Column by Rodolfo Sommer
Adversity is painful and difficult, but also a source of development. It is an opportunity to bring meaning to things, be empowered, cause changes, achieve goals and grow in all areas of life. This is my experience from the field of sports and health, but can be easily applied on a work or personal level.
Written in white paint on the pavement reads a sign, 5 km; after more than 7 hours on the bike, 72 miles traveled (mostly uphill and 400 in the body, on the previous days 3,172 meters in total elevation and 3,386 upside down calories, one not tell the difference well if remaining 5 kilometers is good or bad news; the initial paradox.
I’m single and it shows. The 34 degree Celsius temperature in the flatlands has become just less than 10 degrees Celsius and 3000 meters above sea level. The little clothing that I am wearing has already filled with the little water that remains causes panic. 5 km to complete two climbs in a row towards the Passo dello Stelvio, the legendary cyclists climbing route in the Italian Alps, up along the south wall, from Bormio and the second on the north wall from Prato allo Stelvio.
Believe me I understand that this is not a feat of which one especially boasts; not after seeing Nairo Quintana climb it as if he were on a motorcycle in the Giro d’Italia which enshrined him especially considering that my fellow travelers giving me more than one hour lead. But for one sport weakling like me, whose medical handbook in the clinic weighs several Gigabytes, including a tumor in the femur, countless casts and ankle sprains (because I really lost count) and many other sufferings. For a sport runt like me who was the last to be chosen for school matches or always arriving vomiting within 12 minutes of the Cooper test, believe me, for me these last 5 kilometers are the hardest, but also the happiest of my small sporting life.
The pavement marking reads 3 kilometers. It has begun to sleet with an icy breeze; I cannot see the top yet, only ascending curves. The damn gradient does not drop below 10 degrees. Second paradox, Italian curves are numbered in descending order, not ascending as in Chile … obviously! I cease looking for the summit view, I focused on the road, we all arrived to Ithaca, what matters most is the journey.
With my last neuron, I realize that what matters here is not one against which standard one measures oneself (self, please) but above all else, understanding where the strength comes from which enables each additional turn of the pedal. Every push on the pedal, every pedal rotation is achieved with every Cooper test that I did not finish; every blow chiseled on the femur, every sprained ankle, every time I did not get to the top, and finally, every time I put my heart into something that did not work, every mistake, every pain and suffering I have endured. Every disappointment, every frustration is accumulated in my legs to make that next push; every defeat, every failure synthesized in each new breath which allows me to go forward 10 more meters.
Third paradox: each pedal stroke is a vivid memory of experience I would rather no lived, but now makes me stronger and helps me to advance the missing kilometers. I have little oxygen, but enough for me to sing, “even if you embrace the moon, even if you lie down with the sun …”
The pavement marking reads 300 meters!!! The last meters, the most unbelievable thing. I feel, first of all, exhausted! But at the same time, liberated and lighter. The solitary synapse that still connects makes me aware that I am more alive than ever, that all the failures and heartaches I have ever lived, could transform into positive energy, a creative force for positivity to achieve goals. Because as my dear cycling mentor says: “until to die !!!”.
Fourth paradox: we must die to live.
My wife waited for me with a big hug and a hot chocolate, with unspeakable joy to have shared from the heart this climb with me. And so, feeling content, wanted, liberated and happy we jumped into the truck to return to the Hotel because for now, please, not another kilometer!!!
Rodolfo Sommer U.
Founding Partner / SommerGroup®