Two other significant and related benefits to “active travel”, improved health and reduced health care costs.
Two other significant and related benefits to “active travel”, improved health and reduced health care costs.
I’ve been married a long time. It’s weird to think my parents and many of their peers made one of the most consequential decisions of their lives when they were still teenagers. And that many in my generation did the same in our early 20’s. Young adults today have the good sense to wait a little longer.
In hindsight, I made a good decision, but I’m not so sure the Good Wife would say the same because I have so many faults. The most obvious being the girlfriends on the side.
Don’t judge, a lot of men do it in different corners of the world. Monogamy is hard.
Recently, I ditched a girlfriend of seven years for a new, younger vixen named Blanca.
Blanca has an endless number of endearing attributes, most importantly, electronic shifting and amazing gearing range (48/35, 10-28). Also, she’s incredibly balanced and willing to go wherever, whenever.
If the first few months are any indication, it’s going to be a long, beautiful relationship.
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.
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.”
[Thanks to a former cyclist of some renown for the tip.]
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
“Moody’s projects that the pace of closings will soon reach 15 per year.”
Sobering. How will my employer, Pacific Lutheran University fare? If it was a stock, I would not buy it because of the larger context, but I am cautiously optimistic about our future because our brand new president is as smart an entrepreneur as I’ve known. He’s quickly learned about the never ending peculiarities of academic culture and faculty-based governance. But the Warriors may not have much success this year even with Steve Kerr as coach.
“People say time heals all wounds, but I don’t believe that. Sure, as the years have gone by, I’ve learned how to manage my sadness in losing you. But the pain never really goes away. I think about you every day, miss you every day.”
4. How to Travel Like a Local. Thorough.
“Are the wealthy addicted to money, competition, or just feeling important? Yes.”
6. Song of the week. So effortless.
One aspect of my privilege is my education which has enabled me to make a living without sacrificing my body. Roofers, welders, plumbers, farmers, house painters, construction workers, tree cutters, often aren’t as fortunate.
But I’ve noticed a pattern even among my fellow white collar egghead professors. A majority routinely sacrifice their health for the sake of their work because of a deep-seated intellectual bias that prioritizes the mind at the expense of the body.
Simply put, most of my colleagues have been sedentary for decades. On top of that, generous people take turns providing unhealthy office snacks*. Most professors don’t make time to walk, hike, run, play tennis, swim, cycle, or lift weights because there’s always another lecture to plan, or syllabus or grant to write, or set of papers to mark, or conference presentation to prepare, or faculty workshop to attend.
I like my work and my university, but not nearly enough to sacrifice my health for it. One colleague of mine retired in May and died in July. I didn’t know him so I don’t even want to pretend his lifestyle played any part, but I fear too many of my colleagues will not get to enjoy as many post work years if they do not prioritize their health more than is the norm.
Today marks the end of the world’s longest academic sabbatical, mine. I normally work summers, but I took the summers of 18 and 19 off, the book-ends to my 2018-2019 academic year sabbatical. 15 months, huzzah! Someone call the Guinness Book of World Records**. I won’t be telling any of my colleagues what I’m going to tell you in the next paragraph because the sedentary nature of faculty life is so pervasive my athletic self lives deep in the closet***.
Besides the traditional, publishing a couple of articles, reading a bunch, and updating my syllabi, I also turned the knob up a bit on my regular swimming, cycling, and running volume. Por exemplar, I joined a Masters swim team and so far this year have already swam about the same distance as last calendar year. And SO WHAT if I did stretch and chill in the jacuzzi after some practices! Also, I’m on pace to cycle 5,000 miles this year and maintain my 1,000 mile a year running streak. I was fit when I began my record breaking sabbatical, today I’m a little more fit****.
Am I overcompensating? Maybe, but I don’t think so. I’m under no illusions that my active lifestyle will guarantee any kind of post-work longevity because life is fragile. That driver on their cell phone could wipe me out on tomorrow’s ride.
But as long as I work as an egghead professor, I will dare to be different by making time to swim, cycle, and run. In particular, I will not sacrifice the quality of my life to the pervasive work culture of which I’m apart. Please, just don’t out me to any of my colleagues.
*Decent chance I have my first donut in a long time today. #glazed
**Could an educator-reader please tell me if teaching is like riding a bike, I’m afraid I may have forgotten how. Any tips?
***Except for one colleague-friend who follows my workouts on Strava. I should probably get him to sign a non-disclosure agreement.
