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

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

After deliberating with Lessons Learned from a hit and run accident that prevented Lee Waldman from competing in his year long goal of racing in the Cyclocross National Championships, the masters racer examined the strengths and weaknesses of all racers, and using them to create new goals of the season. Today, Waldman looks at the different boulders and roadblocks that get in the way of our goals, and using the metaphorical hammer and chisel to fight against those odds.

by Lee Waldman

There are times in every one of our lives when we are presented with roadblocks. Some are small rockslides, easily swept out of out path. Overtraining, colds, minor aches and pains fall under that heading. If you’ve raced long enough, you’ve no doubt experience one, if not all, of those. But then, there is the proverbial 10 ton boulder that lands right in the middle of the road. If you’re lucky, it doesn’t squash you and then you have a come choices to make. You either go around it, or you blow it up. Either way, it’s not easily ignored so it poses a much bigger and more challenging problem to overcome.

Facing one of those boulders necessitates figuring out how to make it from one day to the next. I, myself, prefer the step-by-step approach. It’s the age-old question, how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. I can’t move the boulder and I don’t have the dynamite to blow it up. So instead I take my hammer and chisel and chip away at the problem, one small piece at a time. This takes patience, a challenge for many, myself included, but the sense of accomplishment when we sweep the pieces aside is well worth the time it takes.

Unfortunately, we need to maintain our sanity and our composure while we are hammering. As athletes, we also need to maintain fitness and that elusive competitive edge. My progress these past couple of years has been blocked by numerous boulders. The first one was my hamstring rupture, followed closely by the death of my father. Just as I was “sweeping up” that mess and feeling pretty good about myself the next boulder landed. My hit-and-run accident on Christmas Day. Six broken ribs, a cracked sternum, broken neck and serious concussion presented a definite downer. The third boulder has been much more pleasant. I have a new granddaughter! Born May 31 and the apple of everyone’s eye. She’s also named after my father. Needless to say, if I didn’t already have a soft spot in my heart for the little peanut, I do now. Like all new babies, she has faced challenges already, but she’s a trooper, like her mom, and she will grow and thrive because she is surrounded by love and caring adults.

My final boulder is possibly the biggest one, and the hardest to handle. My mother, who turns 88 this year, is being ravaged by Alzheimer’s, a brutal and devastating disease. Physically she is still my mom. Mentally, she becomes less so every day. There are bouts of confusion which leads to frustration, anxiety and anger, and that’s just my response. What’s happening inside of her head must be frightening.

So, why share all of this in a magazine devoted to racing cyclocross bikes? We all, unless we’re extremely fortunate, will have, or have had, a boulder or two, or three, block our path at some point. What we do, how we respond, plays a major role in forming us as athletes but equally as important, as people. It will determine how we live our lives. Will we throw our hands up and moan about the unfairness of the hand we’ve been dealt. Will we create a grandiose (and most of the time unsuccessful) scheme to solve the problem. Or will we grab our metaphorical hammer and chisel and create a plan to pound away at the boulder, eventually reducing it to dust.

I sometimes feel a bit sorry for those naturally gifted competitors. Their gifts rarely result in the opportunity for them to have to hammer away at a problem. Everything, at least in the competitive part of their lives, comes so easily that they might not understand what the rest of us go through just to try to keep up with them. Don’t get me wrond, I’d love to have that innate ability. It would make my life as a cross racer better in some ways. But, it would make it worse in others. I’ve had to learn how to train, how to rest, how to be strategic in each race, carefully guarding my energy “bank account” so I still have something to withdraw during the final lap or two. I’ve come to relish the opportunity to overcome the challenges I’ve faced by being “blessed” if you will, with average ability coupled with an overabundance of stubbornness. It’s given me the chance to meet challenges that more gifted athletes don’t see very often. And when I meet, and overcome them, my self-esteem and my confidence soars.

In spite of all the boulders that have landed in my path over the last few years, I haven’t once entertained the thought of giving up. Admittedly, it has gotten harder every time. These most recent challenges, my mom and my neck, have proven the most difficult to overcome. Perhaps more difficult because one of them is a challenge that I have no control over. Every other time I’ve been faced with a roadblock I’ve been able to get through it simply by refusing to give in approaching every day as one more step in the process. This is different. But I have my hammer, my chisel, and a plan. Rather than giving in to the hand of cards that the Universe is asking me play, I’ve decided to take control. Instead of rolling over hosting a pity party for myself, I’ve found challenges to prove, mainly to myself, that I not only can recover, but I can grow stronger. Because, to my way of thinking, meeting and overcoming these challenges is my one was to say not only the the person that hit me, but to the Universe in general, “I may be down, but I’m definitely not out!”

Challenge #1. Crusher in the Tushar. I’ve heard from many people, that it’s one of the hardest days that they have ever spent on a bike. 70 miles and over 10,000 feet of elevation gain. What better place to prove to myself that I can come back from a series of set backs than to meet such a challenge head on?

Challenge #2. The Leadville 100 mountain bike race. It’s no doubt a classic and the folks at BOA Industries have been kind enough to support me in riding this race. I submitted a piece to them in response to their “Ride that Changed it All” contest and was lucky enough to win. So now I’ll be riding Leadville on August 15.

So, two “opportunities” to pound away at those boulders currently blocking my path. I’m not sure what “success” will look like in either of these events. I do have some goals, none that I’m willing to share right now. After each I’ll let you know if I’ve met them, or not. Does it really matter though? What does matter is that I haven’t given up, or given in. I’m chipping away at the things that are blocking my path, one piece at a time. What I do know is that when I’m done I’ll be ready to sweep the pieces out of the way and move on and I hope that one of the results is a successful season of cyclocross. Keep your fingers crossed. I’ll keep you updated along the way.

Now, go ride your bikes. Stop reading and go ride.