Another Year Older

Another birthday, another reason to celebrate. Life. Love. Family. Friends. Living. And you better believe I made the most of it. I filled the day with all the things I love most. The day included hiking, biking, more hiking, and of course family.

I started the day with a solo hike on Boulder’s Mesa Trail to NCAR trail, then home. I then challenged myself to tackle the NCAR hill via bike. Yes, this 53-year old asthmatic flatlander completed the climb, thank you very much. The day was then rounded out with a family hike at Chautauqua Park, followed by lunch. It was a fantastic day indeed.

I spoil myself in similar fashion on every birthday. Being outside is my absolute favorite thing to do. Moving—hiking, biking, running—makes me feel supremely alive! Basking in nature’s glory is the only party I need. I’m thankful to have a family who allows me to indulge in my heart’s desires. They realize I’m not the only one who benefits from these outdoor forays. I’m better for them—physically and mentally. I am restored and revitalized.

Here’s to another year of life—loving, living and celebrating each and every day. Cheers!

B~

Recon Ride

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One week ago, I had the distinct pleasure of leading a group of women on a 25-mile off road ride through some of South Florida’s most natural flora and fauna.  The purpose of the ride was to honor some of the strongest women cyclists on the planet who would be competing in the 2017 Le Course by Le Tour de France–a 22.5 kilometer (14 mile) women’s cycling race held in France July 20th.  Although actual pre-ride registrants totaled 20, eight bright-eyed and bushytailed riders from as far south as Broward County showed up at 7:30 for the 8AM ride.  What touched me most is that I hadn’t before met half of the eight riders.  Additionally, two or three of the riders had never ridden a distance greater than ten or so miles.  I am beyond humbled these women entrusted me, a complete and total stranger to some, with their safety and wellbeing.   Wow!  Let that sink in.  And do you want to know something else?  That’s exactly what I was hoping for.

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I remember how terrified I was when I embarked on my first long-distance off road ride.  I thought I would be left in the dust by the seasoned men and women who rode with us that day.  Thankfully, that didn’t happen, but the thought was there nonetheless.  What I stressed to the women who signed up for last week’s ride was that I would be there with them every single pedal stroke of the way.  I wanted them to know they were safe with me; there was absolutely nothing to fear.  The pace would be moderate and I had no pre-established time for completion.  That took all the pressure off not only me, but the women riding with me, too.

The ride went off without a hitch.  Yes, it was hot, after all this is South Florida.  But we left early and were back at the parking lot by 11:15—and that included a brief SAG stop manned by none other than my husband and son.  Bless them.  The ride was a success.  How do I know?  Because everyone said they didn’t want the ride to end.  Additionally, they all asked when we could do it again.  A few even suggested the following day.  Yep, sounds like success to me.

I can’t wait to ride with you again, ladies.  Hopefully more of you will join us, too.  The more, the merrier!

B~

F Words

The Force
Photo courtesy of Ashley Barker (www.barkerfoto.com)

Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right. ~Henry Ford

I recently had the extreme pleasure of spending six days in Northern California with approximately two dozen amazing women.  A dozen or so women, myself included, were there as newly crowned ambassadors for Specialized.  Ambassadors from North, Central and South America converged on the West Coast for the 2017 Specialized Ambassador Summit.  We spent two days on campus at Specialized’s headquarters in Morgan Hill, CA, then shuttled over to Felton, CA, for two days of personal growth workshops, yoga, biking and food (lots and lots of glorious food).

We received the event agenda a week in advance.  I was excited for every facet of what the company had planned for us, but riding was high on my list.  I couldn’t wait to experience new and different terrain in a less hot and humid climate. As both a mountain biker and someone who gravel grinds long distances, the ladies at Specialized elected to give me a riding experience closest to my riding style of choice in South Florida—a gravel bike, but to be ridden with the group of road riding ambassadors.  Understand, however, aside from short forays here and there, I’ve never really ridden on the road.  To be completely transparent, I’m actually kind of terrified to take to the roadways on a bike.  I find drivers to be not only distracted but aggressive, as well.

