Friday, March 14, 2014

The Block

As the blank page stares back at me, I'm reminded of how many times I have attempted to write a post in the last month.  And it has, in fact been a month since I've published something.  Anything.  It is incredibly frustrating to have so much to say, yet when I sit down to write nothing comes out.  The blank page mocks me.

10 drafts disdainfully greeted me as I opened my blog page tonight.  If you are a writer, I know you can relate.  One day passes, then the next.  Each day the intention to write is there, yet the block sets in. In the old days I would have been surrounded by crumpled pages torn from the typewriter in frustration and cast toward the trash can. Discarded thoughts and words.  Meanwhile the blank page mocks.  I suppose I can take some solace in the modern method of writing where the "delete" button can come into play.  Although, as I recall there was a bit of satisfaction drawn from the violent act of ripping and crumpling the tangible paper.

I am determined this will not turn into another expendable draft.

I know what is causing my block. My life is changing. Everything has already changed.  I want to write about it all, and I due time.  Now is not the time.  So on some level, I have allowed this to limit me.

As a woman, my first inclination is to reach out. Spill my guts. Talk to other women who are going through, or have gone through, similar life changes.  Additionally (and this may be my ego speaking), I'm certain my story could help others.  Even if I could help one person it would be meaningful to me.  We all struggle in life.  Ultimately we are never really alone.

A day in the life for me today brought me back to gratitude.  I spent some quality time with my children.  Time that is precious, as they are growing up so quickly.  My daughter will graduate from high school in a little over two months.  She will spend the summer as a camp counselor in Michigan, then will begin college in September.  My son will spend an extended time at the same camp this summer.  I spent the evening with them and enjoyed every minute.  Time is precious.  Life is short.

Some good advice I was given recently;  Relax....just take time and let things unfold.  I'm learning to be quiet and listen, and take the wisdom that is given to me by the people in my life I care about.  Progress, not perfection.

Little things are what matter the most.  Laughter.  Writing. Living.  Growing.  And, perhaps a little cycling.  More tomorrow....

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Thoughts From the Trainer

It is snowing.  Again.  It seems the ground has been covered with a thick coat of white for months.  Accompanying the snow has been frigid air.  In a word, brutal.

It is Friday night, and I am on the trainer.  My plans for the evening had not originally included riding my bike.  I rode (on the trainer) this morning, and practiced yoga. I had been anticipating a lovely evening out. However, the "dusting" of snow which had been forecasted was slowly progressing into another five inches of the "lovely" white substance, putting a firm wrench into my plans. Another layer upon several previous layers of snow was piling up. The road conditions were terrible. I was bitterly disappointed to cancel, as I had looked forward to this evening all week.  

Perched in the saddle of my bike is typically my happy place. However, riding indoors has gotten tedious.  The bike, attached to the bright green trainer, has become the proverbial Road to Nowhere.  I sometimes have to laugh at how ironic it is to pedal furiously, yet literally not propel forward. Stuck at the starting line.  I repeat this process every day.  Crazy?  Perhaps, but the training will make me stronger which will translate to better riding this spring.  Soon...

My recent trip to Puerto Rico, and the 375 mile endurance ride in the hot climate, spoiled me.  It was a wonderful reprieve to ride for four days in the sunshine, no trainer in sight.  Several posts to come about this trip, which was the experience of a lifetime, to come.  They are in the works, so stay tuned.

Since returning to Indiana, we have suffered winter's wrath.  The powers that be are labeling this winter "the second snowiest on record".  Snow, which is so beautiful and peaceful, is not being enjoyed by anyone, especially the cyclists I know.  Even my kids, who enjoyed numerous snow days, are growing weary.

I've cursed the giant snow piles, scattered about town.  Including the 7ft tall pile in front of my house.  A few more turns of the snow plow on the cul-de-sac and the pile will dwarf the house itself.

