Posted by: Don Linnen | 15 October 2007

Paluxy Lessons

Life is good! Did a bike ride in the hills around Glen Rose, Texas Saturday. The weather was gorgeous, the vistas beautiful, the long runs down county roads thrilling, the people among the best in the world! And the food was good. Just wished I’d slept better.

Tossed and turned in our B&B the night before the ride called the Paluxy Pedal. Wasn’t sure I could really finish the 45 mile route laid out for us. If I’d be going it alone. If I’d get lost. If I’d have a flat. If I’d make it over “the wall.”

The “wall” is a steep hill….a 19% grade. It is a third of a mile hill climb at about the 22 mile point in the ride.

As usual, my concerns the night before just weren’t that big a deal after the sun came up. Sitting on the banks of the Paluxy River that afternoon, I had time to reflect on my lessons learned. Actually relearned. Somethings just aren’t that new. They just bear repeating. Or maybe I’m just a slow learner.

Lesson numero uno: having a partner makes a HUGE difference. My best buddy, Mark, rode with me the entire way. He wasn’t any more sure of being able to finish than I was. At the go / no go point about 15 miles into the ride, we both agreed to go. And we agreed that if one of us had to ask for help, we’d both ask for help. Sort of a pact to not be too macho. (As an amendment to our pact that we weren’t gonna let a bunch of wienies outride us.)

Lesson numero dos: obstacles can be bigger in your mind than in person. The hill known as “the wall” was a grueling climb physically for this old guy. But it was also a big pysche job. You approach it with a steep hill sign on your right and notice the pavement changes because normal paving of this section is not possible. Your brain tells your legs, “this is not good.”

You start the slow grind upwards and rapidly reach your lowest gear before you’re even half way to the top. You look up to see a curve to the left which means you cannot even see the top. Your brain tells your now burning legs, “this is really not good.”

Your legs yell at your brain, “NO KIDDIN’ MEATHEAD…GET OFF AND WALK RIGHT NOW!”

Your brain half-way listens but keeps your head down trying not to look up in order to postpone disappointment at how much further you have to ride. Your brain also remembers other climbs that were even more disappointing because you quit just before a summit that was closer than you thought.

Your stubborn brain, though totally focused on the moment, looks up one last time, sees the top of the hill, and pleads with the legs, “just a few more turns!” The legs are too tired to talk back.

With the goal in sight, you get a few more strokes from your aching legs and actually make it to the top with a smug smile. You’d dance in celebration except that your legs would totally embarrass you…or by not working, keep you from embarrassing yourself.

These lessons apply to nonprofit organizations as well as to cyclists. Every nonprofit endeavor needs partners, allies, buddies. Can you make it alone? Maybe. But you really can go further and faster with less effort with a good partner you can trust. And if you can do that, you can do more good. (Is it about helping more people, or is it about your ego?)

There will always be hills to climb, some dauntingly steep. But you’ve got to try them. Even when you don’t quite make it one time, it’s great “ammo” for your brain to hang a little tougher a little longer so you can make it the next time. Or the next.

Keep working “heads down,” focusing on the details to make things happen, but don’t forget to look up to see where you’re going. (Do you have a goal and a strategy on how to get there?)

In the meantime, ride safe, have fun, and try not to slobber with that big grin while you’re zooming down hills.

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