Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A Beginner's Lesson

I am by nature (or in defiance of nature, rather) an incredibly unobservant human being.

Seriously, if we didn't live in a civilized society and were all left to fend for ourselves -- my kind would die off before lunchtime. Everyone would be finding shelter and gathering food while I stood in the middle of a deserted Dunkin' Donuts thinking, "Huh, everyone must be in the back."

Michael has been in awe of my total lack of awareness since the beginning of our relationship. He first noticed something was "off" when he brought home flowers for the first time, left them in the middle of the room and watched me walk passed them a dozen times before exclaiming, "Awe! You brought me flowers!"

This was the beginning, and the skills have not sharpened over time.

So biking has been a bit of challenge, considering. As I find myself working very diligently in paying attention to the trail and Michael -- I tend to become even more oblivious to my bike and my technique. I'll barely be able to focus long enough to get through a difficult part of the trail and then at the end, I"ll notice that my glasses have a bug on them, my tire pressure has dropped (or, to be honest, started out) very low and I'm still in the same gear that I started in. I never paid any attention to my positioning on my bike or the bike itself. That's a problem.

So the next time I go out I focus my efforts towards my equipment and technique. I focus on the way I'm pedaling. I zone in on my breathing. I listen for weird noises or feel for strange flaws in the mechanics of my bike. But what do I realize at the end? Nothing, because I didn't make it to the end of the trail. I stopped somewhere quickly after I started because I slammed into a rock or came up too fast on Michael. The trail, and the people on it, just disappear. Again, this is a problem.

A middle ground of observation is what I need to work towards.

The first step towards that goal is to follow a tip that comes from my friend Sean, (Mongo), which is to not look where you don't want to go. A somewhat simplistic teaching, but one that carries significant weight when it comes to riding a bike. If I stare at the front of my tire and worry about smacking that huge root to the right then I veer to the right. Every time. There's actually two things wrong with what I'm doing. I'm focusing on where I don't want to go (Mongo would be disappointed) AND I'm concentrating on the area right in front of my tire.

I mean, when I walk I don't look right in front of my feet -- I look straight ahead. Yet, when I get on a bike, I turn all ass backward and forget the basic rules of movement. I stare at the area right in front of my tire and gravitate towards the things I want to avoid. It reminds me of when I used to rock climb and would shake my head at newbies trying to pull instead of push their way up the mountain. I mean, do you pull yourself up a ladder by your arms or do push yourself up by your legs? This rookie mistake would surprise me every time, but it's not their fault. New situations cause most people to question their instincts.

So the beginner's lesson that I'm focusing on this week is to not try and overcompensate for my lack of observation skills by becoming overly focused on the trail, or my bike, or on Michael. I need to treat the bike like an extension of me. I ride the bike; the bike does not ride me. I tell the bike where to go, and I can only know where to go by looking straight ahead.


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