I started to write this a week ago, on Father’s Day, but got sidetracked … by riding then going out with my son for dinner at our favorite gourmet pizza restaurant (in Kirtland, of all places).
So riding can get in the way of things? Fitting, because that’s what I was starting to write about.
At various times I’ve been asked: how do you train and still make time for family? Don’t they resent the amount of time you spend training and racing?
It’s kind of moot now that my kids are well beyond that transition to wanting to do their own things. Actually that is part of the point: they have developed their own things that they want to do.
I’m mostly unapologetic about the time spent training and racing.
Parents push their kids to do sports, push them to do music lessons, to do activities, excel in school. But do parents do those things themselves? It seems to largely end up with the parents living vicariously through the activities and successes of their kids.
Why not show your kids a direct example of what it means to be engaged in something that is challenging, requires some discipline to be successful, and that you love to do? I think there is truth in the saying that kids learn more from what you do than what you say.
I could also talk about the different ways that you can do “opportunistic training” as I used to call it: ride early, ride at lunch, ride to and from work or family events. Ride a lot when you have the opportunity, and rest when other life circumstances come up. That worked pretty well for me.
More than anything though? I think they recognize that I’m just more agreeable when I am able to get out and ride.
I’ve been racing long enough to remember when you had to MAIL in race entries. Not e-mail but real, paper mail with a stamp on the envelope. And you found races by looking through announcements in VeloNews or USCF newsletter.
I can still picture the ad for the Killington Stage Race. It was a big race for the pros — last big race on the national calendar. It was big for amateurs too. A real stage race with big fields in all categories and big climbs in the Green Mountains of Vermont.
I did the race a couple of times, in 1999 and 2000 (after which the race went on hiatus until 2010). That’s long enough ago that it feels like forever. (I did the Masters 30+ race in ’99!).
In addition to picturing the old ad for the race, I also had a mental picture of the area. It was, as I remember it, beautiful. “Green Mountains” is an appropriate name. I also remember how refreshingly undeveloped the area was.
Going back this year for the first time since 2000, I was surprised to find that the picture in my head largely matched what I saw. How often does that happen? Seems you go back to a place where you have fond memories and then find that it’s not the same.
I figured we’d arrive to find lots of new, large condo complexes, chain restaurants, and Starbucks. But there was none of that. We stayed at a small inn on the access road. I got my espresso from a locally-owned bakery. We ate every meal at a local restaurant (including some amazing barbecue … in Vermont!). How often does that happen?
This is not just a random coincidence. I recalled reading about Vermonters opposing the growth of large “dollar stores”. So it seems to be a conscious thing.
Or maybe … it’s ingrained in how they see themselves in relation to their community and surroundings. Yeah. What if there was more of that elsewhere?
In any case, it was refreshing. I’m already thinking about going back: there’s another race in September (Green Mtn Stage Race).
(more on the Killington race itself to follow)
Filed under culture, travel
What’s your first thought on a snowy Saturday in January? (That would be last week for those of us “up north”; yesterday for those “down south” in Akron).
After “coffee”, it’s thinking about what is the training plan for the day. On a day like this you have to get into the right mental state to head to the basement and get on the trainer.
Is that what a normal person does? (no answer needed)
Most days are like this — not just snowy days. There is always that undercurrent of “where am I going to fit today’s training”, planning the next day, thinking of the next race coming up.
I’ve long felt that people who choose to race bikes have a compulsive nature. If it wasn’t bike racing it would be something else. The triathletes that I know are like this too.
I used to like brewing beer. I probably still would if I could spare the time. I couldn’t do it the easy way. I had brew all-grain, starting with the whole barley and grinding (I had a grain mill even). I made my own copper-tubed chiller to cool the wort before adding the yeast. It was an all-day affair.
A normal person just buys beer.
I used to think this was limited to bike racers and other athletes. But I know people at work like this too. The ones who are exceptionally good at what they do have a sort of compulsion about them too. They can’t do things partway. I’m pretty sure this is a characteristic of anyone who engages deeply in an activity — whether it’s bike racing, beer brewing, dog training, stock trading, writing, music …
So choose your activities carefully. The byproduct being a great brewer is that you have a lot of beer to finish. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)
You come home from Walmart and find that they didn’t charge you for one of your items. Do you go back and ask them to please put it on your credit card? Probably not, unless you’re that rare person who is just goodness to the core. But you probably also feel a little guilty about it.
