Monday, May 19, 2008


Keeping it real.

Or: "I told you I can't do stupid role play scenarios."

Wondering why I haven't posted for a week?** I've just been doing the Stress Thing. As in Irrational Anxiety Attack - come on DOWN!

What about? About a stupid course. A course that meant nothing in the scheme of things. There was no pass or fail. Just turn up and supposedly learn stuff. That's all. Easy peasy.

To most normal people.

One week and one day before this Ride Leader Training course, we were emailed all this reading material, and the course outline. And it was apparent that the 'course' day was really more an 'assessment' day. Barely an hour of actual course time! We were to plan a ride route, based on the material in the 20 page guidelines we were sent. And be assessed on it. And on the day we would be taken around a short ride route, and then we'd have to 'lead' a group of volunteer riders around that ride route. And be assessed on it.

A group of volunteer riders would be prepped to act out a range of things that can and do 'go wrong' on rides. And you had to roll up, and play pretendsies at being the leader; do pre-ride briefing.. and briefings at each regrouping point as you rode around this 3 km course. During this time you would have to act out dealing with the varied pretend scenarios the actor/riders were going to present. Every possible thing they could think of that could go wrong on a ride. (People falling off bikes, getting chest pains on hills, going the wrong way, riding ahead... you name it...)

Well. I stressed about it. BIG TIME. I have developed, over the years, what you'd have to call a verging-on pathological neurosis about role playing - or hypotheticals. (I don't even have to be in front of a group of people - I once flipped out over an online computer course I started to do, because I had to pretend I was advising on computers to buy for some fictitious school.. and I couldn't do it. Because it wasn't real. I couldn't bring myself to pretend or imagine or assume all these fictitious details!)

Various people, but particularly Marc, talked soothing logic to me - even up to when we were lying in bed at 11pm the night before! (that was Marc, not the various people)- and told me it wasn't really that hard, and I was as smart or smarter than most of the people doing it, and it wasn't rocket science, and it didn't really MATTER anyway. What did I have to lose? Nothing! (Plus the classic role model for the kids thing - about giving things a go, doing your best, facing your demons. Yadda, yadda...)

So, that prevented me from pulling out of the bloody thing beforehand.... and so, despite my misgivings, I turned up on the day.

And then the whole role playing thing threw me completely. You see, if I was going to lead a ride, I would pre-arrange one or two support riders that I could trust to be riding with me. One to be the sweep rider, and quite possibly one to lead off, because I know that I am a hill slug. So my M.O. would be to ride in the middle - keeping an eye on things...

I questioned the course leaders on this, but because I was the third cab off the rank to do the scenario, I couldn't use one of the other riders doing the course with me. (Not until they'd done it.) I had to turn up and use whoever was in the volunteer group - ask one of them to be the sweep rider - and "make assumptions" that they would do it right - whatever the hell that meant.

So this threw me already. I wasn't happy about it, because already it was a totally unrealistic situation for me. And the situation was already in role-reversal, because the volunteer riders were there 'controlling' the situation from the start. They had already ridden the route more times than me, and they were there ready to wreak havoc if they could! (Which is not how a normal ride would be!!)

And then one of the volunteers riders (from BNSW - Bicycle NSW - there were five people from BNSW here to run or to help with this course - ever heard the term "junket"?!) - says "I'll be sweep rider."

And I wasn't happy about that, because I didn't know him from a bar of soap, and so I didn't want him to be sweep rider... yet he insisted again... and, while it pissed me off, I wasn't strong enough to know how to deal with it. The assessor invited me to start, and when I went to start with the pretendsies situation - the "HI! I'm Tracey, and I'm going to be your rider leader for today..." it all welled up inside me, and I felt like I was going to burst into tears.

And I just blurted out "I can't do this."

What do you call that? (Apart from pathetic.) Choking? Stage fright?.... Anxiety attack?

I couldn't even start... and I knew that I'd be totally shit at acting out dealing with people pretending to fall off bikes, and have heart attacks, and do the wrong thing... all in the space of 3 km.

Luckily one of the women doing the course with me (and I consider her a friend) is already a qualified trainer/assessor, and they asked her to talk to me. (Seems I'd thrown THEM a situation they didn't know how to deal with!!)

