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Balancing act

I just got through reading local boy Jason Sumner's latest update on VeloNews about his exploits as a worker-bee and bike racer. He's got a multi-part series dedicated to how getting a coach and working on his personal performance while having a job can all work out. Sound familiar? I'll have to pick his brain when we hook up.

His coach, Neal Henderson is an old friend and former RockyMount'r and in the article says some prolific things regarding obsessing. Trust me, I am the uber-candidate for obsessing. To be frank, I am called 'One Speed' by family and close friends. Not because I ride a single speed, but due to the fact I do everything at one speed: fast and frenetic. It's only as of late when the very first grey hairs started popping out of my head that I suddenly realized that chilling a bit actually allows for a better overall 'experience' on all 3 parts of my precarious teeter totter.

Before being coached properly, I would ride virtually every ride full gas. EVERY ride. More more more!! I wasn't thinking slow may = quality because my identification with training was throwing down with friends until we made our ears bleed and we were shelled. Then, of course, when I'd try and race, i'd get demolished and get psychotic and pissed. I'd be the surly monster in the house and 'that grumpy guy' at work. ALL of which is NOT me! I am still the boy who is the human equivalent of a Labrador Retriever who's fat tail is always wagging. Right? (say: Right, Greg)

So a change of focus on MANY areas of my life has significantly helped me. First getting coached...and by a real coach who appreciates my psyche, my real world. More specifically, one who isn't obsessing in parallel with my obsessions such as solely focusing on my wattage, heart rate, body weight and and caloric data each week. I love the fact that the first things we discuss when we get together to talk about my training week is to understand how I am sleeping and what my external stress is like. When THAT is discussed first...and often occupies the core of the proves that the understanding of my situation when trying to be at the top of my game is clear and deeply factored in. I feared that getting a coach would be paramount to being put on some boiler-plate plan, when the plan was likely modeled after a successful (likely pro) athlete who does NOT have the life condition I have or most 37 year old daddy/husband/worker bees. My plan is constantly tweaked and course-corrected week after week while keeping the goals I have in mind and in focus....and on target.

Second, stepping back and embracing my Type A-ness helped. Again, my WHOLE life from being a 6 year old kid who would go from hockey to soccer to baseball practice in one day (and LOVING it) has seemingly not changed in 30 years. So, realizing I can chill, that my 'racing' side of the teeter totter doesn't mean I need to be at the pointy end of the pro ride here in town (and being n Boulder is ridiculous by the way when the pro ride is essentially Toyota United, Health Next etc...). I needed to get real! Also, realizing that going for a ride...I mean a ride where my heart is not in my throat and am cross eyed is amazing and utterly needed. Seeing the trees on my 29'er or single speed...and by intent not affixing a power meter or wearing a heart rate device on my MTB rides was a saving grace. I preserve my MTB-ing for assurance of grins. I also injected running into the frey. I HATE running. But now I...holy crap...I LIKE running. Yikes. I said it. It changes things up tremendously for me vis-a-vis my workouts and the muscles used to stay fit.

Third, I'd say that communication has played a HUGE part in the over-all chillness. What I specifically mean here is that I never in the past communicated or would think to give advanced notice to my wife about my plans, my goals...even what kinds of rides I would be doing in the upcoming week. Example: the LAST thing a young mother who also wants to work out, have some alone time, etc wants to hear from me on Saturday morning: "Oh, yeah, um honey, I was going to do this 6 hour training ride today. Um, can you like have the kids again all day?" Being a shit head and not being sensitive to anyone outside of ME was a continual recipe for disaster and definitely wrecked what could have been some fun weekends. Bike racing is utterly one dimensional. You have to have total focus and unfortunately it is very selfish. Getting real about who I am is extremely important to my success. So, my wife and I TALK. She knows EXACTLY what I have planned for the week, and I know her desires, and there are NO surprises. We balance out our personal time and create and communicate the need for windows where we do our 'work outs' and ensure we have full on kid/together time. HUGE positive impact for all of us.

