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.

Enjoy the Ride

It is mud season now. April showers bring May flowers but for mountain bikers, it is a time for us to wait until the trails are dry so we don’t trash them for the rest of the summer. I bring out my road bike and begin the long process of trying to get in shape after a winter of maintenance trail running, snowshoeing and skiing. I can always ride in the rain on the road bike because I am used to the drill. If you don’t ride in the rain in Pittsburgh, you don’t ride much in the spring. Trust me, as I get older, the process gets a little harder but I am dealing with it in a more mature way which I will discuss in a short. Suffice to say, I don’t blast out of the parking lot these days. I ease on down the road.
As I meander on the country roads north of my house, I think back to the painful rides at this time of the year when I raced a road bike. It was always a chore to try to get in shape so that you didn’t get dropped on a training ride or in a race. You had to scramble just to be able to ride with your friends. As I daydream on my current rides, I think back to when I used to meet Art Bonavoglia, Frank Habay, and George Sagan up on Saxonburg Boulevard waiting for a crew to come up out of Shadyside in Pittsburgh. I slowly dragged my sorry butt out of bed and made my way to the meeting point where George, Art, Frank and I waited for the freight train that was coming. Scott Dismukes, a former track cyclist- strong as hell, Bob Gottlieb- Cat 2 rider of local fame, Barb Katzenburg-national class road racer, and Mike Alex- PHD candidate in Electrical Engineering at CMU riding a mountain bike with slick tires. These guys(and gal), could ride and when they came roaring up the road, you better be warmed up and ready to jump on the pace line or you were history. I would see them in the distance and sigh to my friends,” Here they come.” The pain began. photo
The destination was always Lake Arthur up in Butler County. These are beautiful country roads here in Pennsylvania but all I saw on those rides was the backside of someone faster than me in the paceline. As we exchanged pulls, ( mine were always the shortest), we made our way through pastoral fields and dairy farms. Virtually no traffic which made the ride as pleasant as it could be but the pace increased with each country mile. By the time I got to Prospect, Pa with a stop at the country store to reload on food, I was exhausted. I can remember laying on the sidewalk jamming Fig Newtons in my face and washing it down with Gatorade as fast as I could swallow. I looked at Mike Alex and said,” How the hell do you ride that fast on a mountain bike?” He said the slick tires helped but he was only being humble. I looked at Art, Frank and George and said, ” How am I going to make it back?” But I always managed it somehow. Fig Newtons and bananas were the Cliff Bars and Power Bars of the day. That type of energy food was not available yet. The Newtons and the bananas generally did the trick but when I pulled into my townhouse I was totally gassed. The killer crew left me and roared back to Shadyside logging in excess of 100 miles. photo

As I come back from my daydream on my road rides now, I am usually alone. I think back to that far away time in a galaxy far, far away. Painful spring rides, wool jerseys, leather hair nets, toe clips and cleats, downtube shifters, and steel road frames. Today I ease into my spring road rides. The equipment is lighter, smoother shifting, and carbon fiber rides a lot more comfortable than Reynolds tubing, although there is something to be said for the classic steel frame. I don’t stress myself. I don’t need to train. If a hill comes, I shift down and noodle up until I reach the top. I don’t have to do what Mac Martin used to tell me. ” Take it out of park McCloskey, and when you reach the top of the hill, don’t just coast- put the hammer down because your competition will be coasting behind you.” I don’t need that pain anymore as the 60 year old kid. My road rides now are enjoyable. I can look at the spring blossoms, ride in the softly falling rain, and really……enjoy the ride. home02
I mostly mountain bike these days but I must admit that I look forward to bringing out the road bike in the spring. It reminds me of my past and I definitely don’t have the pain that I used to go through at this time of year. Like life- I am now enjoying the ride. I see flowers, trees, farms, and sights other than the back of some guys lycra shorts. Haul that road bike out guys and gals, let the trails dry out. Thanks for reading.

