Wow, time certainly flies and I can’t believe 2011 is now history. Well, it was a memorable year, one that helped me find focus on cycling again, after a great finish to 2010. We recently posted short blogs by Renaissance Man & Masher with their Goals for 2012, but we have yet to publish the Goals for RAM Cycling, until now.
First, let’s reflect on the awesome happenings by RAM Cycling in 2011, then we can take a look at where the road leads for 2012 and beyond. Some simple, but important events accomplished by Renaissance & Masher in ’11:
* First century ride of the year (first ever for Renaissance Man) was the “Wheels O’ Fire” in Hamilton County, Georgia on April 2, 2011
* The idea of RAM Cycling first came to light on a Renaissance & Masher shared spring break vacation at Jacksonville Beach, FL during the week following that 1st century ride
* Our second century ride of the year was “Horsey Hundred” in Georgetown, KY on Memorial Day weekend 2011
* RAM Cycling was officially launched on the world wide web & twitter around the start of July 2011, we are claiming 4th of July as our Birthday
* Renaissance & Masher cycled in the sunshine state some more on vacation at Panama City Beach in July
* The months of August and September saw RAM put in miles and miles in prep for GABRAKY
* RAM Cycling rode in GABRAKY 2011 in October, a 3 day cycling event that travels around Kentucky (this was our second consecutive year, and included our 3rd century of the year)
* RAM Cycling closed out 2011 moderately by posting several hundred more miles before rolling into 2012
Now that we have reflected on the recent past, RAM Cycling can only move forward by setting some Goals, just like Renaissance & Masher did personally. The good news is, RAM is a reality, and here are some of the goals we hope to achieve this year or in the very near future:
*** Bring excellent news and memories from our charity and group ride events to life right here at the RAM Cycling website
*** Fight to have legislation introduced and passed into Kentucky Law to raise awareness and safety for bicycling, including a 3-FEET TO PASS LAW, more bike lanes, more Share The Road signs on roadways, more local bicycling events for the public & more
*** Gain corporate backing of some close partners, in order to help support our push for legislative updates and help us promote a more healthy and bicycle friendly America, and also help us support local charity groups that host events we intend to ride in this year and in years to come
*** RAM Cycling intends to host it’s own bicycle ride event, however the details are still in the planning phase for time of year, course, total miles, and location (expect this to be 1st class when it happens!)
*** Design and purchase our own cycling jersey to wear at events to help promote RAM Cycling, and t-shirts to give away
*** Obviously, we intend to support Renaissance & Masher in all of their bicycling endeavors
*** We want to develop a free membership club for the purpose of distributing important cycling information and legislative updates through a monthly newsletter
*** Finally, we will be excited to publish all of the good news we can find and relate to regarding bicycling
Thanks for visiting RAMCycling.com We hope you will continue to visit throughout 2012, as we try to accomplish our mission. So far it has been a wonderful ride, but it’s a journey that we are glad you are sharing with us. PLEASE feel free to leave a comment on any post we publish, or send us an email at any time. Your feed back is important to us and helps us improve our site for you. You can also follow us on Twitter @RAMCycling. Here’s to a great year in 2012!
I met Chris Schmidt at my first GABRAKY (Governor’s Autumn Bicycle Ride Across Kentucky) in 2006, and at our brunch stop at his place of work on the third and final day of the ride, I learned that he is married to one of my wife’s friend and softball teammate from high school. Chris is the Dean of Students at Lindsey Wilson College in Columbia, KY and is an avid cyclist with infamously massive calf muscles on his legs. Funny as it may seem, those are the two things that I related to Chris when we came in contact after that first ride across the state together: his wife and his calves.
I have gotten to know Chris a little more each year as he is the face of Lindsey Wilson as an annual partner and one of the main sponsors of the GABRAKY ride. He is an intelligent, hard working, genuine family man, that has a passion for cycling, and really has a way of connecting with people of all different sorts of cultures. As we follow each other on Twitter, I couldn’t help but notice some of his posts from early in the year mentioning some cross training in swimming, cycling, and running. He confirmed that he was training for the Ironman Competition that comes to Louisville, KY every August. I was a little surprised to learn of his intentions, because I had never pictured Chris as a marathon runner, especially after swimming and cycling another 114.4 miles! After all, they don’t call him “Big Dog” for nothing. One thing that didn’t surprise me though, was when he tweeted: “I did it. I am an Ironman!” on the evening of the annual competition in Louisville. A little over a week ago Chris was part of a team that ran over 200 miles across Kentucky in the annual Bourbon Chase Race Event, then turned around and just completed the annual bicycle ride across the bluegrass state in GABRAKY covering nearly 250 miles on the bike from Ohio to Tennessee. I was lucky enough to catch up with him at Buddy’s Pizza, a local restaurant in Frankfort and hear all about his Ironman experience. Now, I’ll share it with you.
