Friday, December 26, 2008

Choices & Opportunity

Life is a constant stream of choices and opportunities. The choices we make and the opportunities we take largely determine the course our life will follow. Today I rode with some kids that are charting a course for great things. I doubt they have any idea what amazing opportunities are being laid out before them, but one day they will. In 20 years they will look back and realize how incredible their parents were for leading them on a journey that shaped their lives in such a positive way.

Surely I'm not the only one that often thinks, "if only I had done such and such as a kid, then I..." When we are kids, we don't know we're supposed to be paying attention to the opportunities before us. We don't know that every little tiny choice we make can have major consequences down the road. That's why we have parents to direct our path, which appears to me to be a particularly hard job.

Fast forward through my life 44 years to today, and you can easily see where my choices and opportunities have led me. The day after Christmas with no where to go, I had 4 choices for the day's activity. I could ride by myself because Raja is under the weather, join MarkD at Blankets for a mtn bike ride, join the atlbike group for a road ride, or go shopping. Shopping is never really an option, so it was a matter of road riding or mtn biking.

I'm making the choice these days to do more road riding since it tends to yield me greater physical benefits for when I do choose to mtn bike. 2008 was not a year of many hours on the road bike, and it is definitely showing. It's all about choices. If I want to have more fun when riding in the dirt, I need to be in better shape. If I want to get in better shape, then I need to ride the road bike.

Sending out an email to a few choice knobby tire friends, I managed to only entice one in joining me for a skinny tire ride. Robb was sporting a purdy new Blue bike and had enjoyed his first road ride experience, and he was ready for more. I had not expected him to be so eager to join in, so I did not have time to debrief him, give a pep talk, or explain the intricate workings within the quirky life of roadiedom. He was going to be thrown to the lions and all I could do was pray that his choice would prove to be a good opportunity.

There were about 35 riders ranging in age from 10yrs old to 51yrs old all waiting at the Brewery parking lot in the chilly morning air. I was delighted to see many familiar faces I have not seen in a long time: Brent, Robin, Hillbilly, Rod, Barry, Alexis, Wendy, MarkT, MarkO, Sweetwater.

As we readied for the ride, I noticed a number of little fellas milling about, so I could not resist making their acquaintance. I met Matt, Nick, and Mikey, the junior cyclists of our group.

Nick is MarkO's son, and I knew that Mark had been working with Nick for a couple of years on the bike already. Nick is 10! I was told that Matt is a triathlon champion and Mikey does track. These were not your typical little boys out to play with daddy on the bike. I cannot put into words how delighted and thrilled I was to witness this event.

With a nice consistent pace, we managed to keep the pack together for the whole first half of the ride. Even though the streets were wet, it did not dampen our spirits.

We were rolling along, and I said to Rlaz, "where's my boy? I don't see Robb, where is he?" My panic was short lived when I realized he was riding up front cruising along sandwiched quietly between riders. Last night, Robb emailed to ask if "baggies" were allowed on the ride, which made me encourage him to wear them all the more. I was so proud to see him riding alongside everyone else in perfect form sporting a fine pair of mtn bike baggies.

This was my first time to ride the new Beautiful Backroads route. I like this route much better and think it's even prettier. I was really enjoying the lack of hills on the ride. The relatively flat course made for perfect spinning at a winter pace.

Riding beside Barry, I heard him say to Cam, "this is that fun road, isn't it?" I knew that meant, "this is that fun fast downhill road." Cam replied, "Yea, come on, let's go." So I jumped on their wheel as they started to sprint. I can't climb fast, but I can give it my best shot at warp speed pursuit on a fast road. So I was grinning on the inside as I anticipated the upcoming roller coaster ride in their wake.

Three short hills later after I dropped one of my lungs on the road, I said, "guys, this isn't a downhill!!!!!" Yea, thanks, they had gotten their roads mixed up and miscalculated at my expense. Time for me to sit up with my tail between my legs and wait for the pack to carry me to safety.

Other than the pseudo downhill, a brief scare from a charging deer and a long stint with SuperDog running along with us for miles, the ride was uneventful. Cam and Barry tried to lead the dog back home, but it refused to give up a chance to play with them so they had to eventually outsprint it. Sounds pretty easy, huh? This dog was like the Bionic Canine and surely on EPO. We were all amazed at its speed and determination to do the entire ride with us.

No one handed out any favors to the young cyclists, and Nick and Matt rode in line with the rest of us like they were pros.

At one point, I think Nick was wanting a little sympathy help and I expected his dad to crumble like a cookie giving in to his pleas. But Mark didn't bat an eye, spoke firmly to Nick and they carried on strong as could be. Impressive.

At times the pace would pick up a bit, but Nick and Matt dug deep and never broke stride. If you've ever ridden in a pack of 35 riders for 3 hours, you realize what a truly impressive feat this is for these boys. They were holding their own in a sea of experienced adult cyclists. As far as their future is concerned, these boys are going places. They may not choose to be pro cyclists, but the discipline they are learning now will carry them far in any area of their life. Ride on!!!

We stopped midway at a typical little Georgia backroads store to regroup and refuel. Cam and Barry caught up after their multi-mile backtrack to send Bionic Dog back home and we continued on with the ride. A quick check over my shoulder, and I could see my new charge was hanging on fine.

