The Best Gift
What is the best gift you have ever gotten? A thing that has unmeasurable value and yet cost you nothing to get. A thing that keeps on giving and that truly comes with a lifetime guarantee. A thing that you share with others but with that sharing, only increases its value. A thing that brings you joy, brings you gratitude, brings you frustration and loss and brings you from beginning to end. This is a thing that is not for sale, nor for trade and not something you have complete control over keeping long term, yet is the most valuable thing you have. What is this thing, and where do I buy one?
This thing is your life of course. This is a gift my parents gave me literally a lifetime ago, and taking good care of that gift has been a challenge, sometimes forgotten, sometimes taken for granted, but now appreciated and something I desire to hang onto for as long as possible. For me, one of the best life expansion packages I have ever gotten, besides my husband and kids, of course, is the introduction to cycling into my life; Mountain Biking specifically.
In our lives, we often get caught up in the living of our daily lives with jobs, kids, creating a home and surviving day-to-day. I know that for me, the different chapters of my life, childhood, college, job, kids, empty nest, more work… all begin to blend together and feel like that time before… As we get older, and see the clock ticking along alarmingly, we begin to see that the time now is so incredibly important and valuable so here’s where mountain biking comes in for me.
What does cycling do for me?
Relaxation: Although it may seem counterintuitive, physical exertion is relaxing for me. I have always enjoyed hiking, splitting wood, yard work etc and mountain biking is an extension of that. Being outdoors, moving through the woods on a trail snaking through trees and across meadows is a great way to live in the now. Worries melt away as you focus on what the trail is doing, how the muscles in your legs are moving and how the air moving across your skin feels. Focusing on riding safely and smoothly lets your brain relax and clears the mind. Letting yourself follow some random game trail to see where it leads is a great way to let yourself drift back into childhood and the excitement of exploration.
Fitness: I am in close to the best shape I have been in decades largely thanks to cycling. I’m a firm believer in the saying “A body in motion stays in motion” and my answer to just about any complaint is ride a bike. Your joints hurt? Start peddling, and as your mind relaxes and starts to focus on the mental part of cycling, the pain seems to melt away. You have a headache or had a bad day? Just peddle. You are worried about a problem at work? Peddle it away, and often a solution appears somewhere along the trail. Too tired after work to ride? Ride anyway and just see how a new day is born as if the old one never happened. Burn energy to get energy. If you can’t ride outside, ride inside, but keep on moving.
Friendships and Community: I’ve never been a very good friend maker, somehow my preference for hiking alone outdoors never really led to having like-minded friends (who were also enjoying hiking elsewhere outdoors, imagine that!). I never really fit in with the make-up, heels and shopping crowd and never really felt like hiking counted as a sport so didn’t fit in with the athletic crowd either. Becoming part of the mountain biking community here in the White Mountains gives me a chance to get out with others, enjoying an activity that all of us love. Sometimes we talk, sometimes we need to focus on the trail and ride together, silently, somewhat alone in our focus, but together as a group. We understand each other and appreciate each other’s strengths and support each other’s growth. We celebrate each other’s life triumphs and support each other in difficult times. We understand looking like a sausage in a chamois, having helmet hair and licking dirt off the spout of a water bottle. Friends, thanks for letting me get to know you!
Learning and growth: I now know I am never too old to learn something new and chasing new knowledge adds excitement and anticipation to my life journey. Who would have thought that at 60 I’d be riding a mountain bike on singletrack trails? 10 years ago I thought that a dropper was something to dispense food coloring and that a saddle only went on a horse. Letting myself learn something new is great for my brain and keeps me challenged. Trying new challenges and eventually conquering obstacles one at a time helps with feelings of accomplishment and willingness to try the next new thing.
Feeling “worth it”: Surprisingly, the age demographic of mountain bikers is higher than one would imagine from seeing You Tube videos of 20-somethings careening down trails with a rooster-tail of dirt spraying from the rear tire. Now that we have two kids successfully on their own, the house paid off and multiple jobs between us, we can begin to think about taking care of us. You cannot buy skill, but a good mountain bike, appropriate for the trail, can help you achieve your goals more quickly and with more safety than an older outdated model. 29’ wheels, 1x drive train, good shocks and appropriate sizing are a joy to experience. I realize that I only have so many really strong mountain biking years left so why not enjoy it on a great bike? I came into mountain biking on an old 26” bike that was “good enough” for me, and it took a lot of convincing and mind-set change to come to realize that “good enough” isn’t where I deserve to leave myself. I worked hard caring for others during those early life chapters and now it’s time to take care of this life I was given so long ago. Why not? Can’t take it with you, right?
Accomplishment: Growing up in the 60’s and 70’s as a middle class girl, I never really felt like I was very important. Men did all the strong, intelligent, worthy things and women…were women. Things have since changed, but being strong on my bike is fulfilling to me. I enjoy making goals and meeting challenges. I love being part of the woman’s mountain biking Facebook group and seeing other women riding and loving the sport. I love supporting and cheering on our local women riders and really enjoy being able to keep up with local co-ed group rides. Around here, a rider is a rider; I neither see nor feel any sexism, ageism, or prejudice from anyone and feel a worthy member of the group. Feeling this strength through Mountain biking has given me more confidence and strength in other life and career situations.
Ice cream, good chocolate and tacos: Wait, what? Getting all philosophical and you bring up tacos? Well yeah! What’s life without good food and what’s good food without calories? Cycling burns calories and burning calories lets me eat good food without turning into a pumpkin. After I enjoy tacos for dinner, I ride my trainer a taco’s-worth of miles. If I burn a bowl-of-ice cream worth of calories, then there’s the reward before bed. I make special trail cookies, only allowed to be consumed on the trail (see recipe below), so there’s a motivation to get up and ride. Too often older people, women especially, limit food intake to watch their weight, and as a result forego the enjoyment of treats and lose muscle tone and nutrition. My theory is as long as you burn it, eat it, so get out there and peddle! Yum…ice cream.
Thank you: Thank you to my parents for giving me the gift of life. Thank you to my husband for giving me love in my life. Thank you to my kids for giving me a purpose in life. Thank you to friends who understand me and make my life better. Thank you to Cycling for renewing the love, purpose and excitement in my life during this next chapter. Thank you to ice cream for being so delicious. Keep on peddling! Lots of trail time to be had.
Trail cookies: Warning calories expended must equal or exceed calories consumed! (no idea how many calories per cookie, but it’s a lot lol)
½ c butter, softened
¼ c each: white sugar, brown sugar, maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg, slightly beaten
¾ c flour
½ tsp baking soda and ½ tsp salt
¾ c normal (not quick) oats
½ c each: dark chocolate chunks, chopped walnuts, chopped pecans, craisins
Form into granola bar sized bars and bake at 375 for 10-11 min.
Store in separate snack-size zip-loc bags and freeze until that next ride.
This video is well-worth taking the time to watch.