Tag Archives: cycling

Riding on Faith

What could possibly prompt a person to ride their bike, day after day, for 10 days, from one town to the next? Is there anything important enough in your life that you would run endless miles in order to celebrate its existence?
I know these questions sound strange coming from me since I seem to be in constant search of crazy adventures and goals. But I actually have a reason for asking…

While in Yucatan Mexico I witnessed multiple groups of young people riding their bikes and other groups of young people running on the roadside, all for one reason, to celebrate Our Lady of Guadalupe.dsc_0931

Each group carried large banners with an image of the saint. Many of the young people fastened framed pictures of the virgin to their bikes. dsc_0990
I’m going to assume many of you are as clueless as me concerning this saint. I’ve seen her picture, I’ve seen her statue and even altars built for her praise. Honestly I never thought anything more than “There is a statue of the Virgin Mary.” The thing is Our Lady of Guadalupe is much more to the Mexican people than just being the Virgin Mary…she is their saint.

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A van full of kids waiting for their turn to run

Prior to my trip to Mexico I knew next to nothing about this saint. But the young people, enthusiastically celebrating the patron saint of Mexico, peeked my interest and since I’ve been back in the States I have been reading up on Our Lady of Guadalupe.

According to articles I’ve read the Virgin Mary appeared several times to an Aztec farmer named Juan Diego in 1521. When the farmer went to the Bishop and reported the Virgin Mary had appeared and asked for a church to be built on that specific spot the bishop did not believe him and asked for proof.
When he returned to her, The Virgin Mary filled Juan’s cloak with roses. He returned to the bishop and opened his cloak to dump out the roses when an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared where the roses had been.

This is a very condensed version of the story. But there are so many facets of this story that I find fascinating.
The thing is, Our Lady of Guadalupe is more than just the Virgin Mary. She presented herself in a way that allowed the people to feel she was one of them, not an untouchable figure. She presented herself to a farmer, she spoke their language and the image that appeared on Juan’s cloak featured many important symbols of the Aztec people.
This incident allowed the people of Mexico to meld their believes as Aztecs with Christianity resulting in one of the largest periods of conversion in human history.dsc_0534

The pilgrimage of the bike riders and runners begins each year on December 2nd and continues until December 12th, of which is the day Juan showed the bishop proof that the Virgin Mary did indeed appear. Each night of the 10 days the riders pull into a village, sounding sirens and waving to the people that have gathered to greet them. The local church typically feeds them and they are given a place to sleep. It appeared to me that the villages were quite pleased to play host to the young people riding for their saint.dsc_0264

Our hosts while in Mexico were quite gracious. I had become so intrigued by the young people, that had taken on this challenge, that each time we saw a group riding/running down the road I begged to stop and take pictures. I was also fortunate that our friends lived only a block from the main road. This allowed me to run out and witness groups enter town in the evening and exit in the morning.

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Support – following in the pick-up truck

Since I’ve ridden long distances on my bike I know how difficult it can be. The fact that these young men and women are riding bikes that are not “new”, not properly fitted and not meant to be ridden long distances makes it even more amazing to me.
Why would someone ride mile after mile, and day after day? I’m sure we all could have our reasons…but it appears for these young people…its faith.

Skull’s Crossing – Conquered

Last year, shortly before I started the “Blazzin Saddle” ride, the men parked beside us started talking about “Skull’s Crossing.” They told stories of a climb so difficult people fall over in the middle of the road. They said the road narrows at Skull’s Crossing just before you climb the steep hill. So people that were spread out across the country roads, suddenly crunched together to climb the impossible climb. DSC_0915
The description of this ride states it will challenge top level riders with its hilly terrain. Needless to say I freaked out a bit.
We reached Skull’s Crossing before the first rest area (less than 10 miles). The road curved right, then left. It dipped drastically across a small bridge, then it began to rise.

I made it about half way up and noticed a woman had flipped her bike into the ditch. I also saw people stopped along the side and people weaving back and forth in the middle of the road. It was like a war zone, with bodies strewn across the road (slight exaggeration…but you get my point!) I was no longer afraid of the hill, I was afraid of the riders around me. I was afraid of crashing. I unclipped my shoes (clips are used to attach a riders shoe to her pedal), to avoid a fall (if you are familiar with cycling you will understand I was still new to clips and lacked confidence in my cycling ability). Once I unclipped I lost all momentum. Needless to say I did not complete the hill on my bike, but I finished it pushing my bike.

