Exercise

Do I Hold On or Let Go?

While out biking a few months ago I discussed the following question with a friend of mine.

“When you’re falling off your bike do you think you should hold on to the handlebars or let go of the handlebars?”

Bouncing the question around got us no where other than she had a story to tell about a friend’s husband who chose to take a steep path downhill when the rest of the group decided to carry their bikes around the obstacle. It didn’t have a very happy ending, short or long term.  I think she said he held on to the handlebars, but that didn’t have much bearing on the painful long-lasting consequences of a plain old bad decision.

I even asked my cousin, the super athlete, for her opinion and she said it didn’t really matter and that it depended. Which at the time I thought was a lame answer.

This morning I came to understand her answer.

FullSizeRender-3 copy 5Woke up long before the sun kissed the horizon today and planned a quick six or eight mile ride to round out the weeks mileage to at least forty. I was on the trail hoping to avoid crowds. A gloriously cool morning after a 100 degree day yesterday, I reveled in my freedom and the glow of the sunrise. I was making good time, for me, and enjoying every minute of it.

Making the transition from gravel onto the sidewalk, which I’ve done hundreds of times, my wheel caught the edge and refused to pop up over and instead threw me to the ground.

It happened in this slow motion super fast way I can’t explain. It’s like being in a dream where your brain just can’t quite process what’s happening because it’s so out of the norm of your experience doing this easy thing.

What I remember most is thinking: this is my face smashing into the concrete. Everything is going to be broken and shattered and I am in deep trouble.

Here’s the answer to the title question. I had no idea where the flip the handlebars on my bike were or where my hands were.

Shock is the first thing that happens. So I just lay there. I might have rolled over on to my back. I could taste blood. And everything hurt, especially my head. I felt my face and came away with a handful of red. Oddly my glasses were still on my face. That’s how I knew my helmet saved my brain and most of my face.

I hoped someone would come along the trail but didn’t have a lot of hope for it that early on a Saturday. Lo and behold a friend of mine rolls up and says, “Hi Kami, what are you doing down there?” Or something equally hilarious if you aren’t the one on the ground. “Stan?” I said. “Am I ever glad to see you!”

He did a quick assessment and pulled me up off the trail of ants I had landed in. (Surprisingly didn’t get bit!!!)  Brushed the ants off of me, got my bike out of the way and told me to sit tight while he rode back and got his truck to drive me and my bike home.

A couple minutes later another friend happened to jog by. When she was sure I had help on the way and was okay to be alone, she suggested I use the ice in my water bottle on my face to keep the swelling down.

Another friend called a mutual dentist friend later in the morning who came by my house and made sure I hadn’t really ruined any teeth even though they hurt a bunch.

Needless to say, I felt like a crew of angels had been dispatched after I learned my lesson to not be so cocky on my bike, be more careful of transitions, and make sure MSH can hear a phone ringing if I’m going out riding alone. Oh, and the lesson to always, always, always wear my helmet.

Everything hurts everywhere almost ten hours after my fall from Grace. (Isn’t that a cute name for my bike?) I feel way worse than I look, which isn’t saying much, I suppose. My knee feels swollen, I have bruises that I can’t explain.

Oh, and the bike is okay. Some scrapes on the right side of the bike even though I fell left. The handlebars must have turned completely around to face me. I’ll get her a nice tuneup at Global Bikes next week, just to make sure I didn’t do any permanent damage. I’m not going to be riding for a week or so, I’m guessing. But I’ll be back out there again, for sure.

For today at least, I’m sucking meals out of a straw and hanging out on the couch bingewatching stuff and alternating Ibuprofen and Tylenol and icing the knee and mouth.

I’m also counting my blessings that I can still walk, and talk and laugh about all this.

Biffing it just aint fun.

So hold on. Don’t hold on. Just stay safe while having fun.

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A Mother’s Day Gift from my Son and Daughter in Law. Perfect!

 

 

 

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Categories: Biking, Exercise, Outdoors, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments
 
 

New Wheels, New Outlook

When he was young, my son used to test run shoes when he needed a new pair. He’d ask me if I thought one pair was faster than another. It was difficult to tell. Some shoes had serious speed factors, while others looked fast but might not run at top speeds. In the end the fastest shoes were always the shoes we bought. I loved that.

