Love on a bike…and off

Because I am involved in my own small way in the sport of bike racing, bicycling stories interest and inspire me. In my internet surfing this week I turned up two unusually moving stories about life on and off the bike. While it’s true that writers use sports analogies early and often to drive home points about sacrifice, achievement, and life, often their message is about sacrifice of time, other activities, and relationships FOR one’s sport. The stories below, however, have a bit of a different spin. They talk instead about sacrificing the sport itself, for love.

Alison talking about Tim: “He’s amazing. He’s the strongest person I know”.

Tim about Alison and his definition of love:

“Since the accident…it’s not always about that next adventure. We just enjoy each other’s company. My definition of love: caring for someone so much that you are absolutely and completely willing to put their needs above your own…and not ask why. Just do it.”

And the thing is, a true impression of selflessness rings through in Dr. Tim Delgado’s voice.

As I was absorbing the emotional moments of the Delgados’ story, I happened upon another headline on the ESPN site: Cyclist Willow Rockwell gives up her Olympic dream

It turns out that back in the beginning of April, champion mountain biker Willow Rockwell, somewhere in her lead up to an Olympic spot, decided to give it all a pass. Right before the 2011 World Cup Championships, she’d discovered she was pregnant and had taken time off to have her baby, Raven, and recover. She was gearing up for her next goal, victory in the 2012 World Cup and a chance at the Olympics, when something else clicked into place. In her words from her website post discussing her decision to retire from bike racing:

“In giving birth to my daughter, I also gave birth to an aspect of myself that was buried deep within. The woman. The lover. The feminine mysteries. I have found a love that transcends bike racing.”

I, for one, find it incredibly courageous of Willow Rockwell to admit to herself and to the world that these things she’s talking about have value–beyond her achievement in her chosen profession of mountain bike racing. Women need to say this more often. They need to say it often enough that we don’t wince at the sheer feminine sentiment of it. Here’s a bit more from Willow:

“My soul needs my baby. My soul needs laughter and contentment. My soul has expanded, and I had to let myself catch up with it. When I was in South Africa, I looked around and everything felt wrong. My heart and soul were not there anymore. My body was a shell of it’s former self, just going through the motions. Living is not going through the motions. Living is being engaged, with awe and wonder, in every moment. I have decided to live.”

Just like Allison Delgado decided to live, and her husband decided to enjoy Allison not just for the mountains they could climb and activities they could do, Willow Rockwell gave up a competitive career in bike racing to be with herself and her family. Maybe I am reading too much into a simple human interest story, but this is really the essence of humanity for me–how giving up an external driver (a dream, a goal) can often open you up to new possibilities for love and achievement.

The whole topic put me in mind of a quote from writer and teacher Holly Lisle’s blog:

“Every dream has a price. You need to know this now, because the price can be enormous, and if you don’t know about it in advance, you can wake up one day to find that you have paid with everything you ever loved, and what you have to show for all of that isn’t enough.”

So when is it okay to stop striving for a goal? Have any of you ever quit something you worked for, only to find you were better off?

Fitness Goal Achieved…Now What?

Back in December I blogged about fitness goals for the year and how we Americans have to be a little extreme in our culture to be fit. One of my goals for this year was to improve my performance at the Wintergreen Ascent (a bicycle hill climb/time trial held near Charlottesville, VA). I did the climb last year, but had to stop along the way so I could get my heartrate back under control. 🙂

This is a major climb, friends, on a winding road up to a small ski-area. We’re talking 15% grade in a few spots, gaining around 2600 feet of elevation in a bit under 7 miles. Why this was my goal when I live and train in the flat, flatlands of Virginia’s Coastal Plain, I don’t really know. Maybe it’s like hair (just go with me on this), you always want curly when you have straight hair…so you always want hilly when you have flatland?

Anyway, there was something basic and simple about my goal: finish the climb without stopping in under 1 hour. Before the race, I visualized myself riding by my usual stopping points on the climb. I managed my heart rate over the false flats and steeps (though that didn’t matter at all towards the top when my legs were burning and it was all I could do to push the pedals over!). I kicked it in at the finish and I made it without stopping. My time was 1:02.21. Not under an hour but close enough, and I shaved 2 minutes off last year’s time. YAY! HOORAY! Good job, me.

So now what?

The phenomenon of a post-achievement let down is so common it carries the name “post-race blues.” Maybe a little like “baby blues,” but without all the hormones and the screaming young’un. Common remedies include taking a break from the sport to rest and recover, documenting your journey so you have a place to return to and remember, and choosing a new goal. The first one I have down: I took the entire week off the bike and focused on other activities: reading, catching up with friends and family, laundry. I will have to stick the other solutions in my back pocket. I didn’t think to document my training, mainly because I wanted to keep it simple.

As for a new goal, well, that hill will be there next year…waiting.

Have you ever had a post-achievement let down? What did you do to kick yourself forward? Any MORE big fitness goals for this year? 🙂

Photo credits: Julie Fink and Ruth Stornetta. Thanks!

Sports As Inspiration

Susie Lindau’s (hilarious!) post about snowboarder Louie Vito and Shaun White’s recent perfect 100 score in the X Games Superpipe … and of course the huge sporting event coming up this weekend that will have the majority of Americans parked in front of their TV’s (hint: starts with SUPER, ends with too much chili 🙂 ) inspired this week’s picture blog of sports related ephemera. Enjoy and let me know what inspires you…

Sports have it all: highs, lows, comic relief and unimaginable drama. But what inspires us so much about athletic events? Of course there is the sheer, balletic athleticism.

There is also the cathartic shedding of emotions through the medium of a sporting event.  That’s why we yell at the TV, right? Go! Go! GO!

And then there’s the idea that we can do this stuff too. If we only had the chance…and the right equipment…and a trainer…and, oh, the athletic ability.

And last, let’s not forget the poetry of the human body, honed to perfection through training and discipline, pitted against another in a contest to see who wins. Because there can only be one winner.

Do sports inspire YOU? Would you rather do or watch?