Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Persistence (Finally) Pays

Bryn Lennon, Getty Images

Mick Rogers - 2014 TDF Stage 16 
Carcassonne to Bagneres-de-Luchon
At the end of stage 11 in this year's Tour de France, Michael Rogers' advice to Andrew Talansky was "persistence wins all races."

Mick Rogers knows a thing or two about adversity.  In 2007 he was thought of as a GC contender when he rode for T Mobile, but crashed out of the Tour with a broken collar bone.  Immediately thereafter a protracted battle with mononucleosis made him barely able to ride his bike for more than a year.  Late last year, with his form having returned, he tested positive for clenbuterol after winning a race in Japan. He was suspended by the UCI but steadfastly maintained his innocence. He was able to prove to the governing body that the positive test was the result of eating contaminated meat while competing in China, where it is commonly used in agriculture.  He was exonerated this Spring and has gone on to win two stages at the Giro d'Italia.

Mick has as been persistently working for a stage win at the Tour de France for more than a decade and it has always eluded him. He is such a classy guy and someone that I've always loved to watch compete. Today it paid off in spades.  Mick threw caution to the wind and rode flat out down a dangerous mountain to the finish against Tommy Voeckler and three others.  In his post-race interview he said:
On that descent ... I just said I've been in this position too many times not to win. [Either]  I'm going to crash or I'm going to win.
He won.  It was beautiful. I hope Andy Talansky was watching from his couch at home while he recovers.

Friday, July 18, 2014

True Grit and the Tour de France

Andy Talansk off the bike in the stage 7 sprint finish
Every summer I have a fight with myself that I predictably lose.  The ever-present doping scandels and scoundrels of professional cycling make me vow to stop watching.  Then the Tour de France begins and I cave in like a house of cards.

Andrrew Talansky breathed a giant breath of life back into US hopes in European pro peloton when this promising young American stood on the top step of the podium last month as the winner of the Criterium du Dauphine. Winners of the Dauphine are always competitive at the Tour, and frequently gone on to win it.  Andy had horrific crashes in stages 7 and 8 which forced him to abandon the race after stage 11.

It was pretty evident early in stage 11 that Andy was in rough shape. He fell off the back of the peloton and was losing time to the leaders at an alarming rate. He was in very real danger of being eliminated from the race for finishing more than 8% behind the stage winner. His earlier crashes had left with with massive amounts of road rash and severe back pain. At one point in stage 11 the pain was so bad that he had to get off the bike and sit on a guard rail for 4 minutes. At that point he had 40 miles left in the race. French TV cameras were hovering like vultures and everyone was certain that he would abandon. To my amazement he climbed back on the bike and finished the stage. Somehow, he found the inner strength to finish the stage and make the time cut.

Andy knew at that point that he hopes for any positive outcome in the race were completely blown.  But he finished the stage--even though it was all alone out there and ended up more than 30 minutes behind the leaders and dead last. It was a clinic in courage, heart and perseverance. It reminded me of one of my favorite John Wayne movies as a kid: True Grit.

At the end of the race another cycling champion talked to the race commentator and used the opportunity to speak metaphorically to Andy Talansky (who was then still out there suffering alone on the road):
"My advice is: persistence wins all races." - Michael Rogers
Maybe Mick Rogers was speaking to Andy.  Probably he was speaking to the rest of us as well.

Andy Talansky: Courage and True Grit

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Blue Lobsters: Standing Out in a Crowd

Originally Published July 14, 2014 at Modern Mormon Men

I took a tour of the Sydney Fish Market a few years ago when I was in Australia. This fella was begging to be noticed. Blue lobsters occur at a rate of 1:2,000,000 as a result of a genetic mutation that results in an abnormal protein complexing with naturally occurring carotenoids. The resultant complex, known as crustacyanin, gives the lobster’s shell it’s cobalt blue coloration. Though truly impressive to look at, they say this peculiar lobster* tastes just like the others (and was even priced the same as his mates).

In my clinic, I have often marveled at how Mormons tend to stand out in a crowd as sharply as if they were laden with crustacyanin.  This is particularly true of the females of our species (but males are also conspicuous after just a few minutes of interaction and close observation). The complex gemish of dress, grooming, and patterns of speech are part of it; but there is also a certain presence that somehow betrays them.

 Scott Heffernan put together a pretty good list of thing that make us stand out in a crowd. Peter and Paul also described the saints as peculiar compared to the rest of the world:
But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shed forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9) 
[Jesus Christ] gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. (Titus 2:14) 
A closer look at the phrase translated from the original Greek as ‘peculiar people' in both of these Biblical passages is interesting. This phrase is probably more accurately read as 'people owned by the Lord’.  We must concede the point that part of what makes us different is who we are. But both Peter and Paul suggests that part of what makes us different is whose we are.

We (and all true followers of Christ) became the Lord’s people when he purchased us with his blood. That (and possibly a very slight blue tinge to the skin) makes us rather conspicuous. My mother used to always say ‘don’t forget who you are’ as we were going out for the evening.  Both Paul and Peter build upon that concept by saying ‘don’t forget whose you are’.

If that’s not enough to make us stand out in a crowd, then we’re doing something wrong.


* For you triviologists out there, the yellow lobster is seen at a rate of 1:30 million, split-colored lobssters 1:50 million and albino lobsters 1:100 million.