Sunday, November 26, 2017

Excuses! Excuses! Excuses!

I know winter is still officially almost a month away but it is still a hard time of the year for athletes who prefer to be outside.  Well, maybe I shouldn’t be so general and state it’s a hard time of the year for me.  There’s just something about the shorter days and cooler temperatures that challenges my desire.  When you add the allure of sipping a home-made cappuccino in front of the fire then my motivation melts faster than a sugar cube.

Bundle up to brave the cold!
I really do enjoy running in the rain. I also don’t mind the cold when riding.  I have all the right gear for both running and riding in winter so it shouldn’t be a big deal. So, why the lull?  As much as I would love to provide some profound explanation, in the end, it all comes down to making excuses!

The first thing I tell myself is that after pushing myself all summer, it’s ok to take a little time off. In fact, it’s quite easy to convince myself that periods of recovery are a well researched and documented training tactic.  Then, I remember that my last big challenge was nearly 4-months ago on August 3rd.  So, taking time off sounds practical but it’s just an excuse.

While I do enjoy both riding and running, I also love sitting inside the warm house with Sherry drinking coffee and reading. However, after a bit of reading I frequently find myself wasting time on Facebook or Instagram so that’s just another excuse.

My kryptonite!
Recently, Sherry’s retirement is having an impact.  She used to start getting ready for work at 6:30 a.m. and I would use that as my cue to go run or ride.  Now, at 6:30 a.m., she is either still asleep or sitting in the chair next to me reading and drinking coffee.  Before I know it, it’s 7:30 a.m. and I’m still just sitting there.  Of course, when I’m on the computer the current time is right there.  I could also set an alarm on the computer, my phone, or our Echo. In the end, it’s yet another excuse.

I mentioned that I have the right gear but even that becomes an excuse.  Sometimes, just the thought of having to add layer after layer of clothing seems like an arduous process.  Do I really want to spend all that time getting ready for a short 3-mile run?  By now you know the answer is no and another excuse is created.

Longing for warmer days!
The list of excuses goes on.  I have to get to work early! I’ll run when I get home! I’ll go further tomorrow!  I want to spend time writing!  I need to practice my French!  There are many, many things that can stop me from heading out the door.

The bottom line is that these are all just excuses for not wanting to exercise.  And that’s the real problem.  On beautiful days running and riding are a pleasure.  Forcing myself out into the cold and dark days of winter just feel like exercise.  I don’t do it for the exercise, I do it for fun.  The exercise is just a bonus.

It may seem strange but, in the end, I’m ok with this.  I’m ok with choosing coffee over running and reading over riding.  For me, it’s all about striking the right balance

It started to rain as I am finishing this post and, of course, I am supposed to be heading out for a 5-mile run.  I wonder which excuse I’ll use this morning?


Monday, November 13, 2017

As the Smoke Cleared

On October 9th, parts of my city of Santa Rosa, along with many other communities in Wine Country, were ravaged by a wild fire.  The final count of homes and businesses lost in the fire boarders on the incomprehensible.  I have yet to talk with a person since that day who does not personally know somebody who lost everything.  The stories of how people escaped, or sadly in some cases did not, will be told for years to come.

After surviving the initial onslaught of devastation, it was time to take stock as a first step towards the new future.  I was time to start rebounding.

Blue sky, fall colors!
Rebounding will mean different things to different people. I was very fortunate in that the fire never reached my neighborhood.  We didn’t even have to evacuate although we did pack the car one night just in case.  Therefore, rebounding for me should be much easier than it will be for others.  Still, I found myself needing a release. I needed some time to reflect.  I needed to enjoy being alive and a reminder for how grateful I am for all that I have. I needed to ride my bike!

It took three weeks after the fires before the smoke cleared enough to ride.  As always, I started thinking about where to ride as I was getting ready.  Since I was riding alone, my choices seemed unlimited.  As I rolled down the driveway and onto the road, I still didn’t know the exact route.  I only knew that I was heading west, away from the areas impacted by the fire.

Autumn among the vines.
I’m sure that one day I will go through the fire zones but this was not that day.  On this day, I needed to see Mother Nature’s softer side.  The side that creates beautiful landscapes along rolling hills versus her destructive side that can erase that same landscape overnight.

As I rolled along, I was acutely aware of what a beautiful day it was.  While the smoke-filled skies had created some spectacular sunrises and sunsets, I was very happy it was gone.  October is one of my favorite months of the year from a weather perspective and I had spent most of it trapped inside the house watching people wearing masks as they walked their dogs.  

The plan was to get out and enjoy the all of the beauty Sonoma County has to offer so I spent the time riding at a leisurely pace.  I made in out of town and into the vineyards.  As the grape vines prepare for their winter hibernation their leaves change into glorious hues of red, orange and yellow. 

