Dad bod? Yeah, it’s a real thing. The days of eating like a fool, drinking 'til you’re sick and waking up to go shred are long gone for me. Ever wonder what it’s like to have a go at racing in your early thirties with a two-year-old at home? Here’s a bit of my story and some unsolicited advice.
I grew up on a farm in Vermont where my childhood was loosely comprised of riding a single-speed coaster brake bike up and down dusty, two-track farm roads and trying to out-skid myself from the day before. Riding bikes wasn’t about how many miles I could ride, setting “PRs” or “sending it.” Okay, it was a little about sending it... Really, it was about exploration and freedom. I still remember the day my dad took me out to the barn where he and my grandfather had my first bike waiting for me on it's kickstand. I washed that thing over and over just to see it sparkle in the sun. Fast forward 25 years, I’m two races into my second season, working a full-time job, trying to be a good husband, and raising a 'lil ripper, all at the same time. I don’t have it all figured out but what I can tell you is, you have to love it all, and I do. With a schedule like this, anything you’re not super passionate about stands to fall to the wayside. Friends who don’t bike or have kids, you’ll likely see less of them. Realistically, with a career and a family at 34, racing will never be the most important thing in your life. So here’s some advice... be honest with yourself about your goals and let go of any lofty ambitions. Cycling however, if you’re fortunate enough, can be a family affair. Remember how I described riding back in the day? Separating race aspirations from stripped-down, good old fashion bike riding can be difficult. My two-year-old is a straight up ripper, but that doesn’t keep him from literally stopping to smell the flowers or show me ants every six seconds. Frustrating at times, but the best reminder of what riding was like as a kid and for that, I’m thankful. In a way, it’s family rides and spending time watching him on the bike that’s brought me down to earth and allowed me to enjoy riding again like I used to 25 years ago. I know I’ll get my training rides in when I can and come race day, I’ll have one goal in mind, go fast. Training? Good luck! Anyone with a “mini me” at home knows that when you’re home from work your second job starts. You have to be strategic and fit in training rides where you can. It might seem crazy but planning a week out just to get a ride in with buds will likely be necessary. Don’t be surprised if you develop a bit of a reputation for going hard too often. Embrace it. Time is a hot commodity. When it comes to finding time to train, one of the most important things to consider is making sure your partner is also happy. Whatever they enjoy doing, support it. It’ll pay dividends. Recently I’ve tried to make race weekends a family affair. There’s nothing like having your child greet you at the bottom of a stage to either celebrate in your success or support you when things don’t go as planned. While this may test your focus, it’s a sacrifice I’ve found to be worthwhile. Slowly your network will grow and that guy you chatted with before you dropped stage six is now asking how the wife and kid are. Bike people are awesome. Enduro racing is dangerous. Something like one in ten racers will experience an injury this season, most of them while practicing. Being laid up from work isn’t great but not being able to care for my kid would be far worse. I’ve chalked riding and racing up to a calculated risk and if you’re bad at math like me, that boils down to going fast when it feels good. If I’m not feeling something, I leave it for another day. In the end, it’s not complicated. For ninety-nine percent of us trying to balance racing and families, our families come first, and we do the best we can. In reality, at this point in life, we couldn’t do it without their support. I like to think finding that elusive balance of “going fast” and riding for fun with the family makes me a better father, husband, employee, and racer. Sure, I envy the juniors just starting their careers in racing, but I can’t imagine anything better than sharing the sport I love so much with my little man and wife.