She was wonderful. Called it a classic case of stage fright. Had seen it before. Suggested some options... trying it again later if I wanted - by then she'd have done hers, so would be available to be sweep rider. Or she could 'assess' me later on a real ride. She deflected the guy who had wanted us to do the course in the first place, and who kept on, unhelpfully, telling me I could do it, he had "faith in me.".

I decided not to do it. I know it would have been 'facing my fears'... but I was (and still am) too much of a mixture of upset and angry - and I didn't want to be given any favours. Either way. Plus, I never wanted to be "assessed" in the first place.

So I am angry that I'd let other people convince me that I could/should do this.. when I knew deep down that I didn't want to. I was doing the course to please others... not myself. Did I really want to be a ride leader anyway? Not really - I am really much happier being 2IC. Was a contrived scenario, based on my ability to act, going to prove I could lead a ride? I don't really know. It seems to be the latest trend; even if you go for a job stacking shelves in a supermarket! - which looks to make me pretty well unemployable then.

I might change my mind, but right now my stance is 'well, congratulations... what this course achieved for me is that I am now ruling myself out of leading any rides.' After all, if I can't face up to a role-play scenario, then I quite possibly can't handle any real life crises that might occur. While they said there was no passing or failing, a 'didn't even do' is a fail in my book.

Personally I think that there are other better ways for people to 'train up' as ride leaders. Be a support rider... and then when you do feel ready to lead a ride, then do so with the more experienced leader as back-up. Sounds logical to me.. but the whole competency/training scene these days is role playing.

And what did we actually learn on the day? Not that much, really. We 'discussed' three case studies of rides where things went wrong. (One of them I did say "Well, frankly, I wouldn't be leading a BUG ride on a wineries tour anyway, because duh! - with unknown participants you're asking to get idiots who want to get drunk!)

I prepared part of a ride route beforehand, with map and cue sheet, as per the guidelines in the reading material sent to us. I opted to be "assessed" for that, even though I had decided the whole "assessment" thing was a w*nk anyway. [Riding around doing that on the Wednesday and Friday last week trying to do that was time consuming. (And on Friday I got a flat tyre - which was good from the point of view of being able to practise changing it by myself without people standing over me - but it left me slightly more stressed and exhausted and with a sore lower back!!)]

So I passed the route planning! WHATEVER!! I didn't really care.. it meant nothing to me. The feedback on what I'd done was fine. "Yep, that's the way to do a cue sheet." But a tick and signature?! Wtf....

So there you are. I guess normal blogging transmission may resume once I've got myself over this little bout of neurosis (which may or may not coincide with the consumption of the rest of the packet of chocolate mint slices that I bought yesterday.)


** Oh, so you didn't miss me? Well, couldn't you just pretend that you did?


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I missed you Trace!!!!

Oh bugger those wallies who think their is only one way to skin a cat.

I think overcoming your fears to even get to the starting line was a huge win, and you should celebrate that.

This is from the girl who failed self-defence because of the role playing required to pass - the "attacker" was the good friend who was everyone in my circle's big brother and who would not hurt a bar fly, so I got an attack of the giggles and couldn't even think of ONE strategy for escape.

I just hope any would be attackers will slink away when faced with giggling attacks.

And hey - you only ever need one leader. Its training people to be a good group that is tricky.
Being smart enough or being logical has nothing to do with it.

You KNOW yourself and your limits..a big plus in this life in my mind. Being a great 2IC is nothing to sneeze at.

I totally agree with your thoughts on a well trained second moving forward into leadership ..IF SO DESIRED.

You have great strength T. and deep down you know it but you let that little "they say", or " I should" voice drown it out. If you've truly thought it though and feel it's not right for you than go with your gut feeling.

I'd have pulled out when the material arrived. I can't keep a straight face in role playing.

I've given up doing things I know wouldn't work for me and have stopped feeling the need to apologize or to feel that I've not lived up to others
expectations. The stress isn't worth it. ( I've had enough extra years of looking back to know this now )

I'd let you lead me on a ride anytime T. I trust you and that's what matters to me.

..and yes I've missed you
At least I have the haven that is you guys! I so wish that my problem was the giggles, but I suppose the end result is the same.
Thanks jeanie and E. !!

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