The look of autumn.
At each turning point, I chose the road that I thought would be the prettiest.  In the process, I ended up taking some of my favorite roads.  While that may not have been the plan, in hindsight it made perfect sense.

The ride itself was fairly short at just over 29 miles.  However, it may have been the most therapeutic 29 miles I have ever ridden.  The beauty, the fresh air, the wind in my face, and the feeling of rolling along free of cares, even if temporarily, was magical.

I have ridden numerous time since that day as I try to enjoy the last days of autumn.  While still focused on the beauty of where I live, my last ride actually took me through some of the areas most impacted by the fire but I’ll talk about that at another time.  

For now, as winter is fast approaching, I find myself hoping that we will continue to see Mother Nature’s softer side.


Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Merci Beaucoup Betty

This is a post to thank Betty.  An ode to Betty if you will.  Unknowingly, Betty set into motion a chain of events that had a dramatic, and positive, impact on how Sherry and I spend time in Paris.  Our plans used to center around which new restaurant to try, museum to visit, or arrondissement to explore.  Now, they include dinner and drinks with friends.  

The always smiling Betty!
How did one person, who we did not know at the time, create such an impact? Betty, along with a couple of friends, started the running group called Let’s Run Paris. 

In 2015, Sherry and I were fortunate enough to spend Christmas in Paris.  By happenstance, I read a travel article on running in Paris that suggested running with a local running group.  It suggested finding groups on the site Meetup.  A couple of clicks later, I requested to join LRP.

I don’t remember why I selected LRP over the other options.  On that trip, I ran with them three times.  During those runs I was warmly received, as all guests are, and made a few acquaintances who I kept in touch with through Facebook.  I met people from all other the world but I did not meet Betty.

The LRP crew on a Saturday run.
Back home, I was pretty active on the LRP Facebook page posting pictures of me running in various U. S. cities in my LRP t-shirt.  Of course, as the founder, Betty was also very active on the page.  As I read Betty’s posts and comments, which frequently included words of encouragement, it was apparent to me that she was a special person.  She seemed very warm, caring, and genuine.  

Our next trip to Paris was very short so I was only able to run once with LRP.  It was great to see my friends once again.  I also met several new people including Betty.  Within seconds, you realize the Betty on Facebook is the real deal.  She is just as warm and caring in person.  She is one of those people that not only do you instantly like her, but you feel like you’ve known her for years.  

That trip was also the first time our itinerary included having drinks with friends.  It was such a treat for us to meet with people, who live in Paris, for drinks and chit-chat on a warm Saturday night.  This was a complete game changer for us and it felt like it moved us one step closer to being more Parisian than tourist.

Dinner with Betty and Nelson.
The dinners and drinks with friends continued on our most recent trip.  We had dinner with Betty and Nelson one night at a great little bistro.  The next night we were invited to the home of Gabriela and Pascal for a dinner party.  Betty was there as well.  This was an remarkable evening that quickly turned from dinner party to dance party.  As we were walking home, Sherry and I both had a feeling of belonging in this city we love so much.

I missed Betty’s last run (for now) with LRP by one day.  Sherry and I flew home on Sunday and Betty returned to the U. S. on Wednesday.  For various reasons, Betty decided it was time to return home to San Francisco after several years of living in Paris.  Fear not!  LRP is still going strong thanks to the foundation built by Betty and others.  

While I’m sure the LRP crew misses her, and I know she misses them and Paris, I am personally happy she’s in San Francisco.  You see, that puts her just one hour south of where we live in the Sonoma Wine Country.  We are already talking about getting together to laugh, eat, drink, and of course run.  I’m sure we will get to hear all about her latest adventures.  

I wonder whose life she’ll change next?


Saturday, November 4, 2017

It's Time to Write

For many reasons, I’ve been in a writing drought for a while now.  I could list them all for you but the smart reader would actually recognize it as a list of rationalizations, not real reasons. If I’m being honest, there’s really only one reason for my lack of writing.  I haven’t been writing because I haven’t felt like writing.  

As fall arrives and opens the door for winter, I should have plenty of time to write.  Cold rainy days are much more conducive to writing then riding and I am hoping to take advantage of it.  When it’s raining outside, I have my expresso machine, wine cellar, and writing desk inside.  What more could an aspiring author hope for?

So, here’s the plan.  I have a lot of ideas roaming around in my head that I think make excellent topics.  Now, I just need to get them down on paper, so to speak.  Here’s some the areas I hope to write about.

Roussillon, France
Time in Provence.

Time in Paris

My triple climb of Mont Ventoux.

The fires of Santa Rosa.

An ode to a special person.

And many, many more!

There will not be any rhyme or reason to the order.  I’m just going to go where the muse takes me.  Hopefully, she’ll start by taking me to the writing desk.