Augh! Spandex Doesn’t Lie

What was that line on the Wide World of Sports that I remember growing up?

Oh yes…. “…the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat….” Remember that? As I recall there was a brutal shot of a downhill ski racer taking a horrific fall down the mountain.

Well, I had a terrific victory this weekend…. [drumroll sounding….]. For the first time in three years I got on my bike and rode 12 MILES!!!

On the Bike!

Now, this may not sound like any big deal to you, but for me it was.

Years ago, I loved cycling and going for loooonnnggg rides. One of the greatest experiences I’ve ever had was training for and riding in the 1995 Boston-New York AIDS ride. More recently, one of my favorite activities with my husband John was going for long bike rides, and training for various bike-a-thons. With the progression of heart disease, though, I found it increasingly hard to do the rides.

I distinctly remember the last time I rode, and made a firm decision that it would be the last time. We were in Provincetown three summers ago, and had started out on a ride and were working our way up a hill on Route 6 outside of town. It was hot… and I was huffing and puffing my way behind John. As was increasingly the case I felt a fair amount of angina and couldn’t keep up with him very well. Finally, it got so discouraging that I decided that it wasn’t worth the effort, and I needed to throw in the towel. That was it…. I decided that bike riding was history, and I haven’t been on my bike since.

And so, Sunday afternoon when I got to my dear buddy Lina’s house, I felt very nervous about going on our planned ride together. We mapped out a route through the lovely industrial area of Woburn Massachusetts (having relatively flat roads trumped our desire for bucolic New England vistas….), I popped a nitro-glycerin tablet under my tongue, and we headed out.

Over the first 6 miles I was disappointed to find that in spite of the nitro tab I experienced the same moderate chest pain that had been the case in the past. Memories of the last ride in Provincetown came to mind, and I noticed my inclination to be pulled into the familiar pit of discouragement. In that place I very quickly begin to feel sorry for myself, and the messages start running through my head…

“See? You can’t do this….”

“It’s no use, you might as well give up….”

“You’re not going to be able to do this…..”

Uhhh…. isn’t that inspiring? Doesn’t that just make you want to jump up and cheer?

This time, though, I didn’t let myself get pulled into that black mucky swamp…. I observed it with a sort of bemused detachment. “Hmmm…. look at that….. this is an all-too-familiar pattern…. I wonder what another option might be? I said I wanted for this process to TEACH ME, so, OK, I’m ready! What’s the lesson???”

I find that (in my case, anyway…) wisdom often comes with a bit of a sense of humor and a Dalai Llama-like sort of amusement. The messages that popped into my head were:

“Well, why don’t you slow down a bit so that it doesn’t hurt? Huh??”

“What if you accepted things exactly as they are?”

“What if there were nothing you had to VANQUISH here?“

There is a way that I’ve been looking at this whole quest as a sort of BATTLE. As a fight in which I must vanquish my opponent. As long as I’m looking through that lens, then I’ve got to be strong to do battle…. and if I work hard enough and struggle with enough ferocity, then I will be victorious, because that’s how the story ALWAYS goes for the challenged hero…

What if I just accepted things as they are?

If I didn’t have to prove anything or battle anything or be victorious over anything, what would happen? Oh… I could just keep moving forward, keep breathing, slow down to the pace that works for me. You mean that it might be OK if I: didn’t keep up? didn’t go fast? didn’t appear to be strong? didn’t look like I was winning? What if I slowed down and actually went at my own pace… what if I moved along with others that had a pace similar to my own? What if I really accepted myself as I actually am?

As I imagine that, I can feel my shoulders drop as I let that sink in. I can feel a release happen… a long-awaited exhale take place. Suddenly I feel myself become present to what is happening RIGHT NOW rather than being in an anguished future unfolding in my head that isn’t actually real.

There is a paradoxical mix of relief and sadness and joy that springs up. The truth is, I have loved the part of me that can muster up great muscle to slay dragons in my path — I love to win and to be viewed as a winner. And, I can feel the ego-centric me me gratification of that — it stands in sharp contrast to the more human and real and rich capacity that I can sense awaits in this territory if I allow it to be.

