going to get dirty.

many of my friends enjoy mountain biking, primarily because it gets one away from houses and cars and out into nature.  I just need more confidence, and gosh darn it---confidence seems to come from experience!
the more I get out on those trails and ride that bike, the more comfortable I'll feel, and the better I'll be.  I'm afraid you can't learn to ride over rocks and tree roots until you actually get out there and ride over rocks and tree roots.  and sand.  and slick rock.
so we'll see what this coming weekend teaches me.
it may teach me that I enjoy mountain biking, that it's as great as being on my road bike.  it may teach me that I'm a better rider than I think.
or it could teach me that I could use some more practice.
or that road biking still has my heart.

bonita and I will be heading to the white rim trail with open minds, and a commitment to fun and adventure, no matter the speed or finesse.
and what matters most, as my mountain biking friend leslie says, is that we all
keep the rubber side down.

back at you next week, with tales, I'm certain!

Monday, October 7, 2013

how to cure impatience

I've been walking more than usual lately.  the dog likes this, and for the first little while, I do, too.
and then I get antsy, I think I've walked much further than I have, and I'm ready to be done.
I'm impatient.

yesterday I tried to focus on being in the present moment.  this is something we're encouraged to do every minute of every day, but I usually find it difficult to accomplish.  as I type this I'm simultaneously thinking about what else I need to accomplish today, what my daughter is doing in the other room, what's for dinner, what time I need to leave for my appointment, and what I'm going to do with my hair.
so yesterday, while cycling, I decided to keep my focus on the beautiful day around me, the leaves, the air, the boundless sunshine, my body on my bike, my breathing . . . everything that was happening at the time.  thoughts of future events flitted in, of course (I wonder when I'll be ready to ride big mountain again, gosh I've got a lot of volleyball games to attend this coming week, wonder when I'll get my car's tires rotated, you know) but I gently ushered them right back out and pulled myself back to the road surface beneath my tires and the warm sunshine on my back.
I did pretty darn well.

I try this when I'm walking, but I just get antsy.  I want to be there already.  perhaps it's because I'm just so accustomed to moving at biking pace, not walking pace, where I'm used to things moving by more quickly and the tenths of miles ticking off much more rapidly.
from my short-lived attempt to become a runner, I know many distances around my neighborhood.  I live on the corner of a fairly large street, and know that it's exactly half a mile to the next fairly large street.   each cross street in between is somewhere between 1/20th and 1/10th of a mile.
I use this tool frequently when cycling:  oh, a mile is just twice the length of my "block."
if I'm climbing a steep hill, I'll pick a landmark up a ways, and tell myself that will be the next cross-street, and after I've hit 8 such milestones I'll have half a mile done.

it's not always easy to estimate distances, and there have been plenty times I've watched my little cyclometer, waiting for it to tick to the next 1/10th of a mile, knowing it's long past due.

this happens to me all the time when I'm walking:  I just know I've walked further than I think and for a longer period of time than I think.  sometimes I'll come home from a walk, knowing I've walked two miles . . . and only 25 minutes have passed.
I cannot walk a mile in 12.5 minutes.

and now you'd probably like me to tie my thoughts together, so here goes.
if I could learn to focus on the present moment, I could let go of my impatience, and then I wouldn't need to worry about how far I've gone, because I'd be enjoying it so much the miles (or tenths of miles) would just slip away under my feet.
there you go.

this is what I will focus on for the rest of the month:  being present to the degree that I forget my awareness of time and distance.
being present as a cure for impatience.  sounds like something worth trying,
and something I think the dog might like.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

sightings: sheep, racks and toes . . . and a girl on a bike

instead of continuing to moan about how  s l o w  my recovery seems to be and how  s l o w l y  I seem to be riding these days, I decided to share with you three of my favorite "sightings" in the past 48 hours.

first, on sunday john and I rode our mountain bikes on a dirt and gravel road in the uinta (which comes from a Ute Indian word meaning 'pine forest') national forest.  snow bunched in leafy spots and lined the shady edges of the road, and within half a mile of starting out we found ourselves riding through a sheep herd.  baaaa.  fat sheep, less bulky sheep, a few black sheep, lots of skittish sheep traveling our same direction, crossing the road and up along narrow paths, munching grasses alongside the road, running away from me every time I baaaa-ed back or said hello.  jumpy things, they are, and not terribly attractive, but quite fun to ride along with, watching them scurry away from my slowly moving big fat muddy tires.

second, this morning on my ride up emigration canyon a handful of motorcyclists passed me.  all were courteous, but one made me grin because he was carrying his mountain bike on a rack on the back of his motorcycle.  whee!

third, yesterday evening I watched as a large gentleman in his late sixties settled himself in the chair in the nail salon, slipped off his socks and shoes and rolled up his pantlegs, stepped his feet into the water-filled tub before his chair, and sat back to enjoy his pedicure.


sheep will be sheep--and I do find them quite humorous--and I love to see people doing what they love to do.  which means, I suppose, that if someone showed me a picture of myself riding up the canyon today, back tight, torso aching, sweating, moving all too slowly, I would have to say,
ah, there she goes, doing what she loves.
way to go, girl.