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!

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