Thursday, July 30, 2009
Cycling, while fun, requires discipline. When logging my miles on the League of Illinois Bicyclist site www.bikelib.org I am amazed by the number of cyclists whose annual mileage is not yet in triple digits. Surely they all didn't start riding last month. I always comment on this to my wife who tells me not to be so judgemental. (She thinks that most of the things I do are best described with a compound word which contains the word "mental" somewhere in it.) But honestly, why would you even bother to post your annual mileage in July if it was 42?
It's not that I'm addicted to cycling, but I realize that the benefits I hope to achieve will not be seen without a regular, disciplined approach. Like any other activity with value, hit and miss tends to be more miss than hit without a plan (a plan that you actually stick to).
There are varying ways to plan a training route, among them are OAB's (out and back's), Lollipops and Loops. The Loop is the most interesting one for the obvious reason. You start at point A, loop around as far as you'd like to go, wherever you'd like to go, and end up back at point A. You get the most bang for your buck if seeing new vistas is your bailiwick. Lollipops are similar, although not as "discovery rich". You start at point A, ride to point B, loop a small loop back to point B then ride back to point A. Finally, OAB's are what they sound like. You start at point A, ride to point B, then retrace your tracks back to point A. Boring.
Recently, I've been working on the discipline of OAB's. I have never liked them, mostly because once you get to point B, you've already seen all there is to see. Long distance cycling can be boring enough with nothing to listen to, and if you add nothing new to see for the second half of the ride, you can go out of your helmet encased mind. It's hard. For that reason, it's a discipline that I've been working on.
I determine at the start of the training ride either how far I want to ride, or how long (time) I want to ride. After completing half of the distance or time, I turn around and head home. On each ride I find myself strongly irritated by the anticipation of the second half throughout the entire first half. On each return trip I find myself strongly irritated when I see unfamiliar roads that invite me to try them out while I return back on a now familiar road. And on each ride, when I find myself strongly irritated, I tell myself that this is MY ride and I can do what I want. Then I remember that what I want do is to cycle the second half of my life, and to accomplish that I will need to be a disciplined cyclist. Then I continue on the OAB. Irritated, but determined.
Will I become famous, or rich, or ANYTHING for the effort I'm putting into this? Will I cease to be an anonymous piece of driftwood lying abandoned on this endless beach of this life? Will I finally achieve Nirvana, or some inner wholeness, or at least become what all my critics think I should be? Doubt it. But I will keep cycling in a disciplined way as I cycle the second half of my life and that discipline will include OAB's.
Sunday, July 26, 2009
I've been called a tyrant twice this week. No, not by my wife, she has other descriptions that are favorites with her. Those words came from cyclists. Imagine that. One cyclist, on a public website forum, called me both an "anarchist and a tyrant" in the same sentence. I didn't point out in my reply that those words describe people of opposite political objectives. He was clearly angry; he indicated that I am not in step with public opinion, not close to achieving popularity, and should listen more and keep my mouth shut. That last one might be hard for me.
Another cyclist, a few days later, said that I have no tact, and that he would sometimes like to "f***ing blow me up himself". He went on to compare me to Saddam Hussein. (I don't think that was a compliment. I'm not sure.) Good thing he was a Christian man, he might have really expressed his feelings.
What should be my response? Sorry? Sorry I am not perfect? Sorry I'm not who you would like me to be? I could do that. I won't. Let me say that there is never any excuse for bad behavior. (I'll repeat this later in case you feel that in the following I excuse bad behavior.)
I am who I am. Over the years, I've really tried to be perfect. (Believe it or not.) I've read all the self-help books, listened patiently to my critics and tried to change to suit them. I've worked on everything from my tone of voice, to my facial expressions, even my guitar playing style. (A really dear friend who has gone on to rest in Jesus once told me that my guitar playing style was "like an act of violence". He was angry with me at the time. I continued to play with him, although I really tried to change. Two days before his death, I visited him and brought my guitar along. After playing and singing a few gospel songs to him, we talked over old times. In a weak voice, he told me that I was talented, but just wouldn't listen to anyone. He meant him. I played at his funeral, and several months later, I played at his widow's next wedding. I really tried to play with a style he would have approved of. I don't know if I succeeded. But I tried.)
Even my wife often expresses a wish that I was different man. You know, a perfect one. I can't blame her. I am hard to live with. I have faults. (I'm not excusing bad behavior; remember that!). I only mention my wife (the one with no faults), to indicate that even when we love someone and are committed to them, it's easy to try to change them (or force them to change themselves) to fit our idea of what they should be like. Even if they need to change their guitar playing style.
The cyclist who said I was an unpopular, out-of-touch, deaf tyrant has faults. The cyclist who wanted to "f***ing blow me up himself" has faults. You have faults. I have faults. So what? Who decided that James Dobson, or Dr. Phil, or even the "O" has the formula for perfection? Who said I need to be perfect anyway? I'M NOT EXCUSING BAD BEHAVIOR; I am saying that imperfect people fill our planet, our churches, our homes, our cycling clubs, and even our mirror.
