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
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.