I think I stumbled on something similar in myself recently. Stay with me on this one while I mosey over to my point.

Want to see a sad photo I took while I spent time in snow country a month or so ago?

IMG_5514I know, right? Perfectly good bikes stuck in the snow going no place for a long time. They’re maybe even accumulating some rust, and weather related wear and tear. Poor, forlorn bikes.

It’s sad to me anyway. A big portion of the country lies buried or is shoveling out from under this white stuff. And bikes spend half the year in a dusty garage or shed corner, or left outside like these, unused, unridden, forgotten and silent. Blessedly, we don’t experience that here in the desert southwest.

Which means I get to ride my bike all winter long! In fact, it’s the best riding time of the year. Cool temperatures, sunny skies, dry trails, light breezes.

Want to see a really happy photo I took recently?

IMG_5667I’d like to introduce you to my new mountain bike. I wish I knew her name, but she hasn’t told me what it is yet. She’s a bit shy.

I’m extra happy about this new addition to my life because, well, it’s my first bike ever that isn’t a hand-me-down from someone else.

I shopped, and researched, and took six months to prove to myself how committed I felt to biking. Turns out I logged a bunch of miles from July to December last year. I rode over one hundred miles in October and November! Not too shabby. I fell in love with biking more than I thought possible. Getting around under my own power gives me a feeling of freedom like nothing else. It’s a bit addictive.

So after six months and lots of miles later I researched and shopped and test drove. And then spent a few days of angst and worry, and talking with bikers, and researching again.

Silly, you say. Maybe so, but I’d never spent so much money on a bike or anything else for myself for that matter. So this decision needed to be the right one.

The day I rode her home from the bike shop those two and a half miles felt spectacular. Christmas morning, Valentines Day and Easter plus my birthday all rolled into one couldn’t have topped that sensation!

I took her out for a short four-mile ride the next morning, since that was all I had time for a ride that day. I needed to get used to the newness, the quick response, the slightly wider handlebars, the bigger tire radius, the grippy foot pedals. I got overly confident and smashed my shoulder on a fall, which still has a bruise on it. But it didn’t deter me.

The following Tuesday turned into our official inaugural ride as a team. I’d intended to go less than ten miles. But, it became twice that. Yes! I rode twenty-one miles that day. I felt like a rock star. A personal best! I hope it’s the first of many twenty-plus mile rides. I also hope to take on some more challenging mountain trails as I gain more confidence and muscle.

Here’s the thing I’ve wondered; was it my bike or me that did that?

It’s a much better bike than my old one, well tuned, lightweight, new. Everything worked great, all twenty-four gears, the hydraulic brakes, and the front adjustable shocks. Those monster twenty-nine inch tires made the ride smooth and easy on my back and seat. Gravel, rocks, curbs, bumps gave me no worries at all. I felt like a kid out there with the world all mine to explore and conquer.

I wonder if I’m a bit like my son with his fast new shoes, convinced my bike is faster, when all it really amounts to is my mindset. I’m pretty sure the work I put in pedaling transfers more efficiently, but who knows? Maybe it’s all in my head and not in my feet. I feel pretty fast, though.

My gratitude overflows for such abundance in my life. How blessed I feel to own such an amazing piece of machinery that lets me go wherever I need or want to go, powered only by my legs, my heart and my determination.

Categories: Biking, Exercise, Gratitude | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment
 
 

Bicycle Heaven

It’s Gratituesday! I’m grateful that I’ve rediscovered my bicycle.

About four years ago I told myself I wanted to “access my inner twenty-year old.” I didn’t think that’d be very difficult, since mentally I mostly feel twenty years old anyway. In fact, when I accidentally catch a view of myself in a mirror I’m always surprised by the older face staring back at me. I sometimes don’t even recognize who it is.

Now I’m thinking I should have stretched a little further and tried to reach my inner sixteen year-old. That chick could haul herself up a two-mile hill on her ten-speed bike and still ride another twenty miles. A fearless, nearly worry-free young woman zipping around traffic, taking a break at the local college campus duck pond, she could eat three Dunkin’ Donuts with no concern whatsoever for their calorie count or nutritional value. She didn’t care what anyone else thought about her either.

What a life. What a woman!

Where did she go?

