You Are Capable of More Than You Think

You are capable of more than you think.  I know you have heard this saying before, but it really is true.  I did not believe it until last weekend when I rode my mountain bike for 12 hours solo, at the 24/12 Hours of Conyers Mountain Bike Race in Georgia.  I was in peak fitness, after just finishing the Chainbuster Southeastern Endurance Cup, where I finished 5 out of the 7 races.  I finished the series with consistency and placed 3rd overall in the Masters Men category.  So why not register for a race double the distance and time?  You never know until you try right?


My race season was really fun.  The Chainbuster Series was really good for me this year and I learned so much about endurance racing. One of the best lessons that really sunk in this year was to go for it, even if success is highly improbable and failure a likely scenario.  An example of this experience happened when I had 52 minutes left on the race clock and I went for an extra 6th lap.  In six hour races, you have to finish all laps in exactly six hours.  If you are even one second over, the lap does not count. My fastest lap time previously was 53 minutes and I had put in other lap times between 54-59 minutes, so the last hour in a six hour race was probably not the best time to do my fastest lap and make it to the finish in time.  My wife Shannon and our friend Shona McHone, who was helping crew for me and her husband Steve McHone that day, both urged me on, and they kept encouraging me to not stop.  They kept saying I could do it, and to just go for it.  I was doubting everything in my mind and honestly did not want to keep going.  I kept saying I did not think I could do it.  They just said GO!  Sometimes a friendly, encouraging voice is all it takes to kick you in motion.  So in a crazy moment of hesitation and action, I started to pedal again and charged forward.  About a mile in, I almost turned around and stopped, but then something clicked.  I started to hammer and really pedal.  I put it all out on the course and literally pushed myself as hard as I could in the moment.  I was floating on the pedals and my split times at check points were going down each time I asked race volunteers for the time on course.  At the last check point, I had 10 minutes left.  I had done the previous section 5 minutes faster and I was thinking I might just make it.  I was pedaling hard and pushing my body to places I have never been before.  There was no pain anymore, it was all just beautiful motion and flow.  I rounded the last bend and the crowd was going nuts cheering me on.  I went across the finish line and looked at the clock with a wishful intent.  4:00:20.  No!!  I didn’t make it.  Unfortunately, I went over the clock by 20 seconds with a time of 6 hours and 20 seconds, and I did not get credit for that extra lap.  I was laughing and cursing out loud at the same time.  It was so close, but it was just not in the cards for that day.  That was a tough pill to swallow, and in the moment it was really hard to see the lesson.  That experience though, taught me more about the mental aspects of endurance cycling than any previous race experience I have ever had.  I learned that you always have to go for it.  If you do, it becomes easier to go for it again, and maybe next time you will make it.  Life can surprise you, but the answer now for me is always to go for it.  How many times could that life lesson be applied in other areas?  Everyday, probably.  Once again, you are capable of more than you think.

So back to the 12 hour race at Conyers.  This race was one of the best experiences I have had in racing all these years.  I went into the race with good fitness after having finished the six hour series a few weeks prior, so at the last minute, I decided to sign up.  I have been reading a book called The Pursuit of Endurance by Jennifer Pharr Davis, about running the Appalachian Trail and the mental aspects of endurance athletes.  It got me thinking, why not go for something bigger than I have ever done before?  You do not know until you try right?  I talked with my friend Steve McHone, who is a local bike packing hero, and a true ultra endurance crazy.  He has finished the Trans North Georgia, the Tour Divide, and countless other long haul races.  He is also who I spend a good bit of time chasing up mountains in North Carolina and one of my principle training partners. GIHP_HM-62-ZF-8784-09915-1-001-001[1]

He of course said I should do it and gave me lots of tips for nutrition and pacing.  I also talked with Liz Sampey, another ultra endurance legend, and she gave my lots of great tips too like eat real food, and the best was her mantra, “Go big, or go home.”  After talking with her, I bit the bullet and signed up.  It was official.

I decided I would go into the race with no pressure on myself.  I was going to see what it was about, see if I was capable of finishing, and back off my pace tremendously and just have fun and explore the endurance world.  Right from the start, my plan was to take breaks and eat as much as I could and not really push to the redline.  After all, 12 hours is a big day in the saddle.  When the race started, I was reminded by so many people chatting that it was better to start off slow and save yourself for later.  Right away, I was impressed by this group of riders in the race.  Everyone was just chatting away and it was like we were all on a friendly, social group ride on any given weekend.  Was this really a race?  Everyone seemed to have done this a few times, and the atmosphere was ultra casual, with no one anxiously trying to pass, or freak out if we were going too slow.  Wow, this was so cool!!  I even chatted with the overall 24 hour solo woman winner and she was the best.  She was so happy and casual, even though she was a sponsored pro rider.  I loved that aspect of the race right away.  I felt like we were all on this shared journey and there was no pressure.  Weekend warriors, teenagers, masters riders, and elite riders all together on a shared mission to keep the pedals turning.  You would come around to the pit area and people were drinking beer, eating, chatting, and sitting by the fire.  Really it was just a casual group ride with a race title.  I liked what I was seeing.GIHP_--32-ZF-8784-09915-1-001-003[1]

The day was a beautiful Fall day.  The temperature got up to 62 degrees and it was perfect.  The Fall colors still blanketed the trees in Northern Georgia, and the vibrant colors were awash all through the forest.  I wore short sleeves all day and never felt too hot or cold.  It was perfect.  I would ride a lap, stop for a short time, and either eat a bar, grab a new bottle, drink a Coke, lube up my chain, eat a banana, or eat some other snack, and then I would get back on the bike and crank out another lap.  I was in the flow.  It was all so casual and I felt good the entire day.  Only on my second to last lap, did I feel a little drained.  I scarfed down a Turkey wrap and all was remedied.  The trick I later discovered was actually taking the time to eat real food and to actually eat all of it.  So many times in races, I would be trying to get food in really quick and would end up dropping part of a bar, or just eating a few bites of a sandwich and move on.  I discovered food was the major trick.  Also, drinking something every 15 minutes, either water or my bottles filled with Infinit electrolyte mix was key.  My nutrition was dialed in all day and I had sustained energy the entire time.