Pay it Forward

Thought I would send the weekly post a little early due to Thanksgiving.  Speaking of which, I am thankful for people like Bob Bannon, the Lord of Lumens, for his friendship and being the glue to the local mountain bike community.  I am waiting for ski season but will still ride until it becomes a muddy, icy mess on the trails.  So last Saturday it was 18 degrees and I put out the message about the ride and only Bob, and a new young guy named Matt, and I showed up in the Family Dollar parking lot.  Our mission was to ride the fast and flowy trails of Deer Lakes Park here in Allegheny County in Western Pa.  Now Bob, being the Pied Piper of all mountain bikers here in the burg, was happy to show the new guy around.  Matt is a nice kid but really, I have socks older than him and Bannon is older than I am by a few years.  So it was Matt and the old guys heading out on the trails.       In true Bannon fashion, Bob makes the ride enjoyable because he describes where we are going to ride, what to look for by way of obstacles, and what trail maintenance he has done on the trails to make them flowy and enjoyable.  He puts a lot of volunteer time in and enthusiastically sends out weekly messages about rides in the area, where to meet, and when.  Getting back to the frigid ride, we were bundled up and as Bob went through his routine, we both noticed that Matt had a nice bike and was riding in running shoes.  Being the inquisitive guy that I am, I started asking him about where he was from.  Turns out he went to IUP and spent some time in forestry in the wilderness of Northern California.  Tough kid, good rider, but running shoes have to go.  Bob and I both gave Matt some advice about the virtues of clipless pedals and shoes.  The kid took it in stride and I think we may have made an impact because I think he sees the value and will get those items shortly.  photo

As the ride progressed, Bob and I were impressed at Matt’s fitness and his riding ability despite the handicap of running shoes. He also rode with no gloves.  Amazing!!! 18 degrees!!  We came across a guy we know from riding who was walking his dogs.  As I handed him my camera to take some pictures of the frozen trio, the big dog climbed up on me and barked in my face and the ratty little dog bit my shin.  I don’t have much luck with dogs.  I tell people that dogs like me………I taste like chicken.  You can have dogs, but that is another blog post followup.  We had lots of tales for Matt about local riding and riding in the west.  Matt met us through an organization called Meet Up. http://www.meetup.com.  Bob’s posting of weekly rides is on their web site and Matt hit it right when he had the opportunity to ride with Bob.  photo

The freezing rain started falling at the end of the Deer Lakes ride and as we ventured out into the parking lot, I gave some more advice to Matt to get back on the grass because the pavement was slick.  Too late.  Matt was down and I was a little late with more advice that would have enhanced his experience.  Bob and I were happy to have Matt that day.  We both like the opportunity to get people enthused about mountain bike riding and never miss an opportunity to “pay it forward” like people did for us back in the day.  Bob pays it forward big time every week……every day.  Good guy.  Lots of people like to ride with Bob.

An additional payoff was when I was tipped off at the OTB Thursday night ride that we would be stopping at the Deer Creek Diner for their famous pancakes after our ride on Saturday.  Matt was all in,  and we changed clothes and gingerly made our way our of the park on the glazed roadways to the diner in Russleton,Pa- right around the corner.  The coffee was hot and good, the service was very friendly, and the pancakes………….well…………..have a look.  Amazing!!!  I bring my own Vermont maple syrup when I have a chance to prepare like this outing and it is the only syrup that would do justice to these colossal cakes.  Matt had the chance to experience Grade A fancy syrup and Bob and I relished the morning knowing that we had given Matt a good ride, a good breakfast, and as a grand finale- Bob wrote down the exact specs for Matt to purchase a light so he could ride with our group on the trails after dark.  I hope that Matt reports back to” Meet Up” that he had a good experience with two knowledgeable, fun old codgers who showed him a beautiful trail system, fed him well, and gave him valuable lighting options.  photo

Really- this is what mountain biking or skiing is all about.  Sharing knowledge, enthusiasm, planning, and general frivolity in a relaxed environment.  Good exercise with the hopes that guys like Matt pay it forward some day soon.  The more riders the better the riding.  So, pay something forward.  Help out a new guy.  Share your experience and knowledge with someone.  I have done that and now all the people I have taught are killing me out on the trails.  Go figure.  Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.  We all have a lot to be thankful for- health, happiness, and friends like Bob.  photo

Cycling the Miles for a Cause

IMG00227-20100731-0812IMG00375-20110730-0915DSC00468 A number of years ago my next door neighbor’s son came to me and asked me to do the MS150 Bicycle Ride to Erie. It was dubbed the “Escape to the Lake” and it was a benefit for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society http://www.nationalmssociety.org It was a lot of fun and especially for a young 8th grader who had never ridden much outside of our local North Park. This ride is always well attended and supported and the fun thing that year was staying overnight in my freshman dorm up at Allegheny College in Meadville,Pa. As I walked around campus and stayed in the dorm, I thought to myself,” Did I really do this” It seemed like the distant past.

