Friday, September 17, 2021

Ride Feel



Every training program that I’ve come across or followed when I raced included interval workouts.  Timed strenuous efforts followed by prescribed recovery periods.  Push hard.  Rest.  Recover.  Repeat.  I followed this formula for over 25 years.  Today, and for the last 5 years, I basically just ride.  I never really go hard anymore.  But given my lack of riding intensity, am I still fit?   Google defines fitness as “a state of health and well-being and, more specifically, the ability to perform aspects of sport, occupations and daily activities”.  Meandering along on my bike is not really what I’d call “performing”.  But, as for the “health” and “well-being” part, there is absolutely no doubt that I feel better when I ride regularly.  5 or 6 days per week.  Not forced.  Not squeezed into a tight window of an overly busy day.  Unhurried.  I can no longer get even remotely close to pushing the same watts that I used to since forgoing these hard race efforts.  Actually, speed isn’t the only thing that I seem to have lost.  The constant stiffness in my lower back is gone as well.  My hips are also much looser.  And that deep pain in my inner thigh that never seemed to go away, I haven’t felt it in years.  It’s no longer about what I want to achieve on the bike.  It’s simply about how I feel on the bike.  At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if you’re faster than me or if I’m faster than you.  It doesn’t even matter if I’m faster than I was yesterday.  All of that is in essence irrelevant.  The whole point is how riding makes me feel.  That revitalizing feeling.  The one that infiltrates every single aspect of my entire life.  The one that simply makes me a better human.  Yeah.  I think I’ll just keep on focusing on that.

 

Friday, September 10, 2021

My Fifty Three




I still remember a time, not long ago, when I thought 53 years old was ancient.  Over the hill.  An old man.  As my odometer rolls up to this digit today, I can’t really say that I feel how I once imagined I would feel at my age.  Then again, how is 53 supposed to feel like anyway?  I mean, I’ve made a certain peace with the fact that my body is gently falling apart.  It’s inevitable.  Part of this whole deal.  But I also recognize this transformation as a privilege.  Too many don’t get to see what they look like with grey or no hair and wrinkled skin.  Too many don’t get to experience the physical sensations of living in this middle-aged body.  For that, I am very grateful to have been gifted this past year.  My flesh and bones aren’t what they used to.  But inside, I can definitely feel changes that are slowly happening as well.  Self-acceptance.  Nothing to prove anymore.  A deeper understanding of my own truthfulness.  They say that age is just a number.  But maybe age is really more a level of consciousness.  A measure of how connected we are to our true self.  A gauge of how disconnected we have become from our ego.  Maybe aging well is about awareness and letting what was never real in the first place die to make room for the emergence of who we really are.  Maybe growing old gracefully is in our ability to sit and breathe peacefully in silence.  Maybe it’s all about growing younger in our authenticity.  An ongoing inner truth revolution.  This is my 53.  

 

Friday, September 3, 2021

This Glorious Silence





My life has been very loud lately.  Unrelenting background pandemonium.  My racing mind trying to make sense of these things that are in essence mostly senseless.  This human condition.  Is it all in my head?  Am I the only one hearing it all?  Sunday morning.  All this noise makes me long for solitude.  I need it.  To hush this commotion.  To quiet this outer racket in an attempt to also silence this inner uproar.  Just me and my bike, out to Fundy National Park.  Pedaling up Whitetail, the noise evaporates as I steadily disappear into the silence behind it.  This tranquil forest.  Where truth lives.  Soothing.  Comforting.  At the mid-way point of the Black Horse trail, I stop at the cabin hoping that it isn’t rented.  It’s empty.  I take my glasses, helmet and backpack off and sit.  They chose to build the cabin in this exact spot for a reason.  The view of the Bay of Fundy beyond the thick forest is amazing.  The deep glorious silence of this spot in the vast woodland making me feel so very insignificant.  Not in a bad way.  Simply putting me in my place.  Shifting my entire perspective.  Part of me dying.  Part of me reborn. The re-emergence of a certain clarity.  I have become most comfortable and at peace alone in the woods. No matter how loud the question, I have learned that the answer is always sitting alone amongst the silence of the trees.  I can’t tell you how long I stayed there.  Time seemed to stand still.  All I know is that the person who got back on his bike for the second half of the ride was a totally different person than the one who rode there moments earlier.