She’s still in here. I found her a few weeks ago when I bravely strapped on my bike helmet, hefted my leg over my mountain bike’s seat and set out on a short two-mile ride. She and I rode four miles instead and felt amazingly free and energized.

Then we rode the next day, a bit further, a bit faster.

Last Friday that inner sixteen year-old and I went almost nine miles and had energy to spare.

A short break to admire the view.

A short break to admire the view.

We prefer trails and winding paths to roads and sidewalks and will search those out in the weeks and months ahead. Will she and I attempt any mountain trails? Nah, probably not. I do, after all, still have the body of a middle-aged woman, one that hasn’t been very well cared for or pampered. But it’s healthy enough that it can take me and the inner sixteen year-old out on some adventures, beyond the walking paths of the local bird refuge, beyond strolling the city park.

Something crazy happens when I’m sitting in the seat of a bicycle. I can’t define it or decipher it. Freedom, maybe. Youth, perhaps. Self-sufficiency, could be. Whatever it is, I don’t feel like I’m “acting my age” when I’m pedaling a bike. But that’s not important. Who says I can’t ride? No one.

Oh, and don’t worry. No spandex is harmed or used in the making of this wondrous experience. I go more for the rugged-mountain-biker-who’s-been-lost-in-the-woods-too-long look. And I do slow down when I’m in the vicinity of rabbits. They seem confused by humans on bicycles and can dart in front of you with no warning. (A very similar experience to driving a car around Phoenix.)

I’ve had people laugh at me on my bike.Yeah, it happens. I don’t have a svelte biker’s body, hardly. (Hence, no spandex.) But I have the soul and heart of a young girl on her aunt’s hand me down 1950’s bike. That girl discovered something wonderful when the wind blew her hair out of her eyes as she propelled herself anywhere she wanted to go.

That young girl, that teenager, this middle-aged woman, we’re all grateful for two wheels, a well-oiled chain and pedals to take us anywhere we want to go anytime we want to go there.

Life doesn’t get much better than that.

Categories: Exercise, Gratitude, Gratituesday | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

A Simple Solution in a Latin Phrase

I ran across a most interesting Latin phrase yesterday.

Solvitur ambulando: “it is solved by walking.”

Stumbling on that phrase coincided with conversations I’d had with two different people hours and miles apart. All three converged into a kind of signpost toward an answer.

photo 5 copy“Exercise isn’t always the answer. Sometimes it’s rest. But I can think of few situations that wouldn’t be improved by a nice walk outside.” ~Kettie Olsen

photo 4-3 copy 2“All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking.” ~Friedrich Nietzsche

photo 1-4 copy 4“If you seek creative ideas go walking. Angels whisper to a man when he goes for a walk.” ~ Raymond I. Myers

If you can’t find me, I’m probably out walking.

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My Cousin Went Completely Bonkers This Weekend

Last year my cousin ran the Phoenix half-marathon. Which, according to a bumper sticker I bought her, made her only half crazy. You can read my version and/or her version. They’re both entertaining, even if I do say so myself.

This year, she ran the full marathon. That’s 26.2 miles if you were wondering. And, she did it in under five hours!

Pretty impressive! Or full-on crazy.

Training, Training, and Training

Just another early morning for her. We left for the race at 3:45 a.m.

Just another early morning for her. We left for the race at 3:45 a.m.

She logged a boatload of miles while training for this run. There were twenty-mile training runs, eighteen mile training runs, six-mile training runs, all sorts of running happened frequently outdoors and indoors. Imagine running for three hours on a treadmill. Can you say mind-numbing?

Keep in mind that my cousin holds down a full-time job and does volunteer work as well. She woke long before most of us even begin to drop into dream number three for the night. For months she did this! Her dedication and perseverance astound me.

Cheering from the sidelines took on a different feel this year. For logistical reasons I didn’t even show up at the side of the road until mile twelve. Last year at that point she’d be nearly finished with the race. This year it wasn’t quite the half-way mark. I arrived a bit early to stake some semi-permanent one-word signs in the ground. “Breathe” “Smile” and “Stroganoff.”

Stroganoff?

