Thursday, April 28, 2011

Happy Anniversary to Us

This week is a busy week at our house in terms of anniversaries. It is 11 years ago today that Cathy and I were married. In ways it is hard to believe that it has been that long, yet in other ways it doesn't seem to do that time justice and accurately reflect it's pertinence. We've actually been together since 1996 and have lived happily together in the same house that we are currently in since 1997.

Over the years we have had the same ups and downs as everyone else, basically the rolling road of life. That said, I honestly believe that our time together has been heavily weighted toward the positive side. We are both very fortunate for so many reasons and I especially am lucky to have found someone who shares so many of the same life passions as I do. I've written at length here about our life together and the fact that it is always Cathy who is the one constant in my life, true friend and partner upon whom I can always rely, in all walks of life. I'd guess that many if not most are unable to make that statement. Sure, I know of some couples that seem the perfect match but there are yet many others that appear to live very separate lives. That doesn't work for me and fortunately, it doesn't have to. I have a legitimate partner regardless of what it is that we are partaking in.

This past year was certainly another great year together and here's to the promise of yet another year of adventures together. We hope to have some fun new things in store for the year as well as lots of the same old things, which we still enjoy very much doing. We also have the kittens, who are actually cats now I suppose, who are a huge part of our lives. In fact, this coming Saturday will be the one year anniversary of their welcomed arrival into our home. They have changed our lives and opened our hearts.

Cathy, thank you for another year of caring and of sharing, so many things, in so many ways. I look so very forward to every day and cherish our time together. I can't imagine life without you and wouldn't ever want to have to. I love you more than anything, always.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Redemption of Sorts

They say that you are only as good as your last result. This is a mantra that I've always taken to heart, be that for good or bad. In many cases, one could argue, that line of reasoning is flawed if not just plain stupid. Unfortunately, my crazy mind tends to think that way, so that is what I am left with at the end of the day. After all, results don't lie, right? Last Saturday was the second race in the New England based Root 66 mountain bike race series, the Massasoit Lung Opener at Massasoit State Park in Taunton, MA. Last season marked the return of this event after some years of downtime. We were, however, unable to attend the event last year and as such this was our first time racing the venue in modern history. I say that because I'm not certain that we didn't sample the venue in a previous life. The race is promoted by a great group of folks and friends from the multi-discipline bicycle racing scene and is a benefit for a good cause, so you didn't have to twist too hard to get us to register.

As predicted by the various weather prognosticators, the weather Saturday was somewhat less that stellar. The temperature was in the low 40's, there was a slight rain and it was windy. Motivation was once again low, this time weather and general health induced. I was sick with a cold and I could tell Cathy was throwing out the bail out hook as we dressed for the day. I did have a purpose though, I wanted to try and redeem myself from last week. It would be a long time living with my crazy thoughts until the next opportunity would present itself so I felt compelled to take advantage of this opportunity. Besides, though I hate, hate, hate mud and crappy weather, I tend to perform pretty well in mud and/or adverse conditions. Once I get into the race the conditions don't seem to affect me the way they do some. Basically, suffering is still suffering, regardless of whether the sun is out or it's snowing.

The drive to Taunton was uneventful and as we arrived, it actually seemed to dry up a bit. We checked in and suited up for a pre-ride of at least part of the course. Once out, the trails seemed to be mostly dry and in good shape. The terrain was lightly rolling with tight and twisty singletrack. There were ample exposed roots but very few rocks. The rises on the portion we sampled we short and steep but no problem. The general feel was that the course would be power sucking and would afford little opportunity to recover. Passing opportunities seemed to be much better than at last week's venue. The start was on pavement and long enough that most hole-shot and slide artists would not be able to hold it to the trail-head. Good stuff, things are looking up.

About 45 minutes before the race was scheduled to depart, the rains returned and visited for the remainder of the event. What felt comfortable at riding temperature before the rain, now felt bone chilling and raw. Things were no longer looking up. Fortunately, I noticed that although not pre-registered, Brian, the man who had put the hurt on me last week, decided to race and was on-site. I would be granted a rematch and I really wanted to make good on it. Shortly there after we were all standing on the line, shivering in the wind and driving rain, waiting for the whistle so we could get on with the task at hand. I think for most, it was the desire to simply get this race in the books with the hope that we would once again be clean, dry and warm. The wish was granted and we were off.

