As I have mentioned before, I grew up biking. When I was five I got my first real bike. Today, it’s what is referred to as a Lowrider; back than it was called a Stingray. I didn’t have any gears but I could go up any hill, and though I probably never took on any mountains, I imagined I was good at the hills, even back then.
I wouldn’t really call myself a biker. Over the years I have used my bike to commute to work. I’ve enjoyed mountain biking, road riding and just cruising around beach towns. I currently have three bikes: a road bike, a mountain bike, and a hybrid (that one is staying on Gabriola for now). Still, I am not as serious about biking as my Dad.
This summer I have learned some interesting things about myself while biking. The most interesting thing has been my relationship to climbing. I love going uphill. Apparently I smile when I start up a major incline. When I first heard this, I thought it was more of a grimace than a smile, but after getting feedback from a number of folks, I realize I enjoy taking on a mountain.
Always A Smile
I have learned over the years how to shift gears and position myself for good climbing. I like enough tension so I can rise up off my seat for some good leg work and then to sit back down, keeping a good steady accent.
I’m not particularly fast; however, I am consistent. I like breathing hard and feeling a bit of strain in my legs. I love reaching the top and feeling that sense of accomplishment when the climb has been significant.
Oddly though, I don’t like going down. It’s okay. I am generally not fearful but just don’t seem to get the same joy cruising down as I do pedaling up.
Being in Montana with many great climbs close to home, I have had the chance to give this lots of thought. Since I believe; ‘how you do anything is how you do everything’—I am curious about my relationship to mountains and how that might apply to my life.
It’s true, I do my best when facing difficult odds. There have been many examples of this throughout my life. Back when I took tennis, I excelled naturally and was quite good. I could coast and generally win with ease. However, I found myself much more interested in basketball. I wasn’t very good at basketball, but I was determined. Tennis, like riding a bike downhill, was okay, even fun. But basketball, I loved, though it was far from natural. I probably was working harder than anyone else, surprised everyone by making the team, and was best known for my scrappy, not graceful defense. I attacked basketball just like riding up a mountain. Not great, but very consistent, tenacious and always smiling.
Then there’s the whole cancer challenge. In many ways I found life easier facing down chemo, or radiation than dealing with colds and flu.
There are many other examples, like our work. I, for years, enjoyed working with the hardest, most dysfunctional teams. I always found that easier than a team that was doing okay but not great. Related to work, I started to get rethink this approach, and a while back and put a lot of effort into not doing crisis work, and finding the joy and challenge in making a good team, great.
Still I wonder. I imagine life is more like coasting downhill, and yet I’m not sure I would be satisfied with that. Maybe the Croatia coastline was the perfect blend of up and down. No mountains but some great climbs. And while there, I did let myself love the downhill, mainly because the views were awesome.
I am definitely comfortable when climbing. I know what to do, how to pace myself. I am not so good at coasting. I feel sort awkward, not pedaling or not doing anything but steering. It’s so easy to lose control on the downhill. Maybe I am just a touch afraid of letting go. Still, when I turned fifty, many people said, “It’s all downhill from here”.
I have faced and climbed enough mountains. I do believe it’s time to enjoy coasting downhill or at least riding the perfect coastline, letting myself enjoy the views!
This summer in Croatia there were a few major climbs.