Ride #1 – before the “wheels came off”

When the day came to ride, we changed into our kit and boarded vans for an hour or so drive to the mountains nears Santa Cruz.  I was as stoked as my counterparts to try out our new whips.  After bike adjustments and photographs we were finally ready to hit the trails and roads.  Climbing started rather quickly.  Additionally, the roadways were rough and pockmarked in places due to last season’s heavy rains, resulting in washouts and landslides.  I had to keep my eyes wide open for all sorts of obstacles.  And, let’s not forget the traffic, both oncoming and from behind.  I lost my composure early on, never to regain it.  Additionally, I suffer from asthma, which I control with a treatment inhaler.  Once my breath got away from me, I was unable to recover, in any way, shape or form.  I don’t think I had fully acclimatized to the altitude.  I only made it about 13 miles into a 30+/- mile ride.  As much as I hated to do it, I climbed into the support van.  Yes, I felt physical relief, but I also felt like I failed.  Once I settled in and caught my breath, I had to fight back tears.  I felt like such a fool.  I felt I was less than my fellow ambassador counterparts.   When we returned to our lodging, I disembarked from the van and hung my head in shame as I made my way to the entrance to greet the returning riders.  I forced a smile as I cheered them on, feeling overwhelming embarrassment for my inability to keep up with the group.

Ride #1 – Notice who’s absent from this photo? Me! I’m in the van, taking the photo.

I harbored this shame throughout the evening’s activities and into the night.  I was unable to sleep, consumed with feelings of inadequacy and worried I disappointed the brand I was eager to represent.  I awoke dreading the day’s ride.  Following breakfast, we participated in a yoga session interspersed with personal goal setting exercises.  I enjoyed both, but couldn’t shut down the nagging voice in my head screaming, “Failure!  Fraud!”

Lunch followed the session, but before heading to lunch, the roadie group had a brief meeting to explain that a decision had been made to split the group in two—a challenge group and a chill group.  Riders selected the group they wanted to ride with.  Having been part of an earlier group conversation about the ride details, I inquired about the climbs and length of the climbs.  (I heard they were going to be even more difficult than the prior day’s ride.)   The chill ride leader confirmed this.    I internally began to panic.  She then told me it would be okay to stay on the property and have some downtime.  This was absolutely not what I came to do, nor wanted to do.  I came to be a part of this experience and to ride with my newfound friends.  It was at this point that I began to cry.  I was completely overwhelmed with the feeling of failure.  The ride leader quickly realized my consternation and listened as I voiced my fear and concern.  I absolutely did not want to have a repeat of yesterday.  Bless her soul.  She urged me to give it a try.  She assured me the support van would again be tailing us and, if worse came to worse, I could bail on route.  I collected myself, dried my tears and headed toward my cabin to change.  On the way, I rang my husband and again burst into tears.  I asked him to say a prayer that I would complete the ride.  He sensed my anxiety and talked me down, all the while telling me I would be fine and reminding me of the many rides I’ve done in the past, many of which were probably tougher than this.  We hung up.  I changed, grabbed my bike and reported to the van.

We shuttled to the drop location, disembarked, and took off, beginning the ride with a steep descent.  I intentionally positioned myself directly behind the ride leader, as mentally it boosted my confidence, as opposed to starting at the rear of the pack.  We descended and climbed, descended and climbed over and over again.  The riding was spectacular, and the views even more so.  When it was all said and done, we completed a 25-mile loop through Big Basin Redwoods State Park, ending back at the van.  I didn’t want the ride to end.  I still had a lot left in the tank.  I was on cloud nine!  I had conquered my first mountain.  I had completed my first true road ride through the mountains.  I felt invincible!

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Ride #2 – Pure exhilaration!

Had I let my fears—fear of the ride, fear of failure, and fear of proving myself a fraud–get the best of me, I would’ve missed out on one of my greatest experiences to date.  I am so glad I had people who listened to me, encouraged me and lifted me up.  Had it not been for them, I may not have embarked on something so challenging and monumental.   I will remember this ride (and the following day’s equally challenging and even more spectacular ride) for the rest of my natural born days.

While at the Summit, we ambassadors had the pleasure of working with internationally recognized transformational coach, lifestyle strategist, and mind/body teacher Amber Campion.  Ms. Campion reiterated a statement several times that really stuck with me.  I’m paraphrasing her words, but she said something to this effect:  It’s not your story people hear.  It’s their story in your story they hear.  That being said, some of you may hear your story in my story.  Some of you may have had, or one day may have, these self-defeating thoughts.  You may hear the tiny yet loud, nagging voices of failure, frustration and fear of being labeled a fraud.  Dear friend, push them aside.  You are so much greater than this.  You are fierce, formidable, a force to be reckoned with and all around effing fantastic!  Own it, my friend.  Own it!

B~

The Best Ride Ever

Fear (noun)

  • an unpleasant emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger
  • anxious concern

I hate fear.  Who doesn’t?  What I hate more than fear itself, however, is when I give in to it—in big ways and small ways alike.  Fear makes you miss out on some of life’s best offerings.