Immediately I flew out of my pedal, flailing I got clipped back in and sprinted to attach to the only wheel that I'd predetermined mattered, Brian's. I managed to complete the task and we hit the woods one and two. From there we traded turns and worked well together, with Brian displaying more strength and composure than I. We were both suffering from frozen hands and feet which made it tough to shift and stay clipped in. The normal start of the ride cold hands and feet caused by lack of warming blood to the extremities during the initial surge seemed amplified and highly extended as the respite and recovery didn't seem to come. I fumbled and floundered with popping out of the pedals, missed shifts and hitting sections in the wrong gears.

It was ugly out there. Brian spend most of the first few miles in the lead, I suspect so I wouldn't C.H. him and partly because he was just plain feeling stronger. He was in fact, in control and I was just hanging on. It was with surprise that when I took a turn on the front on a long flat power section, a gap opened up. I backed off a little as I didn't really want to spend the rest of the day out ahead solo. We soon hit the first of what would be three virtually unrideable, rooted, steep hills. I heard Brian say something and it sounded as though he may have had some chainsuck. I scrambled over the hill and then on the backside came into a blind hard left after a drop and stacked into the fallen tree in the corner, driving myself into the tail of the saddle. I called out the turn to Brian and got back on the bike to set tempo. Unfortunately, he was not there and I never saw him again.

The laps ticked by ever so slowly, punctuated by worsening conditions. My old coach and generally really nice guy, Frankie was out cheering for his boy's who were ripping it up in the Cat1 Junior race. His words of encourage were always welcome and appreciated as were those of NEBC teammates near the start/finish. I caught a number of friends in other classes and would try and yell encouragement as I did my best to maintain forward progress and avoid the pitfall of complacency obtained by settling in behind caught riders. It is far too easy to fall into that trap as it takes a surge of effort to pass, anyone, they are moving along just fine, and the pace they are at isn't necessarily comfortable, it's just less uncomfortable than the pace you were at before you caught them. The trick is to keep moving forward, a trick that I found really difficult on Saturday.

The last lap was horrendous. I started off with a gel that stuck in my throat and a muddy pull at the nipple of my Camelback that was more mud than drink. Trail conditions had deteriorated to thick, sticky and ultra slick mud that robbed traction on all fronts. The roots never really seemed to be glacial but the mud made up for it. The hot line was the side of the trail, in the pine needles and leaves and away from the viscous wet loam. This meant you picked up all sorts of debris to be deposited on your drive-train and in the treads of your tires, robbing you of traction and demanding extra power, power than you didn't necessarily have, just to turn the pedals.

On the last of the three stumble uphills, which was only about 1/4 mile from the finish, I saw an approaching rider, that I hadn't seen before. It was a Bikeman rider and I knew that we had a group of them in our race, one of whom I did not know. Panic. I needed to finish it out clean, no mistakes, and go fast, really fast. Fortunately, I managed to stay out front and finish cleanly, so to speak. Better, though there was nothing really smooth about it and I didn't really feel I was in the kind of control that I needed to be in, the kind I think that I've had glimpses of in the past. Goals for the future but at least the minimum requirement was met.

Cathy had an excellent day and hung in like the trooper that she is, despite a chunk of wood wedged in her rear derailleur that barely allowed the chain to move and a cracked jockey pulley that reduced her to 4 usable gears. Even with the handicap she finished in 2nd place for her field and within a handful of minutes of quite a few men that we know. She moved into the overall series lead as well, not that we are necessarily planning to chase the series in its entirety.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Winding Trails MTB Race

The Winding Trails mountain bike race, which is part of the Root 66 series organized by two very nice folks, Chris and Jill, hold a special place for me. It was this race 3 years ago that marked our foray back into the world of racing our mountain bikes. We had taken a long, 9 year hiatus for competitive mountain biking. For many of those years we raced nothing at all but gradually made our way into time-trial, road and then cyclo-cross. All along I'd meant to go back and give MTB racing another go but it was just one more thing to do, any didn't seem to happen, until we set our minds and competed in this race a few years back.

