Climate Ride provides inspiration and a new habit

Early this summer I signed up for something that seemed impossibly difficult and in the end turned out to be a huge gift and perhaps a life-changing experience.

I've struggled for a few days to synthesize my thoughts after completing the amazing 300-mile, five-day Climate Ride from New York to D.C. It's not enough to say, "It was cool" or "I had a great time". An event of this magnitude feels like it deserves a more profound description.

And yet I'm hamstrung by my own emotional paucity. You can see it in my face in the photo above.

Instead of CELEBRATION or GRAND ENTHUSIASM, it's just me holding my bike over my head for the obligatory photo op. All that is not to say I didn't have a fantastic time. It's just my own process of generating joy from preparation and anticipation and then in the moment I tend to intently focus on the task at hand. Finishing even the biggest challenges are a foregone conclusion when you prepare and focus so what exactly are you celebrating?

That's how my mind works. Talk about a buzzkill!

Since that final assembly on the lawn of the beautiful Capitol building that currently houses a dysfunctional and divided group of elected officials representing a dysfunctional and divided group of citizens, I've come to appreciate, and yes even celebrate, what made this experience so rewarding...and it wasn't anything I did.

Riding a bike from New York to D.C. is a physical challenge relative to one's ability. Some folks can put on a pair of shoes and run five miles and barely break a sweat. For others, it would take an incredible feat of determination and will to overcome and succeed. It's the later group that is the most inspirational.

Of the 200 or so Climate Ride participants (who combined to raise over $500,000 for a variety of beneficiaries), the vast majority were there to express their commitment to a cause they believed in so mightily they were willing to suffer through six to eight to ten hours a day pushing the pedals on their heavy commuter bikes up and down the scenic hills of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Maryland.

It's the effort and dedication of these folks (several in their 70's!) that I keep thinking about. They inspire me to remain engaged on this important issue and to keep pedaling up those hills.

I'm also fortunate to come away from this process with a newfound love of cycling.

After all the miles I've put in this summer -- over 1,800 -- the hardest ride was the first time I rode the 20 miles home from work in late May. And now when I talk about going for a "quick 40-mile ride" people give me that look you give crazy people. But they don't understand that life on my bike life is different. Time slows and the weather and landscapes we speed through in our cars is real and relevant. I feel connected to my community and surroundings in a new way.

I find hiking too slow and boring. Running hurts my knees...and is boring. Riding provides a perfect blend of focus to occupy the mind; enough speed to feel progress and some sense of thrill; and is filled with enough gear to make the biggest geek squeal in delight. I love riding alone and I love riding with groups. There's always somewhere to go or some bigger hill to climb and being fit again is certainly a giant bonus. I'm hooked and have Climate Ride to thank.

It's a shame I didn't realize and appreciate the inspiration and gift this event provided sooner or maybe my face in that picture would show just a little bit more emotion.

Special thanks to the 38 friends and family who financially supported my ride. Your money not only went to some great organizations, you've given me a tremendous personal gift.

For more pictures from the ride, click here.

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