A little while back, I was on a rather spirited mountain bike ride up at Laurel Mountain with some pretty strong riders. Among them was my friend Steve Gurtner, who is a strong rider in his own right. But that day, he looked at me and said, ” Pat- we are the ” B” team bringing our “A” game. I laughed out loud and will always remember that line because it fits my persona to a “T.” In all honesty in all of my cycling over the years, I have always ridden with stronger, more talented riders and always felt like I was that “B” team constantly having to bring my “A” game in order to keep up. Take my early days in road cycling with the ACA.( Allegheny Cycling Association). I had the good fortune of riding on the road with some pretty talented guys who took the time to bring us “B” team guys into the fold. People like Mac Martin- a national class rider who took us out of our comfort zone and gave us the finer points of road racing on training rides. I can remember being in our local criteriums when they would put the “B” group in with the “A” group and we had people like Mac, and Matt Eaton, and the Chew brothers who would lap us but help us in the group with tips and suggestions not only to help us, but to improve their place in the group. Things like ” bridge that gap, Pat, so I can get up there.” I definitely had to bring my A game in those races in order not to jeopardize my participation. These guys were national champions who were kind enough to give us tips and help us in a race situation. But we had to dig deep and bring that “A” game. They would roar by us but help us along the way.
Moving ahead to mountain biking. I rode with the Greenlee’s Mountain Bike team back in the day and was coached by Chuck Greenlee, the owner of the shop, and head honcho of the group. I would go on their training rides with the expert riders who were nice enough to wait for me at the corners. But I had to step it up again in order to participate. I was no expert rider like those guys, but if I wanted to improve, I had to dig deep and remember being totally exhausted after all those rides on week nights. It all helped at race time but still, I was bringing the” A” game because I had to.
My Tuesday night rides, which were famous for bringing riders of all abilities to ride our local park, were eventually taken over by the expert riders who used my ride as a training ride. Eventually, the only way I could keep up was to take short cuts. Not quite bringing the” A” game but a tactic that I still use today. I still often ride with riders who are younger, stronger, more talented than me and I need to bring that” A” game week in and week out in order to participate. I remember riding with Scot Nicol, the founder of Ibis Bicycles, who is my age. I asked him, ” How long do you think we can ride like this Scot – at our age?” His response which I have recounted many times was,” Don’t even think about it, Pat.” ” Just keep riding.” I suppose he is right. I want to do this cycling thing as long as I can and if I have to be pushed by a talented group, so be it. I will be back out in Bend, Oregon in a few weeks visiting Jeff and Julie Chetlin, Tim and Barb Girone, and their posse of younger, talented riders. So hopefully, again, I won’t think about it and hope to hang on.
Finally- when I thought about this post, and the meaning of that great quote by Steve Gurtner, I also thought about it in general terms. Don’t we all have to bring our “A” game to the game of life? Sometimes we have to dig deep to be kind, considerate, generous, courteous, in these times of uncertainty? Don’t we have to bring that “A” game even when we are tired and don’t think we can keep up? If we do dig deep, it not only benefits us, but also those around us to whom we show mercy and kindness even in the midst of fatigue or despondency. Yes, most of us are the “B ” team, but if we can bring that “A” game as often as we can, life will improve in just a small way. We might not be national class and can’t change the world, but we can certainly “bring it” and help out one individual, one life, one neighborhood at a time. Thanks for reading.
ACA photo courtesy of Eric Durfee. Another “A” guy in many ways.