Cathy Finishing up Strong

I've always liked the race. The course consisted of some really fun, fast, tight and twisty singletrack as well as some super fast access road power sections. This played well to my strong points and historically, I have done fairly well at this course. This year there were significant changes to years past. There were far fewer extended open power sections in favor of shorter sections of access road connecting many new, fresh, tight singletrack sections. This made for a really great course to ride but a really challenging course to pass on. There was also an additional super crappy mud section in addition to the normal ultra crappy mud section. I hate mud. I really do. I dislike wet feet and swampy gloves and gritty chamois'.

Ooff, that hurt ...

Motivation wasn't super high to race I must admit but we made the trip anyhow, I because I thought Cathy really wanted to race and she thinking the same of me. Communication at it's finest. The Men's 40+ Cat1 field, my field, ended up being one of the biggest of the day. Unfortunately for me, I opted for one last trip to the restroom rather than getting extra early to staging. This resulted in a less that optimal starting multiple rows back from the front. The start was crucial at this race as you quickly hit singletrack where it was nearly impossible to pass. Directly in front of me at the start I had at least one person who wasn't interested in getting any kind of a holeshot and going really fast, he was just looking for a big wheel to ride around behind. Great. I know, it's my fault for not being more attentive and getting on the front line.

Cat1 M40-49 Podium

At the gun I did all that I could to move up and was able to get into about 7th wheel going into the initial singletrack. I could see however, that the person I'd pegged to win, the guy I battled with last year at this race, who was attentive and got into the front row and also got the holeshot, was riding away. This does not bode well for my chances, I thought to myself. Indeed, after spending the next couple miles making all sorts of crazy passes I got into second place and started chasing. For the entire lap I went as hard as I could, which in reality was actually a little harder than I could. The gap narrowed and coming around for the lap I was within maybe 10 yards, but suffering mightily. A surge from the leader going through the sandy uphill and it was all over. I faded into an oblivion of passing riders from other fields and noting the leader steadily increasing his lead on me. Of note was the fact that my own wife hosed me on a high speed catch and pass in a singletrack section. I clearly announced my presence and that I was coming by on the left. All she needed to do was stay as she was. Unfortunately, she she bobbled and swerved left, causing me to lock up the brakes and come to a stop, loosing all momentum on a spongy slightly uphill section. Too bad it made absolutely no difference in the long run, lest I could blame her :)

Cat1 W35+ Podium (minus 3rd place)

In the end, I finished up 2nd, down by a HUGE margin. Had not taken a beating like that in a while. I didn't much care for it. Cathy did a super job to finish up strongly in 2nd as well, missing only to her long term rival, Sue, a woman who is all legend. All in all, a good day for sure, except for the mud.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Nap Time

Wow, I'm not sure exactly why but I am whupped. I can literally barely stay awake today and that is after 32oz. of coffee already. I'm guessing this is at least partially due to the residual effects of the sedatives I received yesterday for my "procedure". Why is it that they use the term procedure to describe any host of things that are not really surgery but are not simple examinations? Tell it like it is. In this particular example of the overloaded definition, it's an effing probe of your internals and by all counts, and according to my personal experience it sucks, before, during and after. OK, I guess "procedure" sounds a little better than ass raping.

In honesty, the during portion isn't really all that bad as they basically sedate you into oblivion. In past "procedures" I've had vague recollections of my time under, almost dream state though. This time I don't really recall much of anything. I suspect that part of the issue is that I was pretty tired from the prep leading up to the "procedure". The idea is that they restrict your food choices for a number of days before. This corresponded with the weekend of racing at Battenkill, though luckily the guidelines were not too restrictive as to become problematic for optimal athletic output (crap, that means I can't blame it on this.). Two days before you are only allowed a small range of foods and drinks. The day before though you get nothing but clear liquid. This makes for a great weight loss opportunity and I used it to it's fullest by doing the Tuesday night left for dead road ride. 50 miles with almost zero calories consumed on the day was a hoot, for sure. In all honesty it wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it may be. I'm guessing that means that I have plenty of reserves. No surprise there.