Yes. A story she told me about a friend of hers she often and unintentionally ended up eating stroganoff with. She suggested that before the race my cousin should write “Stroganoff” in Sharpie marker on her arm to remind her of her friend who’d be cheering her on in spirit. So I figured, if I included the word “Stroganoff” in a sign, she’d know the little series of three signs came from me. She said it worked.

I had a fresh water bottle waiting for her and a backpack filled with possible items she might need. The forecast had called for one hundred percent rain, which changes a race you thought would be warm and sunny, into a different animal altogether. Luckily, it only sprinkled a bit a couple of times. The deluge came later, raining out the Cubs spring training game, filling up water retention ponds and raining on various “parades.” But that’s another story.

One of several signs I'd whipped up for the occasion.

One of several signs I’d whipped up for the occasion.  Next time, I’d post some in the ground ahead of time.

I stood with my sign, and a whirligig. Yes, a whirligig. So my cousin would notice me among the crowd. My first sign said “YES YOU CAN.” Many runners say “thank you” when they read an encouraging sign. A couple of runners said, “Yes! I can!” And one said, “Boy, did I need that reminder.”

I made eye contact with some, others were focused, moving forward without notice of anything going on around them. Every face told a story. Some spoke louder than others.

Mile Eighteen

Once my cousin found me and got her fresh water bottle, I got back in my car and headed to our next agreed upon meeting spot, at mile eighteen. Navigating streets blocked off by a race this big takes some planning and luck and some good parking spots. I did better this year than last year.

Many of the same runners ran past that I’d seen at mile twelve. Makes sense if you think about it. The stories on their faces had changed a bit with eight more miles to go. More of them were walking, running slower or at least looked more worn.

The ones that really intrigued me still had smiles on their faces. I’d like to get their stories!

Familiar Faces

I was glad to see familiar faces and relieved to see them progressing. I was caring about these total strangers again, just like last year. Wish I understood that better.

My cousin ran by without needing any water, so she got my cheering and hopes.

Not much past that point she said it got really hard. Walking didn’t help, so she just kept running. I’m hoping she’ll write about her experience and let me post it here. I think her telling this story makes the most sense.

That's here in the pink jersey. Notice the clouds? Not normal weather around here.

That’s here in the pink jersey. Notice the clouds? Not normal weather around here.

I  hustled to get to my next stop near the finish line. I missed her crossing that line last year. Bad planning, heavy traffic, lots of closures.

26.2 Miles

This year I watched eagerly, not just for my cousin, but for the woman in the burka head covering, and the older woman who ran with such conviction and determination it nearly hurt to watch her move. And the woman who ran with a smile. There was a dad whose three young kids joined him for the last hundred yards. Some nearly burst into tears as they rounded the corner and saw the finish line so close.

I wanted to cry and cheer for all of them. What an accomplishment!

That last stretch looked like it hurt. My cousin wasn’t interested in seeing me there. Her focus zoomed in entirely on that finish line and getting her body across it. She managed to give the official camera a thumbs up and a smile as she crossed.

Simply being on the sidelines is an honor. Witnessing such a feat feels like something almost intimate and privileged.

Completing a marathon is an act of devotion and dedication, one involving the heart in more ways than we know. That’s something my cousin has a ton of.

Congratulations, Kettie!

Categories: Exercise, phoenix | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

In Your Face

I took a racquet in the face once playing racquetball.

I’m really unclear about who was in the court with me at the time. And I’m even more unclear about who held the racquet that split the skin open above my lip.

It doesn’t matter actually.

Seems like I was going for a great shot and bam. Game over. It was like a wall popped up in front of me mid-swing. It felt way worse than a ball to the face, which I’d experienced often enough since we weren’t stellar players. I don’ remember pain as much as shock and confusion. Seems I wanted to keep playing until the other players pointed out I was bleeding and probably needed stitches.

I was mostly disappointed that we didn’t get to finish our game. And I didn’t get any stitches. The doc superglued the thing closed. It looked gross. For a week I looked like I had a perpetual little kid style runny nose.

I’d have preferred the stitches.

I don’t really notice the scar much. It’s fairly light and thin. Almost invisible, actually.

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We had a group of women that got together about three days a week. We’d play singles if only two showed up, or singles if there were two courts open and four of us. Cut-throat was my favorite for all the changing up that happens. Four of us piled in that tiny enclosed space got fairly rowdy. But we managed to get a good workout and have a bunch of fun no matter how many of us there were.

