Camaraderie: You Can’t Fake This

Our message to the cold winter back home.


After spending a week in the sun-kissed, humid, and sweaty state of Florida (all those adjectives described my time, not the state as a whole), I’m coming home feeling good. Not just because I rode the hell out of my bike, gained fitness, or got a crazy tan (and raised my skin cancer risk by .001%), but because I witnessed the acts of camaraderie that I seek. The belly-laughing, good-natured, hanging-the-fuck-out attitude that all too often gets swept up by jobs, obligations, school, and stress in our constant hustle and bustle life.

Why is camaraderie important to me? Because face-to-face social interaction is one of the keys to a long, healthy life. I often think of Dan Buettner and his book Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who’ve Lived the Longest. A Suite101 article about the book says this:

…Buettner stresses the importance of being present and investing time into sustaining personal relationships. He encourages everyone to follow what centenarians have unknowingly adopted as a way of life long before research was able to prove it. “Your friends are long-term adventures,” he declares, “and therefore, perhaps the most significant thing you can to add more years to your life, and life to your years.”

I think this even applies to acquaintances, or even a random person on the street – a face-to-face interaction is a thousand times better than any tweet, e-mail, or wall post. What struck me about my trip is that while it would have been easy of me to be critical of my new cycling partners’ habits, be it meat-eating, religious views, or conservative political viewpoints, their disposition was just happy.

After every ride they would sit around in the pool, or in front of the TV, using it merely for noise as they shared stories of their lives, reminisced about the ride, or simply commented on the warm weather and its beauty as compared to our colder Midwestern lives. As I floated in and out of those rendezvous, I saw that this isn’t a new process – they’ve built these friendships on a common ground (cycling), but have sustained them through joy.

I can’t criticize happiness, and you can’t fake it. We have to take an active role in our social life (while still recognizing the time for solitude) and maintain those relationships that cause us to laugh deep, smile wide, and offer to wash not just your plate, but the entire house’s – just because you feel like it’s the right thing to do.

Mindset is such a huge part of cycling, and a trip like this did more than just put 500 miles under my legs: it showed me that our sport is one that allows the victor to embrace the loser after a race, and for two battling teams to train together in the off-season, all because we love it so much. That makes me feel good, and when I feel good, I ride great!

Power of Will

From the training "god" himself.

Busy, busy, busy. I’ve been so busy. Yet, I still find time to train. Going to the gym, riding mountain bikes in the snow, getting my road bike covered with grime – it all adds up to fitness and an excellent 2011 cycling season. My cycling team just launched its website: Clarksville Schwinn Racing and if you really want to show some support, you can “like” us on Facebook.

Finding the time to work-out is difficult, and though I’m primarily motivated by fitness, racing on a team – and training together – makes the effort that much sweeter. Many people are surprised to learn that cycling is a team sport, at least, the road discipline that I frequent. Drafting, blocking, pacing: it all requires the team to work together for the goal of winning the race. So while I love my team, and train for both them and me, winter still presents a challenge. Really, life does, as the casual athlete won’t plan a day or weekend around a ride, or train upwards of 15 hours a week (and this is on the amateur side).

I like to use the word “will” because it conjures up this Magic card (nerd alert!) which in a very twisted way allows you to prevent harm by sacrificing one of your “life points.” In real we don’t sacrifice life but time, and with that comes perception: the perception that we must sacrifice time to do something else we love. But what if we loved everything we do? Is that even possible? Maybe.

I also like to use the word “will” because it is just that: you will yourself to work hard, to train, to fight back, to conquer life and become a champion. This isn’t just about racing around on bike, but any challenge and consequent goal you set for yourself. Will, and mindset….their crucial nature can’t be understated. Force of will, power of will. Let’s “power through” as Micheal Bluth would say to his son. We have to power through, we have to will it to be done, because there’s no other choice. You don’t give up, or stop, or find something else to do. You just get it done.

Alchemy Goods and Instructables

tube bag

Even when flat, inner tubes are still useful! (Alchemy Goods' recycled inner tube messenger bag) (src)

Bike inner tubes are a wonderful thing – durable when you need them to be, light, and able to take upwards of 200 PSI at times! However, they all eventually flat, even with the best of tires.

Luckily, we have places like Alchemy Goods who come up with all sorts of creative ways to re-use these things. They are a company dedicate to upcycling and use quite a bit of once-used rubber in their products. In their own words:

While medieval alchemists sought to turn lead into gold, we strive to turn useless stuff like blown-out inner tubes, old seatbelts and advertising banners into useful stuff like bags and wallets. Another word for this is upcycling. Recycling turns stuff into the same thing over and over again. Upcycling turns something of lesser value into something of greater value.

