I have to give a shout out to my son, Jamie – recently, he and I finished our fourth Seagull Century – a 100 mile bike ride out on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. If you’re ever going to attempt one of these rides, it’s the one to do. It’s almost completely flat, great scenery, and very well supported. They have a metric (100 kilometers, 62 miles) version, and they also have great SAG support to give you a lift home if either your bike or you break down en route.
The reason I want to give Jamie some extra kudos is that not only is it his fourth time doing the ride…..when he was younger, doctors were telling me that he may never ride a bike, that he just didn’t have the balance and coordination required. He wasn’t developing on the same timeline as other kids, and his motor skills just weren’t coming along.
As a parent, I was devastated. All parents have hopes and dreams for their children, and I didn’t know what the future would bring. I don’t, however, believe in the ‘no-win’ scenario. I was determined that if it was achievable, he would learn to swim, run, ride a bike – and be as ‘normal’ as possible. Jamie proved quickly that he was never ‘normal’. He was exceptional. Sure, it took longer to learn some things – it took me two complete summers to teach him to ride. I researched how riders learn, what things get in the way, and how to build his skills so that he internalized the previous ones. (BTW – if you’re teaching your kid to ride a bike, take off the training wheels. They teach you to lean AWAY from that feeling of falling, when riding requires using it to fall forward).
I found a tool called a ‘ReadyRider’ – there are a number of tools out there, called Balance Buddy, or something similar. It allowed me to walk behind Jamie, where he couldn’t see me ‘helping’ him, so he could focus on balancing the bike. I took the pedals off, and first, we focused on just rolling the bike forward. His feet could still touch the ground, so he felt safe. Over time, I’d provide less balance ‘help’, raise the seat, add pedals, and make it more challenging. Again, it took two full summers, but by that time, he could really ride. We started going out on neighborhood rides, then longer ones, and he eventually got his Scout Cycling merit badge – which required several 10 mile rides, a 15 miler, a 25 miler, and the final one was a 50-mile ride. On the 50-miler, he crashed less than a mile after the start when his wheel went off the trail….but despite a big knee scrape, he went forward and finished the ride.
When he was 14, I thought he’d be ready to attempt something even bigger, so we started training for the Seagull Century. We took our time, took breaks, and despite being very tired at the end (me more than him), he completed the ride. We did another one two years later…..and at the 25 mile mark, Jamie dropped me like a bad habit. I finally caught up with him at the 80-mile rest stop, but that was because we picked up a 25MPH head wind that made pedaling a slog to the end. Still, he finished. We chose the shorter route last year (62 miles), mainly because I hadn’t trained enough…but this year, we decided to do the full 100.
With ideal weather at the start, we made great time. Jamie got a couple of cramps on the ride, but a quick hop off the bike and some kneading got him going again. Temps got pretty hot in the afternoon, but we pushed the last 15 miles and finished in our fastest time ever. I’m very proud of him, and whatever he decides to do in life, he’s going to have the determination to push through barriers and just keep moving forward to do it. He’s shown that time and again. Not only has he done 4 century rides, it’s all the training that led up to being able to accomplish it. He’s also a straight-A student, and achieved the rank of Eagle Scout earlier this year. I’m not one to brag, but in Jamie’s case, I’m going to make an exception.
So, what about you? Do you ever encounter times when you’ve been told you can’t do something, that you just don’t have the skills, education, or drive to get it done? It happens to all of us – the important thing is to determine what information is useful, and what information you need to tune out and ignore. You CAN do a lot more than you think is possible….and certainly a lot more than others think is possible. You’re the one who can make it happen. Take a lesson from Jamie, and just keep moving forward.