Roz Cycles through 2012, Finding Her Way Back to Balance

December 30, 2012

It's December 30. The foot of snow we had on December 9 has melted and compacted a bit, and been dusted with a couple fresh, light applications of additional snow—just enough to make everything look quite pretty.

Since there is no heat wave in the forecast and only one more day in the year, it is a given that I will not be riding my bike outside today or tomorrow and that biking for the year is really over. (Well it's been over since that snow!)

I like to look back at my year and assess my goals. One goal I had for 2012 was to ride 2,500 miles outside on my bike. I hit 2,507 miles on Saturday, October 14.

It was a long riding season. The 2011-12 winter was warm and mild so the months at the beginning of 2012 were warmish and snow free. By spring of 2012 I'd ridden my bike at least one day every month of the previous 12 months. This year, 2012, I've been on a ride at least one day in every month of the year as well, though biking ended much earlier for me this year than in 2011.

(I won't ride outside when it gets below about 35 degrees Fahrenheit and if there is rain or ice on the road.)

I have to share something with you all, because this blog is about my enthusiasms, and because biking is probably one of my main enthusiasms, and because I'm a bicycling addict, but I believe I actually found balance this year—though it didn't start out that way…

Typically I will ride a route that takes me 17 miles through the city, on dedicated paths where other bikers commute, or simply exercise. It's a wonderful thing to be able to cut through the city like that, see a cross section of neighborhoods, and just go and go without much interference from cars.

I have other routes that take me along the parkway. Those are beautiful routes along the Mississippi River Gorge. I've seen eagles and hawks (within 6 feet of me) and a variety of other birds. There is shade from the sun. It's all pretty wonderful.

It is so wonderful, and I love riding my bike so much, that we (Dick and I) have actually put a cap on what I can ride in a day—17 miles, which I can do in an hour. Otherwise I would be tempted each week to go farther. Instead I concentrate on going faster, or riding better (however I define that on a given day—but typically it means crushing some 24-year-old).

Cycling is my time. No one to talk with, nothing to do but peddle, concentrate on my breathing; just thinking. Thinking, thinking, thinking. I come up with the best ideas when I am biking. 

And the endorphins are not to be sneered at. It's a hard high to come down from at the end of the season when I have to start riding inside on a bike attached to a trainer. (Indoor miles are just not the same, even though the ceiling fan directly above me does provide a little bit of a breeze.)

Last year I rode 2,521 miles outside. You can read about my thoughts on biking in 2011 here.

I began again at zero on January 1, 2012. My goal was to get out as much as possible again, within the constraints of "the hour-a-day for cardio" rules we'd set up. I had a vague sense that I'd like to get to 2,500 miles again this year, just to show myself it wasn't a fluke. But other than that I didn't have any goals. I just wanted to keep riding because when I keep riding my knees feel great and I can bound up stairs. Stop riding, no bounding.

Every year since I've returned to biking in 2008 the pressure has increased—the pressure to ride more and more. It's an internal pressure. I just love cycling. When I talk about it people always look askance at me and say, "Why does Dick have any say in what you ride each day?"

What people don't understand is that the person living with the addict (that would be Dick, living with me the addict) has to deal with the fallout when things go into a tailspin. And besides that I've always talked my workouts over with Dick, he did coach after all. And except for that stupid idea of restricted breathing he's been a pretty good sounding board. 

I like to think of myself as independent, and low maintenance. In most things I think Dick will agree I am both of those things. But in other aspects of my life Dick is pretty much the gravity that holds me on the planet. So if I am going to do some dumb ass move like ride 80 miles a day and fall apart physically, the least I can do is talk it over with him first—since he'll have to put me together later.

I avoid the whole issue by not riding 80 miles a day. But don't think I haven't thought about it. Only my respect for Dick, and his already full plate of activities, keeps me from doing that.

Now that you know all that you'll understand what happened—and how it was a nerve wracking, but exciting time this fall. 

Once I hit 2,500 miles for 2012 I started to do the math. This is an involved equation dividing miles left into days left when days left in the season is figured out by voodoo calculations and old weather data and current bad projections by "weathermen."

It was October and I started to get a little panicky. For a couple days I said to myself, "I think I can make it to 3,000." Then for a couple days I would redo the math and say, "Nope, don't even try. It's going to snow." Other days I would say, "What if? What if we lifted the 17-mile-a-day limit?"

After about 8 days "What if?" started to be all I thought about. All calculations started to take "What if?" into consideration. "What if I rode 20 miles every day, 23 miles everyday, what is the limit I can ride?"

