Tuesday, April 20, 2010


" Baseball is 90% mental and the other half is physical" - Yogi Berra

Now I realize Yogi is no Chris Carmichael , but putting his atrocious math skills aside, I have really come to appreciate this quote when I apply it to cycling.
You know the moment: You are cruising along, feeling great. You come to that hill. You begin to climb that hill . I am climbing strong today! Then it happens. You get passed by someone on that hill. Hey, wasn't that the wobbly dude I screamed by on that flat stretch a while back? Okay, keep peddling, don't freak out. Pass number two, the older woman in the leopard print shirt, who you thought was in the B group. Damn! Keep peddling, don't freak out. Pass number three, the guy that looks like the host of Man vs. Food, his creaking crankset and all, floats by you. ^%$%#^!!! I am freaking out! Suddenly, I feel exhausted, grunting and breathing spastically, like I am doing a voice over for a bad porn video.
Several years ago, a moment like that would have devastated me to such an extent that I would have probably dismounted, and in a fit of despair, thrown my bike into the woods. But on a recent Sunday ride, when the same thing occurred, I was much more calm, did not freak out, and after the climb, steadily worked my way back to the group. Hmmm. Which leads me to my next quote: "Free your mind and your ass will follow" - Funkadelic
Why the change in reactions? I guess there are several answers. First, I have been training with people who are younger and stronger than me. Nothing like repeated ass whippings to strengthen one's resolve. Second, I have been riding with several different cycling clubs, with a wide variety of riders. Important lesson here: Just because someone does not look like Lance Armstrong or Alberto Contatdor, does not mean they do not posses the skill/genetics/training/desire/ etc. to crush you at any given moment on any given ride. The quicker you come to this realization, the less the need for a session with your local sport psychologist. Third, and most importantly: Remember why you are out there in the first place. You LIKE to ride! In this wondrous age of technology, it is easy to fall prey to the seductive allure of all manner of digital instrumentation in the hopes of gaining that edge. Next thing you know, you are hunched over your laptop at Starbucks, poring over a spread sheet, looking for trends in your wattage output. That guy on the ride that ran into the back of a parked car with his Pinnarello was probably trying to sync his altimeter to his HTC Droid in order to upload it to his PC. T.M.I., as my daughters would say. (Too much information)
Remember why you are out there in the first place. You LIKE to ride. So every once in a while, ditch the cyclometer and head out for a ride. Enjoy the scenery. Give your body AND mind a recovery day, and the next group ride, when you get dropped on that hill, don't freak out. Relax, get on up that hill, and rejoin the group.

Free you mind, and your spandex covered ass will follow.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Wake Up Call

