Ride Your Bike

You can do anything you set your mind to.

Sunday, August 12, 2012


According to Dictionary.com, strength is "the quality or state of being strong; bodily or muscular power; vigor." (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/strength?s=t).  When most people think of strength, they think of muscular strength...Tonight, I had the privilege of speaking with a person who is the very picture of strength.  

Many moons ago, I had the incredible privilege to ride with and meet my friend, Pat Blackman.  I like to call her "Persistent Pat."  Pat was almost always smiling and she just kept going, no matter what.  I love her because to me she was so strong and had strength that many people dream of having.  After meeting Pat, I was fortunate enough to meet her partner, Sherry.  Sherry always had a smile and a joke.  Pat and Sherry became part of my family.  If there was something going on, they were there and smiling.  They were at my Masters' graduation party, at my birthday/going away party or any other event.  I always expected if our C4 family was going to get together then they would be there.  Both of these women are incredible.  If not for Ms Pat and Ms Sherry, I am not sure that Ride Without Limits-NC ride would have made it.

My friend, Pat, died this year.  It was unexpected.  We moved to another country and my heart was broken because I could not be there.  Thankfully for my family from love, they shared it with me.  Pat had strength that people could not express in words.  She wasn't interested in winning or speed but getting to the end.  She had many obstacles to overcome when cycling but she did it with a smile.  Luckily, my friend, Leo, and I had the privilege of riding her first century with her.  My friend and Spinning mentor, Furman, and I were able to ride her first 60 miler with her.  She is/was truly amazing.  

Sherry took some of my very first Spinning classes and I had the ultimate privilege of getting to know her.  Sherry is another incredible woman.  She overcame more hurdles in a few years that most people don't go through in a lifetime.  

Pat and Sherry would have been together 20 years this coming January.  They loved each other and it was apparent.  

Tonight, I talked to Ms. Sherry.  Honestly, I will tell you that I probably put off calling Sherry because I wasn't sure I could handle Pat's death and my broken heart.  I was being selfish and wrong. Her strength after Pat's death is nothing short of AMAZING!  Words cannot express how strong she is.  Most people don't want to deal with normal bad stuff nevertheless death.  Sherry has done that.  She is still working on it but knows some days will be a struggle. But even more impressive is that she has the strength to admit that. I wish I could put into words her strength.  There aren't enough words.  Her strength makes me want to ride my bike a little further and be a little stronger mentally.  AND admit that sometimes you need a little help to get through the really crappy stuff.  

Riding my bicycle has brought me many joys but none ever so great as meeting people that can truly inspire you.  Thank GOD for that.  Folks, don't take that stuff for granted because some day it might just be gone.  Ms. Pat never got too big for her britches and was the first to volunteer or be there.  She helped so many riders become what they are today.  Appreciate it because a lady like Ms. Pat and Ms. Sherry don't come along very often, if at all.  I consider myself extremely lucky to have these wonderful women in my life... Ride on, my friends, ride on.

Monday, August 6, 2012

You are beautiful!

Tonight, I started reading “I am Beautiful.”  It is women saying how they are beautiful in their own words.  It is not at all a story of outer beauty but inner beauty.  There are wonderful photos of these women.  They have gone through tons of struggles and have the courage to see how beautiful they are.  It moved me. 

Last year, I thought I was beautiful for one of the first times in my life.  Somehow, I think I was equating that beauty with speed on the bicycle.  Slowly, I started to lose that speed and almost lost the love of my bicycle.  I couldn’t understand why this was happening and somehow I began to feel very ugly. In fact, on Saturday night, I said to my husband  in tears, “I’m so ugly.”  I am angry at getting knocked down after working literally years to build up ability on my bicycle and right now that is all I have that is mine. Today, I was so angry over something that didn’t really matter.  I also rode further than I have since February.  I had a wonderful ride.  I felt good and didn’t look at the computer every minute to see my speed.  It didn’t matter.  I took this anger out on my bicycle and I ended up feeling so much better.  Slowly, I am regaining the love for my bicycle. 

Several times in my life, I feel like I just start to do really well at something and get knocked down and have to start all over.  I have felt like it wasn’t my fault and it wasn’t fair.  Especially when I feel like I have to work 2 or 3 times harder than everyone else at anything athletic.  Reading this book in one evening made me remember that my beauty isn’t equated with speed on my bicycle or the scars on my body.  It’s inside…and I have to get some of that self-confidence back. 