This year I was determined to beat Skull’s Crossing. My hill climbing has improved. Wearing clips is now second nature and I feel much more in control.
I rode along a winding country road, my surroundings felt familiar, I knew Skull’s Crossing was getting closer. I tried to avoid the crowds so I could approach the hill without anyone near me (that didn’t happen). DSC_0912
The amazing thing is, once I started climbing the hill I felt focused on the climb. I felt all my energy pushing the pedals, pulling the pedals and I watched the road in front of me pass on by.
About midway up the hill I noticed my riding buddy to my left. Typically she beats me up difficult hills. I encouraged her, “We got this!”
As she quickly fell behind me, all I heard was “Damn it..(not sure what is said here) …came off!”
I had no idea what happened to her bike. I knew stopping in the middle of the hill was not an option. I turned back toward the hill to find a rider directly in front of me. I told the rider I was preparing to pass her as I guided my bike around on her left side.
As I crested the hill I worked my way through the other riders to the right side of the road so I could stop and wait for Rachael.
Although I was panting heavily from the climb, I felt like riding back down just to ride back up again. I was that excited about conquering Skull’s Crossing. No worries though…I was that excited…but not that stupid!
By the time Rachael caught up I had calmed down. She recently got new clips and one of her clips slipped out of the pedal. Fortunately she did not crash unfortunately she was not able to complete the hill.
The next day I revisited Skull’s Crossing. This time in a car and with camera in hand. Usually when I’m on a bike hills look really big…but as I stood at the base of this hill preparing to take a picture, it looked extremely steep and bigger than it looked the day before.DSC_0919

I was even more excited that I had conquered Skull’s Crossing!

Was it Failure?

At 7:30 this morning I had every intention of completing a 70 mile bike ride. By 1:00PM I arrived at the 55 mile rest stop with absolutely no energy and a horrible feeling of failure. I sat on a cooler, against a truck in a sliver of shade. The oppressive heat that radiated from the black pavement and the lack of shade, for miles at a time, had taken its toll.
Did I mention the hills? This particular ride is known for its hills. Yes, hills in Texas. The ride description said “The Goatneck Bike ride is a rolling hill course which averages around 35 feet per mile of climbing.” I’ve been doing hill work. I’ve been trying to ride in the heat….it just wasn’t enough.

As I sat in that sliver of shade, pouring ice water over my head, my riding buddy (Rachael) and a nice gentleman (Pat) that I rode with off and on throughout the day, helped me realize the importance of knowing when enough is enough. Pat said to me several times how difficult it is to come back from a heat related illness. Rachael simply helped me understand taking the SAG ride to the finish line was not quitting, it was the smart choice.

As I rode in the SAG truck, I still wasn’t convinced I had made the right choice. Then we rounded a bend in the road and I saw yet another long (very long) hill. I looked at the SAG driver and said, “If I were still on my bike I think the sight of that hill would have caused me to just sit down in the middle of the road.” I had made the right choice, my legs were shot for the day.

It was a humbling experience. I hate giving up, especially when it comes to an athletic activity. One of the mantras I use is, “just keep moving forward.” Today I could not.
The first half-marathon I ran, I didn’t think I would finish. I struggled the last 3 miles and crossed the finish line with calf cramps and knee pain. Instead of deciding this wasn’t for me, I started planning how to train smarter so I would be better prepared for the next one. The same thoughts crossed my mind today. Instead of giving into my frustration and anger I started planning for next year. I started thinking about where I could do more hill work, how to strengthen my back and my core and how to return next year better and stronger.

Cycling Lesson…

I learned a valuable cycling lesson this morning.

Tina and I were visiting family in West Texas. I decided this morning to take a bike ride. In West Texas many of the roads seem endless. They are straight and may go 50 miles without a turn or even a town. IMG_3621
I told Tina which State Highway I planned to ride and in which direction. I also explained that I would ride out for an hour…turn around and ride back….obviously I would be gone for 2 hours.