What if it’s your favorite local bike shop? Or your favorite local grocery store?
I came home from my local Heinen’s grocery and found that another customer’s bag somehow got mixed in with mine. When I opened it there was that initial moment of disorientation: huh? when did I buy a pound-and-a-half of salmon filets and pound of ground turkey?
Then I realized what had happened. Wow, free food!
But I like Heinen’s. It’s well run, they have a good product selection, and it’s no more expensive than the big-chain alternative. Both my kids used to work there.
So I called them up and told them what happened. Since it was perishable food, they were not allowed to take it back. Even though it happened just 5 minutes ago. It was mine “to enjoy”.
Wow, free food!
Except. What am I going to do with a pound-and-a-half of salmon filet and a pound of ground turkey? I already have my own “perishable food” to cook and eat.
You’ve heard of “carb loading” before a big event? Well for the next couple days I am “protein loading”, whether I need it or not. Starting with grilling salmon filets out in the snow, along with the chicken and chorizo I had already bought. The leftovers are going to be turned into salmon-scrambled-eggs for breakfast, salmon-and-capers pizza, chorizo and goat cheese pizza, chicken and chorizo … something.
The cat may end up becoming a turkey connoisseur.
And I am going to need to ride extra-long today.
That was a Twitter response to my “Today I rode naked” post.
Yeah, it’s like that with running too.
I’ve gone from just going out for an easy jog … to wearing a watch … to getting a GPS watch to track distance … to consciously trying to get faster … to doing tempo intervals …
And when my GPS watch stopped working a couple weeks ago, it was at first annoying to not know how fast and how far. Like the run “didn’t count” if I didn’t know how far, exactly. So I went and found another on eBay.
How do we become so neurotic about stuff like this?
One of the reasons I like running — trail running in particular — is that it’s quieter than being on the bike. You don’t have the wind noise, traffic noise, speed, cars buzzing you. But then we go complicate a nice trail run by wanting to monitor and record it.
It’s snowing today. I’ll try running in the snow without worrying about how far or fast, until I don’t feel like running anymore.
That “I often run naked” Twitter response came from one of my heroes, Zack Johnson. He somehow manages to find the energy to train for and compete in ultramarathons (including a 100 mile race), organize an ultra team, actually put on a 24 hour race. He put me on his team roster, and I have to say I feel so incredibly inadequate.
He’s also putting on a snowshoe race series — equipment rental available. First race was cancelled, but assuming we do get a real winter soon there are 2 more races scheduled:
Filed under culture, running
This time of year (winter) I make mental notes on “must avoid” roads. They’re usually in crappy condition in the first place, then get even worst after a few freeze-thaw cycles.
One of those mental notes read “Riverview Rd, north of Rt 82 in Brecksville”.
Only I didn’t follow my own advice. In less than a mile I had a rear flat and a derailleur cable that somehow pulled loose. The flat was fixable but I was faced with riding home 30 miles stuck in the 11-cog. With a climb up the Gorge Parkway in Bedford (painful in the 11).
That was before a Good Samaritan stopped, asked if I needed any help, then drove home and came back with an allen wrench so I could reattach the der cable.
Thanks, man. I will pay that one forward.
(PS. really, stay off Riverview Rd. north of Rt 82 in B’ville.)
Filed under culture, cycling
I thought it would be clever to write that. Then I googled and saw that it’s been done by at least a couple hundred other people.
Either they’re faux-whining about not being on the latest technology … or slamming people for being addicted to their smartphones … or talking about just how unnecessary it all is.
I could cover all of that.
What made me particularly aware of this was traveling last week. While sitting at the airport, on the plane, and at work functions I realized that I was in fact just about the only person who was not using a smartphone. And not constantly using a smartphone. I felt self-conscious using my dumbphone.
I don’t have anything against them. If someone gave me one, I’d use it. I like technology. I’d try not to be compulsive about it, but I’d use it.
But more than anything I’m cheap. They haven’t given me one for work, and I just can’t justify spending the money out of my own pocket.
Because for cost of the phone and plan I could buy something really useful. Like, oh, a couple cases of wine or new set of wheels. Or entry fees for a year, or …
… or so it would appear.
