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When the idea for this post came to me, I was riding against a slight Gulf Breeze on Gulf Boulevard, approximately 100 yards form the Gulf of Mexico.  It was a great day to be on the bike!  I started the ride with a great riding friend, but had to part ways about halfway through 35 miles. I was riding solo, in paradise.  Flat surface, hot sun and not too much interference.  In most situations, I would declare myself beyond board, but not this place, and certainly not while I was on my bike.  I never take for granted a day that I get to ride at the beach.  Or precious water, white sands, cooling breeze and occasional seabird.   Alone with my bike and my thoughts… I needed a focal point to make this ride worthwhile.  Since it felt like I was riding INTO (it was variable) the wind, I switched my bike computer over to the cadence setting.  Everything became zen when I took my focus off of speed, time, distance and just got into my rhythm.

I started to examine my cadence on the bike, I looked at the shadow I cast on the road next to me and thought, “Geez, it looks cooler to be pedaling a little faster”, so I pedaled to 88-90 RPMs.  My heart rate monitor beeped as I went up to zone 3, not quite threshold.  I was testing my fitness limits, by increasing the rate of pedaling.  I held this for a bit, found a way to keep this pace, changed gears and increased it to 95-oops that got a little too fast going into the wind.  I was losing speed.  I had to, at this moment go back to 85, shift up and settle in.  A little beat/cadence pattern got into my head and suddenly, I checked my speed to find that I was going 2.5 mph faster, with the same wind in my face.  My heart rate dropped to Zone 1/2 (the fat burning zone) and I was a happy cat cruising down the equivalent of A1A on the Gulf side of Florida.  No iPod, no paceline, no riding partners… just me, on my bike.  Riding to the beat of my own drummer.

With all of the attention required to safety and riding, I didn’t think much about cadence outside of my current circumstance.  But I Googled the definition and found these:

1. a measure of motion in time

2.  sequence

3. recurrence of sound

4.  a musical chord sequence moving to a harmonic close or point of rest and giving the sense of harmonic completion. merriam-webster

Don’t these people bike?  Music?  Really?  Oh yeah, for most of my life I have run with headphones on.  I can’t wear them on the bike and therefore have had to come up with alternative ways to set a beat.  Climbing up hills, I repeat the phrase coined by Dori in Finding Nemo, “Just keep swimming.. Just keep swimming.”  Other times songs pop into my head, or chant the train cadence from the Little Engine That Could.  Rhythm is all around us.  That day, it was about finding my rhythm and becoming more efficient in completing my pedal strokes.  Thereby reducing the rhythm of my heart=less work.

Life is like that.  There are so many outside forces that want us to change our rhythm to accommodate theirs.  Work, shopping, flight schedules, boyfriends/girlfriends, spouses, children, pets.  I think you need to hold onto your beat to the most extent that you can.  If you need to raise your speed, find away to remove friction and get through your day more efficiently.  It is easier to ride a bike in a paceline, but you are at the will of leader for the speed, the cadence is yours.  Oh yeah, the only other word that came to mind that morning was patience.  It takes patience with myself to get the right cadence, it took two weeks of melatonin to reset my sleeping rhythm, but now I thrive on it and I have lost 15 pounds, due in part, to sleep.  I am trying to be more patient with people around me, with business, with life.  Certainly looking for ways to accomplish things more efficiently.  Each day, I try to take time to check my cadence.

Ironically, the definitions came back related to music.  Mom was a music minor, taught piano lessons, played the organ (a big pipe organ with lots of rows of keys), and loved music.  Despite her best efforts, I didn’t master piano or any instrument.  However, I did get the ability to carry a tune and keep a beat. (you should hear me in the shower)  I can usually find harmony to the songs that surround me.  I have the song in my heart to help me set my cadence each day.

