Tuesday, June 9, 2015
For a newbie like me, I was used to hopping on my bike, pedaling for a bit and coasting for a little while before starting to pedal again. In fact, on flat surfaces and with a road bike or hybrid, you can coast along pretty well.
With a five inch tire, 37 pounds and in the snow, there is no such thing as coasting. Two hours of biking in the winter means two hours of churning and constant pedaling. THAT was a new, and invaluable experience. I was shocked. In order to keep moving, you have to be powering that bike.
As winter went on, I was able to bike across Lake Minnetonka quite a few times. Here, with our little group of grinders, we stopped for a break at Lord Fletchers.
I was always lagging behind but my new group of friends waited for me, encouraged me and offered me helpful "safety checks" involving concoctions to warm your soul through the generous application of alcohol.
Usually, at the end of our adventures, we assembled at a fatbike favorite, Excelsior Brewery.
I could see this group, this collection of merry misfits, was a bit of a family. Fatbikers tend to be social, kind, outgoing, and a slight bit crazy. I could identify. There is "definition" of a fatbiker. But you can tell when you meet us. We'll welcome you into the fold and we generally don't care about speed, capability, drafting experience, or the weight of your bike.
Okay - maybe we do care about the weight of our bikes....but I digress.
As the weeks carried on, I could feel a draw. I wanted to be on my bike more. My first lake ride was 11 miles in four, yes FOUR hours, and I was very happy to see a calorie burn of 4800 calories. THIS was something I could get behind. The weather became NO factor. I've spent my whole life in the upper midwest with snow and cold. But now, I see it more as an opportunity for a new experience and some fun rather than anything negative. Having the need to travel frequently for work ALSO allows me a respite that many natives are not able to share.
I started to ride more and with the encouragement of this group, Bill and others, I continued to ride. I even decided to sign up for my first ride/race - the "Iditaride" in Excelsior, Minnesota. I had no idea what to expect. I knew it was 15 miles, across Lake Minnetonka, around and over "Big Island", through that loop again and then to the finish at Excelsior Brewery. Bill encouraged me to start, letting me know I can stop at any time but it would be good to experience the social aspects of the ride and to have fun. I went for it.
Saturday came and I arrived in Excelsior to find it buzzing with fatbikes and riders. I immediately realized this was no fad and there people of all shapes, sizes, colors and personalities. Yet, 98% were smiling and having fun. The last 2% were there to win. I met many new people and we assembled at the starting line. 300 people on fatbikes intent on racing across Lake Minnetonka in the quest to finish and have a beer - a worthy goal.
Here we were at the start:
As we started I knew I wouldn't be first and I assumed I would be a "tailgunner" or someone that rode at the back of the pack. Off we went. I felt great and realized there were other bikers still behind me - a new phenomenon. Within a month of starting this adventure, I wasn't last anymore among 300. I took that as a positive sign. Sure, they were riding unicycles in bikinis - BUT I WAS NOT LAST.
As we continued across the lake to the encouragement of the throngs of fans, okay about 20-30 people cheering us on, it was a sight to be seen.
Coming around the island, we were hit with a 25 MPH headwind and I felt like I was coming to a screeching halt. I was pedaling as hard as I could and going about 4 MPH. I least I knew there were 300 other slightly insane people in the same situation. Reaching the back side of Big Island, I rode on to the Island and through the woods, a fun little jaunt full of new experiences.
I reached the other side of the island and Bill and one other rider were waiting for me, cheering me on, and providing guidance down an enbankment of icy rocks. As we took off onto the lake, I thought we were heading back to the brewery. I had done my commitment - one loop, and I could now call it a day.
Nope. Bill lead me around the loop again, into the massive wind slowing my biking to a walking pace once again. I really hoped I wasn't inconveniencing the race organizers by my infernally slow speed. Would they have to bring cars out to light up the path as I finished in a few hours?
Around and over the island we went and now, we were headed back into Excelsior and the finish. The second loop didn't feel as bad as I thought. I realized I was going to finish the whole damn thing. Just a few weeks prior, I had finished 11 miles in four hours in heavier snow. I estimated I would be finishing somewhere in the 2 - 2.5 hour timeframe.
