Competition LO18142

Scott Simmerman (
Wed, 20 May 1998 19:35:33 -0400

Replying to LO18119 --

I'll jump in on Simon Buckingham's note on competition (Competition
LO18119) and collaboration with one of my more narrative posts. It is
about the lessons learned riding my bicycle - a bit like "Zen and the Art
of Motorcycle Maintenance," methinks.

On Saturday, I completed the 103 mile bike ride and climb called The
Assault on Mount Mitchell. We were a loose knit organization of about
1600 bikes, with about 700 riding the 72 miles to Marion NC and the rest
of us assaulting Mount Mitchell.

Riding alone would be impossible for most, since riding in packs helped to
minimize the wind resistance and generated lots of social support. As a
group, the cops and traffic let us roll through the Big Intersections
without stopping - an individual would have been stopped, I think.

Are we nuts? Climbing 12,000 total feet in hot, humid weather for 6 to 12
hours? Yes. But at least there are a lot of us together! And we were
all driven by a shared vision of getting to the end of our journey.

Plans and resources were available, as well as support from "staff." In
this case, the Biking club of Spartanburg organized churches, massage
schools and all sorts of other resources to provide volunteers all along
the route - ten rest stops were available, each with water, drinks, fruit,
cookies, and other stuff.

My strategy, as a 50-year old rookie, was "follow the pack." I sat in the
back of a number of groups, pulling out when a slightly faster pack went
by. This drafting helped me save energy. Teamwork helped us all make

On the climb, the last 27 miles, we were essentially on our own, going WAY
too slow to benefit by drafting. (I asked a couple of times if any of the
other riders had a rope they might throw me but none were available.) So,
all the learning, training, and preparation were now essential and being

Were we competitive? Yes, of course. Times and finish places were kept,
and posted on the website for all to see. But also to set personal goals.

I was motivated to only stop 3 times, thereby passing 100s of riders
resting. The last 10 miles were almost totally uphill -- I passed 3 rest
stops mostly to beat the other riders and to optimize my finish time. (If
I stopped, I did not know if I could get going again!). Scott the
Tortoise, slowly but surely chugging up the hill, driven to make the next

Collaborative? Absolutely. If a biker broke down and I could help them
with a spare tire or air, I would have stopped. Good news is that all of
us were prepared.

I saw two bikers sharing a water bottle - one was out, the other had extra
(and it would also lighten their load). All one had to do, I think, was
ask for help and help would be given. This was not a death march.

So, what we had was one very flat learning organization, with rookie
riders learning from those more experienced, with the better riders
generally supporting the weaker ones with their most valuable resource -
energy. As the group moved out, leadership kept shifting, like the geese
in formation. Some took more advantage of the pull than others. But we
all worked together, calling out traffic, missed turns, potholes and the

If I could have my way, this is how organizations could work -- cohesively
and fluidly. The faster move ahead. The slower gain by strength in
numbers. And all learn by observation and discussion. Nobody seemed
motivated to cut anyone off or create an accident, even though we were all
individuals trying to do our best, for a shared goal.

I posted a long article about the whole experience on the website, for
those of you interested in the narrated version:


I'll guarantee that this wasn't the Olympics and that no National Pride
was involved. Just a bunch of ordinary people trying to accomplish
something that few of us would even consider doing alone.

All in all, and the mark that it was rewarding, is that I'll try it again
next year, life events permitting,


For the Fun of It!

Scott Simmerman

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