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Summer savoring




This whole deal.  All of it.  It’s only temporary.  This life.  This body.  This stuff that I have acquired as an exchange for my time and energy.  This fitness.  This summer weather.  It’s all just a limited time offering.  I believe that it’s very important to remind ourselves often of this fact.  To help us appreciate.  Cherish it while it lasts.  Treasure it before it’s all gone.  But lately, I have been feeling the flip side of this truth which has been creating a certain sense of urgency.  A sense of life passing me by.  A rush to get in as much as possible.  A mad dash to enjoy every single moment.  A fear of missing out.  Summer.  Heat.  Abundant light.  I just seem to thrive in these conditions.  Vacation.  Lightweight.  Easy.  My favorite season.  But this year, seemingly more than others, I feel like my summertime motivation has become infected with a strong anxiety fed drive.  Too much of a good thing that I simultaneously need to resist and give into.  Appreciating each moment by mindfully slowing down and doing less.  Less is more.  Subtracting is adding.  Lowering is heightening.  So very counterintuitive.  As we glide through the backside of this summer’s climax, I need to remind myself that I suffer whenever my life simply becomes a continuous succession of one thing after another without pauses in between.  Summer isn’t over yet.  May we remember to give ourselves enough breathing room to fully savor the last few bites.

 

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Done trying






What if I just stopped trying?  Trying to keep up.  Trying to fit in.  Trying to be liked.  Trying to be perfect.  Trying to be someone else.  Trying to measure up.  Trying to prove myself.  Trying to impress.  What would happen?  Humans spend so much time trying so very hard.  No wonder we’re so very tired.  Fire isn’t trying to be hot.  Rivers aren’t trying to flow.  It’s just what they naturally do.  I have been noticing lately that whenever I feel overwhelmed and undone that I’m always also trying very hard.  Too hard.  Trying to be more or different than I already am.  Trying to control what was never mine to control.  I didn’t try to find a buddy to ride mountain bikes with in Fundy National Park.  I just loaded my Trance on the back of my truck and headed out.  Alone in the woods.  Climbing at my own pace, not trying to follow someone else’s.  Comfortably working.  Conservatively spinning.  Up to the pump track for a few laps.  Effortlessly flowing over the rolling jumps.  Carving berms.  That timeless feeling.  It just comes whenever I’m on my bike without really trying.  Not chasing accolades.  Endeavors that come from a place of self-love and passion don’t require any effort.  Just like meeting your life partner and falling madly in love.  It most often happens when we’re not trying.  We too often assume that the answer is always to try harder.  But what if it really is simply to stop trying?  I mean, who really likes a try hard anyway?  The irony of this post is that I’ve been trying to write it for over 2 weeks now…  Maybe the cure to writer’s block is simply to stop trying?

Saturday, July 31, 2021

Home






We moved to Prince Edward Island in September of 1992.  My first real job.  I had just turned 24.  Before the bridge.  Young and naïve.  Overworked and underpaid.  In so many ways, such a rude awakening.  Real life.  My wife (fiancé at the time) was going through a tough time personally.  And I also felt like I was barely keeping my head above water.  I was homesick.  I made new friends in PEI but still never really felt like an “islander”.  I also didn’t fit in with my old friends back home anymore either.  In no man’s land.  Back and forth.  Our jobs were on the island, but most of the living part of our lives was still in New Brunswick.  We stayed for 4 years.  Ever since then I have mixed feelings every time I go back.  Certain old unprocessed distressing emotions from this time resurfacing.  Revisiting outside making me also revisit inside.  I’ve been wanting to ride the Confederation Trail for years now.  A 449 kilometers network of gravel paths built on the old railway bed that run the full length of the island.  No cars.  No ATVs.  Bikers, walkers and runners only.  Gravel heaven really.  Last Sunday, my Giant Revolt and I hopped on the trail in Charlottetown.  Perfect weather.  At my own perfect pace.  Through quaint island towns.  In no man’s land in between.  Almost to Summerside.  Back towards Borden through Kensington.  113 kilometers.  As I get older, my PEI visits have slowly become more and more therapeutic for me in so many ways.  Something about now knowing what my younger self didn’t know 29 years ago.  Something about being mature enough to cherish the slower pace of life.  Appreciate the simplicity.  Feeling lighter. As much as I wanted out 25 years ago when we moved back, now I long for that island tranquility.  Out there, on my bike, I rode with my younger self and brought him home.

Friday, July 23, 2021

Just a moment




I have been alive on this earth for over 1.6 trillion seconds.  For over 1.6 trillion moments.  Where did they all go?  So many wasted.  So many simply endured.  Waiting for the weekend.  Waiting for the nice weather.  Waiting to graduate.  Waiting for the next big thing.  So much time squandered paying my dues.  So many of these moments exhausted as a means to a thought to be better future end.  Our entire lives are really but a series of moments.  Forever fleeting.  Forever passing us by.  What can we do?  We’re taught to make every moment count.  But what if we simply focus on making all moments equal?  What if we stop giving more importance to certain moments than others?  What if we stop cheating ourselves of so many present moments?  Looking back, as a child there was always something to look forward to.  Summer vacation.  Christmas.  Birthdays.  But, for some reason, I didn’t dull or minimize the other moments as much as I do now as an adult.  I didn’t try to set myself up for bigger moments.  I simply lived more moment by moment.  That’s one thing that I hate about bucket lists.  They reduce life to too few moments.  Living a good life isn’t just in the highlights.  It’s everything in between.  I rode out to Sackville twice this past week.  Nothing special.  Just me and my bike.  Two different bakery cafes.  Reminding myself that we’re all always running out of moments every single moment.  Savor this very moment.  No one knows how many we have left.