I thought it was a timing error or I had missed a portion of the race when I rode across the line.
1 HOUR 25 MINUTES! No way! I never thought I would be able to finish 15 winter miles in 1:25. I was shocked at the time and I quickly became aware of the huge mental limitations we put upon ourselves. Those mental limits hold us back from trying new experiences - whether its a new food, a new conversation with strangers, exercising, or riding a bike across snow.
The mental hurdles we build for ourselves are fascinating. Think about the barrier-breakers. Whether it was Felix Baumgartner freefalling from space or George Dantzig solving two "un-solvable" math problems over a weekend, we are surrounded with barrier breakers.
Yet, due to our own insecurities, the fear of the unknown, the discomfort or other factors, we become comfortable in our own limitations and rarely go beyond. Or at least that has been MY experience.
With just a little commitment, much encouragement, and a willingness to see it through, I had already achieved goals I didn't know I had and overcome limitations I had not let my mind think as a possibility.
The name of this blog, and a constant theme in my business life has been "Pervasive Curiosity." Yet, in my personal life, I often set false limitations in order to feel "comfortable." Starting to commit isn't just about a commitment to riding a bike, but to a commitment to stop setting illusory limitations.
"Argue for your limitations, and sure enough they're yours."
Monday, June 8, 2015
"Humility is to make a right estimate of oneself."
— Charles H. Spurgeon
In my last post I talked a bit about my first adventures on a fatbike and the attraction of biking. As last summer moved on, the adventure started to come into focus.
For me, that means becoming knowledgeable about that which I am going to do. In biking, that means understanding what all the terminology means and how it impacts your choices.
Some of those terms
- Frame size
- BB to Ground
- Bottom bracket
- Seattube Angle
- BB drop
- Top tube effective
- Headtube angle
- Crank Length
- Hydraulic versus disk
- CroMoly versus Aluminum Alloy 6061 versus Carbon
- Through axle
- 22x36 gearing
I'm assuming I'm not the normal buyer. I tend to want to dive in, understand the details and question the claims. I did that here that resulted in a home grown spreadsheet comparing numerous bikes and how their "fit" would impact my riding.
Armed with more information and the ability to speak somewhat coherently with bike shops, I started shopping and comparing the feel of these bikes. By this time - the fall of 2014, I was really excited by the concept of being able to ride this bike year round - summer, fall, winter and spring.
The fatbike was a creation of some enthusiasts who were looking to find a bike that would "float" more on the top of surface (mud, mush, gravel, snow) rather than sink into the grooves that skinny tires happen to create.
The closer we got to snow on the ground, the more excited and focused I became about riding. Not just the seasonal cyclist but joining a small but growing crowd of "fatbikers" - those few select people who would get together on a Saturday afternoon, spend their time biking through the snow or whatever else nature threw their way, and coming out smiling and laughing.
Meanwhile, I continued to ride a borrowed bike and continued to see small, incremental improvements that offered encouragement. Those "massive mountains" become decent hills. The "long" rides became shorter. The muscle fatigue and high heart rates started to moderate. It was becoming easier. Or so I thought.
The week after Thanksgiving and thanks to a good year in business, I was on my way to the bike store. I had picked my machine and I was prepared to plunk some hard earned money down and "invest" in this sport.
I picked up a Salsa Blackborow fatbike. Here it is in its natural habitat - in the woods, in the snow, in the middle of winter.
I could not WAIT to get on this for a "real" ride. That happened on a Tuesday night in the first weeks of December. It was the "Tuesday night River Bottoms" ride. It was a "no-drop" ride meaning even the slowest, weakest rider (me) wouldn't be left to die in the woods. It was a gorgeous night - clear, crisp, 15 degrees F, and about 4-5" of snow on the ground.
I dressed warmly in layers as I was told to do and off I went. I was nervous and excited about this "easy" 11 mile ride through the woods. There were about 14 of us that night and the pre-ride conversation was nice. The people were nice and the conversation very welcoming and friendly and I was excited! Off we went.
