Getting my 20 on

IMG_6490I’m not a slow bike rider. But I’m not a super fast bike rider either.

My brother-in-law Paul once rode 40K (that’s 24 miles) in an hour. On a road bike.

That’s fast. And he was still a CAT 3 rider. Not a CAT 1 or CAT 2. A CAT 3.

So there are lots of people faster than me. I say that because what I’m about to share seems like bragging of a sort. But it’s really not. It is appreciation. Gratitude. And excitement over riding at a pace that feels fast to me.

20 mph

I rode 19.57 mph for 20 miles last night. That included a couple long climbs where despite my cadence and hammering as hard as I could, the pace dropped to 14 mph.

And the wind, of course. This is Illinois.

Short of races where I’m going all-out for the sprint distance, which is usually 15-16 miles, I don’t typically average more than 20 mph while riding solo. But as the summer proceeds and my fitness increases, it’s always my goal to do a few rides where my average speed tops 20 mph.

That’s easy enough to do in a group ride. I can easily average whatever the group is doing. That might be 20-24 depending on the ride and the group.

All-time fastest

dragonfly.jpgMy all-time fastest average was in a Masters 50+ race. When I got dropped after 35 minutes I looked down to find that I’d averaged 25.2. That’s pretty decent for a guy over fifty years old who only started riding seriously in his late 40s.

Strava shows that I haven’t fallen off precipitously on my average times or segments even after turning sixty years old. If you get out there and ride, there’s a lot of life left even in older bodies. I can still run 7:00 pace for a 5K. And if pressed, I run intervals at 6:00 pace on the track. That’s the same pace I ran as a 12-year-old kid in seventh grade gym class during a 12:00 time trial. 49 years ago.

In the drops

I don’t own a time trial or tri-bike. So to ride fast I slide down on the drops and stay low as long as I can. My Specialized Venge is an aero geometry bike with a thin profile from the front. It’s a snappy bike even though the handlebars that came with the purchase are 44s, and that’s a bit wide for me. I make it work.

I’ve been cycling on a decent road bike since 2007. Those have been years well-spent learning how to ride well. And I still like trying to go fast. That used to be my Twitter handle. @gofast. I gave it up and moved to @genesisfix07 for reasons related to other pursuits in life.

No full white beard

IMG_6510But the cycling is still a pursuit that I like to do as fast as I can. I’m not ready to grow the requisite full white beard that men of my age (too) often sprout. The signal they’re ready to slow down, retreat and fix their personal doctrine into permanent place.

I sport my white goatee because I still love new music and artistic pursuits that challenge my own perceptions. I love diversity in everything from the people I meet to the miracles of evolution all around us (see the dragonfly above, a photo I took yesterday at Fermilab.)

And all that runs through my head as I course down the road at 26 mph trying to raise the average time above 20 mph in compensation for that hill I just climbed.

It’s just one of the things I do.

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August light

light-chrisFor many people it is the light of autumn that seems romantic. As the sun courses lower in a September sky, shadows grow longer and trees take on a tinge of color. Come October, the light grows clear without the humidity of summer.

Those are wonderful things. My son has always loved autumn for these reasons. I look forward to them as well. And autumn is not far away.

Looking back at summer, the month of July is always an awesome feast of summer fun with its blooming lilies and my birthday, to boot. Before that, June is full of anticipation as summer arrives.

Yet August is like some rich combination of dinner and desert. Usually my fitness is good by then. I can cycle 40-50 miles and not get tired. Same goes for running. And I even swam 1500 meters in a lake this past weekend without gasping. And so, with the exception of the occasional grass allergy that comes along the first week of August, I’ve always enjoyed the rich glory of warm weather and August light.

Halcyon

Some of that appreciation goes all the way back to those first weeks of cross country practice when I was just fourteen years old. I’ll never forget the strain in my lungs and the aching in my chest as we ran those first miles, every kid for himself. Something clicked in me though. I loved it. It all took place under August light.

Arriving at cross country practice every August after that meant days filled with goals and expectations. The older I got, the more was expected of me. August meant leadership.

When I went off to college, those first miles running around the campus at Luther were a thrilling yet challenging test of personal confidence and resolve. I clearly recall climbing a long, winding hill at Palisades Park, a set of bluffs that rise high above the Upper Iowa River in Decorah, Iowa. I was running at my limits but not willing to give an inch. We curled around the top of the park and then descended like madmen, almost flying off the road at some points.

Then we raced back to campus and gathered around our coach. Each young man was eyeing the other. “Look!” one of the Juniors pointed at me and said. “This dude’s not even sweating!”  That was 44 years ago.

August love moon

IMG_6108Entering my fourth year in college I fell in love with a girl under an August moon at an RA retreat in the hills of Wisconsin.

But I also recall the drive up to Luther with my father that year. Finally we’d reached a level of peace and respect in our lives. He’d given me good advice and encouragement in choosing Luther in the first place. “You can bird in those hills,” he’d told me. That set the course of my life in a good direction.