Another factor that helped tremendously was that I made an intention early on to keep moving and to focus on the moment.  In a race this long, you can drive yourself nuts thinking too far ahead.  Ten hours to go?  How can I possibly make it for that long?  Anytime my mind would wander too far ahead, I would immediately focus back in on the moment.  That was the key to success.  Be here now.  Right now was where I was and I knew I was moving forward in that moment.  That was all that mattered, not later.  Now is when I was doing it and I just kept focusing on the immediate task at hand, which was keep pedaling, eat, rest, repeat.  The hours just kept going by and I was still feeling good.

Later, it started to get dark and I put on my arm warmers for the sunset lap.  The colors were spectacular.  I came around to the pit area again and saw an amazing sunset with deep oranges and pink and blue blurring together into the trees and clouds.  I was entering a real sense of peace and tranquility while I sat in my camp chair watching the sun and clouds merge together and change to darkness.  It was time for the lights to come out.  That was when the racing really got fun.  Racing at night is so surreal.  You are basically in a cone of white light moving through a vortex of trail and darkness.  Occasionally, you see the lights of another rider off in the distance, but for the most part you are in a bubble of solitude and quietness with only you and your breath and the hum of the chain and cranks moving rhythmically together.  The hum of the cog.  At night an amazing thing happens as well.  You get a second wind.  It got a lot colder really fast and I put on leg warmers, warmer gloves and a vest.  Better to be warm than to try to get warm after I had started to chill.  The cold temperatures give you a new sense of energy and get up and go.  I really got into it.  I even started to pass a few riders.  Really, 10 hours in and I was passing people?  Before I knew it, I was approaching my last lap.  I finished 12 laps for a total of 78 miles in a little over 11 hours.  I even got third place in open men.  That distance was close to my longest ride ever on a mountain bike at 80 miles.  Once again, you are capable of more than you think.

I finished and sat down for awhile, drank a beer and changed clothes.  I got to cheer on and support Steve for a little after the awards ceremony.  He was going for 24 hours solo and was in a tight battle with the first place guy.  He looked so solid and that was very inspiring.  He just had this determined look on his face and was just cranking miles out like a man possessed.  I could see the experience written all over his face and how laser focused he was in the moment out there.  It was 11pm and he looked fresh and determined.  It was really cool seeing your friend push through and keep it going.  I was absorbing it all in and dreaming big in my head.  What else was I capable of doing?  Seeing Steve do this like a walk in the park was making its mark on my soul and feeding me.  The long haul bug is a unique beast in the world of biking and everything I was seeing was pretty rad.  I never once wanted to stop and I was amazed at how easy it all seemed.  When you set an intention in your head it is so much easier to follow through.  I was learning so much this day and was so psyched I decided to attempt this challenge.  Take it from me, if you ever have doubt about anything in life remember the saying which I will repeat once again, you are capable of more than you think.





Sticks Can Be Dangerous and Other Ramblings

It seems like I have told this story once before.  Injuries are like that in stories.  It is true what they say, that when you do not learn the lesson the first time, the universe will keep sending you the lesson, until it sinks in deep.  Last summer, was a big one though.  In a crazy crash on my mountain bike, while going uphill I might add, I crashed and somehow got my leg impaled on a 5 inch stick almost all the way through my left calf muscle.  Yes, it was excruciatingly painful, but first some back story.


Earlier this year, I had been putting in a fair share of miles on the bike, I had done one 6 hour race, and I had ambitions to do others in the Southeastern Endurance Cup.  I started doing Strava at the end of last year, and you could say I got bitten by the bug.  Well, really let us call it what it is, ego started to tip the scales in my life.  This year I became pretty obsessed in my riding, to the point it was becoming problematic.  Every ride, no matter what, had an agenda.  We had to do a certain route, we had to ride at a certain speed, we had to do a certain amount of miles, you get the idea.  Basically, as my wife Shannon would have said, I was taking the fun out of riding, and she was right.  I just did not really understand then or see her point.  I thought I was just riding and I was still having fun I would say, but in reality I was just being selfish with the forced expectations.  I was completely obsessed, even to the point where I was putting a barrier between Shannon and I, as well as other friends, without really knowing it.  Even though I would not admit it during a ride, I was internally putting expectations on the ride, when all my wife or friends wanted to do was spend time with me and get some exercise.  If we did not meet those expectations, Shannon and my friends were probably feeling guilty for not meeting them, and I was blind and did not notice.  Sorry Shannon and anyone else.  I understand a little better now.

I had just gotten back from a three week solo biking trip in Colorado in July where I did a lot of big mile days in Crested Butte, Gunnison, and the Salida/Monarch Pass area.  Most of that riding was solo, except on Canyon Creek Trail with my friend Paul, from Boulder, which honestly, will one day be another completely separate write up.  Go ride that trail off Monarch Pass.  It is a super sweet ten miles up and ten miles down, probably my all time favorite ride to date, even though we were hailed on in July. colorado

Anyway, I was feeling super confident after coming home from the high mountains and wanted to ride as much as possible before the new school year teaching started again in August.  I had been riding new to me singletrack all summer, including a fun day at Rocky Knob near Boone, and the awesome new Fire Mountain Trails in Cherokee.  Shannon and I were riding a good bit and having a great summer together.  So since we had been exploring all summer, I decided to hit up a new trail near my house called Weed Patch Mountain Trail.  So, confidence, ego and good fitness can be a bad combination in life.  The new trail is some of the best sculpted, machine built and hand built trail I have ridden, very smooth and flowy, with a ton of amazing rock armoring on creek crossings and throughout the ride.  I went to ride the new trail with my friend Tony, who has not ridden much this year and was a bit out of shape.  We cruised the first six miles of beautiful singletrack in complete bliss, laughing out loud with how this was one of the best rides we had ever done, and it kept going and going.  The evening light was perfect and we were gently working our way up the long ridge, slowly gaining elevation, and we came to a viewpoint that is one of the most beautiful I have seen. blog4


We then realized that we were only half way up the mountain.  The singletrack gods had been before us and like Odysseus on the open sea, the trail weaved a spiral ribbon into the woods beckoning us to keep going.  Unfortunately, Tony needed to turn around and so I went on alone for a bit more solo reconnaissance.  I rode about another mile, and unfortunately the evening light was starting to fade and I needed to turn around. I met up with Tony and we descended off the mountain.  The long descent was all bliss and we made it safely back to the car.  Remember the ego part of the story?  I can never leave objectives not completed, so I had to go back as soon as possible to reach the summit of the new trail, even though the next day would be Monday, when no one else was off work.  Mistake number 1.

