bonk*: Expression used by cyclists to describe excercise-induced low blood sugar levels; being a feeling of light-headedness and weakness in all limbs. Similar to ‘The Wall’ in running. Has fallen out of usage in recent years due to alternative meanings. — Urban Dictionary
On Sunday, I texted a friend about plans to go on a group bicycle ride to kick off #30DaysofBiking. The weather was gloomy and expected to get worse. I wrote:
“I’m at the laundromat. Planning to re-evaluate when I get home and check weather radar. Feel bad if I bail, but not really up for riding in deluge and high winds.”
When I got home and checked the weather, I felt reassured that we were expecting light rain for a brief period. The wind was supposed to pick up as the afternoon progressed, but I reasoned that I’d be home before it was too bad. So I layered up, put on my helmet, and took off to meet the other 250 or so riders at Gold Medal Park.
It began sprinkling as I rode. The entire time we waited at the hill for the group to gather, then to have our official photo taken, I kept up a running inner dialogue. In it, I talked (and agreed) with myself about how reasonable it would be to break from the group as we left the park and ride home. After all, I don’t own rain gear, so I would likely be soaked immediately if the rain picked up. Also, I had a particularly busy week coming up and a Sunday afternoon to prepare would be so much more useful than a ride in the rain. You get the idea.
But when it came time to line up and begin the ride, I found myself queuing-up with friends and riding slowly into what had become a true rainstorm. Ten minutes later, the rain had changed from steady-but-gentle to ice pellets being hurled at exposed skin by 40-mile-an-hour winds. My glasses were useless, but I was one of the lucky ones: my eyewear protected my eyes somewhat from the mini hail pelting us. Others were riding with eyes more than half shut. We slowed to a crawl, miserably hunching into ourselves on our bikes. Occasionally, we passed under a bridge or some other momentary shelter, and shouted encouragement or commiserating comments to one another. But we kept riding.
It turned out the weather forecasters had been correct about one thing in particular: the worst of the weather was of short duration. Eventually, the rain stopped (although the wind remained strong), and intermittent sunshine began to warm us from our pre-hypothermic states. There was high-fiving and self-congratulating throughout the group, one friend going to far as to announce we had all earned our badges in “badassery” that day.
But I am not rad. I am not “bad ass”. And even though I joined in the general air of braggadocio – because it really was epically horrible weather for biking – I couldn’t help but reflect on what qualities I do possess that ended up convincing me to ignore my own inner inclination to ditch the ride that day. I came up with two self-descriptors: stubborn and tenacious.
It would be lovely to honestly assess myself and come up with adjectives I can wear like superhero shields: Courageous! Intrepid! Stupendously Amazing! But even for the purpose of self-affirmation applying these words to myself feels silly and false. But Captain Tenacious? She may just be my inner (somewhat nerdy) super-hero: not readily relinquishing a principle or course of action; persevering, persistent, determined, resolute, patient, steadfast, untiring, unswerving, unshakable, unyielding. Stubborn.
The moments in life when we need to dig deep within to find the wherewithal, the will or the energy to continue moving forward through literal or metaphorical storms are like an inner treasure-hunt. Instead of quitting, we dig a little deeper – unearthing truths about ourselves we may not have been able to see in the bright sunshine of perfect days. Some people may, indeed, find courage and other heroic traits residing within. I found an inner doggedness. It turns out, I can look back in my life and see many moments when my innate tenaciousness has pulled me through when shinier qualities haven’t been as useful. And I’m ok with that – in fact, I’m willing to celebrate the discovery of this personal treasure.
What about you? What inner treasure have you unearthed on this life-long hunt of self-discovery? Whatever qualities you’ve found, no matter how sexy (or otherwise) those traits may be, I hope you’ll take some time to celebrate them. They are, indeed, what makes you and your path unique.