As I headed out of town I felt great. My pedaling was smooth and my pace was consistently faster than usual. I averaged 17.3 to 20.1 MPH for the first 20 miles. I convinced myself the reason for the fast ride was the flat road and smooth pavement.
My 1 hour “out” was up at the 20 mile mark, so I crossed the road and headed back toward town.

As soon as I turned around I realized it was the tailwind that carried me twenty miles…and it would be the headwind I had to fight all the way back to town.

What took me an hour to ride with tailwind….took me one hour and 40 minutes to ride against the headwind.

A lot of self talk was required to keep me pushing against the headwind.
Same beautiful scenery, as the ride out…just look across the fields.
Be grateful you get to ride.
relax
quit being a wimp!
Just keep pedaling

I did finally make it back and I did acknowledge how fortunate I was to spend time riding and I did enjoy the fields and fields of unending farm land.IMG_3635

However, the next time I ride my bike in West Texas, I will check the direction of the wind (because there is always wind in West Texas) before determining which route to take.

First 100 Completed

I rode 100 miles today on my bicycle. It was a a beautiful ride, the weather was perfect and I felt strong today. The hills were conquered and the the miles passed by with more ease than expected.

I felt strong throughout the ride and feel exhausted now. Needless to say I have little brain ability left to write this blog tonight.

However, I would like to say how thankful I am that I was able to complete the 100 miles and how much I am looking forward to the next ride!

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Me and my friend Rachael crossing the finish line

Cycling…

This past Saturday I rode 67 miles on my bike. This was in preparation for my first 100 mile ride (AKA Century ride) that will happen this coming Saturday.

Prior to becoming a cyclist, I thought cyclist were rude and unfriendly. Frequently on the trails they would fly by without warning and act as if it was the walker/joggers fault if there was a close call.

Since I joined this “club” of cyclist I’ve changed my opinion of those crazy bike riding people. For one, I understand the frustration of trying to share a trail with people that think nothing of spreading out across the path and not pay attention to the bikers trying to “pass on the left.” I’m not saying I think its right, I just get it.
The other reason I’ve changed my mind is, most of the cyclists I’ve met are really nice, helpful and passionate about their sport.

During the ride Saturday a gentleman rode up beside me and I complimented his bike. It was a really cool bike. Come to find out he built it himself. Over the next five miles I learned his occupation, his wife’s occupation and the occupation of both his daughters. I shared my line of work then I learned we both ride for health because we have both lost too many family members to heart disease.

Every group, hobby, or activity has its own code words, acronyms and maybe even handshakes. And overtime I have learned that despite being intimidated when first joining a new activity or group it always works out okay.

This biking thing has certainly worked out quite well. I’ve met good people, learned about a new sport and hopefully I’ve gotten a little healthier. I will never understand the guys that can ride a 25 MPH pace…but I’m thankful for biking all the same.

Strength…Where Does it Come From?

In 3 weeks I will be riding 100 miles from Boston MA to Hyannis Port MA.
Today I rode 56.61 with my friend Rachael (she is also doing the 100 miles). We completed the 56 miles in 3:55:57. This means we will hopefully finish the 100 miles in less than 8 hours.

We only have one more long ride between now and June 4th. It will be an organized ride of 63 miles.

Today I lost my “umph” during the last 10 miles. I kept riding and I continued to push myself…but I was beat!

Why do we push ourselves to do physical activities that are painful?
I realize not everyone does this…but for those of us that do….why?

For me it has something to do with proving to myself that I can do certain activities. I need goals to reach. I need obstacles to knock down and I need challenges that are just out of reach.

I know I mentioned not long ago how my negative talk was trying to convince me to give up. My own brain was working against me. I like the saying “The hardest part of working out is putting on your gym shoes.” Well I think the hardest part about accomplishing certain goals is “the ability to ignore my own negative talk.”

I felt strong today…I beat “Smiley Hill”, I rode 56.61 miles and most importantly I strapped duck tape over my own negative words and chose to be successful.

I am thankful for my ability to be strong, even when my brain is trying to convince me I am weak.