Just riding along... with George Hincapie!

Yep, that happened on Sunday (July 20th). 
Best bike ride EVER!
Riding with THE George Hincapie, 17 x Tour de France finisher. 

Ever since my dad passed away 59 days ago, there hasn't been a day that I haven't thought about my dad.

My dad had a great love of life, no matter where he was or what obstacle was in his way, he had a smile on his face, a great sense of humor and an ongoing love of being alive. 

My dad never appeared stressed out by life. I wish I could say the same for me for I find myself easily stressed out at times. 
I am sure we all wish we could be just like my dad and act in a way as if life was just easy. 

I know that there were times in my dad's life that were not easy and certainly, fighting stage IV cancer for the last 10 months of his life was no easy task. 

Stress affects us all differently but we all have stress in life. Stress is very subjective for it is hard to define and even more difficult to measure. 

How is it that we can experience the same experience twice and one time feel stressed and the other time feel relaxed or comfortable with something out of our control? 

Jobs, life, family, relationships, travel, diet, health....why can we not escape stress in life? 
Well, because life IS stressful!

If there is one thing that I have learned in life that I will never forget is that life will never be stress free. There will always be something and at the most in-opportune time, that is not desirable (insert "why now?"). 

But if there is one thing that my dad taught me, that I will never forget, is that life should be enjoyed and if stress levels get too high, the body can become unhealthy and unhappy and that is no way to live life. 

I've never been one to believe that the grass is greener on the other side for a beautifully landscaped lawn requires a lot of work, time and money. So to believe that your life is so extremely stressful and difficult but someone else has it easier, is not the way that you should be living life. 

When we decided to move to Greenville, SC, we knew this would be an extremely stressful time in our life as small business owners and competitive age group triathletes. Sure, it presented opportunities which helped us make our decision that Greenville was the place to call home after spending 6 years in Jacksonville, but this didn't mean that life instantly became less stressful. 

Karel and I may live an extreme lifestyle to some but we enjoy a very simple life. 
We take good care of ourselves through sleep, stress management and the diet, which paves a smooth(er) road for us to enjoy an active lifestyle. 

We could not be more happy about our new home in Greenville, SC. for when times are stressful (and they are and will always be), there is a wide open playground for us to live in a way that we can't help but smile and just love experiencing life. 

Karel and I are no strangers to busy schedules. If you know me well, I function best with a lot on my plate and feel very uncomfortable with my life if I have nothing to do. 

But a busy schedule without time to enjoy life is meaningless for the reason why we should work so hard is to do things that make us happy and feel so incredibly grateful to be alive. 
Triathlon training brings me great happiness because I love to swim, bike and run. But remove racing and structured training and get rid of all the gadgets and I just love moving my body. It's that simple. 

Happiness is moving my body as I create memories and I am so happy that on Sunday, July 20th, that I was able to make amazing memories with Karel, our friends from Jax and wow, George Hincapie. 

We all handle react, manage and deal with stress differently. It is not my job to tell you how you should live your life but I do feel the need to express my passion for making sure that you make the most out of your days. 

I know my dad would be so happy that I am continuing to love life, especially in between all of the stressful times. 

We had a few triathlete friends (Lane, Jennifer, Shawn B, Shawn F, Holt, Flint) from Jax nearby in Clemson for their training camp and Karel and I could not wait to show off our new bike friendly, beautiful country roads that include a lot of climbing and very little flatness. A BIG change from Florida. 

However, because of a rainy day on Saturday, our exciting ride plans changed. 
Karel planned a great ride for us on Saturday but sadly, we had to go with plan B which included a run on the treadmills for us followed by strength. Our friends ran on a trail and then headed out on their bikes in the afternoon for a few hours. 

Karel and I checked and checked and re-checked the weather all day on Saturday and we trusted the weatherman who told us that we would have no rain until 10am on Sunday. We hoped for the best. 

So, with a new plan, our friends met us at the Swamp Rabbit Cafe in Greenville at 8am and with overcast skies and mid 70's outside, we were off for our ride. 

Karel had two options (~64 or 90 miles) for the ride and because our friends had to drive home to Jax in the afternoon, we kinda played it by ear throughout the morning. 

Karel and I really enjoyed having some of our friends ride with us on our new home turf where a normal ride for us includes at least 2500-3000 feet of climbing. 
Did I mention that we love to climb? 

After we finished  part of a 9 mile climb, it started to rain a little so we turned around half way up the climb (after 5 miles) just to make sure that we didn't get stuck in a storm, especially on the way down (my descending skills have improved but I wouldn't put myself into Karel's bike racing category just yet). 

We ended up turning around after about 2.5 hours (or so) of riding and although the first part of our ride was beautiful (despite a little rain and cloudy skies), it was time to show off some of our favorite roads, especially the ones near George Hincapie's Hotel Domestique. 

As we were nearing his hotel, I mentioned to our friends that we have seen Hincapie out riding a few times with his hotel guests or other riders and it is just so great to see Hincapie on the bike in beautiful Greenville. 

As we were passing his hotel, we see a rider come down the hill and would you believe me when I said that it was George Hincapie? 
I do not think we could have timed this story any better for it was the coolest thing for our friends to see Hincapie on his bike as we were just riding along and talking about him.

George pulled into his hotel and started chatting with some of his hotel guests outside and our friend Shawn, who is a big George fan (who isn't?) went to say hi. 

George mentioned to Shawn that if he wanted to wait a few minutes, he would ride with our group. 
In Shawn's words "I would have waited hours!" We would agree!

So there you have it....George offering to ride with us, show us some back roads and talking to each of us, just socializing as if he is one of the gang. 

Of course, Karel has a lot more in common with George than the rest of us for Karel has raced bikes all his life and knows all things bike related. So I can't say how cool it was to see Karel and George talking as if they went waaayy back. Talking about bikes while riding bikes...total heaven for Karel. 

Despite 18 hilly miles after already riding almost 3 hours, my legs were alive! There was absolutely no way that I was not going to have the ride of my life, riding with George by his side or on his wheel.
It was as if the roads were flat and I was fresh off my off-season. 
The ride was not tough or intense but the roads are challenging so I wouldn't say it was "easy". 
But there was nothings stressful about this ride. 
All I can say was it was FUN and I felt so lucky to be healthy, happy and alive!

Shawn and Karel - good friends, going way back to when we moved to Jax.

Life is not perfect and it will never be. 
Life is stressful and it will never be stress-free. 
But you have the opportunity to make the most out of every situation and if you wait for the perfect time to do something, you may miss out on life's amazing opportunities. 
Go live!