Buddy has always been very successful at whatever he attempts, whether it's business, competitive sports, building cars from scratch or something difficult like golf course operations. His secret: If you observe Buddy carefully, it becomes obvious. Painfully obvious.
"Without persistence, you have no psychic wellspring of strength to combat what life will throw at you."
-- Ben Stein, from Bunkhouse Logic
When Buddy accepted the position of Equipment Manager at Swamp Hell Golf Course in the summer of '92, we formed a team that would last for decades. Buddy was a brilliant EM, blessed with amazing skills, although his lovely wife Tara insisted he not be allowed access to sharp objects.
I soon learned why, as Buddy could simultaneously impale himself on a deep tine while self-electrocuting, standing in a pool of blood. Even more disturbing was his ability to provoke folks into trying to kill him.
Buddy really enjoyed practical jokes, something that would come back and bite him later. Once, Buddy tricked me into holding a pry bar under a reel--for several difficult minutes--before announcing that my efforts were not required, except for his personal entertainment.
I struck back by introducing Buddy to bicycle racing.
In those days, Buddy was a fairly normal human who enjoyed fermented grains, tobacco and several sticks of butter per day. This made entry-level bike racing seem unattractive, so I lured him into the sport by employing the typical motivational tools, like humiliation, sarcasm and nicknames like "Sissy-pants" and "Sofa Butt".
By '95, Buddy was ready for group rides on the road bike. On his first big ride, he made the classic newbie error of feeling "great" and he enthusiastically jumped off the front of the group on a long hill. Moments later, as his energy vanished and reality returned, Buddy suffered great shame when the entire group passed him, casting looks of disgust upon Buddy. The last rider, a large, fairly overweight fellow, shook his head and smirked as he went by. This one act of condescension completely destabilized Buddy.
The next day at work, Buddy had become obsessed, talking endlessly about the "look" given him by those arrogant cyclists, especially the big fellow. In his best Scarlet O'Hara, Buddy vowed to never be dropped again. A few minutes later, Buddy suffered a crippling protruding sternum cramp, probably from riding 30 miles in the road bike position.
With my vast medical experience, I pronounced it the early stages of a heart attack, brought on by tobacco, beer, butter and bike racing. In his vulnerable state, Buddy was easily convinced and from that day forth, he went full health nut.
Buddy refused to give up. He was determined to persist.
During this time, my brother Mike and I often organized 60+ mile rides in the North Georgia/Western Carolina mountains, sort of our secret training method for racing. Buddy decided he was ready for this step, even though we warned him the climbs were sometimes 15 kilometers long with pitches as steep as 12%. His first big climb had several pros in the group and Mike strongly cautioned Buddy not to try to follow these guys down the descents. Buddy ignored the warning.
Buddy chased a top pro down a switchback and promptly launched himself off the mountain road. From a distance, we could see Buddy disappear into some bushes, which broke his fall and also his back wheel. He scampered back onto the road and remounted his bike, unaware his rear wheel was now more taco-shaped than round. (I knew when Tara saw that, it would be the end of bike racing for Buddy.)
Yet Buddy persisted.
He entered a road race, and typical of virgin racers, his lungs caught fire, his legs turned to jelly, and one of the race officials yelled, "Hey kid, get off the course, can't you see there's a race going on?"
Buddy accused me of setting him up, but he persisted. A few road races later, he crashed and destroyed his expensive new aero-bladed Spinergy wheels. I suggested it was time for this to end, that maybe he should explore some other sport, as he had not demonstrated even one of the necessary skills that roadies possessed: Climbing, sprinting or time trialing. Buddy refused to listen to my negative advice and persisted.
Buddy switched to mountain bike racing. He was a strong XC rider, but he was still getting dropped. I suggested interval training, specifically the brutal technique known as "Hill Repeats", where one sprints up short hills absolutely wide open and then after a short recovery period . . . does it again. And again. New riders typically get two, maybe three repeats in before quitting, but Buddy decided to train with Mike. (Bad idea.) Buddy managed to survive eight repeats. (He might have gotten ten or more, except for the two sausage, egg and cheese biscuits that exploded from his pie hole.)
Mike waited for Buddy to crawl out of the ditch and in his slow drawl, said "Probably shouldn't eat before hill repeats." Yet still, Buddy persisted.