This post falls in the small column, without a doubt.  But, if these words encourage someone to step outside their comfort zone in even the smallest of ways, it’s worth the space.

My previous post (A Worthy Labor of Love) spoke about apprehension, which to me is a not-too-distant cousin of fear.  If you read that post, I was apprehensive of the prospect of tackling travel with bikes, biking equipment and a kiddo, sans husband.  A Worthy Labor of Love spoke of following through with my intentions and our (J-man and my) success in our endeavors.

This post is not much different, except my emotion on occasion this week was fear.  I was afraid of traveling to new and unknown areas and trying new trails with my son. I was fearful to tackle a solo backroad ride.  After all, my dear mother reminded me—it’s desolate and backwoods out there.  There’s safety in numbers and over the years I’ve come to rely greatly on my husband to act as buffer between our family and the evils that lurk outside our pedestrian lives.   Truly, if it doesn’t happen in a 25-square mile radius, I most likely don’t do it.  I’ve become complacent in my old age.  Always the adventurer, time and circumstance have tempered my adventurous spirit.  I’ve spoken before about my inherent wanderlust—something that has followed me, and at times downright plagued me, throughout my five-plus decades on this earth.  One thing I’ve come to know is that wanderlust is like bread dough, if you let it sit for too long it runs out of gas and will cease to rise, but I digress.

This post is about taking chances and experiencing the best life has to offer in a given moment.  I’m so thankful J-man told me he wanted to ride a new trail on our second day out.  Had he not, I most likely would’ve returned to the one from the day before—one that I have ridden hundreds of times in my lifetime.  At his urging, however, I stepped out of complacently and squarely into adventure.  Accessing the trailhead, as it was not well detailed on websites, gave me pause at the onset of planning the ride.  Additionally, riders commented about climbs, bumpy trails and ambiguous trail closures due to construction.  Further in the comment thread, I read the first-hand account of someone who witness and reported drug dealing activities at a skatepark across the street from the trailhead.  I was beyond nervous; I was fearful.  I was fearful of putting myself and my son in harm’s way.  But, as is sometimes the case, too much research and thought can wreak havoc on joy.  I bit the bullet and took a chance.  Boy, am I glad we did.  It was hands down the nicest gravel trail I’ve ever ridden in my entire life.  The flow was easy and the pastoral views were spectacular. It was exactly what my soul desperately needed.  J-man said it was the best ride ever.  And trust me, hyperbole eludes him so it must’ve been a great ride.

Fear manipulates us in many areas of our lives.  Fear invokes complacency and keeps us from living the life we want (or perhaps more deeply—the life we are meant to live).  We become comfortable–in relationships, jobs, life in general.  We become afraid to step out and pursue things that bring us joy.  We avoid risk at the sake of losing our security.  We diminish our abilities and capabilities, and ultimately are less honest to our own selves.  We settle.

Don’t let fear manipulate you. Embrace the moment.  Jump into life with both feet.  Enjoy it!  This is not a dress rehearsal.  You have one chance to make the most of your time on this earth, dear reader.  Make certain you do just that.  Make it the best ride ever!

Pedal empowered.

B

Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy. ~Dale Carnegie

 

 

 

A Worthy Labor of Love

Have you ever committed to do something you weren’t certain you were equipped to do?  You knew you had the ability to perform the required tasks separately, but putting them all together to achieve a specific and (somewhat) monumental feat seemed daunting. That’s precisely how I felt this past week as I prepared to travel from Florida to Pennsylvania with our 8-year old son and our bikes.

Travel is my middle name.  Travel with our son is even sweeter. Traveling with two bikes in tow plus luggage and 8 year old?  I was a bit apprehensive.  What sent me over the top was the prospect of assembling the bikes as soon as possible once we reached our destination.  That gave me pause.  The local bike shops I contacted quoted me a turnaround time of two business days for assembly and two days to disassemble and repack.  That would eat up too much precious ride time.  So, I committed to doing the builds and teardowns myself.  I was extremely nervous.  Thankfully, my jitters were all for not.
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We had a full day of airline travel Friday.  My most amazing travel companion and I grabbed our luggage from the baggage carousel and made our way outside to the car rental facility.  I had reserved a Ford F-150 pickup truck so we loaded everything into the bed and king cab and hopped on the highway. Unfortunately, Pennsylvania road construction (thank you, potholes) caused major roadway traffic and bottlenecks as we drove to my mom’s house.  A typical airport drive takes approximately 50 minutes.  It took J-man and I slightly over three hours to make the drive.  After five hours of sleep the night before, I was toast.  As badly as I wanted to tackle at least one bike, it was not going to happen that night.