So the next day, I of course went back to the new trail, determined that I would reach the summit and check off this objective.  I was riding solo of course, mistake number 2.  I made it to the previous evening’s high point with a bit more daylight left and charged on confidently into the unknown.  There is something about solo riding in new places.  The woods have that real adventure feeling to them, and you realize you are really far from your car and it is only you and your head.  Moments like these are what it is all about for me.  The freedom of the cog, pedaling alone and experiencing the bliss of movement.  Well I was in the zone, feeling confident and I guess I kind of lost my focus a bit. I was cruising and would surely get a faster time up the mountain than the previous day, hello ego.  I came to a narrow stretch of trail that skirted a large set of car sized boulders on the left.  The trail narrowed down to only a handlebar width and I made mistake number three, I looked at the boulder.  I always tell my clients guiding at Pisgah Mountain Bike Adventures to look where you want to go. When you see two rocks, do not look at the rocks, look at the line you want to take in between the rocks, and then your body and bike will follow your eyes.  Well, the next thing I heard was a loud clink, and then I was endoing over my handlebars.  My right handlebar had hit the boulder and I went flying down the trail to my left, which happened to be a very steep, probably 50 degree slope.  I flew through the air for about ten feet, hit the ground hard and tumbled down the slope forever it seems.  I flipped upside down and landed with my head down the mountain, my feet dangling above me.  I was completely stuck and could not move. I tried to see what I was stuck on and everything looked fine.  I turned my leg a bit and then realized I had been skewered by a stick, as blood was gushing out of my leg.  I could not believe my eyes.  I was upside down, impaled by a stick and I literally could not move at all.  I grabbed the loose ground and dirt, and finally was able to grab a tree root and lift my leg slowly up off the stick and get my legs underneath my upper body.  I then tried to climb back up to the trail, which was 15 feet above me on the steep slope.  I somehow grabbed my bike and crawled back to the trail.  Back on firm ground, I sat down, and breathed really deeply for a few minutes.  The pain was intense.  I cannot believe I did not pass out, it was close, but I somehow stayed conscious.  I then cleaned out my wound with water and wrapped it in gauze and an ace bandage.  Luckily, the bleeding stopped and I took some Ibuprofen as well.  At least I had my first aid kit.  Looking back, that probably helped save my life because it stopped the bleeding.  I was able to text my friend Tony and asked him to meet me at the parking lot.  Now the fun part, well really the horror part, riding back down the 8 miles to the car solo.  That was excruciatingly painful.  It was mostly downhill, and I could pedal with my right leg, while my left leg I held out straight-legged and did not pedal with it.  The short climbs were the worst and I would have to get off the bike and walk instead of pedal.  Well, I was hobbling as fast as I could.  Each step felt like a dagger driving into my leg and I was wincing in pain with each step.  In times like this, your mind shuts out the pain.  Action is the only recourse.  I was like a robot and kept moving in the fading light.  I knew I would have to self rescue myself off this mountain.  There was no one around and I was my only rescue squad.  Two hours later, I saw Tony’s head lamp and I knew I had made it to the car.  I then drove to the ER in Asheville.

They cleaned up my wound and sent me home to heal and to see my primary care doctor in a couple of days.  I saw my doctor twice and the leg was healing fine.  It was really swollen, but I did not have fever and it seemed to be getting better.  After a week, the doctor put me on a stronger antibiotic and said to go to the ER if anything got worse.  That was at one o’clock on a Monday.  At four o’clock, suddenly everything turned.  I started to spike a high fever and the leg got really swollen, red and very hot to the touch.  I sent a picture of my leg and wound to my retired trauma surgeon friend James Hoffmeister, and he said I needed to get to the hospital immediately. injury3

James was the true hero in this story.  After talking with him on the phone, I was convinced I needed to go to the ER.  I would not have gone on my own until Wednesday during my follow up appointment, and as James said, I might not have made it until then.  These type of wound infections tend to go south really quickly.  Thank you James, for truly being the one who saved my life that day.  I am forever indebted to you.  I went back to the ER and they did a multitude of tests including an MRI.  My leg had gotten infected and I had a hematoma inside my leg near the left side of my calf, near the skin.  The hematoma needed to come out immediately.  They did emergency surgery to remove the hematoma and debried the original wound sight.  Three days later, I went home and started the long and slow process of recovery.  It all happened so fast.  I did not tell you that Shannon was in Greece at the time, so I was making life or death decisions at two in the morning alone.  That time in the hospital before and after the surgery was so intense.  All of a sudden I started having a lot of clarity about so many things.  I was overwhelmed by the amount of support I was receiving from my friends and family during that time.  Many people came to visit me, including my principal at school and many other friends.  Shannon was 3,000 miles away and yet I was being taken care of by so many others.  I released everything in those few days.  I cried, I was grateful, I was humbled, I was lifted up.  Friends blew me away.  Tony mowed my lawn before our clients came for our AirBnb rental, people brought me food, and even one friend named Katie cleaned the downstairs rental, which there was no way I could have cleaned, since I was hobbling around on crutches in a pretty good bit of pain still.  I was basically on the couch most of the day.  I would get up to pee, eat a bit of food, watch TV, take a shower, change the dressing on my leg and sit it out a little more.  After three weeks I began to get more mobility back and I started to use only one crutch for walking.  Work days at school started and everything started to go back to normal.  About seven weeks later, I went on my first ride, down our neighborhood road.  A few days later, I went on a real gravel road ride in Bent Creek.  I was back!

That was when the real lessons started to sink in.  When you are laid up for a long period of time, there is nothing to do, but think about everything.  What had I been doing the past year?  I had basically shut out my wife, many friends, and family, and nothing else really mattered.  I only thought of riding and not much else.  Work, family, time at home, everything in my life was just filling up space and time until the next ride, when I could be free again.  The problem was that even when I was riding, I was not really free.  I had an agenda.  I needed to do some real thinking about what I was doing and for what purpose.  I think the awakening came the day we went to retrieve the pokey stick, the name I gave the stick that tried to take me out.  I had this crazy idea that I wanted to find the stick that caused my accident and burn it into the abyss.  That day I assembled a strong group of real friends, my business partner Patrick, Joe, Allison, and my wife Shannon.  We brought along a hand saw and the plan was made to climb down to the stick and cut it off the mountain and bring it back home.  All day long I was very emotional.  I knew we would make it to the summit of the trail at Eagle Rock and I knew we would get the stick, but it is still very scary going back to the scene of the crime so to speak.  Before the ride I spoke to everyone and said how much it really meant for them all to be there with me.  I told them everyone would be a part of a bigger moment, a creation moment of moving past fear, and overcoming obstacles in our lives, metaphorically, literally and symbolically.  The ride was a major breakthrough for me and my wife as well.  She had never done a ride with so much vertical and distance (20 miles with 4,600 feet of elevation gain), and it was so cool for me to be a part of her breakthrough moment too.  She could have given up earlier in the day, but she was just as determined as me to get the stick and finish her longest ride.  That was inspiring the hell out of me.  We then made it to the site of the accident.  Right away, I looked down the trail and I immediately saw the stick.  Without hesitation, my brave wife climbed down the steep slope and began cutting the stick that was surreptitiously still poking straight out of the ground.  stick

