What’s Holding You Back?

Purging my old photos on Facebook this week, I found some shots of my first bike races, and put them side-by-side with more recent ones.  I started to remember and feel again, how I felt in the days, hours, and minutes leading up to that first starting horn.  The adrenaline.  The anxious moods.  The fear.  Yep, fear.1  Man, before that first race, I was a wreck. I was about to ride in my first race at 43 years old.  Hell yes, I was anxious and afraid!  Afraid of getting hurt.  Afraid of looking like a fool.  And, yes, afraid of failing.

Three years and three race seasons later, I wonder how different things would be if I had let fear hold me back.  I don’t want to go back.  I’m loving what I’m doing.  I’m still anxious in the starting gate.  I’m no longer afraid of failing.  I’m afraid of not trying.

We all have dreams and aspirations of doing more, doing something different.  If you don’t, then congratulations on your already very fulfilling life!  I crave adventure, and I know others do too.  Wasting my life, with my fat ass on the couch, wasn’t going to be any kind of adventure.  Biking is my adventure.  My family is my adventure.  To a certain extent, so is my writing (if you can call this blog writing).

Where’s your adventure?  What’s keeping you from chasing your dream?  What’s holding you back from your aspirations?  Fear?  Waiting for the “right time”?  I can tell you, without hesitation, if you’re waiting for the “right time” to get started on whatever it is that you want to do, you will probably never start.  I know I’m not the first person to say this.  I’ve heard it hundreds of times.  It’s true.  I have several friends who quit their jobs in very trying financial times to start their own businesses.  A few were living paycheck-to-paycheck, scrambling to make ends meet, but they had dreams and a bigger vision of what they wanted their lives to look like.  I think if you ask them, they’d tell you that there was no “right time” to give up a steady paying job and take a risk on a dream.  But they did it, and never, for a second, regretted it.  And, you can too!

“I’m no longer afraid of failing.  I’m afraid of not trying.”


So, what is it that you really want to do?  Why not start?  Now!  Take steps to make your dreams happen.  To make your life the way you want it.  What does that look like to YOU?  It may be writing, learning a new language, starting a business, or scaling Mt. Everest (maybe not).  If you want something enough, you will find a way to make it a reality.  You’ll endure the frustration, the mud, the pain, the anxiety, and the fear to get to the happiness, the satisfaction, the joy and the fulfillment that will be YOUR dreams and goals realized.

Thank you so much for reading and putting up with my scattered thought processes!  I’ll be switching to self-hosting in the very near future, and I will most like be adding podcasting, with a TON of help from my wife.  I appreciate any and all feedback.  Please have a very Merry Christmas, and a blessed New Year!  I will see you in 2015!

#LiveFearless #LetGoOfTheBrakes




Group Rides, Clydesdales, and Chamois Sores…Oh, My!

It’s been nearly four months since my last post.  All I can say is, life happens.  My commitment to 52 posts in 52 weeks is obviously out the window.  The only thing I can do now is pick up where I left off, and hopefully be entertaining in the process.  Speaking of processes, I’ll be transitioning to self-hosting soon.  My grandiose plan is to be able to include podcasting…but that may be a tad ambitious.  We’ll see how this goes.

So what’s happened in my “time off?”  Lots of riding.  Lost an iphone into a stream during a ride.  And, I’m having a falling out with my cycling app.  May be time to invest in a Garmin and be done with it.

I have to admit, I’ve been having some doubts about my abilities as a cyclist lately.  Specifically, doubts about getting faster, improving endurance, and overall skill.  Much of that doubt went away this past weekend.

I rode in an 83-mile charity event on Saturday with 70 other bikers.  We were sort of put in groups based on a very scientific method (show of hands) of how many had ridden between 80 and 100 miles.  Having finished 2 centuries in the past two years, I wound up in the second group to leave, with 8 other riders.  This was my first true group ride.  I’ve been in groups of 3 or 4 before.  Nine was a stretch, and it soon became 16, when we caught the lead group.  Prior to catching the first group, I was pretty content sitting in the back, or near the middle of my little caravan.  When I took my first turn at the lead, I heard comments like, “I can’t even feel the wind back here,” and, “I love clydesdales!”  At first I was a little self-concious…I’m a big fella.  I quickly realized that this was praise from these guys, and I started looking forward to each turn at the front.  I was helping our train go faster!  When we caught up to the lead group with me at the head of the pack, another rider in that group, who happened to be about my size, said to me, “We need some beef up front, let’s go,” and I gladly followed him forward.