This brings us to the absolute, without a doubt, worst part of the whole ordeal, which is the two part cleansing agent that they make you consume the night before and then morning of your "procedure". This stuff tastes like absolute ass. NOTE: I'm assuming ass is a bad taste, and not speaking from experience. It made for a great post ride recovery drink and also allowed for some interesting sleep patterns the night before the "procedure". The morning of, you are then to get up at 5AM and slam back the 2nd part of the two part noxious tonic. This flushes whatever is left as well as the top layers of gastrointestinal lining, I suspect. Now that you are up and prepped you're not going back to bed so might as well jump online and work, right?

Anyhow, I showed up yesterday at the hospital and the nurses at the front desk tell me that because it's Wednesday, and I'm the 20th patient of the day, I get a two-for-one and they are going at it from both ends. Excellent, 'sign me up I says'. It seems that the nurses were a little under-staffed for the day and so there was a bit of a bottleneck. This resulted in me getting processed a bit late but did afford me the luxury of finishing the book I'd been reading, "Come and Gone" by Joe Parkin, while lounging around in my spiffy hospital johnny and non-slip racing socks. Not a great read or particularly compelling story but it did mention a bunch of local folks I've raced with, which was cool.

Another neat thing that happened on the way to the "procedure" was that the nurse processing me, who was adamant that she would not work late that day despite requests from the supervisor, as she had "things to do", which I believe involved her children. As she was filling out a mound of paperwork there in front of me, which I got the impression should have been filled out beforehand by someone else, I chimed in to inform her not to freak out when my HR drops near or below 40bpm. This happened last time and alarms went off so in order to save panic and confusion, I thought it worth noting. She asked if I was a runner. Why do they always ask that? No, I'm a cyclist, and ride my bike 12+ hours a week in all kinds of wet, gritty and miserable weather, which is why my ass looks like a baseball glove that was left outside all winter and then chewed on by the neighborhood dog and is in fact, at least partially, what brings me here today.

We get past the pleasantries and paperwork and she gets down to business, the first course of which is screwing up the "IV setting". I feel like Dr. Evil here with all the quotes I'm using all over the place; just can't get enough of them them though. So, I f-ing hate needles and am not super excited about this part of the show. Being a pro, she goes for the IV into the back of my hand, which is a sort of tender place to get stabbed. Unfortunately for her, and me, it didn't "thread", whatever that means but it sure did hurt like hell. She then had some concern in her voice, and is applying pressure so it "doesn't bruise" or "collapse and die" (did she just say that?) and the young, female nursing student who was observing was busy taking notes, and , oh wait, did I forget to mention that they asked me if a student nurse could observe them sticking a garden hose up my, never mind, and then down my throat. Man, you have to pay for that kind of action on the Internets and she's getting an eye-full for free, dang! Sorry, sidetracked again. Lucking after questioning whether or not they planned to clean that thing off after the first run, they assured me that they would not be performing the procedures in that order. They also assured me that it had been properly wiped off after it went up the previous guy's, well, you know.

Back to the story. So, apparently at the hospital it's a one strike rule and if you eff up an IV set you have to get someone else more qualified to do it for you. I'm guessing that is so they don't kill you or something, probably an Insurance company mandate. Anyhow, she finally finds some guy, might have been the janitor for all I know, to come in and set the IV up. He nails it first try but cautiously went for the safety of the arm rather than the back of the hand. All is good. They then haul me in, turn me onto my side for easy access, get the oxygen on and the bite guard ready to go and start the meds. It was at that point that it occurred to me that these guys are all a bunch of f-ing hacks, who hate their jobs, just like me, and would rather be doing most anything else, and whom I told not to worry about monitoring my HR and that I may very well not wake up from this simple "procedure". A fleeting moment of panic and with that I blacked out.

