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biking

Ready, set, go get a life.

One of the reasons I’ve slipped so often in the past on the way to my goal of a healthy lifestyle is that I slowly stop doing what was working. Sounds crazy but it’s so easy to do.

One week I’m running, biking and swimming and the next I’m biking and swimming because there was a meeting I had to get to or it was 95 degrees outside. Sounds reasonable and everyone in that meeting thought they should be the priority. Come on, you can’t do everything, right?

Then it gets easier to shave it back just a little further. I’ll work out on the weekends but in the afternoon so I can finally sleep in a little. Before I knew it I was idle again, had lost all of that muscle I’d put on and was starting to eat from the wrong parts of the grocery store.

Here are the questions I was forgetting to ask myself:

How much time have I gotten back because I’m not so tired or move far more slowly? Do those hours add up to more than the hours I’m working out? How much better do I feel about life in general because I feel better about myself and the way I look? How much easier has it been to keep on taking contrary actions and following my dreams because I feel better? Do I want to take a lot of medications when I’m older or do I want to still be running down the road? Do I want to be biking and chatting with some new friends at 6:30 in the morning, which means going to bed a little earlier or do I want sleep in because I was out at a loud bar the night before where I couldn’t hear anything and then walk around for the first few hours like I’m only half awake?

Fortunately, when the idea of slowing down struck me this summer my new biking friends like Ruth and Piper kept sending me annoying text messages asking me where I was and what did I think I was doing??!! Yes, there were extra question marks and exclamation points. They’re very hard to ignore and so, this Saturday there I was again standing in a parking lot at 6:30 getting ready to set out. Thank goodness. I’ve been told that this will continue in perpetuity. Now those are the kind of friends that can help me to really live. More adventures to follow.

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Biking around Chicago

There was a time when I really wanted to not be in pictures. Please, leave me alone. However, that hasn’t really served me all that well. In its place was this desire to be perfect, or should I say obsession that led to binging and dieting, sometimes to the point of fasting. I became great at gaining and losing weight but was clueless how to be comfortable in my own body.

This summer, I’ve been eating right and working out with a triathlon team and I’ve been surprised at what a good time I’ve been having without worrying about how I look. It’s just been fun with no attachments about how I look or where this is all leading. I’m not signed up for any races, that was never my intention and as they’ve moved into race mode for the last part I’ve been substituting my own runs or swims or bike rides.

It’s weird to be so reasonable about the whole thing but I’m excited to see where it’s all going. One of the unexpected blessings has been that I’m simultaneously learning how to be reasonable with myself while still going for the bigger dreams, like getting the next thriller published. I think they call that balance.

After a swim in Lake Michigan

Is it possible that I might actually learn how to maintain an ideal body weight while having a good time working out? Stay tuned, I’ll let you know.

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Jenn Gibbons showing us all what it looks like to inspire others by our actions.

Jenn Gibbons is a good friend of mine who gives of her time and her talents to others and now she needs your help.

Jenn has been attempting to be the first woman to row Lake Michigan solo and was set to row to Beaver Island a little over a week ago when she was attacked and sexually assaulted by a man in the early morning hours. Investigators believe the assailant traveled a long distance to commit the assault.

The suspect is described as a white male in his 30′s, approximately 5’8” to 6’ tall, with a fair amount of facial stubble hair, but not a full beard or mustache. The man has light eyes, an average to athletic build and shorter well-kept hair. He was wearing a grayish, green t-shirt, jean shorts and tennis shoes. A bright yellow Jeep Wrangler was seen in the area with a spare tire on the back and a yellow smiley face on it. Investigators are seeking information about the Jeep and anyone with information should call the Michigan State Police toll-free at 1-866-411-0018.

Prayers and awareness and love for Jenn along with an inner knowledge that a lot of us have earned the hard way, including Jenn.

Jenn is not only going to be okay, she’s going to triumph over this. Evidence of that truth is already apparent. When you read this Jenn will already be back out on Lake Michigan rowing again, this time with a pit crew keeping her safe. Her spirit is far more powerful than one man’s violent act and Jenn’s on a mission to kick cancer’s ass. More on that can be found at Row4Row.

