Riding with life's experiences
Jan 08 8:35 PM

Riding with life's experiences

Jan 08 8:35 PM
Jan 08 8:35 PM

Adversity comes in different forms

Just like life, riding a bicycle comes with it's share of adversity. Most of it revolves around the elements, heat, cold, rain, wind and gravity (aka hills). Well, the toughest adversary we actually face is the angry white guy being denied his constitutional right to drive 45 in a 35 MPH Zone on Ohio Drive in Plano ... but that's a thread for another day.

In Dallas we don't deal with gravity a lot, we are blessed with a pretty flat terrain. It's an incredible place to live if you like to ride because other than a couple of months we can always ride. Each spring, after the couple of months of "winter" we get here a new cycling season starts and we are greeted with one of our toughest adversaries, the wind. I guess since we don't have a lot of hills, we don't have a lot of things to slow the wind down. It seems as if it starts picking up speed once it clears the hill country south of Waco and doesn't slow down until it's halfway through Oklahoma. If the wind is from the North, I just assume the reverse is true.

Deal with it

Still like our life, the wind is an adversity you just have to deal with. It's inevitable, it's part of the game and you deal with it or it deals with you. When I encounter adversity, I turn to two ex's, my experience and the examples set by others. Both of those are used a lot on the bike but this week my experience came to mind, so that is where I am going to focus on.

On my rides this week I had to deal with the wind, a lot of it. At points by the lake it was blowing at least 25 MPH, when that happens I draw upon an experience that helps me deal with the wind. It goes all the way back to the early 80s, when I played football and all of the linemen (of which I was one) would drive those blocking dummies and sleds all over the field. There was one set of commands I will never forget because it was said over and over again, "C'mon Baker! Drive your legs! Stay low!" It was a concept I apparently never grasped because every time the ball was snapped, I'd pop up like a jack in the box and if I ever chased down the man I was assigned to block, my legs would quit driving and I'd attempt to lean my opponent into submission. A jack in the box might be an effective spokesperson for cheeseburgers but there aren't many of them in Canton Ohio because of their effective play along the line of scrimmage. During my senior year, there was a sophomore lineman, let's call him Clark, who earned the designation "Sophomore Varsity Star" using the confidence that I instilled in him by trying to use my jack in the box technique on him.

It wasn't because I couldn't stay low and drive my feet, it just was when the chips were down and the ball was snapped, I did what I instinctively thought was best, I never disciplined myself enough to change my actions. It made staying on the field a difficult thing for me to do, a coach couldn't leave a guy in the game for long if he consistently did not do what was best for the team to keep moving the ball.

Lesson Learned

Riding into the wind is really what being a lineman is all about, it's the job that has to be done, so the climbers and sprinters can stay fresh. There are guys on a team that do nothing but knock a hole through the wind and their opponents so the superstars can ride off in a yellow jersey. Stay low, keep your legs moving and create a hole for others to move through sounds a lot like a lineman's job. When the ride's been long and the wind is relentless, you naturally want to sit up tall and open up your lungs, your legs are heavy and you really want to coast and give them a rest. When you sit up tall though the wind grabs hold of you like it does with a sail and pushes you, but not in the direction you are heading. If you don't keep spinning, the wind makes it impossible to coast and you slow down. If you are doing both, you start grinding just to keep from falling over. After that you discover that it takes considerably more effort to speed up than it would have to have maintained your speed. The very thing you thought you were doing to rest is actually making you work harder. Inevitably, the same thing happens with the jack in the box technique in cycling that it did for me in football, you stop moving and your opponents pass you by.

At those moments, for whatever reason, I think back to those points, where I learned that doing what I wanted, against the instructions of those who knew better and only wanted to see me succeed, didn't work out very well. The wind will blow so hard I can't hear myself think but that's when I can hear Coach Beane, Coach Nail, Coach Aaronson, Coach Harris and Coach Peterson repeating that same phrase they did from Junior High to High School, "C'mon Baker! Stay Low! Keep your legs moving!" with one big difference, I've learned it's easier for me if I follow those instructions.

Earlier this week I was riding my second lap around the lake (there is a reason they "issue wind advisories by area lakes") and I was in the into the wind part of that lap. I was staying low, my legs were spinning and I was punching open a hole into the wind. I wasn't really thinking about the wind because it's not as hard if you do it right. I may not have been moving as fast as I would like but I was getting there and in so doing, I passed a guy quite a bit younger and certainly more athletic than me. He, unfortunately, was using the jack in the box technique and his legs were barely moving. He looked miserable and it didn't help that a 50 year old grey bearded dude with a belly passed him with a cheery good morning.

He looked a lot like what I remember Friday nights feeling like back in 1981, watching that sophomore take my spot on the field. As we get older, the roles reverse, freshmen aren't supposed to win the Heisman and run over and around the SEC like Johnny Manziel did when he was a freshman. Years later we discover that old pitchers aren't supposed to be strikeout kings and whip up on Robin Ventura like Nolan Ryan. I will probably never know what Clark or Johnny felt on the gridiron but my new favorite experience is getting to feel just a tiny bit like Nolan Ryan did by whipping up on a younger guy. It's an experience I am looking forward to having again.

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