Slow and steady improvement

So its been a few months since I started training for the RBC GranFondo in Whistler.  I have to say, I am even more in love with cycling than I was before. Funny how a sport can become such a vital part of your life.  It creeps into your health care, your “me time” and your social life.

Lately I have been relying on it to “clear my head” as I navigate through an exciting and major career change.

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Part way up Cypress we stopped for water and a quick pic!

I also started riding with groups to learn the ins-and-outs of being in a peloton.   As a larger person, I provide a popular spot for drafting.  Even the odd car has snuck up behind me to save on mileage.  The communication is key when in a peloton, you have to be able to trust the rider ahead of you and communicate consistently and clearly to avoid issues, especially at speed.  So some learning and practice is highly recommended. More on that later.

On of my more regular riding buddies, a GFF “Gran Fondo Friend”, is Devin.  He is also undergoing a major career change as he was promoted in his new company following a large merger of groups.  He finds himself in the “executive” part of the company, and with it comes new challenges and stresses.  He has thrived in his new role, mainly because of his intelligence, his personality and creativity. However, cycling has also played a role .  When I asked him if the “bike” has helped: he smiled and said “big time!” Devin is relatively new to cycling but now rides regularly to commute, he rides with a family group and he trains with his local My First Fondo group.  I often tag along when I can.

Devin also pushes himself through micro-tests on his bike…adding time, vertical climb or distance (usually all three).  The regular exercise has given him an outlet allowing him to sleep well, eat healthy and remain calm.  He regularly makes it a habit to challenge himself and his groups to conquer larger hills and longer rides: generally they are met with success. It is in those little victories he learns subtle skills that help him at work: always look to improve, be an active part of a supportive team, know when to encourage your teammates so you can all succeed, and be brave in setting your goals.  Devin said all this as he pushed us up Cypress, not from the base but from our homes…just to add time, distance and climbing.

So although there are moments I regret meeting him, most notably when we were 3/4’s up Cypress, overall he is a great friend.  It is much better having a support network to challenge and push.  That is why I am now riding with the My First Fondo Group as much as I can.

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Part way up Cypress we took in the view, and water.

I have said before that success in any venture requires a plan.  There are likely exceptions, but when I want to do well, I plan.  Teams and support networks can also be a huge part of success.  They should be a huge part of enjoying the journey, the challenge and the victory!  A good team pushes you to work harder, and if the team has a good leader, you also work smarter.  Think about it: you concurrently increase both the effort and the efficiency of that effort, making the result significantly more likely to succeed.  What I describe here is how the My First Fondo Groups are organized.

MFF takes away the doubt, the guess work and adds on the support network of a team.  The group I am riding with has two great leaders, Alex and Ian.  They are generous with their knowledge and put in a lot of thought and effort to help us improve, and remain safe, as quickly and easily as we can.  They also push us to do more challenging rides as we prepare for the Fondo.  All the while we have a tested “expert” designed training plan that gives people a blueprint to achieve their goals. The program is designed to go from a total novice to someone who can confidently finish the ride.   Don’t get me wrong, its not all blood, sweat and tears, there is also beer, Strava, and WhatsApp to add entertainment, encouragement and at times inspiration.

I have learned so much more that I could have expected.  I also now have the confidence that I can finish the journey.

For those wondering, Devin and I did make it up Cypress and back home after the deep conversation about life and two-wheels.  He set a tough pace that we can be proud of for finishing.  According to my Garmin data, we even carved off 30-40 mins from our last attempt.  We sure have more training to be ready for the Fondo, but we are confident and we are enjoying ourselves.  I like those odds!

So if you are sitting the fence for next year…grab a bike, make it your “happy place”.  Then join a local My First Fondo group, show up, follow the program, stay safe, then finish the ride and check it off the Bucket List!  You literally need nothing else to succeed on the ride (except maybe lycra and water bottles!)

Please comment or ask questions because its never fun talking to yourself!

See you out there on the road.

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