Rich Roll Rocks

Rich Roll- ultra distance athlete and successful Podcast host.

Last year, my friend Jeff Chetlin turned me on to a great podcast by Rich Roll. You can google him to find out all about his podcast and his amazing lifestyle change over the years. But suffice to say that he is impressive as is his list of guests on his daily podcast. I also read his book which is a good one too.

I have listened with great intent to his interviews with world class athletes like Lyndsey Vonn, Lance Armstrong, and Rebecca Rusch. Rich brings out the best in all of them by asking provocative questions and allowing them to expand during his usual 2 hour show. The interesting thing about world class athletes is their drive to which Rich is intimately familiar as he himself is a national class ultra athlete.

The Rich Roll Podcast

Rich is aging like many of us and it is interesting to hear his guests who speak on what it takes to stay healthy. I heard a Rich Roll podcast with Drs. Dean and Anne Ornish who spoke at length about plant based eating and how that lifestyle can be a “fountain of youth” for many of us. They also spoke about mitochondria health in our cells and as we age, how it is compromised. I first heard of NADs (Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide) and how we can refurbish our cells taking a product called Tru-Niagen. I take it every day because I believe that the science is there. Rich has varied guests in the medical field who talk about health in general but also as it relates to those of us who are trying to stay healthy through exercise as we age.

Rich on an ultra distance training run.

Recently Rich had Dr. Peter Attia as a guest who has worked with many world class athletes. The discussion centered around Zone 2 training. Now, as I listened, I thought back to where I had first heard that term. It was from the Heart Rate Monitor Book published by Sally Edwards in 1993. I had a monitor in those days and found the discussion on training in zones particularly enlightening. Sally Edwards as well as Dr. Attia find that training in Zone 2 which is basically a heart rate zone where you can exercise and still have a conversation, is the most beneficial. The heart rate zones are different based on the conditioning of the athlete, but the basic premise is not to always be in zone 4 or 5 which is aerobic to anaerobic in scale and often hampers one’s ability to be conditioned. He spoke about lactate levels which are blood lactate readings taken basically in a lab environment where an athlete’s blood is taken regularly during exercise to find the optimum level at which lactate levels begin to build in the muscles leading to lactic acid formation. If you can be aware of your levels, keep your heart rate in zone 2 and not go above your recommended levels, the training benefits are optimized. The discussion also included awareness of watts produced during exercise and the balance between watts and lactate levels. Watts seemed to be more pertinent in the discussion than heart rate but many casual athletes do not have a watt meter attached to their bike as world class cyclists do.

Now Rich Roll even admitted during the interview that most people who exercise are not at the level at which lactate measurement is a consideration. Most of us can relate to heart rates that are in different zones and if we stick to training or exercising in zone 2 – the conversational zone, it will be more beneficial and also……..more enjoyable. Pain is not always gain.

Dr. Peter Attia- google him.

Perhaps the most interesting thing to me about the interview with Dr. Attia was the discussion on what goals we have as we age. Dr. Attia stated that as an aging athlete, we need to consider what we would like to do in our later years as octogenarians and above. Do we want to be able to get up off the floor without using our hands? Do we want to easily get up out of a chair? Do we still want to race? Do we want to ski? Do we want to have sex? All of these things are considerations and if we outline them, we can “back cast” to the present time and lead a life that will make those things possible barring any catastrophic health issues. Bottom line in the discussion for us mortals is just to keep moving. I always quote Scot Nichol of Ibis Bikes when I asked him how long we can ski and ride like we do. His standard answer is ” just keep doing it.” ” Don’t even think about it.”

If you get the chance, tune in to the Rich Roll Podcast. It can get technical but for most of us who exercise for health with our racing days behind us, his discussions with his guests are enlightening. I won’t be undergoing any lactate testing any time soon but I recently did get a Garmin Fenix sports watch that gives me way more information about my daily exercise and lifestyle than I could ever utilize. But it does give me some benchmarks that I can use as I “forecast” to the future and see how long I can keep doing the things that I like to do. Garmin, Rich Roll, and books like ” How Not to Die ” by Michael Greger M.D. keep me in the game. Friends do too and to have a group of people who have similar interests on the slopes and trails keep me motivated and engaged. Zone 2 keeps it fun too. Thanks for reading.