I awoke fully rested and alive to a nurse asking me if I'd like some soda and graham cracker. What the hell kind of question is that? "I've had nothing to drink today except toilet bowl cleaner and have eaten nothing at all for almost a day. F-ing right I want a graham cracker, bitch." I didn't actually say that and in truth, didn't even think it, I just put it in for effect. Honestly I was grateful to be alive and not paralyzed and as thankful as the Pilgrims on the first Thanksgiving for the bounty which I was about to receive. Shortly after I was given permission to dress and move to a waiting room until Cathy arrived in the wait zone with the car. A nice older gentleman brought a wheelchair up and took my sorry ass away, where he dropped me off at the curb. I wondered if I should offer him a tip, you know, for the effort, but decided to play it cheap. Was that wrong?

Anyhow, I'm beat, and we're supposed to be doing a wicked hard MTB ride tonight. Guess we'll just have to see how that goes.

Monday, April 11, 2011

There is no I in Team

When thinking about cycling and bicycle racing, I would bet that most people don't really think of it as a team sport. The fact of the matter is that most people don't think of bicycle racing at all. That said, of those few who do, unless their scope is road racing centric, they probably assume that cycling is all about the individual and pursuit of individual, head to head competition. Even within cycling, most disciplines are not really team based and are essentially individual with a formal team unit serving mostly as a nicety.

As such, teams within cycling play multiple roles. They offer a formal organization and affiliation from which an individual member can feel that they are part of a bigger, unified whole. A team can add breadth and visibility to a group, which in turn can help them garner sponsorship and promotional assistance via the increased visibility they will potentially bring to the sponsor. This may or may not be the case but the collective bargaining power of a group that has something to offer a potential suitor is typically larger than that of an individual with a similar skill set.

Another benefit of the team, particularly in road racing but also in certain other disciplines, such as cyclocross to an extent, is that having teammates in the same field with roughly equal abilities, allows you to exploit those collective abilities at the expense of the competition. This is where the race and team tactics come into play. I'm not going to bore with the details of exactly what team tactics are or how they can be leveraged as a means to a given end, but it happens and is an effective tool. If the teams have riders that are strong enough to win and are also skilled at team tactics, they will often be successful in swaying the outcome of the race in their favor, by working together as a team.

There is yet another aspect of the team that, depending on your perspective, may be the most important and beneficial of all. In essence, this is the true meaning of team, a group of like individuals working and playing together for a common goal and or good. The sense of fellowship, camradery and belonging can be an incredible motivational factor.

I've spoken at length about this in the past, specifically in terms of training and how having other friends and cohorts will always help motivate on those days where self motivation is lacking and and encouragement is needed. Also by having teammates to challenge, inspire and educate, it helps one progress and improve upon their own skill and fitness level. My reason for rambling about this is simple. Lately I've been feeling the negative effects of the lack of a formal team organization. I've been able to pull together a core group of folks from various teams and clubs with which to ride during the week but come race day, the team is missing, at least for me.

This past weekend I raced the Tour of Battenkill road race in New York. The short story on the race was that I pinch flatted at mile 35 when I struck a piece of crushed rock on the new section of dirt road added to the course. I fixed the flat before the wheel support reached me and continued to mile 45 where I flatted again due to a ripped valve stem. This time I was unable to fix the flat, there was no support and so I rode the rim on the dirt roads and walked the paved sections for a couple of miles. I then bummed a cell phone from a spectator as I forgot to take mine with me, called for the team car (aka Cathy) and continued on. At Meetinghouse Rd. I met the team car for a wheel and a spare tube and hammered my angst out on the remainder of the course. I placed 98 of 105 finishers and 147 starters, over 47 minutes back on the group that I'd been with before the first flat. I finished rather than hopping in the team car because that is just my thing. Not the first time, probably won't be the last. The worst was when I ripped a derailleur off the MTB at Putney and had to run/coast the last 1.5 laps. I'll admit that this time, I was concerned I may be walking a very, very long. I'm very grateful to the nice folks that lent me their phone and to Cathy for being there to rescue me, as always. Now that's a teammate.

The point of mentioning the race and this piece for that matter, is that it seemed that everyone of the regional teams was on hand with solid team presence, at least from what I saw in my race, the Masters 30+ event. Don't get me wrong, there were also plenty of individuals there as well but many teams also had five or more racers. This can not only be a tactical advantage but makes it fun. I saw countless teams out scouting the course beforehand together, as a team. Many commuted together, and stayed and ate together as a team. From the outside, this seemed like it would have made things a whole lot more tolerable in some cases, like commuting to and from the event, but also much more fun and exciting in terms of the racing and team dynamics. I'd assume that the team would add a whole other dimension to the racing.