My bike shadow at approximately 18 mph (do not attempt this)

Biking in paradise (near Clearwater Beach)


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Bok Tower Reflection

It takes a conscious effort to self-evaluate.  Honesty.  Dedication.  It means physically stopping.  Mentally stopping, taking a deep breath, and opening up to the details that surround you.  Looking in the mirror of truth.  Reality.  It’s not always easy.  However, to have that concrete information.  Knowing exactly where you stand, even though you are standing right there, is priceless.  Looking back on old reflections, journals, photographs is even more rewarding.  Maybe it’s chance to check yourself before you wreck yourself.  Or it is a reminder of how far you have come, how much you have grown and it’s the momentum to carry you to the next big challenge.  The wisdom to take on the challenge with confidence and grace.

I keep a bike journal.  Not perfectly, but I have kept one since Gasparilla 2009 when Publix gave away an exercise log in the packet.  I have a new journal.  It’s got a fancy cover with a picture of a bike.  It’s a mess, and there are plenty of places to catch up on the log.  I said I would write about the ride after reflecting.  So here is my reflection… looking back three years:

First year, first day- half way and I was struggling a little.

Struggled up the hills and bridges on my lil blue bike

2009:  Plus- I finished all 150, no bike/body problems, met so many new people, surprised my Mom and Dad

Delta- Forgot to eat first two hours of ride, didn’t hydrate enough, tried to take too much stuff, didn’t know how to shift, struggled in climbs, didn’t have a strong core at all, didn’t have lip protection/lip gloss (thanks Karen, for sharing)

Dad and me at the Finish Line 2010

The B-train 2010 at the finish

My "new" bike for 2010

2010  Plus- Trained at altitude in Colorado, got better at climbing, inspired by Mom, riding with familiar people, better nutrition and hydration, rode a great (borrowed) bike, rode with more experienced riders

Delta- Drove from CO to FL a week before ride, rode a borrowed, Men’s bike, overweight and climbs were hard, stopped too long at rest stops, rode above my pace too much, forgot my cell phone at hotel on Sunday, finished later than I wanted, too much salt

I was able to "give" a pull instead of riding caboose

Riding 13 pounds light helped a LOT! (Bike clothes do not flatter)

2011 Plus- Lost 13 pounds, trained wisely, worked on core on days off of the bike, climbed well, gave pulls, rode at MY pace when needed, not others, short rest stops, good nutrition and hydration, minimized distractions, didn’t have to drive :), new bike that FIT WELL

Delta-Lose 13 more pounds for next year, ride the 100 first day, better fundraising, don’t eat too much Saturday night, better pace line skills, new shorts.

Like I said, it was the “Best Ride of My Life… So Far.”  I hope that next year is better.  I hope my next ride is better.  If there was one thing I could go back in time and do-over, it would be to have been a better mirror for my Mom to reflect in.  I think I tried to help her, but my feedback was too harsh when she was beaten down by an illness.  I wanted the best for her, we all did.  I am still working to be a kinder mirror; to friends, to family, to coworkers.  Honesty is a gift, but wrapping it the right way makes it more of a present.

Just for fun:  “Yesterday is history, tomorrow a mystery, but today is a gift. That is why they call it the present.” -Kung Fu Panda and Joe Madden (Tampa Bay Rays Coach)

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I Woke Up Smiling

Having a ball after the ride

Boji's walk

I’m going to start with the morning after the ride, Monday morning and update the details of the ride as I get the pictures uploaded and have time to reflect on the totality of the weekend. Here is a picture from Monday and some highlights of the week, now that words are beginning to make sense again.

If you read Food Power, the statement about making Oscar the Grouch seem sweet in the morning is still true. Give me my coffee. There has been plenty of that this week. HUGE thanks to my friend Annie who knew what the greatest gift of all for my ride would be, a Starbucks card!! Boji let me sleep in Monday until 8:15, there was a cool breeze out of the West as we walked and enjoyed the early morning light. I saw someone who told me I was glowing. Windburn? Sunburn? No, I think I was just smiling. I felt great! I was still on the high that being a part of a team, part of a greater good and surrounded by good friends gives you. I was proud of my ride, not specifically the time, the speed, the distance-but the ride. I felt great! I had one tendon, behind my right knee that was sore, but not painful. The “hot spots” (feet, hands butt) weren’t sore at all, they were just “hot” on the ride (90 degree??). It wasn’t that $1,000,000 had been accidentally deposited in my bank account.  Maybe it was the quick look that I took at my email, facebook, twitter, etc. Overflowing with messages from supporters.  It was Denny B’s (and five good friends) birthday!! Yes, I was happy about that, called my Dad later to say Happy Birthday and tell him about the ride. I stopped by the bike shop to tell a few folks thank you for their help and support.