He was right about the birds many other things. In fact, he was the man who nudged me into running in the first place. As much as my father and I fought about many things in life, he genuinely wanted us to find our place in the world, and succeed. But he was practical too, almost to a fault. The previous spring when I’d broken off a relationship that lasted the second half of my junior year in college, I confessed to him that I’d never really been in love with her in the first place. “Well, she kept you warm for a while,” he offered. I glanced over at him in the car that day. He gave a rare nod of the head. All things have their seasons, he seemed to be saying.

See the light

Which is why this August light gets to me as the prairie dock and compass plant flowers tower over the prairie when I run past. That light has carried me through so many years. Well after college was over, I’d push my body into hard training mode in August so that come September and October, when the weather cooled and race days would come along on Sunday morning, I’d be ready to throw it down with the best of them. I’m proud to say that I won more than a few. The die for that success was cast in August, I must say. If you want to see the light, you’ve got to rise to the occasion. Early and often. Even in the heat of August.

Tall and august

Of course things have mellowed for me with time. I still race, but the urgency with which I approach those opportunities has changed. Like the rich shadows that cloak a dew-soaked lawn on the first of August, I stand tall and august in one place at times, just thinking about what I want from each day.

I’m grateful for all the August mornings I’ve experienced. Grateful for sharing them with sharp-cheeked teammates racing along with sweat falling from their hair. Grateful for those first two women runners who showed up at cross country practice that August in 1975.  They were women who set the stage for so many women to follow, and every woman that I see running makes me think back to the efforts of those two gals.

Grateful as well for a coach who understood and encouraged those women, and demanded much of us all, along the way. Grateful for the memories that flow from all those experiences.

I’m also grateful to be running well enough to enjoy a four mile run today through a cool morning on the last day of July, 2018. It will grow hot again later this week. Thus the die is cast again. There is no getting through August, or its determined light, without a barrel of sweat that falls from tanned skin.

And I love it. I do love it so.

Posted in aging, aging is not for the weak of heart, Christopher Cudworth, competition, cross country, running | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

On Wisconsin

IMG_6402.JPG

On the water? On Wisconsin.

There are places in this world we can claim for ourselves despite the fact that we are not legally a resident. For me, one of those is Wisconsin. I know that people who live there refer to Illinoisians as Flatlanders. The implied insult is that we’re somehow invaders in the state to the north.

On some levels, that is true. Thousands if not millions of Illinois residents stream north on weekends. The thoroughfare of I-90 headed to Madison can turn into a traffic jam on a Friday afternoon. The same holds true in coming south on a Sunday evening.

Illinoisians buy property all over the state, then tow their boats behind big pickup trucks and SUVS. They pull up and dump their boats into the lakes, grab a case of beer and take over the place most weekends. Some come to fish. Others come to water ski or jetski. Those Flatlanders flow into the bars wearing Cubs and White Sox hats.

Most mind their manners, but many don’t. I particularly recall one Illinois asshole holding court over slow service at a roadside spaghetti hut east of Eagle River. What a jerk. Everyone in the joint wanted to grab that pompous blowhard and throw him out on the street.

Gentler times

I can’t disclaim any of the bad stories about Illinoisians. But I’ve also spent more than forty+ years traveling into and through the state of Wisconsin. Camped and birded. Cycled and run. I’ve even fallen bent, broken and bled in a roadside ditch on a warm September day in 2013. Very easily could have died that morning. Bike wobble you know.

I once stopped with my Specialized Rockhopper on a mountain bike trail in Governor Dodge State Park. It was late July and the song of indigo buntings tumbled down through the trees. Crickets were singing and the air was still. I stood there thinking about all the ways I’d connected with that landscapes over the years. A few hills over and a few years before, I’d fallen in love at first sight under an August moon.

How the years had passed. Thus it came to me that the buntings would continue singing and the crickets would keep chirping long after I’d departed this earth. At that moment, it did not matter where I actually called home. I was at home in those woods.

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A giant fish in the sky over Green Lake, Wisconsin.

On winter days in that same park I’ve seen rabbit tracks crossing two thin paths where cross country ski trails cut through the snow. Down the road we’d lodged at the terminally kitschy hotel known as the Don Q Inn. There are “Fantasy Theme Rooms” that supposedly increase the atmosphere of romance. There is a Cave Room and a Viking Room, a Japanese Room and who knows what else.  The place has been in business for decades, so it is apparent that someone enjoys the schtick.

Eskimo rooms.jpg

So Wisconsin wants to accuse Illinois people of having no taste? Just stop.

That is Wisconsin in a nutshell. Because twenty miles up the road sits the House On the Rock, a major tourist attraction in the western part of the state and one of the most pathetic examples of bad Americana imaginable. Built by a skeezy architect with zero integrity and even less capacity for acquisitive restraint, the property encapsulates the confused nature of the American Dream.

Right up the road stands the Frank Lloyd Wright estate known as Taliesin. And while Wright was a massive egotist, he humbled his architecture to reflect and harmonize the landscape. By contrast, House On the Rock lies like a jagged set of dick and balls stuck on a chunk of granite, or whatever.

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A play on words I guess.

