That said, while I've been spending time in my head shifting my expectations of myself, I've also spent a lot of time out on the road shifting gears on my bike. I'm riding in the 2010 Friends for Life Bike Rally -- a 6-day, 600km bike ride to raise money for the Toronto People With AIDS Foundation, an incredible organization that provides tremendous support through direct service programs to men, women and children living with HIV/AIDS. My friend Jonathan convinced me to participate in this year's ride, and since I now live my life in possibility, and trying to do one thing a day that scares the crap out of me, I agreed. Granted, Jonathan is an incredible cyclist, and agreed to run the half-marathon with me in September if I agreed to do this bike ride with him in July. That said, I never knew I would come to enjoy riding outdoors so much.
Over the past two months, I have gotten back in the saddle, and taken all of my hard work from indoor cycling to the road, experiencing a degree of power and freedom like never before. I've travelled over 1000km in training rides so far, and even cranked out 170km this weekend alone in a 24-hour period. I've seen parts of the greater Toronto region that I had only seen through the car window, and met a crew of fascinating and inspiring people who are passionate not only about cycling, but also about this important cause.
And surrounding myself with passionate and powerful people is just what I needed to give myself a kick in the a$$.
Two weeks ago, I was riding on this incredible stretch of highway north of Toronto. We were about 30km into our training ride (of which there are two each week), when I broke away from my pack of fellow riders to tackle the road ahead. Taunton Road is a long stretch of rolling hills, made up of slow climbs and long descents that can challenge many riders, and make many more excited by what it takes to make it through that leg of the ride. As I turned onto Taunton Road, a friend told me that this leg almost made him cry last year -- and that made me want to tackle it even more.
As I rode along the road in the blazing sun, there was no one behind me and no one ahead of me. Cars flew by me at 80+ km/hour, and the generous shoulder on the road provided me with a comfortable and safe buffer from the vehicles sharing the road. My goal for this stretch was to maintain a steady pace -- about 80 rpm -- that would allow me to ride efficiently and powerfully. And as I started out on the first gradual incline, I felt the energy flow through my body and provide the fuel I needed to ride fast, ride hard, and ride strong. I felt a bit of tightness in my quadriceps, a quick indication that I needed to adjust my pedal stroke and drive through the heels of my feel, thereby activating my glutes (they're looking pretty fab too, these days... LOL!) and giving me more muscle strength on every drive. I remembered what I tell participants in my spin class -- I tightened my core, relaxed my shoulders, and neutralized my pelvis, bringing me into the most comfortable and powerful riding position to conquer this stretch of road.
And then I took a deep breath... and began to power through the ride.
My breathing was deep and strong. My heart rate monitor was comfortable, and my cadence was strong. I pedalled along at about 75-80 rpm, with the only thing keeping me moving being the power of each push and pull of my feet on the pedals. I focused my energy on my breathing, and remembered that every stroke begins with a breath (yet another tip I tell all of my spin participants), and allowed my breathing to drive my pace.
And at that moment, I fell into the most comfortable and powerful zone I have ever felt on my bike.
Remembering that I only started to cycle outdoors two months ago, I began to feel the freedom that the bike provides. More importantly, I began to realize the power that my body possesses. The only thing that was going to push me along that fated stretch of road was knowing that the synchronicity of my thinking, my breath, my muscles and the technology upon which I sat. And that realization was liberating.
Quickly, I became incredibly proud of myself. With every grinding climb and long descent (especially the one I took at just over 60km/h), I remembered that two years ago, I never would have been able to experience power and speed quite like this. I never would have heard the depth of my breath coming into rhythm with my pedal stroke, which was only matched by the sound of the wind blowing past my ears and the heat of the sun bearing down on me.
And then I realized how addictive cycling could be.
I realized how addictive cycling had become.
And I never anticipated that I would like it so much.
If you've followed this blog, you've read about how much I love indoor cycling. But imagine taking the high you get from that one-hour intense workout and magnifying it with the momentum of a bike that actually moves... and the feeling of conquering a real hill... the exhilaration of racing down a decline... the satisfaction of knowing that you've reached your destination on no more than two wheels.
Imagine that and you'll begin to appreciate why I'm loving this so much.
It's a truly wonderful experience... helping me to transform my thinking (yet again) and take my sense of self as a physical person, as an active person, as an athlete, to a whole new level.
And I can't wait to ride to Montreal.
So back to 'the ride' (as it's come to be known...)
Seven weeks from today, I will hit the road with hundreds of other men and women, riding to raise money for the Toronto People With AIDS Foundation. Each participant has to raise a minimum of $2200 to participate -- and I met that goal a long time ago. I have set a new goal to raise $6000... 600km, 6 days, $6000... it has a certain ring to it, doesn't it? When I meet my goal, I'll get a 'top fundraiser' gold cycling jersey (I'm a sucker for accessories), and I'll have the pride and satisfaction of knowing that I not only surpassed my initial goal, but more importantly, that I've raised a wonderful amount of money that will go far to help people in need in my community.
All that from riding a bike... pretty incredible, eh?
That said, if you're interested in helping me meet (and surpass my $6000 goal), visit my donation site here, where you can make an on-line tax deductible donation. While 'the ride' will take me on a 600km ride between two of my favorite cities in Canada (Toronto and Montreal), it will give me the opportunity to work harder and stronger than I ever have before.
I hope you'll take advantage of this opportunity to help.
Kia kaha (Stay strong)