As time went on, I opted for the camp out at Allegheny and also at Edinboro State University because I enjoyed the down time in my camp chair and sleeping under the stars in my dome tent. Always liked camping but I am the Lone Ranger when it comes to that sort of activity with my family. The neighbor kid eventually grew up and got married but I still kept up on the MS 150 until AAU Basketball got in the way of those weekends and I had to make a choice between being a good father in the stands at courtside or riding the MS. Fatherhood won out. But the MS Rides live on and they benefit research that is finding a cure for a very debilitating central nervous disorder. The money you raise goes to a worthy cause and you get a wonderful ride in the country with a well organized event as your reward.

Moving on, I had the opportunity to ride some events with my friend Scott Weiner down in Maryland at the Catoctin Challenge. The Maryland events were fun and organized by a really funny and good guy, Phil Heffler, who made a habit out of heckling his riding friends. He painted” last hill” on the road for miles even though there were many killer ascents ahead of us. He painted lanes for his riders and then a separate lane for a girl who was riding. Those signs read,” this lane for good riders.” Then he had the separate lane for his lady friend right next to it. Really hilarious stuff and Phil roamed the course having fun berating his friends and supporters. Phil organizes rides every year from Frederick, Maryland to Pittsburgh and if you want to take part in his hilarity and well orgnized rides, contact Phil- pheffler@aol.com

Several Maryland rides benefitted the 1-6 Organization http://www.1in6.org for men who were abused as children. This organization was supported by the Roz and Marvin Weiner Foundation as title sponsor with the honored guest being none other than our 3 time Tour de France champion Greg LeMond. The interesting thing about riding with LeMond was that he is a very engaging person. The funny thing is that most of the people on the ride either did not know much about LeMond or had their own agenda on the ride so about 6 of us got to ride both days with the former Tour champion. The stories that he told on the road were amazing and the development of a lot of current companies involved in cycling equipment had their seminal influence from LeMond. Scott time trial bars, Giro Helmets, and countless others were entrepreneurial and research endeavors by LeMond. You learned a lot about world class cycling and the development of product by riding weekends with Greg LeMond. These were also camping events and my fix for the outdoors under the stars was satisfied in the Catoctin Mountains of Maryland.

My friends Pete Hilton, Eric Durfee(the local) and Mike King and I rode in “America’s Most Beautiful Bike Ride” in Lake Tahoe one year which benefitted the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. http://www.lls.org Riding a road bike around the most beautiful lake in the country surrounded by the Sierra’s is indeed breathtaking. This ride also supports a very worthy cause and riders come from all over the country to these events. My friend Tim Hamburger is very involved in this organization and if you are inclined to ride or support this organization, Tim would be appreciative. His countless hours of training riders for this event is exemplary and his volunteering spirit is appreciated by all of his riders and event organizers.

Sometimes, these events hit close to home. My friend Jim Pottinger is riding an event in Vermont to beneft the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation in honor of his son who has T1D juvenile diabetes. Becket is a cheerful little guy but the stress that he goes through with daily testing of his blood and the disruption to his young life as well as his parents is something that the JDRF addresses on a daily basis. http://www.jdrf.org Please consider supporting Jim on his ride. http://jdrf3.convio.net/goto/BecketsBikers

This weekend, Maggies Marauder’s go into action at the MS150 Keystone Ride up in State College,Pa. Pete, JR, Cyndee and Barry, Don, and a bunch of my pals will take part in this ride that benefits MS. Maggie Schneider is dealing with MS and this group rallies around her as she rides to raise money for the issue that she deals with on a daily basis. Consider supporing the Marauders who are led by team captain Bob DeZort and the memory of our friend Chip Kamin who helped found the group that rides in this event.