So the people of Wisconsin can malign Illinoisians any way they choose, for lack of taste or discretion, and all one has to say to defeat the criticism is “House On the Rock.” And if the Badger Blockers still don’t get it, that only proves the point.

The American South with all its Confederate pride and rage is demonstration that Proof of Residence is no guarantee of exceptional insight. The same goes for the turds so jealous and perturbed by cyclists riding two abreast on far country lanes they feel the need to hassle and holler at the supposed invaders to get the hell off the roads. “We pay taxes!” the voices come chortling out of the pickup trucks and low-slung muscle cars.

But who truly owns any road? Is it those whose tires wear out the asphalt faster or the souls who brave a half-mile hill with the sun on their backs and the cheering of crickets in their ears. Granted, the Wisconsin farmer that works the land and has cows roaming the hills is a stakeholder in something special.

None of us that visit those regions pretends that is not true. Many’s the time we’ve pedaled slowly behind a tractor hauling hay from field to barn and not complained a bit. That is the price of admission, for sure. Our bike ride is a privilege that we regard with respect. And should be block a few cars because riders stack up and spread across the road on a hot day, well, please forgive the transgression. What indeed is the true hurry in this world that one car cannot abide a 30-second delay for people sweating under a summer sun?

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The lake life.

But somehow the sense of ownership in some people translates as tribalism. I’ve seen it many times over the years. The roaring engines of a truck behind a cyclist or the sputtering motor of an ignorant motorboater chasing loons around the lake until they can hardly submerge for exhaustion. It’s the torment of the disenfranchised soul that makes people want to badger others for the sake of self-aggrandizement.

But the water in those Wisconsin lakes falls from the sky or musters up from the earth. The bergamot and chicory that blooms on roadsides in August shows red or purple or blue despite the politics of a particular place. The kingbirds chattering on Wisconsin fence lines care not about taxes or collective bargaining or the desperate acts of the DNR to keep the deer population both under control yet plentiful enough that hunters don’t resort to shooting each other during the fall.

I’ve run in the woods and fields. Skinny dipped in the lakes and ridden so many miles my head spun from the climbs and descents. But most of all I’ve spent enough years on Wisconsin soil to claim it as a place I also call home. No one can take that away.

Posted in bike crash, bike wobble, Christopher Cudworth, cross country, cycling, cycling the midwest, cycling threats, triathlon, triathlons | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What’s on your Laundry List?

Bright Kind of GuyOn the way to drop my wife off at the train, we were conversing about some domestic topic and I blurted out, “Well, I’ll have to put that on the Laundry List.”

And Sue said. “What is a Laundry List? What does that even mean?”

Which is why I love her. Because she asks the questions that may not need to be answered, but they sure are interesting to consider.

So I looked up the term Laundry List and this is how it is defined: “a long or exhaustive list of people or things.”

In the process I learned there’s a company called laundrylist.com that bills itself as is “The #1 seller of used industrial laundry machinery in North America. We specialize in the sale of used industrial equipment from Tunnel Washing Systems, Flatwork Feeders and Folders, Material Handling to Power Plants.”

That’s quite a laundry list, and rather specific and literal when you think about it.

Our laundry lists

On a more practical level, we all walk around with laundry lists of one kind or another in our heads. For example, today is my birthday, and that always makes me think back on the experiences of the past. I particularly recall my ninth birthday when my mother bought me three of the best things I’d put on my birthday list. I spent an entire peaceful day gluing together a model of some military plane that I admired. From my brother’s room down the hall, a Beatles album was playing Nowhere Man. All was right with the world. That goes on my Laundry List of Good Days in Life.

That proves our laundry lists don’t have to “exhaustive” as in “dire” or on a list of things we’d rather not remember. To do, especially.

Dirty laundry

Of course, there are actual literal laundry lists for endurance athletes. Nothing is more frustrating than going to the closet or dresser and learning all your cycling or running shorts are still down in the laundry bin. Finding socks can be a particular pain. So can all the gloves and other gear vital to healthy, active training. All must be laundered at some point, or else you have to fudge it.

It only gets worse the colder the weather gets. Here in Illinois, it is summertime now and the living is easier. A set of cycling shorts and a kit top are all it takes to get out on the bike. But don’t forget the helmet, gloves, shoes, Headsweat, Garmin, water bottles, nutrition, cell phone and sunglasses. It never gets easiers, you just buy more stuff.

There’s always a laundry list of things to track it seems. That’s the fact of human existence. Even if we could swim, ride and run naked we probably wouldn’t. Not on a daily basis anyway. Which means laundry remains a big part of our lives, and that means a laundry list to keep.

What’s on your laundry list? 

 

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Putting the hammer down

IMG_6278Standing on the starting line of a five-mile race a few years back, I could feel the energy pouring through my body. Training had been going well. I’d done a track workout of 12 X 400 at 60-63 and was feeling sharp.

Glancing down the line of runners, I saw a few that might be a threat of some sort. That didn’t shake my confidence. I knew that I was ready to run 5:00 pace for the entire race, and probably faster.

The gun went off and a group of five runners formed at the front of the race. I sat on the side of this group looking them over.

