Lesson from Cycling: Hills

As you can imagine, cycling across Canada gives the opportunity to encounter hills, lots of them! There were some long uphill grades that were really difficult! At times, wind and bad road conditions added to the challenge. The rewards for long climbs included some great views, as well as the thrill of the long downhill grades and the break they provided!DSC_3780

Along the way I developed a technique that helped me face hills. In the difficult uphill sections I found if I focused on the long road ahead leading to the crest of the hill, I tended to be overwhelmed and was tempted to stop pedaling. But if instead I focused on just the next few meters of road ahead, I was less overwhelmed, seemed to have more energy and was able to conquer the hard road ahead. The key to succeeding with these hills seemed to be where I placed my focus, the next few meters or the long road ahead. The physics of the ride does not change, but just focusing on getting through the next few meters makes a world of difference.DSC_7559

In life, like cycling, I like the “long downhill grades” where I just sail along. I would like to avoid the hard uphill stretches, if possible, but they always seem to find their way into the road ahead. In the overwhelming life moments, staying focused on the next step, the one small thing I can do to move forward rather than the long road ahead seems to make the overwhelming tasks of life circumstance less overwhelming. Like it or not, the difficult moments and life challenges do provide some new “views” along with a deeper appreciation and understanding of life that can only come through facing life’s hills.DSC_4110

Jesus has some words of encouragement about focusing on the road just ahead in these moments of challenge… “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.”                 Matthew 6:34 –The Message


Lesson from Cycling: Drafting

Drafting is a strategy where two or more cyclists line up in such a way as to provide a greater efficiency in the ride. The lead cyclist provides an air stream draft for the others which can, according to some estimates, provide up to 30% greater efficiency. The optimum distance between cyclists is about 20 inches– being closer, cyclists run the risk of accidents. A greater separation diminishes the benefit of the draft.DSC_5673

We found the benefit of drafting was accentuated in strong head wind conditions. The stronger the wind the greater the benefit to the cyclist, but at a significant cost to the lead rider! Because the lead rider expends a great amount of energy, the lead position is rotated to utilize the fresh strength of each team member. We found the discipline of drafting was intentional and required focus for all team members. There were times when drafting was so effective that it provided profound moments of satisfaction along the way.DSC_4416

Drafting is a great illustration of team work:

  • Each member of the team is important and carries responsibility for the success of the team.
  • The importance of team work increases with the difficulty/complexity of the task.
  • A team should never underestimate the importance of the “relational distance” in team efficiency.
  • Effective teams accomplish more than any one member can on their own.
  • A shared common goal provides the motivation and discipline required for working as a team.
  • Trust is required for effective team work!

A thought from Patrick Lencioni in his book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable: “Remember teamwork begins by building trust. And the only way to do that is to overcome our need for invulnerability.”

Day 59/60: Decompression…

On the flight home the guy next to me asked, “How are you going to decompress from this experience?” I had not really thought about it. Now I’m realizing what a good question it is. The only thing on my list was to shave and see my wife! Karen’s comment on this shot was who is this old guy? The beard had to go.  IMG_0914[1]Physically we all lost between 5-9 pounds. Not bad considering the physical demand day after day. I’m still eating like I did on the road, eating like a teenaged boy, as Jacquie described it. That can’t go on for long! I feel good and my body looks a bit like a teenaged boy, no extra pounds anywhere.  How about keeping a goatee and side burns? Maybe not…IMG_1003[1]Mentally, I feel like I’m in a bit of a fog. I played a strategy board game the second night at home, I was surprised how hard it was to concentrate on the game.  Plus I find I’m a little overwhelmed with trying to process the experience… Every night since getting home I’ve dreamed about cycling. Most of the dreams have been about pushing to make a presentation, do an interview or board a ferry. The first morning I woke up in a panic, thinking, “It’s day light– we should be on our bikes!”

Reflecting on the wonderful people and connection points along the way has helped me process the past two months. On some level I’m having difficulty comprehending that the ride is over, and we really did cycle across Canada.map-relief-croppedI always know when I need some space emotionally when I want to be alone. By nature I’m a people person. The past couple days I have really enjoyed alone time in the form of yard work and odd jobs around the house that have given me some emotional space.  Fifty plus days of talking about kids dying because of the lack of clean water is an emotionally taxing task.IMG_1020[1]

Speaking of overwhelming… my inbox had over 1000 emails plus my personal Facebook posts. As I began working through them I discovered a really special birthday note.., “Hey Mike Woodard we want to give you a special birthday present. We will cover the cost of one well. Happy Birthday!” I continue to be so touched by the kindness and generosity of so many! That message brought a few tears!




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