The Trails Are For All of Us

Laguna Beach, Ca
State College, Pa.

So I was rocking down the trail the other day with a bunch of my pals in a tight line on our mountain bikes. As we rounded a corner, I was the last guy and I heard behind me,” You’re Welcome!!” Feeling like we had committed a transgression, I stopped, turned around and saw a woman hiker who obviously was not happy. I knew the guys would wait for me up ahead so I turned back to address the lady and say that we were sorry for not thanking her for moving off the trail to let us by. I explained that I did not see her as surely I would have thanked her per my custom with hikers and runners on the trail. I also told her I have a bell where if I see someone hiking or running or riding for that matter, I use it to give them a courteous notice that I was coming. This conversation with the disgruntled hiker was not cutting it as she said, ” Why do I have to always move for you guys?” I replied once again that I was sorry and apologized for the rest of our group. But it got me thinking. The trails are for all of us and we need to be courteous to all who use the trails, no matter what. Sure we were flying and everyone in our MTB group was working hard to keep the pace of the line. But, obviously this was not received well.

Fast forward, the other day, I was riding by myself in our local North Park trails, and came upon a woman and her family and three dogs. Two nicely behaved golden retrievers and a smaller dog who was quite young. I rang my bell, was courteous and thanked her for moving the dogs as I sped by but I could tell she was uncomfortable moving the dogs and trying to keep them off the trail to let me by.

Hiking in North Park- Pittsburgh , Pa

I did one more lap around and came upon them again and this time, I got off my bike, moved off the trail and said to them, ” Now it is your turn to pass” with a big smile on my face. She appreciated that and it kind of broke the ice a little bit and she explained that she had some difficulty with a mountain biker the other day. Seems like a guy came roaring by them and startled their little dog, who I found out was a rescue dog. The rider never said sorry or thank you for moving, just roared past her. The lady explained that after that event, the little dog was terrified of mountain bikes and asked if she could walk her past my bike to show her that all mountain bikers are not scary and rude. We exchanged further pleasantries and I went on my way feeling that perhaps I had diffused some hard feelings and maybe I helped show the lady and her family that all MTB riders are not the same. I told her in passing that we try to educate newer riders on the courtesies of the trail, but some people- just like on the the trails of life , are only thinking of themselves. More education is needed.

My family likes to hike too.

My wife and I are avid hikers too and I can certainly see the conflicts that take place from a hiker/runner perspective on the trails. I notice when riding sometimes that trail runners and hikers sometime take a more aggressive attitude when we are passing them on mountain bikes. But I get it. They probably have had similar experiences as my friend with the dogs. I see the disgruntled looks on their faces and my immediate reaction is ” Hey- I pay my taxes too!!!” But then I think, be courteous, ring your bell. Smile and thank them for moving. I always think that the best way to improve perception is to be polite, courteous, and respect others on the trails.

The other users that need a lot of respect are the horses and their riders. Our group makes a habit of getting off our bikes, standing well to the side of the trail, and greeting them in a friendly manner. Most of the equestrian types are nice and very thankful that we move. Horses are easily spooked and I am sure they have had their moments of nervousness with a group of mountain bike riders.

The last thing I am going to comment about here is trail work. If you are going to claim certain rights on trails and use them frequently, it might not be a bad idea to give a little sweat equity to http://www.trailpittsburgh.org if you live in the local area. There are opportunities for cyclists, runners, hikers, and equestrians to work together on trail projects. Not only does that improve our trail systems but it gives all of us users a chance to work together and talk about some things that maybe need resolved. If you are open enough to listen to concerns with other user groups, you will be more educated as to their issues and work to resolve them – one trail day session at a time.

