Finally got to do a long ride with Ironman J. today. He has lived around the corner from me for several years, silently lurking, a sleeping demon of inspiration, whether he knew it or not. I used to work with Ironman J. and his wife. Some years ago his wife told me he was training for an Ironman. At the time I thought, “that’s insane. Jews don’t do that.” Obviously, I was wrong. But riding with Ironman J. today I remembered a life philosophy that has come to pay off in my training – the rule of equal to or greater than.
For a while now I’ve come to believe that my time is best spent with people who are equal to or greater than me, with the idea that it gives me models to work towards of behavior, intellect, reason, analytical faculties, and emotional insight. By seeking out those equal to or greater than myself I am inspired to learn, to grow, and change. I can see that it also has benefit in physical training.
There is an obvious inverse problem here. If I’m always looking for ≥ people, I’m the loser in the bunch. Why would these people spend time around me if they’re also looking for ≥ people to better themselves? The second part of this philosophy is something I learned from my technology work: just because someone is illiterate in one area doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re illiterate in all areas. People say to me, “I’m stupid” and point to their computer. I respond, “you’re not stupid. You couldn’t afford to hire me if you were completely stupid.” This shifts their thinking so they know that I respect them as human beings with other talents, and in this one particular field they have an opportunity to learn. I rarely dismiss anyone completely, and when I seek others to learn from I can see areas where I might know more than them, and identify the things I can learn. Sharing information is a path to learning, or at least provides a way of seeing the world differently. There are occasions where I reject someone completely because their outward behavior is so completely idiotic that they’re clearly a mouth-breathing fucktard. They can usually be identified by not wearing helmets while riding with their children, walking into an FLDS church, driving an oversized Cadillac Escalade with their children’s names on the back windshield (so child rapists can call the kids by name), or the people who stare up at fast food menus with their mouths hanging open while they “think”. The list is actually pretty long. My journalist friend often says that every person has a story worth hearing. He might be right, but some people’s stories are reruns of What’s Happening.
Riding with Ironman J. was great. He claimed he hadn’t been training hard this season, but he was still fit enough to give me a good challenge. He set a pace that kept me pedaling solidly, and sprinting in the flats when possible. Whether he knew it or not, he pushed me to climb harder and I managed to ascend the Palos Verdes climb in the middle ring for the first time and averaging 10 mph the whole way up. That’s partly the benefit of the training, but it’s also being able to break out of the routine, ride with someone new, and someone whose presence helped me push harder. He also reads my blog and threw the Pain Cave back at me. Nice. Ironman J. told me about going on a group ride with some people and found that while it was good for him he prefers to ride solo. It sounded to me like Emergence, or The Wisdom of Crowds. Much like Francis Galton’s observation that no single person could guess the weight of an ox, the average of the crowd nailed the answer, a group of strong riders will gravitate towards the middle. The strong riders will slow to let the peloton catch them, the weaker riders will gain speed to keep up with the pack. This is assuming it’s not a race – in the Tour de France the peloton is made up of world class riders who use drafting to collectively ride faster. I haven’t seen this in group rides – I’ve seen slow riders reap the benefits of better riders, and stronger riders take a hit by slowing down.
What this means for me is twofold. One, I want to ride duos or trios with stronger riders to siphon power from their speed and motivation. Two, I will start leading group rides for people slower than me, so I can be the lead dog helping others to get faster.
Or, you gotta give some to get some.
Notes: 3:57:01, 56.25 miles according to Mr. Garmin. (A couple of stops, pee breaks, water bottle refills, so our clocks and computers were all over the map. I think we actually did 55 in about 3:30 of ride time.)