Let’s get this fucker finished

Words that accidently fell out of my mouth around the 100km mark of ride recently. My two cycling buddies were not helpful when I asked them for motivational words to finish the final 50kms. Admittedly, they might have been literally eating cake. Ravished. Not caring about chatter. They left me no choice than to spit this directive out.

Laughing, they dared me to use this as the title of my next blog.

Challenge accepted.

 

If you read my blogs, you’ll know I have an endurance coach, and now a sports dietician. See cake. I was pretty damn hungry. The dietician put me on Gatorade for my long-distance rides. I know, I know. I have copped a lot of comments. I did protest because I hate the artificial crap. His reply, “Georgina, you do know what you are doing is not normal?”

Pause. Um, yeah. Come to think of it, is anything I do normal?

If you see me slugging down blue drink, don’t criticize, it means I am well on my way to pushing out 100-150kms. And I’m working on going longer. I also get to slam down Turkish Delight as well as the usual protein and carbohydrate fueled foods.

When you are going a long time in the saddle, there is nothing like sugar. There I said it. I was doing Lemonadas in Italy like a kid in a candy store. I no longer judge when I see a cyclist with a coke. I understand.

My trainer writes a monthly program and I follow it. Well mostly. Except when I’m sneaking off to climb Mt Baw Baw. Apparently one of the harder climbs in Australia. And yes, I did not know that until afterwards. Eye roll.  I was led astray by a fellow mountain goat. Easily distracted by her peers was commonly written on my school report card.

I did fess up to the Mt Baw Baw climb. My coach’s reply, “Baw Baw, you’re a naughty girl G!! But I love it!” I suspect his response might have been a little different if I told him about the extra 60 kilometres smashed out later that afternoon. Thankfully he doesn’t follow me on Strava.

If he ever reads this, I am gone. And I’m glad he lives in Perth.

 

Recently, I had to message him to say I had come off my bike. Except I was not meant to be in the bunch that day. I didn’t hear back for hours. Unusual. Okay, this time he is really going to bust my chops. Turns out he was on a 400km training ride. In one day! And you think I might be determined, he’s a whole new level. Phew. Too weary to notice I was not on my training program. I suspect he knows.

Last week I had three flats. This was becoming annoying, until someone asked how many kilometres I had cycled on these wheels. Strava check. Appears to be 9,600kms. Yep. Double eye roll. Tyres are meant to last around 6,000kms. Oops. Rookie error number 86. The tally grows.

My cycling buddies went to town. Bloody love ‘em. One said, “stop riding so much, who the hell does endurance cycling anyway.” Ironically, says he who has contacted my endurance coach to inquire about training. Who will have the last laugh I ask?

More impressively, I have cycled 9,600kms since I started riding at the beginning of this year.

I had to take a moment.

And maybe another.

A small head spin of seriously what are you doing G?

None of this makes sense. Except it does.

 

I have just registered for the 3 Peaks Challenge in March. You have 13 hours to cycle 235kms with 4000 metres of climbing.

Insane.

If you do it, you get the jersey.  I want the jersey.

One of my good friends offered me his jersey after I told him I registered. I am currently questioning our friendship. What kind of a friend does that? I mean after you have paid. Now I have to finish to show him.

My training is going to increase as I reach for these goals. I was poking fun at myself, telling my coach. His reply, “awesome news on the 3 Peaks Challenge, this is so up your alley it’s not funny.”

That stopped me in my tracks. He actually believes I can do it. He sees a much bigger picture. And yet, I do not even really believe I can do it. That is both the truth, and an old internal narrative.

I can easily tell you a list of shortcomings around my cycling, all the reasons why this is a ridiculous idea. Those moments of doubt, the voice questioning why I feel the need to be so driven. If my best friend was writing this she’d just laugh and scribble, “high achiever and A type personality.” Been hearing that for years.

Yet, I am surrounded by great people who have already begun barracking for my success. Those riding buddies who poke fun at my rookie expense, and my non-cycling friends have backed me already.

 

Does anyone want to sponsor me, yet?