As I settle into my intervals, my thoughts swirl.  I begin to laugh at the imagery of an adult woman silently cursing snow piles in the grocery store parking lot. It is rather silly. When I think of  all the serious things going on in my life and in the world, in the grand scheme of things a giant snow mound is quite insignificant.  Of course I would much rather be riding outside with the miles stretching behind me in the sunshine.  But today I still get to ride my bike. It is a privilege I embrace, even if it's on the trainer.  I'm healthy and lucky enough to be able to do so.

I mentally switched gears and instead of lamenting the snow and the fact that I was stuck indoors, I turned my thoughts to a more positive approach and took time to appreciate the positive things going on in my life.  I have some pretty amazing people surrounding me.  I'm healthy, and I'm growing spiritually and as an individual. Spring will come soon enough.

As my mind calmed, I let my legs spin and I wound down the ride with a smile on my face.  

I glanced outside at the snow covered street to see my lovely daughter shoveling the driveway (she must have gone outside while I was finishing on my rant-filled ride).  This, of course further softened my mood, and drew my attention to her beauty, as well as the serenity of the snow.  She had taken Frank, the dog outside with her, and he was unabashedly dashing around the snow, which added laughter to the scene.  I was immediately grateful

I am reminded that it is mid February and there are just a few weeks left in winter.  Spring is approaching, and I am looking forward to the day where I can pick up my green trainer, and unceremoniously place it in the storage closet in the basement where it will (hopefully) remain until December.

For now, and until the snow melts and the spring flowers begin to bloom, I will happily ride my bike.  It will be on the trainer, but soon....outside in the sunshine.

Peace, Out

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Laughter in Training

Back to blogging....

I wrote the draft of this post in December.  In reviewing my unpublished posts this evening, it dawned on me that I needed to post this, as well as write about my extraordinary experiences during the last several months.  I am compelled to get back to you and this blog.

Training for an endurance event is serious business.  It is a fine balance of hard work, rest, nutrition, hydration and more hard work.  An endurance event, when it comes down to it is a solo endeavor, however the road to the event is paved with training, friends and a support system.  It does indeed take a village to send an athlete out onto the course.

Training in the winter in Indiana requires either facing the elements, or riding indoors on the trainer.  Wind, snow, frigid cold...not for the faint at heart.  I have ventured out on the road as much as possible.  (Truth be told, I enjoy riding in the wind.)  However, the month of January, and now into February of 2014 has meant a lot of snow.  Lots...with a capital "L".  It's actually a bit ridiculous. As such, the trainer has been my friend and nemesis.

As you may know, I recently completed my first ultra distance event; La Vuelta Puerto Rico.  Three days peloton riding, 375 miles around the perimeter of the beautiful island of Puerto Rico. It was an amazing, life-changing event.  I will share more very soon.

The months surrounding this event have been rather tumultuous for me.  My personal life is a major way.  As such I have taken a brief hiatus from blogging.  In an effort to resume blogging, and write about this adventure, I'm jumping back a couple of months to the trip to Florida.

You may recall, in early December I began to write about the journey of three friends (a.k.a Tres Amigas) to a training camp in Mt. Dora hosted by MotionFit.  Kameel Abdurrahman is a captain at La Vuelta and has done the race many times.  We were anxious for the 141 mile mock La Vuelta training ride.  I left you  with the story about our stops in Tennessee.

Back on track:

Day 3...Friday, December 13, 2013 we arrived in Florida.  The town of Mt. Dora beckoned us after a very long 2 1/2 days of travel.  The town of Mt. Dora surprised me.  It was quaint and beautiful.  A small village of unique shops and restaurants.  We were eager to check in to our hotel, The Lakeside Inn, and get out on our bikes.  Alas, the desk clerk informed us that our room was not quite ready.  Dilemma.

Being the practical women we are, we decided to look for a laundry facility to wash our dirty, sweaty (smelly) clothes.  We had no idea of the fun that was about to unfold.  The mark of true friendship is being able to let loose and be yourself (honest and raw).