 

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Independant





I recently read that extreme or ultra-independence is a trauma response.  This really spoke to me.  So many dots connected.  Society tends to look at independence as strength.  Reading this made me look at it differently.  It also made me look back at my own life as a sexual abuse survivor.  I definitely recognize a shift that happened inside of me when it all happened where I felt a very strong need to learn how to do everything myself.  Maybe from a lack of trust?  Or more likely as a means to try to control.  I mostly ride alone.  Something about making my rides more personal I guess.  I’m always riding at the ideal pace.  I’m never waiting for anyone or trying to catch up.  And then there’s also the necessity to be self-sufficient in the case of a mechanical.  Carrying the right stuff.  Not too much.  Just enough to get you home safely.  I guess you could say that I’m very independent like that.  I hate over-complicating things.  I hate drama.  Whenever I feel like getting out for a ride I usually just go.  By myself.  Keep it simple.  This past week on vacation I rode every day.  Over 250 kilometers on all the different bikes.  Six out of seven days solo.  I’m working on letting others in and accepting help when I need it.  But I’m still very much okay with my extreme riding independence.




Monday, July 5, 2021

Second Life




“We have two lives.  The second begins when we realize we only have one.” – Confucius 

My second life started 5 years ago today.  My last race.  I almost didn’t go.  I just wasn’t feeling it.  Bell lap.  That rooty downhill.  Too tired to be descending that fast.  My hand slipped.  The helmet didn’t break.  A minor concussion they said.  Everything should be back to normal in a week or so.  But it wasn’t.  It still isn’t.  Certain changes in my brain chemistry.  A rewiring of sorts.  A hard reset.  Most everyone doesn’t realize how much that crash has changed me.  There is the me before.  And there is the me after.  Two different people.  I can’t explain it any other way.  The impact of my fall changing the vibrational frequency of every single cell in my body.  Killing me and bringing me back to life.  Shattering my ego.  Waking me up.  Completely smashing me wide open.  All of my past trauma fully exposed.  Working on myself.  The daunting task of cleaning up this mess.  Letting the old me wither and die.  Releasing what wasn’t mine to carry in the first place.  Healing.  Better than I was before.  Happier.  Heartfelt happiness unlike the short moments of elation that I was constantly chasing before, always right there but still forever fleeting.  Deep-rooted.  A knowing that everything is going to be OK in the end.  The courage to change what I have the power to change.  Some days are amazingly good.  Other days are still painfully difficult.  A new mental health perspective slowly gained.  And, through it all, the one thing that I am certain about is that I like me better the second time around.

 

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Simple





Animals in the wild.  Have you ever noticed?  They seem to run, swim or fly as fast as they physically can only when their life depends on it.  Maximal effort sprints seemingly only unleashed when they’re hunting for food or attempting to escape a predator.  The rest of the time, it’s all about energy conservation.  Intuitively working as little as possible to get by.  Part of it I guess is that they don’t know when their next meal will be, so they don’t want to waste precious energy in case they won’t be eating for a while.  It’s not something that they learn.  They’re just born knowing.  Their natural way of being.  Thinking about this made me realize that my riding has evolved in this same direction as I age.  I haven’t done a hard ride effort in 5 years now.  No intervals.  No intensity.  I don’t need to.  I don’t want to.  I guess my life doesn’t depend on it anymore.  Well, except for that time last summer when I was chased by that dog in Dorchester Cape.  Fight or flight.  I chose flight.  I never have a hard time finding motivation to ride.  Ever.  Maybe one reason is because my riding has become so very simple now.  Just get out and pedal at my own pace.  Willpower can only carry us so far.  That’s why the majority of dieters regain their lost weight within one to five years.  It’s not a matter of forcing myself to do it even if I don’t feel like it.  It’s a matter of allowing myself to be fueled by passion and self-love rather than by fear and guilt.  It’s a matter of redefining sustainable fitness.  It’s a matter of relearning how to ride a bike like when I was a  kid.  The purity and freedom of being moved by a simple pedal stroke.  Start where you are.  One ride.  Finish before you’re completely spent.  Rest.  Repeat.  Simple is sustainable.  Keep it simple.