So, why are you beautiful?  Because you are beautiful.  Here are some reasons I am beautiful:
-When my husband asked me why I was beautiful tonight, I said several years ago I wanted to become one of the most positive and enthusiastic people I knew.  When I feel good, I am.
-One woman wrote “on the days I don’t feel so beautiful, I call my mother.”  I love and appreciate my mother.  This makes me beautiful because I know some of the things she sacrificed and she went through that were really really scary. She is really really smart and always takes time to talk to me no matter the time or subject. 
-When I look at my neck and feel the scars on jawline from a dog bite, I think maybe God knew I could handle it and wasn’t incredibly vain.  Plus scars are cool.  The scars on my body have mapped my journey and the road hasn't always been the easiest.
-My hands are getting a little worn and tired but they show I have worked with my hands and enjoyed being dirty or covered in bike grease.
-When I think of the years, and I mean years, it took me to grow on my bicycle and I had to work really really hard for it.  Miles and miles of riding alone and with my cycling peeps made me appreciate how special it is and to appreciate the people who helped me.  I also have had the privilege of sharing that with others.
-I can say I made a mistake.
-I want to understand why people do things and am genuinely interested why.
-I have a long memory and can remember the smallest things people did to help me. Or when something reminds me of someone I love.
-I forget stuff like why I am mad at someone.  I also forget where I put stuff and can laugh at myself when I find them right in front of my face.
-When I am friends with someone then I am your friend until you make me so mad or hurt me so bad that I have to walk away but that takes a really long time.  I’m like a dog…faithful until you kick me one too many times.
-Usually if someone has wronged me and asks for forgiveness, I can forgive for the most part.
-I go to a therapist…not because I am crazy because I am human.  Someone once told me I was brave because to get through the bad stuff, you gotta go right back through the middle of them.  They were right.
-I can laugh at myself.
-Sometimes I carry the weight of other people’s burdens because I am empathetic. 
-Not being self-confident and not feeling good enough, I can appreciate those who are. I also can admit this is one of my main problems in life.  This doesn't sound beautiful but it is.  I can see the problem and try to face it and admit it out loud.
-While I may not agree with your opinion, I value your right to have it.  I have learned a lot from listening to other peoples’ opinions that I don’t agree with.
-I cry at sappy songs.  Song lyrics and quotes truly move me.  I know crying isn't a sign of weakness. I can see things other people can't in a photo.
-For the most part, I am a truly nice person.

Thank God for this book today because I was sinking in a sea of self-doubt and hatred.  So, I want you to go to your mirror and come up with five reasons you are beautiful and don’t say but.  Just be beautiful because you are.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Just enjoy the ride

Out I went on my bicycle again today.  It was a nice day and the path was great.  However, I kept thinking of my form and how I wasn't riding well.  Then I said to myself, my gosh, just enjoy the ride.  Enjoy the weather, it's not 100+ with 100% humidity, the bike path is shaded, paved and gorgeous, look at the scenery, be thankful.  It helped some but I was still over critical but the ride was so much better than the ride before and it went into the double digits...not by much.  I had a great cool down walk with the two puppies I am dog sitting.  Not too stiff and we'll see how it is tomorrow.  Things are looking way UP!!!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Back in the saddle again...

Sorry couldn't resist the country pun...yes, I rode my bicycle yesterday.  It was short, it was too embarrassing to say how far or the pace but I went.  This journey may be one of the longest in my life.

Maybe it was supposed to suck because then I would never get in this bad of shape again.  Maybe I expected too much out of myself.  Maybe I was too hard on myself.  Who knows?

So, I went after we watched the prologue of the Tour De France.  Inspired, maybe?  I went is the whole point and you have to start somewhere.  I'm really out of shape.  My bum doesn't have its normal toughness.  I came home in tears.  What can you do?  Try harder tomorrow.  Go a half mile more or a mile more tomorrow. Just keep going.  Like Teddy Roosevelt said "when you're going through hell, keep going."

Here's what I learned...consistency is key, don't have unreasonable expectations, don't be so critical of yourself, and no one is going to do for you. You can sit around feeling sorry for yourself or you can go out and do it.  You can still b**** about it but at least you went. 

So, hang around for the journey...it might be long but it will be interesting.

Monday, June 25, 2012

There will always be another Monday...

There will always be another Monday…                               Monday, June 25, 2012

So last October, I took a tumble off my bike. Okay, if you know me at all, know I don’t do anything half-ass…I shattered the top part of my distal radius.  For people like me, it’s the top part of your wrist.  I also broke another bone on the other side of the wrist.  Now, Ironman might actually be true because I have a metal plate and seven screws in my wrist. It’s a pretty awesome scar. 

