Monday, January 28, 2013

The Greatest (and only) Race I Have Ever Participated In

I don't race. I am not sure why I have never tried, I guess it just never occurred to me. However, the other day I found myself participating in a race of near epic proportions.  At first I didn't realize I was racing but it soon became evident that the other guy was on the attack and racing to the top of the hill as if it were the Alpe d'Huez and he was Fausto Coppi.  I was in no position to counter that attack as I was riding the Panzer with fully loaded panniers and 6 psi in the tires.  The Mukluk is not an agile bike nor does it respond immediately to the mashing of the cranks especially with low psi.   

I saw the man riding towards me, then I turned right.  I paid little attention to him since I see people on bikes regularly.  But then he blew past me as I started up the hill, looking back as if to say "let's see what you got."  Without trying to sound judgemental he did not strike me as the racing type. He was somewhat shabby in his appearance wearing cheap white sneakers that were well worn.  His blue jeans were dirty and worn.  His coat was clearly wrong for racing, a long parka gray, dirty, and dingy. It was unzipped flowing like superman's cape as he reversed the rotation of earth to turn back time in order to save Lois Lane. He is clearly a risk taker based on his choice to go without a helmet.  His steed......a trusty Schwinn Varsity!  Ironically, this bike probably weighs as much as my Mukluk with out panniers, but that is neither here or there.

I briefly thought about pursuing him but settled on the "little engine that could" strategy.  It quickly paid off, about 200 meters into this brazen attack, he pulled off into a parking lot, dismounted and began to walk.  "Slow and steady wins the race" I thought as I passed him.  Then no more than 60 seconds later he blew past me cresting the hill a mere second before I did, glancing over his shoulder as he passed as if to say "take that."  I did and I thought it was over......but it was not. 

We were stopped at a four way stop and when it was our turn to proceed, he sprinted looking over his shoulder to see if I was going to pursue him.  I did not, the Panzer doesn't sprint.  The street narrowed some and there were cars parked which made it difficult to race and we found each other at a major intersection with a stop light.  I travel this route regularly and I have found that it is safest to stay in the lane with traffic, otherwise there can be problems with traffic turning right.  So there I was in the middle of the road, waiting for the light to change when I glanced over and saw Fausto at the crosswalk.  He looked at me as if to say "I got you now sucker" and  before the light changed he bolted through the cross traffic.  When he crossed he looked back at me and I know he was thinking "you lose!"

By the time the traffic light changed and I crossed through the intersection he was gone and the 1.5 mile race was over.    After 36 years of not racing I was out cranked, out gunned, and out maneuvered......defeated by some dude on a Schwinn Varsity.  I have been thinking about this lately, looking for some sort of lesson.  A message about life or the world at large. 

I can't find one.

Saturday, January 19, 2013


Fly Fishing in Montana.  I did most of the fishing but they did a great job keeping up and being patient.  

Lately I have been focusing on teaching my kids about success and having high standards when it comes to achievement. Whether it is in school, sports, music, or whatever they attempt I want them to give it their all.  We have a couple of sayings in the house. My wife uses "champions adjust." I have been teaching the kids that they need to "breath excellence." While I love Ricky Bobby I don't necessarily subscribe to the "if you ain't first your last" mentality and I certainly do not subscribe to the every body is a winner atttitude.  I hate the idea that everyone gets a trophy for participating. Life does not give participation awards. The harsh reality is that some don't "win" whether it is there fault or not. Even good hard working people come in last sometimes, they don't get a ribbon. This is where being a parent and raising kids becomes a challenge; how do you teach success and a winning attitude without creating a sore loser or a person that resents me as a parent for to much pressure.

While I don't want to put so much pressure on them that they become resentful, I definitely don't want them to accept a standard lower than they are capable.  I think competition can be healthy; win or lose, a person can gain a lot from challenging himself/herself. Of course each kid is different and responds to a different motivation. Even kids in the same age group have different maturity levels that allow them to be good at different things.

As for my children, I want them to have the same opportunities. Swimming is an excellent example. Our two oldest have been on swim teams for several years. Most nights (especially in the winter) it is a struggle to get them ready and out of the door. The biggest complaint comes from the Chick is always about the water temperature. She is getting better, much better. Digga is easy to bribe. I have no qualms with "bribes," I see them as rewards for success just as I get a paycheck for working. He gets a slurpee on the way home (he is cheap).

All of my kids will be on a swim team and compete, as well as, learn to play the piano.  There is no guarantee that they will love these activities and make them life long pursuits.  How long each will do it will probably depend on any number of factors and will probably be determined by how hard household 6 and I want to fight the issue. They will at least be able to swim and read/play music at some level. Which is more than I can say for myself (I know nothing about music theory or how to read music).

What I can guarantee is that they will have better opportunities to excel than I did and I want them to know that nothing comes with out hard work. Sometimes you wipe out and get tangled up and there is no one to help you (or in this case you remain tangled until the father of the year puts the camera down). The teaching point in this is that it would have been easier to pedal a little harder to get over this obstacle than quit when you are halfway over.  I am not sure if she got the point or not.  I can say that we are out there, living life and learning.