Two Wheel Craziness

Everesting is seeing how fast you can go uphill the equivalent of Mount Everest, 29,029 feet (8,848 meters). To be official, the rules dictate it has to be one climb, up and down, over and over. The most I’ve ever climbed in one day is approximately 10,000 feet, a sad sack one-third Everester.

Now some unhinged cyclists have decided Everesting isn’t challenging enough. Real climbers now are “trenching”, as in descending the equivalent of the Mariana Trench, which requires climbing almost the same distance, 36,037 feet (10,984 meters) because again, it has to be on one climb, up and down, over and over.

 

Being Twenty Something

A few months ago I wrote about all the challenges with “Being Twenty Right Now“. Fast forward to today, and I could add to the list.

Since writing that, I’ve heard lots of people talk about how miserable they were in their 20’s. So much so, it sounds as if people are writing off the decade. “If you can just hang on until 30,” their moto seems to be, “it gets much better.”

This idea is unfortunate. Life is way too short to write off any decade.

Being twenty something doesn’t have to be miserable. Why wait to make friends, do socially redeeming work, and build healthy habits?

Thursday Assorted Links

1A. Picture pedaling across the U.S. on a safe, seamless, and scenic pathway.  3,700 miles from swampy Washington in the east to glorious Washington in the west.

1B. The ‘sports car’ of e-bikes. Pricey, but light for an e-bike. But 19 mph, come on maaan, I don’t want to take all summer to traverse the Great American Rail-Trail.

2. COVID-19 Projections Using Machine Learning compliments of Youyang Gu, an independent data scientist.

3. Okay, I feel a little better about public school education.

 

 

 

Book of the Week—Geezerball

I’m on a nice little reading roll, meaning a book a week. This week I cheated though when I subbed in a fun, short read, for a long, dryish, academic one that I was plodding through.

Geezerball: North Carolina Basketball at its Eldest (Sort of a Memoir) by Richie Zweigenhaft tells the story of the Guilford College noon pickup basketball game that I played in between 1993-1998 when I taught at the “small Quaker college”. The game is 44 years old and counting and some of the participants have been playing most or all of those years. One of the game’s mottos is “You don’t stop playing because you grow old; you grow old because you stop playing.”

Richie, also known as “The Commissioner” is an accomplished author of several books on diversity in the American power structure. Now 75 years young, he’s the glue that’s held the game together over the decades.

Geezerball prompted a lot of reminiscing about those years and reflection on what’s most important in life. I remember 11 of the 29 players on the current geezer email list which is pretty remarkable given how bad I am with names. It also speaks to the game’s stability and what demographers have been telling us for awhile—that Americans aren’t moving nearly as much as in the past.

The game combines two of the very few things upon which most medical doctors and social scientists respectively agree—the importance of exercise to our physical health and the importance of close interpersonal relationships to our mental health.

“My wife says she expects to get a call one day saying I’ve died on the basketball court,” one geezer writes in the book. “If that happens, she’ll know I died happy.” In actuality, the game is probably extending the life of the participants. Even more importantly, it’s adding tremendously to the quality of their lives. Their friendships, and the humor that marks their interactions, are testaments to the power of community.

Among other remarkable aspects of the game is the fact that nearly all the participants are men. As a runner, I can’t help but notice more women running together; like the geezers, strengthening their bodies, their hearts, and their minds simultaneously. Same with the Gal Pal and her girlfriends who go on long walks every Saturday morning while catching up on the week’s events. I don’t know if it’s true, but it seems like men are more prone than women to prioritize their work lives, often to their own detriment. Given that, I find it inspiring that a dozen men in Greensboro, NC have been defying that norm every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for 44 years.

The sort of memoir reminded me of exactly how cool of an addendum the game is to the participants’ lives. But now, upon further thought, I can’t help but wonder if when those men near the end of their lives, they’ll think of the game as one of the most essential parts of their lives, and their work as more of an addendum. Meaning, what if we all have it backwards? What if the GalPal’s Saturday morning walks, my Saturday morning group runs, my Tuesday and Thursday night group rides are the core and everything else is the periphery?

This line of thinking may be just one more example of my economic privilege at work, but I can’t help but wonder what would happen if we organized our lives around Geezerball-like communities, where we prioritized movement and friendship over material wealth and status? Put another way, how much is enough? When it comes to work hours and money, there’s always a point of diminishing returns. At a certain point, more work means more impoverished relationships with family and friends.

In contrast, when it comes to walking, running, cycling, swimming, surfing, or playing basketball or golf with friends, there is no point of diminishing returns. Our physical and mental health just keep improving. Our entire well-being. That’s the lesson of Geezerball.

download.jpg

The Path Less Followed

Last Saturday morning, approaching the mother of all hills at the end of West Bay Drive, Dan, Dan, The Transpo Man posed a question. Why did our small group become runners?

I detailed my personal fitness journey in the early days of the humble blog, but I’ve continued to think about the question during recent solo efforts.

I suspect we’re runners because we inherited above average self-discipline from our parents. They modeled it day-in and day-out in myriad ways separate from running. They woke up early. They went to work. They dedicated themselves to their work. They saved their money.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we run at 5:45a.m*. The apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree. We were fortunate, our parents were Redwoods.

*except Saturdays, when we ease into the day and start at 7:30a.m.

YouTube Is The Bomb

Until recently, I dabbled with YouTube watching the occasional music video, Saturday Night Live skit, vlog, or epic mountain bike ride compliments of a helmet GoPro camera.