Yeah, we weren’t amazing players, but we weren’t all that shabby either. At least one of us would be “in the zone” on any given day. Occasionally we’d all hit our stride and balls would zing about for long volleys, amazing shots and incredible saves. Those rare days, when everything was working, made it tough to want to leave after only an hour of play. But if we stayed much longer, we’d be paying for it the rest of the day.

We had to know when to say enough. Sometimes the clock told us. Sometimes our sore muscles let us know we’d reached our limit. And sometimes, we just didn’t care and kept playing far too long and paid for it later. But we sure had us some great times bashing that ball around.

Racquetball lets loose a ton of pent-up aggravation, emotion, and insanity. We left the gym better women, better prepared for whatever the heck the day threw our way.

Sweat never felt or smelled so sweet as on racquetball playing days.

We welcomed any and all who wanted to join in our group. We met some great people that way. I’m afraid I scared off one friend, quite unintentionally. I must have hit her in the head about four times with some really poorly aimed shots. By the fourth hit she was done and never came back again. Not sure she’s ever forgiven me. I swear it was completely and totally just me playing badly. I couldn’t hit the same spot twice even if I was aiming for it. I’m hoping one day she’ll get a chance to ding me with a ball or maybe a few water balloons so she can feel like the score is even and we can move on. Or not.

So why do I bring all this up?

I LOVE playing racquetball!

And yet, my racquet’s acquired a few years of dust. That’s a huge loss.

Why’d I stop?

Schedules change, injuries and age take their toll, life demands new things of us, we have to give something up to make the puzzle pieces all fit.

Sometimes the best things, the most helpful, the happiest, end up being sacrificed for other good and helpful things. Good reasons don’t make it any easier though.

I look in the mirror sometimes and see that thin light scar above my lip. It feels like a participation medal, or better yet, a blue ribbon or a golden winner’s cup.

Maybe it needs to be a reminder of something I need again. No, not a racquet to the face. I need that hour of sweating. I need to hit something with everything I’ve got. I need the energy I get back from pushing myself hard.

Can I work that back into my life?

I have plenty of excuses, most of them having to do with body parts and pain. Maybe it’s time to ignore the shoulder devil and do it anyway.

After all, what could it hurt?

Well, I suppose it could hurt my face again.

But it would be worth it.

Categories: Exercise, Fun, Sports | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Forget Sweet Sixteen, It’s All About H.O.R.S.E.

Bouncing the basketball across the driveway to my son, I imitate a teen boy swagger and say, “You didn’t think I could do that one, did you?”

basketball hoop 1Standing where he caught the ball, he bounces it once, twice, tilts his head back, then lobs the ball with finesse into a full arching trajectory into the waiting hoop.

I am doomed.

I step into the spot he just shot from, bounce once, bounce twice, tilt my head back, let the ball fly and watch as it ricochets off the rim and lands in a nearby bush.

“S!” my sons exults.

“You’re still ‘H’,” I counter, as if his one missed shot were a significant point difference.

He usually won most of our games of H.O.R.S.E.  At least I had a modicum of a chance to win, where at a regular game of one-on-one, he’d always win. He was lighter, faster, more experienced and he had the added pressure of shame if you lost to your Mom.

When it comes to shooting hoops, I have no idea how my son felt about it. Young enough to not be too embarrassed about hanging out with his Mom, we had some good times. If he had other guys to play against, I was, of course, not particularly needed or welcomed. But given a boring afternoon or early evening, I was as good an opponent as any. I enjoyed the exercise. And it brought back some fun memories.

As a girl, how many times I had looked on as a giggling gaggle of girls watched a posturing bunch of boys playing a game of shirts and skins. I didn’t care for the gaggle. I always wanted to actually play.

Back then, I spent time practicing shots on my own when a basket and a ball were available, so that when the chance came around, I could pull my weight. Or at least, I’d have decent enough skills to make the basic shots in a game of H.O.R.S.E.

A great equalizer, the game of H.O.R.S.E. pits young against old, short against tall, talented against beginner. The rules can be tweaked to accommodate more than two players, make concessions for weaker players, give everyone a chance to enjoy and feel like there’s a chance, however slim, of winning. Or consummate players with incredible shots in their repertoire can wow onlookers and hone skills.