Back in October they partnered up with Instructables, a “web-based documentation platform where passionate people share what they do and how they do it, and learn from and collaborate with others.” A lot of the green blogs I subscribe to are constantly linking to Instructables’ various projects, usually with good visual documentation of how to do whatever it is they’re showing: a rainwater collection system, a breath-powered USB charger (really?), or even a duct-tape winter coat.

So when I found the “Make laced shoes into slip-ons with inner tubes” project, needless to say, I was pretty stoked. I have tubes laying around, and even some junky shoes that I still wear on occasion. Turns out, this project was the winner of the Alchemy Goods “Inner Tube Reuse Contest” along with a giant roller stamp using inner tubes and a rolling pin (crazy!). If you visit the project page you’ll see my comment and version below. What a cool use of a busted tube – now I just need about 10 more pairs of shoes to turn into slip-ons (the project only used about 1/10 of a tube; ha!)

Help Alison Delgado

A friend of mine has put together and online donation page for Alison Delgado, a cyclist and physician from Cincinnati who was tragically struck by a car a couple weeks ago and barely made it out alive. As she recovers, he hopes that fellow cyclists, or just those with a big heart, will help offset her and her family’s medical expenses. Through Ride For World Health, and organization I participated in earlier this year, the donations are tax-deductible.

On October 16th, Alison was riding on Cincinnati’s East Side when she was struck by a car. She’s still being treated at Cincinnati’s University Hospital for the multiple, critical injuries that she sustained. Along with her husband, Resident Physician Tim Delgado, she is an avid cyclist, racing in both road and cyclocross events. She also loves hiking and backpacking. The outdoors aren’t her only passion- she is a Resident Pediatrician at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. Alison is a very bright and outgoing person, so please help wipe away one more needless worry from Tim and Alison’s plate as they focus on Alison’s recovery.

As a fellow cyclist I can only imagine something like this happening. We take our safety on the road for granted sometimes, not remembering that many automobile drivers just don’t understand how to “share the road.” It’s very sad. If you can help Alison and her family in any way, please donate.

Self-Deception For The Win

One of the few podcasts I regularly listen to is Radiolab, and despite its questionably outrageous editing, they cover some really cool topics. Every time I put it on I know I’m going to be sucked in for the next hour. While I found this episode only recently, the podcast entitled Deception is from 2008. What’s it all about?

We look at lies, liars, and lie catchers, and ask: can you lead a life without deception? We consult a cast of characters, from pathological liars to lying snakes to drunken psychiatrists, to try and understand the dark trait of deception.

I’m sure this topic applies to most people, even if you feel you’re quite the upstanding, honest citizen through and through. Surely you’ve dealt with liars or had some dramatic issue occur where someone purposely deceived you to gain something. It’s not fun. But it’s the third section of the podcast really got me excited because it deals with self-deception and sport performance.

A couple psychiatrists set up this questionnaire that they used to find out if people were prone to self-deception, based on a set of 20 “embarrassing” questions. See the questionnaire here. This was back in the 70s, but in 1991, two psychologists at Colgate University used the same study to examine a team of elite swimmers preparing to qualify for a national championship. The study was titled “Self-Deception and Its Relationship to Success in Competition” and came to the conclusion that:

Overall, the results were consistent with the proposition that self-deception enhances motivation and performance during competition.

I thought this was pretty significant, for a couple reasons. One, I pride myself on being honest and rational, and to hear something like that, especially when I’m training 10-15 hours per week to race bikes, is quite the counter-intuitive blow! Second, I think this idea works in perfectly to the peril of doping in professional cycling, that is, taking performance enhancing drugs. It’s a huge scandal, year after year, and I always wondered – if so many of them really do it, how can they live with themselves? How can they effectively “cheat” and yet savor victory? Perhaps they are exceptionally good at self-deception. In their own words, cyclists have said:

It was a like a train going away from me, and if I didn’t get on it I would be left behind. It was not cheating. I wanted to remain in the family.

In the podcast, host Robert Krulwich sums up the research by suggesting that if you are exceptionally good at denying the facts of the real world around you, chances are you’ll do better in business, working with teenagers, and in general being happy. As one athlete said, when it’s time to compete, “leave your head at home today.”