A good night’s sleep is indeed a panacea.  I awoke Saturday morning feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the bike assemblies.  My Specialized CruX Expert X1 went together like jam on peanut butter.  I had to borrow a TX-25 driver from my sister to install J-man’s rotors, so we took my mom out for lunch and a drive through the rolling Pennsylvania countryside.  I stopped by my sister’s house to pick up the driver and returned home to finish assembly of J-man’s bike.  I had the bike back together in no time at all.  J-man and I hopped on our bikes for a short spin around the neighborhood.  I felt like I had quite literally conquered the world!
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We took our first real ride this morning.  J-man completed one of his longest rides to date at 18.5 miles.  The rolling hills were a bit of a challenge for him (in his mind), but I knew he’d have no problem.  When we returned to the truck, J-man turned to me and said, “This was the best ride ever!”  This labor of love sure was worth the undertaking.

B~

Foolhardy

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Friends, you would not believe the ride my mister and I went on today.  Adequate words to describe what we experienced escape me.  I usually reserve such a statement for breathtaking vistas/scenery and wildlife.  However, I make use of this statement today under contrary circumstances.  The scenery may have been beautiful, but I was far too focused (and terrified of what may have been lurking nearby) to take in my surroundings.

fool·har·dy
‘fōōl härdē’
adjective

recklessly bold or rash.
“it would be foolhardy to go into the scheme without support”

  • synonyms:  reckless, rash, irresponsible, impulsive, hotheaded, impetuous, bullheaded, daredevil, devil-may-care, madcap, hairbrained, precipitate, hasty, overhasty;
  • literary temerarious
    “their foolhardy plans”

The phrase “foolhardy” definitely applies to today’s ride.  To understand why, you must first realize, in South Florida, we received an entire month of a typical June rainfall in the first 10 days of the month.  Yeah, that’s a massive amount of rainfall.  And, given the elevation of Jupiter, Florida, is 6.562′, there’s not sufficient drainage to accommodate eight inches of water in such a short period of time.  What does this have to do with the term foolhardy and/or today’s ride?  Well, a substantial portion of today’s route was completely underwater.  I don’t mean traces of water; I mean tens of yards of trail at time, completely submerged under a few feet of water—as in nearly to the top of the wheelset.  Why continue riding you might ask?  Because of a little thing known as the point of no return.  We were so far in that there was no feasible way to turn around.  I would not have made it back.  So, what do you do in this instance?  You put your head down and shoulder ahead, of course.  It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life.  Did you get that?  ONE.  OF.  THE.  HARDEST.  THINGS.  EVER!  Superhuman strength was required to make it through the underwater sections, bearing in mind they had a base layer of sugar sand and mud.  The sections that weren’t underwater were comprised of saturated sugar sand, which was the equivalent of newly poured concrete.  Completing the longer sections had the same physical effect as doing a full-on sprint that far exceeded my level of ability and certainly comfort.  My quads and hamstrings were screaming, and there were more than a couple of instances in which I had to dismount to simply catch my breath (as indicated in the above photo).  I would love to have captured at least a portion of this journey on film for you.  (I’m kicking myself for not having the Go Pro.)   It was just that unbelievable; so you’ll have to take my word for it.  Without a doubt, today was a day we pedaled empowered.

B~

Oh, ladies!

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What do you get when you combine two dozen women, eight or more miles of stellar singletrack (thanks to a solid week of South Florida rain) and a rainy Saturday morning?  A raucous good time, that’s what you get.

This morning, 25 women of all skill levels overtook the trails at Jonathan Dickinson State Park for a monthly, ladies only, no drop, all skills ride.  For these rides, riders are divided into groups based loosely upon skill levels.  The groups stop periodically between segments to regroup, ensuring no rider is left behind and facilitating a true feeling of community and cohesiveness.

I love meeting and making new friends on the trails.  Who better to spend time with than likeminded, fierce, confident women?  It’s a joy to get to know them as individuals and riders.  As a group leader, I love watching women who are unsure of their riding abilities tackle and overcome features they may find sketchy.  I think I just might be more excited than the rider herself, when she pushes herself beyond her level of comfort.  I’m thrilled when I see that beaming smile of accomplishment radiating from a rider’s face.  Shredding, hucking and making new friends makes for a great day.  Thanks, ladies, for yet another fantastic time on the trails!

