Thursday, November 6, 2014

Signs Of Maturity

I’ve never really liked asking for help.  When I was younger, I either acted like I already knew everything (just to try and quickly figure it out later) or I pretended like I didn’t give a shit about whatever it was in the first place.  As I started getting up there in years, that happened less and less.  With The Internets around, it became easier to learn stuff on the fly.  I would learn just enough to not seem like a dumbass, and then solicit answers to the details from my peers.  While this approach seemed a little unorthodox, it worked quite a bit.  Looking back though, it was mostly luck.  Just gather a little bit of knowledge, ask around like I already had the answers, then point myself in that direction. 

Still, asking a real person to teach me something from the beginning was something I wasn’t ready to admit I needed.

The guitar is the perfect example.  I bought an acoustic about twelve years ago and said, “I’ll teach myself to play.”  I wasn’t about to pay someone to teach me, especially since I could buy books and videos that would work “just as well.”  This was before all those “Teach Yourself To Play” videos started popping up on YouTube.  Guess what?  That shit didn’t work.

I would pick it up, try for about ten minutes, and put it away for a month.  This continued for years, until the little lady threatened to buy me lessons.  I quickly taught myself one song, because I sure as shit didn’t want to go to class not knowing a damn thing.  When I showed up for my first lesson, I was nervous.  I thought, “Why did I wait until I was in my forties to get lessons?  The instructor is gonna make fun of me.”

Well, he didn’t.

Almost a year later, I can actually play.  I was put at ease on the very first lesson, where I learned first and foremost that it’s okay to be a student at my (advanced) age.  I likened the lessons to my bike riding, knowing that I would have to put in the work if I wanted to actually get good at it.  I practice the guitar, but I never really “practiced” riding my bike.  I just got better at it uh, accidentally.

I rode for quite a few years in Florida before we moved here to NC.  The change in terrain immediately made me a better rider.  More climbing, rocks, and changes in the weather had me working harder but I didn’t realize it.  Once I started racing, I sorta learned as I went.  After a year, I started seeing some success.  A few podium trips every year, some huge fitness gains, and my skill level skyrocketed.  All by accident, since I wasn’t on any sort of training plan. 

Racing my way into shape every season eventually took its toll on me.  I became burned out, and took this year off (mostly) to just have some fun.  The truth is though, it was a cop out.  I was being lazy.  Sure, I was having fun being the party guy, the heckler, the asshole, but pushing myself in a race was a good feeling that I had forgotten about.  The few times I did line up to race, it hurt so bad that it didn’t feel like fun.  “Maybe I’m not a racer”, I thought.  “Maybe I just want to ride for fun.”

Well, racing was fun to me.  And all this “fun” riding I’ve been doing hasn’t been very fun anyway since it’s been full of suffering.  Being in not so great shape due to a lack of competition made those leisurely rides tougher, and something I loved to do was starting to be a chore.  Well, in my old age I realized that it’s okay to ask for help.  You know to at least get me back to where I was (or close, anyway.)

So, this past Tuesday I started on a new adventure:

Photo credit:  Chad Andrews

Yeah, that’s me.  The big, goofy dude up there in the middle.  I put my ego aside and asked for help, signing up for the TotalCyclist Winter Training Series.  A lot of my friends have done it (as well as the little lady), so I know it works.  Just like my guitar lessons though, I’ll get as much out of this as I put in it.  Even though I’ve been lazy this last year, I’ve never had an issue with being fast or strong (if I worked at it.)  I just can’t seem to put everything together.  I burn out quickly, and that makes the suffer factor even higher.  Even on short, fun rides. 

Do I expect to dominate races next season?  Hardly.  I do expect to improve though, and hopefully even my fun rides will benefit.  With just one class in (out of six), I can see that I’ve made the right decision.  It was fun, difficult, and very informative as far as my fitness goes.  Sure, I’m “training” now, but that doesn’t mean that the fun will stop.  I just needed to focus again.

Don’t worry, I’ll still be the asshole you all know and love.

I just need a little help.  Not with the asshole part, of course.  Maybe (hopefully) I’ll be a little bit better bike rider.

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