Slow your roll

November 1st, 2012

A week ago, Saturday afternoon found me hunched over, taking wind to the face, one trouser leg rolled up to my shin and my legs pumping more powerfully with each flick of my right finger, violating traffic etiquette in almost every situation I encountered. With the downhill advantage, my 20-year-old Trek bicycle flew me three miles in just a few minutes to the bicycle shop for some maintenance. Over an hour after dismounting, I was sedentary on a chair, slowed from upwards of 20 miles per hour to zero. What started as a quest for a simple tube change brought to light a severely out-of-skew rear wheel, which, in turn, revealed that the wheel was mishapen.

My eyes bounced back and forth from inquisitively watching the “wheel woman” work diligently on the spokes of my wheel to wantonly gazing at the slim, new Bianchi road bikes, craving the exhilaration of speed I felt on the way there.

There were a few minutes here and there when I began to grow a little impatient. Catching myself, I realized that she was trying to enable me and my machine to move faster, more fluidly and have more fun.

Consistent with my bike shop experience, quite often, just when things begin going well, something comes along to mess up one’s flow and rhythm and keeps one from doing what that person wants to do. In such a situation, a person has a few options concerning what to do:

1) Keep going despite the obstacle. 2) Slow down a bit, but keep heading toward the goal. 3) Take the hit. Stop. Work out the problem.

Let’s take door No. 1. Say I kept bombing down inclines, pretending I’m a bike messenger on a mission or Lance Armstrong (minus the drugs). Then, one day, as I’m coasting around a turn or riskily riding around and making drivers angry, the wheel fails, throwing me through the air and onto the ground. That’s not exactly the type of flying I had in mind.

Door two might be more promising. Since afternoon turned into evening when I was sitting in the shop, I could have gotten a little hungry. Eager to eat, I could have rushed the mechanic or spent some money on a base-level wheel, just to get the quick fix. I would get to ride around, go fairly fast and be content. Perhaps it would never be fully realized, but rushing the process and settling for something less than what was ideally possible would hinder my experience and performance from there on out.

Then there is the third portal. I took the chunk of time out of my day just sitting there as the expert diligently worked on my wheel. I just stared at bikes, mechanics, wondered if I could ride the unicycle in the corner, etc.

Over an hour later, the “wheel woman” had done the best she was able to do. In the end, my wheel was as good as it could become, buying me a significant chunk of time before I’ll have to completely replace it, while enabling me to ride as I wanted to. A few bones out of the bank account, and I was finally back on the saddle. I failed to consider, though, that the smooth, lightning fast downhill I cruised down on the way to the shop was now an uphill. Topography is a jerk sometimes.

If door No. 3 is the one you choose, as I recommend, the path to awesomeness is sometimes uphill. It’s rarely easy to get back in peak form. More often than not, when bad things happen, it’s best to go back to the drawing board, start from scratch, and rebuild things correctly, no matter how long it takes. Such things happen for a reason. There is a cause, effect and effect of the effect. Stopping to look at the cause can be enlightening. A future problem can be prevented. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a major obstacle that comes up, but even a little hitch in one’s stride.

As is often said in the distance running world, one gets faster on easy days. Sometimes a little speedbump can cause us to, as JCU Speedbumps say, “slow down, reflect and proceed.”

You don’t need to be a superhero all the time. Knowing when and how to listen to oneself and the messages of the universe can bring us closer to greatness, step by step, than one giant leap ever could.