I can answer that question with one simple three letter word, but it’s much more complex than that. I’ve enjoyed being active and competitive most of my life, but there was one time when I was neither and eventually snapped out of it by finding myself on two wheels. I’ve journeyed quite a distance from that first ride, one that I could have never forecast back then, but certainly a ride that’s been worth the trip and the desire to get on a bike and ride came from the inspiration of one person. This is the story of the beginning of my now pedaling passion, inspired by my dad. Sometimes, the best scripts are the ones that write themselves.
During my senior year of high school, as I attended the third different school in four years, I decided to go off to the U.S. Marine Corps after graduation to help pay my way to college and help me figure out what I wanted to do with my life. While in high school, I played multiple sports. Football (always my favorite), wrestling, track and cross country, and golf were the ones I participated in, but for some reason I took that senior year off all of them. Maybe it was a burnt out feeling of moving, maybe it was the difficulty of constantly competing for playing time against new athletes on new teams, maybe it was that I just became lazy and more focused on partying than being an athlete (most likely). Whatever the excuse I draw up, there’s nothing I regret more as a young parent of teens than my decision to not finish what I started. I had been active from the moment I learned how to walk until that last year of high school, and I know in my mind I could have helped out a team and would have helped my health. Not to mention, I now realize I will never again participate in that level of organized athletic competition. I especially wished I had been a little more active when I found myself at Parris Island in boot camp.
Going back to my childhood … after that first 6.2 mile road race where I slowed up my father as he waited on me so that we could finish together, we eventually went on to run many more together. He also went through a period in which he ran many marathons with a close group of friends, some of the big shows. He completed the Boston, Marine Corps, and numerous others, and once even ran a fifty miler from Louisville to Frankfort. I never got into the high mileage events, but we finished plenty of 10K races together. From Lake Cumberland, to Gatlinburg, and several spots in between. I liked the liberating feeling of being on an open road and challenging myself to be fit, and testing myself to finish better each race, but most of all, I had a special bond with my dad.
There was a short period of time when my (now divorced) parents temporarily separated and my dad had to stay somewhere other than our house. It was a sad, tough time for our family, as my siblings and I were all young. I remember being the first one to ask if I could go stay the night with my dad, I missed him, I missed our family being together. I’ll never forget the first time I heard the story that my dad never knew his real (biological) father. It was also the first time I learned my dad is a “second” sharing the same name with him. Initially, I was told his dad left my precious grandmother, Ma’amaw Lucy, shortly after my dad was born. I later found out Ma’amaw left his mother, whom they were living with and she could no longer be under her control. He could have left with my grandma, should have, but didn’t. Regardless, of the details, once I learned that my dad grew up not knowing his real dad, it was just another reason that I feel strengthens our bond.
My dad, who I call Pops, had spinal surgery a decade or so ago. It was not the outpatient, simple operation. It was a more complex surgery that kept him off work and off his feet for months. His back problems were probably brought on by several things, but the running may have been the biggest contributing factor, and according to the doctor, he should never run again. So, upon fully healing and getting back to work, he somehow found himself riding a bicycle to make up for lost time running. At first, he rode to work and home daily, then he connected with some local friends that ride. As a news and feature writer for the local newspaper in Frankfort, KY, he wrote about a group that rode across the state to help raise money for the Grand Theater on a cycling event called GABRAKY (Grand Autumn Bicycle Ride Across KY). The following year, he joined them on the open road on his commuter Trek hybrid bike and shortly after completing that ride, he bought a Giant carbon road bike. He’s been a cyclist ever since.
The following summer, as I longed for sharing a past time with my dad, and needing to regain some sort of fitness after becoming somewhat lazy, and out of touch with a healthy lifestyle due to the hustle and bustle of working and raising a family, I decided to train for the same ride and do it with Pops. I’ve been a cyclist ever since, although I did let work get in the way for one short time period. I long for opportunities to ride my bike. It is a passion that I have developed that I’m simply not sure where I’d be in life without it. And yes, before I got into it, I thought the people looked “dorky” in all the cycling attire that I now have a closet full of, and wouldn’t trade it for anything!
My dad has numerous passions and hobbies that I’m not that interested in, and I have plenty that he doesn’t care about. But two things we both find common ground on and always will are family and cycling. Even though my parents are now divorced, we still have family gatherings at birthdays and holidays all together, and they may be better friends now (I hope so). They still attend my children’s sports or school or church events together sometimes. We don’t get to ride together as often as we’d both like to, but cycling is a bond we will always share, and I owe Pops a great debt of gratitude for being the answer to the question: How I found the bike? Dad, of course! There are tons of reasons I still ride today, with friends, family, sometimes complete strangers, and most often by myself, but it’s hard to imagine I’d be the passionate cyclist I am, if not for the bond with my dad. By the way, to steal a line from a Twitter cycling account I follow …. in regards to cycling alone often, I’m not anti-social, just pro-solitude.
Thanks for being the inspiration to me to ride a bike Pops,
P.s. My first born son is a “third” sharing the same name as my dad!