Down the first bank and on to the trail was exhilerating. I had NEVER ridden a bike in the woods, NEVER ridden at night, NEVER on this bike, and NEVER in the winter. The riders all streamed by me, except for one, and I followed along as best I could. I didn't know where I was going and boy was I surprised at the downed tree right in front of me. I said outloud "oh well" and ran up to it, lifted the front wheel and plowed over! This bike really can go ANYWHERE! My confidence grew a tiny bit.
I was sucking wind. Fortunately, the group ahead waited up for me and we took a short break to recover a bit. But, in the winter, if you stop too long, you get really cold. So our breaks were short. We got to Nine-mile creek, the turn around point. We had gone 5 miles, at night, in the snow, in 15 degree weather. It had taken me a little less than one hour.
I had many thoughts. I was once again disappointed in how slow I was, how wiped out I felt, and that I had to somehow make my way back to my car. The one gentleman who stayed with me was full of encouragement. Just one year ago, he was in my shoes and kept encouraging me and stopped with me and helped me look around and enjoy that beauty.
That is one experience that has been consistent in my biking experience - everyone, at some point, was where you are right now! And, to a person, the message has been clear - enjoy your surroundings and realize how great it is...in the moment.
Eventually, an hour later I made it back to my car, loaded my bike, took off one layer of wet and cold and replaced it with a warmer jacket. I inhaled all the water I could find and continued to cough and cough all the way home. I was exhausted, light headed, sore, and excited for the next time I could get out.
My adventure was clearly coming into focus. I needed to get alot better, get more in shape, get used to riding in winter and get more confident and comfortable with my bike.
In a very real sense, I started to realize how weak I was and how much this new experience would allow me to get better.
Coming home from my visit over the 4th of July with my old bike in tow, I knew I wanted to start riding more, to get in shape, to keep up with and eventually beat my brother, and to find an activity where I could start to "invest."
At the same time (and I'm a firm believer that everything happens for a reason), I reached out to my good friend Bill. Bill is one hell of an athlete and a "unique" creature. He's one of those guys who you only run into a few times, if you're lucky, in your life. He's a Marine Corps Veteran, a Corpsman no less, of the Vietnam War, a successful entrepreneur, a 100x+ Marathoner, a motivator, a coach, and a nice guy. His energy can fill up a room which for some, is intimidating and overwhelming yet for others, a magnet. For me, it was a magnet.
I also knew Bill was a big cyclist and I thought I would use him as a resource for setting me in the right direction for the kind of bike I should get, a training regimen and someone who could ride with me when was in town. So I reached out to Bill and I was perplexed.
Bill, after 35 years of marriage, found himself in the unenviable position of going through a divorce he didn't want, wasn't expecting and was not prepared to manage through. Having gone through a similar situation 6 years prior, I knew where he was and I offered my ear, and my home.
A few weeks passed and Bill reached out to see if I was serious about opening up my home to him. Of course I was and my daughters were as well and we began to prepare for Bill's arrival. The girls agreed to share a room and give up one to Bill. We cleaned it out and awaited his arrival.
Bill showed up and settled in, as best as he could, in this temporary respite. He also brought his bike. It was an older Salsa Mukluk fatbike. I was just getting back into biking and had not been aware of the different types of bikes in some time so this "new" huge-tire bike was fascinating. He explained how he had been riding this type of bike for the last five years and it had become his only bike.
Bill is no riding slouch. He's completed 15 Leadville 100 Mountain Bike Races out of 18 he's raced. He rode a fatbike in five. He successfully finished three on his Mukluk. For those of you who aren't aware of the Leadville 100, it is a very difficult, 100 mile mountain bike race in Leadville, Colorado. Leadville is situated at an elevation of 10,152 feet. The race is grueling and involves roughly 12,000 feet of elevation gain.
This is its elevation profile:
In order to successfully complete this race, you must finish within 12 hours. That's right. 100 miles, mountain bike, 12,000+ elevation gain while starting at 10,000 feet elevation and finishing in 12 hours.