Chris has been a road cyclist for years as both recreational and some competitive. As he was helping his wife attempt to get into cycling, she decided to try a sprint distance duathlon, so he also gave it a try. After one race in the triathlon format, he decided he liked it much better than the road rage he had experienced in the criterium road racing, and hence he was ready to go all out. So in a round-about way, his wife was the initial inspiration to try the Ironman event. The family affair didn’t stop there though, in fact, his wife Becca and son Cole, both were his main trainers and coaches. “The whole family made sacrifices financially, and with their time, menu, and physically, as they both helped me train. I also had two friends also training for the Ironman competition, Claude in western KY, and Toby here in Columbia with me, and it made all the difference having others to help,” claims Chris. He also received some genuine advice from a friend Lyn Bessette, a former pro female road cyclist, Olympian, and spouse to his long time friend Tim Johnson, also a pro cyclist in road and cross. She told him to always end EVERY training ride with a run, even if it was only a mile or two. So he did, every time he finished a ride on the bike, he immediately went out for a minimum 5K run, and in the end, he felt this advice to be very beneficial.
I mentioned the financial sacrifice, let me elaborate on some stuff I had never given a thought to. Chris saved every receipt he had relating to anything that had to do with his Ironman registration, training, and actual competition weekend, so he could reflect at the end and see just how much it actually cost to pull it off. Registration is just the beginning. The real expense comes from proper training. There’s cost to set up your bike, everything from wheels, to seats, to aero bars, to tubes and tires, then running. Especially for someone who was not previously a runner. There is shoes, and shoes, and more shoes, trying to find the right pair for his style of stride and stature, and don’t forget, those shoes have to run miles and miles and miles, to ensure he could cover 26.2 on the day it all mattered. Oh, let’s don’t forget swimming! Goggles, polar or tinted lens, etc.? And we haven’t even mentioned clothing, socks, nutrition, gels, bars, energy drinks, and so on, and so on … not sure if he kept the receipts in a shoe box, or a treasure chest. It certainly mattered what it cost to pull off this great feat, but it wasn’t something that Chris and his family were going to allow to be a road block, only a hurdle, as he admitted to gathering and selling some of his cycling gear he was no longer using.
When he arrived at the venue for the 2012 Ironman Louisville Competition, his vision of having the Ironman logo tattoo came to light in his mind as he witnessed all those already proud to display their achievement. “I was amazed at all the Ironman ink. Young, old, fit, or fat, it seemed like everyone had IM ink to immortalize their accomplishment,” says Chris. “Big Dog’s” ink is the IM logo on his right calf, so you can imagine how noticeable it is! Something else that amazed him was how well organized the event is. He says they dot all the i’s, cross all the t’s, to pull off an outstanding competition weekend. He commended the Ironman team for what an excellent job they do throughout the entire event. Unfortunately, their organization, brought up some of his more sad memories also. “When the clock strikes midnight, it’s over! They roll it up, close it down, it’s over. That realization didn’t quite hit me until I witnessed some competitors coming in as I was still in the streets, beaming with confidence from the feeling of what I had just achieved, only to see them comforted by loved ones for finishing, but not in time to receive a medal or acknowledgement from Ironman officially. Once that feeling of sadness I felt for them and their families and friends set in, it was nearly as tough as any emotion I experienced during the actual race. They finished, they were all Ironmen and Ironwomen in my book.”
Chris definitely thinks the mental aspect is more key to success than the physical. He said the whole event was an emotional roller coaster filled with highs and lows, and he doesn’t discount the physical aspect one bit, but he did mention seeing competitors he referred to as in much better physical condition than him laying on the side of the road, broke, done, finished but not completed. His plan had him committed to comfort and managing those emotions. Don’t let the highs get too high, likewise, don’t let a low, be too low. He placed simple items of comfort and happiness in his personal transition bags, and he contributes much of that tactic to his success. He even made a cycling sacrifice in training leading up to the competition and a running sacrifice on the fly in the actual race. Before the competition, he had his times checked and noticed he was laying down cycling time splits that rivaled the overall top 10 (yes this includes the pros) for half IM distances, and the top 5 for olympic and sprint distances. He dialed it back a little, to make sure he had enough gas to complete his first ever marathon run. Speaking of running, he had set out a plan to run four, walk one, and repeat until finished. As he approached the 10 mile mark of the run, he decided to change socks, since one foot was very sore and getting worse. This is when he found two toes that had blisters rubbed raw to the bone, so he altered his run plan to run six, walk one because it actually hurt worse to walk than run.
