Hello, 50

Ten years ago, I trained for the Iceman, a 28-mile mountain bike race in November in Traverse City, Michigan. My bestie, Todd, and bro-in-law, Michael, and I were set to meet up with our families in northern Michigan to celebrate my big 4-0 by conquering this rough-and-tumble ride renowned for some oft-times wicked weather.

Mountain biking was pure joy for me. Not the speediest or the most technical, I simply found joy in the maneuvering of rocky, rugged trails through forested nature preserves and mountainous canyons. Over years of riding, I earned several nicknames thanks to Todd, whose daughter with lovely Alisa now calls me Auntie PigPen. This affectionate name was well-earned as I was often the last in a pack of friends riding in the mountains of California back in the late 1990s. (Picture a swirling kick-back of trail dirt.)

Training for the Iceman in my home state of Michigan, I spent hours on the trails in Pinckney State Park with many trips through Hell. (Yup, there’s a Hell, Michigan.) As the big day neared, I felt mentally and physically ready — well, for at least a portion of the 28-mile ride. Race day arrived, and my joints and I decided that my body was not ready for that massive feat after all, so instead I entered the 8-mile Slush Cup. While that sounds super wimpy compared to the Iceman, I felt spectacular in that race. The highlight was coming around the final corner and seeing my family crazily cheering me on and *quite distinctly* hearing my eldest daughter shout, “Go, Mommy, Go.” I felt like a champion. I loved that day. Shout-out to Todd and Michael who completed the Iceman, the later of whom has accomplished it many times and is tackling it again this year.

The Slush Cup was my last time on the trails on my bike — until this year. I had stopped riding because of chronic pain (as a result of cumulative injuries). Yet, recalling the pure joy of trail riding, when a friend suggested we try to “get back on the saddle,” I ventured out this year to nearby DTE Trail in Chelsea. Taking my time, I rediscovered how much I love riding while immersed in nature. As I turn 50 this month, I plan to keep finding happiness on my two wheels in the woods.