Talk about sexy.  She did not even flinch.  She was on a mission as well.  She was giving completely of herself in that moment and I saw it in her eyes.  She embodied self-less action and I was radiating joy and intense emotion.  After a few jitters and silent reflection, we continued the ride to the summit of Eagle Rock.  We made it and man that view is one of the best in the state in my opinion.  blog1


We descended the trail after having an amazing moment on the summit basking in the endless mountain views.  On the way down, I even rode the section where I crashed.  Wow, that was the pinnacle of the day!  Everyone else had gone before me and I charged it confidently, and cleaned it no problem to the cheers of everyone.  In that moment, I was free.  No more ego, no more expectations.  From that moment it was all gratitude, and a focusing on creating moments.  Creating moments with friends and family, spending time with positive people, letting go of expectations I had been placing on myself and others, and truly becoming a part of life and not taking any moment for granted.  Every breathe in this life is precious.  I do not want to waste any more of this gift.  I want to breathe it all in and experience everything with more clarity of purpose.

From now on it is waking up each day and saying what can I do to affect the quality of the day?  Who can I help?  What moment can I be a part of completely? I do not mean just floating by in a daze, but real presence.  From now on, I want to be completely a part of all the moments I am experiencing.  I want to talk with my friends and family and really listen to what they have to say.  I want to slow down a bit on my rides and look around a bit more.  It is all right if we do not get the 40 miles I wanted to do, at least I am out there creating and experiencing the woods with friends.  I want to expand my experiences more and do other things with friends that I enjoy like hiking, rock climbing and skiing.  Even doing things I normally do not do like playing tourist in Asheville, brewery-hoping with my old high school friend Conrad and his wonderful wife Lynn.  By the way, he made me this beautiful fire poker stick and gave it to me on my birthday.  Moments.


Oh, and we burned the shit out of “the pokey stick”.  On my birthday, we had an amazing night of friends around the backyard fire-pit.  Everyone got a stick from the woods and we burned them together and made symbolic vows to live more fully.  These are the real moments where the blinders are thrown aside and you experience the joy, the sorrow, the hardships and most of all the shared journey.  It is amazing what has taken place this time after this injury.  I go on a ride and it takes on more meaning than I ever thought possible.  Since my injury, every ride and experience is sacred and special, and you know what?  We are still doing big goals and charging it out there, but I have let go of the agenda and it has clarified so much for me.  A month ago, Shannon and I went to Mulberry Gap and had two big days of beautiful, back-country bliss riding.  In fact, both days were Shannon’s biggest on the bike and I was a part of that moment too, smiling and fighting with her.


In the past, I probably would not have been patient enough to set aside my goals to help another.  In that moment we were both in the same moment and it was some of the best riding I have had with Shannon.  We were both exploring new places and being together in a common goal.  Shared goals and moments are really what it is about.  So get out there and create your moments and bring a friend along for the ride.  We are all in this together and together we will create our lives.

The Bicycle Story

Bicycles tell stories.  All across the globe, the bicycle tribe is the same–human powered fun on two wheels.  The tribe members use many different tools in their art and it really does not matter which one you choose, just as long as it is human powered and has wheels.


The original story maker, The Cog Fairy-Shanna Powell Endless Bike Company

These bicycle stories have lots of common themes like pain, suffering, endurance, fortitude, bliss, joy, and dare I say glory.  Every time you go out on a bicycle, you come back with a story, even if you are just commuting across town.  When you ride a bike you are creating something, a physical action, and you are alive.  You are ultimately creating what we call moments.  Moments of pure awareness, experience, and moments of peace and happiness.  Bicycles are mediums to creating happy stories and moments. After a ride you feel more alive in the moment.  The moment is the story.  You might be tired and beat up, but you now have a story to tell.  A story of motion, stirring in you connections with other riders who experience similar stories.  Some stories are happy and some are sad, some are epic journeys, and some are just a simple jaunt.  We all have them and we all have something we can share.  When you ride a bike you come together in a connection that transcends differences of place, time and degree.  The connection is the act itself and in that moment we are all experiencing it.  Riding a bike creates freedom in experience.  The freedom you experience while moving your legs in a gentle rhythm, listening to the hum of the chain, and feeling the air on your face.  You breathe hard after the long climb,  you crest the mountain and now feel lite.  Views open up before you and the long downhill path fills your body and mind with smiles for miles. Your blood pumps fast and yet your mind is calm and at peace.  These are our moments on a bike.


Heidi Rentz creating stories at The Dirty Kanza 200 The Cyclist’s Menu

So ride on all you story tellers out there.  Keep pedaling and keep creating.  Ride like your life depends upon it.  Create those stories, and share them with each other.  There are many people who would listen to your tale, because they too have experienced the story of wheels in motion.  Keep the tribe alive and keep moving forward.  Search for the mystery and create your stories. Ride your bike and tell your story, so that we can weave them together with our stories and share a laugh or two.  Create moments with your years and don’t forget to lube your chain.  So what is your story?

Pisgah Mountain Bike Adventures

Racing Bikes is Fun

Racing bikes is fun.  It has been about a year and a half since I last took on the challenge of racing mountain bikes.  I forgot how incredible it really is to compete.