Well, I will be one of the ambassadors for Cycling Mums Australia in 2019. I get to rock that kit. There was some debate over what to have printed on the back. I thought G force but my awesome trackie friend suggested I can crash. See above. She thinks she’s funny. I settled for Georgina, seems as though my parents named me that, and it’s about time I gave them something back. Even if it’s a middle-aged spirted woman climbing mountains and pushing comfort zones, much to my kids dismay.

There are way too many eye rolls in my life.

I kind of turned up at a party pick up last week in lycra. I had a flat tyre and drank too much coffee. My twelve year old just looked me and up down, silently raising her eyebrows. I see it as my job to embarrass them. Seems I am doing a fine job.

My coach said at the beginning that by six months I will not know myself as a rider. Three months in he’s already right. I have hours of training ahead of me. I am constantly being pressed to ride stronger by the others I surround myself with.

So, fair to predict let’s get this fucker finished will be muttered or shouted many a time into the future on those senseless gradients and long days on the bike. This captures what the heart of endurance is for me, that is to be just turning up and to keep on pedaling, no matter what.

My only problem is there will always be another fucker.

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A 45cm sterling silver wearable affirmation to remind your self, or someone you love, who is trying their hardest and refusing to give up that like us, you’ve got this.  No matter what. See https://leaning-inwards.myshopify.com/products/youve-got-this-necklace

Finding your tribe

“Five types of people you want to surround yourself with: the inspired, the passionate, the motivated, the grateful and the open minded.” Unknown…..And the sixth, the cyclists. 

I leave home thirty minutes earlier to meet the bunch. Some would call this crazy considering I could start closer to home. And yet in spite of the extra time and kilometers, joining this exceptional club has been my foundation into cycling this year.

Easing into this sport gently would be a gross understatement of how my approach has unfolded.

Some of my co-workers, endowed with psychological and behavioral degrees, have jokingly used the word obsessive. I think the better words would be dedicated or steadfast, but here’s the best one, compelled. I know my co-conspirators at the club would side with me.

Always looking to improve, wishing to climb big mountains and ride long, I have just taken on endurance training. My riding buddies do nothing to discourage this, in fact one of them throws up a photo of her finishing a 200km event, awesome. I take that as ENcouragement.

Some pretty gutsy people in this lot, especially the women. They inspire me with their ability, strength and sensational humor. They mountain bike, row, swim, run, hike, race and do many other sports.

For exactly that, these are my people. And seems as though I am on a roll with words, here goes…Posse. Crew. Pack. Gang. Community. Light Bringers (they always have their lights on). Goal getters.

Teaching me skills and etiquette in cycling, their examples have been incredible. There are a few spirited cyclists too, who always get me into trouble by sending psychic messages from the back of the bunch to ride faster when I am on the front.

I get banished to the small chain ring, at first during the ride and now before we even start.

Recently, I started to ride in a faster bunch, the grownups I call it. One morning we are barreling down the road rolling turns past some other cyclists. I hear a male voice shout from behind, “Georgina!” I cannot turn around as we are going too fast.

My Strava feed confirms who it is but you have to ride with a person for that to happen. Suspicious. He might have been quietly hanging off the back yet he never fessed up. Not really. He is a long time and trusted friend.

Same thing happens later as I take on extra kilometres solo, see compelled. I see a pedestrian with her dogs waiting to cross the road. Another good friend and cyclist. I yell out her name, I see her happy eyes and she smiles at me. I do not stop, it is winter and I am in the zone.

Cheekily, my daughter said recently I needed to cut my long hair. There is no way I would chop it, firstly as I like it, and secondly, when I ride Col de Beach Road my cyclist friends recognize me by the lengthy plait. This is the old fashioned way of tagging, I explain. Eye roll from her.

This tribe growing up about me is unexpected. Let me explain why.

In the kinder and primary school years with my four children, there was a group of us mothers who became close friends. I found much support sharing our experiences as women. We almost saw each other daily as we dropped off and picked up.

This has changed since secondary education with our kids taking separate pathways. We are still close but the time spent together has changed significantly. I have missed the day-to-day connection. Life moves on.