As we passed rider after rider, heading to the front, I was checking out some of the more expensive rigs that were rolling along with us.  I was seeing BMC, Scott, and a Specialized or two.  Most of the guys in the group were much, well, let’s say “slighter” than me, and they were riding bikes that were much lighter than mine.  I suppose my perception was, earlier in the morning, that since they seemed to be more fit than me, and were riding “better” equipment than me, it would stand to reason that they were stronger riders.  They probably were.  But riding north, with wind out of the north, a couple of clydesdales at the helm, from time to time, were just the ticket.

I pushed myself harder on that ride than I ever have.  I felt better during that ride than I ever have.  I suspect I just felt the rush of putting myself up front, and being part of a group really working as a group for the vast majority of the day.  It was probably the most fun I’ve had on a bike in a long time…a road bike, that is.

One thing I was not able to overcome was chamois sores.  What the hell?  I was good, right up until about the 60-mile mark.  Of course, I stopped quickly to reapply Chamois Butt’r.  (My wife just read that, and is thinking, “Why do you need to talk about your crotch?”)  It helped.  Briefly.  I don’t expect any product to work for a full ride of nearly 100 miles, but is there something that provides better protection?  Any and all suggestions are appreciated.

Until next time, remember, big guys push lots of air and are great at hammering downhill.  This little tidbit may be useful on your next ride.



First Spring Ride

Took my first spring road/path ride today.  It seems odd to have only been on the road after my first race of the season.  The weather was great; a balmy 57 degrees, with a fairly stiff wind out of the south.  So, what route did I choose?  Outward to the north, ensuring I’d have to ride into the teeth of the wind on the way home, of course.  Good call!

Other than an occasional walker or rider on the path who couldn’t seem to get the “lane system” straight, I had a great ride.  Why do walkers feel like three-abreast is acceptable when there is oncoming traffic?  I actually had to warn one young woman twice and then state, “A crash is going to hurt you more than it will me!”  Her walking mates giggled, and she begrudgingly gave up my lane.  I mean, seriously, what part of a six-foot, three-inch, 250 pound man racing at you head-on at 18 miles per hour is not alarming?

I did not have any intention of breaking any records today.  I did not have a particularly fast or slow ride.  Truthfully, I took my sweet time and enjoyed being outdoors after being confined to the trainer for the past three months.  It was liberating to feel the sun on my face, to get out of the saddle and let the bike sway gently back and forth as I accelerated, to hear the hum of the pavement beneath my tires again, and as I turned into the wind, to get into the drops and downshift to ease the resistance.

I needed this ride today.  It was the kind of ride you can only get once the snow and salt and debris have all found their springtime hiding places.  The sort of ride that takes your mind off of just about everything else, except for your surroundings.  This ride, while it may not set the tone for the rides to follow, will stay in my senses for some time.  Not because of my speed or distance, and not for any training gains.  I’ll remember this one simply for the big, dopey grin that was plastered to my face the entire time.  Yeah, I enjoyed this ride.



Subtitle:  Damn, I’ve Got a Lot of Work to Do.

I’m late again.  It’s killing me.  I had intended this post to go out Saturday night when I returned from my race, which I will tell you all about…now…

The past two years, I’ve started my race season in mid-April with a 7 mile singletrack race.  Also, in the past two years, I’ve been fortunate to be able to ride outside nearly all winter.  Not so much this year.  Tons of snow and bitter cold banished me to the basement and the trainer.  Not entirely bad, as I was at least able to “ride”.

This year, after much deliberation, and a little prodding from some friends, I decided to ride the Barry-Roubaix in Hastings, MI…in March.  Barry-Roubaix Killer Gravel Road Race is held on the third Saturday in March and consists of three distances, 62 miles (The Killer), 36 miles (The Thriller), and 24 miles (The Chiller).  Sixty-two miles seemed tremendously ambitious, given that I hadn’t had a good outdoor ride since the beginning of December, or truthfully, since Iceman.  So, I opted for The Thriller, the 36-miler.

While the race is on gravel, it starts and ends on pavement in downtown Hastings, and there were several (life saving) stretches of paved road throughout, including approximately the final two miles.  Taking into consideration how much snow the area had gotten, the relatively quick thaw, refreeze, thaw, and refreeze, and then some rain the night before the race, there were only a few patches of real soupy mud.  Gravel does that when it gets wet.  Did I mention the race was on gravel?  I have to thank the race organizers and all of the volunteers for a job well done.  They were awesome!  The entire event was extremely well-organized, and the town of Hastings could not have been more accommodating.