How many were already breathing hard? Who were the pretenders? 

At the mile mark, passed in 4:58, it was down to three of us. By the mile-and-a-half it was just me and another guy. “How fast are you gonna go today?” he asked.

Faster than you,” I replied. Then I took off. I won that race in a time under 24:50 and finished with a celebratory sprint up the final stretch. I’d put the hammer down and won.

Nothing like it

There’s nothing quite like being fit and knowing it. When you’ve done the training and have seen the empiric results on your stopwatch or Garmin or power meter, it gives you confidence knowing you can handle the pace you want to run, ride or swim. And if things go really well, you can truly put the hammer down.

I’m not the same level of cyclist that I was as a runner. I took the sport up too late in life to know whether I could have been truly competitive or climbed a few categories along the way. While my aerobic fitness was great and there was plenty of will to push myself, cycling is a completely different animal than running.

Thus when I did try to put the hammer down during a criterium or two, I found my limits pretty quickly. Far more than the sport of running, cycling strategy and drafting are much more important to success. You can be super fit and waste it all by riding stupidly or chasing back onto the peloton in a hairpin turn, for example. I did that once or twice. Or, if you get gapped because a bunch of guys blow up between you and the main group, you had better put the hammer down just to keep contact, or you’ll be dropped. So there’s more than one reason to put the hammer down in cycling.

The triathlon hammer

IMG_6279.JPGUnless you are so fit that your skinsuit looks like a coat of paint on your sculpted body, competing in triathlon typically requires a series of tradeoffs during each event. Swimming or cycling too hard in the first two stages can have a big cost when it comes time to run. More than one great cyclist in triathlon has busted a hard ride only to have jelly for legs in the run phase.

So the triathlon hammer must be applied with strength, but also finesse. It’s almost a counterintuitive thing to hold back a little when you feel great. There is more than one way to drive a nail into wood, after all. You can whack it with all your might four or five times, but if you miss the nail gets bent and the game is over.

But if you hammer consistently and accurately, the nail will get in there soon enough. That’s the art of the hammer in triathlon. Hitting the nail on the head counts more than whaling away hoping you hit it big.

Hammer on

Those of us that compete in endurance sports know there’s great value in the things we learn along the way. Putting the hammer down can apply in business or during life in general.

dBcAx_MNqdtlA few years back when I started dating after the loss of my wife to cancer, I met up with a gal through eHarmony.  She was a little older than me and seemed straightforward enough in our online chats. So we agreed to meet at a restaurant for drinks.

Two minutes into the conversation, she had something to say: “Look,” she told me. “I’m looking for a man willing to move to Arizona with me so that I can be closer to my son.”

I sat back, took that statement at face value and said, “Well, I think this date is through.”

Sometimes it’s best just to put the hammer down right away. That’s what she did. That’s what I did. We both moved on in life.

Practice makes perfect

So let’s wrap up with a hint about how to hammer best. If you want to put the hammer down in your favorite sport, you have to practice at it. Remember that 12 X 400 workout mentioned at the start of this story. I did that speed work to teach my body how to sustain a pace even faster than the prescribed race pace in a five-mile or a 10K. When you put the hammer down in practice, be serious about it. Run or ride or swim much faster than you plan to race, and apply that principle in volume. That’s the only way to turn your body and mind into a hammer that works together.

Some things in life truly are simple. Putting the hammer down is one of them.

 

Posted in 10K, 13.1, 400 meter intervals, 400 workouts, running, swimming, tri-bikes, triathlete, triathlon, triathlons | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Was Jesus a triathlete?

IMG_6238The Bible is a remarkable book both in what it reveals and also what it leaves to our collective spiritual imagination. For example, the creation story and the rescue of species from the worldwide floods lists a few “kinds” of animals that God created and preserved, but the record of nature’s salvation is far from complete. There only broad mention of the zillions of kinds of insects in this world, for example. Information about how Noah and the ark were able to provide food for creatures like tropical hummingbirds  that specifically depend on flowering plants evolved by length of blossom to the length of the hummingbird’s beak is somehow missing.

Tough journeys

And talk about your tough journeys. We all know doing a full Ironman is a tough task, but imagine how hard it was for a pair of blind cave salamanders from the caves of Kentucky, USA to get to the ark perched on dry land in the Middle East. That would mean the salamander would have to have crawled across the eastern seaboard, swum the Atlantic Ocean, scuttled across the deserts of Northern Africa, climbed on board the ark, lived for a year or in a wooden aquarium supplied with fresh water, crawled back out when the deluge was over, swam back across a tumultuous ocean likely filled with rotting corpses of human and sub-human detritus, and crawled back home into that Kentucky or Tennessee cave to breed.

But it’s funny. There’s not a word about all that in the Bible! Remarkable, isn’t it? it would have been an inspiring tale to include, indeed.