It doesn’t seem to matter what time of day I ride, there is always a steady stream of cars going by. I’m thinking, where are all these people going in the middle of the day?
I mentioned this to a few people at dinner, and the consensus was: it’s the retirees. Which makes me even more nervous being on the road around here.
One of the people at dinner then went on to rave about the community where his cousin lives: how it’s got walls and a security gate, stores, pools, perfectly manicured lawns, even a theater. And they don’t allow anyone under 40 to live there for more than a few months in a row. You really don’t have to go outside the gate. Another guy and I exchanged sideways “WTF?” looks.
It then struck me that this whole area feels “unreal”. More contrived than organic. The gated communities, the strips of grass requiring extensive watering, the roads that seem to exist only because they end at a housing development. Palm trees that don’t grow here naturally.
And almost everyone seems to be from somewhere else. Every person I’ve talked to while out riding, or who works in the local restaurants or stores, has not been from the area.
I’ve concluded that the entire economy is based on people working in stores and restaurants making their livings off of the people who work in the other stores and restaurants. But that would be an entirely closed system. Then I realized the other source of income to the system is from the retirees who come here in winter.
Now I have to say, I’ve enjoyed the warmth and sunshine, and the people I’ve met have been quite friendly and pleasant. But even with the crap weather waiting back at home, I will not be sad to leave here.
One of the ironic aspects of bike racing is that you spend a lot of time in the car.
When carpooling to races with my teammate Tris, we invariably end up talking about how we don’t like driving, and how we’d like to be able to walk and/or ride to more places. The urban sprawl that most of us live among makes that difficult. While in suburban Louisville for nationals, there was a Starbucks just half a mile from the hotel. But walking required crossing 6 lanes of heavy traffic without any visible pedestrian crossings. Riding required either (illegally) dodging said traffic on the bike, or else following the maze of traffic lights and required u-turns.
Who was responsible for that planning fiasco?
One of the things I most miss about the 8 months I spent in Germany was being able to — and in many cases being required to — walk to places. It was easy to walk to the grocery, bakery, restaurants, while it would be a hassle to drive and try to park. In those 8 months, I lost weight simply from walking more, more than offsetting the increased beer consumption.
Is it possible to shrink the sprawl? Especially in areas like Northeast Ohio, where the population is declining or at best stable?
A couple of related stories caught my attention. This one, written by fellow racer Jim Nichols, talks about how some would like to transform decaying urban spaces into small, working farms. Cool idea.
The other story is about the city of Youngstown, where we will be racing this weekend at the Tour of the Valley (promoted by our team). Faced with declining population, Youngstown has taken the forward-thinking approach of embracing the decline and creating large green space from blighted areas, and then concentrating the developed areas. This sort of an approach has the potential to shrink the sprawl.
The current and future land use maps can be seen here:
At least some people are thinking.
Before leaving for the Ohio time trial championship in Versailles, my son informed me of the correct way to pronounce where I would be going.
“It’s Ver-sales”, he said. “They don’t like it when you say it like the French city.” As a college student at a small Ohio liberal arts school, he now apparently knows these things.
I added it to the list of other Ohio cities and towns named after foreign ones, but that somewhere along the way forgot how they are supposed to be pronounced.
Milan is “MY-lan”.
Berlin is “BER-lun”.
Genoa is “Ge-NO-a”.
Toledo is “Tuh-LEE-doh”.
Lima is like the bean.
And I think the residents all get mad when you say the name “properly” — like the more famous counterpart, even though that is in fact the origin of their names. Somewhere along the way, someone must have declared, “I ain’t gonna live nowhere that sounds like some Frenchy place.”
Maybe this is the answer to Ohio’s declining economy. Make Ohio sound more cosmopolitan, and we can fool businesses into moving here. When they hear “Ver-sigh”, they might think of wine, bakeries, and street cafes rather than egg farms and chicken poop.
That is perhaps unfair to Ver-sales. Driving around Ohio to go to races, you pass through some pretty dismal looking places. Ver-sales wasn’t one of them. The main street (called Main Street of course) and the surrounding area was striking with its neat little well-kept houses, all with sidewalks, nice paint, and trimmed lawns.
It seemed as though people actually cared about where they live. And more of that would likely do more to revive Ohio than anything.