Friday, July 23, 2010

Pound cake, fawn encounter, still bird & 108 degrees (Bike Post #2)

I left too late this morning as hauled myself on the saddle at 9:30... but I only realized my error later. Shortly after beginning, sweat started to drip off my nose like a spigot. This would not be an easy happy venture into the countryside.

Lesson learned: do not eat a healthy portion of granola (with honey and blueberries) followed by a quick sneak of a slice of pound cake and then go biking -- I felt bloated and heavy as I placed myself on the saddle. Hmmm... pound cake, now I know why it's called that... I felt like I was carrying additional weight up the hills this morning.

(My son thinks it should be called "gain a pound cake".)

Fast forward as my uncomfortable self traveled past the Salisbury Country Club and saw correctly attired ladies batting the tennis ball back and forth. The well manicured lawns and golf course reminded me of a recent conversation I had with my doctor.

I had been trying to schedule a physical. Teachers know that there's never a good day to miss a school day. Not only do lesson plans need to be created but then there's the worry of what happens while we're away. There are good substitutes as well as horrible ones -- those are the ones that fall asleep in class or ignore those plans that took me till 7 pm the night before to create (both have happened to me). Then there is always some type of mess to clean up the next day when I play the role of detective as I sift through the previous day's history attempting to figure out what really happened... and what consequences need to dished out.

I centered on a good day and made that appointment after learning from the receptionist that the good doctor is out every other Friday -- which, after having learned of this, I promptly asked about as he arrived in my exam room. It seemed he had elected to schedule bi-monthly "me time". A decision that he reported to me had paid dividends at home -- less stressed, healthier, happier to be with -- as his wife had told him.

Two children (eight and five years old) have demanded time at our house. Yes I know that all children demand time from their parents. We guessed this before the first one's birth -- but had no idea what type of demands would be asked of us.

Add second child, eliminate more time for oneself.

So all energy is spent toward children -- as it should be, right? But then I noticed that doctor's yearly appointments are scheduled for children first, clothes shopping is always scheduled around what children need, grocery decisions are made according to children's desires -- grocers have learned this and place those sweet sugary cereals at children's line of sight. I'm all for making children the focus of our life, after all my wife and I planned for their appearance... but I think a little bit for me is ok too.

It may seem selfish, you may be looked down upon by some, and you might even feel guilty like I have... but it's imperative that everyone takes some time for themselves. Do what makes you happy and that happiness will return to those you surround yourself with.

Perhaps like this biking thing.

I pedaled on. I looked to my right to a spot where I spooked a fawn two days ago. It bounced through the woods next to me for a few seconds... its white camouflage still doing its job as I failed to see it close to the road where it had settled into the grass when I came upon it. Thinking back, good thing it didn't decide to turn direction in vengence and show me what a fawn vs. bike collision would feel like. Funny image to you, but road rash vision for me plus the embarrassing story I would have to share about how a fawn took me out.

Man it was hot as I watched drips fall beneath me each time I dipped my head.

A few miles later I passed a sparrow lying next to the road. One with its feet straight and pointed up. Apparently it had met the wrong end of a vehicle at the wrong time. Such a precious little life ended by our desire to get to our next destination in a hurry. Odd how it lay quiet next to the road, as if it took its last breath while in mid flight.

And then I thought of cancer and all the people affected. I thought of my grandmother again. Of Jenn's grandfather Joseph. Of Scott's McEver Sr. Of Patty Moore who I knew through my wife and who is survived by three young daughters and a husband. She battled cancer for close to a decade if memory serves correct. As the cancer returned yet again, she thought ahead to write letters to her daughters to be opened at momentus occasions. Each of their daughters has grown into a beautiful young women - grounded and making their own way in the world. I only hope that we raise Annaliese to be as strong.

I was reminded of my son's classmate who was stricken last year with Leukemia at the tender age of 7. I am happy to report that she's recovered and back in school after many nervous months of wondering whether she would live. The initial shock of a life impacted so young, the induced coma, her tears brought on by her loss of hair. Benson delivering (unprompted) his piggy bank to a fundraiser in support of costs associated with her parents constantly being at her bedside. I thought back to how she passed along her cards of goodwill to other child patients in the hospital who didn't have the same amount of support. Inspiring.

The heat today was overwhelming: the weather app on my phone read 98 degrees / feels like 108. But as tiring as today was (no more pound cake in the morning for me... thank you), I was inspired yet again.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Overcoming Challenges on and off the Bike

Hello all:

When I was 19 a work colleague must have (because I don't clearly remember now) convinced me that riding on a hard saddle over many miles is fun. It took and I bought a Miyata bicycle and put a few miles on those tires. And then college got to the front of the line and took hold -- so much for bicycling.

Fast forward 15 years (yikes) and yes, I lot more pounds. After many a year being off the bicycle, my wife kindly presented me with a Trek this past March knowing that the bike bug had bit about a year ago. Since about last summer I have traveled the roads of my neighborhood on my mountain bike thinking that if I stayed with it a year... perhaps I would take a more serious look at a road bike. No need... my 40th present (no Corvette for me thank you) now stood in the living room waiting for me to climb on.