About The Life of Jesus

But here’s a real biblical mystery: We do not seem to know squat about what took place in the life of Jesus between the ages of 12 and 30. So we are about to fill in the gaps…

Jesus in India

There are many academic and conspiratorial theories about what Jesus did during those important “lost” years of self-development. Because after amazing the folks at the temple with his early grasp of scripture and holy writ, Jesus disappeared from biblical view for some eighteen years. Some speculate he traveled to India, engaged in spiritual enlightenment training and came back with a brain full of insight to share with the world.

I personally don’t find the notion out of context at all. Those “three Wise Men from the East” who  came to visit Jesus in his early youth brought “gifts” of some sort. They are listed as gold, frankincense and myrrh, but like many things in the Bible, those might not be meant to be taken literally. The “gifts” could well have been invitations to learn about aspects of the world that humdrum existence does not offer. Otherwise, why did Jesus teach so many lessons in parables using everyday objects to teach spiritual lessons?

Jesus the Carpenter

The more “traditional” take on the youth of Jesus is that he served as an apprentice “carpenter” under his father Joseph. That’s a pretty quaint take idea, just like the depiction of the Nativity where Mary and Joseph are surrounding with critters and the Three Wise Men. It’s all based more on romantic notions and people filling in the gaps with conventional thinking than an expression of any real knowledge about what really happened in the life Jesus. We also see plenty of nativity scenes with Santa Claus or Frosty the Snowman keeping the Baby Jesus company. Are we also supposed to take that as a literal communication of fact?

But poor use of symbolism hasn’t stopped Bible-lovers from extrapolating certain aspects of scripture to “prove” what Jesus did all those years between the age of 12-30 years old. Here’s a great little synopsis from GotQuestions.org. Notice how fluidly the rationalizations flow from the tongue of this conventional thinker:

Question: “Was Jesus a carpenter?”

Answer: There is every evidence from Scripture that, before He began His ministry, Jesus was employed as a carpenter. His earthly father, Joseph, was also a carpenter, which means that Jesus was likely His father’s apprentice. It is bizarre to think that God Incarnate was taught to build things by a human man, but it seems that in this, as in all other aspects of His earthly life (e.g. he cavorted with prostitutes) Jesus submitted Himself to the humility of being fully human (Philippians 2:6–8).

People called Jesus a carpenter (Mark 6:3), and He was known as a carpenter’s son (Matthew 13:55). There is some evidence that the Greek word used for “carpenter” (tekton) could also be translated more broadly as “artisan,” “contractor,” or “handyman.” It is possible, therefore, (editor’s note: everything’s possible) that Jesus and Joseph were the sort of men you call when something needs to be fixed—be it made of wood, stone, or something else. (Jesus was a ‘fixer?’ What is this, the Holy Mafia?)

It is also possible that they acted as civil engineers, (which weren’t invented yet) even designing bridges or other structures that were needed by the people of the town. (Did Jesus also run for Mayor?) This throws an interesting light on Jesus’ later comments about the temple. As they were going past the temple, His disciples, perhaps knowing of His interests and past profession, pointed out the grandeur of the great buildings. Jesus told His disciples that those structures would all be thrown down (Mark 13:2). In addition to being a prophecy, Jesus’ words were perhaps a reminder of the importance of the spiritual over the physical. (It never gets easier, you just go faster…)

Practical truths

All this practical application and “working for dad” stuff is great if you buy that Jesus arrived at his deep level of symbolic wisdom by working for his spiritually cuckolded dad by sawing and hammering pieces of wood together. We all know there is much to be learned from our fathers, but when it’s so hot outside that you can’t think and your own dad is barking at you to hurry up and get that lumber over to the job site, there is also the possibility that you will tell your father to “go fuck off” under your breath and swear that you’re going to leave town at the first light of dawn.

Which explains why Jesus probably did take off to India. He needed some “me” time and India was just right up the Silk Road. Besides, those of us who worked summer jobs in carpentry or slaved away in cheap-ass factories earning pitiful money to pay for college know better. The only thing those jobs like those actually get you is pissed off and tired. Even Jesus wouldn’t humble himself to that nonsense. He was smarter than that.

40 days in the wilderness

So Jesus probably took off a few “gap years” and got his proverbial shit together studying with people who were smart and capable in the ways of the world. When that mind work was all done, he came back to his roots in the Middle East and got serious.

But there was still one more venture to undertake. When Jesus came of age, he retreated to the wilderness to engage in a 40-day period of deprivation. And like clockwork, the likes of Satan showed up to tempt Jesus with literalistic promises of power and glory. Jesus saw straight through these supposed shortcuts to godlike status and declined Satan’s legalistic offers.

Oh, that Adam and Eve been wise enough to figure out Satan’s game.  He was playing them fully with the same sort of literal promises disguised as the actual word of God in order to trick his prey into sin.

Genesis 3: Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden,but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”

“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.

What a snot rocket of a philosopher, that Satan. Turning the literal Word of God into false promises is not nice. But isn’t it interesting that a long history of religious zealots from leaders of the Catholic Church to televangelists have used the very same legalistic language to gain power for themselves. That’s actually why Jesus fought so hard against the religious authorities of his day. John the Baptist called them “hypocrites” and a “brood of vipers.” But the zealots and the political harlots they favored had them both killed anyway. That’s the real lesson of the Bible and the Gospels. Beware all those of claim to be on the side of God.

