Get off the front. 



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The first time I did the Seagull Century was my first time riding with thousands of other riders in the same event. The riders came in all shapes, sizes and configurations and the whole mass was most organic, riders jived and bounced in response to one another and the staccato of gear shifts rattling through the peloton was most surreal. Riders came in a myriad of categories : the “pro-isk” guys with matching kits, shaved legs, riding $6000 bikes and shooing any peasant mortal who dared to sit on their wheel, there’s the strongman type with leg hair the lenght of James Hardins beard and leg muscles the size of a babies head, the tri guys in their singlets and bikinis seemingly poured over their aero bars sucking some unnaturally colored fluid from their strawed sippy cup . It was a concuction of various styles, sizes and abilities. The group I want to talk about though is the tandem group; two riders (captain and stoker)on the same bike. On a flat route, there are few things better to sit behind than a tandem: ample windshielding and the speed of a freight train. 

On said ride, I was at the tail of a 10 man paceline being dragged along pretty speedily by a tandem. For 10 miles these guys did not get off the front, they just drilled it, they never flicked the elbow (universal symbol for someone else to take a pull) or drop the pace to give others a hint “time for someone else to come kiss the wind”, no… they just punched a big gap in the atmosphere for the rest of us wheelsuckers to slip through. By mile 12 though, their legs were obviously done, train after train started passing us and a few riders abandoned ship and jumped on faster wagons. Tandem guys still would not get off the front, all they needed to do was let someone else pull but it seemed like they wanted the glory or maybe they did not know how to get off the front…

I finally pulled the ripcord and joined another train. Just as I passed the former engine, I saw them put in a dig to grap onto the tail of the new ship but their legs were too far gone. They were left to face the coastal wind by their lonesome (thanks, see you later)  the glory of 10 miles but a faint memory now. 

Rightly or not, all I could think was ” there lies the fruits of pride“.  

Last Saturday, I found myself in a sipping of the same chalice. My delivery of the neighbors dog poop to their door step resulted in a serious but not unexpected confrontation. Many unkind words were said and absurd threats exchanged. After the show was over, and hormonal level rebalanced, a feeling of guilt and exhaustion replaced those of bravado and machismo. I told myself my behavior was justified, it had to be done, I had to stand up for myself, I could not look weak, I had to pull my weight. The thought of walking over to the same door I dropped a shovel load of dog crap at to apologized seemed too far a step to take. I would look weak, they would feel their threats got to me. 

Goldie encouraged me to do it and I did. I walked to that door, knocked, apologized and struck my arm out to seal the deal of reconciliation and forgiveness. The whole experience was so uplifting it was akin to that you get when leaving the slopes after 8hrs of powder skiing. 

Like Tandem guys, prides keeps you in front making you value more what people think about you than really addressing the true you. I believe my 2 biggest nemesis are Pride and Fear, fruits of the same vibe that must be overcome by love. 

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Accepting he is stronger

I remember the very first time I rode a fellow rider off my wheel. It was the first time I experienced my progression in strength and endurance. suddenly the speed the speed we were clipping at was unsatisfactory, my legs begged to be unleashed, internally I was smacking the rev limiter and needed to move up a gear. The organized pace line, shedding a set of wheels every 10 miles thanks to a vicious head/side wind, the average speed was beginning to suffer. I surged from the back of the pack embracing the gust and pitted my slow-twitch muscle fibers against Mother Nature, the group all too happy to oblige me clamped onto my wheel like eels to a wet body. For a whole mile, I buried my head in the bar, graveled low and mashed my pedals – only to look back and see a gap had been opened and the group torn asunder. The prodigy has finally found his wings. Elated by the slaps on the shoulder I received from fellow riders post ride and recognition of a my fine display, I remember buoyed to do more work, to get better.

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Professionally, I realize I happen to be one floundering in the wind, opening up a gap. I find myself struggling to hold the wheel of the new young gun in the office. I try to reconcile the various variables that birth the disconcerting feeling, like the local stay getting dropped on a climb by an unknown; he is really better than me, he is younger and more in touch with technology, maybe he is smarter with a higher IQ. Alas, the truth is he is better because he cares more.
I don’t not care, but sadly Father Time drags with if the sag of drudgery with monotony. I am not weaker just bored, not slow or sore just need a recovery day.

Having said that, I have resolved to try to keep up, to accept he is better and eschew pride and embrace humility. I must sojourn for a higher calling, a higher peak, a bigger climb where experience is more weighted than youth and strength. Not price… Temperance.