Another reason I don't ride over 17 miles on a daily basis is that road noise bothers my hands when I ride 22 miles a day for more than 3 days in a row. (At least it always has.)

My desk was littered with scraps of paper with day counts and mile counts and projections. I was in thrall to my addiction. I had another goal. I wanted to reach 3,000.

I did what any addict would do. I went to my enabler and presented a rational, reasonable case as to why the hour ban should be lifted.

First I admitted to the low back problems I'd had since returning from teaching color theory (and having 4 days off). (I just came back way too strong with a 22 mile speed day. Stupid.)

Second, I assured him that if I reached 3,000 I wouldn't just turn around and say, "Let's go for 3,500," because "Look, there aren't going to be the days. It's going to snow. I know that."

(I didn't really KNOW that, but I KNEW that in my heart.)

Third, I promised to stop if the road noise bothered my hands enough to hamper my work effort. If my hands were numb when I tried to work for hours and hours I would become pretty grumpy pretty fast and it would be worse than being unable to bound up stairs.

Fourth, I explained that I'd really thought about all this and knew that I wanted to go for this goal. I didn't think I'd get these miles next year and it might be my last time. But most importantly I believed that if I could lift the ride limit and give this a go, I'd be happy with whatever resulted, and I wouldn't feel like an addict.

(I know, incredible bullshit comes out of my mouth when I talk to people.)

And fifth and finally—I shut up, and waited.

Because my dad, and every successful businessman who has started as a salesman has always told me, talk and then shut up—the first person to speak is hooked.

And I waited. 

And then LB looked at me with complete understanding and compassion and went over each of my points one by one. Waiting for me to nod in agreement. And gave me exactly what I wanted, his complete support—to ride as much as I wanted.

Which of course has the wonderful effect of making me sensible and self-limiting.

There was snow on the ground Monday, November 12, and I had 188 miles to go. I even had to ride the trainer the next day, just so I wouldn't have too many days off. But then I jumped in with a vengeance: 19, 23, 17, 25. My plan was to have a light regular day and push a little extra mileage every other day.

I rode 21 miles (a horribly windy day which would only be more windy later so get out now!) and came back knowing that one of my tires was toast. As soon as I got out of the shower I went to the bike shop to get it changed right then so I could ride the next day. I worked out that I had over 6,000 miles on that tire. (Isn't Kevlar wonderful?)

I went 26 miles, 23 miles, 21 miles…The additional time commitment wasn't great. I could complete the longest rides in under 90 minutes; most days I was only gone for an extra 15 minutes.

On Thanksgiving Day, while everyone else was preparing and eating a holiday feast I was all alone on the bike path (I saw about 6 other cyclists the entire ride) peddling my way to 3,005 miles.

I'd completed 9 consecutive high-mileage days (I didn't dare take a day off in case rain or snow was coming; and I had the good fortune to ride before the rain fell on two of those days). My hands were doing great. In fact I'd never felt stronger. So Friday I took the day off and went to a deli with my friend Marsha!

I'd been lucky in temperature too. While there were some 35-39 degree days in that final few weeks, and some really windy days (more than 30 mph), the final 9 days contained several 40 to 54 degree days. It didn't feel like a slog at all.

Snow fell that Friday. A light snow, but it brought ice. It wasn't until December 1 that I was able to get out on the road again. I didn't know it then, but I only had three more outside rides. Despite pleasant riding conditions none were blow out rides. All were 17 to 20 miles. I resisted any urges to ride longer distances. I knew I wasn't going for 3,500 miles, just as I'd earlier predicted. 

Twenty minutes into one of those 20 mile rides my bicycle computer battery died (but I'd been that way so often I knew the exact mileage). I had to finish my ride the old fashioned way—with a beat, sense memory, and adrenaline. I crushed it. I was filled with joy.

I road 3,060 miles in 2012.

It might not sound like it, but in those two weeks or so, I got my life back, because what I did was ride for the joy of riding, as many miles as I wanted (which just happened to be a lot). I didn't think about my totals. I rode more slowly some days (when it was really windy) without frustration because I wasn't trying to beat the clock, I was just riding.

Last year I'd been bothered by my addictive stance towards bicycling. A mentor had told me to rediscover what it was I loved about cycling in order to bust out of the obsessiveness of my relationship with it. November 2012 was when I did that. 

I still had to use my will. I still had to ride on my gut several days (because of the back issues), but I found a way to listen to myself and push myself at the same time. (Just because you love something and find joy in it doesn't mean there aren't going to be difficult, impossible days. The key is to do it anyway.)

I loved every moment of biking this fall. It wasn't something to tick off, to get done in an hour and go on to something else. It was something I got to savor. It was also something I was gambling on because there was always that promised colder, snowy weather coming.