Basketball (Ball)

The ball lends itself to contemplation, the tiny round dots on the surface of the ball mesmerize and calm. The feel of the rubber, smooth and sticky, firm and pliable, relaxes your hands. The reverberating echo of the ball as it hits the concrete, bounces back into your hands, over and over and over, in a hypnotic lull.  Then there’s the smell of dust on the ball mingled with a sheen on faces and the slight tang of sweat.

basket ball hoop 2There’s something about the kind of conversation that goes on during a game of H.O.R.S.E.. Talk simply evolves. Words slip out more easily. Chatting happens about things that would never get discussed around the dinner table.

The hoop, netted or not, calls out, taunts, whispers. Again, again, again, just one more time, and one more. One more shot, one more game, one more bounce.

If you’ve never played a game of H.O.R.S.E. you can find the rules here. If it’s been a while since you’ve picked up a basketball maybe it’s time. Maybe running your fingers across the texture of the ball, letting it bounce beside your feet, tossing it between one hand and the other, sending it flying toward ‘nothing but net,’ is just what your soul needs today.

I can feel a game coming on. Anyone up for a game of H.O.R.S.E?

Needing to ramp up your Basketball Lingo? Here’s a great spot for a refresher.

Common basketball terms

I need to sound really cool, like I know the game in my sleep!

I’m not familiar with this game you’re talking about

Categories: Exercise, Outdoors, Sports | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

My Cousin is only Half Crazy

My cousin ran in the Phoenix Half-Marathon today. She had planned to do so last year, but a broken something in her ankle during a training run sidelined last year’s plans. 2 hours 27 minutes was all it took her to run 13.1 miles. Is that amazing or what? It is to me. She’s my hero and I’m dang proud of her today.

Phoenix Marathon 2013 t-shirt

Phoenix Marathon 2013 t-shirt

Since she’s from out-of-state, and I’m the local, I got to do the driving. I also got to do the cheering. I made a double-sided sign to encourage her along the road a few times.

One side of the sign said, “YOU CAN DO IT!” in big block letters, each colored a different bright shade of marker.

The other side of the sign said, “GO KETTIE GO!” and “YAY” along with her race number. I highlighted her name in shiny sparkles, each letter a different shade of bling. This is funny because she is the least blingy person I know.

What she did today was all BLING in my eyes.

I came prepared to cheer. I’d read up on what you should and shouldn’t say to runners to encourage them. I’d looked up funny sayings for signs. I found some suggestions for good places to set up your cheering station. I had my driving route planned to avoid traffic.  I also had brought a camp chair, a book, a drink, some snacks and a warm blanket.

My plan was to cheer for her at mile marker 4ish.  Mile marker 8ish, and for sure at the finish line.

There were police officers at the intersections near where I’d decided to set up for my first sighting of my cousin. (Boy, do they have a tough job directing traffic during an event this big.) I set up my mini temporary campsite, leaned my sign against the chair and waited for the first wave of runners.

It wasn’t long before they showed up. A small, incredibly fast foursome, a long wait, a few more, a wait, a few more and then wave after wave of people. 2500 half marathoners! I clapped, I yelled, I got off my chair and clapped some more.

Then I picked up my sign and waved and cheered. As I did so I caught the eye of a few runners as they read the words, “YOU CAN DO IT!” Some smiled, some said thanks, some did a thumbs up or cheered back.

A little while later I saw my cousin in her neon turquoise shirt and hot pink running shorts and lime green shoes. I flipped my sign over so the words, “GO KETTIE GO” were showing. I jumped and waved and screamed and high-fived her. Then I watched her run down the road and out of sight.

My cousin is on the right, in the pink shorts and turquoise shirt.

My cousin is on the right, in the pink shorts and turquoise shirt.

Time to pack up and head out to the next stop four miles away.

But then I saw the next wave of runners coming. I held up my sign for a minute more. Some had faces that said, “What did I get myself in to?” Some faces looked like pain personified. Some kept their heads down and plowed ahead. Some smiled back and said thank you.

I stood there and cheered another 20 minutes for total strangers. Every face had a story in it. Every runner was suddenly someone I wondered about, would like to talk to, hoped the best for.