Riding the miles for a cause is not only worthwhile and a really fun event to benefit a particular organization, but it is amazing to see the folks who can ride those kinds of miles. You have the experienced cyclists who ride a lot of miles and these events are not much of a challenge. But you see most of the people on less than adequate bicycles riding with a smile and making it to the end with folks scratching their heads and saying,” How could that bike and that person make it 150 miles?” You see the same thing at marathons and ask the same question. But the heart of individuals who have a goal not only physically but the goal to support their favorite cause is impressive. Please consider supporting these organizations, riders, and I encourage you to take part in these events if you have never done so. A worthy cause, riding a lot of scenic miles, camping under the stars( or hotel room if you prefer) great entertainment, good food, all make for an exciting weekend. Now that I don’t have the AAU Basketball excuse anymore because my baller is headed to college, I may have to make a return to the roads of the cause. Thanks for supporting and reading.

Life changes- new opportunities!

photophotophotophotophotophoto The 59 year old kid is always up for new opportunities especially when life changes a little bit. Our one and only is headed off to Ohio Universiy in the fall and things will change around the McCloskey household a bit when he makes the move. However, instead of being melancholy as we will miss him, we will be excited about the new opportunity for him at a great school with a great course of study in the business program. But instead of looking like the typical sap in the “Ohio U Father” T-shirt with wing tip shoes, plaid shorts and a straw hat and camera, I want to be able to enjoy some of the ammenities that Athens, Ohio has in store for my wife Janet and me. If you reference my previous post about “Cycling in the Buckeye” from 9/26/2013, you will notice that there are a lot of excellent road and mountain bike adventures to be had in the state to our west.

One of the things I wanted to do during the orientation program at Ohio U was to see what kind of cycling opportunities there were in the Athens area. It is an intertesting location in Ohio in that it is more like West Virginia than the typical Ohio flatland. There are rolling hills as it is on the northern tip of the southern Appalachian chain. I called Athens Bicycle http://www.athensbicycle.com and spoke to Peter Kotses who guided me to several options in the area. For one, there is a 17 mile bike path that connects Athens to Nelsonville,Ohio that is quite an enjoyable ride along the Hocking River. It is also a gateway to Sells Park which is the local City of Athens park. The Athens Bicycle Club has done a masterful job of cutting and marking singletrack mountain bike trails in the park and thanks to an access from the Dale and Jackie Riddle State Nature Preserve, this park now connects to the trails in Strouds Run State Park whose trails were also created by the Athens Bicycle club over the past several years. There is a lot of riding out there and as I made my way through Sells Park on the Rockhouse Trail and onto the Finger Rock Trail, I had covered a lot of ground and had to get back for the orientation program. Looking at the map which you can download from the Athens Bicycle website, you will be able to see that there are miles of trails that eventually end up at the bottom end of the beautiful Dow Lake. I did a big favor that morning on my 5:30 AM ride when I personally cleared all the cobwebs on the single track with my face so that the riders who would follow me later in the day would have a clear riding path through some pretty dense forested trails. These trails will be a wonderful riding experience for me in the next four years of visiting my son in Athens.

My wife Janet is not one to sit around either and as we utilized the bike path, we noticed that Rt. 50 was an excellent road cycling venue which extends all the way into West Virginia and on through Maryland. In fact, the Race Across America(RAAM) was making its way through Athens and we saw all of the male and female leaders of the race at various times of the day and night riding through on their 3,000 mile journey across the country. I stopped to talk to a British group who were riding in the team competition. I asked them if they knew my friend Danny Chew who won the event twice and they were not familiar with him. Time marches on and the million mile man Danny was not known to the up and comers of RAAM. In any event, road cycling is also a viable opportunity in the Athens area.

