Wednesday, May 25, 2011

These Legs Were Made For Livin'

I managed to sneak in a solo ride today, while my son was at preschool. I couldn't have asked for better weather - sunny, but not too hot, with a gentle breeze blowing in off the ocean. Every time I ride this road, I am again thankful that I live where I do, and that THIS is my every ride: endless miles and miles of beaches, surf, and the wide open sea.

I rode on Monday as well, but was really dragging my feet then, as I've been fighting off a cold for weeks now, and only managed a top speed of 17km/h. I might as well have been pulling a load of bricks for the speed I was going!

Today was different though. Today was one of those rides when everything just "clicked". The hills were merely a small challenge, a chance to change my cadence and maintain most of my speed. The straights whizzed by beneath my tires. Before I knew it, I'd been on the road for two hours. It's amazing what an hour or two on the bike does for my stress level - the tensions and problems of daily life just seem to melt away a little more with every mile I ride.

So to do my insecurities. I've long loathed my legs. They're not svelte, feminine appendages by any stretch of the imagination. I've had more than one person comment on my "man" legs over the years, and I always cringe inside, secretly wishing for legs like Jennifer Aniston. Today though, as I was biking along, I glanced down to check out the weird sound my chain was making, only to be struck by the sight of the muscles in my legs doing their jobs. It startled me a bit, for I've always thought of them with a sense of what they're NOT. I realized I've been looking at it all wrong. My legs are strong. They may be thick, but they're muscular. These legs have walked me back and forth across the floor at 3am, calming a fussy baby. These legs have walked me around foreign cities as I took in the sights and sounds. These legs have supported me, have run with me when running was my only escape, my only way to cope when life got to be too much. These legs pedalled with every fibre in them and propelled me along on a 7 day fundraising bike ride many years ago. These legs have seen friends and loved ones come and go, and have held me up through it all. These legs are strong. These legs chase my giggling children off to bed each night, then lean over to tuck their little bodies in snugly. These legs bend, so I can comfort a crying toddler. They straighten and stretch, so I can reach the box of chocolates hidden on the very top shelf. They may not look like Jennifer Anistons', but that's fine with me. I'd wager a bet that these legs can do all sorts of things that hers never have.

These legs? These legs are meant for living. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Here We Are...

In an effort to battle the "I've had three kids in four years" bulge around my middle, I bought a bicycle last summer. I did a fair amount of biking as a kid/teen, but hadn't sat my butt in a saddle in quite a few years (almost 7, to be exact). I loved the feeling if hurtling down a mountainside all those years ago, but not enough to actively pursue mountain biking as a form of fitness.

Instead, I ventured to our local bike shop, and spent some time with the owners (who happen to be wonderful people who I've known for most of my life!) and eventually came home with a new road bike. Where once I was seriously intimidated by the very skinny tires found on road bikes in general, I conquered that fear a few years back, when I participated in the seven day "Cops For Cancer" bike tour through Northern British Columbia. I figured that if those tiny, skinny tires were enough to keep me upright on the less-than-stellar rural BC roads, I had little to fear from them on our nice wide shoulders out here.

I logged quite a few miles in the months after picking up my bike, and each ride seemed to be better than the last (especially once my poor tush got accustomed to the feel of the saddle!). The pure exhilaration and intense freedom that I felt while cycling along the ocean was irreplaceable and indescribable. I had no idea that cycling would be such a stress-buster, that I would return after a 60 minute ride to find my head clearer, and my heart lighter. It was bliss, pure and simple. Finally, I had found my place. I was a cyclist.

Summer faded into fall, which brought the start of school and a return to the busy schedule that all that entails. Once we'd settled into our routine again, I found myself itching for that feeling of the wind in my face, the rush of adrenaline after a particularly fast descent down a steep hill, the pure release of tension and stress that I experience when I'm riding. My bike hung in the entrance way of our home, looking forlorn in it's upside down stance as it dangled from the coated hooks it calls "home". It seemed that every time I had a spare hour or so to ride, a big winter storm would blow across the straight, and I'd be dissuaded from riding by the arrival of yet another hurricane force gale. There were other, far hardier, cyclists out during the winter months, and I'd pass them in my cozy warm vehicle, with a little pang of guilt that I wasn't out there too, that I was somehow "less" of a real cyclist because I had retreated indoors when the north winds began to howl.

I occasionally managed to sneak out for a ride in between storm fronts, maybe averaging 2-3 rides per month, often while pulling my young son in our Chariot trailer. I found I didn't enjoy it as much when he accompanied me on my rides. It embarrasses me to admit, but I craved that "me" time, that solitude, that escape from the day to day responsibilities and realities of being a single parent to three small kids. In a small way, I resented the intrusion of that trailer behind me, the effect it had on how my bike handled, and detraction from feeling of solitude that I had loved so much in the summer months. It was in no way my son's fault, and I did enjoy chattering with him as I rode ("Mommy! You're slowing!" "Mommy, go faster, Mommy, faster" etc etc), but it just wasn't the same.

Now spring is here again, with summer hopefully not far behind it, and my bike is once again calling to me from it's alcove. I've been able to squeeze in more rides this month than the last three combined, I think. It has been wonderful. There is very little that makes me feel as good, as relaxed, as stress free, as an afternoon spent pedalling alongside the Pacific Ocean.

I realized that in order to ride as often as I want and need to, I would have to rearrange the way I think about riding while pulling the trailer. Perhaps I need to look at it from my son's perspective, as an adventure he gets to have with his Mama. He is always eager to join me on my rides, and is often ready to go long before I am. He loads up the Chariot with his Thomas the Tank Engine trains, his favorite book, a sippy cup, and his "raffi" (giraffe) blanket on colder days. Instead of looking at my weekday rides as my temporary escape from the realities of motherhood, I have instead begun to see them as clarifying exactly what is most important about it.

Time. Time with my son, time to slow down (even if I'm speeding up) and look through his eyes, time to see the wonder that is held in the snapshot of any given day in my children's lives. For those couple of hours, he has my sole attention, and I see the world around us through his eyes, from the splash of the seals in the surf, to the rapid croaking of the frogs in the swampy ditch. On days when he falls asleep, lulled into a nap by the motion of the trailer, I find myself missing his little songs, his excited shouts when he spots a deer emerging from the forest, his giggling chant of "faster, Mama, faster!" when I'm slowly working my way up a hill.

So now I'm happily back on my bike, grateful and appreciative of the weekend rides that I get to enjoy in solitude, but also with a new found love and acceptance for those special rides during the week. And my son is once again enjoying our rides as well, safely buckled into his Chariot, with his little red helmet protecting his "bwains", simply happy to be counting down the miles with his Mama.