Sage was recently reading a Carrie Fisher memoir and when she got to one part, she stopped and said “I think you need to hear this.” The part she read aloud talked about when Carrie Fisher was going to Alcoholics Anonymous and didn’t want to go to a meeting. She told her sponsor “I don’t think I’m going to enjoy it.” to which her sponsor responded: “You don’t have to enjoy it, you just need to go.” This was a revelation for her. Until that point she was truly of the mind that everything had to be pleasant and enjoyable which had resulted in her skipping some of the less enjoyable but important parts of her life. In my life I’ve harboured that attitude about a few things, eating, going to bed early, and most related to this entry, cycling.
Given the opportunity, I can agonize about where to go and how to get there for longer than the actual ride, and this is not an exaggeration. The point being to find the most enjoyable route and destination. Add in some bad weather and I can also agonize about whether or not I should even bother.
This makes #30DaysOfBiking a really good fit for me. Most days it has been really fun, but it doesn’t have to be. I just have to show up. And on the 18th day, as the cold wind continued and snow flurries were falling, I still got on my bike after work and rode the 20 minutes to my dentist’s office for a cleaning. (Talk about things that are not enjoyable but you really should do!).
Of course there’s another thing I should understand about myself by now: if I think something will not be enjoyable, I will always overestimate just how unpleasant it will be. I envisioned a slog through strong icy winds, sleet pelting my face as I shivered all the way there.
The reality couldn’t have been more different. It only snowed a little, the wind was cold but I also wore enough that I was comfortable the entire way and had to even remove a layer at the dentist’s office. Traffic was good with only a couple of other cyclists out and drivers mostly courteous (except you, Mr. Mercedes SUV – I see you there.)
What was noticeable, after the trip, though, was that my mood had significantly improved by the time I returned. My Garmin watch also seems to think that this is doing me good as well. Look at my average stress as measured by the watch. The big spike in January was when I got COVID. Exercising more in late February and March helped a bit but the real trend starts, coincidentally, with my cycling daily.
The decreased stress is also starting to impact my sleep. I’m sleeping more deeply and am more still in the night. There are definite benifits to daily riding.
I might be sleeping too well, in fact. Where I would wake up without an alarm at 4:30 regularly, on Wednesday I woke to my alarm that I set at 6:00 AM instead of 5:00 AM as I should have. The watch gives me a bit of an update when I wake: how did I sleep, what is the weather going to be like, when is my next meeting. The next meeting was my Wednesday morning department meeting. For a few seconds I thought “Oh excellent, I have no meetings all day today, my next meeting is tomorrow!” before saying “Oh crap!” out loud as I realized I needed to get to the office today. Going by bike means having coffee and breakfast and being fully packed and clipped into pedals by 6:30 AM which is clearly not going to happen. I have a few extra minutes if I take the bus as I won’t need to shower at work so I aim for that.
Longer term readers likely have noticed that I often talk about enjoying the unexpected. The 52 Adventures project is all about that, deliberately getting myself lost is also that and bike tours in general are certainly about that. But there seems to be a mental block for me about some plans. If I have a plan to do something, riding a bike to work, and that gets unexpectedly derailed – especially by my own carelessness, I get really irritated. Today, though, I didn’t even really have time for that. I showered, got dressed, at breakfast and headed out the door – multitasking by being grumpy at the same time.
But what actually ended up happening is that I reached the bus stop perfectly at the time the bus was ready to go, got on the bus and got in an hour of reading and listening to music. All of my connections between buses and subways worked perfectly with only a few seconds between them and I got into work on time. Not only that, the ride I missed out on would have been windy and just above freezing. While I could’ve done it, I don’t think I missed much.
But I still had a bike ride to do before going to sleep. I was not going to let my failure to set a proper alarm on one day ruin an 18 day streak. So when I finally got home at around 7:00 I changed into biking clothes while simultaneously grumbling that I didn’t know where I should ride and wasn’t it late already? Whatever, I’ll just do 30 mminutes and come right back.
But like I said above, I don’t have to enjoy it to do it and onward I went. Sage heard me grumbling and passed me on a tiny index card.
“Here, do a scavenger hunt.” she said.
I looked at the three things on the list and had a reasonably good idea of where to go. It was back into the ravine.
The first item on the list was a “Big Tree.”
The tree I thought of is at the fork in the road in Sunnybrook Park. I pass it on my work commute. It isn’t huge in stature (it is pretty big, though) but it stands out in my mind and I’ve photographed it many times. (I can’t find any others, though. While Google Photos has face recognition for my family, friends, and pets, it hasn’t yet identified my tree friends)
Looking at it now, it doesn’t look big at all. Clearly it made a good impression, especially during the autumn – just like that friend who is taller in your mind than they actually are because their personality is so big. I did find a somewhat bigger one later in the ride.
I turned north in search of my next task with a favourite nearby destination in mind, heading up the Glendon Forest Trail. With the cooler weather I only passed a handful of dog walkers and otherwise had the trail to myself.
I love that there are so many of these small trails that feel like the gravel roads near where I grew up just a few minutes ride from where I live.
I was excited to see so much green, too. While we keep getting cold weather and even snow, the trees have had enough and have declared that spring is coming.
I arrive at my destination, an old bridge over the river. this used to be part of Bayview until it was replaced, in 1929 by a much higher, wider, and larger bridge. There’s a lot of information about why and how that bridge was constructed here.
I turn back at the bridge and pass through the Glendon Forest again. You can really see the effects of the recent rain on this trail. Some spaces are so muddy I have to walk the bike across them rather than get stuck.
The ride home is quick and easy. The ride I felt so inconvenienced by that I resolved I would only ride for 30 minutes turned out to be a really enjoyable ride after all. So enjoyable, in fact, that I stayed out for a full hour.
Our cat Squishy also was glad I went out. I’m not sure what, specifically I stepped in out in the trail, maybe just mud, but he became completely infatuated with my shoes afterward.
So in the end, I had two rides in a row that I didn’t want to go out for that I ended up having a good time on. And that’s just this month. It reminds me of when our son was younger and it was time to go to a playgroup or homeschool gathering and he really didn’t want to go. Every time we’d tell him he had to go anyway – and he had a fantastic time. So clearly I just need to continue to be firm with my inner toddler.