Our group of courteous riders visiting Wild Wonderful West Virginia

These trail improvement organizations are everywhere and no matter where you live, you can get involved and maybe learn a little bit about other user groups. In my mind, trail use is a little bit of a microcosm of life in general. Interaction with people where courtesy wins the day. Shouldn’t that be the way we all behave as we move through life ? We all use the trails to get away from the stresses of daily life and to get some exercise in a great environment. The trails are for all of us. Thanks for reading.

Nothing like Patriot’s Day in Boston

Patriot’s Day in Boston is aligned with the running of the Boston Marathon. This year is it Monday April 18th. Back in 1987, my pal Jack Mook asked me if I ever ran a marathon? He also told me that he was injured and wanted to know if I would consider running Boston? He would give me his number and I could run it if I wanted? I only ran in the winter for fitness. I thought about it and immediately responded in the affirmative and thought about what it would take to run the thing. I did my due diligence, ran my 20 in a raging snowstorm, went to Boston with Hot Harry Kirsch, Les Brodie, and Carl Trimbur and finished in a respectable time of 3:17. Not bad for a guy who basically rides a bike. The bus ride to the start was a bit intimidating seeing that I was in the company of a lot of pure runners and it seemed like a loooooong bus ride. LOL!! But the best part of that day for me was not the running, but the auxiliary experiences along the way which made it most memorable.

Joan Benoit Samuelson

Experience #1- I went to the expo and met the 1984 Olympic Marathon Champion – Joan Benoit Samuelson. She was at the Nike booth with Frank Shorter and we had a great chat because we have a mutual friend- Jace Pasquale. As it turns out, Jace was Joan’s ski race coach during her years at the University of New Hampshire and all Joan could talk about was ” How is Jace?” ” What is she doing now” ” Please tell her hello from me.” Joan was such a friendly and unassuming person who was so humble – very impressive for an Olympic gold medalist. We chatted for a long time in the line and the people behind me were getting miffed so I thanked her for the time and moved on to collect some Boston Marathon SWAG.

Experience # 2- being with Carl, Harry, Les and Bill Shillinger, my running partner for the marathon. Bill had agreed to run with me and we had a great time. Bill kept my enthusiasm in check as we ran through Wellesley College with the roar of the college girls that could be heard for miles. I came smoking out of there all pumped up but Bill told me to slow down or I would have a problem. He guided me past the Green Monster of Fenway Park and as we finished together, I realized how valuable Bill had been for me in this initiative.

Hot Harry only had a running bag with another singlet and a pair of running shorts and a toothbrush. He traveled light but snored like a Stihl chainsaw- driving Les to sleep in the closet of the hotel room. Another treat of the hotel was the fact that the elevators were broken after the marathon and there was no hot water. A cruel punishment for those of us who had just run 26.2 miles. But eating at Legal Seafoods and laughing about the whole thing made me think that this mishap was all part of the experience. Running down the Newton Hills beat up my thighs to the point that I had to walk down stairs backwards the next day in the hotel and in the “T” running around town. I did not realize that running downhill beats you up more than anything.

Hot Harry- the man , the myth the legend

Hot Harry and Carl Trimbur are no longer with us. But the laughs of us all in one hotel room and traveling up and back to Boston is a time that I will cherish forever.

Experience #3- Boston is a wild place during the Marathon. So many people packing the sidewalks cheering on the runners along with the smell of beer all the way down Boylston St. Boston is resilient and even with the tragedy of the bombing a number of years ago, they have that Patriot spirit that keeps Boston strong. Eating Italian in the North End, seeing the sights from the Revolution days, and in general, taking in all that Boston has to offer is really the true essence of Patriot’s Day and marathon weekend.

I don’t run anymore because I am preserving my knees for cycling and skiing. But when I see the marathon on TV every spring, I think back to the good times that I had with the guys, the experiences of running the event, and the pull of Boston that will always bring me back to visit. Thanks for reading.