Maybe it's time for a change. I've been part of the same club for a number of years. It's a great club, one of the oldest and largest in the region. Through the club I have developed a great group of friends and ride partners, but not really much in terms of teammates. The bottom line however, is that it's a club and not a team. The only team that I have ever been part of with respect to cycling was when MTB team a couple years ago. This was great, for many of the reasons outlined, but didn't help on the road, where it is most important. I've been asked to be part of a couple of teams in the past but for one reason or another, mostly convenience and because I was afraid to commit, I stayed where I was. Another non-decision.

I'm not sure what the answer is. I guess I need to define my goals and go from there. Who knows. At this point in the season things I'm guessing that things are pretty much set as they are. Maybe next year though.

Friday, April 08, 2011


I'm not sure why exactly it happens. I can only assume, or rather, hope, that it is not just me with the affliction. I can say that I've been this way as long as I can remember. What exactly am I referring to you ask? Obsessing, over this, that or the other thing. I'm the type of person who will obsess over details, going around and around in circles. I'm this way with most of the equipment I own but particularly my bikes, where everything must be just right. Often I will waffle back and forth over making a choice with the fear that I may choose poorly, or make the wrong choice. I also a mater of changing something only to change it back it again. A look in my spare parts bin lends evidence to that fact. Experience has also shown me that I am prone to remorse after making a decision, wishing I'd chosen differently. All of this can make decision making rather difficult.

Much of my issue stems from the fact that at heart, I'm just a good old fashioned cheap Yankee MoFo and hate to part with money. The saying that it is "like pulling teeth" isn't far afield. I've gotten better over the years but it still hurts every time I have to, reluctantly, pull my wallet out of my pocket. As a kid I was instilled with the knowledge that money was in fact hard to come by. This was primarily learned through the rigorous hoops that I had to jump through in order actually obtain any of it. I wasn't one of those kids who got allowances or whose parents gave money to or lavished with goods and services, which actually taught me very valuable lessons if not simply the value of a dollar.

I grew up in (dairy) farm country, out in the middle of nowhere so as an early teen, the only jobs available were on the farm. I recall picking corn but my primary gig was haying. I was always big for my age so I got to chuck the hay bales onto the wagon while the owner stacked them and his wife drove the tractor. As I recall I earned $3/hr, which wasn't that bad when I was 13 years old. One particularly hot day we worked 10 hours straight. This wrecked me and I dehydrated and got heat exhaustion, got sick, threw up violently, and then slept for a day, literally. It seems that the owners were then reluctant to work me after that as they were afraid I may die. Another awesome job that actually raked in the big bucks for real was digging a grave, for a Holstein, by hand. I think I got $100, which was incredible money. Any idea how big and deep a hole has to be though for a full grown cow? I know. Roughly 8 hours worth of digging, deep.

Anyhow, what lofty decision am I currently wrestling with, that is causing undo angst and sleepless nights as well as massive wasted time searching for and subsequently pouring over details? No, it isn't something as noble as whether to donate a kidney or whether or not to move to some distant land. I'm sort of embarrassed to say in fact, but it is simply the desire to buy a new mountain bike. Yes, I understand, that is pretty trivial, but I have numerous extenuating circumstances. Remember back to the fact that I am cheap.

Now consider that I own a perfectly good bike at present that was the very pinnacle of the line, just a few years ago and for which despite getting a really good deal, I still paid an ungodly amount of money for. Now consider that prices have increased disproportionately to my pay rate. Factor in the fact that I am looking for a very specific cross section of the market; a 2x10 29er XC race bike. Ideally, I'd like a full suspension as I am all about recognizing the virtues and tactical advantages of suspension, especially in a New England based race situation. Did I mention carbon-fiber? Yea, I'd like some of that too.