All of the pain was nowhere to be found as he saw the smiling faces of his wife and son waiting for him as he crossed the finish line and received his official Ironman medal! Chris is a very humble person, but he admitted confidently, that when he reflects on everything he went through to achieve the right to be called an Ironman, he feels like maybe his head is held just a little bit higher, and his chest stuck out just a little bit now. For those of you wondering about the total cost, how much all the receipts came up to when he got home, I offer this: “The second thing my wife told me after ‘Congratulations’ was that it didn’t matter what it had cost them, it was worth every penny they spent for him to accomplish what he did at that very moment! She was absolutely right. I went home and threw all those receipts in the trash and never once looked at them,” exclaimed Chris. In closing, he says that he is planning to do another Ironman competition next year. Not sure if it will be IM Louisville again or another venue, but now that I have the experience, I will set a lofty goal for my time, and set out to beat it! Congratulations Chris, you have always and continue to be an inspiration to me, both personally and physically. I don’t plan to join you in an Ironman any time soon, but I always look forward to you challenging me on the back roads of Kentucky on our road bikes.
Every new day brings new beginnings. Near the end of December, I was on a training ride with my friend Tim, the Renaissance Man, and we were discussing our great cycling accomplishments of 2013, when it dawned on us he was going to run his total miles for the year over 3,ooo and I would pass 4,000 before the ball dropped in NYC. This was a major accomplishment for both of us, and he ask me what was I to shoot for in 2014? That was a simple answer: no mileage goal, but more of the same … more staying fit and well, both physically and mentally! It kinda felt weird not making “New Year’s resolutions” for the first time in a long time, but rather, personally committing to stay the course that was laid out over the past year. I remain loyal to the idea that I don’t ride to accumulate miles, instead the miles, whether they’re few or many on any given ride, are my healing power. I say “I don’t ride for the miles,” but in fact, the good that comes about for me because of the miles I ride (and now occasionally run) is the beat of my heart, the breath of my lungs, the desire to wake up early each day and be better.
I developed my plan to regain fitness last year as I began training for Assault On Mt. Mitchell, which I knew would probably be the toughest ride I ever attempted, but I found the mentality to dig deep and challenge myself from the “lead by example” mentality of my mentor Chris “Big Dog Schmidty” Schmidt. We have come a long way from the first GABRAKY ride together, and when I learned about him completing his first Ironman triathlon in Louisville 2 years ago, I was inspired to push myself to reach my full potential. That’s the basis, the whole philosophy behind L3, which stands for Live, Learn, Lead. To quote Schmidty: ” We hold each other accountable for getting together to train, to race, and especially to have fun. There are others who join in that kind of make up our Team, we try to invite and include anyone who shares our same passion for life that we do. L3 is a philosophy about life. It’s about mental, physical, and spiritual wellness. It’s about being a lifelong learner. Finally, it’s about being a leader and realizing our (and others) full human potential.”
During the events that I rode with Schmidty last year, he couldn’t help but notice how much we have in common in our ability to sweat! Near the end of some of our century rides, I would be wearing down and certainly not feeling as fresh as he was, nor as strong as I would earlier in the ride. In early August, we rode the Louisville Ironman course for training and recon, and it was a hot day indeed. At the finish, my jersey appeared to have enough salt on it for several of the big hot pretzels you get at a ballpark, and while I felt spent, he and Toby Young (another Ironman and member of Team L3) went for a run. I know they have developed more endurance from their triathlon training and racing, but they also have a secret weapon in their bag tricks, or water bottles to be more specific. A product call Skratch Labs.
Near the end of the season last year, Schmidty sent me an article to read, about proper hydration and electrolyte replenishment. Obviously, a couple of strategies that I could benefit from. Then, as the new year rolled in, he ask me to join his Team L3 as we became officially sponsored by Skratch Labs. I’ve honestly never tried the product, but from what I’ve researched and heard from my very trustworthy mentor, it’s exactly the product I need in my bottles in 2014, and I’m very excited to try it. Who knows, maybe I’ll win some county line sprints and still feel like joining Chris and Toby for a run after a century ride this year!
I look forward to representing Team L3 and Skratch Labs at some awesome and challenging events this season. Some of those include Redbud Ride, Assault On Mt. Mitchell, Horsey Hundred, Tour de Lou, Preservation Pedal, Hub City Tour, GABRAKY, Bluegrass Cycling Club rides, and numerous other cycling events. I also plan to run in a few various 10-K and 5-K road races but have not decided which ones yet, and I am even giving serious consideration to attempting my first triathlon in the Olympic distance at the Buckhead Border Challenge in Louisville. Not to mention, I have sons that tend to sweat like their old man during the heat of summer baseball season, and they’ll be drinking Skratch in the dugout as well. I’m excited to be included in Team L3 and fully intend to continue to stay my course and rise stronger each day.