Turns out the laundry facility was not in the greatest of neighborhoods.  I am fairly convinced a drug deal went down in the adjacent parking lot.  We averted our eyes and kept our heads down.  The bench in front of the laundrymat housed an apparent homeless gentleman who had seemingly not seen a shower stall for weeks.  He seemed intent to sit and take in the three female athletes washing their laundry.

Still, we found time to be silly and enjoy the beautiful Florida sunshine, in spite of our surroundings.

Caught a few rays....improvisation as no beach was nearby.

Met some interesting characters. 

In such a setting, we lost ourselves in laughter.  Even if just for an hour or two.  We finished the laundry, found our way back to the Inn and rode our bikes.

One step closer to La Vuelta, many steps closer to each other.

More to come...we have a lot of catching up to do!

Peace Out xoxo

Thursday, January 2, 2014

The Quest

I talk about facing my fears in this blog. It is my daily struggle for progression in life. I was asked by someone close to me today if I thought it ironic that I write about "fear no more".... yet am still full of fear.  No.  I don't find it ironic.  However, this idea gave me food for thought.  I love writing, and this blog is my outlet.  I'm not discouraged to discover new fears crop up, but rather inspired by them.  Progress, not perfection.  That's what this phase of my path is all about to me.  I've awakened recently and discovered that I like me.  With all my faults.  I can't hide from the world, but rather I must embrace it.  There is no other way for me to move forward and gain strength then to walk through my fears with an open heart and mind.  To stagnate is to die.  And I want to live.

It inspires me, and fills me with hope to hear feedback from readers that in some way, this blog has touched them, as they have similar struggles. Let's be honest.  Fear is a force.  But only if we let it get to that point.  If my fumbles can help even one, then it's worth it to write honestly in this forum.  Spiritual journaling with a purpose.  Sure, it might come back and bite me on the ass, but I'll take that chance.

The key component to me is putting it out there.  So what if something comes down the road that I struggle with.  It's called Life.  Shit happens, as they say.  It's what we do with the shit that matters.  Sit in it or step out of it.  To me, it's a simple choice.  Move on.

That being said, I want to expound upon my fear du jour.  It may sound silly, but with the serious things going on right now in my life, I want to write a light hearted piece.

For me,  I think one of a woman's most dreaded obstacles in life isn't boyfriend or work struggles....but rather shopping for jeans.

Jeans are a staple in our wardrobe.  They can be dressed up, dressed down, worn to the point of being held together by a mere string of fabric, patched, faded and loved.  Like a relationship, our love affair with our jeans goes through many stages.  Love, hate, anger when the zipper won't zip and elation when we can fit back into our "skinny" jeans or when our "boyfriend" jeans feel as if we are comfortably ensconced in sweat pants.

Then comes the sad day when your favorite pair of jeans are just not fit for public display.

At this point, it becomes necessary to shop for a new pair. Second only to bathing suit shopping, it can be painful. It can be likened to dating.  We get dressed up, go out, try several on and nothing fits just like they should.  The mini try-on sessions just don't feel right. Frustration sets in.  We just want the perfect match.  Is that asking too much?  It's all about putting the jeans on and having that "ahhhhh" moment and you just know you've found them. Like anything in life, it takes time and patience.

After the perfect pair is found, the honeymoon phase sets in.  We want to wear them all the time.  With heels, with sneakers, with sequin tops or with a sweatshirt.  Never ending fun combinations and happiness.  When we look good in our jeans, we feel that we can conquer the world.

With time, the jeans grow more comfortable.  They seems to mold with our body, forming just the right fit.  They soften, fade and become more dear.

Facing the fear, letting it go, processing a new situation and giving it time to grow.  In time, almost everything becomes like the perfect pair of jeans.  Comfortable, easy and just right.  Given a little effort, love and patience.

