Saturday, March 9, 2013

Well, hello there Springtime!

It took the arrival of Daylight Savings Time and a first glimpse of spring to make me realize how long it's been since I've written anything. Looking back at the last four months, so much has happened - both good and bad - that it seems necessary to capture some thoughts on paper (or on the computer, as it goes).

Back in October, I attended TotalCyclist's Diva Camp, in Virginia. This was my fourth Diva Camp, in the company of great friends. Fresh air, fantastic roads, awesome friends, beautiful scenery, and hardly any online time made for a great break from everyday life. On the last day of camp, one of the coaches suggested we post our cycling goals publicly, on the group's Facebook page. I realized I didn't really have any goals, other than "I really should be more active this winter than I was last winter...". The thought of establishing goals stuck with me, and became very real in the next few days.

I soon decided to train - really train - over the winter, and leverage that training to help me lose weight. I'll keep this part of the story short, but it's been amazing. I found the people, framework and support I needed to train successfully, made many new friends in the process, expanded my cycling network significantly, and dropped 30 pounds (so far), since November 1st. 

I have to give a special shout-out to Ed Veal, of Real Deal Performance, and the Morning Glory Cycling Club, of Toronto, for having made my winter fantastic, and for being a big part of what is announcing itself as an amazing outdoor cycling season this year. I now have major riding goals for this season: two Gran Fondos (including the Steve Bauer CanFondo), Centurion C50, and a big cycling trip abroad (more on that later). Training has become a part of my everyday life - I'm not always as disciplined as I should be, and sometimes I still struggle with the motivation to get on the bike/trainer, but the occasional "personal bests" sessions I've had keep boosting me up. And we all know that "more results" only come with "more training". So there...

Losing weight is a transformational experience on so many levels. The obvious, physical level, of course... feeling, and being, healthier, with a lower resting heart rate, blood pressure that makes the doctor smile, and (a result of riding the bike so much), firm, shapely (shapelier, at least...) quads, hamstrings and calves. My bad back is less bad, my posture is better. More importantly, I feel awesome.

The less obvious, psychological effects of weight loss, are equally awesome. The compliments from family and friends who notice the change; having to buy new clothes every week (expensive but fun...); the boost that comes from doing something that used to be physically hard and realizing that it now feels easy; and the endorphins that come from regular exercise and increased wellness - those are all things that have made the last four months truly special and rewarding for me.

Training and being healthier also helped me on a very different level over the winter. On December 13, I got a phone call from my Dad to tell me Mom had been taken to the hospital by ambulance. We would shortly find out that she needed emergency surgery that very night, and that she should be fine, but would have a long recovery ahead of her. I immediately flew to Montreal to be with my parents, and over the next two weeks (and in pretty severe winter weather), Dad and I traveled to the hospital twice a day to take care of Mom. Mom returned home just after Christmas, and is now continuing her recovery. Life is not the same as "before", and probably won't be again. But - we're all very grateful to still be together, and are focused on making the best of the days ahead and the nice weather to come, so Mom and Dad can go back to being more active again.

Our annual holiday plans to travel south and spend Christmas in Mexico were obviously thwarted, and all three of us missed the sun, sand and beach time. But that became very secondary in the grand scheme of things.

A mere few days after arriving in Montreal, I received another dreadful phone call, from a close friend in Toronto this time. One of our friends had died, very suddenly and unexpectedly, of a heart attack. His wife - another close friend - and two daughters were left devastated, just days before Christmas, to deal with such a terrible loss. 

I wasn't able to leave Mom's side to attend my friend's funeral. To this day, his death seems unreal to me, and when I visit his family, I keep expecting him to walk in the room, like always...

So December was tough. I didn't have my bike in Montreal, and knew right away I needed to exercise every day to stay sane. I found a great gym near home, and squeezed in one to two hours every morning to go work out and expend some pent up energy. It's surprising how quickly the adrenaline and endorphins generated can lift one's spirits, even when dealing with very difficult and sad situations. 

I came back to Toronto in January, and was able to start skiing and snowshoeing every Saturday. My new "bike legs" work wonders on skis, and I've enjoyed skiing hard and fast this season, with no soreness and no fatigue. We'll soon see how long my new fitness and strength last in Vail, CO, compared to our short Ontario hills!

In the last three weeks, not only have there been a flurry of cycling races in Europe to watch and follow, but there have been a few local events to attend as well. A fundraiser for the Milton Velodrome (being built for the PanAm and ParaPan Am Games of 2015) organized by the Morning Glory Cycling Club was a great success and was attended by many of Canadian cycling's best.

The Toronto Bike Show, just this past weekend, also whet my appetite and allowed me to connect with great people and friends who share my enthusiasm (ok... obsession...) with cycling. I spent periods of time at Steve's and Josée's CanFondo booth and convinced a few folks to come ride with us in September; I also spent some time with my Real Deal Racing / Real Deal Performance friends Ed and Mike. Want to have fun and feel good about life? Spend time with positive and enthusiastic people. Emotions are contagious. I came home from the Bike Show totally pumped. No pun intended. 

2013 looks like it will be a travel year for work as well as for fun, and that is (for the most part) a great thing. Too much travel does make me a bit cranky after a while, but "just enough travel" puts a huge smile on my face. So far this year, I've mixed it up with some trips to the snowy and cold Midwest, New York City, and even the UK, where I found something unexpected: sunshine in London.

And now - already well into the month of March, I've traveled for work several times (for the most part - that's a great thing); I'm still riding indoors but will soon be outdoors; I'm heading to Vail in a couple of weeks to cap off the ski season; I've got a bike trip to Europe scheduled for May; a Gran Fondo in Banff in August; and Steve Bauer's CanFondo and the Centurion C50 both in September. Throw in there a few local bike races to go watch and help out at, a couple of bigger races to travel to, and another trip or two that will get scheduled at the last minute, and it will be another fun-filled, incredibly busy summer. The bike is ready, my new-found legs are ready, and I am psyched. Life is good®*. Big time.

Copyright "Life is good ®"

* I'm a fan of the "Life is Good" brand but this isn't a "plug" (I don't get anything for mentioning them, believe me... In fact, if they saw this, they might ask me to remove the picture). But visit their page, and odds are you'll find at least one thing to make you smile :)

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