I know, I put my little medal from the ride on Mom’s shelf Sunday night.  I think I woke up knowing she was whispering, “You did good, Court”.

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Wuv my wegs

Yep, there's a picture of my butt and the back of those wegs.

(This is a 2nd attempt post from Friday night.   My phone wouldn’t cooperate with wordpress)

I have always struggled to wuv my wegs.  I can distinctly remember a fight with my mom as teenager about them.  We were in Michigan and she made a comment about them being thick or something???  As you can imagine, that made for some pleasant moments in the car.  Later, I think she realized that it hurt my feelings and self-esteem and tried to apologize.  The truth is, I have my Dad’s frame and my Mom’s musculature.  My quads are just ridiculously huge like my Mom’s were.  My Dad (and my Brother) have chicken legs.

I finally have a place to appreciate my legs-on the bike.  These stems are like a turbo-charged Vette.  Well, sometimes.  It goes back to the Food Power and how my fuel source is maintained.  I can be riding at 18 miles per hour (depending on conditions) and not get out of Zone 1 of my heart rate zones. It seems they should power me up hills, and they do… but, there is a little too much junk in the trunk to enjoy the haul sometimes.  They were definitely built for speed.  But on the bike, I have learned they are built for endurance and I get my second wind after mile 25.

I have been taking care of the wegs this week.  A self pedicure, a calf massage(gift), the good lotion, foam rolling, stretching and rest.  I hope you wascally wegs are weady!

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The way I see it

The following are words I used to describe this ride and how it relates to MS on February 9, 2010.

Mom circa 1970

Mom 2009

This 2 day ride, which starts at the highest point in Florida –BOK Tower Gardens and traverses the hilly citrus groves of Central Florida into Disney World and back to the highest point is a lot like the way I have seen MS. It is full of challenges and unexpected climbs, it goes through little known parts of Central Florida where you need the help of the team to find your way and pedal through the pain.  As the ride progresses into day two fatigue sets in and your body starts to fade.  The challenges mount as you must climb once again to the highest point where you began. After you have endured the pain of the final hour, you reach the beauty of the gardens and can look back on the arduous path you have traversed. You wonder how you found your way, where the strength came from. But after it is over, you realize what you have learned about yourself, you have learned a great deal about the disease and how it affects it’s victims and you are with the friends that you started with, those you have met along the way and you realize the gift….. as look across Florida

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Rear wheel with 12 spokes

My new bike, by the way (new frame)

I just learned that my front wheel has 10 spokes and my back wheel has 12.  Spokes on the wheels of a bicycle help hold the “truth” of the circles that are the wheels we ride on.  I swear, I have had my bike for three years and learned a lot of lessons from it.  It has been a reason to be around people that teach a lot of lessons too.  Last week, I was lucky to have an encounter with a person who knows far more about bikes than I will ever know.  He pointed out, that my rear wheel needed truing.

Wheel Truing:  Having all the spokes tight with fairly even tension makes the wheel true and strong. Changes to spoke tension will pull on the rim and affect its true.  The truing process examine the later alignment as well as the radial alignment to ensure there is an even circle and there is minimal lateral wobble in the wheel.