I went into the Battle of Payne Creek 6 Hour Race semi-prepared and yet it was different this time around.  The biggest difference was that I was relaxed and put no expectations on myself.  In the past, I have stressed over results and fitness and a myriad of other details.  This time I went into it with the attitude of having fun and seeing what I could do.  I have been training more consistently this year with about two to three rides a week, but I was worried that I had not put in many long rides.  Before the race I rode 20 miles numerous times, 30 miles one time, and I put in a 40 miler only one week before the race.  I had wanted to get in a 50 mile ride, but you know, life happens.  Even though I had not put in so many miles, I knew I could do the distances that would be required to finish, because the course only had about 700 feet of climbing per 8.5 mile lap.  Just the week before I put in 40 Pisgah miles with 4500 feet of climbing, so mentally and physically I knew I would be fine.  But the biggest factor really was my head.  I was relaxed, cool, calm and collected.  I really only had one goal, finish 6 laps and keep the pedals turning at a reasonable pace.  I got in 6 laps and stayed consistent the entire day with times of 50 minutes, 53, 53, 56, 58, and 54 respectively.  I managed an 8th place finish out of 12 in masters men, and pulled out 31st overall out of 53 finishers.  In past 6 hour races, I have had inconsistent times, but this race I just got into a rhythm and kept at it all day.  It was a very surreal experience just keeping the pedals turning at a steady pace.  My mind stayed super clear the entire day and I got into the moment with intense clarity.  I felt like I was floating and never really felt too tired all day.


I kept the nutrition rolling all day in small bits and pieces, and had a rule to do something every 15 minutes or so, whether it was drinking water or Infinite, eating a Shot Block, gel shot or Ally’s Bar.  I ate a bagel with peanut butter later in the race and downed a few Endurolyte supplements to help with cramping.  Next time I plan to try a breakfast burrito with potatoes, avocado and eggs, because the bagel was a bit dry.


Another huge factor was having the support of my wife Shannon at each lap.  She was there all day, serving up bottles of Infinite and giving me a positive boost each lap.  In past races I did not have a crew and I have to say it really makes a difference to have someone for moral and emotional support during a race.  We discussed what laps I would stop for resupply and Shannon had it dialed in.  I stopped to pee twice during the race and she switched out my bottles and lubed up my chain during those times.  That alone helped me to shave at least 5 minutes and over the course of an entire race, it really adds up.  Thanks Shannon for everything!!

Another factor as well was I knew a few people at the race this time around.  Seeing a familiar face out on course really helps keep the motivation high and it is really nice to talk with someone during a long race.  On lap 4, I rode with a super stand up guy by the name of James Hoffmeister.  racing5This guy first of all is 72 years old and rides like a man half his age.  He has the spirit of a 20 year old and he can hammer by the way.   Age is truly in your mind and James embodies that philosophy.  He came up to me during the lap at a time when I was starting to feel fatigued and I had started to slow up a bit.  He said pick it up Chris in a firm and supportive way.  He knew I could do it, so he said it and I obliged.  I kicked in to reserve mode and started to crank out the miles.  I paced him for the entire lap and felt really good.  We chatted a bit, but mostly we just hammered it out at a good pace, content to be in the zone.  He later dropped me, but thanked me for pacing him.  I thought I would never see him again and eased up a bit at the end of the lap.  I have to admit, it was really cool to catch him in the last half mile.  He was all encouragement and true class in that moment and congratulated me on the strong finish.  It was an honor coming from such a legend.  Thanks Jim!!  I also saw James’ wife Beth out on course and she was all smiles.  racing4She kept her fast pace up all day and won her division by a long margin.  It was fun to talk about our cats after the race, as she is a very passionate cat lover.  Both she and James are some of the most friendly, humble and truly bad ass riders out there.  They both have been local heros for me for a long time and it was really inspiring to race with them.  Another local Asheville rider Nick Bragg was racing too.  I saw Nick for a brief time on lap 5 as he was lapping me.  Nick is a really cool, young local from Asheville that is super talented and very humble as well.  He is a true hammer-head and it was really cool to ride with him for a minute or two.  He chatted  for awhile and gave me strong words of encouragement and went on to finish 3rd place in Expert Men.  Nice job Nick!!  It is really humbling to talk with and race with these kinds of people.  All of them embody what real sport is about and it is really fun to be a part of their positive energy.

So basically, the camaraderie seemed to help me tremendously during this race.  Racing is an individual sport against your own goals and expectations, but it is also a social sport.  As I have gotten older, I am realizing the social aspect of riding is a really important factor in the enjoyment part of the sport.  When you can go out with a group of friends that push you and support you, the entire moment is enhanced and we remember that biking truly is a social sport meant to be shared with others.  When I lived in Colorado, I always trained and rode by myself and I lost the drive after a while.  In North Carolina, I have ridden more with others and I think that is what has kept me more motivated and psyched to share the experience with others.  This kind of experience is also a big factor in why I started Pisgah Mountain Bike Adventures. After all a shared experience is something that can bond people around a common thread and it is strengthened and made more complete and meaningful as a result.  So my take out of this race was to keep it fun, share the experience with others and to relax and let it happen.  Letting go and going with the moment and enjoying the entire process from start to finish.  After all, riding bikes is fun and I don’t think I ever felt worse after a bike ride than I did before.  I might be more tired, but I am always more fulfilled and happier than when I started. Biking and racing is an easy way to experience bliss and find out what you are really capable of doing with the proper attitude and motivation.  I can’t wait for the next race.


