Monday, June 17, 2013

Stone Mountain Park - Riding, Listening and Meditating

The thunderstorm started, luckily, just as I was finishing my trike ride at Stone Mountain Park.  I started early to beat the bad weather.  Today my timing was perfect.

Although a bit humid, the weather before the storm was ideal for riding.  A couple of times per week, I stow my recumbent trike in my minivan and drive to the park for 2-3 hours of leisurely riding and, usually, listening to an audiobook on my iPhone.  During the week, the traffic is very light, so donning my listening headset and enjoying a book on the ride is safe.  Today's book was Storyteller, by Jodi Picoult.

Stone Mountain Park is very hilly.  And, the hills are mostly steep.  My trike is ideal for this type of terrain.  I can move along at a relatively leisurely average pace, about 13 mph.  I can ascend the mountains with no worries about losing my balance (some of the grades are over 15%) and get a terrific cardiac workout.  Today, I covered about 35 miles in 2:44.

There is something joyful about exercising the body and the mind at the same time.  Not only can I concentrate on the book while riding, the strenuous riding seems easier as I focus (mostly) on the listening.  At the end, it is very satisfying to have both enjoyed the book and the ride all at the same time.

The riding course at Stone Mountain park is composed of five mile and seven mile loops, which overlap.  The terrain is all up and down hill.  The seven mile loop contains Heartbreak Hill, which is a third of a mile steep climb that builds to well over 15 percent grade at the end.  I sometimes shy away from this climb when on my two wheeler, but on my trike I climb Heartbreak Hill without any qualms.  On today's ride, I entered the climb while listening to an especially engaging part of Picoult's book, so the hard ascent seemed much easier than usual.  My mind was on the plot, not the burning in my thighs.  My ride today included over 2500 feet of climbing, which seemed easy, as I enjoyed the book.

Heartbreak Hill is my periodic medical checkup.  I figure that if I can do this climb repeatedly, and feel good about it, my health is in good shape.  Well, I am exaggerating a little, but clearly as I age, climbing Heartbreak Hill on my trike is one of the events that I use to measure my overall fitness.   If I can do 4-5 hill repeats on Heartbreak Hill in one workout, well, then my conditioning is reaching its peak.  I am ready to compete with the younger folks.  Although, frankly, I do not compete much these days.  Mostly, I compete versus myself.

There is an additional dimension to my riding at Stone Mountain Park.  When I ride this challenging course, and listen to a good book, in a sense, I am also meditating.  This workout is very relaxing psychologically.  I always feel calm and in good spirits during and after.  If I am worrying about something before the ride, those worries tend to melt away as I proceed.  At the end my mind is clear and my thoughts are joyful.

I love working out hard.  I also love to read.  By combining the two, I have a wonderful day.

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