Learning New Things


It’s August. I should be well into biking 10,400 miles as a way to spread the word and raise money for the non-profit I founded earlier this year, Never Too Weak to Wander. Instead, I’m practicing my forehand (and backhand and serve and volley) and learning how to engage my powerhouse while rolling like a ball and doing the 100.

I can’t pinpoint why, but I’m not as motivated to be on my road bike as I have been the past four summers. I’ve done a few races, but most all of them have been less exciting for me (with the exception of a criterium I won 40-some seconds off the front — a first in my bike racing career) than managing to hit a forehand with a little topspin. Or hitting a backhand at all. Or doing a Teaser for the first time.

Two months ago, I was stressing out about this. I’m a bike racer. What was wrong with me that I had to psych myself up to go out and ride everyday? I’d come up with all sorts of extra to-dos and work tasks to keep me at my desk as late as possible. Finally around 7:30 or so — after I had had no problems making it to a morning Pilates class or the tennis courts to battle the ball machine for an hour or so — I’d slowly step into my bike shorts, stumble downstairs, and go for a pedal, which, given my late start and the fact I am not a lightening bug, could be no longer than two hours.

Now though, well, I am slightly more motivated than I was. This is partly because I’m in the middle of a good book on my iPod, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, and only listen to it while riding. But even if I wasn’t engrossed in Edgar Sawtelle’s tale, I would no longer stress about it.

For each of the past four summers, I’ve spent 20 hours a week riding my bike and loved each and every hour. This summer, for whatever reason, I’m not loving it as much. Of course I should allow myself a break. That’s the sane thing to do. It’s not like I’m a professional athlete whose job it is to race bikes. I started road racing because it was something I enjoyed. It makes sense to lay off it if it’s no longer as enjoyable.

Yes, I have defined myself as a road racer for the past several years, but I live in a beautiful mountain town with hundreds of miles of hiking and running trails a short drive away. Grand Teton National Park’s granite peaks — some of the best rock climbing and mountaineering in the country — are 30 minutes distant. Jackson Hole High School has five beautiful tennis courts and Teton County Parks & Recreation Department offers five-weeks of tennis lessons for adults for the bargain price of $49.

Rather than stressing, I’ve given over to enjoying that I’m picking up not one, but two new sports in a single summer. (Is Pilates considered a sport? I’m such a newbie I don’t even know what to call it, other than a tremendous challenge.) When was the last time I learned something new? I can’t remember.

I’m enjoying that my posture has improved and that I can now say with certainty I’m a one-handed backhander (even if I can’t yet consistently execute one). I’m enjoying meeting people I’ve never before seen, despite Jackson being not that big of a town (a year-round population of perhaps 10,000). When friends that know me only as a road biker ask what I’m doing on a given afternoon and I reply “tennis” or “Pilates,” I enjoy the surprise (mixed with bemusement in those who know how painfully inflexible I am) that registers on their faces. And on my own. There’s more to me than being a road biker.

DINA MISHEV is a randonee skier, cyclist and hiker who, in February 2009, set the world record for the most vertical feet skied uphill by a woman in 24 hours. She is a category-3 road cyclist who consistently places top 5 in the longest single-day road race in the country… {more »}


  1. Judy Weitz says:

    Way to LIVE. I have so enjoyed reading your inspiring article on Learning New Things. I am an avid athlete who has just qualified for Xterra Worlds in Maui, but have been struggling mentally on the fact that this race hurts so much and can’t help but wonder why I want to do this to myself so badly. I used to be a tennis pro (still teach part-time), gone to soccer, to triathlons, to mountain biking (love it) and now is back in school studying aboriculture. Learning new things is stimulating and I applaude you for doing so. Much Aloha, Judy

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  2. DIna says:

    Judy, if you’re ever in Wyoming, I’d love some tennis tips!

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