Monday, February 19, 2007


Here in Central Illinois we get bored during the long winters and find it necessary to come up with creative alternatives to your standard swim/bike/run training. By far, the greatest of these is our "Recyclo-cross" race series. In theory, these races are supposed to resemble a traditional cyclocross race. In actual practice, they morph into twisted, sadistic events that a dyed in the wool Belgian cross racer wouldn't even be able to recognize.

The races are called recyclo-cross because they are held on the grounds of a wood recycling facility. During normal business hours, the place sells mulch, firewood and such. On select weekends during the fall and winter a bunch of local crazies descend on the place to ride through impossibly deep mud and snow (very little grass on this cross course). Instead of nice simple haybales, we carry our bikes over mulch piles that can be a story high! The finish line is often an arch made from the scoop arm of a Caterpillar tractor. To really get a sense of these races, you need to check out some video footage from this season on YouTube:

The races are competitive, but insanely fun. There are both beginner and advanced races. It is simply amazing how quickly you can hit your max heartrate when you jump off your bike and try to carry the damn thing up a great big, loose mulch pile!

To add to the unique local flair, we have monster truck-style log pulls after the race. We take a log chain, attach it to the bike and wrap it around a 100 lb log. The winner is whoever can drag the damn thing 100 yards including a 180 degree turnaround. Here's a picture of me enroute to losing the log pull:

As if that weren't enough to make every intelligent fun/suffering lovin' person come to these races, the awards are amazing- the best I've ever received. Most of the awards are hand-crafted by the race director. I pulled off an upset victory over the weekend and won an awesome bike sculpture/award made by one of the racers (a local high school student). Check out some of these awards:

And there's more! Last couple of races, we've had local musicians performing during and after the events. They even wrote a cyclocross tribute that is surely destined for greatness! The day always finishes with hot, hommade chili and cold beer. There are no entry fees, just a donation for the venue- which generally is given back to the beer fund!

Sorry to say that the series is over for the winter. After reading this I'm sure we'll have racers from all over the country chomping at the bit to try a Recyclo-cross race!

To me, these races represent everything that is great and pure about sport. Some of us take the competition seriously, but first and foremost everyone is out there to have fun. These races got me outside on days when I would have sat on the trainer or, more likely than not, sat around on my butt. There is great commraderie among the regular racers. Everyone cheers and encourages the other racers. The course changes every time so it is never about personal bests or a certain time standard that you feel the need to live up to. We're simply out there enjoying being fit enough to even think about doing this sort of thing.

A huge thank you to our fearless leader and race director Chris Tuma!

Can't wait for next year!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

The Goal is the Journey

Last Spring I crashed and broke my collarbone while racing the DeSoto Triple-T in Southern Ohio. This was my last big race before Ironman Lake Placid ten weeks later. I was psyched for a great race in Lake Placid (my 4th Ironman). I had put in tons of base during a harsh Midwest winter and early spring.

Almost from the moment I crashed I started thinking about all of my wasted training. Those wasted winter days spent riding in sub-freezing temps. Wasted vacation time that I took in order to get in extra training. Wasted races that I didn’t taper for in order to be in better shape later. Countless wasted hours sitting on the rollers. It took about 2 days of this type of negative thinking for me to realize that it was complete and utter bullshit. Self-pity and regret are truly two of the most stupid and useless of human traits. If you enjoy what you are doing then there is no possible way to have a “wasted” day of training. No goal –no matter how lofty- is worth “wasting” even a single day of life on. My high school cross country coach loved to say “You don’t have to run, you get to run.” If training gets to be such a chore that you start thinking: ughh, I have to go swim (or bike or run) then it is time to reassess your motivation and your personal reasons for getting into the sport in the first place. Once I started thinking back I realized that even though I had crashed nothing was really wasted. I had a blast riding in horrible winter weather and stopping at Casey’s for gas station cappuccino and donuts. I kind of like learning new tricks on the rollers. Right up to the point where I crashed I was thoroughly enjoying racing in the beautiful foothills of the Appalachians.

Remember this: no matter what you choose to do with your life the time will pass. If your heart is in the right place, not a precious minute of that time will ever be wasted. Do what you love. Do it with unbridled passion.

The Goal is the Journey. The end of the journey is no more (or less) important than every day along the way. In sport -and in life- it is essential to have goals. It is a sad truth of our culture that people often become utterly fixated on end goals to the extent that everything along the way is forgotten or "wasted". The Goal is the Journey is about changing that mindset. It is about appreciating the minutiae and learning to live in the moment. It is about being mindful instead of mindless.

Through this blog I hope to share with everyone parts of my many journeys. Mostly you'll hear about triathlon and my journey as part of Team raceAthlete. Being part of this team is an unbelievable opportunity for me and something that I want to share with the larger multisport community. I've been racing triathlons for more than 15 years, so I'll also be sharing knowledge along the way. I'll do some product reviews and race reports. By its very nature, The Goal is the Journey is larger than triathlon. If you read my blog you'll also get a dose of practical philosophy and random musings. I'm a librarian so you might read something from me about censorship or hot new reads. I was an English major and take pride in my writing. You won't get lots of hastily written garbage posts from me. I won't be posting every day, but hopefully when I do it will be well-done and worth reading.

Join me on the Journey.

Thanks for reading.