I stood there so long that I missed my chance of getting to the 8 mile area I wanted to cheer at. I showed up at the 11 mile spot. I held up my sign again, saw the same red faces, the same tutus and neon socks and sweat soaked shirts.  Were they ever tired. The stories on their faces were more poignant by this time. The pain more prevalent. The wonder I had about each of them more intense.

I wanted to yell, “only 2 more miles” but there is nothing “ONLY” about 2 more miles at that point.

I saw my cousin. Switched my sign to her name. Cheered her on and saw joy and elation and energy on her face.  I couldn’t stay longer for any other runners. I hurried back to my car so I could be at the finish line.

I missed that part. Too much traffic, too big of a crowd. But that’s okay. It was her race and her personal victory. I was just a face in the crowd watching and learning and wanting to know all the stories.

The finish line is just the end of a very long chapter in a story made of many more chapters.

Last night, when I found this quote, I didn’t understand it. Now I do.

“If you are losing faith in human nature, go out and watch a marathon.”  Kathrine Switzer, 26.2: Marathon Stories

Putting one foot in front of the other time and again, in spite of it all, is a miracle and a wonder to me.

To all those sore-footed, blackened toenailed, achy muscled persevering half marathoners: Congratulations and Thank You.

The bumper sticker I bought for my cousin which inspired the title for this post.

The bumper sticker I bought for my cousin which inspired the title for this post. Please check out their website www.runnersfeat.com

Categories: Exercise, phoenix, The World | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Peeling Off the Layer of Years

It’s Gratituesday! Today I am grateful for the bicycle I have. It was a gift  a year or two ago from a friend who was clearing out her possessions for an anticipated move overseas.  I’m sure she had no idea how much her gift would bless my life.

That bicycle has been one of my essential forms of transportation. Four drivers and sometimes only two cars has necessitated some juggling. Having the freedom to hop on my bike for a run to the library or the post office or to visit a friend has freed up my schedule and saved me hours and gas money and frustration.

The build of this particular bike lets me sit in such a way that my back doesn’t tire out and get sore, which I thought was simply one of the sacrifices bike riding required until I met this bike. Now I can ride for miles and still feel relatively young and agile in spite of the often harsh realities of my aging body.

Roger on Richland Avenue with Schwinn Bicycle

My first bicycle looked much like this one. It was a hand-me-down from my aunt. (Photo credit: roger4336)

There’s nothing else I know of that brings back the joys of childhood as readily as a bike ride. Such a sense of independence grabs hold of you when you throw your leg over the seat and set the wheels of a bike in motion. Feeling the wind blowing past peels off layers of years mentally and emotionally.

There’s the added bonus of being able to take off in the early light, helmet on, breezing through an exhilarating morning past some of my favorite sights and sounds. Getting my heart pumping and my lungs filled with fresh oxygen by pushing those pedals starts the day off with a burst of energy and joy. What a wonderful way for a day to begin.

I celebrate the bicycle every time I ride. In fact, I’m celebrating life as I ride, feeling youthful, free, energized, grateful. What joy!

Surely someone has created a worldwide holiday in honor of the humble, practical, fun-loving bicycle.

Categories: Exercise, Outdoors | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Why the People at the Grocery Store Were So Friendly, and Other Answers

Following the wise saying that says, “When you can’t sleep, write,” (which I just made up three minutes ago) I am now writing at 1:15 a.m.  If you’ve read my “Night Owl, Early Bird” post you’d remember that I’m definitely a morning person.  My brain engages and starts humming just before the last stars wink out.  That’s about five hours from now.  Fair warning, with middle of the night posts, no telling what will happen. (Three posts in one, perhaps?)

THE GROCERY STORE FRIENDLIES

Shopping Carts

Shopping Carts (Photo credit: Universal Pops)

Despising grocery shopping, I try to get the task done when the fewest number of people will be clogging the aisles and slowing down the process. That would be, you guessed it, early in the morning.  I try to show up presentable, not in PJ’s, not in sweaty gym clothes, not in my dirt encrusted grass stained gardening garb.  I clean up, I put on some lip gloss, I brush my hair.  I even bring a list. In, out, done. No debating over the produce. no loitering near the dairy.

