Man on a mission: Lee Waldman looking forward to his return. © Picasa

Man on a mission: Lee Waldman looking forward to his return. © Picasa

Last December, Lee Waldman was involved in a hit-and-run on Christmas morning, leaving him in the hospital with six broken ribs, a cracked sternum and a crack in his vertebrae. He has since been recovering from the accident, contributing some lessons learned and other columns. Today his message comes directly from his journal entries earlier this month. He wanted to share his thoughts, and he only edited out the extremely personal portions. In his words, “I hope it resonates with you.”

March 6, 2015: I just recently read this quote from a Mary Oliver poem titled “The Summer Day:”

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do,

with your one wild and precious life?”

I read it, thought about it, realized that some things are put in our paths for a reason, and then read it over a number of times. Then I thought. . .What have I learned over the past 18 months, between my hamstring and my hit and run that’s determined, or re-determined my plans for my one wild and precious life. Because, even though I’d like to hope that this isn’t my only spin on the carousel, I’m not sure. So, if this is my one shot, what can I do to make it a good one?

Part of the rehabilitation from my hit and run has been regular visits with a sports psychologist. What started off as an assessment of whether or not I was suffering from any level of PTSD, has turned in to an opportunity for self-examination and reflection. Being a cyclist herself, she has some incredible insights into athletic performance, specifically cycling. At the conclusion of each session, I’m given a homework assignment. Just recently I was charged with coming up with an answer to this question: Why do I deserve to win?

Why do I deserve to win? Interesting question because I don’t believe that anyone, including me, deserves to win at anything. I think, rather, that we earn the right to succeed and sometimes to win. We do that in some very specific ways: through focus, through consistency in training and in racing, through working hard at craft even when it’s difficult and the results aren’t readily apparent. We earn it also through perseverance, through study and yes, through pure joy in the experience and unrestrained enthusiasm. Looking at them honestly, I can almost admit that I have earned the right to win, or at least to be consistently competitive. After all, even Sven Nys doesn’t win all the time.

I asked myself: Am I focused? Absolutely! If you were to ask Caren, my wife, or my daughters who have seen me through more than one setback, here’s what they would say: For sure! I can be almost myopic, too focused. Perhaps dedicated might be a better choice of words; whether it’s been cycling, my avocation, teaching, my profession, dance, my connection to Caren, when I commit to something, I am all in, 100%. And because of that I willingly put in the requisite work to improve.

I’m a student of craft whether in learning the technique and strategies of cyclocross, road racing, dance, and teaching. I practice regularly to make sure that the technique is second nature, when I need to call on it. I don’t give up.

I’ve been knocked down, as we all have, as a teacher, by my students, as a dancer, by the difficulty of the techniques and most certainly as a cyclist. Yet I get up, put one foot in front of the other, and move forward.

When I commit to something I study it. All one has to do is examine my book shelf to confirm that. I am, after all, a learner.

And finally, there is the joy. No matter what the weather conditions, or the training demands of the day, there’s usually a smile on my face.

It’s obvious to anyone who has read my columns that racing cyclocross is one of the things that I’ve chosen to do with this one wild and precious life. I’ll do it for as long as I can. To the chagrin of the people who love me, I have no plans to quit. Being an athlete keeps me young, and because I’ve chosen to focus on it, to be committed to learning the craft, I’ve earned the right to be good at it.

Considering how I try to live my life, giving 100%, if there is such a thing as earning the right to be successful, possibly I’ve earned that right.

March 8: I took my first ride outside yesterday. It was my first since Christmas day and it felt wonderful. I’ll have to admit, I was more than a bit nervous at first. Every time I imagined getting back on the road I’d gotten butterflies in my stomach. But, I surprised myself. It took maybe 30 seconds for me to feel perfectly comfortable on the bike again. Although, I have to say, I’m much more cognizant of the world around me now. I hear everything and I never enter an intersection without staring down each and every driver on a side street that’s waiting for me.

Before I went out, Caren and I talked. She had just finished recording her version of my accident and the impact it had on her. For the first time, I understood how horrible it had been, and continues to be for her. The accident rocked her world. She was the one forced to listen to the doctors’ assessment of my injuries and my prognosis. The details aren’t important here. Suffice it to say, it was pretty bleak at first.

After many tears and hugs, I explained why it was important for me to get back on the road and to do that sooner rather than later. I was afraid that if I didn’t, then the fear and trepidation would get so big that I might not be able to. I also refused to let the jerk who hit me ever win. My riding outside was one way to announce, to myself primarily, that I was victorious over the driver and over the fears that were festering. I also explained that I wanted to be a role model for her, to support her getting back on her bike, something that she isn’t ready to do just yet. She understood. She’s still nervous, but understands.

March 9: I was thinking, the other day, again as a response to that same homework assignment, about a video that four of my cyclocross friends made and sent to me from Austin. I don’t think that I really let it sink in when I watched it the first time because missing Nats. And getting hurt was still too raw. But now when I think about it, it was full of caring and concern.

They all made it abundantly clear that they missed my presence there and that they felt that, had I been there, I would have had a good ride. That part was reaffirming because it answered the question, again, of what makes me think I’ve earned the right to be competitive. I’ve gained the respect of men (and women) who I respect and that’s incredibly important. I have to believe that they wouldn’t have said the things they did, if they didn’t believe them. If I haven’t said it publicly yet, to them and to everyone who expressed their sorrow and concern, I’m saying it now. THANK YOU.

So, to answer the question; there are some very good reasons why I’ve earned the right to be vying for wins. Now, my question is, how do I remind myself of that when I’m standing on the line waiting to be called up to the start? And maybe the answer is in the thinking that I just did. Maybe I should have “I earned this” tattooed on my quad!

O.K. enough reading. Get out there and ride your bikes.