Sunday, January 25, 2009

Cycling for community, cycling to prepare

If you're preparing for a big ride, there's no substitute for actually getting on the bicycle and pulling yourself up some real hills. So, despite temps in the low 20s F, I got on the bike today for about six glorious, but challenging hours -- heading down into Lancaster county where the ponds have frozen amid the bare farm fields and have young men playing hockey on them.

As challenging as winter riding is, I love riding my routes that follow woodland streams up into the hills. With the trees bare, you can see the streams -- flowing through the whiteness of the snow-covered ground and with ice starting to form in them -- almost the whole way. On the steepest climb, I shed my jackets and let my body heat -- with the help of just a thin sweater -- keep me warm. There was something almost surreal about exercising so hard, and yet not sweating at all.

I'm sure that will not be the case on the "big ride" I am training for -- the Spring Hazon Israel ride, which will take us from Tel-Aviv to Eilat -- Israel's southernmost point -- via the (hot!) Negev desert. The ride is to raise money for two organizations -- the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies and Hazon -- that have been deeply involved in things like projects to help protect Israel's environment.

But, having participated in another of Hazon's rides (in New York) a few years back, I know that the ride itself is something very much worth supporting for those of us who care about the future of the Jewish people -- the community that is forged through the shared challenge of climbing so many hills together is something that gives people, especially young people, the energy, resources and ideas to take their leadership in the Jewish world to a higher level. It is the future that is being forged here.

That said, courtesy of Minna, here is some info about Hazon and the Arava institute:

The primary beneficiary of the Israel Ride is the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies. The Institute is working to confront the serious environmental challenges in Israel, by creating a leadership cadre of environmentalists, through important research, and through public involvement. The Arava Institute draws students from across the Middle East, encouraging environmental cooperation between peoples, and working towards peace and sustainable development on a regional and global scale. To learn much more about the work of the Arava Institute, or about the environmental movement in Israel, check out

The second beneficiary of the Israel Ride is Hazon, one of most innovative organizations in the American Jewish community and now the largest Jewish environmental organization in the United States. The word "Hazon" means vision. Hazon's vision is to create a healthier and more sustainable Jewish community as step toward creating a healthier and more sustainable world for all. Through the Jewish Environmental Bike Rides, the Community-Supported Agriculture projects, the conference on Jews, Food & Contemporary Life, and other cutting edge programs, Hazon brings people together, builds community, promotes sustainability and vibrant Jewish life.


Although I began this blog post by saying there is no substitute for actually getting outside on the bike, I am actually, for the first, time taking a more "classic" approach to off-season training that is not completely dependent on my being able to ride through the winter weather. I have invested in some "inside" gear, including a "trainer" that lets me convert my bike into a stationary cycle. And I am also, again for the first time, doing some non-cycling (cross training) workouts with free weights and some core exercises, as well as some stretching.

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