Forgetting What is Behind

You know, one of the things l like about watching the Olympics are the stories that are told. It takes a lot to get to the Olympic stage and the sacrifices that are made. But you also get to see athletes putting the past behind them and concentrating on what is ahead of them. Not everyone can be a medalist and those who can’t, move on and hope that they have a better result in the future. Others have overcome a lot of adversity just to get there. They have forgotten that adversity or sadness in their lives and have moved on to perhaps the most memorable time in their lives- competing in the Olympic Games.

Interesting this week also, aside from watching the Olympics, I have had the pleasure of listening to our pastor preach on the letter of Paul to the Phillipians. Our pastor is an athlete, played college basketball, and oftentimes ties his sermons in with athletic themes. This week was no exception as he delivered a message about “running the race.” You can see the passage above in a framed piece that my wife gave to me right around the time we were married. It has the metaphorical meaning of describing a race and striving for the goal. But the spiritual message is that belief in the Lord and what He did on the cross really enables you to forget your past because you know that ……..you are forgiven. A really uplifting message if there ever was one. Forget what is behind you, and strive for the ultimate goal. A timely message during the Olympics.

There is also a story behind this framed passage which I would like to relate. I have always treasured this piece given to me by my wife, Janet. She knew the value of this to me as a runner and also as a Christian. It has great meaning and is inspirational to view every day in my office here at home. But this framed piece has also had a journey in that I gave it to a friend of mine one day as he was diagnosed with cancer. He was distraught as anyone of us would be with the news and I met him one day for lunch and presented him with this framed message as a way to buoy his spirits and give him some inspiration in the troubling days that lie ahead for him with his cancer treatment. We had a lot of discussions over the time of his illness. I told him about the power of prayer and that Janet and I had him on our list- front and center. But, sadly, he passed away. One day, months later, his wife asked me to meet her after a devastating fire destroyed their home. I felt so bad for her as she described the trials she had been through after Dan’s death and then to have her home destroyed by fire. It was incredible that she even was able to talk about it in a calm manner at our lunch visit.

I listened to her and then suddenly she pulled this framed piece out of her purse and gave it to me. She said that Dan had always treasured it and looked at it every day during his suffering and treatments. She said it gave him peace that she could not quite understand. She also said ,incredibly, that it was the only thing that survived the fire by way of personal belongings. It was untouched and unscathed. She couldn’t believe it and wanted me to have it back because she knew how much it meant to me and to Dan and that I could remember him when I looked at it. As hard as life was for her, she became a believer, and now has moved on in her quest for her own prize.

I am not sure at which point or why she was actually moved to believe, seeing that she had every right to be bitter and angry at the way life had turned out for her. But in some way, perhaps the message of this little framed piece inspired her like it had inspired her husband Dan during his trials here on earth. Paul has a way of doing that.

As I look at this piece today, I have visions of Dan running across the finish line in Heaven. Having a celestial Olympic moment. A smile on his face as he left his past behind and pressed on towards the goal. Hopefully we all have that same goal in life as we run together. Thanks for reading.

“To have a friend is to be a friend”

My mother’s famous line was ” to have a friend is to be a friend.” No one could embody that statement more than Hot Harry Kirsch. All of us in the North Park Running and Cycling community lost a friend tonight when we heard the news that Hot Harry had ” run his last mile at 8:30 PM.” With his family around him, he passed quietly and peacefully.

Hot Harry was an icon in the running scene in Pittsburgh. As a marine, and a retired trolley/bus driver, Harry began running in earnest in his 50s and over the course of his life he ran over 50 marathons including his beloved Marine Corps Marathon. Organizing bus trips to Washington D.C for years, Harry supported the Marines by bringing hundreds of runners together to hear the Marine at the top of the hill shouting,” Pain is fleeting, pride is forever.” Harry ran countless Boston Marathons , one of which in 1987, I was fortunate enough to be his room mate. Harry was always supportive to first time marathoners with his cheery disposition and friendly ways. He encouraged veteran runners as well in advance of events and in the glow of the finish line.

