Monthly Archives: October 2015

On Second Thought, Strava is the Cure for the Unpacking Boxes Blues

After 11 months and over 9000 miles of almost daily cycling with the simplicity of carrying only the things we needed in four small bags, the past few weeks overwhelmed me with complexity of unpacking. The packing then unmotivated me to cycle familiar roads, jog around the neighborhood, or lift weights at my old gym. I felt myself shutting down. Desperate means called for desperate measures.

I decided to download Strava.

Strava is a computer application (app) that tracks speed, distance, laps, and segments of a workout and than allows you to share those workouts with friends. You can give your friends comments or “kudos” to praise and encourage them to do more. You can join challenges or you can just keep track of your own progress.

I’d heard about Strava over a year ago when Eric added it to his growing collection of “mapping apps” including MapMe, Pocket Earth, MapMyRide, Google Maps, (I’m sure he has more…)
Here’s a sample conversation:

Hey, Penny. This looks like a good app. Give it a try.
No, thanks. We can’t even use the apps we have. Isn’t one map program enough?

But, Eric ignored me, friended his brother on Strava, and proceeded to upload our cycle tour data from Garmin to Strava so his brother could comment on our trip (his version of Facebook) and ask us if we took a bus or our average speed really was 45 kph. (Yes, occasionally he forgot to stop the app when we took public transportation and his brother’s comments showed that he really analyzed the data and compared rides.)

Still I declined Strava for myself because I wanted to use my free-time more productively – scrolling Facebook, reading a book, drinking a beer, washing my socks, or, if I was really motivated, writing a blog.

Several months ago some biking friends in Australia tried to convince me to download Strava. They told me they like to compete with their friends, give kudos for good rides and comments of shame for slow ones. After failing to keep pace with them on a heart-pounding ride, they friended Eric so they could all remember this“epic, cardio killer” for years to come.

But still I wasn’t ready to take the plunge.

Little did I know that mind-numbing days of unpacking boxes and lonely rides on long ribbons of highways stretching through brown, dusty farmlands would push me into a new gear.

Last week I finally downloaded Strava. Then, I tapped the bright orange Strava icon, pressed start, tucked my phone into my jersey and began to pedal.

After nearly an hour of relatively flat roads, brown dirt, yellow tumbleweeds, plowed fields, few cars and a very large horizon of sameness, I was ready to call it quits. I was only mildly interested in checking out my Strava results.

The screen showed me that I’d ridden a mere 16.8 US miles.   28 kilometers, the unit of measure almost everywhere else in the world sounds so much more impressive even though both distances are exactly the same.

After checking my stats, I uploaded them making sure NOT to share them on Facebook.

The following morning, I turned on Strava. I have to admit I  was mildly delighted to see that Eric had given am a little “thumbs-up/kudos for my ride. OK…so a little recognition did make me slightly more motivated. I smiled knowing that Eric would see where and how far I’d ridden. It was actually a little bit easier to hop on my bike. Maybe this app was going to be more fun than I’d thought.

On the third morning, I woke up and checked Strava before I checked Facebook. A kudos from Eric, a  friend request, and a little trophy with the number “4” in front of it greeted me on the screen.

Eric liked what I did, a fellow cycling friend wanted to share rides and times, and, according to Strava, I had the 3rd best time of all female Strava users up a hill. (There must not be many Strava users because I’m not that fast.)I also had 3 personal bests. The personal bests on a first ride was kind of stupid, though, because it was my first time riding this portion so the entire ride would be a personal best.  But, I could see how these little tidbits of information were going to motivate me to work a little harder.

Now, after exactly one week of using Strava, I’m once again motivated to get out of the house to cycle or jog . And, while my cycling routes may lack variety and newness, they do include personal challenges and friendly spousal competitions.

Today, for example, Eric posted his Sunday morning sub 60-minute 10K in London before I even awoke in Washington. His Strava post, in turn, compelled me put on my running shoes and hit the pavement before I talked myself into that second cup of coffee and talked myself out of exercising.

So, for the time being, I’ve found a new motivator. Check out Strava and let me know what you think.

N.B. Our cycle4retirement was a journey, not a race so the only part of Strava that would have interested me during our tour was the map of the route. But, at home, since the scenery does get a little dull, the Strava “challenges” keeps things interesting.

Cycling is the Cure to the Unpacking Boxes Blues

I’m sitting at our kitchen table for the first time in over four years. It’s cluttered with the bric-a brac that  comes from unpacking.

There are  receipts for carpet cleaning, quotes for painting and tile work, earbuds for listening to psych-up-to-unpack-ANOTHER-box-of dishes music  (Do I really need 17 mismatched wine glasses and 12 commemorative coffee mugs from places like Novotel or TWA which doesn’t even fly anymore?),  folders of children’s memorabilia with programs for 6th grade band recitals (Did our son really play bass clarinet? He certainly never brought it home from school.), my “Incase” armband for my iPhone just in case I take a break from unpacking and actually go for a run (not likely), and my laptop, which until this moment has been used for researching contractors, email and Facebook where I read with yearning about all the fun and adventures our cycling friends have been having.

The clutter makes me tired and unsettled.

Until 2010,  I was a typical suburban wife, mom, homemaker, teacher, exerciser, volunteer, buyer, seller, collector, spring cleaner, winter hibernator, reader, wanna be musician, tennis player, skier, and occasional cyclist. Then Eric asked me to join him overseas.

I never thought we’d be gone no more than about nine months. In fact, many of the things I’ve been unpacking: half-full containers of flour and sugar , half empty bottles of oil, spices from 1994 (OK that’s just embarrassing because they were outdated before we left), very short running shorts, low-rider hipster jeans, and clothes that were nearly new, all of these indicate that I thought I was only taking a short sabbatical.

Little did we know that we’d be gone over four years. Everything would be covered with a thick layer of Tri-Cities dirt that has the consistency of flour. Moving even the smallest of boxes from the storage shed to the garage results in cough inducing brown haze reminiscent of cycling during heavy road construction in Vietnam.

And if the dirt and dust isn’t stressful enough, the decisions are: what to keep, what to toss, why to keep, where to store?

To keep my generally optimistic disposition, I’ve been reflecting on our 11 months of cycle touring. Everything we owned and needed was in our four panniers. Life was  simple. Shopping was based upon need and weight. Spring cleaning happened  monthly when we changed countries, climates or both. Getting our of the house occurred naturally as we traveled from one place to the next. We had time and energy for cycling, conversation, socialization, reading, writing, and bike maintenance. We didn’t have to bother with anything extraneous.

As a result of my reflection, I made a conscious effort to again put cycling first. Today, I left the house BEFORE I got wrapped up in boxes, piles, to-do lists, and phone calls. I stuffed a pump and patches in preparation for the unseasonably numerous goat heads into one jersey pocket and shoved a PB& J in the other. I gulped down a cup of coffee and headed out the door.

After cycling rather slowly until I was reacquainted  with my road bike’s shifting and brakes (I haven’t been on this particular bike in over a  year) I ramped up the speed until the wind was blowing my hair and the golden autumn sun was warming my cheeks.

As the pedals turned and I soaked in the beauty of the fall colors reflected on the Columbia River, I gained strength and energy to return to the exhausting tasks of sorting, condensing, tossing, reflecting, and remembering that come with over 30 years  of marriage, children, work and play.

You might be wondering what this jumbled up mess of words has to do with cycling for retirement?  Probably not much EXCEPT that cycling is MUCH easier, MUCH more fun, and MUCH more rewarding than living in a house filled with “stuff.”  In the meantime, while I”m sorting through the “stuff” I need to remember to ride.