Saturday, August 28, 2010

Ya Gotta Love Those Mad Dogs

Louisville Bicycle Club is one of the oldest cycling clubs in the nation. They were formerly Louisville Wheelmen. The club sponsors and supports all kinds of cycling from racing to loaded touring to utilitarian cycling. One of the subsets of the club is the Mad Dogs - a long-distance cycling pack.

Last week as I was reading a ride report about a recent club century ride, I found myself rooting for a Mad Dog named Kristen. The ride was the Sink or Swim Century. It was a part of the stage rides which the Mad Dogs do for time. This ride was a "must do" for Kristen.

Early in the ride, she dropped her chain and as it went, it took the rear dérailleur with it. Dr. Larry Preble, the ride organizer pronounced it DOA and suggested that Kristen's ride might be over. Undeterred, Kristen called a friend nearby (an hour away) and asked for a bike to borrow. We all understand that bike fit and setup is crucial for long-distance riding, but this was a "must do" ride for Kristen. And she is a Mad Dog.

Dr. Preble was skeptical, since the ride had a 10 hour time limit, but rode off with his fingers and toes crossed. In the picasaweb album, Dr. Preble has posted a picture of Kristen celebrating as she finished the ride on a borrowed bike within the time limit. I didn't re-post the picture, since I didn't have permission, but I will post the link. It's a public site.

As I read about Kristen, I thought about a cycling friend I have on the east coast. She and her tandem partner recently finished a ride after having multiple flats. In fact, they had so many flats, that they had exhausted their flat-fixing resources and had to walk the bike the last 2 miles to the finish. Crista and Chuck aren't Mad Dogs, but only because they don't live in Louisville. In their hometown they are the DC Randonneurs.

Finishing the ride despite the difficulty is the heart of Mad Dogism as well as randonneuring. Mad Dogs are not required to never fail. All finishers have failed at some point. But finishers don't quit. That's the spirit of Mad Dogs and Randonneurs.

I don't live in Louisville, but if I did - I'd be a Mad Dog. It's how I want to live my life. It's who I want to be. During my brief 51 years I have failed. And I have quit. I regret my failures. I'm ashamed of my quitting. Failure isn't final. You can learn from failure. And if you learn, you'll improve your odds of success the next time you try. But quitting feeds the monster that lives in the closet of your soul. And when it is strong enough, it paralyzes you with the fear of failure or with the specter of suffering or with the pain of some imagined defeat. And then you're done.

Don't feed the monster. Just finish the damn ride.

If I'm ever trapped in a Chilean mine for months while I wait for a relief shaft to be dug - I hope some of the miners are Mad Dogs.

If I'm ever in a Pakistani village watching the Indus river washing away the present as well as the past - I hope some of my neighbors are Mad Dogs.

If I ever receive a diagnosis of cancer - I hope my oncologist is a Mad Dog.

If I ever find myself up to my ass in alligators - I hope there is a pack of Mad Dogs within whistling distance.

And if anyone ever needs me to be a Mad Dog at heart - I hope I'm up to it.

Allez! Kristen. Allez! Mad Dogs. Allez! Allez! Allez!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Mottoes, Bumper Stickers, and Tattoos

This past year I joined a fraternity that's over 100 years old - randonneurs. Over the last century or more, men and women have taken their bicycles out on the road to ride standardized distances of 200 kilometers, 300 kilometers, 400 kilometers and 600 kilometers. They have ridden these distances within a time limit, and within a set of rules which define the sport.

The Audax Club Parisien and the world wide organization Randonneurs Mondiaux are the gatekeepers for this tradition. You can ride around the world on a unicycle, but if your ride isn't certified by one of these organizations, it's just another trans-globe unicycle ride. To be a randonneur, you have to do it their way. You have to do it our way.

I promised myself a new tattoo when I completed my first, full Super Randonnneur Series (200, 300, 400, 600 kilometers). But what to get? That's a hard question. Tattoos, like mothers, are for life.

I think that tattoos are the very personal equivalent of a bumper sticker. I like bumper stickers. Some of my favorites are: STUPID PEOPLE SHOULDN'T BREED, and MEAN PEOPLE SUCK. I also like REAL MEN READ THE INSTRUCTIONS. However, my favorite is: JESUS LOVES YOU - EVERYONE ELSE THINKS YOU'RE AN ASSHOLE.

I like special sayings: Lead, Follow or Get Out of the Way! or KISS (Keep it simple, stupid).

I have mottoes. On one of my tattoos, it says: SEMPER FI. That, as you know, is an abbreviated form of Semper Fideles or Always Faithful. It's the Marine Corps motto. My motto for the last few years has been: Miles to go; Promises to keep.

However, I have been thinking that I need to add to that motto. I think I should add: More to learn.

Miles to go; Promises to keep; More to learn...

But then I could also add: Dues to pay.

Miles to go; Promises to keep; More to learn; Dues to pay...

I fear that if I thought long enough, the motto would finally be too long for a tattoo on any appendage I have!

So I think I'll keep it about: Just Finish The Damn Ride!

Yea, that'll be a great tattoo motto.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Everything Old is New Again

My very good riding friend, Mike, has had more than his share of problems this year, some of which have kept him off of his bike for a while. Recently while riding with him, I remarked that he had "girl's" legs. Besides being a cyclist of the first order, he is a weight lifter and his body always has a well defined, manly shape. But after an illness, he had grown a little softer, (too much ice cream I'm guessing), and his legs showed the lack of bike time.

Today, when we rode together, he asked me if he still had "girl's" legs. I said that they looked toned and firm, but not quite like they used to be. I labeled them "Marlene Dietrich legs".

He said, "Who?"

I couldn't believe my ears. Although Mike is not yet 30, he surely has cable and AMC Classics. But even when I explained who she was, he still didn't recognize her name. I'm glad I never brought up my uncanny resemblance to Captain Kangaroo. He might have had the same reaction!

For many things, age and exposure make a difference. That's where tradition comes into it's own. If a tradition is kept, it links the modern world to a world which is long gone. Tradition is not the pointless keeping of rules or methods. It is a way to bring the past into our lives.

This is Maurice Martin. Many will say "who?". All you really need to know is that he was instrumental in the formation of our Randonneuring tradition. In 1888 he convinced the executive committee of the Union Velocipedique Francaise, the largest national association of bicycle clubs in France, to hold "brevets". They began with a metric century (100 kilometers). (Information from Ken Dobb of the Randonneurs Ontario Club

Throughout the following years, the sport progressed and became what it is today - a succession of increasingly longer rides of 200 kilometers, 300, 400, and 600 kilometers. The rules and methods have remained largely unchanged for over a hundred years.

So even if you don't know who Marlene Dietrich, Captain Kangaroo, Michael Jordan or Howdy Doody is, you can ride a brevet in much the same way that Maurice Martin did. Even if you can't hum the tune to "Wipeout" while playing the drum part with two number 2 pencils on your desk, you can still ride a brevet series, and be a part of the ongoing tradition which links us to Maurice Martin.

By keeping traditions, everything old is new again.