Be The Rower

Early one morning last week I cycled indoors because Blanca is injured.* Afterwards I plopped into my desk chair to swat back the day’s first wave of emails. All while looking at the Salish Sea.

A rowing scull suddenly materialized. The solo rower probably launched from OAR’s (Olympia Area Rowing) downtown marina dock. With steady strong strokes, they disappeared as quickly as they appeared. Then, five minutes later, after reaching their appointed turn around, they shot by again heading south back to the dock no doubt.

I thought about the probable outline of the rower’s morning—waking early, driving to the marina, lifting the boat from its rack, being on the water at dawn, and rowing a long ways on beautiful glassy water with real purpose. And as required for all Pacific Northwesterners, stopping for the daily latte on the way home.

Then I thought about the rest of the rower’s day and despite everything—the ‘rona, the impending forest fire smoke, the faux electronic schooling, the negative national politics—I bet they had at least a decent, if not good, if not great day. How could they not with that kind of start?

Be the rower. Wake up early. And move. Outside**. Walk, bike, swim, run, paddle, row, skate. With someone or alone. Add some caffeine. Then try to have a bad day. I dare you.

* long sordid story starring a real duffus

**once the fire smoke apocalypse is over

Sports Utility Vehicles

IHS Markit forecasts that SUVs will make up half of all U.S. car sales this year for the first time, strengthening further to 54 percent of sales by 2025.

“SUVs are a monument to a broader American failure that has seen pedestrians and cyclists forsaken for endless miles of road building, with non–car users forced to push what Miller calls “beg buttons” to pause traffic to enter roads that should be egalitarian public spaces.

SUVs . . . not only bring a stew of pollution and an element of fear to those attempting to traverse roads on foot or bike—they are also fundamentally inefficient. ‘You are taking a 200-pound package, a human, and wrapping it in a 6,000-pound shipping container,’ he said. ‘For some reason we think that is a good way to move through a city. If Amazon used that rationale it would be out of business in a week.'”

 

Who Does Halsey Think She Is?

Thanks to the “invisible enemy”, today, like everyday I cycle now, I traded Olympia’s finest athletes for Khalid, DaBaby, Drake, Billie Eilish, Alice Phoebe Lou, Grimes, the Biebs, Post Malone, Roddy Rich, and Halsey. A pop, hip hop, pop, and more hip hop full meal deal.*

Where does Halsey get off repeatedly singing to me . . .

‘Cause you’re not half the man you think that you are
And you can’t fill the hole inside of you with money, drugs and cars
I’m so glad I never ever had a baby with you
‘Cause you can’t love nothin’ unless there’s somethin’ in it for you

A line-by-line deconstruction . . .

‘Cause you’re not half the man you think that you are—Who do you think you are being all judgy?! Humility is one of my best qualities so I’m probably twice the man I think I am.

And you can’t fill the hole inside of you with money, drugs and cars—Okay, I will give you this one, but if you were a regular reader of the blog you’d know I’m down with Stoicism, so that little bit of life coaching wasn’t all that necessary.

I’m so glad I never ever had a baby with you—Presume much? I don’t ever recall proposing such.

‘Cause you can’t love nothin’ unless there’s somethin’ in it for you—Aren’t ulterior motives lurking just below the surface for most mortals, most of the time?

Since this is a family friendly blog, the lawyers have asked me to ask you to not, like tens of millions other people, go watch Halsey’s racy “You Should Be So Sad” video.

*The airpods are in only when not in congested areas that require all the senses all the time. Do not try this at home.

 

 

 

My Newer, Younger Girlfriend

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.

fullsizeoutput_647 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.

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.

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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.

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[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

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Weekend Assorted Links

1. Radical Survival Strategies for Struggling Colleges.

“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.

2. Payne Stewart’s daughter writes him a letter twenty years after his tragic death.

“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.”

3. It turns out there are (really) bad questions.

4. How to Travel Like a Local. Thorough.

5. Why Don’t Rich People Just Stop Working?

“Are the wealthy addicted to money, competition, or just feeling important? Yes.”

6. Song of the week. So effortless.

The Deleterious Health Effects of Sedentary Work Cultures

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?

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