If you need me, I will be shopping fearlessly for a new pair of jeans.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Standing at the Turning Point

Here I am, yet again. The turning point. A position I've found myself numerous times during the past several years.  My toes are poised on the edge of the jump zone, the cliff if you will...yet an unseen force is holding me back. My arms are outstretched with hope...yet I remain frozen in fear. What the hell am I really afraid of?  Success?  Happiness?  Living my dreams?  What really is to fear in these options?

Realistically, there is nothing to fear.  There is only potential fulfillment in the path of happy destiny.  Yet, up until today I've chosen the path of least resistance. If I were to be brutally honest, I've been making this choice my entire life.  Don't ruffle any feathers....don't upset the apple cart...keep everyone happy.  My M.O.D. has been to be the good girl.  The one who smoothes things over.

It's time for me to break out of the shackles.  Here I find myself back on the edge of the cliff.

For my loyal readers...this is not a surprise.  I've been here for some time now.  The girl who cried "wolf!!" has seemed ready to move forward, then as she is about to make her move she falls back yet again. Those who know me well are holding their breath...expecting me to jump...yet here I have remained.  There is egotism there. What will people think?  If the caterpillar becomes the butterfly?  Change.... In the grand scheme of things, it doesn't really matter who I please.  It matters that my actions reflect my own next right action.  To do "the next right thing." For myself.  Ultimately, if I am not acting in my own interests, what the hell am I doing?  Who's life am I really living if I care only about what others might think, or how my actions might impact others while thinking nothing of myself?

The cliff has seemed to be a safe haven.  Yet at the same time a stagnant place.  The strength within me yearns to leap into the unknown freedom, and meanwhile the fear keeps it's stronghold.  Deep rooted, as my feet seem to be in the rocky ground of the cliff.

Pain, frustration, stunted growth.  This is where I have sat, almost comfortably.  Just existing.  Allowing life to flourish around me, yet not completely free to join in myself.

For a year now I've been writing about facing my fears.  Through baby steps, similar to my athletic training, I've gotten stronger.  Comfortable in my own skin.

To thine own self be true.  Live honestly, nobly and remain open and in complete willingness to embrace life's challenges.  This is the only way I can grow.

Fear No More...

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Journey Continues

My eyes opened on day two of our journey.  Thursday, December 12, 2013. We had arrived long after sunset the night before so I was anxious to see my outdoor surroundings. It seemed we had driven through emptiness arriving in the middle of nowhere. I was imagining beauty, from the description I had been given by Becky, our hostess.  I was not disappointed. The morning light peeking through the window displayed a spectacular view of the pristine landscape of the back of the home, which had been hidden in the thick darkness of the night. It was remote and breathtakingly beautiful.  There was not a sound.  It was as if time stood still and I was the only person present. I had been given a room all to myself, probably for the last time on this trip. I stretched, like one of Becky's cats, and remained in bed for a few more minutes lost in my thoughts. This was a rare luxury and I was taking full advantage.

As I relaxed, I closed my eyes and reflected on the sense of peace I was feeling.  Our slow progress toward Florida was another luxury I appreciated. This trip means more to me than a simple vacation and cycling training. It is a catalyst to an even deeper level of spirituality. A much needed battery recharge. 

I was in perfect company. The three amigas, as we have dubbed ourselves, have different personality traits, yet we blend well together. Balance each other.  Compliment each other. Athletes, women and friends on a common journey.  There are times in life where one must put the hustle and bustle behind and return to simplicity.  We had no particular agenda other than to arrive at athlete check-in in Mt. Dora, FL at 6:30pm Friday evening, and the big training ride on Saturday.  Otherwise we were winding our way slowly to the sunshine state.

I am not spontaneous.  Or, at least I haven't been.  Recently I have been consciously letting go of a lot of my old ideas, habits and character flaws which have been holding me back from achieving balance.  On this trip I have learned spontaneity, patience and tolerance.  So far.  Ha Ha.