I don’t see myself as a survivor or a warrior, although I’ve been called both. I’m not defined by those things. I hold hope that love really does trump everything and I’m willing to keep going to set that truth free and find out where the edges of that truth lies. I’m willing today to risk it all for that truth.

Jenn was back on her voyage only days after the attack accompanied by volunteers who supplied bikes and equipment so that she could keep going but on land for awhile. And friends who are into cycling showed up to keep her company on her journey. Now, at last she is back with her beloved boat and is rowing. Keep going, Jenn and show us all what can be done when we believe for the better. Help us all set our truth free. (You can also see more from Jenn on The 5K Project Page at this site in the videos.)

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Picture by Dru Bloomfield

Tonight was another run with the Triathlon Group and Mo Wills, and it was as if that first run last week never took place. I was still the last one by at least half a lap and everyone else was on one regimen and I was on another running routine but my attitude had adjusted itself.

Fortunately, I was smart enough to call only one running friend of mine last week to rant about how unfair life can be. I didn’t use those words exactly but it’s what I meant. She listened patiently, found a break in one of my sentences and made some suggestions about how to address the issues. It short-circuited my rant and got me back on track, which is why I called her in the first place.

And, on the last lap when they time everyone – lo and behold, I had moved up from a 14 minute mile to a 12 minute mile. Imagine that, if I stick to something I might get better. Going to call it an early evening tonight.

Tomorrow, the bike awaits and a six mile ride with the group. Talk to you later.

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Photo by F.C. Photography

It was a fairly quiet weekend, thank goodness. I got the bike back out again and went across the street to the church parking lot to practice starting and stopping and staying upright. This time I started to remember a few things from my childhood, like not pedaling in a tight curve and just letting myself lean into it. There are still a few muscle memories but honestly that one may be it.

It only took about 15 minutes before I was bored with that and the streets of my neighborhood beckoned. Once again, much like the swimming from earlier in the week, I was surprised to find out how much joy I got out of riding a bike around my neighborhood and stopping to say hello to friends. Walking doesn’t do it for me like that one bike ride.

Just like the swimming, I am connecting to some part of me that likes to run, bike and swim just for the fun of it. I didn’t even know that was supposed to be possible at 52. What’s even more interesting, at least to me, is the simpler my life gets lately, the happier I am. I may be applying that principle to a few other things as well.

Not a lot more got done this weekend. There was a sweet moment of being at a friend’s 65th birthday party in her backyard with all of her friends, enjoying their company on a hot summer night. It was a nice way to spend a Sunday evening. More later, I’m sure when the week starts to wind back up again.

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Photo by Youngie 42

It turns out that if you stay off a bike long enough, it’s not ‘just like riding a bike’ when you finally get back on one and try to pedal down the road. Tonight was the first bike session for the beginner triathlon training and Mo came to lend me his bike and was planning to run right home. Someone else was coaching this session. However, it didn’t take long before both of us realized that my 30-year absence from bike riding had left me completely clueless.

It was a little startling to realize I no longer knew how to ride a bike. Worse, at first it was my brain that was holding me back from trying. Mo had to hold on to the back to give me enough courage to start. That’s when I realized the next big aha moment. Stopping the bike gracefully was going to be even harder.

My first triathlon wounds

Four falls and a nice hunk of skin later I was still getting back up and trying again. Without even thinking about it, Mo decided to stay and teach me how to ride a bike, again, at 52 years old. Over and over again we tried until I could swing a leg over the bike, get the pedal in the right place, start pedaling and then somehow stop the bike without falling over.

At first I was trying to dismount to the left, onto the leg that’s now missing parts due to cancer and it was my brain that just couldn’t believe the leg would hold and down I’d go. Mo never winced, even after I took out a nice hunk of skin from my ankle. All he kept saying was, “Okay, start pedaling again,” and off I’d go, sometimes literally.

But by the end I was pedaling easily and once I switched to dismounting on the right and could remember to use the hand brake I was stopping easily. It was amazing. It’s still like I’m 10 again for one more summer. I ride again on Saturday. Week one of triathlon training is almost over and it’s been an eye-opener.

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