Props to Carmen and Abby for riding the 50-mile Tour of Saints yesterday (and our neighbors Gary and Annie). We managed to beat the hottest part of the day, which was very good, but 50 miles is still 50 miles. The ride was beautiful--undulating hills and verdant, central Minnesota countryside. There were about 700 people who made either the 35-mile or the 50-mile ride and the feeling of shared accomplishment was thick in the air at the finish.
The three of us--Team Prine--worked together all morning; encouraging, drafting, pulling at the front of the line. We had a few sections of the ride where we were in the groove together and humming along like a well-oiled machine. Other sections (mostly hills) were places where we each set our own pace until we crested the hill.
When we could work together, the ride was "better." Easier, more energy, friendly banter, singing. The miles were not shorter, but covering them seemed to go more quickly. What was true in the ride also seems to be true in most of the rest of life. When we can work together toward a common goal, our way is easier.
When we paint at our house one of us cuts in and the other uses the roller. When we are doing woodworking projects, one of us builds and the other finishes. Working as a team trumps going it alone.
On my faith journey, when I try to go it alone, I tend to have a harder time than when I am connected with others who are moving in the same direction. Granted, sometimes it can be distracting waiting for others or trying to catch up. But as a general rule, together is better than alone.
Friday, July 15, 2011
Last night was my first night of racing at the National Sports Center Velodrome. I have ridden a bike since I was a little kid, but nothing like last night. I have never ridden as fast on the flats (or ever felt as fast--even downhill). Over the past month and a half I completed the "Introductory Track Class" and even went to the track for a couple of open riding sessions. But lining up with about 13 other riders for the 10-lap Scratch Race was unlike anything else. That was followed up by the two-lap Chariot Race--where racers go all out for two laps (500 meters) from a standing start. The night was bike riding, but at the same time, not bike riding as I have ever known it. Although I have known how to ride a bike for decades, now I am beginning to know how to race.
Familiar, but Different.
Start with the bike. My regular road bike has 24 gears, front and rear brakes, and I can coast if I want to. My track bike (NSC #3) has one gear, no brakes, and is fixed--meaning no coasting. When the wheel is going around so are the pedals.
Next the riding surface. Most of my riding around my hometown is on country roads with the occasional rails-to-trails paved path. The National Sports Center velodrome (www.nscsports.org/cycling) is a 250 meter oval made of wood. The turns are banked at 43 degrees and the straights are banked at 15 degrees. At a certain slowness of speed (which I have not yet found), the bike will fall off of the track. The track is seven meters wide all the way around.
Finally the event. Thursday Night Lights is the NSC's summer-long series of racing nights. Anyone with a US Cycling Federation license can participate, although previous track-riding experience is a practical prerequisite. Last night's events varied in length from 500 meters (two-laps) to a 40 lap race. Other racing nights will have different events, but most for my level of rider (Cat 4/5) will be in this range. Most of my past riding has been by myself or friendly rides with friends and family. If the pace was too fast for someone in the group, we would slow the pace. If someone needed to stop and rest, we would do so. Not so last night. If the pace is too fast--get out of the way. If you want to rest--wait until the race is over. There are winners and losers and there are no "participant" ribbons.
On the way home I thought about how my night of racing relates to my work. For my day job I am a lawyer who helps my clients fulfill their discovery obligations in lawsuits and government investigations--specifically as it relates to the company's electronic information (such as, email, documents, databases). Earlier in my career as a commercial litigator, I did a lot of work with discovery--it is familiar. But as I have developed my information law practice over the past several years, I have learned that electronic information discovery is as dissimilar to my old discovery practice as track racing is to road riding.
Some aspects look familiar (the bike still has two wheels, pedals, and handlebars), but woe to the person who assumes that the similarities at one level mean that all is the same. (Imagine the surprise if you wanted to coast, only to find that your legs kept moving.) On the track and in my law practice, special skills are required to avoid a crash.
Last night's racing was pretty exciting--I will be going back. I also take great pleasure in serving my clients with the specialized knowledge and expertise that helps them to navigate a familiar looking, but different frontier. Without panic or crashing.