The course was challenging, and a lot of fun.  The hills, dear Lord, the hills!  The good thing about hills?  What goes up, keeps going up…and eventually does come down.  I can sit here and say I used nearly all of the 27 gears at my disposal for this ride.  Yes, I “grannied” some hills!  It was either that or walk.  Neither are great options, but a slow pace is better than no pace.  My legs threatened mutiny at least a dozen times, but I gutted it out and finished.  I would have liked to have been faster, but a finish will have to suffice for this year.

I am becoming painfully aware of my shortcomings as a cyclist.  I could blame a lot of things for my disappointing time, but in reality, it was my speed and endurance.  Yeah, I know, I finished.  I’m proud of that, but I had higher expectations of myself.  I also realize that I need to find out where I need the work before I can start fixing things.  This time, the legs were not a problem.  I can attribute that to my new-found love of the squat.  My legs felt great at the finish.  My lungs were a different story.  I’ve been working a great deal on my overall body fitness and my endurance, and I could tell I had made progress.  I suppose I was seeking bigger gains.  My VO2 Max has improved, but if I’m to make the gains where I want to, I know I need to work harder on specific areas of my riding.  I think another piece to the puzzle is my perception of the work.  I’ve been so long out of shape that I feel like I’ve forgotten what my thresholds are anymore.  Obviously, I’m older, and my previously sedentary lifestyle hasn’t helped, but I used to be very much in tune with how hard I could push myself.  I’m not so sure today.

Before I close this out, I want to tell you about my amazingly supportive wife.  She travels with me to these races, where she knows she’ll have to wait multiple hours for me to come tearing across the finish, but she does it anyway.  She puts up with my constant grousing about little tweaks I need to make to the bike, and my MANY race weekend moods.  I don’t know if either of us was certain how far I’d take this little cycling obsession of mine, but she’s in it for the long haul.  And I love and appreciate her more than I can ever express.  This weekend, she got to see that I actually do get naked in the parking lot!  She didn’t seem all that shocked.  Now, let’s see how she handles it when I start shaving my legs.  (Just kidding, honey!)






“The Legs Feed the Wolf”

One of the many original, and sometimes odd, phrases coined by the late, great coach Herb Brooks, “The Legs Feed the Wolf” was used to inspire the players of the gold medal winning 1980 US Olympic Hockey Team to focus intently on their leg strength and endurance.  Coach Brooks knew, that in order to beat the Russian national team, his players would have to outlast and out-will them.

The meaning of the phrase stems from the hunting behavior of wolves who must locate, stalk, and chase their prey in order to survive. Some wolves have been known to chase their prey for over 10 miles.  Wolves with weak legs and lacking endurance tend to starve.

I’ve always had relatively strong legs.  Or, so I thought.  When I began to take cycling seriously, I learned differently.  Legs that simply walk, hold your body up, and occasionally run are not necessarily built for speed or endurance on the bike.  That requires work.  A lot of it.  And not just riding the bike for hours on end.  Real work.

I’ll admit, I’ve never been a fan of leg exercises.  Especially squats.  I used to do anything imaginable to avoid doing squats.  I’d go crank out reps of 400 pounds, or more, on the leg press machine.  But, no squats.  I just hated the motion.  What I’ve come to realize is that I’ve been missing out on one of the most effective power and strength building exercises in the book.  Leg presses were blasting my quads.  A simple change of foot position engaged the hamstrings and glutes to a small extent.  What I was missing was the stabilization of legs, hips and core that I could only get from a properly executed squat.

I began attending kettlebell classes in December.  The first time our instructor introduced the goblet squat, I almost fell over.  Really?  Squats?  I’m here to tell you, I’ve grown to love the squat.  That first week, my hips hurt.  My glutes hurt.  My hamstrings hurt.  Everything from my waist to the tips of my toenails hurt.  Not just a little.  Deep soreness that invades your bones.  Eventually, the pain went away.  The motion got easier.  I’m squatting with heavier bells on a regular basis.  And some other strange and wonderful things have happened…bell

My power on the bike has improved.  Dramatically.  My ability to maintain higher cadence for longer periods has increased.  Over gearing got easier.  Of course, at this point, all of this is happening on the trainer, but it’s hard to deny…my legs are getting stronger.  And I’ve begun to incorporate other leg exercises into my routine.  Weighted steps and lunges, Bulgarian squats, to name my favorites.

And, by the way, if you haven’t tried a kettlebell workout, I highly recommend it.  Once you do, you’ll be hooked.  In an hour, I get a better workout with the kettlebell than I’ve ever been able to achieve plodding through multiple hours in a “traditional” gym.  I love that it not only works my muscles, but my VO2 max as well.  Give it a shot, you’ll be glad you did!