We had a lovely breakfast with Becky and Fatty the cat, reloaded the car and hit the open road. Destination: Chattenooga, TN. The only plan was to ride our bikes when we arrived. Hopefully part of the Ironman Chattenooga course, if we could locate it.  Basically, however we had no idea where, when or how long the ride would be, and I let go of the control.  I was along for the ride, so to speak, in more ways than one.  And that's huge progress for me.

We arrived in Chattenooga around 11am, and scoped out a good place to start. We parked in an open lot and unloaded the bikes.  It was colder than we anticipated and we needed our cold weather gear.  We laughed, bundled up (understatement) and set out.  We were going to attempt an out and back, as we were unfamiliar with the town and surrounding mountains.  Yes.  Mountains.  We started out, and Catherine stopped to request some sort of directional advice from a local Salvation Army bell ringer.  He seemed to know what he was talking about, and once again the urge to act spontaneity struck and we decided to throw caution to the wind and set out in the direction he pointed.  Our plan was to make as few turns as possible.

After taking an eternity to get changed, fill our water bottles, use the restroom and set out amidst much laughter, it was close to 2:00pm.  The ride was hard.  The elements and the terrain worked against us, but we persevered!  It felt bitterly cold, there was a fair amount of wind, and we faced challenging climbs.  (I happen to love riding in the wind and I embrace climbing, so the ride was so much fun.)  The girls had a blast as well.

Downtown Chattenooga was beautiful and the perfect spot to break up our trip to do what we love.  

We returned to the car, locked our gear and our bikes and had an early dinner. Ben and Jerry's ice cream for dessert. We justified the calories with the exertion we had put forth on our bikes. We got back on the road at 6pm, laughing and chatting as we replayed the day. We stopped for the night (spontaneously) in Valdosta, GA.  

Next destination: Mt. Dora, FL  A three hour drive....

To be continued....

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Journey to La Vuelta MotionFit Training Camp

Day One
Indiana to Rutledge TN
Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The adventure begins. Michelle Atkins, Brenda Juarbe-Pearson and coach extraordinaire Catherine Lacrosse. Amazing cyclists and very good friends setting forth on a cycling vacation. 

Three girls, three bikes and too many bags. In pre-trip discussions, we all vowed not to overpack. That being said, we over packed. I mean, let's be honest, a girl just never knows what shoes to wear with a given outfit until she's getting dressed. It's best to have options. Additionally, five days of cycling in various climates requires a fair amount of gear. However, we managed to squeeze the luggage, bikes and ouselves into one car. We are at maximum capacity.  And loving every second. 

In preparation for The Big Event, La Vuelta Puerto Rico in January, we are attending a weekend training camp presented by Motionfit. Kameel Abdurraman is Motionfit and is a road captain for the peloton style La Vuelta. It promises to be a fantastic weekend of solid cycling. Saturday we will ride 141 miles, and a short 40 mile wrap up ride Sunday.

Obsessed with cycling as we are, a few extra days of riding have been added to spice up the adventure. 

We are traveling by car from bitterly cold Indiana to sunny, warm Florida.  Tonight we will stay with friends in Tennessee. Becky Gillum and her husband Don are our hosts. Becky is a fellow Ironman and it will be fun to add a fourth lady to the group for the night. 

The six hour drive was filled with laughter and much-needed girl talk. We arrived in Tennessee feeling refreshed and joyous. Becky had advised us that her house had "exploded with Christmas" and we were not disappointed. Decorating is evidently Becky's gift. The lovely house was tastefully "Christmas-ed". Every room appeared to be an exhibit in a fine art museum with over 500 Santas, mostly antique, artfully displayed. A beautiful home and a perfect sanctuary for the night. 

It was a wonderful, relaxed evening. Just what I needed. 

My life has been quite turbulent recently. This first day of our trip, surrounded with love and laughter, has renewed my spirit.  As I stretch in the big, comfortable bed ending the day with evening meditation, I am at peace. 

Day Two...driving to Chattenooga, TN to tackle the Ironman bike course. 

To be continued...