I grew up an athlete in a relatively non-athletic family. Yes, my Dad was a college athlete, and both of my parents were uber-supportive of all my various sports endeavors, but it’s not like we were exercising together. We never went on hikes, never went camping as a family, never went on family bike rides. In some ways I feel like I had to make up for the lack of activity in the family by always staying active.
I played baseball seriously as a kid and messed around with all of the various other usual sports as well. A season of soccer here, a bit of tennis there. While I spent tons of hours playing video games, me and the other kids on the block were also often locked out of our houses in the hot New Jersey summers for hours on end. We orchestrated elaborate, summer-long games of Manhunt and Capture the Flag, relished in the drama of driveway two-square tournaments, and became experts at Bubble-Tape Puck street hockey. I would best describe my upbringing as constant outdoors activity punctuated by moments of AC-cooled, video-game playing, Kool-Aid drinking rest inside. In short, it was hella fun.
|Add some duct tape for instant hockey puck
When I was 13 I got my first “mountain bike” – a Schwinn Pathfinder. I promptly started jumping that puppy on trails in nearby Cherokee Park in Louisville, Kentucky, until one day I had to walk it home up the hill with the frame broken cleanly in two. Without hesitation my Mom drove me to the nearest bike shop and purchased a new Cannondale M500 for me (did I mention I am an only child?). It had a Manitou 2 suspension fork on it and was legit that I felt OK hitting the jumps again in the park. For years I had a blast bombing around on that thing, buzzing through the trees, until I started to get a little bit competitive and do some races. I was reading all the bike magazines at that point, and it seemed like all of the big MTB riders of the time (Tinker Juarez, Missy Giove) were getting some cross training by riding road. I begged my parents for another bike, and they responded with a bright purple Klein Quantum road bike that was about 2 cm too big for me (that only child thing again).
I found a new freedom on the roads – now I could escape the local vicinity of my house and ride for hours across the rural Kentucky landscape. Sure, I had to dodge thunderstorms and rednecks throwing bottles, but I had my own wheels! Jefferson County was my oyster.
The long rural country road rides soon led to joining the local racing team, The Louisville Wheelman. This was a wonderful crucible of teenage athletes and supportive parents and role-models. We traveled the mid-west, racing criteriums and road races all throughout the plains, families in tow. Once I had my driver’s license I would leave on Friday evening after work, drive my Saab 900 turbo up to Chicago (only child!), race all weekend, and drive back Sunday night for work on Monday morning. It was a unique, privileged, and active childhood.
Part of my decision to come out to California was to race for the UC Berkeley cycling team. They were slowly positioning themselves to take over the conference championship and strong-team title from arch rival Stanford, who happened to be the only college I applied to that denied my admission. What better way to get redemption than to come build a cycling team at Berkeley to take down the evil Cardinal across the Bay?
And take down the Cardinal we did, along with teams all across the country. As President of the cycling team from 1999-2002, along with my buddy Lance, we crafted an indestructible team that had the firepower to finally line up next to UC Boulder and the other fast, smaller schools from the Midwest. We triumphed and won the National Road Championships in 2002, 2003, and 2004.
|That looks much better than STANFORD
I got wrapped up in a few bad crashes after I retired from Collegiate racing – one on the road, one on the track – and my head got banged around enough that I knew it was time to consider a change in sports. I basically stopped racing and stopped being a competitive athlete for 10 years. I took up back-packing, hiking, and rock-climbing, but stopped with the training logs, the heart rate monitors, and the disciplined diets. It felt great to take a break.
I basically took a break until the fall of 2013, when my buddy Greg and I were celebrating a weekend of bachelor-dome in the house and the webcast of Phish’s run in Denver. We partied hardy and I woke up the next morning feeling absolutely terrible. I did what sounded like a good idea at the time – I laced up a pair of old road shoes I had in the closet and went for a 3 mile run. It damn near killed me.
One thing led to another and soon I found myself signed up for the inaugural running of the Berkeley Half Marathon. I had never run longer than a 10k Turkey Trot before, but I was excited about pushing my physical limits while cruising around my home-town. I hit up Hal Higdon’s website for a basic half marathon plan and started putting in the miles. Two runs during the week and one “long” run on the weekend that built up to 10 miles the weekend before the race. I loved the fitness I was accumulating, and more important I loved being on a training schedule again. My life suddenly had structure and meaning that I hadn’t found since my days of racing bikes.
I threw down a 1:53 in my first half marathon ever and couldn’t have been happier. I immediately signed up for the Oakland Half Marathon in March of 2014, where despite having an absolutely horrendous chest cold I bettered my time to 1:44:18 and sub 8 minute miles. I was loving it!
|My first half marathon!
It was at that point that my buddy Lance convinced me to go try a trail race. He had transitioned from cycling to the world of ultra-running a few years earlier than me and was already throwing down amazing times all around the Bay. I signed up for the Inside Trail China Camp Trail Half Marathon in May of 2014. I was in love the moment I signed up – all of the excitement of a road race, but without all the pomp and circumstance. Mellow, friendly people, and the course was on beautiful trails through the park. I ran up the significant climbs, wondering why all these losers were power-hiking, and of course was too tired by the end to finish strong. But I finished in 2:07, went straight for the cooler of post-race beer (no drink tickets required!) and knew that I had found my new sport.
And the rest, as they say, is history……