For years, runners who parked at Stone Field in North Park finished their runs seeing the familiar open trunk on Harry’s car filled with bottles of drinks and cups that Harry would provide not only on race days but every day of running in the park. He had a way of gathering people and generating enthusiasm and even started the first running club in the park -Hot Harry’s North Park Runners. At events nationwide, runners would often see the singlet of the club at events and inquire about Hot Harry. The North Park runners were only too happy to oblige in telling the tales of the retired bus driver who attracted so many runners to his fold.

Harry loved the ladies and ran often with a group of accomplished women runners many of whom were national class. They loved Harry and made a point to run with him whenever they could.

Harry also attracted the characters. Doc Chuck, Merz, and a host of others whom he named. Big nose Bill, Sad Bill, Bushy Debbie, 10 Mile Bill, the Pretty Boys,and many, many more who all claimed Harry as their fearless leader. He would invite all the runners and their families to picnics at his farm in Evans City and we all would see Harry giving the kids tractor rides tirelessly into the evening. Harry loved the Park and enjoyed every moment meeting new people and welcoming them and encouraging them to join in his community. He drank a lot of coffee. Boy did he like coffee!!

Hot Harry was truly a friend to all of us in the North Park running community. He made the effort to be there for all of us and not only in the fun times of after work running and the weekend races, but there for us in sad times as well. Harry valued the friendships and made an effort to contact people who were hurting and people who were injured, sick, or just having a bad day. When you saw that smile and his familiar,” Heyyyyyyyyy” , you know that no matter what was going on in your life, Harry would make you smile and make you feel that things were better in your world.

Second Corinthians 5 says that we all will abandon our earthly bodies and take on the new bodies that we will have for eternity in heaven. I believe that Harry willingly left this world and his earthly body behind, with all of its mileage and marathons, and strapped on a new pair of celestial NIKE shoes and streaked toward the finish line at the pearly gates. There he was welcomed with the statement” well done my good and faithful servant.” Thanks for everything Harry. We will miss you.

The Night Visitor

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This time of year, I kind of switch gears and get away from the mountain bike, and transition to skiing,running trails, or hauling out the snowshoes. I have always been a runner at night in the winter and it is a solitary pursuit whether running around the lake in our local park, or running trails.img_1227 I am not anti-social this time of year, but it is nice to go out at night with the headlamp and spend some time by myself. I enjoy my own company. I talk to myself. Sometimes I get answers. It gives me time to think and to enjoy the winter weather. There is nothing like a run with the softly falling snow accompanied by my Pandora Christmas selections on the I-Phone. In the old days, it was the Sony Walkman with tapes. But I move ahead with technology- kicking and screaming. img_1232

There were many nights that I had the chance to contemplate Christmas and the true meaning of the birth of Christ. I always had fond memories of nativity scenes or the “creche” because of a wonderful story that I watched as a kid- ” Amahl and the Night Visitors.” carnegie_presepio It was re-broadcasted in 1963 from its original 1951 production on the Hallmark Hall of Fame. Although the story is fictional with the shepherd boy and the Magi, the opera by Carlo Menotti was based on biblical truth. I was always fascinated with that production on TV and thought of it often when I would see a creche. Perhaps one of my favorite nativity scene locations was in the grove right near my run starting point at Stone Field in North Park. It was always nice to finish a run and walk up to the grove which was decorated by Allegheny County Parks and Recreation. The star was perched at the apex of the roof of the grove and the floor was coated with hay and the walls lined with hay bales. The Magi, the shepherds, the angels all were present with Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus. A brilliant display especially on cold, snowy, winter nights around Christmas time.

Looking at that scene at the end of a run was comforting to me and I noticed a lot of other runners, walkers, and hikers in the park making the trek up through the field to the grove. Children were amazed and even the dogs seemed to be silent in reverence to the serene scene in our county’s largest park. It has been several years since that nativity scene or creche has been present in that grove. As we all know, there is controversy about separation of church and state and due to nationally recognized litigation, the grove is now an empty, silent, space this time of year. img_1229

Now I am not one to get political or controversial on my blog at all. I also hold any opinions to myself on Facebook posts. But I must say that I miss that creche in the park and the wonderful job that the County did on the presentation each year in that grove. I also believe there are many people who feel the same way as I do. We miss it – that’s all. We are not here to debate the first amendment but rather reminisce on the nice feeling that was present on those winter nights at the end of a solitary, contemplative run. Christmas has many meanings to different people. For me it is a celebration of my faith and the wondrous miracle that took place 2000 years ago. I never see the creche as a graven image, but rather a reminder of the humility of Christ as He came among us.