That basically leaves me with two bikes, and 5 models between them. One of these I can't bring myself to purchase as they sort of jerked me around this spring with some offers that they then backed out on. The other is the clear winner but availability is nil and the deal while very, very good, does not compare to the deal that I am able to secure on another brand, which unfortunately is not in this category. So, if I then expand my search to include aluminum, 3x10 and also some hard-tails, I can pull in a few other likely candidates. This also put me into the sweet spot of hitting onto brands for which I am able to obtain the best deals, thanks to a very, very generous friend whose patience is likely growing thin given that I keep pestering him. The downside is that the fit of these bikes is in question in one case and the damn things simply are not available in the other case.

So, where am I left by all of this? Right back where I started. Riding the same, excellent but in a worn in, familiar sort of way, mountain bike that I rode last year. I know, life is tough in these parts. My mind keeps saying if it isn't going to make you faster and in all likelihood, it won't, then you are just wasting money, but my eyes and my hands keep saying oohh, shiny new technology.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011


Drama, some people live for and are all about drama. Others are masters of excuses. I think it all boils down to self justification and the attempt to convince not only others but most importantly oneself. Convincing oneself that an action is realistic, justified and correct. Some people can convince themselves that just about any action that they choose to take is the correct one. You then have the second group, which is really just an insecure version on the first group, that has trouble convincing themselves that an action is just and appropriate so must first attempt to convince others such that others in turn can help convince them that the initial action is indeed, correct.

I believe that, at times, the drama and excuses are really just some of the unfortunate downsides of what essentially is a ride (support) group. I've argued before that one of the most important functions of a core group of people to ride with is in providing the collective motivation to perform a task when one may not necessarily want to do so. This core motivation may be achieved via simple encouragement, taunting, bravado, or just the desire to be social. Unfortunately, if the drama and excuses become chronic, it can start to negatively impact the overall group integrity. Having one or two people in a group who are always taking the easy out can become infectious and can spread.

Very early on, I recognized that this social network was the core component to a successful plan to engage in an active lifestyle many years ago. Since then I have always worked to secure and surround myself by a solid group of like minded individuals, to help keep me honest and on target. It's just too easy, at least for most people, to make excuses. As such, in promoting a healthy and successful group takes work. Clearly you nurture it, by keeping it intact and strong and prune away any destructive or unfavorable influences. You also need to be very selective in first qualifying and then slowly integrating new people to the mix.

This may seem ridiculous but one of the primary reasons why I remain in the area in which I live is the abundance of people who engage in similar activity, with whom I am free to form the groups that keep me motivated. The bottom line for me, as I honestly see it, is that a breach in the motivation would directly correspond to getting fat, again, which is something that I dearly hope to avoid. I've been there, most of my life, and I didn't really care for it.

You may be wondering how these observations have anything to do with riding bicycles. If you follow my often incoherent ramblings you may have noticed my references to the ride lists as well as to my somewhat militant ride etiquette and conduct. My actions concerning these aspects are not random. The primary goal is to retain integrity of the core ride group. This is why I am so obsessive and overly protective; it is self serving. A quality, healthy and motivated ride group supplements my own lapses in motivation. If done correctly, all I need to do is infuse the notion (and email to the list with subject:Road Ride Tue?), the rest will then come together on its own, from within the group.

If self motivation were infinite, there would be no need for all of this seemingly contorted, in some eyes underhanded and clearly discriminative list keeping. If it seems that I am being hurtful or mean, that is not the direct intent. Again, the intent is simply to the integrity of the group and the of the list. If you find yourself missing from the list you should simply be fair and ask yourself if you have been a productive member of the group, contributing to it's overall success, or if you have maybe slipped into a burdensome or subversive role within the group, detracting from the group's success. Cold and hard, but honest truth. You are either part of the solution, or you are part of the problem, regardless of what that particular problem is.

I have enough trouble keeping myself motivated. The last thing that I need are other influences sapping what little motivation I do have. The simple reality is that on a cold, rainy Tuesday night in early April, at least three people will not hesitate to bail on you at the last moment. The up side is that if you have cultivated a solid ride group, four others will sufficiently HtFU and despite better judgement and common reason, will not. You will still be able to go out and get in an enjoyable and solid 50 mile road ride in some of the most horrific conditions imaginable. That's what it is all about. As for the list, I suspect that some yard work may be in order.

Getting rid of some dead wood.