Sunday, May 4, 2014

A look back in order to move forward

As I look to new goals and new training plans, I actually wanted to take a look back.

In 2010 I posted what's written below, my athletic background.  I thought it was important for me to revisit that history again...

I thought today I'd start to share a bit of my athletic background.

As a kid, I took very quickly to swimming. I was doing laps at the local swim and tennis club at age 5. At 8, I started swimming competitively, winning every event I entered until high school. I spent every summer day at the pool. Add winter club swimming in there and I made for one chlorinated kid! I played some of the stick and ball sports as well. A few years of little league, soccer and Boys Club basketball, but I enjoyed the uniqueness and physical challenge of competitive swimming most. It was also what I was best at.

As many swimmers did, I began life guarding and coaching swimming in high school along with a more focused training regimen with the West Mesa High School swim team. I excelled at district level meets even as a freshman. Unfortunately I had a bit too much freedom and not enough responsibility my freshman year and let my grades slip. So much so I was booted from the swim team until I could pick up my grades. It was devastating and eye opening at the same time.

I did get my grades up to finish the season with the team and even qualified for the state swimming championships. One of only a few freshman to do so, I made it to the consolation final in the 50 free.

For the rest of my swimming career, I made a name for myself as a sprinter, focusing on the 50 and 100 free. I was unbeatable in district meets and held my own at the state and regional levels. I ended up 4th and 5th respectively at the high school state championships my senior year.

It had been my goal throughout my youth to swim in college but I think some burnout and immaturity kept me to the club level after high school. I think back on that many times with regret. But the choices I made led me in new paths. Maybe some of my drive currently is to make up for decisions I could have made 15 years ago. Regardless, new doors were opened.

The years of my youth were also peppered with cycling and sailboat racing, additional activities I became very passionate about.

My dad got me into sailing in 1987 when he would stay up late and watch Dennis Conner win back The America's Cup in Australia. Not only was it incredible to see such great yacht racing on TV in the big winds off Fremantle, but it was a great bonding time for my father and me. Sailing, and more specifically, sailboat racing, became "our thing". We had a house in southern New Mexico at Elephant Butte Lake and always had a ski boat or jet skis and access to different sailboats. I started crewing for boat owners when I was 12 or so. If I wasn't swimming, I was at the lake trying to bum a ride for the local races.

When I went to college, I started crewing with owners who were more serious about traveling to bigger regattas. One of the reasons for not swimming at the collegiate level was because I really wanted to sail. So, while serving a mission for the LDS church in Chile, I decided when I returned I was going to make sailboat racing a much bigger part of my life.

I moved to San Diego in 1999 after landing a great job, dream job really, as a sail maker for North Sails, the biggest and most successful sail manufacturer in the world. There I was, in the thick of the sailing world surrounded by sailing legends. It was at North that I started making connections and sailing on some of the fastest and biggest boats on the West Coast. I was making sails for grand prix yachts that I had only been able to read about in the desert of New Mexico. I was able to quickly mark many "to do's" off my list. I raced all over...Key West, San Francisco, Ensenada, Newport and even raced in the Pacific Cup from San Francisco to Hawaii. I also got to participate in the America's Cup as a sailmaker for the American teams in 2000 and in the Volvo Ocean Race making sails for the eventual winner in 2001. I also briefly revived the San Diego State Sailing Team and raced on the West Coast collegiate circuit. So my dreams of competing in college came to be, only sailing on the water rather than swimming through it.

Having checked off many of my to do's in life, it became time to move on. I was sailing 5 days a week sometimes and got married and wanted to be around more. So in 2005 my ex-wife and I moved to Utah to settle down, so to speak. I continued to race boats at Bear Lake and the Great Salt Lake, but the racing wasn't quite what I was used to. I'm a competitive person and need something to get those juices flowing again.

That's when I got back on my bicycle.

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, I begged my ex for a road bike. 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 7th 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 begin to train again, 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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