The following winter, Buddy joined us for a "Wilson Brothers Dirt Road Ride", a training method consisting of 50 mile mountain bike rides on the back roads of central Georgia. It was always a strenuous ordeal, with hills and creek crossings and farm dog sprints, but traffic was minimal and the strength gains were significant.
It was a cold gray day, low clouds spitting tiny flakes of snow, when we left early on a Saturday morning. There were 16 of us, including John, my asst. supt., another supt., a Jacobsen salesman and three women bike racers. Claire and I rode at the back, in case someone had mechanical problems or tried to escape. Mike led the ride, doing hill repeats that also served to flush out farm dogs in ambush. I carried extra food, a water filter, repair parts, first aid, fireworks poppers (dog deterrent) pepper spray (pit bull deterrent) and maybe a piece of strategic metal. (Lunatic deterrent.)
I warned Buddy not to follow Mike on the hill repeats, as it was going to be a long, difficult day and the idea was to conserve strength. Buddy ignored me and persisted in chasing Mike sprinting up hills. Over and over again. At the turnaround point in Meriwether County, alongside the Flint River, Buddy began to show signs of delirium.
Late that afternoon, still an hour from home, the dreaded "BONK" set in, as everyone--except me--was out of food. All the signs were there: The refusal to ride, the whining, crying, mumbling about cheeseburgers, and two riders announced they preferred to be left to die in peace. The women racers, who had depended entirely upon liquid energy drinks were chewing on broomsedge, John was flashing back to Viet Nam and Buddy was stalking a cow while fondling his pocketknife.
I hastily distributed the last of my Fig Newtons, hearing grateful comments like, "That's the best food I ever tasted". One of the broomsedge nibblers grabbed me and took my last fig cookies. For some reason, Buddy refused my last Apple Newton, so we all set off on the last leg of what would be forever known as The Great Wilson Brothers Mtn. Bike Death March.
Within a few miles of home, Claire and I came upon Buddy as he struggled to keep up with the group. He was wobbling and moaning and veering from one side of the road to the other. Suddenly he rode straight into a ditch at speed, assumed the fetal position and expelled fluids from two, maybe three ports. He refused our help, so we left him to die.
Not long afterwards, Buddy passed us, waving from the back of a pickup truck. (A mortal sin in the eyes of fellow Death Marchers.) When he arrived at his van, Buddy and John threw their bikes in, and without saying goodbye or thanks for the great ride, they drove off at high speed, in search of a restaurant. They soon barged into a "Sizzler", ordered $40 worth of food apiece and raced to find a booth.
As soon as he sat down, Buddy seized up. A massive cramp, beginning in the arches of his feet, gripped his entire body from toes to scalp. He launched from the booth and landed on the floor, screaming like a victim in a slasher movie. His body was completely rigid, except for the waves of spasms; Buddy contorted as if he were hooked up to a 12 amp battery. His shrieking failed to disturb the other customers or the staff, so no help arrived. (The waitress was careful to step over, not on, Buddy.) John, in true Nam vet form, fell back on his training and concentrated on eating while he had the chance.
Clutching a doggy bag, Buddy was loaded into the back of his van like a corpse in full rigor mortis and driven back to Atlanta, moaning and trembling. After a long day in cold temps, the heated van put John into a deep sleep, something that frightened the other drivers on I-285. Aware that John was content to let the van drive home, Buddy persisted in keeping John awake with intermittent screams.
"Let me tell you what those Wilsons did to me . . .
The trauma of the Dirt Road Ride was a turning point for Buddy. When he recovered, Buddy stormed into my office and loudly proclaimed that no amount of cruel Wilson Brothers mind games could deter him from winning bike races. He then explained he had been in a bike store when the owner said, "Buddy, I heard what happened. Let me tell you what those Wilsons did to me . . . and Andy . . . and Jason."
Buddy began to warn others: "If you go on a Wilson Brothers adventure, see if you can identify the victim. If you can't . . . it's probably you."
Buddy's persistence soon paid off. He discovered he was gifted with the human equivalent of a diesel engine. He was that rare individual who could not only ride 24 hours straight, he could win 24 Hour Mountain Bike Endurance races. He regularly set course records and was invited to race in the World Championships.
The training regimen for World's was extremely difficult, but Buddy persisted where others quit. He rode 130 miles a day, lifted weights and then went out on his mountain bike. Never again the victim of one of our adventures, Buddy placed Third in his age group at the World Championships and in doing so, he taught us all the secret of world class success: Persist.