Go Dad Go!

A self-important blog about riding bikes, raising kids and the all-too-rare nexus of these two pursuits.

Monday, March 09, 2009

A Dad's Odyssey

Every over-30 cyclist I know struggles to find time to train. Dads, even more so.

It's such a constant refrain that it borders on the banal: If I had more time to train, I'd be faster. If only I could ride more.

What goes without saying -- for most of us -- is that we all elected to make a trade-off, and given the opportunity, none of us would trade back. (I do know one guy who likely wouldn't make that trade; he's the fastest racer/dad I know, and he recently told me that he's pretty sure that the next time he sees his wife will be at a bike race -- because she knows she can find him there, to serve him with divorce papers.)

Though not on a micro-, incremental level; I'm not about to write that "I'll trade any minute on the bike for a minute with my kids." Minutes and hours on the bike make it a lot easier to remain patient when with the kids. Sometimes I push past the point of marital comfort, but only slightly, and never irrecoverably.

Most of all, we dad/racers become very adept with creative training. Occasionally I'll see a guy grunting up a steep hill near here, towing a trailer full of kids (and snacks, and books, and Gameboys...), eying his heart rate monitor through the sweat dripping from inside his helmet, and I think, "Dad. Racer. I admire him."

Take last weekend. Saturday was jammed with priorities, and Sunday promised heavy rain. So I:

...awoke and helped Mack get ready to spend the entire day at his Odyssey of the Mind competition. Karen's parents, who judged the competition, drove away with him at 6:30.

...spent the rest of the morning helping Karen get Catie and Declan ready, for chorus practice and friend's birthday party, respectively. (Admittedly, had Declan not been going to this all-day party, this all would have proven even trickier.)

...hopped on my bike at 8:30 and rode out to Pleasant Hill, exactly 20 miles and 60 minutes away. I took the first climb easy, but then picked out riders ahead of me along the route, picking each one off, picturing my teammates off at a road race in the Central Valley, and determined to ride every bit as hard and long as them.

...spent 45 minutes watching Mack's team's problem-solving exercise ("Shockwave") in which (as a first-time entry) they exceeded expectations by supporting 50 pounds with an 18-ounce balsa wood structure (not bad for a bunch of third graders!).

...greeted Karen and Catie, fresh from chorus and on to round two of Odyssey -- Catie competed as well -- and then pedaled away, this time at full time-trial pace the entire trip back.

...once home, and now starting to feel some fatigue, grabbed my commuter bag with pre-queued iPod and sped down to San Leandro to lead a Spinning Nation group at the Java Gym. I had 35 minutes to get there -- if I wanted any time at all to set up. It took me 28 minutes of hammering, and I arrived just in time to greet my class and the gym's proprietors (my "bosses"). In front of all of them I managed to drop my iPod three times, including once when the cord wrapped around my axle no fewer than seven times as I pedaled; queue up the wrong playlist twice; and get blindsided by a full-on bonk 30 minutes into class, nearly tumble off the bike, weave over to the Clif Bar stowed in my bag and then return and resume a high-cadence drill -- all while speaking through my headset/microphone.

...changed out of my sopping-sweaty shorts and t-shirt, resign myself to recovery pace for the ride home, and slogged the 45 minutes of most uphill riding home.

...ate about five pieces of pizza, drank two full bottles, and then weeded the front yard.

...after hearing from Karen that she and the kids would stick around for the awards ceremony, poured myself a hefty glass of red wine -- and then sat down to TurboTax and finished filing for '08.

NOT that I deserve any credit; Karen does, and her parents do, and so do the kids. I managed to show a little support, but even a day like this one is mostly an indulgence. It was exhausting, but exhilarating, and yes, I felt every bit as tired as if I'd spent the day racing.


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