To most folks, they would pick themselves dust themselves off and try again. Me…not so much.  For 2009, 2010 and 2011, I had tried to ride 10,000 miles.  On October 6, 2011, I was at about 7800 miles and on day 5 of a week-long cycling trip.  My favorite week of the year is what I normally call it.  Cycle North Carolina has been my tradition for the past five years.  I love it!  Even before the tumble, I wasn’t really having fun.  It had nothing to do with the company, the route, the ride, the wine (what could be wrong with wine), or anything.  Cycling had become work.  I was angry for so many things.  My husband should have been home from a year-long tour in Korea on October 6, 2011.  His tour was extended.  We would be moving to Germany in January and had to sell our home that literally had my blood, sweat and tears in it.  He would return for three weeks in November and then off to school for three weeks and back home for less than a month before we moved.  My new bike, though I love it, wasn’t quite right.  I was going to have to leave my friends of almost ten years that had become my support system and my family from love.  I probably wouldn’t be able to see my family before I left.  I was working from sun up to sun down to try and get our house ready to sell.  I was riding well but I felt like our club rides had become about speed and the hell with anyone else.  That’s not what the club had worked so hard for in the past.  So, even though I was riding well, it was never good enough.  After three weeks off the bike, I slowly started riding again on a flat bar bike in my neighborhood and eventually made it back to riding and rode 8,000 miles for the year.  Most people would be thrilled with that number but missing the 10K mark was just another failure to me. 

So, we moved…well, I should say I extended my stay for about 2 weeks to finish getting our house ready to sell.  I literally was working like a one-armed paper hanger to do it.  I was painting bathrooms when I was still in my cast.  I was filthy in the yard and just let me tell you…don’t do that, it was so itchy!!!  Thank God for friends because I would have never got it done.  Well, it still wasn’t completely done but our realtor and friends were amazing!!  So, on February 1, I get on the plane and got bumped to business class for the long flight. My bike was in tow and I didn’t have to pay for it.  I was going to see my husband and actually live with him for more than two months out of the year, which I hadn’t done in almost eight years. What could go wrong?

In Germany, in February…it’s really cold!  I don’t mean throw on your booties, handwarmers, toewarmers and go cold…I mean for a week it did not go over freezing.  I am from Texas, have lived in North Carolina for the past ten years…I HATE riding in the cold.  It makes all those tumbles and falls hurt so much worse.  Still, when it got to about 40, I would go for short rides.  The bike paths are so awesome here.  Soon, even that became a struggle.  Soon, I hadn’t worked out in three weeks, a month, and I didn’t want to.  My breathing started to become labored going upstairs and when I would stand up I would be dizzy. My shoulder hurt so bad that I had panic attacks on a regular basis.  I went to the doctor, the therapist, the physical therapist, the social worker…I was doing everything I was supposed to be doing but I wasn’t getting better.  Honestly, I told my husband that they should take my six Ironman medals back and I shouldn’t even be able to have my tattoo.  I felt like that had happened to a different person.  Luckily, they can’t do that.  Oh, I am sure I have used performance-enhancing drugs, too.  You know like Motrin, Perocet, caffeine, salt tabs, and whatever else might help.  I thought I was going crazy.  I mean literally, not figuratively because I already there figuratively.  To me, my prognosis was not promising. 

In May, I went in to my primary care doctor.  I went to the therapist directly after and she said I looked awfully pale.  I just thought it was because I hadn’t been riding and getting tan.  My husband works across the parking lot from the hospital so we had lunch in the dining facility and as we were finishing up, the assistant comes running in and politely asks, “Mrs. Doyle, could you please go back to the lab and have them rerun your blood work?”  I did and headed home.  After I got home, I got in the shower and as I was getting out, the phone was ringing.  It was the doctor’s assistant.  She said the words everyone hopes to never hear…Mrs. Doyle, can you come back in, the doctor needs to talk to you?  Okay, I thought this is it, I have cancer, I am gonna die.  My husband doesn’t answer his cell phone and I start to go a little crazy.  About five minutes later, she calls back with the doctor on the line.  The doctor explains that my hemoglobin levels were at 6.6 when they were at 12 in January.  I need to have a blood transfusion.  I need to go now.  There is bleeding somewhere in my system.  Our post is closing in the next few years so the nearest proper hospital is Landstuhl, which is about an hour away.  Landstuhl is where they send the troops injured overseas.  This is probably the top trauma Army hospital.  So, my husband gets home, we go to Landstuhl and check in.  By then, the hemoglobin level had dropped to 5.6.  That night they gave me two units of blood.  I stayed in the hospital over the weekend and had a procedure on Monday that found I had several small peptic ulcers, which causing the bleeding.  You see, when I broke my wrist, they found I had osteopenia probably caused by my heartburn medication that I had take forever.  This is why the bone shattered.  So, they changed the meds and when I got to Germany I went on a daily NSAID.  Peptic ulcers are usually caused by, drum roll please, NSAIDs.   So, they put me back on the regular medication and lots of calcium.  After this, I started slowly to feel better.  I was attempting to exercise twice a week and two weeks ago, I even went to the gym.  Finally, things seemed to be turning around. BRRRAAAKKKEEE…