So for the past few months I have begun to understand some intricacies of what is required to get on a bike trying to go just a little farther and a little faster than last time -- it's harder than one might think. I have learned to actually take pride in tenths of an average mph increase. I'm so perplexed by professionals that seem to average over 30 mph when I can only painfully push almost 17 on my own (perhaps the 50 lbs I carry over theirs is one reason). When I'm slower, the cyclocomputer constantly berates me with its little arrow that points down when my average speed is down. When I'm faster... that little computer is my friend. When I have an off day, I look at my log that goes back a year -- those completed miles motivate.

I've now completed just over 1000 miles since March.

Hard to believe because more than a few times I wondered not how but if I would make it back home. I do remember that when I was 19 it was never a matter of if... funny how age creeps into one's confidence. My rides have gone beyond my neighborhood with loops just a little longer each time. While distance over 20 miles once seemed insurmountable, the miles now seem to pass a little easier. 32 on my own is now possible, 50 on my own perhaps soon.

And as everyone with a hobby knows, one easily finds lots of online material and magazines to further the appetite for more. I know more about cogs, derailers, headsets and bike seats -- although no where near enough not to rely on a bike mechanic.

What was once largely painful, is now fun and challenging -- but honestly... still painful. I've read that perhaps like rowing, competitive biking is a matter of who is willing to suffer more... uh, suffering hurts. And I'm guessing that there's a lot of suffering to get better. I don't want to race, but I do want to be competitive among those I ride alongside. There is nothing more disheartening than seeing others ride up a hill and "being dropped" to fend for yourself to the end of the ride. I've read that signing up for a ride motivates one to ride out of the garage early in the morning.

So I've signed up. My name has been added to the form, been sent in and I'm committed.

70 miles from Richmond to Yorktown in late August. Then another distance about the same in September (about a month later) and then in October the goal of 100 miles (I'm guessing about 6 hours on the bike -- which sounds really painful).

Why? Maybe I'm racing against not just time but also age (I hear midlife crisis being uttered by some of you). Perhaps like golf, I'm competing against myself. I find it therapeutic to get caught in the rain as I did yesterday, enjoy being on a quiet road as the early morning sun rises ahead, laugh (and grimace) alongside others as we ride toward's the day's goal of speed or time, and wonder to myself what 100 miles will feel like.

So here's to overcoming challenges. The Ride for Jim challenge on the 22nd of August will be the next one. I've got this yellow bracelet around my wrist reminding me that others have been challenged by much more serious challenges - fighting cancer. When the hill ahead looks insurmountable or the distance yet to go seems too long to overcome... I look down at my Livestrong bracelet.

On August 22 I will ride to Yorktown and I will think of my own grandmother that I never met as she died of breast cancer decades before I had a chance to meet her.

I will also be thinking of you: Kristin M, Tracey W, Jeanette C, Scott M, Will B, Cindy W., Jennifer H., and Barbara Clark... and hopefully more supporters as the ride draws nearer. On the Ride for Jim website you've shared who in honor of you've contributed. Names that I've taken with me on my rides too.

Two weeks ago on an early morning ride I stopped at the bottom of hill for a drink of water. It was shortly before 7 am on a weekday morning. I had already ridden almost an hour with another to go. I was standing there on the side of the road, sweat running off the end of my nose thinking of those that had already sent in a contribution... perhaps they're not just spending their dollars on supporting cancer research I thought... but maybe they're also supporting my efforts that morning as I work toward meeting the 70 mile goal.

It was a motivating moment that led to my fastest time yet.

Thanks for your support everyone. I hope to share more as I try to make each of my "sponsors" proud of my achievement. Thanks for your belief in me and more importantly, thank you for spending your well-earned dollars toward supporting cancer research.

Until next time, I'll be thinking of you when my legs scream at me to stop... to which I'll remember your commitment to my efforts. It really does have nothing to do with the bike.


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Summer's Here

Finally the year has ended and another summer is upon us.

What other profession does one work with colleagues day in and day out... and then everyone goes their separate way? "I'll keep in touch" "Have a great summer!" "Call me next week after a few days have passed" are heard in the hallways as teachers frenetically pack their belongings and prepare to have their rooms checked so they might leave school for the last time... for a few months.

I understand. Non-teachers are envious and even a bit hostile as they complain that teachers have their summers off. Thinking back... I was envious too before my first summer off.

My rebuttal? I have none. I love summers spent with my children. If you've got issues with that... well then you've just got issues. I've learned that time is invaluable. We in the US culture haven't caught on to that one as a nation. I remember my German uncle sharing with me when I was a kid that he and his wife had run out of places to vacation. I know that Germans generally START their careers with six weeks of vacation not counting national holidays. I've seen the local bakery (in a small German town) post their vacation schedule on their front door so customers could expect their favorite store closed for two weeks in August -- haven't seen that one here in the states.

Are there consequences? I bet that bosses everywhere have a few thoughts.

For now, if you need me, I'll be the one at the pool watching my kids' swim lessons, at the grocery store, getting the car inspected, and taking kids for the check-ups. I suppose I'm getting back all that time I spent eating lunch in 10 minutes and not being available every workday for 6 1/2 hours. My turn.