…Athletes have a tendency to self doubt, setting up limits, losing faith on their training and looking for answers at the wrong places, blaming equipments, nutrition, other athletes, weather, etc. I guess as athletes we have all been there before. The more information the athlete have, the easier it gets to complicate simple things….

I would like to share with you the story of Ze do Pedal (It’s a Brazilian slang to name someone that is a good cyclist):

This happened 20 years ago in Sao Paulo, Brazil. I used to train with a bunch of “serious” cyclists and triathletes and we had this famous weekend ride.

The ride wasn’t too long, maybe about 40 miles but we would get excited and ride close to 30mph on rolling roads of crazy Sao Paulo.

One day, we were doing our usual hammer down at about 28-30mph when suddenlyl I see this guy coming by next to me, it was Ze do Pedal…

Ze do Pedal was a construction worker, riding a single gear cruiser, at least 45lbs, all rusty and noisy. First thing I noticed in Ze was his smile and the feeling of happiness to find “friends” to ride back with from work. Ze do Pedal was wearing flip flops, shorts made out of a cut out jeans and man that guy could ride !!!!

At first we were all jealous and thinking: “Who the hell is that? riding that crap bike and keeping up with us facing the wind???? We have to drop him !!” We would speed up and I would look at Ze and he was spinning at least 120rpms on that single gear bike!!! Man he was good !! We eventually dropped Ze and when I looked back, Ze was still smiling, waving to me saying: “That was cool, thank you!”

I guess I was already developing my coaching tendencies back then because I went home very intrigued about Ze do Pedal. I had at that moment changed my feelings from jealousy to curiosity because all I could think was: “How in the hell he can ride that fast????” I was then on a mission to find Ze do Pedal and learn more about him.

So for weekends in a row, I would ride the same ride, at the same time hoping to see Ze do Pedal to be able to chat with him and find out why he was so good. Two months went by and nothing, I was already losing faith and getting bummed when suddenly, out of nowhere that was Ze do Pedal ! I was now happy and excited to finally talk to Ze do Pedal, so I rode next to him and start asking questions:

Me: “Hey amigo, how are you? We gave you a nick name – Ze do Pedal because you’re strong!”

Ze: “Thank you, am I strong? What you mean?”

Me: “Ze, we were riding close to 30mph with fancy bikes and all and here came you cruising by!!!”

Ze: “Is that fast? But cars drive 50-60mph, that’s fast! I just want to catch up with you guys so I would have company on my way back from work”

Me: “What do you do?”

Ze: “ I’m a construction worker so I work in different places all the time”

Me: “So you ride your bike to work???”

Ze: “ Yes sir, you know, I don’t have a car and bus fares are expensive and I have 4 kids to feed”

Me: “Oh that explains why I haven’t seen you in a while. I understand, job don’t pay that much so you have to do what you can uh? How long you ride ?”

Ze: “Well, it depends on the job, if I’m lucky and I don’t get lost, it’s usually 30 miles each way but most of the times it’s between 40 and 60 miles each way!” I have to leave my house 2am sometimes to get there in time”

Me: “So you ride at least 40 miles, work all day in construction then ride 40 miles back and race us???”

Ze: “Yep (with a smile)”

Ze: “I’m fortunate to have a bike so I can save money with bus fares! I’m healthy and my family is happy”

Me: “Well Ze, it was a pleasure to meet you, you’re a good example to me and changed the way I see things, have a safe ride back my friend and until next time!”

Ze: “Thank you, you too! You guys are funny to ride with. You all have funny clothes and colorful bikes. But my bike is faster than yours !!! (laughing loud)”

Me: “HaHaha , yes it is !! (thinking, man if he only knew….)

The story of Ze do Pedal have helped me to understand a lot about coaching, being an athlete and limits we put on ourselves.

Ze do Pedal was happy to HAVE a bike and be able to ride to work, instead of paying $2/day in bus fares. Never was Ze worried about how long he had to ride, how the terrain was or having a bike shorts with chamois ! Ze just loved to ride…

Ze put miles and miles, day in day out, building an amazing aerobic capacity. When the terrain was hilly, the single leg speed bike made Ze pedaled hard, developing an amazing leg strength. When Ze would ride with us and keep up at 30mph, again that single gear bike made him to ride over 120rpms, Ze had to be efficient to ride at that high of rpm especially wearing flip flops!!!

Ze did not know limits, did not know any “rules” of training, heart rate zones or training periodization, nor the need for gears on the bike, bike shorts, chamois cream, water or food, no one told him so it was never a concern to him.

Ze never doubt himself about getting to work, no matter if it was 40 or 60 miles each way, 6 days a week, week in week out. Ze wakes up every morning, drink a cup of coffee, eat a Brazilian french bread with butter and there he goes.

Ze had only one thing in mind, to make it work, to get paid so he could feed his family….

Train safe and be more like Ze, enjoy what you do, be consistent and trust on your training because everything else is out of our control..

This article first appeared www.sdxtraining.com