Building Bridges

A Shoreline Ride in New York City

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.”  – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Whether creating a learning solution or completing a challenging athletic endeavor, a plan provides the necessary blueprint. Though in my work life I am very much a planner, I was recently reminded of how crucial preparation is in all aspects of life…when I completed the New York City Century Bike Tour, though a bit shakily.

Some background: I love New York City, and I really enjoy cycling. So the NYC Century Bike Tour, the proceeds of which benefit Transportation Alternatives in NYC, was a perfect fit. I was also attracted to the event because I could choose the distance I would cycle. I selected 55 miles, a challenging but entirely doable day-long ride. The plan was working out fine.

Prior to the ride, I focused on my training, logging a 50-mile ride a few weeks earlier. I made sure my bike was all tuned up and in working order. The morning of the ride, I ate a nice, big breakfast at 6:00 a.m. I set off on my bike at 7:15 a.m., eager for several hours of riding.

Initially, I enjoyed the ride. The weather was wonderful…partly sunny, in the high 70s. The crowd proved to be spirited and colorful, with some cyclists even dressed up as Superman and Wonder Woman. As we traveled through the streets of Brooklyn, I found myself impressed by the vast diversity of the neighborhoods, which included Italian, Middle Eastern, and Jewish areas.

Once we reached mile 40 or so, however, I started to feel very fatigued and a bit strange. Though we refueled with bread and peanut butter at occasional rest stops and snacked on protein bars along the way, clearly these were not enough for me.

I began to feel out of touch with what was occurring around me. This led to a dangerous situation when a car pulled out of a driveway and I didn’t see it coming, narrowly avoiding an accident. I wanted to take an unplanned break from the ride, but didn’t want to stop in an unfamiliar area.

My limited resources were seriously tested when we crossed the RFK Bridge, a maneuver that required us to carry our bikes. This was especially challenging in my exhausted state, given the fact that we needed to climb three flights of stairs in the wind. A footbridge from Randall’s Island to Manhattan led us to the final leg of our journey, and a successfully completed ride.

Once I rested a bit, I started to feel more like myself. I realized that by mile 40, I had not had enough to eat, and was probably a bit low on electrolytes. I also recognized that with all of my training preparations, I never planned lunch. The few snacks I quickly consumed were not nearly enough to sustain me through six hours of cycling.

This endeavor reminded me that as professionals in the L&D field, we always need to recheck our plan…for a design document, course pilot, or train-the-trainer workshop. What may seem like an insignificant detail – like a short job aid or new insert in the learner’s binder – can, if omitted, greatly impact the learning experience, just like my lack of fuel affected my ride. Still, I am very proud that I did finish. Like any day in the office, it was a valuable learning experience. I look forward to another challenging ride soon!