Janet and I are hoping that our enthusiasm for new things will extend to our son Jack who seemingly likes the school and the wide open world that awaits him with the college experience. I have encouraged him to seek out opportunities at the school that he might not be familiar with and potentially enjoy activities that he never dreamed would interest him. Ohio U and Athens is a real outdoor activity center and I have encouraged Jack to take advantage of the great outdoors as well as getting involved in school organizations,clubs, and intramural sports. Life is his oyster now and we know that he will hopefully take full advantage of these great opportunities. One thing is for sure, Janet and I will be looking forward to our newfound recreational playground when we visit Jack and we will also take advantage of the many post ride watering holes and restaurants which line the main drag of Athens. Yes, we will miss Jack on a regular basis around our house but as long as he is happy and enjoying his new experience, we will get used to this new life as empty nesters. But we will not sit around and feel sorry for ourselves. We have a lot of life to live and one of the great new opportunities will be visiting our son in a wonderful place that we have only begun to discover. OU? Oh yea!! Thanks for reading.

The Local Loop

photophotophoto Every town in America has its iconic running and cycling loop. The Central Park track around the reservoir in New York City comes to mind along with the roads there that are closed to traffic on the weekends to facilitate bicycling. You can run the route along the Charles River in Boston or Lakeshore Drive in Chicago which all have the history of being where most people start to walk, run or ride a bike close to where they live. We have our own iconic loop here in Pittsburgh at North Park Lake.

The Lake Loop is 5 miles around and has traditionally been a benchmark for beginner runners and walkers. If you can make the 5 miles, you have definitely accomplished something. When I first started running out there with Ralph Schmitt and Les Brodie, 5 miles was a daunting task but eventually it became routine and variations of the route became the norm along with escaping the antics of Les and Ralph. Snowball battles, tipping Port a Johns, and other distractions along the runs became stuff of legend. Eventually, time became a factor for me and I began my quest for the all encompassing PR(personal records) not only around the loop and the variations, but in 10K races with our crew, pictured above. We had fun times back then but like Brenda and Eddy, you can never go back to the green. Different crowd, different atmosphere but………….still same old lake loop. Crowded on January 1st with all the New Years Day resolutionists, crowded on the first, nice spring day, and most of the summer. Isolated in the harsh days of winter but still observers can see the presence of the hard core Lake Loopers grinding out the miles in the snow.

If that loop could talk, you would have the most interesting book in print today. New mothers relating stories about their children,ER docs relating their care of gunshot wounds, couples discussing life together and life’s troubles, hard core runners not thinking about anything but heart rate and time, and cyclists battling the crowded bike path and surrounding roads with cars always to their left. Heck, Mick Jagger used to run the loop when he was in town. Imagine some of those conversations. I am sure Keith was not with him but the Pittsburgh Marathon staff certainly were entertained by Mick who was a faithful 7 mile runner. I have had some interesting experiences around that lake. Once time returning from a road ride out north, I was rounding the loop back to the parking lot at Stone Field when I felt a “WHAK” on the back of my neck. It was a chipped ham sandwich with mayo( the classic Pittsburgh Teddy Bear sandwich) along with a scathing, yelling commentary from the passing guy in the passenger seat of a car telling me to ” get the f@#$ off the road, a@@#$%^. Not really what you want to hear at the end of a pleasant road ride in the country, but I kept my head down and kept peddling none the less. I don’t mess with angry drivers- they carry guns.

It is interesting that things have changed a bit around the Lake Loop. Lots more people, and now with separate running and cycling lanes, the coveted real estate is guarded by some aggressive types. Our group comments all the time about people running and cycling around the lake who hold their ground and you better get out of the way or you risk getting run over- literally. There are road riders who fly around that lake. I call them the North Park specials because they ride in a pack and are really fast around the flat lake loop but never seem to venture out of the park to ride a hill. Some folks are clueless when they walk or run 4 abreast forcing those going in the opposite direction to seek refuge in the road along the loop. This can be a little dangerous and many crashes and falls have occurred. Courtesy sometimes plays second fiddle to the dedicated lake loopers who get their ride or run in come hell or high water. Get out of the way or prepare to die. Not the way it used to be but things seem to mellow as the season moves on and the enthusiasm of the rank and file seems to wane with the changing seasons. The hard core are still there but the newcomers and less dedicated seem to vanish as the temperatures and weather change. But the loop- remains constant. 5 miles. No getting around it.