Invaluable

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Miss Lora

The school crossing guard is an invaluable, indispensable, and oftentimes unappreciated person.  It’s a tough job.  I wouldn’t want to do.  Would you?  Crossing guards are like the postman, doing their job despite rain, sleet and snow, or in the case of South Florida, in endless, blistering heat and sweltering humidity.  Add to these conditions fending off late, distracted and irate drivers in two-ton motorized weapons automobiles, and you surely get the picture.  As bicycle commuters, J-man and I have been eyewitnesses to drivers behaving badly–very badly.

Since J-man has been in school we’ve only had female crossing guards.  Let me tell you a little somethin’ about these women.  They are FEARLESS.  They fend off impatient and occasionally irate drivers while wielding nothing more than a plastic stop sign, all for the sake of providing our kiddos safe passage.  FEARLESS!

Please, as the school year comes to a close, don’t forget to thank these precious  souls.  They are deserving of your gratitude.  And when the coming school year rolls around, get to know them. Spend a few seconds in conversation with them while waiting for the light to change.  Let them know they matter.  Let them know you appreciate them.  After all, your kiddo has arrived safely at their destination because of them.

B~

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Miss Lora gave J-man this amazing handmade card today.

School’s Out (almost)

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Two days.  That’s all that remains of this school year.  It seems like the school year just started.  It’s not all been smooth sailing, but we made it out alive.  Better than alive.  There were struggles along the way.  Academic struggles.  Relationship struggles.  In the life of a second grader, that’s close to all there is when it comes to school.  That’s the world at large.  But, J-man has persevered.  He is victorious.

I always miss these twice daily bike rides when summer break arrives.  These morning and afternoon rides serve a far more meaningful function than navigating roots and sandpits on the trails.  J-man and I have an ease when we commute by bike.  We talk about everything and nothing.  If I have something important to broach with him, I do it in the morning when we’re riding.  That’s when he’s most receptive to what I need to say to him.  On the way home, we have a chance to talk about the day’s victories or setbacks.  It’s a time of decompression and talk of life’s lessons.

Over the years, I’ve penned more than a couple of posts on my family blog, Sing Dream Hope Pray, about the importance of riding for J-man.  I’ve written of how it affords him time and space to compartmentalize his thoughts in the morning before starting the school day.  None of that has changed.  This physical activity is invaluable therapy for J-man.  And, it’s perhaps even more invaluable to me, as it’s precious—a time I hold sacred.  This boy has been in one type of therapy or another since eighteen months of age.  He’s participated in speech therapy, occupational therapy, feeding therapy, sensory integration therapy and equine assisted therapy.  Nothing has benefitted him the way riding a bike has.  Having grown up on a farm and around horses, I loved equine therapy for J-man and I truly wanted him to succeed at it.  However, his fears prohibited him from letting go completely when he was astride a horse.  This doesn’t happen when he’s riding a bike.  Yes, there are certain trail features that frighten him, but not enough to keep him from riding.  That’s the beauty of mountain biking—there’s almost always a bypass—a safety feature.  For the most part biking, in all its forms, is a quantitative character.

So, as we look ahead to third grade, I’m already looking forward to morning rides and conversation—about everything and nothing at all.  I’m looking ahead to talks about math and (dreaded) reading, friends and frenemies, Simba and Haile, God brothers, Xbox, and Lamborghinis and Koenigseggs.  In the meantime, however, let summer begin!

B~

Exciting News

Ambassador

I’ve got some exciting news to share.  Back in early March I submitted a brief online application to be a Specialized Women’s Ambassador.  I believed my passion for riding and earnest desire to see other women experience what I experience astride a bike made me a viable candidate for the role of Ambassador.  Despite my belief in myself, however, I never in a million years thought I’d be selected.  There are so many talented, dynamic women riders out there that I thought I basically had a snowball’s chance in he** of being chosen.  A date to be available referenced in the online application came and went and I figured I hadn’t been considered.

Then, much to my delight, I received an email in early May asking if I’d be available midweek for a video conference.  A couple of weeks after the video conference I received another email asking if I’d be available for a second video conference.  It was during this call that I was asked to be a Specialized Women’s Ambassador.  I was floored!  I am humbled and honored to be working with a brand I so greatly admire.  I love what Specialized has done for women riders across the board.  From sparking a passion in women like me, an “every woman” who simply loves to ride, to bringing to market the best “machines” and equipment for riders of all skill levels—casual rider or world class athlete—I think the company has done more for the sport of women’s riding than any other brand out there.  Period.

Hopefully, you’ll follow me (and join me if you’re local) in the coming year as I endeavor to grow a community of passionate women riders—young, old, casual, competitive, wives, moms, single ladies, and everyone in between.  Together, let’s pedal empowered!

B~