Bill has done this 15 times, three on a 45 pound fatbike. He's 67. Maybe I shouldn't be taking my guidance and direction from this crazy, crazy man. He enjoys riding uphill into a headwind. He often says, with a damned smile on his face "pain in weakness leaving the body." All the warning signs about Bill were everywhere.
So Bill arrives in Minnesota, homeless in his home state and staying with me and brings his infernal bike. I had a great idea - let's go riding.
Off we go. In an effort to impress (what the hell was I thinking), we started off fast, or so I thought, and after a mile I was ready to stop. Bill strolled up next to me and told me to start spinning at an easier resistance and not worry about speed and power. He said that would come "in due time." I'm an impatient person and wondered why I couldn't have that by the end of a ride or three!
So we rode - me on my 26 year old Trek hybrid with skinny "fast" tires and Bill on his monster-truck bike with the huge wheels. Bill looked he was out on a casual stroll. I felt light headed and that I was ready to stroke out. Then we completed the third mile. Once again, I was thinking - what in the hell am I doing??
As we rode up and down what HAD to be MOUNTAINS (47' of elevation gain), Bill was encouraging me, talking to me about my biking, about the scenery, reminding me to take in the beauty around me. I was swearing at him...in my mind.
"Screw you Bill. I don't give a damn about the beautiful rolling hills and lush landscape. Screw your motviation Bill. How can you be so happy when I feel like absolute shit?? Whatever you crazy old man."
Perhaps sensing my need for a break and some additional motivation, Bill stopped and said "Why don't you try my bike."
Greeeeeaaat. I've been doing some reading. Bike weight is apparently really critical. Weight-wienies - as I now affectionately refer to them, focus on removing every ounce of weight from a bike and here I am, getting to switch to a Monster truck with pedals. It had big handle bars, huge heavy tires, a ballsack on the back and a parrot on the front and 16 water bottle holders!
It's the Dodge Caravan of biking. Sure, it's practical and comfortable but this will NOT look cool if I'm trying to impress single women. But, nothing ventured - nothing gained.
I started riding Bill's bike. It was really, really enjoyable. It was easier to pedal. It was more comfortable. I was smiling. Something was seriously wrong here. My mind could not get around this shift in the polarity of the earth.
I *wanted* a road bike that a three-month old baby could lift with one hand. I wanted to go really, really fast, look cool, blow by people thinking about how "slow" they are. I pictured rolling past my brother, laughing, as I, barely exerting myself, pedaled lightly with one leg while pointing out scenery with my other leg.
And I was riding a fatbike. I *wanted* Britney Spears and ended up with Aretha Franklin. Sure the voice is a heck of a lot better and the career longer and the talent much better but it wasn't who I was picturing myself with in Napa Valley at a vineyard on a getaway weekend.
I didn't see others on fatbikes. I saw them ALL on thin road bikes or cool mountain bikes with shocks in the seat, on each fork in the handle bars and on the helmets. This big clunker had....a squeaky parrot.
As we finished that ride that day, a 21 mile journey of epic proportions, I was mentally questioning everything. Why was this activity, miserable at its lowest point, reeling me into its wake? How in the heck did the hook get set? Why was I even considering a motorcycle without a motor? Why oh why does this old man BARELY break a sweat while I'm almost ready to puke?
Why was I, a strong young guy, so......damn.......weak?
"Humility is to make a right estimate of oneself."
— Charles H. Spurgeon
Early Spring of 2014, my brother decided to start cycling and bought his first "hybrid." So, as I enjoy the time with my brother and since I'm always looking to get in better shape and enjoy the competition, I dragged out my 26 year old Trek 730, cleaned it up, got the tubes replaced, bought a new helmet and biking shorts with the padding, found some wierd toe straps and decided to go for the ride. It was a 15 mile ride around the 4th of July.