Having worked nights for the past nine years, I have become accustomed to being jarred awake on numerous occasions as my daytime life collides with my 3rd shift life. Being the father of three daughters, it is generally one of their faces I see as I am violently ripped from a deep REM state. "Dad, the bus never came." "Dad, there's a bug in the house." " Dad, Jillian just threw up everywhere."
The sound of my cell phone ringing dragged me from the murky depths of sleep yesterday. I was planning on riding with a group of friends @ 9:30am, so I thought this was one of my fellow cyclists, calling to bail or to cajole me into getting my ass up to ride. Instead, it was my wife calling. Wait. Today is Wednesday. She is off on Wednesdays. Its 7:30am. Why the hell would she be calling me from upstairs in our house?
She was not home. She was on the road. She spoke in a concise, measured tone the phrase no parent wants to hear: "Gene, I need you to get up, get dressed and come downtown. Kaitlin has been in an accident. She's okay, I am on my way there as well, don't know all the details yet."
After a angst filled ten minute trip, I arrived at the scene. It was easy to spot, the sparkling blue lights of several police cars marking the area. Kaitlin, her mom and a police officer were huddled around Kaitlin's car, much in the way a NASCAR driver and his crew chief would be, examining the car after a wreck, deciding whether or not they could get the car repaired and back out on the track. Pulling into the parking lot alongside them, I got my first look at the car.
We were not getting back on the track with that puppy. She was done.
The car did what it was supposed to. Both air bags deployed, and the front end crumpled, absorbing the impact of the crash. Kaitlin was okay. Thank God. It was not her fault, the other driver turned right in front of her.
Seeing your own flesh and blood standing next to her destroyed car, shivering and crying, has a profound way of making you realize what is important in life. Weekly mileage, cadence, carbon, training logs and cue sheets, power bars, gu's etc., are suddenly insignificant.
Needless to say, I did not ride yesterday. I am not riding today. I WILL ride Friday.
Yesterday is now a blur of paperwork and phone calls, trips to Enterprise car rental and a trip to the salvage yard to pay our final respects to Kate's 1997 Saturn. ( and also to remove the massive amount of crap she had stored in that car!)
So we are now in the hunt for another car for Kaitlin. I am tooling around in a rented KIA, due to the fact that Kaitlin is too young to put the rental car in her name. So guess who is driving my car?........ Exactly.
I woke up on my own today. Made some coffee, sat at the computer and caught up on things. I was reading my friend John's post on FB about potty training his daughter when I suddenly realized I was crying. My God, where does the time go??? I remember when body fluid maintenance was the number one (no pun intended) issue in our house. It is true what they say: Time does fly by. As a parent, you will always be cleaning up messes, whether it be that wayward turd on the carpet or that auto insurance bill. It's what we do. They're our children.
So for every mile you ride or minute you train, be sure to spend an equal amount of time with the people you really care about. The clock is ticking.........
Kaitlin is okay. Thank God.
And I am riding tomorrow.
Then I am going to Starbucks with my daughters.


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Two Way Street

An interesting thing happened to me while out on a ride a few weeks ago. I was riding with my friend Amy, down a nice stretch of country road, when a car passed us. He got about a 1/4 mile ahead of us, then suddenly stopped. He then put the car in reverse, backed up a few feet, then pulled forward again. He did this several more times, and now Amy and I are looking at each other, as we are steadily approaching the vehicle, trying to figure out what this person is going to do next.
Most of the angry, anti cycling drivers we encounter on the road are the "horn blowing, hand raising, what the hell's the matter with you people" variety, but this guy was different. Subtle. Stealthy. Amy and I slowed to a crawl, and I watched as Amy slowly unclipped the holder on her top tube that contained the pepper spray, much in the same way a police officer would unclip his holster while approaching a car suspected of being stolen. The car suddenly shifted out of reverse, and drove off. Our sense of relief was short lived, as we now saw the vehicle had turned around and was coming back toward us! With a mixture of fear and adrenaline, we braced for a showdown. That classic phrase, "ohhhh shit, here we go..." tumbled from my lips, much the way it does when one is about to enter a prolonged argument with their spouse.
But as the car approached, it did not speed up or swerve, blow its horn or flash its lights. It gently cruised by, slow enough for me to see a young man driving the car, wearing what was obviously auto mechanics clothing, complete with name tags.
Can you imagine this poor guy, out checking the transmission on a Buick LeSabre, suddenly being attacked with pepper spray by two spandex clad lunatics?!?! I suddenly envisioned my long Saturday rides being replaced by roadside cleanups on HWY 401 and anger management classes.

This little incedent reminded me that not all drivers are out to get us. It is very easy to get caught up in that "US vs THEM" mentality out there on the road. I know I sometimes do. There will always be that rouge, type A lunatic behind the wheel, wanting to teach us a lesson. Can he/she be saved? I don't know. I do know that communication, instruction and a friendly wave or smile to a driver that shares the road with us will go a long way.

" Mrs. Jacobs, Hi , this is Tony from the garage. I apologize, but your car will not be ready today. You would not BELIEVE what happened to my mechanic today.............."


Sunday, April 11, 2010