They keep me going …

I’ve written frequently about STRAVA. How I use it as a motivator. How I discover new, more challenging routes. How I meet other cyclists. How my understanding of the app has evolved over the years. But since COVID, I have discovered another way it has been motivating me during these cold, wet, winter months.

There are several local cyclists that inspire me every day to get on the trainer, and hike up, and over, “Little Mountain”. I look forward to their daily posts, and establish my plans for the day accordingly. Interestingly, they are woman. This is not to say there aren’t interesting male cyclists that inspire me. There are. But four women, in particular, not only inspire me to train regularly, but have taught me a better way to train during these bleak, winter months.

None of these woman are young. By their own admission, they are in their 50’s. Not old, but not in their athletic prime. They all cycle a lot. 10,000 km / year, and in one case, much more. They all work. And, they each lead busy, complicated lives.

The first is a health worker, who regularly commutes 20 km to work on her bike all year, and during the warmer, drier months, regularly rides with her friends on their road bikes. But this is not what inspires me. A lot of people commute on their bikes, and do regular group rides. No. What inspires me about this woman is that each, and every morning she hops out of bed at 6 AM, and goes for an hour long walk at sunrise in her neighbourhood. The same walk, every day. The same walk, regardless of the weather. And, when she gets home, she hops on her trainer for 30 minutes before showering, and caring on with her day.

She has taught me the importance of regular, daily walks. They are good for the body, mind, and spirit, particularly during this COVID pandemic when we are expected to stay apart. She has inspired me to hike “Little Mountain” every day.

The second woman is an emergency room doctor. 2-3 times a week, after finishing a 12 hour shift, she hops on her Cervelo road bike, and heads out for a 100+ km ride in the dark. That’s right. In the dark. All year. In all weather conditions. It’s always the same, flat route, with stops to warm up, and photograph inspirational murals she discovers along the way. I have always been nervous to cycle at night, but she talks about how quiet, and peaceful the streets are, and how meditative the experience is.

She has taught me that cycling is more than an athletic adventure. It is also a relaxing, and meditative one. And, she has inspired me to try night time rides.

The third woman is a professional triathlete, having completed over 15 events all over the world. This past summer, she was hit by a truck while out on her bike. She broke her neck in several spots, and metal screws now stabilize her spine. Her recovery has been slow, and painful. But she perseveres. She can’t ride outside. So, she uses SWIFT to race, and train. She can’t run. Not yet. But she gets on a treadmill using a device that supports her body weight minimizing the impact. She can swim. She has a continuous pool in her yard, and uses it daily. So despite having back surgery this past summer, she continues to train. And, she trains hard. A typical day may include 4-6 hours on her smart trainer racing with SWIFT, a 3,500 metre swim, and an hour long run. I can’t imagine what her schedule will be like when she is fully recovered.

She has taught me the benefit of micro training, doing shorter, harder efforts during the day, instead of one longer trainer session. Occasionally, she will do a long session on the bike, but usually she does multiple 30-40 minute workouts.

And the fourth woman is recovering from a double hip replacement. She is a local cyclist, but is fortunate to escape south for the winter months to train. And train she does. Her rides are legendary, regularly completing 100-160 km rides that include substantial climbing, sometimes as much as 2,000 metres. The long, difficult rides are not what inspire me. They are commendable, but many cyclists do this. What inspires me is her upbeat, positive attitude. With each ride ride she posts beautiful photographs along with an inspirational, sometimes philosophical, quote.

She has taught me how to remain positive, regardless of how I may feel, or what may be happening in my life.

I have never met these woman. Not yet. I want to. I want to tell them how inspirational they are. They know it. I can tell by the number of STRAVA followers they have, and by all of the complimentary comments they receive. But I want to tell them personally. I want to ride with them. When the weather improves, and I am back out on the road regularly, I plan to make it happen.

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