My journey with fitness came from cycling. Turned on to cycling about 13 years ago, it became a passion and a “way forward” after a health scare about 6 years after starting. Not long into that health scare, I discovered that the concept of “racing to train” was the best way to motivate myself to keep going. If I was racing, or training for an event, things would keep going. Without it — things would quickly deteriorate and fall apart. Sometimes, even with an event, those same things would fall apart. Shooting past a goal to reach the outcome left me miserable, as I cycled through the Belgian Ardennes, falling off my bike on a steep climb, and realizing that I wasn’t what I was just a year before. I reached out and begged for help after the 2016 GFNY NYC Championship race left me feeling identical about a month later. My journey back to cycling fitness was on its way, and I have been investing in the process ever since. So let’s start there.
A Nod to the Velominati — Before I Tell Them to Sod Off!
For all the (I think) intended humor of this charade known as the Velominati, there are way too many cyclists who take it seriously. I thought it was fun for a while, but the more people made fun of my #noshowsocks the more irritated I became with the whole schtick. Funny once it became a series of repetitive groaners that would have been de rigueur at a Catskills resort in the early 1960s. And nobody puts my #noshowsocks in a corner! Emotionally, I left the majority of it behind, but the phrase, “one should only run when chased” always made me laugh. When uttered by Val Kilmer in the 80s classic Real Genius, or when used to mock multi-sport endurance events by the snobs of the Velominati. It’s just funny, it paints a funny picture. Bart is chased by Sideshow Bob, the Roadrunner being chased by Wile E. Coyote, these things are funny and you NEVER cut funny.
While I had tried my hand at running and admired runners for their stamina and endurance, I never thought it would be something to aspire to. It just looked too hard. I joined the track team in high school for an afternoon until I found out that I would have to spend time in the weight room. And just like that, it was over. Thursday. For me, running was literally something to do ONLY when being chased, and I never hesitated to let everyone around me know it.
A Brief Affair
Let’s not focus too much on history. I will give my running experiences ten years ago the credit they are due for showing me that I was capable of doing it. On almost a dare I took up running with a runner friend, who was using cycling to cross-train. He felt that I should do the same, and before I knew it, I was in the NYC Marathon lottery, volunteering at races in Central Park, and running 5k and 10k races every other weekend to try to get the fabled 10+1 (ten New York Road Runners Club races, plus volunteering at one in a single year) in for automatic qualification to the big dance in November. The stakes steadily rose through the Spring and we ended up entered in back to back half-marathons in May of 2011. Ironically — on one of those very same weekends — the inaugural Gran Fondo New York (as GFNY was called back then), was kicking off just up the road on the George Washington Bridge. But we will get back to GFNY in a few.
So we ran. And I survived. But that was about it. It was survival and I can’t say that I enjoyed it and so it was short-lived. The goals were accomplished, the work was done, the pizza was getting cold, and the beers were getting warm.
Fast forward to 2013 — there is no need to get into the how’s and why’s. The magic combination of stupid and lucky played in my favor, and I knew it. I decided to dedicate myself to total health, I went to the doctor regularly, changed my diet, cut back on alcohol and bad food, and used cycling and walking as my exercise. Up early for a ride, then on the bus to work, off the bus a couple of miles from the office, and walk the rest of the way.
Looking back, I have been trying to replicate the magic piece of that recipe that was responsible for all the success I had. The pounds I had shed, the performance gains that I had, the confidence that I had, where I felt that I could do anything. Always looking back, I would see the one thing that I did then that I might be doing now. But which one was it? Cycling, walking, eating, what was it. I have news for you.
It was all of it. But we will continue to revisit that.
A Huge Impact
As 2014 came around, I was 80 pounds lighter and ready to race my first GFNY. It was harder than any other event I had ever done. I didn’t understand yet how granfondo was different from other cycling events, but I caught the bug. In the next year, it would be GFNY that would push me to pack my bike and take it to Europe to conquer the mountains I saw the pros riding. The GFNY calendar was expanding around the Globe and the possibilities of new types of challenges while seeing new places and meeting new people was an absolute force. I was constantly watching the GFNY calendar to figure out where I could go next.
GFNY had become a part of me, and eventually, I was lucky enough (full disclosure) to become a part of GFNY.
Now in our present time, it has become a ritual to cap off training rides by getting back in the car in Fort Lee to drive home and listening to a backlog of Daily Coffee with GFNY episodes. The podcasts have always been the best place to get in the know about what’s coming next. And on this one Sunday, it was all about how GFNY was now, in addition to kids races, apparel, sunglasses, and cycling camps would be bringing a running marathon, potentially followed by mountain biking, followed by triathlon, and so on. That podcast was the day that GFNY officially evolved from the Global Cycling Marathon Series to the Global Endurance Sport Series.
Knowing that there was a GFNY Marathon in the works piqued my interest. As I spent the next month training for GFNY Florida Sebring, I kept bouncing the idea of doing a new type of GFNY Double-Double (instead of GFNY Cycling races on back to back Sundays), a GFNY Marathon on the first Sunday, and a GFNY Cycling race on the following Sunday. If the schedule worked out that way, this would be a once in a lifetime opportunity to recreate me as a more serious endurance athlete.
It wasn’t the idea of investing in the goal of finishing the marathon and then surviving the bike race. But rather creating a process, creating a system by which I would become a more well-rounded athlete. Less focused on the adrenaline rush of staying with an excited peloton, and more about investing in the process of winning the attrition battles that come with long-distance endurance sports like running and cycling.
By the end of October, I was in Sebring. And I had decided that this was a go. I had never been “vested” in the idea of running a marathon before, but the prospect of a GFNY Marathon raised the bar.
If you remember back a few paragraphs where I said that my weight loss and health had been “all of it” — this is where that comes back around. The “all of it” thing was an investment in processes and systems. Not goals. There was no specific goal other than “total health”, and “total health” is a never-ending journey.
So too, this will be a process. With the memory of what happened when the half-marathons were over and the goals were met, the journey was over. There are so many places to go with this journey that I only see the GFNY Marathon opportunity as a horizon line on a continuing journey. If this is interesting to you as an endurance athlete, or someone interested in endurance sport please feel free to come along on the journey, as I will try to publish every couple of weeks along the way. Currently four weeks into the running journey it’s been amazing to learn what attention to detail can teach you about enjoying the sport. And so we are off. Being chased by the process.