By Greg Conderacci
A lot of my friends like to ride with Andrea Matney. At 2 a.m. in a driving rainstorm, when you’re as miserable as a Navy SEAL in Hell Week, Andrea is all smiles and good energy. On a bike, she is the ultimate Energy Buddy.
More than once, she has literally saved my life. In 2011, when we were riding Paris-Brest-Paris, we slogged through the first day, dodging thunderstorms. At dusk, The Cloud from Hell appeared. Amid a barrage of lightning, the rain came down in sheets.
As night came on, the rain intensified, flooding the roads and blinding me. In the dark and wet, my glasses fogged. I groped along the unlit country road more by feel than by sight. Suddenly, with the temperature dropping, my rear tire flatted. Repairing a flat is no fun, even in the sunshine; in the pelting rain it was downright agony.
We couldn’t find what had caused the flat. By the light of our head lamps, we searched inside the tire: nothing. Shivering in the cold, I persisted in my hunt, knowing we could not afford another flat in this weather. Finally, with my core temperature plummeting, I gave up and mounted the tire.
Surviving Hypothermia — Thanks to My Energy Buddy
On the road, I was a new man. But not in a good way. The tired but steady rider who stopped to fix the flat was replaced by a hypothermic rider who could barely turn the pedals. Climbing even a modest hill took forever. I weaved back and forth across the road, fighting sleep.
Fortunately, Andrea was fine. Every time I drifted towards the edge of the road she shouted at me, both to keep me on the road and to keep me awake. In the gloom, I focused on her bike’s back light and pressed on. When we reached the next checkpoint, I was stunned by the time. Somewhere in the night, I had lost three hours.
As we checked in, we heard rumors of a cyclist who had been struck and killed by a truck that evening. Later, we learned it was a member of our club. I could only think that, without Andrea helping me through the hypothermia, it could have been me.
Who’s Your Buddy?
Energy Buddies come in all varieties. Some will get you through difficult times; some are there to add zest to the good times; some will help you navigate complex tasks; some will help you endure unpleasant ones. They are assistants, coaches, leaders, guides, planners, organizers, partners, advisers, cheerleaders, jokers, spouses, and, almost always, friends.
Not only is it important to find them, but it’s also important to be one, too. That’s especially true if you or they are infested by (or even becoming yourselves) Energy Vampires. On the bike, it can be easier to be and find a Buddy if you can look at the collaborative nature of the sport rather than its competitive side:
- Can you talk a struggling rider up a steep climb, providing a little encouragement and maybe a joke or two to distract from the burning quad muscles?
- Will you stop and help somebody repair a flat?
- How about just letting them sit on your wheel all the way through the headwind? It’s a lot easier to quit when you’re alone.
- Who needs your help? It could be at work, home, in the community…or beyond.
- What can you offer? Sometimes, it’s a talent or a skill. Sometimes, good advice. Sometimes, just an ear to listen a shoulder to cry on. Often, it can be something you really like to do.
- Like to solve problems? Cook? Fix balky derailleurs? Do income taxes? True wheels? Probably, there’s someone who would love to learn from you or benefit from your skills.
- Don’t know anybody who needs your help? Lots of non-profits in your community are looking for volunteers.
Energy is contagious. Being an Energy Buddy works both ways. You get good energy by giving good energy.
Greg Conderacci is a marketing consultant and a former Wall Street Journal reporter, non-profit entrepreneur, and investment bank chief marketing officer. In Getting UP!, he brings you the same skills he teaches at a top graduate school and Fortune 500 companies. Lots of people promise better performance … Greg proves it. Using his energy techniques, in 2015 he rode a bicycle across America in just 18 days — averaging 150 miles a day.