So, when I begin chasing down those last several miles of dirt, gravel or pavement and stalking those riders whose legs are starting to fade, I’m looking forward to seeing if the legs do, in fact, feed the wolf.

Regardless of your sport, what’s your GO TO exercise?  We’ve all got them.  Share yours in the comments if you wouldn’t mind.

See you next week!

Getting Naked in the Parking Lot

That got your attention, didn’t it?

I took the Bicycling magazine Reader’s Choice Poll for the first time this year.  I had read it for the past couple of years, but never submitted my own answers.  Until now.

I’ve always been interested in other cyclist’s habits, preferences, tips, and training.  I know I’ve got a few of my own.  Now, I can compare how weird I am with the rest of the cycling world, so to speak.  And, I thought I’d share some of my responses with you.  Here we go…

  • I ride on the road, on bike paths, on singletrack, and in XC mountain bike races.
  • I prefer bibs to shorts, quads to calves, and Jens Voigt to Chris Horner (it’s hard not to like Jensie).
  • Trends I’m most excited about:  road disc brakes and performance aluminum frames.
  • Cycling makes me…feel happier, less stressed, have more energy, look better and play nicer with others.
  • I do not shave my legs.  Just isn’t going to happen.
  • I have had a bike stolen…with a lock on it.
  • I’ve had a run-in with wildlife.
  • The song that best describes cycling for me:  “Lunatic Fringe” by Red Rider
  • I do most of my own repair work; always have.
  • I have…skipped a ride when it’s been raining, waved to other riders, given a victory salute on a solo ride, and, yes, I have, on many occasions, changed my clothes in a parking lot.

Does all this make me strange?  Nah, it makes me…ME.

What about the rest of you?  Cyclists, runners, fitness addicts, avid readers.  What are your funny habits, your little peccadilloes, what makes you unique?  I’d really like to know.  Feel free to share in the comments.  Thanks!

Vision Quest

Has everyone seen the movie, Vision Quest?  If you haven’t, you should.  Released in 1985, and starring Matthew Modine and Linda Fiorentino.  If you can get past the super hokey love story and get to the heart of what the film is about, it’s quite good.  Modine plays a high school wrestler, Louden Swain, who, upon reaching his senior year, decides to drop two weight classes and try to beat an undefeated state champion.  Sounds impossible, right?  If you’re among the 5 or 6 people on the planet who haven’t seen it, I won’t give the ending away.  Just check it out.  Anyway, this post didn’t start out to be a movie review…

So, why Vision Quest?  Simple.  I feel like the whole premise of the term, and the film, is to THRUST yourself outside of your comfort zone.  Not step.  Not tip-toe.  Not run.  T-H-R-U-S-T.  Thrust…it’s got an explosive quality about it, doesn’t it?  That’s what we’ve got to do to make our plans, our goals, our dreams happen.

When I first started riding, I didn’t have a plan; no real goals.  Other than losing some weight.  That didn’t work out so well.  Just like any piece of sporting equipment, a bike only works if you ride it.  And I didn’t.  My attitude toward riding for any reason at that time was pretty passive.

Then, someone suggested I try racing.  Seriously?  I couldn’t get out of my own shadow at the time.  Race?  C’mon, man!  But, hold on a second.  That might be a goal to work toward.  Even if I didn’t win, or even perform well, it would have accomplished something.  At the very least, I’d have gotten my ass off the couch and started moving again.  See, the whole concept appealed to my inner logic junkie.  This friend, this genius, who made the original suggestion might have been on to something.

I threw every available moment into riding that bike; to getting ready for that first race.  I was on a mission.  Then, some funny things started to happen.  I wasn’t tired every morning when I woke up.  My joints didn’t hurt as much any more.  My…holy shit…my clothes fit better!  What the hell had I done?!?!  I had given myself a violent shove outside of my comfort zone.  And, damn, it felt good.

I’m trying to do that more and more as my cycling improves and I begin to get comfortable again.  First it was a mountain bike race, then it was a century, then another century.  Now it’s a gravel race in March…in Michigan.  Can you say COLD?  I can.

But, I need to keep trying new events, new disciplines to keep me motivated, to keep challenging myself.  Cycling has become my vision quest.  And, I have committed myself to making it happen.

Who knows, there may even be a triathlon in my future…(wink).

What keeps you motivated and how do you challenge yourself?  Let me know in the comments.