The forecast had said warmer temps of 60 and sunshine breaking through midday. Was it my imagination, or was it getting darker and colder? I had on my winter Sidis, so I was good despite the illusion of dropping temps. The pack seemed to get more serious as the tendency to drop in line, nose to wheel, grew more frequent. JeffL was content to act as the freight train as he pulled us through the wind that was strangely growing stronger. Had we consulted the weather forecast for the wrong state?

I was secretly hoping someone would have a flat or that BionicDog would appear so we could slow down. In silence we picked up speed on the zippy road as I tried to keep pace while ignoring an occasional grimace from my protesting legs. Beside me, Alexis was rolling her eyes at the increasing pace. She knew this wasn't a proper winter pace, but we still were too stubborn to back off.

As we made a right hand turn, I realized there weren't many riders behind me. Hmmm, Robb wasn't in front of me, and I can't see him behind me. Uh oh. It's not cool to invite someone to a ride and then go off without them. I told Alexis I was turning around to make sure everything was okay.

I was mortified that all this had taken place, and just knew that this would be the end of Robb's desire to ever join me for a road ride again. "Stupid roadies, just leave me hanging out here to dry, can't we help each other out like we do on mtn bike rides." These are the things I imagine he's thinking by now.

As I was riding back, I realized how stupid I was being since I had not been paying attention to the route. Now I wouldn't know where to turn to backtrack. Just as I made a wrong turn I heard someone holler, "No Laurie!" Without me even asking, Barry and Alexis had also turned around to join me as well. Maybe this won't turn out to be so bad afterall!

I breathed a sigh of relief when Robb came into view riding with Pete, Wendy, and Micah. Robb had gotten unhitched from the pack for a second, and that was all it took to mess up his momentum. Never underestimate the power of riding in a pack. It reduces your workload by 20%. If you're new to the game, it's hard to get back on the train.

Pete can ride a bike all day and night (literally), and without prompting had taken Robb under his wing. I sat back and watched as he coached him along making sure his first experience was a positive one.

An Opportunity had arisen for something good or something bad to happen, and choices were made for good. I was feeling so good about my choice in riding today. Not that anything in particular was happening for me, but that my confidence in the camaraderie in the Roadie Kingdom was being restored. Robb and I belong to a very special tight knit band of mtn bike friends that make it their goal to see that every ride is a memorable for all involved. What we have does not happen in many circles, so my heart was warmed at the show of support and encouragement displayed before me.

Micah's derailleur cable was buggered, and he couldn't get out of his big ring. He was having a struggle as well. No one was making a big deal about anything and there was no discussion on what to do or who will help. Barry just stepped up to the plate and provided his assistance.

Then it just got downright contagious.

Robb was rejuvenated and wasn't about to let go of a wheel this time. We were on the homestretch and I was so proud of him and everybody in my group!

By now we had all agreed the temperature had dropped instead of risen during our ride. Closing in on 3 hrs riding in the cold and dreary weather, I wouldn't have guessed I'd be a happy camper at this point, but I was!

In fact, both Robin and I were "the happiest girls in the whole USA!"

I had gotten in a great workout amongst friends, made new friends, and introduced a friend to a new opportunity. I never got a chance to help him out with advice, because everyone else was doing it for me!

His 2nd ride on a road bike and he knocks out 52 miles with no problem! Uh oh, I've got a problem on my hands. He's my friend, but I still have that nasty competitive streak hiding inside. Just one more cyclist I've got to keep up with now!

MarkO was beaming with pride over Nick's incredible ride finishing with the pack, and Matt's parents were proud as well. I was happy for MarkO since he was getting to see the fruits of his labor and sacrifice pay off today in his son's accomplishment. They both have much in which to take pride, and I salute them.

I didn't have anything to do with it, but I felt proud of "my boy", Robb:-)

It was freezing outside and the wind was whipping up, but we still all hung around afterwards laughing and being entertained by Hillbilly.

It would have been perfect if only Raja had been here. Poor thing, he's going stir crazy at home. I told everyone not to post on the forum what a good ride it was, but they did it anyway;-) I don't want him to feel left out. Thanks for all the well wishes from everyone to Raja. He misses you all!

Hillbilly put together a fun video of our great day on the bike.

I'm looking forward to tomorrow's adventure and hopefully the weather will cooperate. I finally get to ride with Racey Tracey and the gang. We're doing the Snake Time Trial course, but this time my Choice is to do the 17 miler. It's an Opportunity to be with friends and being with friends always leads me to great places.

Postnote: Here are some pics from the great ride we ended up having Saturday at the Snake in Dalton, GA. Robin and Ony experience the Snake for the first time and rode like champions. Millhouse nailed it on his rigid singlespeed and wowed us all with his strength and skill. I definitely learned that doing the 17 miler is much more enjoyable than the full 34 miles like we did last month!


Anonymous said...

so many biker; bikers paradise is it
bike storage in garage

Gene Nacey said...

Very nice post - I especially loved how much you peppered the account with pics - something near and dear to me! Good job. If you find yourself stuck indoors as the weather doesn't cooperate from time to time, you also might want to check out the new line of VIRTUAL CYCLING dvds from Global Ride. They are the next best thing to taking the "real deal" outside. You can check them out at

Andrea said...

I know exactly what you mean. Our friend's son Billy is already tearing up the cyclocross course and mountain bike trails. He's a force to be reckoned with at 8! Everytime I see him riding, I always think "if only I had started riding when I was his age instead of when I was already in my 30s, maybe I wouldn't be so slow." I guess I just have to keep riding and try to catch up.

Bob McEnaney said...

Awesome blog and post. Just found it today. Love the photos!