Friends, Bikes, Oyster Shucking, and What I Am Thankful For

Today was an amazing day spent with new friends and old, that included plenty of bikes, oyster shucking, and mild temperatures in the mountains.  First off, I want to say we have a super cool and supportive bike community in Asheville and WNC.  I sometimes forget just how great our community really is.  Everyone is so friendly and supportive and just wants to have fun in the woods riding bikes with friends.  I am so thankful to be a part of this great community.  We started the day at 11am with a group of fun, new to me friends for the first annual Ride and Roast.  Ride and Roast was a house warming party/ride organized by my friend Becky who owns Mountains to Sea Acupunture and Herbal Medicine in Asheville.  She planned a group ride in Bent Creek with an oyster roast/house warming party following the ride.  We had nine people show up for the ride and what a fun crew we had.  fun1It is so nice to ride with a group of people that just want to go out and have a good time in the woods riding bikes.  I have been riding solo a lot lately and I forgot how fun it is to ride with a big group.  Everyone had varying abilities and yet we had a super cool ride that was good for everyone.  If you wanted to go fast, you went fast, if you wanted to take it easy, you could take it easy.  There was no pressure and there was no race, which sometimes happens during some group rides.  We all were just riding and enjoying each other’s company.  fun2The day started out pretty cold at 30 degrees at 9am, but quickly warmed up to a moderate 59 degrees later in the day.  I rode comfortably with shorts, arm warmers and my summer riding gloves.  I started with a vest, but quickly shed that after the first climb.  The entire day we all chatted and regrouped at every trail junction and chatted some more.  Everyone was in a great mood and everyone was being supportive of everyone.  We talked about the warm day, bikes, our jobs, our passions, you name it.   All day long I was in biking heaven.  We hit one of our signature trails, Greens Lick and everyone was all smiles on the super fast downhill.  fun3The trails were flowing smoothly and the camaraderie was even better.  After the ride we met at Becky’s new casa for the oyster roast.  She brought in a huge bushel of fresh North Carolina oysters from the Outer banks and we fired up the grill and had an old fashioned oyster shucking party.  I hadn’t had oysters for many years and these were fresh as can be.  About 30 people showed up and we ate the succulent oysters for the rest of the afternoon.  Once again conversations were had and general good camaraderie ensued.  Now I sit here, thinking back on the wonderful day I had with friends, and the many things I am thankful for in my life.  thankfulThe week has been a very positive week.  I had an amazing last day before Thanksgiving break with my students.  We all shared things we were thankful for and I went into break with a very humble and inspired mind.  My wife Shannon and I went to her parents in South Carolina and had a good visit with her family.  The food was tasty as can be, and the conversation and company was uplifting as well.  I was reminded at the beginning of the week that I love my job teaching and I am thankful for the challenge to help kids everyday.  I was reminded in South Carolina about the importance of family and talking together.  I am so thankful that I have family to spend time with and that care for me unconditionally.  Then today I was reminded of how important it is to be with friends and to exercise and socialize together.  I am thankful for my health and the ability to ride my bike with friends and I am thankful for inspiring people that just want to socialize and support each other in sport and camaraderie.  I am thankful for my lovely wife, who kicked butt on the ride today, and I am thankful for my two kitties, who are watching me type this story as I type.  I am thankful for love, health and sport.  I am thankful for the little things, like sunshine on a late fall day and the opportunity to grow each day in my life.  I am also thankful for this moment right now.  Moments like these are all we truly have, and I hope I have many more moments like the ones I had on this perfect day.

Lessons from Injuries

What is it about extreme sports and injuries?  It seems they go hand in hand, and don’t they always seem to happen at just the wrong time?  Or do they happen at just the right time?  Sometimes we learn things from our injuries and sometimes the lessons do not set in and we have to get injured again to really make it stick.  In the end though, life has a funny way of repeating circumstances until the lessons truly take hold. Every time I get injured, I ponder all these questions, and I go through a range of emotions from anger to guilt to finally acceptance.  Acceptance is the hardest one, and it takes a lot of introspection, but it usually comes.  So first, I want to catalog all my major injuries and then I will talk about what I learned in the process.


Hiking in Congaree National Park, SC.

My first really big injury was in 1990.  It almost killed me.  I was a young mountain sport enthusiast, living in Gunnison, Colorado.  I was skiing every sick line I could find, jumping off big cliffs at Crested Butte, and skiing crazy shoots and trees 100+ days a year.  I was kayaking every river I could find a shuttle to, biking every trail in the area from Gunnison and Crested Butte to Moab and Fruita.  I was rock climbing every rock face I could find, and basically living the mountain lifestyle dream of doing everything related to mountains and doing it with wholehearted abandon. The adventures were always epic, and I do not regret the fast and crazy living of the Gunnison Valley, but did I mention that I was young and inexperienced?  When you are young, you don’t have a healthy respect for fear, and you basically huck yourself into every situation without much thought about the consequences.  When you are 20, you don’t realize that rocks can hurt and they can even kill.  So that Fall season, we had gotten a lot of early season snow for about two weeks and the powder gods were dumping the area with tons of snow.  We decided to hike for some turns on Crested Butte Mountain before it was open and we were treated to the best powder day I have ever experienced.  It was literally chest deep and some of the best light and fluffy snow I have ever skied.  We had been doing laps on some of the front side runs mid-mountain and during the last run, we were slowly making our way down the mountain.  They had cut a new black run on the front side of the mountain and we wanted to check it out.  Apparently, the stumps were not yet completely cleared out on that section.  I noticed a few strands of long grass sticking out of the snow, but I figured we would be all right and I dropped in.  I made three turns, caught a tip and went down on my side, right into one of the hidden tree stumps.  In my inexperience, I did not realize that the early season snow had not set up an adequate base layer yet, and so we were basically skiing right above the rocks.  It was fine up higher, but not down lower in the valley. Stumps do not mix well with ski tips, even if you are not going fast.  I went down and did not hit hard, but the wind was immediately knocked out of my chest and I was in a lot of pain on my side and gut.  I caught my breath, but was still having excruciating pain like a knife cutting into me with each breath I took, so I decided I needed to get out of there and find some help.  Each breath and every bump on the way down felt like hell-fire and  I was about to pass out from the pain.  Something was wrong.  At the bottom of the mountain, I laid down for a minute, while my friend went to get the van.  Luckily, he was not able to hike up to where the van was because he had on old Sorrell boots that were terrible for hiking uphill.  I wanted to lie there for awhile,  but he sensed something was wrong.  He came back to where I was and immediately got me up and we stumbled to the nearest clinic in Crested Butte.   I started to knock on the door and the door opened simultaneously.  The only paramedic in town was literally on his way to the store and we surprised him.  If I had been a minute or two later he would have been gone, and I found out later I would not have made it to hospital in time, which was 30 minutes down the road in Gunnison.  We went inside, took x-rays and determined I had two broken ribs.  I was getting very dizzy and was about to lose consciousness, so the paramedic called an ambulance and we set out to the hospital.  He got an IV in me and it turns out that is what saved my life.  If I had driven on my own, I would not have made it.  We made it to the hospital in Gunnison.  They put a catheter in me and it was all blood.  They did an exploratory surgery to see what was going on inside.  The broken ribs had punctured my kidney and I was bleeding internally.  The doctor thought it was not that bad and it would seal up on its own, so I sat in the hospital for a week with no progress.  Each day I kept bleeding out a small amount of blood in my urine.   A week later they sent me to Montrose, Colorado to have a MRI.  The doctor there said I needed emergency surgery to repair the kidney.  So they sent me to Denver General to a kidney specialist and he repaired the kidney the next day.  Two days later the stitches broke and I had to have a second surgery. After about three more weeks of recovery, I finally was released from the hospital.  Later, I went to retrieve my skis from the clinic in Crested Butte and met the guy who saved my life.  He said I could have died from that injury and I was lucky to be alive.  I thanked him and we talked a lot about the thin line of life and death.  So as you can see, that day gave me a new-found sense of life and purpose, and I gained a new sense of the fragile nature of life.  I decided I needed to slow down a little and think about things more before jumping in head first.  In one quick moment, I was given a glimpse of the transient nature of life and it woke me up.  I was thankful to be alive and it gave me a new sense of being thankful for every breath and every moment.  I vowed to cherish life more and to live life with more purpose and direction.  I would still ski, bike, climb and kayak, but now I would have a better sense of respect for possible injuries and I would listen to my gut instinct more when it said to back off.  I was learning to turn off the ego, and to live for my own joy and not to impress others.  When you are young, you sometimes do things so others will be impressed and my competitive nature always drove me to do better and to go bigger than someone else and to do it faster, etc.  I was now realizing the futility of ego and I was learning to live for my own goals and aspirations.  Who did I need to impress?  Who cares what others think?  In sport, you have to do things for your own joy and passion. When you can do that and learn to live in the moment, you are free to pursue sport for the sake of sport and you learn to push yourself in ways you never realized were possible.