Much like our bikes, our lives have to be trued.  I know there are several times a day that my life is straightened, aligned or trued.  It is a constantly evolving part of the lives we lead.  There are bumps in the road, influences, injuries and injustices which can lead us off of our truth.  If you can imagine a diagram that looks like a bicycle tire and apply the following 12 spokes of your life:

1. Family 2. Spiritual  3. Career 4. Health 5. Financial 6. Education 7. Recreation 8. Charity 9. Adventure 10. Travel 11. Romance 12. Relationships

Now check your wheel.  Give each spoke a 1-10 rating and see where you need to add at(tension) to get your life true.  I have the quote by Albert Einstein on my facebook, my twitter, my vision board that says, “Life is like riding a bicycle.  To keep your balance, you have to keep moving.”  I bet the guy who came up with theory of relativity could explain the dynamics of the whole truing of wheels far better than I.  As far as, staying in motion, I give a little credit to Newton.  The aforementioned 12 spokes of life are part of a moving wheel, constantly changing and influenced by the motion of others.  Hold on your truth.  Your True North.  Keep moving and check for wobbles. Have people in your life that point out the truth to you.  Spend time and at(tension) balancing them and enjoy the ride.

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Food Power! (and my big bonk)

The BEST salad ever! Frenchy's Tropical Chicken Salad w. Banana Walnut Bread

Denny's Birthday Dessert

I bonked pretty severely today.  I woke up at 6:08, burned approximately 200 calories then had coffee and protein shake for breakfast, approximately 350 calories, 9 protein.  My next bite came at 2:40 p.m.  BONK!!!!  I was literally shaking as I grabbed for anything in my refrigerator.  Chugged milk, grabbed a MIX 1 shake, had PB&J on sandwich thins and a greek yogurt.  BUZZ… and crash.  Luckily, I pulled it together for my Wed. night ride and was able to enjoy that.  I was then pleasantly surprised by my neighbor with a healthy buffalo chicken sandwich and whole grain rice.  Throw in some of my spinach salad and I feel like Popeye The Sailor Man, or Courtney the Biker Chic again.  Aww, BALANCE!

The noise from the over saturation of our culture and food is enough to confuse a person.  It makes me crazy sometimes.  Fast food commercials with millions spent in research and food presentation to push our buttons.  The news with the latest data linking food to some ailment.  The Doctors on TV who preach a different do or don’t everyday.  ENOUGH!  Tune it out, turn it off and start listening to your body.  Not your mind or maybe a broken heart, but your body.  My evolution as an athlete, beginning with gymnastics at age four, has been closely related to my nutrition.  This is largely a result of my Mom’s dedication when I was living at home.  I am realizing what a drastic correlation my relationship with food has with my current sport cycling.  The lessons from my past are relevant too.

You should know, by nature, I am NOT a morning person.  I make Oscar the Grouch look like a ray of sunshine if I haven’t had my coffee.  But I need breakfast.  My Mom knew I needed it, no matter how resistant or belligerent (high school year) I was in the morning, she made me breakfast.  There was a phase, the Instant Breakfast phase, where it was on the verge of force feeding when I had basketball practice before school.  I am thankful for that act of nurturing now.  I crave breakfast, even if I don’t have an appetite.

I would be doing a huge disservice to my team, my riding partners and my sport if I didn’t balance my nutrition as part of my riding.  I have been eating “clean”, partially organic for the past week.  I am eating every three hours from 7am to 10pm or five meals a day.  My testing suggests I burn 1700-2000 calories just living my life.  Throw in a 1,200 calorie ride and that is a wildfire.  Now I know where the 13 pounds went.  I feel great.  I feel balanced.  I have a specific plan for the ride this weekend.  Food for the night before, my shake and coffee to start the day, Hammer gels** (100 calorie packs of readily absorbable carbohydrates), Perpetuem powder**, a mix of protein carbs and fat, Clif Bars, and Recoverite** shakes to restore the glutamine, the potent antioxidant l-carnosine, and a full-spectrum electrolyte profile.  There is a very fine balance to it.  Too much and I get really severe stomach cramps.  Too little, or forgetting to eat for the first two hours of the ride (2009) and BONK!

There is my lesson on the power of food and how I will be converting calories into energy to run the Trek 150 miles this weekend.  When all is said and done, I will have burned about 5,000 calories and will be ready for another round of Salad and Brownie Blast sundae at Frenchy’s.  Stand back, people.

Listen to your body, think of it as a fine-tuned machine and don’t let it BONK on you!

**All Hammer Products can be purchased at Chainwheel Drive.  See link!

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