Sunday, May 22, 2011

I Know I Can, I Know I Can

How appropriate that, in light of my recent blog – “I’m the Little Red Engine…”, my first official bike ride of the season yesterday was on a rails-to-trails bike trail. It was on the Butler-Freeport Community trail that, around mile 9, I turned “I think I can, I think I can” into “I know I can, I know I can.”
Ex-husband-turned-BFF Larry (the man who bought me my bike when I got to goal) and I biked 11 miles in an hour and change. This was down from our usual average of 13 to15 miles in an hour. But my body is different this year and so is my focus. As I said in the little engine blog, “Somewhere in me exists a balance between Hardcore Lynn and I-Don’t-Feel-Like-It Lynn.” Yesterday, I found that balance, and – shockingly – it felt right. The ride was challenging, but not killer, and the best part was that I saw so much more than I ever did peddling 13+ miles per hour.

The Butler-Freeport Community Trail has several trailheads five to15 minutes of my house. I opted for one about six miles west of the start of the trail, which put us in the downhill slope first. Downhill is normally not my favorite starting position on a rails-to-trails trail (I’d rather do the uphill work first), but this was my first ride of the season with a crankier-than-usual body and I had zero confidence that I could bike more than a few minutes or a few miles, especially on an unfamiliar surface – crushed limestone and, in a few places, mud. The trails I cut my biking teeth on in Venango and Clarion counties were paved. I knew that taking it easy the first half of the ride was just plain prudent. (This would be me thinking ahead…looking for balance…I think I can, I think I can…)

I bought a second-hand bike rack last month, one that fits over the spare tire of the Jeep. I’ve never owned a bike rack, nor have I ever attempted to load a bike on to a bike rack. In my bike-riding married past, that was always something Larry did.

Yesterday, however, I read the instructions and put the bike rack securely on the tire AND loaded the bikes AND secured them with bungee cord and a strap AND drove us to the trailhead…with NO major incident. Having this knowledge makes life so much easier. In the past if I wanted to ride my bike alone on a trail, I’d have to stuff it in the back of my Jeep. This took longer than the actual ride, and one or more body parts ended up cut or bruised and much cussing ensued. These days, with grandbaby car seats practically welded to the back seat, the space in the Jeep is very limited. If I want to ride on a trail, I either take out the seats (which y’all know is a big old PITA) or learn how to work a bike rack.

My handiwork:
At the trailhead. It only took about five minutes for me to feel comfortable riding on crushed limestone.
Massive tree down…lots of mud on the trail.
Little waterfall. This is what I meant about biking slower. I not only heard the water falling, I saw it.

Larry, as bad as his eyesight is, is an excellent birder. He can always spot the smallest of birds. Yesterday on the trail, he saw a scarlet tanager and stopped suddenly. I nearly ran into him. The bird flew away so I didn’t see it. So disappointing. But a half mile later, Larry stopped again. “Look! An indigo bunting! See it? See it?” Yes, I saw it. And it was beautiful and brave (it didn’t move even though we were just a few feet from him) and he’s now on my Life List.

We turned around 5.6.miles in. Here I am, getting my confidence together. It wasn’t going to be a bad uphill ride, but it would be constant, and given I’d not biked like that in several months and I was not quite the cardio queen I was a year ago, I was a little worried. But hey, what goes down, must come up, and I’d been down long enough. I took off the long-sleeved thin shirt I wore over my t-shirt, tucked my Blackberry in my pants (to take photos on the way back), and started peddling.

Minutes in, the lung rush and the increased heartbeat started, but it was familiar, like an old friend. I knew what was being asked of my body. I’d been there before. And despite a lack-luster, half-assed winter of “exercise,” I felt incredible. I stopped a few times to take photos, but I peddled and peddled and peddled and when I got back to the Jeep, I was a sweaty stinky happy-beyond-belief mess.

Since getting to goal, I’ve eagerly anticipated the first bike ride of the season (Here are links to the blogs in 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010). I’ve been on dozens of rides in four years, but this one was the most “spiritual.” It renewed my faith in my physical self (I know I can, I know I can), and it affirmed what I’ve been trying to accept for many months, that less is better and that there is balance between doing everything and doing nothing.

What do you know you can do now that you didn’t know you could do before?

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More photos:
I never thought…all the times I crossed this bridge in my car…that I would be riding my bike underneath.
The creek at the end of the downhill.
The creek near the end of the uphill. (It's down there somewhere.)

A very happy me :)

15 comments:

  1. Good for you Lynn! You are such an inspiration to me no matter what "place" you are in. One of my goals is to ride a rail-trail in every state and although I know PA has lots of them, this one looks beautiful. Maybe I can ride a rail-trail and meet a blog hero at the same time!!!

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  2. Great post, Lynn. I too went out for my first real ride of the season yesterday. I had slacked off exercise (and regained some unwanted pounds) over the winter, but yesterday's 12 mile ride was fun and, like you, it restored my faith in my abilities. Love the Rails-to-Trails rides. Oh, I watch my two youngest grand babies and know exactly what you mean about having those car seats practically welded to the back seat! :D

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  3. Good for you and finding that happy place where its "in between". a nice place to be physically and mentally. You stop beating yourself up when anyone is too extreme. Just enjoy it!

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  4. Awesome post, Lynn!! What a beautiful ride!

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  5. Omg I love to bike ride I can't wait till the summer. Great pictures, really enjoyed you sharing your experience.

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  6. What a beautiful ride. I don't know what it is about biking, but it is so much more personal to me than running. Isn't that weird?

    I would love to bike with you some day!

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  7. good for you , Lynn! You look great on that bike! I love the little waterfall.

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  8. Yay, I'm so happy for you! Sounds like a wonderful day both physically and spiritually. What a way to kick the week off...

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  9. Good for you, Lynn! How great to feel so good about yourself. I haven't ridden a bike in many, many years. Do you (or anyone reading this!) know if they make bikes that would stand up to a 350 lb. person riding on it?

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  10. Love that you are making biking work for your body. And I'm very impressed that you did the bike rack thing yourself!!!

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  11. Glad you had such a great bike ride :) You look radiant :)

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  12. I just love the photos and scenery on this bike ride, thanks for sharing.

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  13. Hey, who's that fit chick on a bike? :) You're just as lovely as the scenery! I'm so happy you slowed down to appreciate it and to appreciate YOU!

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  14. Hi Lynn,

    I have just found your blog tonight and I am really enjoying reading through it.

    Can't wait for further adventures.

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  15. You look radiant, Lynn. Go, you!! I have been saying for 30 years now that I'm going to learn how to ride a bike but still haven't done it. You mentioned that you hadn't ridden in a while. Does your rear-end get awfully sore? A completely ignorant question but I swear, I don't know how bikers straddle those hard seats without needing to sit on a pillow the next several days after!

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