"Inch by inch... life’s a cinch... yard by yard... life is hard"
As anyone who has attempted to contact me this last week knows, I am currently on vacation in the Colorado Rocky Mountains riding my bicycle from mountain town to mountain town with some close friends.
Outside of a weekend conference in Vail several years ago, I haven’t spent that much time in the Centennial State outside of regular business trips to Denver so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.
What I found is nothing short of spectacular beauty with the snow-capped purple mountains, colorful wildflowers, lush green valleys and raging white-water rivers.
Adding to the physical landscape is the incredible weather that we’ve experienced, with dry crisp mornings, high cirrus clouds protecting us from the direct sunshine during the day, clean mountain air, and evenings with either clear skies offering us a million stars or stormy thunder showers providing us with a light-show from the heavens.
The long rides from mountain peak to mountain peak has once again given me ample opportunity to be alone in my thoughts.
As it’s now been over eight months since I last wrote about lessons from the road... I figured it’s time again to share some new thoughts and ideas...
I hope you enjoy...
The Elusive Trisket
The bicycle ride is an organized ride called the "Bicycle Tour of Colorado". There are approximately 600 riders representing 40 states.
The route is defined and marked by the organizers each morning and typically is over one high mountain pass each day (somewhere between 9,000 - 12,300 feet).
Along the way there are 2-3 "rest stops" where riders can stop to replenish their water, add some nourishment, or just take a break for a few minutes.
Each day the riders leave the start independently, meaning that there is no "official" start time... people just get up... get ready... eat some breakfast... and leave.
Knowing that we had a hard week of riding ahead of us, my friends and I decided that we would leave the first day at about 7:30am. This would put us at the first rest stop around 9:00am.
When we arrived at our first stop, we immediately notice that there were only remnants of what was a buffet of snacks and drinks... the only thing remaining were a few orange and apple slices.
We asked one of the volunteers at the roadside stop what the deal was and she explained that there was plenty of food early including peanut butter sandwiches, potato chips, protein bars and Trisket crackers... but we were definitely on the tail-end of the group and this is all that remained.
This situation repeated itself for the other remaining two stops.
At the end of the ride my compadres and I decided that we would just need to start a little earlier the following day in order to share in the goodies at the stops.
We made a plan to leave instead at 7am rather than 7:30am. This would ensure that we would get to the aid stations early enough...
At the first rest stop the following day, we once again were treated to only a few fruit slices and this time, some leftover peanut butter...
Although we thought that we believed that we had put in the thought and effort to solve the problem... the issue still remained...
Finally on day three... we decided that we would start at 6am... only then did we find ourselves among the "haves" rather than the "have-nots".
The valuable take-away lesson for me is that we could have complained to the ride organizers about the shortage of premium snacks available at the stops...
We might have thought of ourselves as "victims" of a system that rewarded early starters and penalized those wanting to sleep in a bit...
Or we could just start our riding earlier each day... working harder to get ahead of the crowd and claiming our share of the elusive Triskets...
...and our problem was solved... working smarter AND working harder...
Gearing and a Steady Pace
Most modern road/mountain bicycles are built with a sophisticated gearing system that allows the rider to pedal easier on the uphill portions and harder on the downhill portions of the ride.
An experienced cyclist will tell you that the key to efficient riding is to try and keep a steady pace when turning the pedal cranks (also called cadence). A typical cadence for most riders is about 80-100 revolutions per minute.
This means that the rider must be constantly changing gears to allow them to keep the same cadence regardless of whether they are going uphill or down.
Too often in life we spin our wheels like crazy when things are going good and then bog down when we come to an uphill struggle instead of trying to keep a constant cadence all of the time.
Some people refer to a steady cadence as balance... work time, family time, personal time, community time, and rest (mental and physical).
Keeping a steady pace, while constantly changing gears is a good way to stay focused and efficient as we move forward in life.
Watch for Falling Rocks
I’ve been riding a bicycle on a fairly consistent basis for more than 45 years now.
Although I have never actually counted all of the miles that I’ve ridden, it would be safe to say that it was nearing the 100,000 mile point over the course of my lifetime... including some racing and several multi-day riding events.
In addition, knowing that I was planning to do this particular ride since last summer, I’ve been training hard (specifically hill training) for several months (living in San Diego does give me the unique opportunity to train year-round).
When I finally got to Colorado last week, I truly thought I was ready... I had the experience, the training, and was mentally prepared for a multi-day event like this one.
As my friends and I started out on that first day, I quickly noticed that I was struggling to keep up with them. It soon became very apparent that cycling at 10,000 feet (close to 2 miles above sea-level) was presenting a strong challenge that I was in no way prepared for.
Additionally, on day four, there was a long 21-mile stretch of road that was essentially unpaved gravel.
No matter how prepared I thought I was... there were new and unforeseen obstacles placed before me that took me by complete surprise.
To make matters even worse, I saw many of other of the riders going along like there was nothing at all impeding them.
Here I thought that I was ready and prepared... only to be passed and left behind by my peers...
I could have used the unforeseen obstacles as a very good reason to stop. No one would have faulted me for doing so.
What I kept mulling over in my mind were all the people I personally know (who are not necessarily cyclists) who have had some great unexpected challenge rise before them.
They could have quit and went in a different direction... perhaps following a path of least resistance... but they chose to stay the course... figure it out... and move forward even if it’s only a few small steps at a time...
It’s becomes a much smaller task when large problems are broken into small ones...
I didn’t need to ride up a 12,000 foot summit or over 21 miles of gravel road... I only needed to go a few more inches and when I finished those inches... I only needed go a few more...
How often do we look at some huge insurmountable problem and feel like we just want to quit?
Many times, overcoming a big problem is really just a series of overcoming a lot of small problems... one step at a time...
Thank you for enduring yet another bicycling blog...
...and thank you for your support of OptiFuse where we know that there are big mountains in front of us but we keep climbing one inch at a time...
Jim Kalb President
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