Jesus the Triathete (Get it?)

So lacking any better explanations for the Lost Years of Jesus, the table is open to explain what transpired for the Lord and Savior between the ages of 12 to 30.

There is something tantalizing about the idea that Jesus took off those 40 days of deprivation in the wilderness. Doesn’t that sound a lot like a training camp of sorts? It was actually preparation to prepare for his ministry, but like a coach with a hidden training agenda, Satan had a set of spiritual workouts in mind.

After his psychological prep in the wilderness, Jesus showed up at the River Jordan to be immersed by John the Baptist. As we’ve learned, the Bible keeps things short for a reason. So we’ll never know for sure if Jesus just took a dip or swam a full two miles as the first leg of a full Ironman. And if Jesus walked on water at an Ironman event, would he be disqualified?

The First Cyclist

We do know that Jesus covered a lot of miles on foot. But who is to say that he wasn’t the beneficiary of some sort of early version of the bicycle? If he was an able carpenter it would have been easy enough for Jesus to create a self-propelled cart to pedal from town to town. The need existed. The towns back then were often pretty far apart with dangerous desert roads between and bandits looking to steal everything you’ve got. So having a bike and being able to pedal it faster than a man could run would have been a handy deal. The Son of God was surely capable of that. He was likely the First Cyclist.

Running on

And running in those Huarache-style sandals with the straps up the ankles would have been pretty cool too.

So what I’m saying here is that I think we know what Jesus did during all those “lost” years. He was in physical as well as spiritual training for the trials to come. And how do we know that Jesus started it all?  Well, the evidence is clear in that the “trinity” of swimming, riding and running to this day remains a tradition on par with a religion.The The will to suffer is a big part of endurance sports and most religions. The Son of God was also known to endure suffering better than most. Perhaps we actually have Jesus to thank for that.

And the final bit of evidence that Jesus might have been a triathlete is documented in the sign that Pontius Pilate put on the top of the cross where Jesus hung to die. It said “King of the Jews.” Pilate was simply giving props to the Strava segment Jesus earned while carrying his own cross to Calvary.

So you can go on out there and suffer with the best of them. Jesus was a great example for us all. And who knows what enlightenment you might find along the way. Even St. Paul saw the light on the Road to Damascus.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Christopher Cudworth, cycling, evangelical Christianity, it never gets easier you just go faster, riding, running, swimming, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tour de France rider for a day

arrival-peter-sagan-of-slovakia-and-team-bora-hansgrohe-news-photo-1002642690-1532101540The weather in Illinois was cool, rainy and windy this past Saturday. We rode west and north into the wind for 25 miles. At several points our speed dropped to 13 mph as we ground into the gray gale coming from the northwest.

Then we refueled at the Casey’s General Store in Maple Park and turned around. That’s when the fun began.

With a tailwind strong at our backs, it was easy to ride in the mid-20s and faster. For long stretches we whirred along at speeds above 30 mph. Had we tried, it would have been easy to reach 40 mph on the slight downhills leading southward.

Pretend Le Tour

As we rode, I thought about all those Tour de France riders and how they sustain these speeds under their own power. They don’t need a strong tailwind to keep the pace at 30 mph. They’re that strong and talented. But it was fun to experience the sustained sensation of traveling at those speeds. We could pretend for a long while that we were that fast.

One quickly realizes how much more dangerous it is to ride at 30 mph than it is at 20. Reaction times to everything around you are reduced by 1/3. Imagine riding in a pack of 160+ riders traveling at 30 mph! One touch of the wheels and people go down.

So I kept my distance off the wheel of my companion. Our wheels were genuinely wet from the rain falling off and on. Braking would most certainly have taken longer.

10 miles on

For ten miles we whirred and flew down the road. Our speed never dropped below 23 mph. Even on the uphill over the I-88 bridge the Garmin showed 25 mph. That was cool. 25 mph going uphill!

Finally the road turned east again. The crosswinds had us now. It would be tough going the last fifteen miles home. We had to fight and flail just like the Tour riders on the coast of France. So I guess it’s all the same in the end. We all go as fast as we can. We all fight the winds. But it sure as hell is fun to roll fast when you can.

 

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Run and ride doodles keep me sane

Sometimes meetings drag on. That’s when I let the pen do the side thinking for me. The result is plenty of run and ride doodles. These were all pinned to a cork board in my office but I got to move into new digs. These are fun but I don’t need to keep them. There are always more where they came from.

Still, I’ll share:

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It had been really windy out when I drew this one.

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This is my wife Sue and her friend. Oops. I said it was me in the first descript!

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Fat pen means thick lines and a solid feeling drawing.

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Always thinking about good running form.

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That’s what we ride. Two Specialized. Expert and Shiv.

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Angular thinking.

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I miss racing at the front of the pack like this. Getting old sucks.

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Sometimes riding is just a blur.

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Probably some inner psyche thing I was working out.

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My fave of this set. Imagining climbing some remote rode.

