Thursday, August 29, 2013

PedalPGH! 2013

I had a great experience last weekend!  I participated in my first real cycling event - PedalPGH! 2013.  My wonderful son and daughter-in-law, and their terrific cycling friends, convinced me to give it a try and then rode with me and encouraged and supported me all along the way.  It was pretty awesome! I made it up some hills without stopping, took a rest on a few and then continued, and later in the ride I did have to walk a few times, but I wasn't the only one who stopped or walked. I was able to "stay with the pack" at times, passed a few people here and there, and got passed by many. Thanks so much to Colin and Stef for all their encouragement and patience and for riding slowly in order to stay with me! I count my first group event ride as a big success!

This was my route.  We did the 25 mile city tour.  We rode over several bridges, through a variety of neighborhoods, several parks, and different areas of the city.  Riding on city streets, in traffic, with lots of other riders was a whole new experience for me and I really loved it!  The whole event was so well organized and the routes were clearly marked.  There was a record number of participants too.  Almost 3,000 cyclists rode one of the 3 possible routes!

This was not my longest ride ever, but definitely my most difficult ride ever!  The description in the ride packet and on the website says, "Expect a few mild hills."  Mild?!  Maybe by Pittsburgh standards, but not by mine!  I was definitely challenged by these "hills" (read "mountains") but it's good to be challenged, right?  Below is the profile of my route. 

This was such a great experience for me, I will definitely sign up to do this again next year!  I might even look for more events like this to participate in.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Night Rider

Just practiced my "just do it!" philosophy again (See my blog post from earlier this evening). It was heading into dusk and I still hadn't gotten my bike ride in.  I went anyway and accomplished my first night ride!  Now, if you know me at all, you know I'm very afraid of the dark, have been all my life!  I cope pretty well as an adult, and am pretty good in my familiar little village with street lights, but tonight I was outside of town in less familiar areas.  But it was kind of cool hearing the crickets and seeing the colorful, fading after sunset glow in the sky.  I have reflectors on my tires and helmet, and blinkie lights fore and aft, but it did occur to me that I might need some reflective clothing too, especially since it's getting dark sooner. Hmmm.  I might have to go shopping in Pittsburgh this weekend!

Lessons Learned #4 - Just Do It!

Getting ready to participate in my first cycling event, PedalPGH!  on Sunday.  I have my jersey, my ride booklet, and my number.  This is the first time in my life that I have ever participated in something where I was given a number to wear!  I'm excited, but also a bit apprehensive.  It was a bit of a leap for me to officially register for a real event.  Will I be able to handle the ride?  The hills in Pittsburgh? Will I look like a fat dork in a cycling jersey, since I haven't lost nearly as much weight as I was hoping for?  What will "real cyclists" think of me, my bike, how I ride?  But my son and my daughter-in-law, and many of their wonderful cycling friends, encouraged me and so, I took the leap.  That familiar Nike slogan kept ringing in my head - Just Do It!  And so I am going to.  Hmmm.  I think I feel Lesson #4 coming on.

Lesson #4 - Just Do It!
Cycling Lesson - Cycling is full of "Just Do It" moments for me!  Whenever I start out on a new route, a longer ride, an unfamiliar hill or obstacle, a familiar hill that is always trouble for me, I wonder if I can handle it or not.  Dressing for a ride causes a bit of apprehension as well.  What will I look like in a sleeveless shirt or more form-fitting exercise shorts?  Registering for this PedalPGH! ride.  Heck, just getting on the bike in the first place!  But I can't let these things get the better of me or I would never ride.  Just get on the bike and go, whatever may come my way.  And 9 time out of 10, I discover I can do more/better than I thought I could!

Life Lesson - Life can be fraught with apprehensions, misgivings and worries.  Acknowledge them, but then summon your inner cheerleader, step outside your comfort zone if necessary, jump in and just do it!  Don't get in your own way and hold yourself back.  You might surprise yourself and your accomplishments will be all the sweeter!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Lessons Learned #2 and #3 - Park Your Bike in the Kitchen and Celebrate the Small Things

I had another great ride today with my 2 best girls - my 7 year old granddaughter and her mom, my thirty-something year old daughter.  We did the 5 mile old Village of Hilton bike route together, plus a small detour for a treat at Abbotts near the end, for a total of just over 6 miles.  Although Brianna has ridden 5 miles with me before, this is the first time she has done it without a break and with several good-sized hills in the mix.  This brings me to the next 2 Cycling/Life lessons in my series.

