"Training with people who are faster than you will make you faster." This is the wisdom often dispensed by running and cycling magazines, books, and DVDs. Oh yeah, I've read 'em all!
Thing is, it can be true. Yesterday is a good example. I took the bait and agreed to meet friends at the Falls Bridge for a ride around the course of the Commerce Bank International Pro Championship, and the Liberty Classic, bike races. After a hard 40-mile hill ride, Saturday, I thought riding a loop around the 14.4 mile, mostly flat course, would be a nice recovery ride. Even if it included the famous Manayunk landmark, "The Wall."
So I met up with John, an avid cyclist who rides a self-described "moderately aggressive" commute to his Center City office; his cross-country running and beginning bike racing 15 year-old son, Robin; and his bike-frenzied friend who can pace the pros. Their normal pace on the flat Kelly Drive puts me at the back of the pace line, where I can just keep the speed with 30% less energy output. When we hit the wall, they were kind enough to wait for me at the top.
We rode this way 2.5 times around the course before the pro race started and the course was closed. Then we took Calumet Street up through East Falls - another tough-but-short climb - to get home.
Had I gone out on my own, I would have ridden the course once, at a comfortable pace, then gone home to rest before driving down to the see some of the race. But riding with a group made me want to stay with them, to keep up, and frankly to avoid embarrassment.
It's like that with MCC students, too. Finding themselves in an environment where their peers are trying to get jobs and get on the path to self-sufficiency, many students step up to the challenge. Many say the come to class every day, rather than drop out as they may have in school or in other training programs, because the other students and the staff keep the pace moving.
One of the motivating factors for our students is that several MCC staff members - including some instructors and support staff - were once MCC students. Some other staff members were in the same circumstance as current students, and made their way out. Some of volunteers and elected officials who support MCC were once right there. And plenty of former students, who are now happy in secure, well-paying careers, come back to talk to current students about staying on the path and keeping up with the pace-setters.
So maybe the MCC model isn't to turn students into faster riders. But like riding with faster riders, training around people who have found success helps MCC students find their own paths, faster.
See a shot of the riding group at the Flikr link, below.