Sunday, July 25, 2010

Rule Keeping - "Old School"?

This is Matt. He's one of my riding buddies. Matt and I have much in common, especially a desire to ride bicycles.

Recently as I was preparing to do a "worker's ride" for the Marion 300 kilometer Brevet, Matt emailed me and mentioned that I would be passing near his riding area during part of the ride. He asked if I could approximate the time I'd be there and offered to meet me and ride with me a little. I had to tell him that riding with a rider who was not registered on the ride would be against the rules, therefore I couldn't do it. Even though I would be riding alone for the entire 186 miles, and company would certainly be appreciated for some of it, and even though no one would likely ever know, I still wanted to respect our rules and so I turned down his offer.

He replied, "I got to hand it to you, when it comes to rules, you follow them."

Am I "wonderful"? No. Up to this point, I've only done what was expected of me. That doesn't qualify as wonderful. Unfortunately, in a world where it seems that too many are willing to cut corners and cheat because no one will know, or worse yet, no one cares, a rule-keeper seems above average. That's too bad.

During a recent spate of emails between route owners for RUSA, this very violation came up. One route owner openly stated that "don't ask don't tell" was a good policy when it came to keeping the rules. So against this backdrop, I guess I could look a little "wonderful". But it's an illusion. I'm only doing what is expected of me - only doing what I've agreed to do.

I realize that practically no one reads this. I mostly write it because it suits me to do so. But if you have read this, then consider becoming a rule-keeper too. Not just the ones which are easy, or please you; but all the rules you have agreed to - all the rules which are expected of you.

My wife once asked me if I thought it was possible that I might "cheat" on her with some hard-body bike riding woman. Not likely. You see, I'm not particularly handsome, not rich, not well-educated, not a great lover. The only thing I have to offer a woman is faithfulness. And if I cheat, then I don't have that.

When you look in the mirror after you step out of the shower you will see all that you really have to offer a woman, employer, friend or neighbor. Which isn't much; except a commitment to keep the rules.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Phenotypic Plasticity

Wikipedia says that "phenotypic plasticity is the ability of an organism to change its phenotype in response to changes in the environment. It is broadly applied to include changes that occur during the adult life of an organism, such as behavior.

Organisms may differ in the degree of phenotypic plasticity they display when exposed to the same environmental change. Hence, phenotypic plasticity can evolve and be adaptive if fitness is increased by changing phenotype."

For my entire life, especially the adult portion in which I'm now living, I've been a carnivore. I thought Cheeseburgers were one of the three food groups. If I went to a restaurant with a buffet, I would usually pick several meat choices and not have any vegetables on my plate during the entire meal.

After I married Carmel in 2001, she would often point out to me that there was nothing green on my plate at dinner. I always told her that if I saw something green on my meal, I'd cut it off and hope it hadn't spread to the inside of the meat.

To be fair to myself, I was trained this way as a child. It's not that my mother didn't know how to cook vegetables, but my father didn't like them. So my mother, like most wives of her generation, cooked what he liked. And that wasn't vegetables.

But my dad is a diabetic, has COPD, has had quintuple bypass surgery, and now has a new pacemaker. And he's only 19 years older than me. 19 years!

In 2008, I began to see my future as I looked at him. I figured that if I didn't change my ways, in only 19 years, I would have more than just his hairline, I'd have his health problems. So I became a vegetarian. And a long-distance cyclist. Phenotypic plasticity.

Besides giving up meat, I gave up alcohol. Alcohol, unlike most carbohydrates, has 7 calories per gram and metabolizes differently. Despite the favorable press a drink a day has received these last few year, I figure it's poison. Ditto for fast food.

When the subject comes up with any of my beer swilling, meat eating pals, they always say the same thing, "Everybody has to die of something!". And I always respond the same way, "It's not what I'll die of that bothers me, it's how I'll live until then that is my concern."

These two pictures were taken two years apart. Phenotypic plasticity.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Core Principles

I don't have a "bucket list" i.e. things I want to do before I die. I do have Core Principles i.e. things I will do while I live. I recently posted Core Principle #5 on my FB page prompting my wife to ask what the other ones are. I decided for the sake of my posterity,(not posterior, I've recently purchased the Selle An Atomica saddle for that),and in the spirit of Velocio

I should enumerate some of my Core Principles here.

Core Principle # 7: If you only have time for cleaning your bike or riding it - ride it. A dirty bike isn't much heavier.

Core Principle # 6: If you are weak on hills, ride hills. If you are weak on the flats, ride hills. If you are weak against a headwind, ride hills. If you are weak on longer distance, ride hills. If you want to build any cycling aspect, ride hills.

Core Principle # 5: If you can choose between watching someone ride their bike and riding yours, ride your bike.

Core Principle # 4: If you are not a sponsored rider, i.e. if no one is paying you to ride either in cash or in kind, then your only opponent is your previous self. Pretending otherwise is pretending.

Core Principle # 3: If you are not advancing you are retreating. Setting goals intrinsically includes the idea of surpassing old bench marks.

Core Principle # 2: If you take extended time off of the bike it should be only to heal from an injury or to prevent one. This includes injuries in employment or relationships.

Core Principle # 1: If the event you want to ride is within 100 kilometers (62 miles) of your house, and it is less then 300 kilometers (186 miles), ride your bike to the event and ride it home. It is ridiculous to put you bike in or on a car for only 100 kilometers.

There you have them. My 7 top Core Principles. Yes, these are principles that I live by, and will argue for. Although I'd rather ride my bike than argue. (Core Principle # 8).

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Stoneman - by definition

Most of you know that my name is made up. I wasn't born with this name. I named myself.

My first name, Miles is from a poem by Robert Frost. Despite the siren call of the woods nearby, a traveler presses on in his journey because he has "promises to keep and miles to go" before he can sleep. Miles, by definition, is keeping promises despite the distance yet to be traveled and the seductive call of present ease and comfort.

My family name, Stoneman is derived from combining the last four letters of my wife's birth name, and the last four letters of my birth name. As in the Biblical injunction, we have "left father and mother and have been joined" to each other. But what does it mean? Ah, another Frost poem is in order.

In "The Road Not Taken" the poet describes a situation wherein he comes to a fork in the road. Since he had not yet heard of Yogi Berra, he stood looking and deciding. In the end he chooses the road less traveled. And that road is the common focus when this poem is read. But consider the poet's words,

"I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference."

I took. Can you see it? It's not about the road. It's about the choosing. Stoneman, by definition, means choosing a road. It means considering carefully, but stepping off smartly with the left foot into the future. It means weighing the options, then grasping for the gold ring with both hands.

For the poet, it was the road less traveled which interested him. But I contend that the difference was made by CHOOSING; by boldly taking his destiny into his own hands and steering his own ship; bearing the responsibility. The poet says in a previous place,

"Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back."

Stoneman, then, by definition is looking then leaping. Leaping out into that wild blue yonder with only your intuition and faith for wings. Stoneman is the audacity to choose!

Are you a Stoneman?