 

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Sometimes I ride slow





Sometimes I ride slow.  And sometimes I ride slower.  The Canadian province that I live in just hit its 75% vaccination target as I write this.  Three quarters of eligible New Brunswickers aged over 12 have now received their first dose of the Covid vaccine.  Is this finally the beginning of the end?  A feeling akin to tearing off our masks the second we cross public doorways and step outside.  Uninhibited air flow.  The most basic and natural part of being alive, instantly feeling so very brand new.  A newborn’s very first breath all over again.  I am excited to see things reopen, for things to go back to how they were, to get on with our lives.  The expiration of this plague.  Less worry.  Less paranoia.  Less sickness.  Less death. Estranged family members finally able to reunite.  Society becoming social again.  But, if I’m completely honest, there is a part of me that can’t help but be sad as things begin to ramp up.  The pandemic simplicity.  Settled at home.  Nowhere to go.  Not much that we could do.  Back to basics.  Not thinking about travel since it wasn’t an option.  An uncomplicated existence of sorts in our little bubble.  It may be a mid-life age thing but this past year, working from home and with all the restrictions, I feel like my body has finally started to physically recover from a lifetime of rushing.  The rat race.  Caught up in society’s relentless brisk pace, I had never realized how existentially exhausted I had become.  This whole ordeal teaching me that living slower is simply what suits me best.  Life is short.  Why do we get caught up in racing through it?  Shouldn’t the whole point be to extend our time here?  To slow things down?  To prolong our days instead of sprinting through them?  Sometimes I ride slow.  And sometimes I ride slower.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Entranced by this dirt



Ashes to ashes.  Dust to dust.  We are born from the soil.  And we will one day all return to this same soil.  The molecules that make up our bodies coming from the very dirt that we walk and ride on.  Maybe that’s why I’m so attracted to it?  It’s a part of me.  I’m a part of it.  One.  This dirt.  The very first mountain bike that I rode was back in 1987.  Steel frame.  Fully rigid.  Canti brakes.  Ridiculously wide gearing range.  Back when I was completely consumed by BMX.  A time when I wasn’t yet drawn to the new emerging MTB movement.  Four years later, in 1991, done with 20” wheel bikes, I purchased my very first mountain bike.  Aluminum frame.  Fully rigid.  Canti brakes.  Triple ring crankset in the front.  7 cogs in the back.  STI shifters.  That bike re-awakened the explorer inside of me.  Through the woods, on this dirt, those fat tires carried me.  Now, 30 years later, still exploring on my mountain bike, a new whip rekindling my love affair with this dirt.  As I throw my leg over this new Giant Trance Advanced Pro 1, I can’t help but think of how far we’ve come, how far all this technology has carried us over the last 30 years.  29 inch wheels.  Front and rear suspension.  Full composite frame.  1x12 gearing.  Dropper post.  As mountain biking evolves towards more jumps, pump tracks and landscaped trails, I feel my connection to this dirt that is part of me run deeper.  A certain regression in my riding style.  The young boy carving this same dirt on his BMX reborn.  Familiar.  The only thing that has changed is the technology of the tool.  Even if my riding style is much more conservative as I get older, my new bike seems to be able to handle all that I can throw at it.  Playful.  Balanced.  Ashes to ashes.  Dust to dust.  Here.  Now.  This dirt.

 

Friday, June 4, 2021

Our Inner Trauma




“Trauma is not what happens to you. Trauma is what happens inside you, as a result of what happens to you.” — Dr. Gabor Maté    I’ve been seeing a psychologist for a few years now.  When I was younger, I didn’t really believe in this kind of therapy.  I mean, how can simply talking about our problems make them go away.  Slowly, I began to open and understand that the only way to reprogram these old foundational thought patterns is by first understanding them.  Why am I so obsessed with control?  Why am I terrified of letting my guard down?  Beliefs and behaviors molded by certain experiences that I have lived through in the past.  Experiences that triggered very unpleasant feelings that got stuck inside of me.  Behaviors that my mind came up with as a means to protect me to ensure my survival.  Trauma.  So simple.  So common.  So very crippling.  Like the layers of an onion, all we can do is start peeling.  Dig deep.  Go back to try to understand what we couldn’t at the time.  At the end of every single psychology session I feel lighter.  My shoulders less sloped.  My head higher.  Something about the weight of my pain leaving my body with my spoken words.   An ongoing process.  The work of a lifetime.  Sunday was cool and cloudy.  But I had an appointment with my other therapist.  My Giant Revolt.  Just me and my bike.  Over 3.5 hours of crushing gravel through the city parks.  Inner spaciousness.  Much lighter.  Something about the weight of my pain leaving my body with my turning pedals.