Sunday, February 14, 2010

My athletic background, part 3

Current weight: 181 lbs

Before I move on to the bike, I want to revisit sailing for a moment. First, I just want to say how stoked I am that BMW Oracle Racing, sailing their awesome wing powered trimaran, won the America's Cup today, bringing it back to the US for the first time since 1995. Having been a follower of the Cup since 1987 as a kid, and having been a sailmaker for Cup teams in 2000, I feel a great bit of joy and pride at today's win. Congrats to the Golden Gate Yacht Club and BMW Oracle Racing!

So why include sailing in my athletic background? Well, its certainly part of my competitive background, but most people don't equate sailing with athletics. While sailing can be done with a beer in one hand and a rope in another while the BBQ is going, racing on modern sailboats requires a huge amount of athleticism and personal fitness. Some classes of boats even have a weight limit for crew, so being fit can even effect what kinds of boats you can race on.

To keep fit for sailing, I swam a bit, worked out in the gym and also, you guessed it, rode my bike.

As most kids, I always had a bike. I still remember that first trip down the street without my dad's hand holding the seat. I was free. I could get to more places and do more things now that I was mobile. I rode to the pool, to friends' houses. My brothers and I would ride our bikes donw to the local hobby shop to race our slot cars. I remember entering a few BMX races as a 8 or 9 year old, but nothing serious. I actually really liked road bikes.

My first was a blue Peugeot I bought with my own money. That bike was stolen from my garage. I later bought, again with my own money, a Wal Mart special. I was probably 11 or 12. I even invested in some funny looking spandex shorts with a chamois. I enjoyed getting out and riding, using the bike as a diversion from so much swimming. In high school, I inherited my brother's Mangusta road bike. We both had fantasies of being roadies some day, but again, swimming took up most of my time. But I road to cross train and commuted to my lifeguarding job on the Mangusta. I even entered a race or two. One being a dualathlon I raced with one of my best friends, Seth Talmon. We did a relay, I rode, he ran. I don't remember how we did, but do remember how much I loved it.

My senior year, after the swimming season ended, I bought a mountain bike. This was MTB's heyday, 1994. I remember reading about Missy Giove, Ned Overend, John Tomac and Tinker Juarez. I became fascinated with riding my mountain bike. I quickly hooked up with some great guys while attending college at New Mexico State. We rode everyday, raced almost every weekend. I would race boats one week, bikes the next. What a life! Granted, I didn't study and almost flunked out of school, but I was having the time of my life.

I loved following the Tour de France. I was cheering for Lance during his first win in 1999. I was in awe of Miguel Indurain and his 5 wins. Always a fan of the sport. I remember seeing a crit in a local park. The sound of the bikes flying through the air was mesmerizing.

Fast forward to 2006. I moved from San Diego to Utah to find cheaper housing for my family. I had ballooned to 225 lbs and only on my mountain bike a few times a year. I overheard some guys at church talking about riding in the mornings so I asked if I could tag along. They were on road bikes, me on my MTB. It only took a couple rides with these guys that I realized what I was missing, a road bike.

In June 2006, just as I did for her hand in marriage, I begged my wife for a road bike. And just like marrying me, she caved and I was set free on my Lemond Tourmalet. I noticed the guys I rode with wearing LOTOJA t-shirts one day. They told me of this heinous 206 mile race from Logan Utah to Jackson Hole. Not one to shy away from a challenge, I committed to doing it in 2007. I found a great training partner in my friend Kevan Steed. We kept each other going through miles and miles of training. But during one century ride, we started talking about all this effort we put in with out it meaning much in term of competition. We decided that after LOTOJA we would start racing and making it count. LOTOJA took forever, but I managed to get on the podium in 5th place in my division. LOTOJA was now in my blood.

We needed a club to join in order to get into racing. We surveyed the local club scene though and weren't really inspired by what we saw. $60 dues, $160 team kit? We didn't see the value of spending all that money to put some one's name on our back only to be member number 162. So we said, lets start our own. Team Excelerator was born.

So here we are, our third season as a team and I am more addicted to road racing than I have ever been to much of anything else. I love to train, I love to race. As with swim meets, sailing regattas and mountain bike races, there is an energy being around road racers. There's a palpable sensation of competition. Its consuming.

I've always been fueled by doing my best. I have tasted what its like to be on top of a podium. I also know what its like to dead frickin' last. But the lessons I learn in sports, whether its guiding a 40 foot sailboat down 10 foot waves in the Pacific, swimming 10,000 yards a day or trying to catch the break of the day, these thing teach me to be a better person and become the great analogies of my life. Phil Knight, the founder of Nike, said once, "sports is the great educator". Without these things, I would be fat, lazy and a very unproductive member of society.

As I continue to train this year to do well at LOTOJA, I am constantly reminded of this. I am very often transformed into that little kid on a 20" bike soaring down the street under my own power for the first time. That is why we do this, isn't it?

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