So, I continue to run, in the solitary darkness. I watched the space shuttle soar overhead last night in the presence of hundreds of stars that can be seen from the darkness of our beautiful county park. For those of you who celebrate Christmas, I wish you a blessed time with your family and friends. Enjoy the season and thanks for reading.

Creche picture courtesy of Carnegie Museum.

The End of the Trail

Two and a half years ago, my wife Janet said to me,” You have all these stories in your head, why don’t you write them down?” ” You should start a blog.” I thought that was a good idea and on January 1st, 2013, I started what became ” The Chronicles of McCloskey- the Zany Stories and Adventures of the 58 year old kid.”photo I wanted to chronicle my outdoor adventures over the years with skiing, cycling, hiking, and some other blended adventures. It was a lot of fun and I learned a lot from writing the blog. I learned not only the mechanics of writing and publishing the blog, but I learned about what was important to me in my past life. In fact,there is a company in Rochester, NY that publishes blogs into a nice coffee table book which I proudly have displayed in my living room. They did a great job and it is amazing to see 176 posts all collected – pictures and all, sitting on my coffee table. I wanted it for posterity and also hoping that my son Jack would read it someday. He is not really interested in the great outdoors and has not read much of the Chronicles, if at all. But someday, he might take a look and be entertained by the mishaps and adventures of his old man. I hope so.
But now, it is time to close the book on the Chronicles of McCloskey. After posting twice per week the first year and once per week in the remaining year and a half, I really have told most of my stories and collected most of my thoughts with regards to exercise and outdoor activities. Frankly, I am out of gas and anything posted beyond this point would be repetitive or perhaps sub standard in my own definition. These 176 posts will be out in cyber space forever and the hope is that some of them might inspire someone to try something new, continue with their current exercise program, or have a laugh at my expense. I enjoyed the writing, but my ulterior motive was that if I can do it, most people can also do it. I have not climbed Everest, kiteboarded in the Indian Ocean, ridden a motorcycle on most of the roads in Alaska, or anything like that. But I have had some interesting adventures and my main motive was to inspire someone to get off the couch and get into the great outdoors with some really great pastimes.
Finally, as the 60 year old kid continues on in life, I will still pursue my passions with a fire in my belly for powder turns, fast groomer turns, fun rides on great trails, and more adventures with my wonderful wife and son. My good friend Eric and our pals will be in on the mix, but the important thing to me is now that I have chronicled the past, I move on to the future. I am in the fourth quarter of life, but most games are won or lost in the fourth quarter. Age is irrelevant if you can avoid catastrophic illness and keep in shape and just continue to do what you love to do. I want to thank all of the 668 folks who so nicely followed my blog either on Facebook, email, or WordPress. I would also like to thank Word Press for their support over these last two and half years. Who knows, maybe I will write something else someday? But thank you all for indulging what has been a wonderful hobby and I wish you God’s continued blessings in your lives. 70019150-SLD-001-0028 Thanks for reading.

What constitutes World Class?