My next injury was many years later and it was a big one too.  I was rock climbing one day on a two pitch route in North Carolina at the Looking Glass called Rat’s Ass.


Climbing the super classic finger crack Shredded Wheat 5.11

After the first pitch, I had set up a hanging belay in a crack and brought my wife Shannon up to the stance.  I had noticed a shooting pain in my lower back and it was killing me.  We finished the day and I went home and took some Ibuprofen to help with the shooting back pain.  It never went away and for the next month, every time I was standing, sitting, or walking, I was in intense pain.  The pain radiated down my leg and and was debilitating. The only time it did not hurt, was when I was laying in the fetal position in bed.  I had been getting massage and adjustments at a Osteopath for a while and the pain would go away for a day, but it would come back with a vengeance.  The Osteopath finally ordered an MRI and gave me a diagnosis of a slipped or herniated disc.  A lifetime of skiing bumps and hard mountain living had finally caught up to me.  Surgery was the only option, so I traveled to Dallas, Texas and had surgery with a neurologist friend of my dads.  Two hours after the surgery, I was pain-free and I walked out of the hospital.  The laminectomy/dissectomy surgery was a complete success.  The doctor said I could not rock climb for three months, and at the time I was a complete climbing addict.  What was I going to do?  How could I not climb for 90 days?  At first I was super depressed and angry.  I got bored very quickly as well.  The doctor said to walk as much as possible for therapy, so I started hiking more. Slowly, my mental state started to change.  I went to some amazing places in North Carolina and started hiking a few 6000 foot peaks.


The ridge to Plott Balsam

I discovered a hiking program called SB6K, which stands for South Beyond 6000.  SB6K is a hiking challenge to hike all the states 40 peaks over 6000 feet.  There are actually 60 peaks, but some are just sub-peaks of other peaks.  I completed the program a year later and that was one of the most meaningful and tough projects I have ever completed.  For a full write up of that experience, see my post Bushwhacking in High Places.  In the end of that experience, I discovered that life can show you many beautiful things if you take the time to find them and step out of your comfort zone and try new things.  The back injury forced me to stop climbing, and I learned to climb in new ways, through hiking.  I saw places of beauty during that summer that I cannot describe, and I learned more about perseverance and overcoming great odds in three months than I had in all my entire life.  I learned patience and how to wait for things.  After three months I started climbing again, and the lessons I learned during that time helped my climbing tremendously.  I learned to wait for the right moment, and I learned that injuries get better when the time is right.  I learned that not doing your main passion all the time opens other doors of learning and opportunities that are sometimes hidden.  Once again I learned about moderation and managing risk.  I would still climb, but I would do it smarter and in ways that did not tax my back so much.  I learned to respect my body and to cherish it for what it is, a medium through which I discover beautiful things and places in the world.  I needed to take care of my body and slowing down is always a good thing for your body.  I did not stop, I was just more mindful and not as careless.

My next injury was tearing my glenoid labrum joint in my shoulder while bouldering at the climbing gym.  I had been pushing it really hard and completed a strenuous problem, but in an instant of ego, I dynoed to a higher hold to show I could do a hard problem, plus one more move.  The instant I lunged for the hold I heard and felt the click, which signaled the tear of my shoulder.  I instantly had a shooting pain all through my arm and knew I injured it.  I rested for about a week and it still hurt bad, so I finally went to the doctor.  He ordered a MRI and yes, I tore the joint.  It would never completely heal, but he did say to rest for a while and see what happens.  I did not climb for a month.  He said to go out and test the waters so to speak.  I went out and climbed on it.  It seemed fine, so to this day, I still climb on it and never got surgery.  I just have to be aware of it and not overly exert the shoulder too much.  I can still climb hard, but I have to use my feet more and push through moves instead of yank hard on my shoulder or do a crazy dynamic move on the shoulder.  So once again, the lessons were moderation and control.  I learned to have control of my body to not flail around on climbs haphazardly and jump for holds.   I learned to control my mind to not over do it when I might want to do “one more route before we go”, and most of all I learned to control my mind and let it go and relax in situations that might be stressful.  I have learned to be in the moment more and to take things for what they are now.  If I fail at a route and it is too hard, it is all right and I know I tried my best.  At least I am still out there giving it a go.  I do not have to be the best and I do not have to do every route, but I still get out there and do it.

Last year I was injured hiking.  That injury was pretty funny actually, because I got hurt trying to help a dog get a ball out of the river.  My wife and I used to walk a husky for extra money twice a week.  That day we went on one of our favorite hikes to a local waterfall in Montreat College.  Finn, the dog we walked, loved the water and he loved tennis balls and chasing them.  He just did not really understand the art of fetching.


Finn the dog

He would do it sometimes, but most of the time he would only bring back the ball half way, or he would drop it in the river, like he did that day.  I threw the ball and he chased it and brought it back half way and it rolled back into the river.  Slowly it tumbled down to a lower pool in the river.  He would not get it and so dumb me went for it.  I started to walk towards the slanting, slick wall of rock near the water and slipped.  I tried to run it out, fell and almost made it, but hit my hand hard on the rocks and severely dislocated my ring finger.  I had to get stitches and luckily I got my wedding ring off before the major swelling started.  They later numbed my hand and finger with Novacaine and set it back in place.  The shots on my finger and hand they gave me really hurt by the way.  Have you ever had a shot right in the sensitive nerves of your fingers and hand?  Yes, it burns like fire and feels like someone is grinding your hand  with a meat cleaver.  It is now a year and a half later, and I still have a swollen knuckle on my finger.  I can get my wedding ring on and off if I put baby oil on it.  At least I still have complete range of motion and I can still ride and race my bike and run my guide service I started called Pisgah Mountain Bike Adventures.