Let’s Go Outside Together Kido…

It felt like a swift jerk of the head, like a certain realization, an untangling of an enigma. The incredible vista spoke of how small I am in the scheme of things but also how much in the center of it I am, it was beauty so amazing so intoxicating it felt palpable, I could have sat there parked by the side of the road and drank of that beauty till dusk. I speak of the day I discovered my love for the outdoors, my love for the view you get from snow dusted peaks, the view of rolling hills, farm lands, meadows and bluffs, the nostalgic calm that comes from driving (preferably riding) 2 lane country roads where you see more animals than people: It was a fall day in late September and I was enroute to visit family in Baltimore, I had loathe this terrible former industrial city Cumberland in which I reside for its lack of infrastructure, lack of modern skyscrapers, busy downtowns, people bustling a city ablaze with life and activity so as I happily sped down the road anticipating my reunion with the concrete jungle I have for so long been used to and found synonymous with development and forward thinking. I got to a crest called Sidling Hill where the road had to be cut through the Appalachian mountain and “boy was that a view”! The view was so commanding I had to park my car on the side of the road step out and look, I thought to myself this is definitely magazine front page material. The orchestra of color; yellows, reds, amber, greens, ridges upon ridges casting successive shadows deepening the shade of blue on the mountains as far as the eye can see, the crisp cool breeze licking around the chicks and ears announcing the approach of winter and there in that awe I felt a bit of sadness. Why have I never noticed this before…Why have I never stopped to smell the roses?

The biggest thing my sister has tried to teach me with raising my now 11 month old daughter Adaeze (ZayZay) is “observe before you act”.

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As hard as this is to practice, I find that when outdoors I have no choice but to observe, the outdoors saturates the mind and senses with a barrage of activity that I can not anticipate or process for Adaeze this is because I am also doing the same thing she is doing “Processing”… that new sound, that flower, a black squirrel …. Hey Adaeze that is a Daisy (as she stands unassisted and oblivious to the fact that she is because she is so mentally engaged)… a Dandelion… that’s Yellow…say Y-e-l-l-o-w…Ops! I’m standing by myself and she quickly lowers her center of gravity by getting on her knees. Talking to her and teaching her when outdoors does not seem so awkward while outdoors, I don’t feel like I have to amuse her and make incomprehensible sounds just to make her laugh I feel I get empowered to speak to her like a being capable of on some level comprehending what I am saying.

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I think internally all humans are primed to have an affinity for freedom, admiration for something that is wild, something free, uninterrupted and uninhibited by human manipulation. I believe this is why nary a person could gaze into the wild canyon or a waterfall and not feel a sense of happiness, a sense of peace. In an infant I believe exists the intersection between purity and adventure, unmarred by the evil in this word and open to experiences, eager to learn, who better to teach than we parents what better to teach than those things we are passionate about. Adaeze is trying to walk now, she can stand unassisted and could take 2 steps before falling but if you hold her hand she can go all day I call this Assisted Walking (AW). When doing AW with her indoors she seems to exhibit a task oriented mindset… let’s get from the kitchen to the living room as fast as possible… on the other hand when outside every step seems more deliberate, looking at where she puts her feet, looks at where she puts het foot, study the kid next to the car… study that yellow car and how it differs from the silver one…. In her eyes I can see learning take place; I see mental calculation and acknowledgment of commons and constants… Those two must be the same thing, just a different color… that dog is alive like me just different… it’s not inanimate like that desk but it’s not alive like Dada or Mama or Tre…. she practices her pointing, a new skill she just learnt and that in a way seems like an invitation to me to come into her world and talk…. That ZayZay is an Oak Tree…That, that’s an Acorn….oh that one it’s a Squirrel.

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For a long time I felt the concessions I had to make after Adaeze came were great; loss or reduction from riding 5000miles a year to just 1000 (projected), fewer than 5 annual overnight back packing/skiing trip and loss of the weekend long runs. Now we do quick 10mile bike rides on the tow path with her watching life fly by in her bicycle trailer head crowned by oversize bike helmet, and run 5ks’ with her in the stroller looking up at me when the pace drops and me telling her “you can come push your chubby butt up this hill and let’s see how fast you go”.

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The latest adventure was a family hike up the Maryland Heights a trail in Harpers Ferry West Virginia with about 100ft elevation gain which I did with her on my shoulder going up and her asleep in my arms coming down (I forgot her backpack child carrier). On the drive back we stopped at the overlook and gazed on the awesomeness of Sliding hill the site of my first date with that gorgeous lady Mother Nature and I could sense an impartation a transfer of love, of desire, reverence and appreciation a handing down of passion.

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I never stopped to smell the roses because no one showed me how, is that not what parenting is about, leading, guiding, helping and doing better those things that our parents maybe did not do so great. Ultimately I feel in Nature/outdoors we hear and feel God.
Connect with your little trailblazer outdoors……

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