This riding gig has a remarkable village feel to it. I met two incredible people in my cycling class which led me to a stop in Annecy recently. We rode in the mountains before I took off solo hiking in Switzerland. I had the privilege of riding with some talented and fierce cyclists.

In Italy, I met an Aussie who is keen to show me the local rides out of town so I can load up my Strava maps for the long jaunts I want to do. And there is the sassy travel agent who is putting a trip together with me for women to cycle in Italy mid next year. Girls  just want to have fun, right!

There always seems to be an invitation to ride with someone, somewhere. I just turn up.

Now I find myself being nominated for the club committee, and recruited for some race in November. They say I will enjoy it. Not sure if they mean the competition or the meetings. Coming up I have been ‘compelled’ to register for a few rides between 120km to 160kms, with the bigger goal of the 200km Alpine Classic early next year.

This is why I need the endurance coach, bunch rides, weekend jaunts, banter, the plait, endless coffee and cycling friendships. Of course, included are multiple messages between rides pretty much resembling a comedy show, keeping me laughing hard.

Back to last weekend, I joined some of the gang after my solo training ride. In the coffee shop, I am ‘compelled’ to tell them about my revelation regarding lycra and using the bathroom, how you do not have to take your top all the way off.

A small miracle really.

Of course, the troublemakers ask for a demonstration. There I am standing peeling off my jersey with a few riders looking slightly aghast. Thankfully we were outside, and it is all women.

And really, I do not care.

After I demonstrate my insight, I have one arm in and one sleeve out hanging down the side of me. I am trying to pull it up so I can get dressed but it is not coming. I tug it a few times until I work out a certain mischief maker is pulling it back down each time.

This is how we roll it seems.

In Zermatt recently, I found a cow bell in the bike store which I was ‘compelled’ to buy for the abovementioned sleeve tugger. She had been threatening the sleep-in cyclists with a cow bell ride by for months. So far this may be the only regret when speaking of compulsions, entrusting her with this. For that, I apologise to everyone in advance.

Sorry. Not sorry.

Truthfully, this tribe has surprised me but also arrived at the perfect time in my life. I feel ‘compelled’ to be a part of it, even if it is to avoid a certain cow bell.

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A 45cm sterling silver wearable affirmation to remind your self, or someone you love, who is trying their hardest and refusing to give up that like us, you’ve got this.  No matter what. See https://leaning-inwards.myshopify.com/products/youve-got-this-necklace

Beyond the words

“And though all the things I love may pass away and the great family of things and people I have made around me will see me go, I feel them living in me like a great gathering ready to reach a greater home. When one thing dies all things die together, and must live again in a different way, when one thing is missing everything is missing, and must be found again in a new whole and everything wants to be complete, everything wants to go home. And the geese travelling south are like the shadow of my breath flying into darkness on great-beats to an unknown and where I belong.” David Whyte. 

One of my closest friends has gone to India. Her entire bucket list, the last wish standing. I am so happy she is there. She is resting, healing, reading, meditating and enjoying being so deeply cared for. She stays beyond the date she had for return because she wants and needs the space to be. She posts photos and updates on Facebook, one saying she’s decided with her beloved husband that they have planned to not have a plan.

I speak to her on the phone and we send messages. In the last few weeks of her life, I have this inexplicable sensation like I have just hung up the phone from talking to her, except we have not. I get it all the time. I finally message her and tell her, that we seem to be having this extraordinary communication without actually talking. She responds saying how pleased she is our hearts are open, and that she loves me.

She dies three days later.

She had been unwell on and off for five years. Still, I am devastated, and for days I barely find words to talk or write. I mostly avoid people where I can, except for a few close friends. There is nothing I want to say.

Just a sense of being barren. Not much feels real.

Plugging my phone in to be charged has me bawling, realizing we will never call each other again. I sob and sob. I find comfort in the Foo Fighters, playing their music as loud as I can because they belt out the lyrics. I scream with them. This about sums up the state of my heart.