I thought "15 miles - no biggie - I can do that." Plus, I knew I would be motivated by trying to keep up and beat my brother or at least gain some credibility in his eyes. I set off with Rick and my sister Anne on her negative weight road bike. :)
The first mile was a re-acclimation with biking, my legs, breathing and "being out there." About five miles in I needed a break. Around 8 miles we encountered a very big hill, at least for me as a naive newbie, and while I started well, I ended up walking part of it, out of breath, feeling like crap and wondering what the hell I was thinking. But, at the top of every hill you go up, you often get to go back down. And down we went. I was reminded of the fun of a child who effortlessly hop on their bikes and spend the day smiling, laughing and having fun. It was FUN. It was invigorating and it made the hill I just climbed feel rewarded.
As I grinded through the last few miles of the ride, and a grind it was, I thought about liking this activity. I get to move, see scenery and nature around me, with my family, having conversations, getting a great workout and generally enjoying myself.
At the end of the ride, we stopped at a great little Mexican place and enjoyed a few Margaritas and some food as we sat outside in sunny warm weather.
And the idea of cycling started to burrow into my mind. I had no idea what I was doing. But, I like adventures, the thrill of the unknown, and getting outside of my comfort zone. Cycling is one of those activities that harkens back to childhood joy, incorporates engineering and technology fulfilling my nerd-needs, is competitive, and doesn't kill my surgically reconstructed knees.
It was indeed the beginning.
Wednesday, September 4, 2013
I graduated in 1993 with a degree in Aerospace Engineering and many questions arise because I am not, nor have I been involved in the aviation industry directly. Yet, I spend between 50,000 and 200,000 miles per year on planes. So, perhaps it is still in my blood.
Like many little boys, it started with curiosity fulfilled by my father. The trips to EAA, the Experimental Aircraft Association, the worlds largest airport for a week - Oshkosh, Wisconsin; the 7th grade science show on Bernoulli's principle - the magic that give birth to flight. The flight so my father could take pictures of the lake house and me being fascinated with being able to see the WORLD!!
Who would have ever thought that a small difference in air pressure over an airfoil would create lift and a couple bike guys - the Wrights - would figure this out and launch this life changing thing called flight?
My love affair started in earnest with a trip to the Air Force Academy in 8th grade. The sense or order, pageantry, sacrifice, honor, duty and privilege took hold deep inside me. So did the opportunity to fly a fighter jet. Top Gun came later and was further reinforcement of this love.
Life rolled by in high school, the concept, the idea, the dream of flight growing more strong. Then...being nominated and appointed to the Air Force Academy but only as the alternate candidate - a let down, a failure that reverberated long into my life. So. I did what people do - move to plan B.
Plan B was St. Louis and Parks College and Aerospace Engineering. Going to a small school with a bunch of boys who had the same dreams I had was pretty cool. I realized then that I was a nerd and a bit of a dork....and vastly underpowered in intelligence compared to so many of my peers.
After a few years of realizing that, while I may have an engineers mindset, I absolutely did not want to be an engineer. Fortunately, international politics, two US presidents and a recession helped. So I started my career outside of flight.
Fast forward to the mid-2000's when I find myself on flights...every week...every day in some instances and flight, my dream, started to feel like a chore, a bus in the sky. Fortunately, though my flights didn't decrease, I rediscovered the joy of flight.
From the northern lights brighter than I had every witnessed before on my flight to London, to meeting interesting people,, to staring out the window and realizing how PEACEFUL the world looks from 35,000 feet. And perhaps, that's where this is going.
I can only imagine the view of God over the universe. And the next time your in plane, after trudging through an airport, accosted by security, offended by behaviors, and all the other "burdens" of travel, look out the window. What do you see?
I see a world that looks so peaceful. From 35000 feet, the lights of a police car or ambulance looks like twinkles from the lights of a Christmas tree. The baseball or football fields bring back memories of "playing under the big lights" for the first - or last time. The fields, organized in their patterns of blocks and colors, providing food and nourishment. The snow-covered peaks, the sunsets and sunrises. We get to see them all....from above. We should be overwhelmed and thankful, not ungrateful because we only get a minuscule bag of peanuts and an armrest covered by a neighbor.