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,
Heading into the off season, I was primed, I was pumped to get a little R & R, and begin pushing hard for the next cycling season in hopes of returning to some of my favorite rides and shoot for some PR’s. After deciding to move my daily strength training program into a new gear, I was instantly sidelined with a strained muscle group in my back. This little setback even cost me a couple days off work when I couldn’t be productive. Two weeks later, after being very inactive to heal, I managed to cycle up Black Mountain, the highest point in Kentucky and then I relaunched my off season activities in full force.
Near the end of the year, I found my riding time very limited due to weather, work, and family travel, but still managed to keep the indoor movement continued and got a few decent rides in over the holidays with some nice hills and miles. However, it’s been nearly shut down mode since then as far as the road cycling and running goes. The wonderful winter weather has played havoc on my work schedule as well, causing multiple consecutive weeks with hours in the sixties plus. Thankfully, nothing has halted my morning workout ritual, and I know soon enough, the weather has to break and I’ll be chomping at the bit to make up for lost time.
The second problematic issue this off season was a nagging shoulder strain, but this time, more likely caused by too much wear and tear at work, rather than another self inflicted injury from training. I fought through it for nearly a week, until I could tell it needed some attention, as it was not going to go away on it’s own. Off to the chiropractor I went, and after one treatment with an adjustment, E-stim and ultrasound therapy, I was on my way to healing recovery. Oh, along with the same advice my lovely nurse wife had given me several days prior: “take some ibuprofen and ice it off and on.”
Well, I’m not one to take medicine much, so I chose not to take my wife’s advice until I heard it from the chiropractor also. Little did I know, that I was about to embark on a lengthy relationship with the anti-inflammatory med, but nearly as soon as I regained full motion and strength in my shoulder, I woke up with a nagging leg/ankle/foot pain. “Wow, what’s my problem?” I’m asking myself. “This is the most healthy and fit I’ve been in nearly 6 years, and it seems now as if every other week is bringing on a new injury,” were just some of my thoughts …
This time, I immediately went to the ice/ibuprofen/icy-hot muscle rub treatment in hopes to nip it in the bud quick. All the while, I’m suffering both mentally and physically because now I can’t run or ride, inside or out. Wow?! And what makes it even worse is getting on my strava account and being witness to all my friends putting in serious work, and knowing how much catch up work I’ve got ahead of me now, just to get back to even and just to regain the fitness I’m losing. Well, a week later, taking the advice of my wife this time, I decided to go see the doc and figure out how to make this ailment disappear so I can get back on track. This time, I headed to an urgent treatment clinic after work, just to get in and out without missing any work.
Upon arrival and checking in at the UTC, I was pleased to see the number on the scales still around 200, even with multiple layers still on from work, then it got interesting in the exam room. The nurse checking my vitals, looked at both of my legs and noticed the problem area to be somewhat reddish in color and swollen. Then she took my pulse multiple times with the finger device and had a puzzling look on her face. She tried it on her finger just to make sure it was working properly, then took it on me again. “Is something wrong?” I ask. “Something’s not right,” she said, then after leaving the room to speak to the doctor, she returned and told me that I needed to go to the ER to get checked for a possible blood clot due to the redness, swelling, and a pulse in the 40s,and they don’t have the equipment there to do the scan. She also offered to call an ambulance for me, and I laughed and declined. So off to the hospital I went, and this time I was accompanied by my wife (who was a little bit in panic mode) and my youngest son. I assured her, I’ve never had any circulation problems, and that I’m too healthy to get sidelined by a serious medical problem all of a sudden.
Still calm as I always am, I checked into the ER and within minutes was called back where a very nice RN again checked my legs and vitals, but this time with a non-puzzling look on her face. “I played volleyball in college and my resting pulse was always in the 40s-50s. Most athletes have a lower than normal pulse when resting,” she said with a smile on her face. Shortly after her visit, Doctor Harrison came in and knew exactly what to check for to let me know I am now suffering from shin-splints. Ouch! He had them before and knew the exact foot position that caused the most severe pain, and made a few recommendations to get me back on my training plan, along with a steroid script for five days.
What’s next? At this rate, it would probably be safe to assume, the next injury is lingering just around the corner, waiting to bite me. I have learned through this process, how important it is to me to be active, but at the same time, that my body sometimes requires rest for healing. Now, three days into the steroid use for my shin-splints, I’m feeling much better, and excited to get back on the road soon. I will try to push myself to get going asap, but will not push so hard that I don’t get fully healed. I’ve got too big of plans for this cycling season to risk it all by really messing up my fitness. And as far as what injury is next goes, I’m not one to look for bad news, not gonna dwell on negatives. I’m fully confident that I’ll be back in full force at 100% again very soon, and if another injury happens, I’ll deal with it when it does, but I’m not planning for it.
So, to all my friends that are out there putting in solid work on your off season fitness while I’m on the sideline somewhat, I commend you for continuing to push yourself to be better. I promise this though, I will be back on your heels soon enough, and looking for the perfect moment to sling shot out of your momentum and again be the pace-setter. You guys know who you are, and you know I’ll be back soon enough!
Keeping It Moving Forward …