Then I watched Youngest watch YouTube content on our new whiz bang television, which I’d never done. So I followed suit and graduated from my desktop computer. It’s transformed my television viewing.

Despite being a technology skeptic who still savors some semblance of privacy, I’m down with YouTube’s algorithm.

It gets me.

For example, remember this description of one of my favorite television shows of all time from almost four years ago? I’m not sure how I’ve lived this long without it. I was equal parts gobsmacked and chuffed to bits when it appeared in my YouTube queue recently. I can’t believe it’s been going strong for the last four dark years, damn the Canadian Broadcasting Channel suits who decided to drop it.

Now I’m binging on it while trying to stay in some sort of cycling shape. Here’s an excellent sampler for your viewing enjoyment.

I’ve also enjoyed meeting Beau Miles a supe-cool Australian YouTuber with the right color hair. In this 17 minute-long documentary he tells a very different kind of marathon story.

If that was your cup of tea, brew one more.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, the bike and telly await.

Deconstructing Wellness

The Dream is a super interesting podcast that shreds MLMs, multi-level marketing schemes. Now the same podcasters are back with a second season.

“In Season 2 we look at a world just as shady and mysterious as MLMs, but one whose promises are at times even more bombastic and unfathomable: WELLNESS. What is it? Who sells it? And will it bring you eternal happiness and help; and, perhaps, eternal life?”

Dig this:

“According to the Global Wellness Institute, the global health and wellness industry is now worth $4.2 trillion. The industry has been growing with 12.8% between 2015 and 2017 and represents 5.3% of global economic output.”

Perfect topic for these socially conscious investigative podcasters.

Episode one is mostly about essential oils. Episode two is about how their Los Angeles neighborhood has been transformed by the wellness industry. It’s funny. Give it a go.

I was engaged in my own wellness routine while listening. A brisk 10k run, followed by pushups and other core exercises, followed by vacuuming. How can one not be happy with good cardiovascular health, a healthy back, and clean carpets?

The Million Mile Club

Two summers ago, nine of my closest cycling friends and I were heading out of town on a late afternoon training ride. More specifically, we were heading into the Boulevard/Yelm Hwy circle when it happened.

A renegade knucklehead rider who has since been kicked off the Olympia cycling island yelled at us to “bridge up” or something of the sort. The same guy I once saw nearly kill himself following a high speed, dumbshit, helmetless, curb jump into traffic.

I laughed to myself, going person-by-person in my head, totaling up the probable years and approximate miles represented. Conservatively, I knew each dude and I had at least 100k miles in our legs. A million between us. Pretty crazy, but not to Russ Mantle.

“The former carpenter and joiner has averaged a staggering 14,700 miles every year for the last 68 years, having first started cycling in 1951.”

Stupefying.

Russ-Mantle--920x613.jpg

[Thanks to a former cyclist of some renown for the tip.]

I Could Use a Sports Psychologist

It’s been a long time since I’ve written about my athletic self.

2019 has been all about good health and consistent training. Last Friday I ran my 1,000th mile of the calendar year, thus extending my 21 year streak of 1,000 miles+ running annually. As you age and it becomes impossible to set personal speed records, you have to find other ways to motivate yourself. My secret power is not having played contact sports growing up. My knees are golden thanks to golf and water polo. Being slender no doubt helps too.

I’ve swam farther this year than any other because I joined a Masters Team and went from swimming twice a week to three times. Despite that increase in volume, my splits aren’t much better because swimming is an incredibly technical activity and I haven’t improved my technique.

I hope to hit 5,000 miles of cycling by 12/31/19, which thanks to the sabbatical, is about 10% more than normal. A lot of the peeps I cycle with double that.

I ran a very good marathon a few years ago in Seattle. For me. Even somehow won my age group. I’ve ran a few halves since, including one in July, which also went well despite skimping on long training runs.

But despite the good health and all the cross-training, I haven’t competed in a triathlon for 5+ years, which I guess means I’m retired from the sport. I’m even trying to sell my beater triathlon bike.

I often think about returning to competition and this is where I need a sports psychologist. Friends still enjoy it and I know I could be very competitive in large, difficult races, not because I’m a burner, but because I’m slowing down less than my peers because I was never supe-fast to begin with and I have a very deep cardiovascular base from years of consistent cross-training. Also, while I’m not a burner in any of the disciplines, I don’t suck at any of them either. In contrast, almost every triathlete has a weakness*.

For some reason though, I just can’t bring myself to purchase a new bike, register for races, and show up on starting lines. Here’s how I imagine a counseling session with a pricey sports psychologist going down.

SP: So you’re thinking of returning to triathlon. What’s keeping you from committing?

RB: Aren’t we gonna talk about my childhood?

SP: No, frankly that would bore me.

RB: Well, for one thing I’m usually shelled at the end of training rides and I really don’t want to run off the bike anymore.

SP: Have you always been a wuss or is that a recent development?

RB: I think it’s rooted in my childhood.

SP: Never mind then.

SP: What else is holding you back?

RB: To tell you the truth, when I imagine best case scenarios, winning races, it doesn’t do anything for me. I think what if I swim, cycle, and run faster than a declining number of other economically privileged old dudes. And I conclude, so what.

SP: Often, as in life, in athletic competition the joy is in the journey.

RB: Did you learn a lot of cliches during grad school?

SP: Yes, lots of others I’d happily share if we weren’t out of time. Thank you for coming.

* truth be told, my weakness was the fourth discipline, transitions

bike.jpg