I have probably had the same experience that many of you have when I have encountered what we call world class athletes or individuals. I categorize the experience in one of four ways. First- I am sure we have all met world class individuals whose reputation precedes them. For instance, I have had the distinct pleasure of meeting people like Arnold Palmer, Art Rooney Sr., Olympian Frank Shorter, childhood heroes like Roberto Clemente, Vernon Law, Bill Virdon, and other Pittsburgh Pirates of a bygone era. They were larger than life and when I met them, I was a bit in awe because of their reputations. golf_e_arnold_576
The second type of encounter is what I would call seeing the world class athlete in action. We have all seen pro football and baseball games and marvel at the athleticism of these individuals from the seats in stadiums. I have been fortunate enough to see Tiger Woods on the practice tee at PGA events. I have seen World Cup skiers like the Crazy Canucks at the Hahnenkamm downhill ski race in Austria.Erik Guay - Race - Atomic USA I have seen the women and men at the World Cups. I will never forget seeing Perine Pelen of the French National team take a slalom section unlike anything that I would have ever imagined. So fast and fluid. I had the pleasure of caddying for Ben Crenshaw at the US Open Qualifier at Shannopin Country Club when he was a student at the University of Texas. To see him hit a golf ball and tote his bag while witnessing intense focus on the golf course was enlightening. I was a marshall at the US Open when an extremely focused Johnny Miller won and set the course record at Oakmont.14d7c856-bf4a-4b95-ada5-4359dd6b415c I have witnessed Lance Armstrong ride up Sycamore Street in the Thrift Drug Classic here in Pittsburgh several years ago before his cancer. My brother in law who said to me,” I thought you quit riding bikes when you were 14″ marveled at the athleticism and conditioning of the world class cyclists at this event. It opened his eyes for sure seeing that he only thought athletes put on pads and hit people.
Ratchet up the experience one more notch and I have been fortunate enough to participate in an event or a venue where I have witnessed a world class athlete perform with me alongside. I had the pleasure of riding with Greg LeMond at charity cycling events.DSC00468 80 miles a day with the 3 time Tour de France champion. He was not in TDF shape at all and older, but you could still see the strength in his thighs on the flats and the speed at which he took turns on the road. I have skied behind Phil Mahre the ex World Cup ski race champion and Olympic gold medalist. It was amazing to me to see his really strong turns skiing right behind him. No skidding, just pure carved turns leaving trenches in the snow behind him. His strength was amazing. Riding the chairlift with him was enjoyable as he told tales of the World Cup and the U.S. Ski Team.hqdefault I have raced in club road cycling criterium races where people like Matt Eaton ( former US National Champion and Britain’s Milk Race champion) come flying by me on the inside giving me pointers and instructions as he led the pack. The club races often combined classes and it gave us normal racers a chance to ride with the good guys. It was amazing to witness the speed and technical ability in which they took the turns in the race with a tight pack of riders all around.
So what actually makes an athlete world class? Like “epic” and “extreme”, “world class”, is often overused but a truly world class athlete is an individual that has devoted his or her life to their sport. They are often singularly focused and have been willing to make personal sacrifices in order to achieve their goals. Oftentimes, their focus has caused them to be selfish or self serving but in order to achieve, sometimes you have to have that “take no prisoners” attitude in order to be successful. But in my mind, a truly world class athlete or individual is one who can encompass all the attributes of athleticism but has a perspective on the world around them which supports their efforts. Take Joan Benoit Samuelson- the 1984 Olympic Marathon Women’s gold medalist.maine-joan-benoit-samuelson I had the good fortune of meeting her at the Boston Marathon Nike Expo. She had been in the booth a long time and when I finally made it through the line to meet her, I told her that her former ski racing coach Jace Pasquale said hello. Joan stopped whatever she was doing and was truly interested in how Jace was doing. We chatted for what seemed an eternity only about Jace. Joan was not focused on her reputation or accomplishments, only what was going on in the life of her old ski coach. She was so pleasant and unassuming that I walked away thinking to myself,” what a nice, non- self centered person.”
There are a lot of world class athletes like Joan Benoit Samuelson who use their talents and reputations to serve others. Joan is involved in many charitable causes in New England. There are also those athletes who do not focus on life outside of their sport. The impressive thing to me is to meet or see in action those that do care and think about life outside their athletic box. We may not have the talent, time, or willingness to be a world class athlete. But in my mind, we can be a world class person by caring for someone in need, being a friend to someone who is down in the dumps, sharing our knowledge about our favorite sport or hobby with someone who is just starting out. To me, we can be world class by caring. That is a trait that is not limited to athletes but can be applied to all of us who have a world class attitude towards others with whom we come in contact. Be world class!! Thanks for reading.