I don’t ride a bike to add days to my life, I ride a bike to add life to my days,
It wasn’t that long ago, I was an overweight husband, out of shape father, aspiring cyclist, poor fitness role model friend, individual often in search of changing my destiny. Happily, I write this blog today as the same person, however, missing some of the previous adjectives! I was recently discussing cycling, running, and fitness in general, at a summer concert at the Old Capitol lawn in Frankfort, KY with a great friend and fellow cyclist Jen Miklavcic, and she mentioned how she thoroughly enjoyed reading our stories on the website. Then, I saw the look of intimidation in her eyes when I mentioned we should get together for a ride sometime, as I thanked her for the nice blogging compliments.
She shared her reservations about riding with me, stating she would be worried that she would “hold me up, or not be able to hang.” I was a little surprised, and assured her that I don’t always race when I ride, as I informed her that I appreciate cycling with friends as a means of enjoying the ride for the scenery, fellowship, and fitness, without always trying to better my average speed. She told me I was basically out of her league, but there were many people that could benefit from learning about where I came from to get where I am now … especially since it wasn’t that long ago that I was also out of my own league from where my fitness is now. So, as she requested, here’s for you Jen, and hopefully a positive reading for others, as well.
Less than two years ago, I weighed between 240-250 pounds (depending on which day of the week it was), I would struggle to complete a century ride averaging 13-15 mph and needing at least a week to recover, mostly riding 20-40 miles at a time and feeling like I was going all out to break a 15 mph pace, often feeling tired and low in energy as I tried to juggle work with all the active things I wanted to do at home with my wife and sons, along with my cycling adventures. I now weigh around 200 pounds and though I’m no body builder, I’ve converted a serious amount of body fat into muscle strength. A normal ride for me now, can be anything from 20-80 miles, in which I will easily average a pace at 17 mph or above, and have recently completed numerous multiple century months (including riding the flatter ones at paces from 16-19 mph). I’ve even been able to cross train some now by also running occasionally. The depressing adjectives that described my person in the first paragraph were real, and now are a lifetime away because I chose to change my destiny by deciding to alter my lifestyle.
In full disclosure, my first decision wasn’t a lifestyle change. Though I wanted to be the opposite of the person I was a couple years ago, I was not committed to the idea of giving up all the things I loved, such as beer, chips, cakes, soft drinks, etc. and replacing them with rigorous work outs, riding harder and faster (getting dropped by the fast group; which ultimately feels like failure). But much like the time I gave up smoking cigarettes (yes, I was once a smoker for nearly 15 years!), when the time was right, when I truly wanted to be the other person, it was easy to transform. Of course, it didn’t happen overnight, and of course, it wasn’t exactly “easy” to do the things I’ve done to be who I am today, but it is much more simple to manage mentally, when I think about who I was and what I’ve gone through to become who I am today.
The two things that keep me motivated the most about living the lifestyle I enjoy now are my mental attitude of thinking “I’ve still got a ways to go” (my wife constantly says “why can’t you just take a compliment?” when I respond with this statement to her encouragement about my improved health), and the other thing that also keeps me going is my inner peace. Make no mistake, all the other changes help too, including the outpouring of compliments I get from friends and family (especially the moments when I have friends try to outdo me on Strava segments or challenge me on a hill climb or county line sprint). Other motivators are personal messages I get, the personal records I achieve on rides, the better endurance and speed I have from improving my overall fitness, the pure joy I have from feeling much more energized as I’m enthused to juggle all the husband and fatherly duties waiting on me after a long, hard day at work.
In closing, the best advice I can offer if you find yourself wanting to be someone other than the true complete person you see in the mirror, is start out with a serious challenge, but don’t focus on the entire big picture … the enormousness of the lifestyle change can be enough to discourage you and easily knock you off course. Instead, listen to your inner peace: focus on minor changes, one at a time, and as you begin to see the results from these changes, you can find the big picture motivation to stay the course, keep the grind going, knowing you like your person better after the results than before! And remember my focus: there’s always room for improvement, so while it’s great to celebrate victories, don’t dwell on them, because you’ve “still got a ways to go!”
Please know this, Jen and any other friends (whether you typically ride 4 mph faster or slower than me), I enjoy cycling with all of you. I get a sense of passion and happiness out of riding with both groups at times. So if I go out and pour my guts out trying to hang on a group way out of my league, or if I choose to spin more casually with a group that thinks I’m out of their league, the most important fact is that we’re riding our bikes, and putting a positive spin on our fitness, both mentally and physically. Yes, I’m happy with the person I’ve become, but I aspire to do more (juggling the balance between content and acceptance is much better than avoiding looking into a mirror). I strive to be a better, more active father, husband, employee, and I dream of being a faster, stronger, cyclist with more endurance and stamina in life. To achieve these, I know there’s always room for improvement, but I’m never out of anyone’s league, ’cause I’ve still got a ways to go, and I’d love to stay the course while enjoying a ride with any of my friends at times!