I've experienced this flip from obsession to joy one other time in my life. That's exactly what happened to me when I was 17 and had been journaling obsessively all my life. I met my mentor Thom and he helped me journal without obsession, purely from a love of expression.

We have to make that flip every day about a host of things. Sometimes there are people in our lives who help us make that flip. Other times we're alone and we have to make that flip alone. It's always nice when you can share that joy with someone and they appreciate it, but for 23 years since Thom's death I've had to make that journaling flip every day for myself. That's life. Everyday you have to live on your will and step in and do it (whatever it is), but there has to be joy in it. 

When people show you how to have joy in your life, take it and run with it. 

And if you find that you're losing the joy from something you've always loved talk to someone you trust about it and find a way to get that joy back. It is absolutely vital.

Just don't go running around the house saying "Feel my thighs," as you poke your now rock hard unflexed quads in invitation. That's just plain obnoxious.

What am I saying?! Yes, do that! Especially if it is just plain obnoxious—because there's a lot of joy in that too.

Reclaim something you love. It's the way back to balance.

  1. Reply

    I love this. I was substituting the word “hiking” for “biking” and getting to the same place. Now that there’s an app for everything, my 2013 hiking goals will include little GPS maps of the journey to balance. I like visuals…

  2. Reply

    Wonderfully generous post entering 2013! I found your blog around the time I was determined to ” take back drawing” for myself after a very rigorous period of years working at beyond human pace. Work became my ” cycling” and I forgot why I started drawing in the first place after 15 years of drawing on demand. Drawing for myself, for fun, for relaxation—well, I had to mandate it at first. Now it is a good habit, a practice. And I am infinitely more peaceful as a result. Answering to joy is the ticket as you so beautifully describe! An excellent 2013 to you!

    • Sandi
    • December 30, 2012

    Roz, my addiction used to be sketching and painting every second that I wasn’t working, now the addiction is reading and thinking about it but absolutely NOT doing any sketching or painting because “I’ve lost it”. I also had a mentor named Tom who died a couple of years ago, and I threw away all of my paintings and art supplies after a while. I read your blog and other art blogs faithfully because I still think about it but things in my life have changed and I am alone with no support person. I completely relate to your blog today. Thank you. It somehow frees me from the idea that I need someone there to assure me that what I am doing is valid and not just tomorrow’s landfill and I can flip to doing it for pure joy (I hope). Addictions are hard to flip. Thank you. I look forward to your enthusiasm every day.

    • Miss T
    • December 30, 2012

    Yay, Roz! Great post.

    • Dana
    • December 30, 2012

    Love it Roz, your joy is contagious! I smiled through the entire post. Congratulations!

  3. Reply

    Ellen, I’m glad this post spoke to you and the “work” situation. This is something that too many people fall into. I know that I am susceptible. Even before I went to work for myself I was a total workaholic. Small projects of my own of course got done in the evenings, but my big projects were limited to the 2 weeks of vacation I got every day. Balancing work for me began when I started working for myself and doing killer long days. But because I was working outside of my home I was able to do all the other things I loved stuck into the breaks in my day and it made perfect sense for how my mind and body worked—and I actually had more billable hours because I was refreshed.

    Drawing on demand is a huge thing to wade past to get to drawing for relaxation and I’m very glad that you have found your way to that.

    Have a fantastic 2013!

  4. Reply

    I used to bike a lot, haven’t been on one in over ten years… doing something for an hour sounds like a goal… 3000+ miles… WOW that is an accomplishment to be proud of (addict or not).

  5. Reply

    Sandi, I’m sorry that you are alone without a support person. I know how crucial that is. But I also know that we can each find our way to supporting ourselves emotionally, physically, and intellectually if we take some assessments along the way and ask what is really important to us and then make time for that.

    We get to be the validators of our own lives. The thousands of pages I’ve done in my journals since I was a child are all headed straight for the landfill when I die but I’m not going to let that keep me from enjoying every second I spent on those pages getting to know myself and my world a little better. I encourage you to see that as well.

    Also I want to say that I don’t believe you’ve “lost” your sketching and painting. It has been dormant for awhile.

    Too often we aren’t gentle enough with ourselves (other times we are overly gentle). I believe that sometimes we need to be a little “dormant” in some respects as our bodies and minds gather energy that was expended in other areas.

    Because of that I think reading is a great thing and am glad that you are doing that. I think that you can also still work in some sketching and painting as you feel the urge come back.

    My friend Ricë Freeman-Zachery wrote a book about “Creative Time and Space,” that’s actually what it’s called. You can see my post on it here and find instructions on how to get to a podcast with the two of us.

