Administration and Leadership, Columns

Riders Conquer Emotional & Physical Walls on Day 4 of the National EMS Memorial Capital-to-Capital Bike Ride

Entry 5: Hitting the Wall

That’s weird! What’s that bright orb in the sky? It’s so blinding and is invitingly warm. Ah, I remember now. It’s called the sun, and it has been missing since day one of the Capital-to-Capital Bike Ride. Oh, how I missed thee as I spread my arms wide to embrace your melanoma-inducing radiant glow.

Too melodramatic of an opening you say? Nay I say. Nay! For it has been cold; unusually cold for this time of year. But that is in the past and the weather today was absolutely beautiful as we pedaled through the rolling hills of Vermont.

I myself like hills instead of the flat landscapes most riders seem to prefer. Not that I had any choice growing up in the Rockies, mind you. Flat is really not an option unless you’re speaking of a leaking tire tube.

The nice thing about pedaling up hills is in knowing your reward of a rapid decent will be forthcoming, unless of course, you forget your nitro or CPAP on the way up.

Cyclists in this tributary ride come from all over Canada and the U.S., so each rider has a different level of experience, body weight, height, age and training level, and so no one expects everyone to perform equally. Endurance and speed vary.

Riders have good days and bad days and will tell you they “hit a wall” when they have nothing left to give in their attempts to move their bicycle forward. Cycling 100+ miles equates to cycling a century in bikeneese talk, and can be challenging regardless of your level of expertise. Today we cycled a century, and despite the beautiful scenery around us, climbing long hills can be a distraction at times—especially when your heart rate matches the elevation figure at the top of the mountain.

As I entered the hotel lobby at the end of the day, I noticed one of the riders I have a lot of respect for walking toward the front desk. He was walking slowly and appeared distracted. “What’s up brother?” I asked pretending not to notice his sad expression. “I’m just feeling down and disappointed in myself,” he said not making eye contact. “How so,” I asked. Hesitantly he told me he almost couldn’t finish the ride. He had hit a wall late in the afternoon and said, “If I hadn’t had the support of another rider alongside me placing his hand on my back to help push me up that hill, I never would have been able to finish. I wasn’t strong enough.”

Funny isn’t it? We have no problem caring for other patients with medical and psychological emergencies, but when it comes for us to ask for help, we see it as a character flaw. We are, after all, control freaks. We try to manage our problems without confiding in others that sometimes the hills we climb in life are just too tough to manage. And that sometimes we just need an understanding, kind presence to get us through it. We still have to push ourselves, but we don’t have to be alone in knowing someone has our back.

I told the frustrated rider, “Sometimes we as care providers have to let go of control to gain control and let others help carry us for a bit.”

I hope that helped. It seemed to. Maybe not so much in my words, but in knowing someone cared enough to ask.

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