Like many posts I write, the inspiration comes from one place, my bike. There is something euphoric about riding fast, riding familiar streets and riding both up and down hills. Today I am going to share a few takeaways from a particular stretch of today’s ride. It’s a segment of hill that is .85km long with a 2.7% grade (it’s not so steep). It’s called Olimpo and I have ridden it 41 times; 12 this week.
When I know I am riding the next day, I fall asleep thinking of the ride. All the parts. And I love it .Today I rode Olimpo four times chasing a Personal Best and really trying to crack the top 10 all time scores on Strava. While chasing a PB and a top-ten spot exists, there are much more important reasons I ride.
Personal Best (PB): 1:57
First Climb: I approach this climb after taking an easy loop and a fast downhill. From experience, I know that my first climb is usually my fastest so I make a few rules for myself.
Settle in during the middle
Finish gasping for air
Today I finished the first loop and then thought about how much of an Obliger I am. There was no one else on the hill, so no one to chase, so no one to prove myself to.
Takeaway: Character is built when no one else is watching. Time: 2:02
Second Climb: I always allow myself to relax a little bit on the second lap so that I can learn from the first climb and implement it on the 3rd. As I approached it today, I had one rule:
Takeaway: Give yourself permission to slow down. Enjoy the ride. Time: 2:36
Third climb: By the third loop, I usually try to do a fast loop leading up to the hill. Today I had a lot of self-talk going on, making myself promises and begging other riders to catch up or slow down so that I could have a friend (aka - competition) to ride up the hill with. I asked myself if I could PR it with my energy level. And I answered, yes. My third loop rules were these:
Don’t break on the downhill leading up to the climb
Take the inside edge of the climb and ride smart
Takeaway: Your best isn’t relative to the past - it’s only reliant on the present. Time: 2:08
Fourth Climb: By the last lap I spend the entire loop leading up to the climb planning. Since I was really alone the whole ride, I thought I would imaging Ricky, just in front of me, and I could chase this little avatar up the hill. It wasn’t until I started to descend that I thought more and more about it and decided that I would practice an out of body moment and chase myself. I would imaging a transparent me, just in front of myself and I would chase it up the hill. My rules were;
Push and pull the pedals
Finish on empty
Takeaway: If you can find rhythm in discomfort, it’s not all that bad. Time: 2:02
I was chasing a PR today. And I didn’t get one. While that is moderately deflating (cause I thought my last climb was smooth) - it will never take away from a ride. I get out on my bike because it gives me the space and time to put what’s in my head, into my legs and lungs. My thoughts are purposeful and present and time and time again, I am left breathless - in the - just rode up a hillas fast as I could - kind of way.
When life is busy as all hell - it’s hard to find lessons and nuggets. Find your thing - settle in - watch it work.
Character is built when no one else is watching.
Give yourself permission to slow down. Enjoy the ride.
Your best isn’t relative to the past - it’s only reliant on the present.
If you can find rhythm in discomfort, it’s not all that bad.
Like it is - according to Vail
“Raindrops on roses And whiskers on kittens Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens Brown paper packages tied up with strings These are a few of my favorite things”
The Sound of Music
I actually don’t envision myself singing these lyrics as I spin freely through the Austrian countryside. These lyrics remind me of my mom. She used to quietly sing or hum this tune as I sat in her lap, arms holding me tightly. My mom also lived with us for a month after my son, Oliver, was born. I would sometimes catch her rocking him back and forth and humming about favorite things.
It is important to have favorite things; those memories of my mom are some of them.
As a list girl, I also wanted to share a few of my favorite things these days.
Running: I know. There might be a collective eye roll here, reading that running is one of my favorites. I definitely got to a point in my life where it wasn’t one of my favorite things. It was an obligation. I was running 5 to 6 days a week and shaming myself when I didn’t get the job done. Here is the “things happen for a reason” moment. I had to give it up, and not just for a week. I had to give up running for four years. In those years, the appreciation came back. Now when I tie my laces and head out the door, I can’t wait for the kilometers of alone time where my body feels strong and alive.
Belly laughs. This one comes straight from Diane Clement. J On a weekend where we were sharing a house in Cuernavaca Mexico, Oliver let out one of those giggles that is contagious. It makes you belly laugh. Diane told me that day that she tried to make sure she makes her girls laugh at least once a day, just like that. It sounds simple, and it is. The greatest thing about having that goal is that you need to be present with the laughter, and when you listen to the giggle, you get so much back.
Wine. I am just being honest here. I am a sucker for memes about vino that remind us to say, “wine not”. When I travel, I always try and find a vineyard to visit. I have a running list of wines that I like and their ratings. However, I am not a sommelier, nor do I order the most expensive wine on the menu. Why do I like it so much then? It is the connection. My dream scenario is me with a bottle (or a vineyard full) of wine and a group of my favorite people. For me, wine is to be shared. When I am sipping on wine, it is the conversation and the connection that make it taste so delicious.