    I recommend that book to you because there were so many artists whom she interviewed and each had a different take on things. I think you will find the book helpful in finding those spaces in your day to work other things, like sketching and painting, back into your life.

    I encourage you to listen to the podcast and the other podcasts she did with other artists involved with the book. And read the book.

    Then make a bit of a plan for yourself for 2013 and beyond.

    I’m sorry that you lost your mentor named Tom and threw away your supplies. Sometimes that’s an essential part of grief.

    Not a day goes by, since my mentor Thom’s death that I don’t have a thought for him, share something with him.

    I know your Tom would want you to continue to explore all avenues of creativity that speak to you. That’s part of the gift he brought into your life, and you can carry that forward every day.

    Something you can do right away—something I have to do myself—is limit how many chapters or how many hours of a book you are going to read a day, or at a sitting, no matter how enthralling that book will be. And make sure that the time limit you set will both satisfy you and not exhaust you. Then use the extra time when you would have been reading to do some sketching. Just a little—perhaps some sketches of the peppers you’re going to chop and put in your dinner, just something you have around the house. It’s just to focus your mind and bring yourself back into your life and the present moment after your mind has been soaring around in someone else’s created space.

    Somedays will be more difficult that others, but I believe it will happen if you take it in small steps like that.

    Good luck. Thanks for reading.

    And I hope you have a great 2013.

  6. Reply

    Thanks Miss T. Of course obsessions relating to dogs “never” need adjusting or correcting. Funny how that is…

  7. Reply

    Thank you Dana, I’m glad it had that effect. Thank you for getting it. I hope you have a fantastic 2013.

  8. Reply

    Capt. Elaine, the entire 20 years I had the girls I never once got on my bike because I always felt I should do things with them—we could go for another walk, we could go and train, we could…I just didn’t want to be away from the pack.

    I even gave my beautiful Trek bike with the copper sparkly coating (like a bowling ball) to my acupuncturist!

    Of course less than 6 months after I gave the bike away Dottie had died and I started thinking about biking again (though because I didn’t have a bike my mind and body went in other directions).

    If you do get on the bike again, don’t think about “an hour.” I found in starting (and I was already fit in other ways, just not bike muscle ways) that 30 minutes was a good starting point. You can get a long way in that period of time, whether you are inside or out.

    I hope you get out on a bike this year—simply because I think it is just about the most fun a person can have.

    Have a great 2013!

  9. Reply

    A wonderful and enjoyable post, Roz. Congratulations on finding your joy in biking this past year. 3060 miles….well done!

    A very Happy and Joyful New Year to you. 🙂

  10. Reply

    Thank you Serena, I’m of course already looking at seasonal forecasts and wondering when the thaw will occur so I can get back outside, in the meantime I’ll have to peddle away indoors.

    I hope you have a great 2013 full of art and joy.

    • Sandi
    • January 1, 2013

    Thank you Roz. I ordered the book and listened to the pod cast. I appreciate your kindness in answering me. Please know that your words are a wake-up and mean a lot to me. It’s amazing to me how much impact what you have written suddenly made me cry and realize that it’s time to quit mourning and get on with it- sounds easy but at least I am going to try. Can’t wait to read the book. Thanks again.

  11. Reply

    Sandi, it isn’t easy. We all have different ways of dealing with mourning. I find it important to keep focused on the present moment. We can’t change the past, all we can do is live in the present moment, and that’s the key, living. RIght after Thom died there were days when I actually had what could only be described as a temper tantrum, upset at what was. But when I calmed down I was able to honor his gift by living each day fully, doing all the things we had thought about doing, but more besides, because that’s what mentors do—they prepare you to live and change and grow. As you move more back into life and reconnect with your creativity I hope that you come to back to the gifts your mentor gave you and embrace them again. Some days will be easy, some days will be hard. But if you create a structure for yourself that supports your creative goals you’ll be drawn more into the present moment.

    As that happens find people and activities to support that new growth.

    After Thom died I was recovering from an accident and unable to run (I’d been a distance runner) and I decided to get a dog so that I could walk everyday, maybe even run with the dog when I recovered. I got Emma and a whole new life opened up for me, not just with walking, but with tracking and with friends in the dog world. But most of all she busted my heart open in a pragmatic way (I’m not really very touchy feely about emotions) and she gave me daily lessons in living in the present moment. And of course that led to other adventures.

    I hope you find new adventures in 2013.

    • nina / apple-pine
    • January 2, 2013

    precious post, Roz! Thank you! 🙂

  12. Reply

    Thank-you Nina.

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