Lesson #2 - Park Your Bike in the Kitchen
Cycling Lesson - There are so many obstacles/excuses that can prevent you from riding your bike - it's too hot, it's too cold, it might rain, I'm too tired, I have too much to do, not enough time, big hills, blah, blah, blah.  And after not riding for a few days, inertia can be a powerful force to overcome.  I don't have a garage.  We have a shed in the back of our yard, which is where we normally store things that others would put in a garage, like bikes.  But if my bike were way back there, out of sight, those excuses and inertia would win.  Instead, I park my bike in my house, in my kitchen.  Every time I go into my kitchen, there it is, begging me to ride it.  Not getting on my bike and riding is what weighs on me, not all the reasons preventing a ride.  It's a great motivator!  And every time I ride, I'm so glad I did!  Today was one of those days!

Life Lesson - There are so many things in life that that get in our way and prevent us from doing what we should/need to do. Find what motivates you to do the things you'd rather not and put that motivating force where you can't ignore it.  Park your bike in the kitchen, if you need to.  

Lesson #3 - Celebrate the Small Things
Cycling Lesson - Frisbee Hill is my nemesis!  It's the steepest, toughest hill I regularly encounter.  The other day I was determined to make it all the way to the top without stopping.  I didn't make it.  I did have to stop once.  But I didn't stop twice, and after catching my breath for a minute, I powered up the rest of the hill in a higher gear than usual!  That's incremental progress!  Who hoo!  Focus on what I did, not on what I didn't! And today, riding with Brianna, she faced a steep hill on Short Hills Drive.  It's a tough one for me too.  She stopped half way up, so I stopped with her, which makes it that much harder to start up again.  So I did something I've been nervous about doing.  I stood up and pedaled and, viola!  I powered up the hill in my highest gear!  All the way I could hear Brianna behind me cheering me on and when I started to sit down, Brianna yelled, "No Nana, don't sit down, you can do it!"  And, not only did I get up the hill, but Brianna powered the rest of the way up too, and so did Heather!  Hooray for us!  Every hill I do better on than the time before, every small increase in my average miles per hour, each extra mile I add to my ride, are all additional ways I keep motivated to keep riding.

Life Lesson - Sometimes we get so caught up in the big goals and the things we struggle with, that we forget to recognize and celebrate the incremental goals, the smaller successful steps along the way.  My 3 year old grandson is a baseball fanatic!  He will swing and strike out a hundred times when you pitch a ball to him, but he keeps going and cheers emphatically for himself when he does connect and hit the ball!  It's those hits that keep him trying.  As a teacher, and as a parent and grandparent, I frequently find myself positively reinforcing small steps children make.  Why is it that we forget to do this for ourselves?  So take some notice of all the small successes you make and give yourself a cheer!  Celebrating small moments can keep us working towards those bigger, tougher goals.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Country Girl

I think I'm a country girl at heart.  But don't get me wrong - I'm not a fan of country music and I've never owned a pair of cowboy boots (and never will).  But I do love living in a small town with so much farmland nearby.  I grew up here.  My parents were teachers, not farmers, but our house was surrounded by cow pastures and corn fields.  I used to love playing "explorer" in the corn that was so tall it was like a forest.  We took our canteens filled with Kool-Aide, packed lunches in our backpacks, and spent the whole day lost in the corn. We ice skated in the back of the field where it flooded and froze.  We built tree forts in the hedge row of trees.  I grew up and married a civil engineer turned farmer with a wedding ceremony held outdoors on his family's farm.  And I love driving, walking, and now cycling on our country roads in farm country, or spending time on our farms.  I love the beauty of a freshly plowed field, of the contrast of color with a dark green corn field next to a bright green rolling field of oats, of the actual amber waves of grain blowing in a breeze, of the bees hard at work in the bloom, of the fragrant scent of the apple, cherry, and peach blossoms in the spring.

I took a long ride today.  Started with the 5 mile Village bike route and then headed out to our farm that is at the end of Redman Road at Cook Road, at the far edge of Hamlin, NY.  I rode around on the farm a bit and then headed back home.  It was a total of 32 miles.  At 27 miles my legs started asking, "Are we there yet?!"  But I persevered.  What choice do you have when you are out on your bike?  You have to keep going.  And it was all so beautiful and peaceful that it was definitely worth the effort!

Our Hamlin farm.  Peaches on the right foreground, corn on the left foreground, apples in the distance on the left.
Did a little "off-roading" down the lanes and pathways on the farm.