Here's something for you to work on while I try to change myself to fit your image of who I should be: work on being more tolerant of people with faults - people like me. Then if I am finally so flawed that I'm unable to change, you will be one step ahead of the game, and a little more perfect, if that's possible.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
This advice was given by Polonius to Richard III penned by Will Shakespeare. It is as true today as it was then. (He also advised "neither a borrower nor lender be - great advice too!)
Part of the fun of living is discovery. One of the best discoveries you can make is discovering who you are. I don't mean what your name is, or even who your ancestors were. (I, for my part, have become my own ancestor. Started my own clan. Sort of my own grandpa. But I digress...which is normal for me.)
A couple of years ago, I wanted to start a bicycling club in our area. I am passionate about cycling and specifically long-distance cycling. However, I am in the minority. So I began riding with some others who ride medium distance (40 - 60 miles), and built friendships (don't let that word fool you, though). After a year, I made a real stab at a cycling club. All my riding friends were on board. Yea! Or so I thought.
I had a very strong idea of the usefulness a cycling club would have to the cycling community and the non-cycling world as well. I applied minimum pressure on the areas of disagreement in order to maintain the cooperation of others. I had a strong preference for a style of riding which I wanted to promote as well. Again, I applied minimum pressure in this area in order to maintain the cooperation of others. Bad idea.
It wasn't as if I didn't have the courage of my convictions (although that did happen several years ago at a pastor's meeting where they were pushing for the Ten Commandments to be posted on every vertical surface - an idea I strongly oppose - and I still have lingering regrets that I didn't stand up and at least get thrown out of that meeting), anyway, it wasn't for lack of courage, or even for lack of direction, but I wanted to cooperate and play together. (I always got low marks in school on the category "Plays well with others". Go figure.)
I just thought that if everyone worked together, then some of my goals might be reached, and some of other people's goals might be reached, and somehow, something useful might be done. Boy was I wrong.
I am convinced now that there are two kinds of people in the world, those who do and those who criticize and complain. And those who do need to be true to their own selves, because those who criticize and complain are being true to their own selves.
Rodney King wanted us to all get along. We might be able to all get along, but we will never get anywhere, by just getting along. (You have to break a few eggs to make an omelet. You have to boil a few pigs to make lard. You have to... you get the idea.) Those who want to succeed, need to discover their passion, and be willing to pay the price to achieve their dreams, even or especially if the price is doing it solo. (Of course, it goes without saying that your dream needs to be small enough to accomplish solo, otherwise you're back to trying to get others on board. And we all know what a headache that can be!)
Here's the bottom line to this rambling diatribe. Discover where you want to be. Head there. If anyone follows - lead them. If no one follows - be true to yourself, since you may only have yourself for company on the way to your Nirvana.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Hebrews 12 uses a phrase "run with patience". (Hebrews is in the New Testament for all you Bible scholars.) Cycling is no different from running. Patience is key. For starters, you will have to use patience if you want to ride more than 30 minutes. I read an article today about a cyclist who loves hill climbing because long rides bore him. His idea was to get the workout in 30 minutes or less. But we can't just climb hills, we have to ride with patience. That means putting in the miles. And that takes patience.
If you manage to ride long distances with patience, you also need patience NOT to ride. That's right. It's not just about riding your bicycle, it's about recovery as well. If you don't allow your body to gain from the effort you put into your training, you will soon fall victim to over training, and risk injury and disease - exactly the opposite effect you were aiming for. So not riding is important, and that takes patience too.
Finally, continuing to train past the plateau requires patience. No matter how good your program is, you will experience a phase where there is no growth. You aren't getting faster, stronger, or better. It isn't any easier. You aren't improving. It might be some time before you move past this. Patience. Ride your bike with patience. Improvement will come. Waiting for improvement takes patience.
Cycling the second half of you life will require patience. 50 years can't be lived today or even in this decade. Patience. You will have to cycle the second half one mile at a time; and live one day at a time. This, too, takes patience.
Monday, July 13, 2009
OK, so I quit. So what? Yea, I'm a little defensive right now. I hate quitting, especially when I do it. I could call it "redeployment of resources", or "simplification of attention allocation", or even "strategic withdrawal". You know, surrender to fight another day - that sort of thing. Although a rose might be a rose by any other name, the bard should have said "quitting by any other name is still quitting". And I hate quitting.
However, when you find yourself banging your head against the wall days without end (amen), you will have to choose a day to stop. As a freeborn adult, you can continue as long as you would like, but stopping will probably be best at some point.
You might have noticed that all of the older posts on this site have the same creation date. Lest you think that I was overcome by my muse on that day (or worse yet, that you'll have to sort through thousands of posts by mid-December), all of them were copied from my previous blog page on a cycling club website. I was the captain of that team, and so owned the coveted blog-spot. Now that I've quit, I have to move my stuff out.
If you're wondering why I quit here's the straight and simple. We didn't get along. We grew apart. We developed different interests. I was never understood. You know, the usual excuses. Mostly, I was tired of rowing the boat alone and, having only one of the paddles, I was tired of trying not to row in circles.
Rowing in circles, beating your head against the wall, tilting at windmills - all good reasons to quit. But I still hate quitting.