I’m really, really sore as I write this. Over the weekend I took part in the 48-mile “Ore to Shore” mountain bike race in Upper Michigan. I had three goals: have fun, do reasonable well and not get hurt. After a crash about 11 miles into the race all three goals went out the window. I was in pain, and this made it nearly impossible to have fun or to do well (at one point I was dead last but worked my way up the field at bit by the end). While I don’t watch sports such as football, baseball or basketball, I have an appreciation for cycling. Here the lone rider competes against the field. Or so it seems at least when you see it on TV. In fact most professional riders are still part of a team, and there are as many support people (including mechanics, coaches, managers, etc. as there are riders — often more).
Thus there is truth in the saying that there is no “I” in team most as most coaches will say — something repeated by motivational speakers and sales managers in the world of business. In the world of business this might be true. Or so it might seem. However, for the self-employed and various freelancers there is typically no team for “U” either.
My bike race experience felt very much like my writing career. I was completely on my own. I had to continually push myself and try to do my best. And the race mirrored various years. Sometimes I start off strong and I have to overcome setbacks. I have no one to step up and help me out when I take a tumble. Likewise, if it wasn’t for the fact that I’m covered by my wife’s health insurance through her employer I couldn’t even consider taking part in such a race. I’m in a lot of pain today — that will happen when you crash along side railroad tracks and have another rider tumble over you — but nothing is broken and I opted not to get x-rays taken. I’m hurt but not injured. When you’re hurt you play through. When you’re injured you’re on the sidelines.
I was also fortunate that my bike wasn’t damaged in the fall. Nothing was broken and it rode reasonably well. But if anything was broken I had no support staff, no team mechanic and even a tire change (which I didn’t need to do thankfully) would have further pushed the point that I was on my own. For the home-based worker there is no one to blame but yourself if you run out of paper or toner, limited support when your PC goes down and a feeling of isolation when you have limited communication with the outside world.
Coming to the race also reminded me how far we’ve come with technology as well. Here I am in Upper Michigan and I can write my article on my laptop, send it to my editors via Wi-Fi at the hotel and even check in on various other assignments via mobile phones. While I’m roaming right now, and the calls will cost a bit more, I was even able to send a text message to my family to say that I was at the aid station but pushing on with the race.