Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Inside Your Head

Riding is and always has been my sanity.  I ride to keep from going postal.  I am like a Siberian Husky who goes stir crazy when not exercised.  If I'm not out on a bike, I just might eat a flip flop from all the pent up energy coursing through my veins.

Unfortunately, for the most part, riding is complete insanity in Rwanda.  I am never alone.  It is stressful looking for the next potential pedestrian/bicycle collision.  Nothing about riding here calms me....except for the few minutes I am riding with the Team.

When I ride with the Team in the peloton I am protected.  There are no annoying "hanger ons", no "Muzungu Amafarangas", generally no rocks, sticks or corn cobs.  There is just the Kinyarwandan banter of the boys and the quiet of pedals turning, and the gift of appreciation for their physicality, the muscles clearly defined through their blue/black skin.  In these moments I am at peace.  I let everything go in my head and for a few precious minutes all is calm.  Yesterday the moment lasted 42 minutes and 47 seconds today only 13 minutes and 52 seconds.  We clearly know which day was the easier warmup for the Team!

It is hard to get lost in quiet thought after I see the team slowly increase the gap, their colorful jerseys getting smaller along the horizon.  My brain starts shooting rapid fire thoughts along the synapses.

Wow, it is absolutely gorgeous today, no rain, bright sunshine.  The mist in the valley is thick.
Squeak, squeak, squeak....dude, get off my wheel.  Oye...distance.  Murakoze.  Please, oye...dude BACK OFF!
Why is that bus in my lane coming directly at me?
Why is everyone driving so fast, don't they know how many people are killed in pedestrian/vehicle accidents?
Dude...hissss......rumva....LOOK OUT!
Does any Rwanda EVER look before they step into the road?
Perhaps we should start a PSA campaign, "Look Both Ways!"
Why can I NOT get my heartrate above 155 today?  I'm pedaling as hard as I can.  Fatique.  Sure sign...this and no appetite.  At least I'm thin...hmm, not good though.  Just don't want to eat.  How much did I weigh in high school?
Crazy lady with pipe to my she going to twirl out into the road today?  No, she only takes a few steps toward me.  All clear.
Maybe she likes being crazy, life is good, no problems.
UGH....Muzungu, muzungu...don't make eye contact, don't engage, keep riding.  Don't get suckered in to the pleasant "Good morning, teacher!".  I'm not their teacher.  Ok, I'll relent..this one time.. "Good morning."  "GIVE ME MONEY!"  Damn....I knew better.   
Time to play blonde German tourist pretending I don't speak English. 
Ich spreche kein Englisch....good thing I took that one semester of German in college. can I get a second passport?
You throw that corn cob at me I'm going to jump off this bike, chase you down and give you the spanking you should have had years ago you little snot!
Do NOT pull in front of me...seriously?  Nice move Matatu!
I miss Max...miss riding with him, he always makes me laugh.  Miss his "Frenchness"
Did that kid just yell, "F(*& You?!"
Ah....Rocky's town, wonder how Monique is?
Gitarama road or Sashwara...considering my lame heart rate maybe I'll turn around AT the Gitarama road.  That's the ticket.  28 miles is better than 0....that's my motto.
Ugh...I have to pee.  

The loop plays over and over and over while I ride, but it always comes back to...Gasore, what are we going to do about Gasore?

Gasore is having a very poor race in Morocco, horrible would actually be a better word to describe his performance.  He just came back from two months training and racing in South Africa.  Physically he is fine, emotionally, mentally he is lost.  He gives up.  I saw him do it a couple of times in the Tour of Rwanda but it has gotten worse.  Out of the six riders in Morocco, Gasore is 6th out of six.  Joseph and Emile in their first big international race are ahead of Gasore...all because Gasore has something going on inside his head which we may never be able to address.

It is frustrating...heartbreaking.  We have invested so much financially and emotionally in helping him become a great rider, to have a better future.  Do we want it more for him than he wants it for himself?  Is this it, as good as it gets for his life?

The thought crushes me....but I have learned to accept I cannot control the outcome.  I can help.  I can provide an example, support, patch some potholes along the way, but ultimately it is Gasore's choice.

How do I get inside his head?  There are no good Kinyarwanda speaking sports psychologists I know of.  Doubt any exist.  Language barrier aside, we are also dealing with the cultural atmosphere of half truths, omissions and lies.  Gasore may just tell us what he thinks we want to hear and not the truth.  Without the truth how can we help him?

No doubt Gasore has seen his share of trauma, death, sadness, poverty.  He has also seen the other side.  He has visited Switzerland, the most beautiful country on this planet.  Is it all too much for him?  Is it just a slow methodical self sabotage of his life?  

Gasore has been pulled from the next two international races, Gabon and Eritrea.  His racing career is hanging in the balance.  

When I was a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA), I advocated for a teenager who had been placed into the system due to neglect.  I worked for years with this girl.  She had her ups and downs but I looked for every opportunity to break the cycle of poverty, abuse and neglect.  At one point, due to changes in the system, we lost touch.  And then I received a call, she was graduating from high school.  Hallelujah!  Maybe just maybe she had seen the other side and was making choices to not lapse back into the generational welfare family role.  I went to her graduation.  She was making plans to go to community college.  She was the first to graduate from high school.  Less than a year later I received a call from her telling me she had just given birth.  No baby daddy, living in Section 8 housing, WIC, food stamps, the cycle had repeated.  I clung to the hope she would at least not abuse and neglect HER child.  I never heard from her again.

I will try to find someone, anyone who can tap into the mental force eroding Gasore's confidence and his career.  I will exhaust every avenue.  In the end it comes down to God and Gasore.  

Time to get off the bike.....I am just too sad to ride.

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