So say it like you mean it boy
Be the seed in soil
Toil and reap
Keep the spoils
The road is steep
The pavement coils…
-from “Like You Mean It” by Sims/Doomtree Records
The hissing of sand dislodged from between pavement and rubber tires. Ka-thunk (my bike hits a crack)/ka-ching (my u-lock, dangling from the handlebars, jumps and falls back into place). Ka-thunk, ka-ching. The tink-tink-tink of the computer sensor counting every revolution of my front wheel. Always the rush of wind in my ears.
For April’s 30 Days of Biking, these were the sounds of dedication.
It is never easy to commit to a daily practice, whether that practice is meditation, yoga, taking a multivitamin or getting to work on time. April, famously the cruelest of months, makes the commitment to daily cycling particularly troublesome here in Minnesota. Our weather runs the gamut: winds from breezy to tornadic; temps from temperate to freezing-ass-cold; humidity from slightly damp to deluge-level rain with a little snow and a few “icy pellets of death” thrown in. Given these factors, I am proud to say I persevered, riding my bike with a deep willingness that conquered momentary weakness.
…This is how we pull ourselves up
Run til the tank spits dust
Cuz aint no spark thats bright like us
We do what we say say what we mean …
One of the main reasons I was able to maintain my dedication to 30 Days of Biking was community. Mike’s friend, Patrick Stephenson, whose warmth and joie de vivre are contagious, led us to 30 Days. Patrick, (aka @patiomensch on Twitter), co-founder, -creator and all-around-guru of 30 Days embodies the 30 Days tagline “community of joyful cyclists”. Through 30 Days, I’ve not only had the pleasure of getting to know Patrick, but also of meeting some other interesting, diverse, and genuinely amazing members of the local cycling community. Daily social media posts kept me apprised of what everyone was doing, where they were riding, and how they were meeting the challenge of April on two wheels. Knowing I was part of something bigger than myself injected the daily commitment with both more joy and a greater sense of obligation – not to the pledge I’d taken but to myself as an extension of that community.
Joy is a strange concept. In some ways, I’ve always thought of it as a feeling too big to be contained in an ordinary day. And I certainly never intentionally associated it with words like commitment or dedication. But cycling, over the past few years, has taught me that they can and do align. And during this 30 Days of Biking, I’ve felt the joy of follow-through that only comes after commitment. On days when no part of me wanted to get my bike out of the garage, the ride often took on an edge of fierce joy – as if my heart recognized something my brain was slow to comprehend. Namely, that fulfilling my agreements when I am the only one who knows or cares is one way to feel really good in my own skin. Would anyone have judged me if I’d missed a day? Not at all! A joyful community is an accepting and inclusive one.
We do tend to judge ourselves harshly, though. So moments that remind us we are capable of overcoming laziness and inertia help to silence our inner critics. We see that we can rise to meet challenges placed in our lives – whether they come to us through external forces or whether we willingly take them on in the form of 30-day challenges. It is an act of self-affirmation to put our butts where our mouths promised they would be – in this case on the saddle of my bike every day in April.
Has the world been changed because I did this? Perhaps in a small way, since my participation and minimal financial contribution add to the number of Free Bikes for Kidz being given away via 30 Days of Biking. But if I am truthful, not really. Have I been changed? I hope so. When we wish to “be the seed in soil”, we are wishing for growth. There is no growth without dedication and self-reflection. Riding a couple hundred miles in early spring offers the chance for plenty of self-reflection (once you get past the “dear lord, why am I doing this?” stage).
I have often heard that converts are the most zealous believers. In this case, as one newly converted to joyful commitment, to my “dedication to dedication”, I zealously wish the same for you!
Take it all the way
No in between
My dedication to dedication
I dedicate this to you
*Please note: The title of this post and the lyrics posted throughout are from “Like You Mean It” by Sims/Doomtree. Please check out the link and listen to the whole song – Doomtree is a collective of friends who create and make music together here in Minneapolis. I discovered this song, serendipitously, on the final day of 30 Days of Biking when the link was tweeted by @Artcrank, another member of the MSP cycling community!