Last Sunday, I started to feel bad.  Monday, I could barely get down the stairs and was very nauseated.  Tuesday, I couldn’t eat anything and I had horrible diarrhea.  Of course, my husband was TDY when this happens.  I can’t go to the store because I can’t walk down my short flight of stairs without grasping the bars.  I have the flu.  The last time I had the flu was the day the Space Shuttle Discovery crashed.  I don’t get a flu shot because I haven’t had the flu since then…Wednesday things seem to feel a little better.  Thursday I was so sick again.  Friday, I go to the doctor and he tells me I have the flu but he will run my blood levels just in case.  My blood levels had dropped from 9.1 to 8.2 but normally a transfusion isn’t done until the level is at 8.  The reason it probably dropped because I can’t eat.  I can’t tolerate the iron I normally take because it makes me sick.  It doesn’t last long in my system anyway.  In normal fashion, I start to beat the crap out of myself again and having a pity party.  I really was mad because it just didn’t seem fair that things always happen to me (lost the job I loved, dog attack, broken wrist, moving, low iron, the flu-nothing half-ass ever) and other people seem to just bounce back and I can’t seem to.  I’m fat, flabby, unemployed and I can’t get motivated for any reason.  I think if the house were on fire, I probably wouldn’t run.  I never wanted to be fat again.  I fought with my husband and think he’s a jerk sometimes.  Finally, last night, I realized that the only person that can change all of this is me.  I can walk around like I have been for the past six months…mad at God and the world, sad, and depressed or I can fix it.  It’s no one else’s fault these things happened.  Sometimes stuff just happens.  When I woke up this morning, I remember something someone once said to me about getting back on the wagon, there’s always gonna be another Monday.  What she meant was we often say “starting Monday, I’m going to the gym every day and eating right”, etc, etc. but we can start right now. It just happens to be another Monday.  Why am I telling you all of this?  Because I want you to come on my journey (and yours, too) of pulling ourselves out of the dumps or whatever.  People feel this way all the time but they never say it out loud.  I am always afraid people will think I am weak and I don’t want that.  So, here I am…I’ll say it out loud.  I’ll take the ridicule and rude comments – I got big shoulders.  Just so you know I won’t like it but I’ll take it because we need to stop trying to be SuperWoman or SuperMan and start being ourselves.  So, come along on this journey back to the road less traveled…the more, the merrier.  The road will be bumpy and dark sometimes but we can make it if we try.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

A philosopher?!?

So, especially when I have had lots of wine, I fancy myself a philosopher…okay, it’s a LOT of wine…anyway, this evening, having some yummy NC wine, I came up with this thought…we think the things that matter are the ones we can see and a value on but really the things that matter are the small things that no one can see and put a value on...  The smell of your husband when you open his car even when he has been gone over a year, the feel of a hug from a true friend, your Mom’s unconditional love, your sister’s love when she covers you up and straightens your socks in a hospital bed, a text from someone unexpected, a phone call, the feel of your bicycle when you have had the best ride (inside and out)  and the list goes on and on.  Same story folks…value your loved ones because in a split second they can be gone.  Take the time when it happens to really treasure the smell, feel, sounds, etc.  Because in the years to come…those are the things that really matter.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Back again...

Sometimes my brain goes a little off and takes a break from my blog and real life...it's part of my charm. 

The past few weeks have been especially frustrating.  Riding my bike causes some pain every time I ride and that is frustrating.  Somehow, I had my biggest mileage week of the year last week.

Truly, I have never considered myself an athlete.  Even through 6 IM races, I still never thought of myself as an athlete.  And I am not sure I do today but one thing I do consider myself is a cyclist.  I'm not fast, I'm not great at it but it is what I am.  I don't limit myself to this but in athletic terms it is what I am. Cycling has brought such joy to my life.  I have made some of my best friends through cycling.  I found out my Dad died while I was on my bike.  I have cried, smiled, laughed, angered and every other emotion I can think of while riding.  My friend, Pat, calls that bike therapy.  I have actually solved all the world's problems while riding...of course, I forget the solutions when I get home.  Another part of my charm, I guess.  Really, I am writing this to encourage readers to do what they love even though it hurts sometimes.  Because in the end, it is what you are. And if it makes you happy or you finish and feel a million times better then it was worth it.  This is not to say you won't ever have a bad day but those bad days make you appreciate the good ones even more.  So, pedal on friends, pedal on.