The best way to describe early days and weeks of grief for me is being caught between two worlds, one with my friend, and one without her. This is coupled with waves of loss smashing me whenever and wherever. There is zero choice for its arrival. You can be okay one moment, and then drowning the next.

I just miss her. Even referring to her in past tense makes me reel. I feel confused. And it is not fair. Life at times is ruthless and random.

One of my best friends shares with me something our friend always said to her, that asking why is not a spiritual question. I then heard her say the better question to ask is what. Unbeknown to my friend, this stops me internally rallying at life for its harshness. I soften.

So, I ask myself what?

We talked often and nothing was off limits in our conversations, in fact some topics expanded over years. She was immensely awake, by that I that mean spiritually tenacious and she embodied living for this very moment. I have never seen such a radical transformation before in a person. I had the privilege of watching her become so full of light through her daily practices of meditation, chanting and yoga.

This is not to say she was perfect, she was inherently human, beautifully so.

She was fiercely competitive. I played online scrabble with her, once. I saw firsthand how she researched information, gathering and weighing up facts against fiction. I can only imagine how this translated into her courtroom appearances. I would not want to be on the receiving end. I admired her strength and determination. She almost always knew more about medical research and results than the specialists treating her.

She was an avid seeker of truth, she devoured books and there was always a parcel being delivered to her door step. Her empowerment was revered by many of us.

I invite a small group of friends to gather at my house, each bringing what we feel is personally meaningful to create an altar. Our offerings include candles, incense, books, flowers, crystals, fruit and much love. We talk, eat vegan food, and share stories together. There is laughing coupled with our own grief, knowing we will never physically see her in this life again. The open fire is roaring and at the most succinct moments the wood pops.

I would say she is lingering joyfully in our presence.

Her Kundalini yoga teacher arrives with chai. The brew is lovingly made and we sit in the fire light. There are times of stillness and of chatter, both meaningful. We then gather in a circle on the floor and are led into a meditation before we begin chanting Akaal for our friend.

This word means undying, without time and that which never dies, and it is said chanting Akaal helps the soul to pass out of this world into the divine beyond.

Whatever our personal beliefs about death may be, it did not matter. To sit in circle with women, meditating and chanting to a vibration of energy beyond understanding is simply stunning. One of my friends drummed and everything in me felt so much gratitude for the years of friendship we shared.

At the end, each person was invited to say something if they wanted to. The few words that came to me were, “you did it.”

I had studied palliative care and volunteered on a ward for a time, and although a topic most people do not wish to talk about, death and dying consciously was often a great discussion between us. I believe my friend had a calm death without the need for medical intervention. I would even go as far to say she would not have had any existential anguish either.

You might want to label this wishful thinking but if you knew my friend intimately, you would know this is who she is, who she became.

Most ironically, when she was diagnosed with her illness she had to cancel her imminent departure overseas, to India. I do not believe it was a coincidence that her last physical breath out was in the very place her heart always longed to be. She had the love of her life, her husband, with her. She had stopped asking why a long time ago, and instead she asked what. She wholeheartedly knew, and had the courage to follow what she was called to do.

My beautiful friend, I love you beyond the words, it seems it is our thing. Akaal.

The right people

“We’ll be friends forever because you already know too much.” Unknown.

My friend wraps her arms around me, it’s her 70th birthday celebration, without fail she always finds something so loving to say to me when I’m in her embrace.  She is an awesome woman, lived an incredible life with so much dignity, grace and hard work. The smell of her perfume lingers on me for the afternoon as I race about picking up and dropping my kids from the school fair to basketball finals. For some reason, the fragrance gets me thinking about the incredible friendships I have in my life.

Odd how the brain works sometimes. Maybe it’s actually the heart.

As I move with the family’s events, I find different friends popping into my mind with love and appreciation. These friendships span a great number of years and over many, many life events. We’ve travelled, celebrated, grieved, laughed, danced, walked, partied, explored and spent endless hours talking and hanging out. There is a history binding us together underpinning who we once were and who we are are now.

Fair to say I’ve lost a few friendships too, that happens. At times, you just outgrow each other for a number of reasons and I’ve learned the art of letting go. Doesn’t mean it hasn’t hurt or I haven’t experienced the loss but, as I’ve become older I accept that not everyone is meant for the long haul.