And so, my slogan for the moment is: Accept what is, and keep going…

Happily, the 2nd half of our ride went much more smoothly. At the end, the bike computer said we’d gone 12 miles, with an average speed of 10.6 miles/hour — that is just the perfect distance and speed for right now.

Progress Update:
** Our training team…. me, Lina, Kerry B., Kerry H., Erica, Denise, and John are having a training day on April 19th in preparation for our May 15 Sudbury prep-Triathlon.
** I’ve posted some new results on the results page. Along with my cardiologist, I’m experimenting with different drug levels to try to get my good cholesterol levels UP.
** I continue to struggle with food/exercise while traveling — made a big commitment with my trainer Kevin to map out a good traveling work-out plan. Next week I will be in Bogota and have made a commitment with my business partner there around both food and exercise.
** I have started running…. or rapidly shuffling as the case may be. I have some concern about my 50-year-old knees and am taking it very slow.

Thanks everyone for your support. Your comments here absolutely make a big difference to me – I really appreciate it when you leave a comment even if it’s just a few words.



~ by Art on April 6, 2009.

13 Responses to “Augh! Spandex Doesn’t Lie”

  1. you look smokin’ hot! xoxo

  2. Hello dear one:

    Ahhhhh. ….this is the embracing of yourself and all that is that formed the nexus of my prayer for you in this journey. Weaving together the aspiration and inspiration with the celebration of all that is: right here, right now.” That is both freedom and joy! Hooray for you dear friend.

    I love you. I can see how this process is changing you in ways that are clear and definite, body, mind and spirit. What a priviledge to be able to be a part of it.

    You go!


  3. “I wonder what another option might be…?” I mulled your words this afternoon while tackling a hill on the bike I haven’t ridden in–how many years? Decided, “Another option might be to walk! Or gear down and take it slower! Or channel Lance Armstrong and crave the pain! Or start breathing again! Or…” and by that time, we were on top of the hill. My resolution is to apply your question wherever I am stuck over the next few days and see what happens. Will let you know.

    I love that picture, by the way. You’re looking very jock.


  4. Hi my Art;
    Reading your post brings back fond memories of our rides in and around Natick. I loved riding with you BECAUSE you weren’t a speed demon. I think that you did slay the dragon on your 12-mile ride. You found a way to be in the moment — that is winning in my book.

  5. Hi Art,

    Hmmm…spandex doesn’t lie? You look pretty darn strong and ready for action in your photo! And you made it through your ride. What an accomplishment, in every way. Patience and learning to be in the now, accept what is today is such a strong message. I had a dream recently where a friend said to me, “why can’t people accept me as I am today?” Suddenly, I saw my friend as he is today, not what he was when he was 23. He’s more amazing now. Just as you are amazing now.

    Keep it up!

    • Hi Jennet —

      What a wonderful message! Thank’s so much for sharing this story with me. I’m doing a deep dive exploration of “acceptance” these days.

      Love to you —

  6. Art,
    I loved riding with you and will do it any time happily. I also want people to know that I was climbing a hill at one point on Saturday (around mile 10) and all of a sudden Art was right on my back. Art, if you hadn’t told me you were struggling, I never would have known.

    Also, I really like this post. I think you are hitting on something when you talk about battling or overcoming this vs accepting and enjoying it. I so set up that dynamic when I am struggling with something (for me, its paperwork and bills!). I like the idea of just leaning in and going with it. Much easier in concept than to actually do. Thanks for the reminder.
    Love you lots,

    • Ah Lina my new riding buddy and dear friend…. Thank you so much for making that ride possible….. I’m up for another one on Saturday if that interests you….

      I keep thinking of what popped in to my head “well, why don’t you slow down????” Not a bad motto…

      Love you


  7. Howdy Art,

    I’m just plain inspired by your goal, your commitment to it, and the self care – listening to your body – you’re putting into the mix. Ride On!!!


  8. Hi Art,
    That is one great photo of you on the bike. I love the big smile, too. 12 miles at 10.6 miles/hr is quite a win in my book, especially after not riding for a long time..
    I will look forward to reading your Bogota adventures,

    • Thank you Sibel! So fun to hear from you…. I will think about all of this on my Bogota adventure…

      By the way, my trainer Kevin is working with me tomorrow on my fitness plan for Bogota…. thanks to you and the class!



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