Firetower in The Buffalo National River trails, AR.

So through this injury, I learned that even simple outings can become dangerous and if you let your guard down, even for a moment, things can happen that you do not expect.  I was not thinking and went down the steep, wet slope towards the water just to get a tennis ball.  I let my guard down and fell on a slope I knew not to tread on, but I did anyways in a momentary lapse of judgement.  After this experience, I learned to slow down and evaluate situations, even simple ones, for objective hazards, and think before you act.  One of the best lessons I learned from rock climbing that could be applied here, is to think of a challenge and fear of the unknown as a bubble.  You have a circle around you at all times.  If you stay in the circle, you stagnate and never grow.  To grow, you must step out of the circle and push through your fear.  You see the fear or objective danger for what it is, you evaluate all the hazards, you look at your abilities and know you are capable of doing a move, and then you decide to move forward.  You do not do it recklessly, but in a controlled manner.  You see the fear and danger and you push it aside for a moment and not let it paralyze you, and you move forward.  In that way, you learn to have a healthy respect for the fear or challenge, and for the time you move through it and push it aside.  In that way it does not control you and you learn to use it to grow and challenge yourself in new ways.  You go outside that bubble and you make it safely to the next hold and you realize you can do it.  In that way our fears are there to help guide us though the challenge and in the end it is our mind that breaks though the challenge.  If I would have slowed down and looked at that ball and saw the danger of the steep, wet slope, I could have made a better plan to crab crawl down the slope or find an easier way around.  I let my mind get clouded by the reward of getting the ball fast and I slipped and screwed up my hand.  Once again, lessons through injuries.

Now we come to the present.  Four weeks ago, I was biking and crashed hard in a rock garden and fractured my fifth metacarpal in my hand and got six stitches in my arm.  The doctor this time said no biking for six weeks.  I am four weeks out and I am finally starting to get range of motion back in my hand and fingers and it is healing great.  I have been hiking a good bit again, bagging summits from the SB6K program again, and I am in a pretty good space right now emotionally.  For the past year I have been biking really hard and the month before my injury, I had really been pushing it and exploring new trails I had never been on before.  I was getting a little too comfortable with fast riding and taking things for granted a bit as far as health and injury.  It is funny how your brain shuts out that part of life.  I had been riding solo a lot before the injury and I was really feeling confident and dare I say a tad bit invincible?  Then bam, I hit a tree with my bar, right at a serious rock garden, and go into the rocks way off-balance trying to recoup.  The first rock my front tire hits sends me flying over my handlebars.  I fly off the trail and land 15 feet off the trail straight on my arm on solid, sharp rocks.  Blood is gushing everywhere and I was a little worried at first.  I move my fingers and they seemed all right.  It hurt, but not that bad.  I thought I just jammed my finger, no big deal.  After a few minutes, the blood stops gushing, and so I bike the mile back to the road, holding on with two fingers since my fingers hurt a bit when I put pressure on them. I walked any technical section and rode the rest.  I made it to the road and coast two more miles to where Shannon had waited for me after our earlier ride together on the first loop.  I did a second loop solo of course, and that was the new to me technical loop.  What could possibly happen I thought earlier?  I will be fine I told her.  I guess I was a little off that day, because I crashed three times that day, once on an uphill fire-road even.  Who knows?  I came up to her and said I think I need to go get some stitches, since I had a pretty big gash on my arm.  At the urgent care in Asheville, I learned I did indeed fracture my hand.  Crap, here we go again.

I have been thinking a lot about this hand injury and what it means.  I have tried to stay positive this time and for the most part I have done well with this part.  It could have been much worse and I feel lucky that it was not my head or that I did not break any other major bones like my arm or leg.  This time I learned to be thankful for what I do have.  For two weeks I could not use my hand and that was a challenge.  Actions you take for granted like showering or brushing your teeth, getting dressed, writing, etc., were impossible to do alone.  Shannon had to help me wash my arm pits and help me get dressed.  Luckily, we have a bidet in the bathroom.  Even my wife draws the line at times.  Slowly, I started to adapt and learn to do those things on my own.  I got pretty good at typing left-handed, showering and brushing my teeth.  In the process, it taught me to be truly thankful for health and simple things like grabbing an object, or writing my name on a paper.  Now I am typing with my right hand and I am getting better range of motion each day.  I learned to not take health for granted and I learned to be grateful for the little things.  I know it will heal, it will just take a little time.  In the big scheme of things, six weeks is nothing and it could have been much worse and I feel truly grateful that I will make it and live to ride again.

It is really hard to see events and circumstances just as they are and not have negative reactions to those things or events. When we can do that, we learn to control how we react to situations and we take them for what they are in the moment, namely learning experiences. We learn to regulate our emotions and not be attached to outcomes or controlling things that are out of our control.  We then are free to be happy in the moment and learn from the experience and not brood over things. All these experiences have been hard, but I have tried to stay positive and learn from the experiences. In the big scheme of things, 6 weeks, 3 months or a year and a half is nothing, and all these injuries could have been much worse and I feel grateful for that fact. Injuries are great teachers. You just have to look hard for the silver lining. “Healing is a matter of time, yet it is also sometimes a matter of opportunity.”

Giving Back

Some of the best moments I have experienced in life are times when I am giving back and helping others.  Two years ago I started a mountain bike club at the alternative high school where I teach English.  We have gone on four bike trips so far, and each time the good feelings I experience just keep getting better and better.  The best part of giving back is the fact that I loose my ego for the moment and all that matters is helping to facilitate a growth moment in another person.  All worries and thoughts about life like job responsibilities, bills and other concerns drop off, and the reality of the moment is all that matters.  bike3These moments help clarify my life and make it real.  When I see a student of mine smiling and growing in new ways and trying something new like riding a bike, it helps me to realize that life is more about helping others and creating new experiences for others.  bike1By doing these things my own life takes on more intense meaning and I feel whole.  So much of our lives are about what makes me happy or what can I get in life.  Giving to others makes life have more value and it takes the me out of the equation.  bike2

In that moment I am transcending myself and I am becoming a part of a life that is bigger than just me.  I am becoming part of a community of people and a larger world, and in that moment everything seems just right.

*Thanks Stephen Janes and TripsForKidsWNC for the donation of 5 bikes to our club last year.