And sometimes I’ve even felt enormously grateful they’ve gone.

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Having children changed the way I experienced friendships too. There was no longer the time there once was. I’m pretty sure that cost me a few mates. Having four children in five years pretty much put me in ‘unavailable-just getting by’ mode for quite a time. Then there were the years of post-divorce survival and intense study as I transformed my life.

One friend left telling me I had changed. They were absolutely right, how could I not? I think they might have been saying they needed me to shrink back to the way I was to them. I actually didn’t ask, the attack came thick and fast and I decided to step back, let it all go to the wicket keeper and see what was left. Nothing apparently. As another beautiful friend always says, onwards sister.

These long-time friends have been the kind to not demand my time when I was running on limited output. They are the people who I can call at any time and I know they will not only answer, but have my back to the end of this earth, and then some. They can experience me emotionally unkempt and jagged as I grapple with what life may have thrown at me for that day, month or year.

They can distinguish my sobs on the end of the telephone long before I’ve thought to say it’s me.

Even as I unravel in tears they will at the same time have me gasping for air by making me laugh as we face life on life’s terms together. They can hold me in all my despair, joy and grief but also do not feel obliged to find my answers or solve my problems. We have learned to be there without co-dependency enmeshing itself to our souls. We are free to disagree, to share our wild and fierce opinions and dreams, and even if we don’t really understand why, we will back up in each other’s lives anyway.

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“If there ever comes a day when we can’t be together, keep me in your heart, I’ll stay there forever.” Winnie the Pooh

These are the people who don’t think twice when I tell them about what my next adventure will be. They are the ones who believe I can do what I set out to do. We celebrate who we are: gutsy, wholehearted and true to ourselves. We don’t tell each other to stop, reign ourselves in, or roll our eyes saying, “you should have this sorted by now.”

There is a calm acceptance of where we are at, and sometimes that is at the seemingly bottom of the barrel facing a struggle, maybe a thousand times over. We know life is shockingly difficult at times, as we’ve faced destruction and deep loss, both unexpectedly and by the decisions we or others have made. We have never given up on each other.

We know we are messy as we strive to live this beautiful life, and we just hope it’s not all of us of the same day. So far, so good on that one.

We are an interesting bunch, all ages, spread across many places, with extraordinarily different education and careers. Some of us have kids and we understand what it is to parent day in and day out, to lose your stuff and feel like we’re failing. And we also get to share when we ace it too, and everything in-between.

Some of us were unable to have children, and we’ve walked with each other whilst facing the unbearable loss of both miscarriage and the opportunity. Some have decided to not have a family, and we’ve celebrated this decision as well. Us parents might have put them off!

The mix is rich, the variations are deep, and that is our bond.

These people are the ones I trust when I lose my equilibrium, when all about me seems unfathomable and shaky. We understand there are times where we find ourselves in the darkness and we call to each other so we know we aren’t alone there. Sometimes we pull up a seat and a coffee and sit there, in silent support. This can be enough.

We trust in each other’s goodness and ability to find our way through. We respect that sometimes one of us is not available, perhaps reached emotional or physical capacity, and there are times of retreat.  Other than checking we are okay, we don’t take this personally, and if we do, we talk about it when the time is apparent.

We are not perfect, but I know we are no longer striving to be. We have ditched the rule book and found ways to be who we are in relationship, without drama and emotional chaos. Quite frankly, we have full lives and there isn’t much time for that. I am not talking about a hundred friends, but a good few who have become a part of me for all of time.

They are the ones who have left footprints on my heart and very bad jokes on my voicemail and inbox. They will tell me the truth, even if it hurts, but that same breath will be backed up with love.

These are the friendships I cannot live without.

All images via Pinterest
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A 45cm sterling silver wearable affirmation to remind your self, or someone you love, who is trying their hardest and refusing to give up that like us, you’ve got this.  No matter what. See https://leaning-inwards.myshopify.com/products/youve-got-this-necklace