****No, I haven’t just opted to not write about racing triathlons, I have in fact sold my time trial bike and stopped competing for reasons I’m not entirely sure. As I age, given the attrition of my peers, and my consistent training, I would do quite well. But when I envision best case scenarios, like winning races, I’m still not sufficiently motivated to toe the line. Is there a sports psychologist in the house?
Bernal, Columbia’s first Tour de France winner, and at 22 years old, the youngest rider in the race, seems to be Armstrong’s opposite in every way. Granted, variety is the spice of life, but I’ll take Bernal’s soft spoken, low key humility to Armstrong’s angry brashness every day of the week. Here’s hoping fame doesn’t change him too much.
In the middle of day three of the Central Oregon 500 last week a lethal trifecta of The Varsity, a headwind, and rollers popped a few of us hacks off the back and we formed a mini peloton of the Truly Spent.
Now that we had sufficient oxygen to talk a bit, Boeing Ed from Seattle said that Boeing was requiring employees to take some forced release time. From the context, the fact that he lives on Mercer Island, already has 32 days off a year, and knows what the CEO paid for his road bikes, I deduced that Ed is upper management.
“Is the forced release time due to the 737?” I asked, before adding, “That seemed like a real clusterf$ck.” I anticipated a spontaneous reply along the lines of, “Yeah, we need to own those very unfortunate mistakes.” Instead I got a one second pause, which was more than long enough for me to realize I had unintentionally offended him so I instantaneously inserted a comma in the conversation before adding, “Or has the press mischaracterized things?”
What a recovery, because BE said something to the effect of “Yeah, they do, if you don’t make safety you’re most important priority you don’t even have an airlines.” I immediately thought about how work cultures can become all encompassing, making employees susceptible to groupthink.
Had BE been a friend I might have busted his balls a bit, asking for specific examples of hyperbolic or inaccurate coverage of the problematic plane, but as an acquaintance I lobbed him a slow pitch right over the plate. Which he clearly appreciated.
Why did I wuss out? Because we have no foundation on which to dig deeper. No shared history meaning insufficient trust that despite awkward differences of opinion, there’s still ample respect for one another. That’s the difference between talking to acquaintances and friends. With acquaintances, who we see only sporadically, we often need to finesse things, to keep things copacetic. In contrast, conversations with friends should be characterized by more honesty and depth.
My split second salvaging of that brief conversation at 20 mph had nothing to do with our current preoccupation with analytics and algorithms. It was based entirely on intuition and feel. Art not science. I was able to quickly rebound because my preferred teaching methodology is discussion leadership and after three and a half decades of leading group discussions I’ve learned to read not just people’s spoken words, but their pauses, sighs, eyes, body posture, and general frames of mind.
Can that sort of thing be taught? I’m not sure. If someone were serious about seeking feedback they could definitely improve at it, but it innately comes more easily for some than others.
Apologies for not having any posts in the queue when I took off for Bend, Oregon last week for the annual Central Oregon 500, five days of consecutive 100 miles bicycle rides. I know it’s hard getting through the week without your normal filling of PressingPause.
I planned on riding days 1, 2, 3, and 5. My daily totals were 101, 103, 95, and 73, so the Central Oregon 372. When I left Sisters yesterday afternoon after the final ride, Rick Adams, a new 62 year old acquaintance from San Fransisco, was talking about riding back to Bend because he was sitting at 490. I tried to talk some sense into him, but there were lots of fit crazies.
I rode a lot with Ed from Seattle and Doug from Bend among many others. I was way more social than normal, meaning somewhat, drinking beer, hanging out, exaggerating our daily exploits after rides. I don’t do that enough. I show up five minutes before our local training rides leave and then peel off and head home near the end of them.
I don’t always like being social, but I can be. When I dropped my teammates off on Day Four I noticed there were a few more female riders than normal so that was a bad call. Speaking of which, Stephanie from Bend, born and raised in Olympia, just hammered despite not necessarily looking the part. Note to self, don’t judge a book by its cover.
Highlights included riding by what must have been the world’s largest Alpaca farm, hundreds and hundreds grazing on beautiful green fields, half of them shorn, half not. Is there a cuter, more uncoordinated looking animal? Yesterday’s exclamation point, McKenzie Pass. . . lava rock, snow covered peaks in immediate distance, snow on the side of the road at the top, descending into deep forest. Speaking of descending, new record on Day 1 with a tail wind down the Century Highway, 49.2.
Lowlight. Getting hit in the face by a large insect at high speed. Watching Nicole zig and a dog zag while climbing McKenzie. An unexpected but relatively tame crash on a closed course.
Rest easy dear reader. I am swapping seats, from the bike to the blog, stay tuned and thanks for reading as always.