Fourth, I'd say that getting some help for my aging body has helped IMMENSELY! Working with Dr. Dave and spending some time on some ailing bones and muscles is helping hugely. I wish I hadn't waited! It has helped immeasurably so replacing a workout session with some chiropractic and massage TLC is so core and key, I can't recommend it enough.

Lastly, life is short. And while I like to play hard, being 'present' for my family and my wife and not a surly obsessive weenie is what is going to ensure the cement at our core is unbreakable and will carry us through until we are crusty blue-hairs in a retirement home together being spoon fed applesauce by a nurse. The winner of the 'race' is who is truly happiest at the end with no regrets.


Reader Comments (9)

Super post! Totally hits home on all points. I'm in the same boat, just a bit earlier in evolution than you. I need a coach, but have trouble justifying the costs. It would be a hard sell to the wife.
Keep it up.

April 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Hey Greg,
I've been enjoying your blog for quite some time now...since I started racing cross this past fall/winter. I am also addicted to racing cross and mtn while trying to balance my family (wife and two boys, 4 and 2). I've learned this past year how much splitting up the time so the wife can workout regularly as well makes the homestead a much better place. I've been riding with a dead battery on my road bike computer, and no computer on my mtn bike and it makes it more enjoyable not focusing feel like a kid riding your bike again. It's just so damn fun that it makes me think about it more but in a good way, not like it is a job. Thanks for all the enjoyable posts, and I hope to catch up with you at Cross Nationals this year!
Chris, Charlotte, NC

April 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterChrisB

Honestly David, a HUGE reason for the coaching thing was to help me balance! What that translates into very focused workouts that tend to stress quality versus quantity. What that means is WAY more optimum time at night and one weekends with my wife and kids. So seriously, it is worth every dime.

Good luck!

April 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterGreg

good stuff man.

a good coach is a coach who is always concerned about the "general well being" of his athletes (good article by crawfod on this in the new VN).

I still believe the most successful athletes are the ones who can handle the most (more is MORE)load (not just hours mind you...), but balancing with wife/job/mortage/soccer...that is the tricky part.

as a LONG time coach, I tend to stress the "details" the ice baths, the light stretching, the self massage, on a daily basis. this is what allows the athlete to do the work DAILY (note...I did the details every day in Belgium:-)) and with your typical Type A's, this is forgotten A LOT!!

So keep it up man, keep it consistent and race fast this fall...

KP (soon to be dad of 3)

April 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKP

good stuff brother. I'm working to follow your lead man. Training, work, kid, wife, dogs. The totter takes coaching.

April 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJared Roy

Rock on fellas.

Lest we forget that we are a TINY part of our country's populous that do this. I mean, MOST Of American dads are sitting home jamming kielbasas and bad beer in their pie holes on weekends...but unbelievably relaxed while doing so (the bastards. ha!). Me? Nah, I need to be doing something and likely something fast.

Psychotic bike racing dads of the world, unite!

April 27, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterGreg

amen to that brother

April 27, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Great post Brutha Keller. I can identify with your words. Coaching is key for mastering each dimension of the tetter-totter as well as its entirety. It is not a matter of seeking the answers but understanding the questions which we torment ourselves with.

April 27, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterBolivar


This post really hit home with me also. While my needs for a coach were a little different than yours, the post really made me think. I have a pretty good work-family balance now that we are back in the SF Bay Area and I am happy with my speed, racing etc. One of my main issues is that over the years my beer drinking has really suffered with the increased riding and racing. I feel like I am not fulfilling my true potential, so to help me with this I employed Mr. Bruckner as my beer drinking coach. It has only been a week but I can already see the results!! Brian is the MAN. He is really dedicated to me and really cares about me getting the most out of my beer drinking. Brian not only creates the training plan but he actually suffers through all the workouts with me. He has got me on a really intense program because I have some meetings in Brussels and Amsterdam in two weeks, and I am looking to have a good showing while I am in the “Motherland”. Thanks for the inspiration!!



BTW - I am a supporter of the AMY NEEDS A NEW RIDE CAMPAIGN!!

May 2, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJoeBall

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