by Lee Waldman
“Stop looking for it, and start listening for it.”
My wife shared this bit of wisdom with me this afternoon as we were spinning down the bike path, her on her road bike and me on my ’cross bike. It was 84 degrees and it was April Fools’ Day. No joke! But, with full knowledge that the joke was going to be played out the very next day with a forecasted 40 degree shift in temperature, we were taking advantage of the day. As we rode, we talked about retirement. It’s in both of our plans to finish our current careers a year from this June. Being the worrier that I am, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what kind of work I’ll be able to find once I’m finally done as a public school teacher.
Caren, my wife, is without a doubt the more intelligent of the two of us and her words of wisdom were meant to calm me down a bit. They did. I began to realize that the harder that I try to make anything happen in my life, the more forcefully the Universe pushes back against my efforts. I inevitably find myself making bad choices, being more reactive than responsive. In the panoply of my weak points, impulsiveness ranks right up there close to the top. And you know, like everything else in my life, there’s a connection here to cycling. Are you surprised?
Patience! Patience is the key, the lesson that I regularly need to learn. It’s the theme to success on the bike as well as in life. Patience is the thing that must necessarily drive us in our approach to training and racing.
I think you’ll agree that although we race for a variety of reasons, we all crave success. Now, just what success is might look different for each of us. When I started racing, success meant not getting lapped and pulled from each and every Cat 4 race that I started. Once I learned how to finish a race, success then meant finishing in the top half, then top 10, and finally, sprinting for the win!
Success in cyclocross at first meant getting on and off the bike and not looking or feeling like a complete Bozo while doing so. It also meant remounting without incapacitating myself (if you know what I mean). That accomplished, it meant not being the last guy across the line. I realize now how far I’ve come when I think back to what brought me to begin writing this column two years ago. It was partially focused on my pursuit of a podium place at Nationals. The mere fact that I could even entertain such thoughts shows me how far I’ve come. And believe me, it didn’t come easily. It took years of focused training, accepting the setbacks along the way, learning from my mistakes, watching, looking, and listening. Listening to myself. Knowing when I needed to rest, to give myself a break, to push, to ask for advice, to learn from others, to learn from myself. Patience and time. I was looking, but in a much deeper way. In a more committed way.
We can look for success and simply sit back and wait for it, telling ourselves that we deserve it. Or we can find our successes along the way, complimenting ourselves for our achievements and yet continuing to strive for the next level. Listening to that voice that drives all of us who are competitors to keep progressing, keep improving, keep striving for the next level. Not listening to the naysayer within ourselves or the ones on the outside that try to convince us that we are either too old, too short on talent or … whatever, to be successful.
Now is the perfect time of the season to tap in and to start listening. Listening and being open and willing to see the positives in what we’ve accomplished. For those are truly the things that will keep us going, keep us improving, allow us to look and see that we are reaching our potential even if it is one small step at a time. One of my favorite books is Bird by Bird by Annie Lamont. It’s a book about writing, but it’s also a book about patience and belief in ourselves. If you haven’t read it, I suggest that you do. And when you’re done …
Go ride your bike!