The qualities cultivated in granny gear

The forecast called for wind. Lots of wind. The kind which the Weather Channel describes as “gusty.” It was going to be coming out of the West South West so there was really very little chance of avoiding the wind.

Still, I was ridiculously excited to get on my bike.

There is a chance there is something really wrong with me. I’m open to that possibility.

Truthfully, I’m not too sure why I was so jazzed about riding for two hours in chilly temperatures with a head wind that would make me look like a Saturday morning cartoon. It could have been the challenge. It could have been wanting to prove that I was strong. It could have been the sheer joy of being outside and back in a regular training regime.

My goal was to keep a steady, quick cadence and to ride based on feel. I left the Garmin at home. No gadgets. Just me, my bike and my perceived exertion. I adjusted my gears to keep my cadence quick and my effort light, which meant not going very fast at times, particularly when battling the wind, which was brutal as predicted. My head often tells me to grind, to get into a gear that’s about as difficult as I can push and hammer away. You have to sweat blood every time you train or it doesn’t count, right?

I’ve learned that’s gremlin talk.

Sometimes the challenge is follow your heart and not your head. And while my head knows all the benefits of a variety of training days (easy, endurance, ridiculously hard) it sometimes thinks it knows more than it does. It sometimes get overrun by ego or the destructive practice of comparison.

My heart brings me back to focus. It is the place which understands my journey is not a one-speed road. It is full of starts and stops. There are outbursts of incredible work and stretches of recovery.

There are days when I can put the hammer down and crank out a hard, fast ride.

There are days when I need to spin in granny gear to keep from being blown off the bike.

One is not better than the other. There are different approaches to different circumstances. My head understands this from a utilitarian perspective. But when I listen more closely to my heart, I’m not longer merely muddling through the circumstances of the day. I’m reveling in the opportunity. When I listen to my heart, it brings me focus, autonomy and confidence. Which is good. Because my heart also knows that not every day is a granny gear day. But the qualities cultivated on those easy days, that’s what sustains me through the grinds.

This September, I’m racing Ironman 70.3 Princeton to raise money for Carolyn’s House, a residential housing program for homeless women and their children in Niagara Falls, N.Y. Please consider making a donation. Because every woman should have the tools to write her own life story.




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