I remember the days of 30 minutes around that lake. I look at the fast guys now and wonder what happened to the time. I generally run trails in the winter so the loop has been ignored by me with the exception of returning from a ride or walking with my wife. I wonder what I will look like in the years ahead running or walking around that lake? I am sure I will return at a much slower pace and continue the walks. I will age and get slower but one thing remains constant- the lake loop will always be 5 miles- winter, summer, spring, and fall. Thanks for reading and give some love to your local loop.

“The Faceplant”

IMG_2349root If you examine the photo above, (click on the title of this blog if you don’t see it), you will see what I would term as one of the great face plants of all time. This is my friend Scott Root who was leading a mountain bike race down in West Virginia when he had a slight collision with another rider that sent him flying and tacoed his wheel. You can see this in the flying debris above Scott’s head. Now I have been over a lot of handlebars in my time both on the road and on a mountain bike and also have caught an edge on skis that sent me careening on my face down a snowy slope, but I have never seen a plant as heinous as this. Interestingly Scott survived and actually drove himself home and was nursing what he termed as “hole” in his shoulder. He had the foresight to go see a doctor the next day but somehow managed his pain after the race and on the long drive back from the mountains of West Virginia.

I tell you all of this not only to give you appreciation of the collossal face plant, but also to tell you a little bit about Scott Root. I first ran into Scott years ago when he was an outstanding swimmer and a terrific athlete even at a young age. We are contemporaries and his prowess as a swimmer was well known in the AAU circles. He went on to a very successful high school and college career and I ran into him years later when he entered the fray of mountain bike racing. ” Weren’t you the Scott Root that I knew years ago as a swimmer?” The affirmative answer also led to many discussions which included the fact that Scott was the silver medalist in the World Masters Mountain Bike Race in Quebec a number of years ago. He is a very successful local and regional racer and to this day still races in the Expert Category rather than compete with the Masters who are his contemporaries. Point being that Scott still rides and races at a very high level despite the fact that he is a contemporary of the 59 year old kid. Some of us have kept up riding and staying in shape because it is important for good health. Scott takes it one step further by staying in race shape and never letting his guard down over the years.

Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwin refer to the classics bike racers as “hard men of the peloton.” If you look at my post from last week, you will see George Hincapie competing in Paris Roubaix and he surely was one of the “hard men of the peloton.” Scott Root would qualify as one of the hard men around here. Not many guys could pick themselves up after a face plant like that and get home with a “hole” in their shoulder and not seek medical help until the next day. Not many guys his age can ride at that level against a much younger competition and still win and place in most Expert Races. Not many guys are that dedicated that they commute to work on a bike in all kinds of winter weather and searing summer temperatures. Scott does and remains a very fit individual. There is a lesson here. I always try to encourage folks to get involved with outdoor pursuits and even at my age, you can keep doing what you have been doing as long as you are consistent and nothing catastrophic happens to you. Ratchet it up a level and some of you can continue to ride, run, ski hard and do it at a very high level. Ratchet it up one more level, and you continue to train and race like Scott and keep being competitive at an older age. No matter where you find yourself, keeping fit and testing your limits, can be an enlightening and productive way to spend your off time. You would be amazed to see the older athletes out there today competing and just partaking in high level outdoor pursuits. You don’t quit playing because you get old, you get old because you quit playing. You don’t have to be a “hard man of the peleton” but you also don’t have to let age dictate your fun or lack thereof.

One other comment on the “Faceplant”. Many of us have faceplants in life that do not happen over the bar of a bicycle or on a pair of skis. Some of us have things going real well and then all of a sudden we have a job loss, the loss of a spouse, issues with children, aging parents, any number of things that can lead to a virtual faceplant but a tough experience nonetheless. Life is 10 percent what happens to you and 90 percent how you react to it. Can you survive the faceplants in life? I have had my share both literally and figuratively but I always find that having a positive attitude and counting my blessings in life help me through these “plants”. Never underestimate the power of thankfulness and prayer as you go through life’s faceplants. You may not be banging your head off the asphalt like Scotty here but if you take his attitude and get up to fight another day, you can be a “hard man” in your own right aided by the experience of a fall and the courage to face another challenge- day by day. Keep riding, running, skiing, swimming, whatever floats your boat and thanks for reading and following the blog.