Books: I am a self-professed nerd. I really love to read, and I am a pretty equal opportunity reader. Novels, non-fiction, self-help, you name it, I will read it. From the days where I laid for hours on a bunk bed in the sweltering heat of the summer reading The Babysitters Club to the moments when I am now hidden in our cave-office in the basement pouring through text about education and technology, it has been a constant. It helps me escape, keeps me company and sets my brain on fire.
The list could certainly go on and it might be different 10 minutes or two months from now, but for now I will be strolling around my house singing.
Raindrops on roses And running through parks Belly laughs and bottles of wine And books with worn pages. These are a few of my favorite things.
Let’s start here. In Mexico, there isn’t a driving test to get a licence. You pay $40, go to the transit office with a proof of address and an official ID and your licence is ready in about five minutes. It is very convenient. Until it’s not.
I discovered the licence thing during my first year here, when I would see people repeatedly put their right blinker on - and then turn left. Or vice versa. And the old saying landed, “They know not what they do.” Most people here in the city have never had to learn the rules of the road. For that reason, it is unsafe to cross the street on the crosswalk, because for many, the white lines are not understood.
There are also stoplight inconsistencies. You know the delay in lights where your light turns red, and then there are two-three seconds before the opposite light turns green. In Mexico City, we don’t have that delay. One light turns red WHILE the other turns green, and when it does turn green, the person behind you honks (in case you didn’t see it turn green). Add this to the fact that many people driving in Mexico believe that red lights are optional, and intersections take on a whole new meaning.
Many entrances to the highway do not have a space to enter and merge, you just enter the “slow” lane and hope the car behind you will slow down while you accelerate. Most traffic police are on their phones, or passing the “secret book” to the person they pulled over so that they can deposit bribe money into it to pay them off (confession - I have paid it three times). Some days a road is reversed in direction, and others it isn’t, motorcycles have no lane, the potholes are sometimes a foot deep, bus drivers truly believe that they have the right of way 100% of the time, the street signs are often twisted and you can’t tell which way is which, people often walk on the road instead of the sidewalk, there are streets where you’ve seen or heard of muggings so your guard goes up when you are stopped on them, people constantly stop/park in the right hand land of some of the cities busiest streets, and driving 5k can often take over an hour. This list is just a start.
Driving in Mexico, sometimes this means the difference between bread on the table and no bread on the table. In my case, I am becoming more-and-more aware of the privilege I live - and driving is a choice. When you move to a city with 21,000,000 bustling souls, sometimes you just gotta put in a podcast and be grateful you get to listen to the whole thing before you get home.
Bonus! Check out THIS amazing birds eye of the city!
Like it is - According to Vail
Traffic… that word.
You have no idea what that word does to my body and my stress level. My brow begins to furrow, my heart starts to race and unfortunately inappropriate words begin to fly out of my mouth.
The scene. It is Christmas time in Mexico City and I have had a long week at work. All I want is to get back to my house, open a bottle of wine and enjoy the weekend and the season. On my 9.2 km (5.7 miles) commute back that sunny December day, at about 2 hours in, I was at a complete standstill. I could see my building. It was almost taunting me as I sat there helpless. There was nothing I could do. I thought about abandoning my car…
This is how bad it gets.
However, as most things in life, the difficulties often teach us a lesson, if we will let them. What traffic has taught me is that it is all about how we manage and respond to situations that counts.
Sitting in that traffic jam that day, I was livid. Fuming.
I would like to think that if I were in that same traffic jam today, I would relax my shoulders and let go or let it be. It isn’t that I have reached a complete Zen state with traffic these days, but I usually chose to do one of two things:
Avoid it: I sold my car shortly after the Xmas car fiasco. Whether hitching a ride or taking an Uber, I let someone else take the wheel. That shift of not being in the driver’s seat has allowed me to relax and curse less.
Also, I love to walk. If at all possible, I walk instead of driving. In this city, it is usually a time saver. It is also a whole lot healthier.
This may seem extreme, but I also say no to moving far from my house during peak traffic hours. If I have to struggle for hours to get somewhere, I am not going to be in the mood to enjoy it.
Make it your playground, your adventure:
Now, there are some places I have to get to in my car. It is inevitable. I have to get in the car and I have to behind the wheel.
There are moments when I am stuck behind an endless sea of red taillights and my breath begins to quicken. That is when I decide how I want to play. I might call a friend, play a podcast or meditate (eyes wide open, listening to my breath). I try to remember that I will not get anywhere faster the angrier I get.
Big cities mean heart-crushing traffic. However, in Mexico City, like most cities, there is insanely amazing food, a plethora of art exhibits and events and incredible weather for you to enjoy it in.
So, strap on your seatbelt and get out and enjoy life. (I just suggest you do it on the weekend, with less traffic.)