Charity Logo

Charity Logo

Charity of the Month


In December I am riding for Heifer International. Founded in 1944, Heifer International works with communities around the world to end hunger and poverty and to care for the Earth. Its approach is more than a handout. Heifer provides animals (e.g., heifers, goats, water buffalos, chickens, rabbits, fish, and bees) and training to impoverished people in over 30 countries. The animals can give milk, meat, or eggs; provide draft power; or form the basis of a small business. Communities make their own decisions about what crops, animals, and market strategies make sense for their everyday conditions and experiences.

Heifer International is based on 12 Cornerstones, such as Sustainability; Genuine Need and Justice; and Gender and Family Focus. Perhaps the best known Cornerstone is Passing on the Gift, in which Heifer recipient families pass on the offspring of their animals to others in need. In this way, whole communities can raise their standard of living.

A donation to Heifer International also can make a wonderful alternative holiday gift. Instead of yet another sweater for Grandma that she really doesn’t need, why not donate a Heifer animal or a share of an animal in her honor? Does your child really need so many new toys? Instead of five new toys, give him/her three new toys and a Heifer flock of chicks. Heifer has honor cards to let your loved ones know of your gift on their behalf.

I have set up a Team Heifer page to support Heifer International through A Year of Centuries. My goal is to raise $500. Please make your donation through If you would like more information about Heifer’s work, please visit Whether you give to honor a loved one or make a regular donation, thank you for taking steps to transform the world for the better.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Mind over Matter

A big part of the BRAG experience for the Dream Team is the discipline of working toward a goal.  It’s one thing simply to talk about riding a bicycle across the state; it’s quite another thing to train long hours and then actually complete the ride.  It’s tough enough to reach such a goal as an adult – how much more impressive for a young person to do so!  For that reason, I truly commend the Dream Team in their efforts.

I’ve put a lot of time and energy into cycling, but the payback has been many times greater.  The physical benefits are pretty obvious (cardiovascular fitness, weight management, stress relief, etc.), but many people probably don’t realize the mental advantages that come from the discipline required by serious riding.  I’ve found that both group riding and time trialing have enhanced my mental faculties.

Our group rides in Macon (a.k.a. Tuesday Worlds and Thursday Worlds) are intense because we use them to train for races and/or maintain a high level of fitness.  To ride at these faster speeds, you have to know how to ride in close proximity with other riders, usually in a pace line with less than 12 inches between riders’ wheels.  This requires constant vigilance to maintain proper wheel spacing and awareness of all the riders around you.  You can’t let your mind wander or do too much sightseeing.  We roadies understand how much we depend on each other to ride safely and predictably.  Maybe that’s why we sometimes have a reputation for being standoffish, perhaps even unfriendly, to newcomers.  It’s only because we haven’t yet learned the riding style of the newbie and whether he/she is someone the rest of us can trust to ride well with the rest of the group.  This also speaks to why I still feel comfortable doing group rides even though I’m not doing any more mass-start races; I know how my cycling friends ride and feel relatively safe with them, but who knows how many and what kind of riders I might be put with in a mass-start race.  Anyway, the focus required by group riding has translated well to my work and really to every part of my life needing prolonged, uninterrupted attention.

Then there’s time trialing.  Time trialing is probably even more mental than physical.  This may explain why many of the best time trialists are middle aged.  Not only does peak endurance riding occur after years of physical training, but also simply having more life experience tends to give older racers a mental edge over younger ones.  Time trialing is riding at your threshold level, which by definition is the highest intensity you can maintain for about an hour.  You can increase your threshold level with training, but whatever that level is, it’s strenuous to hold.  Most of the time trials (TTs) I have done have been about 12 to 18 miles long, taking less than an hour.  I’ve also done some 40K (nearly 25-mile) TTs, which is the Olympic distance.  40K TTs take me a little over an hour.  Whatever the TT distance, endurance is the name of the game.  You have to keep focusing on your effort, pushing through the pain.  Using a power meter or heart rate monitor really helps you maintain a constant level.  I use a heart rate monitor; knowing my threshold heart rate, I do everything I can to keep it at that level throughout the TT.  If I see my heart rate dipping a little, I pedal harder.  Going too hard usually isn’t a concern!  You have to keep your mind on the race and can’t start thinking about what you’ll be doing later in the day, etc.  (In reality, if you’re even able to have such thoughts, you probably aren’t going hard enough.)  Last month when I did a 40K TT, I got a vivid reminder that every second really does count – I won by less than one second!!

The mental discipline of riding and racing has helped me through several difficult periods in recent years.  Back in 2009 during the Great Recession, I had to lay myself off from my own company.  I was unemployed for almost six months before I found another job.  Anyone who has been unemployed will tell you that it can really do a number on your confidence and even your sense of self worth.  I am so thankful that I had cycling as a positive focus during that time.  My professional life may have been a disaster, but at least I could ride my bicycle and ride it well.

Then, of course, there was my crash last year.  Time trialing did a lot to get me through the first few months afterwards, when I was waiting, waiting, waiting for my dental surgery.  Although my mouth was a wreck and I couldn’t bite or even smile, thankfully I was fine from the neck down.  I decided pretty quickly that I didn’t want to do any more mass-start races (road races or crits), but TTs seemed the perfect way to get back in the saddle ASAP, figuratively and literally.

My crash was on a Sunday.  The next day (Monday), the oral surgeon shoved my jaw back into place – ouch!  Two days after that (Wednesday), I had plastic surgery on my chin, which involved general anesthesia.  On Friday I went back to work.  Some people asked why I didn’t just wait to go back to work the next Monday, but I wanted to get back to normal as soon as possible, and I felt well enough to sit at my desk by then.  In fact, I started thinking about the TT that coming Sunday, which I had signed up for way before the crash.  That Friday evening I had a conversation with my husband Robert:

Me: “I’m going to do the TT on Sunday.”
Robert: “I knew you would.”
Me (amazed): “How did you know?”
Robert: “Because I’ve been married to you for 17 years!”

That TT, along with the remaining two in the series in May and June, gave me such a boost when I really needed it.  By the way, when the TT series was over, I found a good, new focus to get myself through until my surgery in July.  I participated in the summer reading program at my local library, setting a reaching a goal of reading 20 books.  Of course, I kept on riding, too J

So that's a little about the mental side of cycling.  Granted, the BRAG Dream Team members aren’t into racing, but I hope that as they ride, the benefits of cycling will spill over into every aspect of their lives.

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