I haven't publicly published to this blog in years so rather than shoot for
Perfection, up this goes.
Remember to LOOK OUT THE WINDOW AND SMILE the next time you get to have a portion of the View of God. And then pray that someday you will be privileged to have the same view.
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad
Friday, April 22, 2011
Since I work for a company that helps other large companies manage their sustainability efforts and reduce things like waste, water, electric energy and the sort, you would think we have a HUGE celebration for Earth Day and treat it like a National holiday.
But, like the rest of the world, we simply shrug our shoulders, smile at a tree (hugging just seems…well…wrong), and go on with our day. Despite all the hysterics, moral imperatives and business reasons to do things that apparently save the earth, the majority of people across the world simply don’t care. “So What!” is the collective cry.
And…with very good reason. If I think about what our clients deal with as they attempt to gain engagement throughout their organizations and with their clients – who tend to be all of us – consumers who buy stuff in retail stores, “sustainability”, “environmental efforts”, “energy efficiency”, “corporate social responsibility” are all a VERY TOUGH SELL.
Remove the politics and the moral imperatives for a minute. Take what I would call a “pragmatic approach to fill in large word here denoting reduction of use” and try to get people engaged. It’s not easy and one of the best parts of my job goes into effect.
Like a three year old, I have the luxury, and the imperative, of continually asking “Why?” And when I do that about the struggles in adoption of “sustainability” and everything else, it’s a pretty easy answer for me.
Unlike so many aspects of our lives, especially in the ADD society of today, those intangible things, like electricity, sustainability, carbon footprint, environmental impact are difficult to grasp, hold on to, and become passionate about in our everyday lives. Now, add on the global turmoil, the crummy job market, and the continual depletion of our incomes, all of these things become less important.
If I think back across my career, 18 years in energy, sustainability, etc., I can emphatically state that well over 85% of the people I’ve met, have no clue what actually happens when they flip a switch to turn on a light, a computer, or the television. So, replacing an incandescent lamp with a CFL, something many people do everyday, I believe is done because of herd mentality and moral imperative!
I believe if the average person actually understood the true cost of electric energy or the real cost of water use rather than the subsidized, monopolized and sanitized costs we are exposed to, radically different decisions would be made. But, until that happens, and since I cannot SEE the request for electricity going from the switch to the transformer to the substation to the powerplant and the actual supply coming all the way from the powerplant to the device…INSTANTANEOUSLY…I don’t think about it.
Whether it’s CFL’s (that horribly ugly white light), 100% post-consumer recycled content(huh?), solar panels(you mean the $15,000 I spent covering my roof with these things so I can turn on all my ugly CFL lamps for four hours per day?) or the more intangible subjects of coal versus nuclear( men covered in soot and trapped 3 miles below ground versus Chernobyl), smart grid(you mean the meter and higher utility bill I’m paying?), carbon footprint(blame the cows) or hybrid cars(the guy in the left lane going 45 in a 65 and SMILING), the average person does not understand the engineering marvel that makes up the electric grid, the entire process that occurs before you buy the loaf of bread or the new shoes.
Our failure to understand how things are made, how stuff is produced, how products are delivered, what we consume, all lead to decisions we MAY not make if we took the time to understand its “history.” And I am absolutely not one to force anyone to make a decision on any of their choices but, wouldn’t it be helpful if you had all of the information you need to make an informed decision?
Earth Day is silly. I’d rather celebrate “Information Day” where we get to discover the true environmental comparison of purchasing a Toyota Prius and the potential petroleum I might save versus the long term impact of trying to dispose the lead batteries it uses instead of gas! Or, how about the production costs and energy use of producing the hybrid car versus the 1967 Fastback Mustang that guzzles the gas and let’s be honest, is SOOOO much more fun to drive?
So what? Yep, so what! Enough with Earth day! We’ll achieve the same or BETTER result by starting, celebrating and embracing “INFORMATION DAY!”
Now, go hug a database.
Thursday, January 6, 2011