Doing it all the hard way...

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Convergence; A long time coming

Hottie and I started skate skiing with a lesson many years ago.  Over the years, in addition to lots of skiing, we have taken more lessons together and separately.  At the end of one of those lessons my teacher gave me a tip to make notes of the takeaways from the lesson and to reread them the next time and every time before skiing.

Those tips seemed to be aimed at correcting my mistakes, and to my naked eye were scattered all over the board.  “Land on your little toe,” “Duck under the clothesline,” “Acute angle at the ankle,” “Vertical zipper,”

My technique was to work on what I perceived to be my biggest weakness at any given time.  Sometimes it was “Flat ski,” other times it was “Hold the watermelon.” 

Hottie pounced on Cramps like a cheetah and asked for some pointers for going downhill.  Cramps went into teacher mode (his profession as well) and shared his knowledge.   After Hottie turned around Cramps and I continued on and he offered me a tip that I soaked in like a sponge.

When we caught up to McWoodie and B-Ryan, Cramps shared more insights.   The last hour and half of our ski could be categorized as a fast moving lesson.  
McWoodie, Evo and KB makes three
The miracle (for me) was that during that lesson from Cramps all of the tidbits from prior lessons that seemed independent all suddenly converged.  The “Bobbing” motion that I thought was for the push off turned out to be the same motion for stronger poling with less effort required from my arms.  The “Crunches” made skiing both faster and easier.

Suddenly the “C-shape Crunches,” “Bobbing,” “Ankle Angle,” “Drive the knee,” “Holding the watermelon,” and “Dinner Party” were part of the same fluid motion.  Doing the whole motion correctly checked all the boxes.  I focused on my own movement and tried to drill the smooth motion into muscle memory. 

The next day McWoodie and I returned to the same trail and spent two hours trying to transform what was an experience into a habit.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Taxing Sugary drinks has zero effect on obesity

Advocates of taxing sugary drinks such as soda point to numerous studies that show that when you tax sugary beverages 1) The government gets more money from it's customers citizens and 2) there is a reduction in the purchase of sugary drinks.

That is great.  This is a tax that is supposed to help reduce obesity.  There has not been a single study to that it reduces obesity at all.  But, we feel better and the government gets more money.  

What is not to like?

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

The Lion of Green Township

 Flying the Lion of Flanders
Teenage sons rebelling against their fathers is as old as time itself.   That rebellion has been the focus of stacks of literature and endless hours of film.  The subtle nuances of the father-son relationship and what happens before or after the rebellion receives much less attention.

I can still recall the warm June evening when I first saw the movie “Field of Dreams.”  I was a young father and was hours away from departing on my own journey into the unknown.  That movie told a story about trusting your heart and the similarities of the relationship of the protagonist and his father left my head spinning so fast I was nearly unable to speak the rest of the night.

My relationship with my father, though strained in my youth, was fine enough as an adult.  When my father’s health began to fail I flew across the country and visited him and our time together touched my heart.  My calls to him went from nearly every week to nearly every day. 

He was uneasy talking about his condition and somehow our conversations were focused around college basketball.  It was the run up to March Madness and we both had teams to root for. To the naked eye it seemed that we were skirting the serious issues and instead talking about nothing.

He spoke of his admiration for Tony Bennett, the coach of UVA men’s basketball.  He lauded his work ethic, his class and his optimism.  We spoke of the contemporary winners and losers and offered our own observations. 

As his condition continued to get worse I hastily made another trip to see him.   Again we spoke of basketball and life.  We both sensed it was the last time we would see each other.  When I had to leave to fly home I made the long drive back to the airport in silence. In my mind I jumped back and forth across more than fifty years of memories we had shared.  I tried to put my arms around something tangible, some pearl of wisdom that I could hang onto so that this troubled time made sense.

I felt as though I was searching for the meaning of life and most of the weekend had been spent talking about sports.

It was only then that I saw it all clearly.

When my hair was long and my father and I were on opposite sides of every issue we could find, the only thing we could talk about without getting into an argument, was sports.  We were Dodger fans back then, and aside from baseball, we followed college sports far more than professional sports.  

My whole life my dad had been talking sports to me.  I had always assumed that was what he cared about. 

Yet as I drove alone in silence with tears streaming down my cheeks and my own children grown and gone, did I realize that sports was the metaphor he had used to teach me about life. 

Fair play, hard work, respect and tolerance were all messages that he conveyed under the guise of talking sports.  The idea that the team took priority over the individual prepared me to be a friend, husband and father.  The principle of sacrifice was illustrated in my own training that continues to this day as I compete as a master’s athlete in cycling races.  I learned to do what was needed even if I was tired or had more enjoyable, and usually easier options.  