Most people pretend extreme interest in some label, and avoid eye contact, especially in the morning.(Probably because they are wearing PJ’s or sweaty gym clothes or haven’t combed their hair.) Just sayin’.

One morning in particular I noticed that the few people I did see in the nearly deserted grocery store appeared very cheery. They smiled at me. Smiles all around.  A store full of morning people?!? What are the odds, I thought.  Maybe I had a glow about me.  Maybe the stars aligned just right.  Maybe the music playing over the intercom struck a happy chord in the lot of them.

Even the usually surly cashier, whose line I tried to avoid, was friendly and smiled at me. Weird and weirder.  I was going to get on the internet and figure out what cosmic occurrence might be in play to explain such unexpected pleasantness.

Putting my bags into the back seat of the car I bumped my head on the top of the door opening.  Not my head exactly.  The blow felt cushioned by something.

Hair rollers

Hair rollers (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I reached up to console my noggin.  What did I find but a hair roller still tucked in on top of my head.  The very same velcro hair roller my own hands had rolled in to poof up the flat spot in my otherwise nicely coiffed hair. I had told myself not to forget to take it out before I left, then went off to find my keys.  And forgot about it.

All those friendly smiles?  Restrained laughter.

Glad I could bring some cheer into someone’s day.  In this case, many someones.

ON YOUR LEFT

My cousin reintroduced me to bicycling in Denver a couple of years back.  It was my first time on a road bike in a few years. She taught me some basic ideas, like how to shift, how to brake, basic biking etiquette.  We even discussed ahead of time who takes the lead and which of us drops behind  into single file when other bikers are on the path coming towards us or passing us from behind.  I learned the term “on the left” meant that another biker was coming up from behind and was going to pass on the left.  On hearing “on the left” the correct thing to do is to move to the right so they have room pass on the left.

We had a great ride that day. (I think I just found another blog post topic for the near future.) But I digress.

The point I meant to make was that I learned a bit of biking jargon and etiquette and gained some confidence in the sport of bicycling. On returning home I started riding my clunky mountain bike on our flat desert trails. I started using the term “on the left” and felt like a real biker.  When I didn’t ride, but went walking instead, I quickly moved over when a biker chirped, “on your left!”  I felt I had learned to share the trail, or the sidewalk, quite amicably.  I hardly had to hear more than the word “on” from behind and I’d start moving to the right to make room.

Biker

Not the actual biker…

Imagine my surprise (is that a cliché? note to self, find out!)  Sorry.  Imagine my surprise when, this very morning, I mean yesterday morning, since it’s now almost 2 a.m. the day after. Sorry again.

Imagine my surprise, as I’m out for my morning walk, when I hear a biker holler, “on your right” and I automatically move to the right but then, mid step, realize that I just moved into the biker’s path.  I was certain I’d be mowed over, or at the very least see a biker go flying past as he rocketed over the front of his handlebars.   I actually started to curl up and brace myself for impact.  Luckily the biker swerved or braked or had guardian angels, or all three.  No one was worse for the experience.

I’m sure the bicyclist swore under his breath as he rode off down the path.  Maybe his life had flashed before his eyes.  I hope it was a happy one if it did.  His adrenaline was probably ramped up a bit, don’t you think?  Mine was.

Anyway, if you talk to anyone who tells you about this dumb woman out for a walk who jumped into his path when he gave fair warning, you’ve now heard my side of the story.

Fireworks

Spicy Zingers (or Fireworks)

CHINESE-MEXICAN FUSION

Dinner out with friends tonight  (last night? whatever) at a new place was mind-blowing.  Confusion ruled my taste buds but what happy taste buds!

Who thinks of these things?  A quesadilla with a ginger-sauced chicken and real cheese?  Oh my sweet Susanna!!  Dip it in the salsa/hoisin, or was it plum sauce/mole, and the neural pathways don’t know what to make of it all.  Refried black beans? A work and a wonder of magnificence!!  Finished off the meal with a crispy-edged, soft-middled, cinnamon snicker doodle cookie and the evening was taste bud nirvana.

That might explain the tiny taste of insomnia going on here.  Too many competing spicy sensations zinging around in my head.  Oh, but it was worth it.

I hope you’re smiling!  I am.

Categories: Exercise, Food, Humor | Tags: , , , | 14 Comments

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