I’ve always drawn and it’s fun to pull these from memory and work out all the little details. And keep my sanity.

Hope you do too.

 

Posted in cycling, riding, running, trail running, training, tri-bikes, triathlete, triathlon, We Run and Ride Every Day, werunandride | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Summer lovin’ 1972

cudworthkanelandThose formative years of distance running remain special to me because everything was still so new. The sensations wrought from running farther than I ever imagined possible were both stimulating and daunting.

Coming off a freshman year cross country season in which I’d run varsity most of the meets and helped lead the team to a first-ever frosh-soph conference victory was quite motivating. That spring in track I’d set the freshman school record in the mile at 4:57, but had to beg for the opportunity to go “up in distance” from the half to the mile. Despite having competed over three miles in cross country the previous fall, I never ran a two-mile on the track. That was for the “distance guys.”

Summer training

How times and perceptions have changed over the years. The notion of training over the summer months was just coming into fashion. I was also a baseball player and early in the season, when urged by a third base coach to take a chance and steal home, I slid into the plate where a big catcher from the farming community of Huntley fell on me in a crushing heap. That ended the inning and it was time to go back out and pitch.

As I raised my glove arm to start the pitching motion a sharp pain shot from my elbow to the shoulder. It hurt so badly I almost fainted on the mound.  The coaches came out to see what was wrong but it was clear that something had gotten broken in the home plate play.

It turned out to be a bone chip in my elbow. That meant a half-cast on the arm and no more baseball. It also severely limited any ability to put in training miles.

I think I wrote or called the cross country coach Rich Born that summer to let him know about the accident. He was encouraging. “Heal up and we’ll see you in the fall,” he told me. I stored the running log sheets we’d all been given to record or daily mileage. Mine were sparse and sporadic. Secretly I might have been a little relieved. Running miles in those thin gum-rubber track flats was no fun. And in the sun? Forget it.

That all happened late in the month of June. I ceased going to baseball games that summer and perhaps I was a bad teammate. But I saw no purpose in torturing myself sitting on the bench while others played.

Tennis player

As an active kid, I still tried to do something to keep from going crazy. I learned it was possible to toss a tennis ball up in the air with my ‘bad arm’ and that meant I could play the game. So we’d head down to a local community college where a massive spread of courts was available. That was my training all summer. Playing half-assed tennis in the heat of the day.

I also had a morning paper route that involved cycling about three or four miles around town. Then at night, I’d join my friends Eeker and Roy (nicknames) to ride our bikes all over Elburn, Illinois. I still recall the sensation of swinging around those curved streets of on a Huffy three-speed, clicking gears as we went. We all lived for the quiet smack of tires on tar and cool air rushing through our long hair. It made us feel alive.

All Things Must Pass

Thus the summer months whiled away. I’d spend time trying to get attention from the girls who lived around town. That summer I turned fifteen years old and somehow that turn of years made me feel much older. Fifteen.

Without sports to keep me busy I spent more than a few afternoons lying on the living room floor with my head wedged between two giant stereo speakers. George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass was one of 10-15 albums I’d play from beginning to end. There was Elton John’s Tumbleweed Connection, Traffic’s John Barleycorn Must Die and David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. Neil Young’s After the Gold Rush was my alternative rock and The Beatles were never far from my playlist either.

But I also liked an album my brothers gave me called Midnight On the Water. It was a blues-folk album so different from the music of my friends it made me feel weird. And I was a little weird. I liked birdwatching, art and poetry. Those weren’t big topics of discussion among my friends out there in cornland.

So I was still something of a tortured soul that summer. Blame the hormones and the general angst of girl-hungry fever. Blame the competitive small-town culture and angst over social friends and foes. Blame something, anything. That’s what teenagers do. I was angry at the world and wanted to take it out on something.

Cross country season

Then August arrived, and the cast came off after six weeks. It stunk. We threw it into a trash bin and that was that. My already scrawny left arm looked wasted and frail when it finally emerged from the cast. The arm had a weird tan stripe on the top where the sun could reach it. I’d taken multiple showers holding that arm aloft to keep the cast from soaking. Now I was free. Fortunately, I still had my right arm all summer to jerk off. I was fifteen, after all.

Somewhere in the middle of the month of August, cross country practice began again.  As always, it was hot and those first few runs around the high school campus were a struggle to get enough oxygen in the humidity. Yet all that bike riding and tennis had kept my legs in some kind of shape.

Within two weeks it felt like I’d never missed a beat. I had no real summer training to count on, yet that fall I tied for most team points with our best runner Bill Creamean. He’d logged a thousand miles in training and that was beyond my imagination. I’ve always admired that dedication. He was an excellent competitor who continued to run even through back pain late in the season. His legs were probably too strong for his midsection. I had a teammate in college built the same way. He had the same problems with lower back pain.

That team won the Varsity conference cross country meet that fall, and I largely served as second man. I even won a meet that our lead runner missed. So the question that has run around through my head over the years is whether doing a bunch of summer miles really would have helped much in those high school years. These days kids run together, but in those days, in a district where the towns were far apart and getting together to run was almost impossible, we either did it on our own or not at all.