I recalled listening to sports talk show discuss issue of NFL players standing or kneeling for the National Anthem.  To the naked eye it looked like a dialogue about athletes when in fact it was a conversation about racial equity. Sports provides us with a framework that permits us to examine the issues relevant to our lives while keeping the reality of those sensitive issues at a safe distance enabling more honesty than we might otherwise allow ourselves.

I still find tragedy and irony in our near worship of the men and women who excel at particular sports while we marginalize those who dedicate their lives to the greater good of mankind.  However, it would be presumptuous to assume that athletes don’t make a difference in the lives of those who follow them.
Four generations of smoochers
We rightfully should be cautious on whom we hang the “Hero” moniker. Yet if we step back and look for heroes and examples in the day to day events of sports we risk far less and find much more.  We learn that even those who are flawed, just as we are, can accomplish great things.

At a time when, in the fervor of my youth, I resented anything that my father stood for, he was wise enough to teach me about life through the numerous illustrations sports provides us every day.  That is just one of the many ways I was blessed to have a great father.  

The Lion of Green Township may have started out as a basketball legend, but in the end he was a teacher and a great father. 

He left his worn out body today and I have little doubt he is playing basketball once again.

Monday, February 4, 2019


It had been a long time since I had utilized the well proven training technique known as “overcommit and panic.”  It is also referred to as “Do epic shit” or quite simply, “Sign up for something that scares you and train accordingly.”

After some internal debate I had a conversation with Hottie about a proposed event.  In that one minute conversation she used the word “stupid” four times. She was absolutely correct, it would be stupid.  Was that all bad?  Pretty soon I started to think it had been too long since I had been in over my head.

Without saying anything I began skipping snacks and altering my eating habits while I was building my Four P training program.  My Periodized, Polarized, Panic Powered Plan starts off modestly and builds volume early on and then increases intensity leading up to the June event.   I had another conversation with the ever patient Hottie.  With her permission/acknowledgement/reluctant consent I signed up.
Go ahead, make me a widow.....
That event is a five day gravel ride/race in Oregon.  It is called the Oregon Trail Gravel Grinder (OTGG) and is following the theme of the educational game “Oregon Trail.”  In that video game you either make it to Oregon, or die on route.  Now THAT is a theme I can embrace.

The event has injected focus into my day to day activities. Focus, in this case, might look and smell a bit like panic; but that is okay.  Regardless of what it is called, I feel it is giving some direction to a life that has become too comfortable and predictable.  With age comes wisdom so it only makes sense that doing stupid things will keep me young. 
Bring it on!
This decision to proceed against my better judgment has caused a bit of introspection.  Am I doing this because I am bored, or to feed my starving ego, or to prove something to myself? Perhaps I am seeking enlightenment that comes from the trail by fire?  Am I seeking penance for my countless sins?  I spent more than a few days wondering.

By coincidence I was listening to a conversation between two cyclists on the virtues of reaching the goal or just enjoying the journey.  One said they set the goals (events) then their training supports them.  The other said he just loves the training and then sprinkles in some events to punctuate the training.  I realized that I love the training when it is part of a plan that supports the goal (event).  Without the goal the training seems pointless. I like the process of doing the hard work then seeing it pay off. 
My son Tim and I on top of Mt. Whitney, August 2002
Yeah, he looks like me.
In recent years my training plans have not changed much year on year.  My numbers have been boringly consistent.  April of one year looks almost the same as April of the prior year.  Just as we do with politics and our individual beliefs, we listen and take in that which supports our existing perspectives and ignore everything that doesn’t easily fit. This is easy.  It keeps us in a rut. It keeps us from challenging ourselves and growing.

It was time for a change.  It was time to commit.

My plan is to jump with both feet on to the Polarized training bandwagon.  This means lots of saddle time doing what looks and smells like base miles.  My early season measuring stick is aerobic hours per week.

After years and years of blabbering on about working on my core I spent the month of November getting medical treatment for low back issues.  Core work is no longer optional.  It is an everyday thing now and I even rejoined the Y and have returned to workouts that clang (free weights and weight machines).  It has already made a profound difference.
Eating better, core work, cross training and stretching.  What were once good ideas are now mandatory.  The tradeoff is that for the first time in several months I don’t feel my age.  I did a ride of almost five hours over the weekend and the next day I felt…… awesome.   I had no idea how much of a difference a stronger core would make on endurance cycling.  

I will likely do a gravel event or two ahead of the OTGG in June.  I don’t think I will be alone.  2019 seems to be an aspirational year in the team peloton.  After a couple of quiet years, it seems the men in black and orange are pinning on numbers and turning back the clocks.