I have this habit of offering to take family portraits. After taking a photo of a man and his family, he offered to do the same for me. The sculpture behind me is called 'Cleat' and it's a piece of public art in Winter Harbor. The most clever thing I could think of to do apparently was gesture to it.

Lately, I’ve been going on some really long bike rides. Maybe not long for a cyclist but definitely long for the average person, which is what I consider myself, athleticwise anyway.

I’ve been training for a 50 mile ‘race’ I’ll be doing this coming Sunday. The Tour de la Vallée is held every year in my hometown and others in the Saint John Valley to raise money for the Guy Paradis Memorial Cancer Fund.

Even my bike needs an occasional rest from all this riding.

My friends Sean and Stacy were looking for some kind of race to train for and when I told them about the Tour, they were in. We figured the 50 mile distancewould be a challenge for us but also seemed about half as insane as doing the 100 mile leg. We formed the SlowPOKES, and began raising funds for our minimum $500 team entry. (Click here if you want to donate. We thank you but there is certainly no obligation!)

So to train for a 50 mile ride, I bought myself some padded butt shorts and proceeded to work my padded butt off. Many mornings, I go for a hike or a run but in addition to this, I actually *gasp* need to do a little biking. I’ve gone on two long rides, 23 and 30 miles respectively and will go on another long ride Thursday afternoon.

Try not to puke at how disgustingly cute the village of Corea is.

When I go for my long bike rides, I’ve been bringing my camera and stopping to take photos of what I see. I notice a lot more when I am not in a car! And actually, I only take about half the photos I want to because I’m either too happily coasting down a hill or working too hard to get up a hill to stop. Looking back at my photos after has the added benefit of reminding me that in addition to the workout, I actually had a fun time. Bonus: stopping to take photos ends up being a respectable excuse to rest!

Also on these trips, I haven’t taken any distractors in the way of a cell phone or an iPod. This is in part for safety (anyone who has ever tried Route 3 on a bike will totally understand that!). In addition to not getting run over, being alone with my thoughts in nature, even if I was really sweaty while I was doing it, has been really restorative.

Me sweaty on the Park Loop Road in Acadia National Park.

Finally, I’ve been picking some interesting bike routes so my trips feel like both an excursion and a training exercise. My bike rides have taken me past basalt dikes, lobster festivals, granite sculptures, cute harbors, interesting signs, and all kinds of other neat stuff.

So am I actually now athletic, or even a biker chick? I’m not sure, but I have enjoyed my ginormous bike rides and am glad a good cause helped me get into this new hobby.

(I’ll post after the 50 miler and let you know if I actually still feel the same way!)