I have always enjoyed cycling. I saw the movie Breaking Away as a child and wanted to be a bike racer. Those plans were deferred as I spend twenty plus years as a competitive equestrian which is an extremely time consuming pursuit. Recently, I traded in riding horses for riding bikes and it has become my new passion. This past Sunday, I rode in the Savannah Century (103 miles, to be exact). The course started over the Talmadge Bridge and went into South Carolina, then wound through rural southeast Georgia before heading back to downtown Savannah. The event was well organized, the weather was relatively mild for the southeast and the camaraderie was awesome. I did not ride as part of a team, so once I’d logged 30 miles and the crowd started to thin out, I had a large chunk of 5 plus hours on the bike to take in scenery and think. I learned a few things about cycling and myself and found that they are applicable to business.
1 ) Preparation is key. This is true of a Century, or any business event in life. I was a bit nervous at the start of the morning, because I had not logged as many training miles as I had hoped this summer. Our hot southern summer kept me off the road for a few days and other commitments chewed into my training schedule. However, I did have a good level of fitness and was able to perform well despite not sticking to my originally planned regimen. Sometimes, you can get by with less preparation than you would have liked. I did think about skipping the event, but I am glad I didn’t. So, even when you think you haven’t put in 100%, just go ahead and do it. If you come up short, you know how much you need to do next time.
2 ) Those that talk the most have the least to say. I sat quietly with my bike waiting for the SCMPD to close the bridge so that we could get on our way. I heard lots of people around me bragging about performances in other events and on training rides (long distances, high speeds). I thought I would be at the end of the pack and dropped by every group out there based on what I was hearing. Once we got out on the road, I saw several of the self-proclaimed speed demons drop back and even turn off the 103 mile course to ride the 37, 56 or 69 mile routes. The quietly confident riders performed the best.
3 ) Watch out for road hazards, and be polite and warn those around you. When riding in a large group, you have to watch out for things on the road and the other people around you, much like you would if you were driving a car. Stay focused. And, when you see something, tell those behind you, as someone ahead of you warned you.
4 ) You will encounter unexpected obstacles, and you’ll just have to find a way to get past them. As we approached a draw bridge with a metal grating, the entire group slowed down. The organizers of the event warned us that we should walk our bikes over the bridge if it had rained and the surface was wet. It was sunny and 90 degrees, so I couldn’t figure out what was going on. Perhaps people were just erring on the side of caution and walking across the rough surface. However, we were, in fact, slowing down to get past a 6 foot gator in the roadway. We had been warned about road conditions, but no one expected a gator to cross our path. We all slowed down and communicated to one another to slow down and to pass with care. The entire group (that I could see) got past the gator with no casualties.
5 ) Know your limits, but push through them. I knew I could not keep up with people traveling upwards of 25 mph, but I also knew that I could move out of a comfortable pace and challenge myself by keeping up with a group that rode slightly faster than I rode alone on training rides. At about 85 miles, with my bike computer temperature gague reading 107 degrees, I felt pretty tired, but I knew that after traveling that far, I could make it the last 15 miles.
6 ) Going it alone is tough. I did not ride from the start with a group, so I didn’t have anyone to work with to share the burden. I have a friend who is an elite cyclist and competes in events all over the world. He always says that after a big climb, he never wants to find himself riding in a flat valley to the next climb all by himself; it’s just tough, it’s much easier to have at least one rider to help keep a quick pace. I rode by myself for the first 40 or so miles until the my first stop at the third rest stop. I tend to enjoy working alone, but it is a challenge. I realized how much easier it was to ride in a paceline where one person pulls the group along for a while, then moves to the middle or back of the pack to recover while the others take turns leading.
7 ) There are nice people out there. I passed one particular group a couple of times, but working together, they always caught me. After the third time, one member of the group asked me if I’d like to join them as they rode by. I said, “Yes, thank you!” It was much easier to reach the end with a group willing to share the work. And, you find yourself pushing yourself harder when you are in front and want to help everyone along. I rode stronger and faster when I was in the group. Granted, this was not a competitive event, but I was really impressed and inspired by the camaraderie and helpfulness. People at the rest stops were helpful and people that rode by at faster paces would shout words of encouragement.
8 ) Be a productive member of the team. For a while in the first part of the ride, I found myself with a riding partner for about 8 miles or so. Over my left shoulder, I saw a shadow. I looked back often and saw that person constantly. He was drafting and by riding behind me he could ride faster with less effort. I gestured for him to move in front a few times, but he would not. It was irritating. So, if you are in a group, doesn’t matter if it is two or twenty two, don’t hang at the back letting everyone else pull you along. Pitch in. Even if you can’t stay in front for as long as some of the other members, get up there and do your best. If people see that you are doing your best to help, it will be appreciated.
9 ) You can do more than you think you can. Mind over matter is for real. At mile 87, we were departing the last rest stop and the sun had reemerged. I looked at the computer on my bike and it said the temperature was 107 degrees. I was hot and tired and when I went to the front of the group, I looked down and my pace was slowing. I thought I was done, but I found something in some reserve somewhere inside and I picked my pace back up and powered through the tiredness and burning quad muscles. My body really would have liked to have stopped, but the mind kept it going.
10 ) Finish lines feel good. As soon as the finish line was in sight, the pain, lactic acid and bad feelings melted away. It was amazing that the feelings of accomplishment and pride demolished the yucky ones. I was riding for personal reasons and proud of myself for finishing, but there was someone waiting for me at the finish line who was proud of me, too, and that made crossing the finish line that much sweeter. So, you always have to keep your eye on the prize while you are in the path to your goal. Finally, make time in your busy life to put time into building friendships and relationships. Having those people in your life to share in your victories make them that much more rewarding.
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