Summer lovin’

I tried my best that first summer and every summer after that. But truth be told, I pretty much showed up in the fall and ran myself into shape with two-a-day workouts. By the time the first meet rolled around in September, things were coming together. Then we ran 18-20 meets with competitions Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday. Every week was a round of intense competition and hard racing.

Usually, by the end of that schedule, we were getting pretty close to past peak. It was probably too much racing.

Or was it? Back then it was what you did. Certainly, we all felt like we had a “real season” by the time cross country was done. And to my way of thinking, we also had a “real summer” in the sense that we didn’t burn ourselves out running too much, too often. Nothing wrong with summer lovin’.

But it took a busted elbow to make it happen in the summer of 1972. Such is life.

 

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A black belt in fatherhood

IMG_5988Twenty-five or so years ago, our family went camping in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. It was a busy season, so campsites were scarce and the more remote campground in Hiawatha National Forest where we wanted to say was closed due to sanitary problems with the water and toilet systems.

So we sat on a waiting list for a spot at another campground and jumped on it when a campsite opened up. That’s where we gratefully set up our tents and hurried to make supper for our kids.

The week went generally well with occasional fishing trips and hikes in the forest. We did get chased out of the wilderness park at Sylvania by massive hordes of mosquitoes. I went for hourlong runs in the woods and tried to keep the deer flies at bay.

Perhaps I’m even mixing together a few different camping trips because we went on quite a few when our kids were little. It was easier when the wonders of the world were not so hard to show.

Receiving a black belt

black-belt.jpgAs the week was about to wrap up, one of the campers in the site next door walked over holding out a long black object. I thought for a moment that it might be a snake, and my late wife HATED snakes. Feared them. We’d even seen a long dark water snake lying on a strip of sand earlier that week. We left that lake immediately.

But it wasn’t a snake he was holding. It was size 34 black belt. “I found this on the road,” he told me. “Must have fallen off someone’s car. It doesn’t fit me but it looks brand new, so if you want it, it’s yours.”

I took the belt and tested it around my waist. At the time I was a size 32. Weighed 150 lbs. But the black belt fit well enough to keep. Who knows, I might need a size 34 someday?

Still fits

The belt still fits. It still looks good. The inside coating is a bit fragmented. In fact it looks like snakeskin. So that part of the tale came true.

That belt has been worn with business suits and blue jeans. It has held up Bermuda shorts and survived dozens of painting sessions with only the merest trace of white paint on its surface. I could remove that with some Goof Off but something in me wants to keep it that way.

IMG_5989I have a new black belt that I purchased recently. It’s a size 34 as well. My waist has remained the same through years of adulthood. The last couple winters my pants got a little tight at times. All my running and riding and swimming can’t quite combat the appetite of a formerly competitive athlete now in his 60s. So I’m trying to get a headstart on winter this summer. I’ve dropped ten pounds since January and want to go another seven pounds down. Whether that will remove the belly fat accumulated around my waist I have no idea.

Strong family ties

My son is an inspiration of sorts at this stage in life. He’s supremely fit right now through CrossFit and running and riding his bike to work. He’s got his reasons to want to rock the fitness thing and sometimes we learn as much from our children as they learn from us.

That’s where the symbolic black belt thing comes in. In many forms of martial arts, it is considered as wise to redirect the energy of an opponent’s blows as it is to strike them with a force of your own. That is the yin and yang of life as well.

Life has thrown me some considerable blows. It has been my goal to try to redirect some of that energy to the positive side of things. In many ways, that has worked out.

Yet sometimes I fail at re-channeling or redirecting that energy. Like a Black Belt who whacks a board but fails to break it, my aim and purpose have sometimes been “off.” I’ve offended or hurt my own children through lack of communication at times. I’ve neglected friends or insulted business associates. My black belt has also been my Dark Side at times.

All one can ask for those transgressions is forgiveness. And try to make it up to those you’ve hurt.

Good and bad belts

Man from GladSo in many respects the black belt that I where around my waist is a chronicle of both the good and bad that I’ve accomplished over the years. Have you ever put a belt on inside out and had to pull it back out of your pants, reverse it and pull it through the belts loops again. Life itself is like that sometimes.

There has been one steady factor in all this of which I’m quietly proud. Over the last twenty five years my waist has held pretty much steady. That is an accomplishment of sorts.

But that belt has also held together the years. The young man who accepted that black belt from a fellow camper that day in July could never have dreamed that belt would carry him through all these adventures in life.

White belts and that 70s look

All I can say in looking back is that it is probably best that it was not a white belt I was given to wear. That’s not a good look for any father, including my own. My dad once showed up at one of my baseball games wearing a white shirt, white pants, white belt, white socks, white shoes and a set of dark shades. One of my teammates shouted out, “Look! It’s the Man From Glad!”

Mr. clean.jpgThey might have been confusing my dad with Mr. Clean, who had no hair and wore all white as well. But you get the picture.

I’ll stick with my black belt, thank you.

Posted in Christopher Cudworth, healthy aging, healthy senior, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment