Thursday, July 20, 2017

A very very special New Bike Day

Yesterday one of my friends texted me with a picture of her 15 year old son riding a two wheeler for the very first time. I got choked me up. The tears in my eyes were happy tears. It’s not only that her son was experiencing that special feeling we all get when we ride a bike, but because he is autistic.

This week he was attending I Can Shine’s I Can Bike camp and they had been teaching the kids how to ride. First with rollers instead of a back wheel. Over the course of the week the rollers got smaller as each child became more confident. Eventually the rollers were replaced with a wheel. What an amazing concept. Adaptive cycling is truly special.

Riding with rollers instead of a back wheel

To top off this special day, it happened to be his birthday And, what better way to celebrate than picking out a brand new bike. Yep, a super special New Bike day! Today he is at camp riding his very own bike. I joked with my friend that her son’s face will hurt tonight from smiling so much. It’s a good hurt.

Riding his NEW bike!!!
Sure cycling is a great form of exercise, but it is so much more. It’s exhilarating to be able to ride around under your own power. It’s empowering and challenging by pushing you to achieve more than you thought ever possible. Cycling builds confidence and socialization. There are benefits for everyone no matter what your physical or mental status.

I found an article about Patrick McCallister, a cyclists who also happens to have autism. Here’s a snip it on his experience.

“Cycling and autism go hand-in-hand for me. We autistics love rotation, spinning. We love rhythmic activities and can do them for hours. We dislike facial contact. When I’m cycling, I’m in an autistic’s dream world. The front wheel’s spin is absorbing, soothing. I’m moving in a repetitious motion for hours releasing a lot of built up sensory stress.

My cycling buddies — well on saddles they’re not wanting facial contact. All eyes forward; watch the road even when you’re chatting. The autistic obsession I have with talking about narrow interests at length — among cyclists it’s invisible. They’re talking about nothing but bikes and cycling, too.  When I’m among fellow cyclists, everyone is acting like me for a couple hours and I’m not the weird one.

I’ve given up driving, which wasn’t hard. I always disliked driving, because of low sensory thresholds. As I got older and less able to handle sensory stress, the more concerned I got about being able to drive safely. I got a small fleet of bicycles to commute, shop, work, play and exercise on. Bicycles give me a way to get around without endangering others.”

I’m always thrilled when someone tells me they’ve taken up cycling and I see that big smile on their face. It reminds me why I love the sport so much. But when I hear stories like the one of my friend’s son or when I work with Dare2tri athletes, it takes it to a different level.

It’s a good day. A very Happy Birthday to my friend’s son and especially Happy New Bike Day. You earned it!

Enjoy the ride.


Monday, June 19, 2017

What would you do for a new bike?

Race season and training is in full swing. We are pushing our bodies to points we didn't think we were capable. But we don't do it for the bling. We do it because of the high from pushing our bodies to limits we didn't think possible. Okay, sometimes it's for the bling.

This past weekend Mitch was in another room just giggling as he watched a video on his phone. What he shared with me had already been seen by thousands. A father, plugging his insurance company, doing the Stinky Fish Challenge. He bets his wife and two young daughters they couldn't sit through him opening a can of Surstromming (basically rotten fish) and eating a piece. Each person picked their own prize. One daughter asks for a new bike, the younger one wants a Flipzee Girl doll and the wife's prize are diamonds. One guess who I was rooting for.

Be sure to watch the video with the sound on and watch it through the end.

Yes it is funny, but what impressed me was this little girl's determination to get a new bike. She sits there and proclaims it smells like a "toot", but doesn't gag, encourages her dad and just is fixated on that new bike. She wills herself to sit at the table while BOTH her parents and little sister are literally retching from the smell.

It is amazing how we can will ourselves to do something if we keep our eye on the prize. Be it finishing that big race, tackling a big climb or like this tough little girl...block out the stink. Mind over body is an amazing thing and we put ourselves to the test every time we clip into those pedals, zip up our wet suit or lace up our running shoes. You can do anything you put your mind to. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.  Be strong, be fierce, be bad ass.

I hope her dad came through with an amazing new bike for his daughter. She's going to be a power to reckon with now and in the future. So to this little girl, I say...w

Enjoy the new ride,

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Listen to your gut

Going with your gut is bypassing logic and trusting your instincts, without knowing why. Logic can assist us in looking forward and planning or in reviewing the past, but when you need information in an instant your instincts give you the best guide for making decisions.

Today I was out fat biking on local forest preserve trails with Mitch and a friend. On our second loop we came across a couple standing on the side of the trail with their bikes laying on the ground. The body language between them made me uneasy. She looked extremely upset and he had a hold of her arm. My gut said something wasn't right. Logic said 'don't stop by yourself it could be dangerous.' I was in the back of the group and they wouldn't know immediately that I stopped.

When we got to a trail split I asked the others about what we just saw. My friend said she did call out "is everything okay?" and the man responded "yes". But nothing from the woman. I told them I didn't feel we should leave without going back and hearing from her that she was okay. The fact that she looked in distress and he had his hand grabbing her arm just didn't sit well with me.

So we retraced the trail back to them. They were still standing where we left them. The woman still looking very upset and you could see she was physically shaking. I directed my question directly to her and asked if she was okay. She nodded. Not convinced we continued to ask questions and make sure she was not in harms way. Turned out she fell on the bike for the second time and was very shaken up.

Physically she just had a little road rash but mentally she was really shaken. After chatting with them we were convinced she was safe and went on our way.

I have a healthy respect for going with my gut and trusting my instincts. There's a difference between trusting your instincts and going out of your comfort zone. Instincts warn you something isn't right, while pushing outside your comfort zone isn't necessarily going to harm you. More often then not it helps you grow.

Today I could not have gone home without making sure this woman was okay. Especially with recent reports of women being grabbed on a local forest preserve trail.

Enjoy the ride.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Empower the Girl. Ignite the Women.

May is National Bike Month and with that comes numerous cycling related events including bike to work week/day and bike to school day. Last night I attended a Ladies Night at my local Trek shop. I always love these events because it brings women of different cycling ability together to talk about cycling, engage in knowledge sharing, as well as make new friends. 

The store was kind enough to let me have a table to promote the Venus de Miles ride and Dare2tri. It was great to engage in conversation with women who were looking for a ride to challenge themselves. Some set a goal to finish the 25 mile route, others the 60 miler. Being an all women's ride, Venus de Miles provides a non-threatening environment, which was inviting to the women I spoke with. I really hope to see many of them out on the road training and empowering themselves to achieve more.

Ladies Nite included topics like clothing, lights, saddles, bikes (women's specific), and bike fit.  The evening concluded with a panel of four women with different cycling backgrounds, one of which was yours truly. The floor was opened to questions of any topic. It was a comfortable setting so no one felt intimidated and could ask anything. I’m always thrilled to share my knowledge with others and in turn learn something new. I hope that this group of women left feeling excited about cycling, empowered to challenge themselves, and invigorated with their new knowledge.

Today is Global Women’s Cycling Day and on May 14th, Mother’s Day, it’s CycloFemme. I love  their tag line…"Empower the Girl. Ignite the Women." CycloFemme is a global celebration of women created to honor the past from the shoulders of those who stood before us, for the freedom to choose and the chance to wear pants. To celebrate the present with strength and courage, voices raised, moving together. To empower the future of women everywhere, the backbone of positive social change.

I can only hope that what transpires from this weekend's events mimics what I saw last night, but on a much larger scale. 

Enjoy the ride,

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Do epic sh*t

As we age, it’s harder for us to get out of our comfort zones. Push ourselves to try something new or achieve a goal we thought unachievable. What’s so great about being out of your comfort zone? It makes you uncomfortable. But then like magic it makes you feel stronger, empowered and energized.

Betty Designs, a woman owned and run athletic apparel company, launched a line of wrist bands and gear with mantras to inspire as well as empower women. And it works! 

Recently I found myself in a rut, almost like being on a hamster wheel. But in the last two weeks I’ve pushed myself outside my comfort zone. Spring time…time for new beginnings and time to shake things up. Right?

First, I started a weekly hilly ride with one of my local bike groups. I dislike hills and have worked in recent years to embrace them. Telling myself, they break you down only to build you up. Last week was the first ride of the season. It was me and 8 guys. It started out as a bit of a hammerfest with me clinging onto the back of the paceline gasping for air. My head was swimming with thoughts of not wanting to get dropped, but most of all, don’t make them wait for you. Yes, I was out of my comfort zone.

I’m determined to keep this weekly ride and ultimately become a better climber. This group will make me a stronger rider, pushing my limits with every ride.

Today was my second “out of my comfort zone” moment. We’ve been lucky to have a mild winter and a string of warm days. Loathing the black line of the pool and anticipating getting back to open water swimming, I was excited to hear the Otters were taking the plunge this morning.

I don’t do well in cold water, but the desire to get in open water, trumped everything else. So this morning I put on my big girl suit and headed to the lake. The group milled around with excitement of getting to swim open water again…it had been since October. I started to question my sanity until my friend took out her Betty Designs swim cap. In bold letters it said “Do Epic Shit”. It spoke to me and I jumped (okay slowly lowered myself) into 58.6 degree F water. It was definitely frigid, but I pushed myself to swim to buoy 1, then buoy 2. Somewhere between buoy 2 and 3 I just got too cold and turned around. But I felt exhilarated, or was it hypothermia? Getting out of my comfort zone energized me. Made me feel alive again. Zero regrets. 

To keep this theme going we head out east next month to do some crazy rides with some major climbing. It’s going to be tough, but I know in the end I’ll be stronger and empowered.

So go out and do some epic shit and be a bad ass. It’s empowering in a world these days where sometimes you feel powerless.   

Enjoy the ride,