Monday, August 27, 2012


“You. Are. Crazy.”

I say this to my new neighbor with open admiration, mixed with the taste of fear and a bit of awe dripping off my lips. She’s just shown me her rather impressive collection of road and off-road bikes, — and suggested we ride together some time.

It’s been a while since I’ve lived down the street to someone with similar athletic inclination and daily life predicament, as my own.

For a long time now, I’ve just tripped about; self propelled; skimming the surface of sports, which I used to delve into with great tenacity.

Tracy is tenacious. She seems to gain great satisfaction from her warrior-like approach. She has fun.

I like it. I admire it.  I’m just not sure how much I want to live it anymore. She makes me wonder.

I explain to her that while I do dabble a bit in all three disciplines of triathlon, I take more of a Zen approach these days. I’ll get there when I get there. I stopped wearing a watch years ago. I either can’t be bothered by my splits, or I’m too afraid to see what they are. I’m not sure which is true.

Maybe she is my new motivation mechanism — a cure all, for my of late, very laxidasical practices. I could use a kick in the butt. Maybe. I can't help conjuring up the aches and pains I'm bound to feel if I partake. I may opt out entirely. I am older now; and there is only so much mileage in any body part before it breaks for good. That might be the aforementioned fear speaking out. But there is an honesty in experiencing; and then surpassing your human limits. This cannot be fabricated without price. 

Of course my introduction to Tracy coincided with the Olympics. Watching athletes perform at the top of their game is absolutely inspiring. (Yes I’m near London. No. I didn’t get tickets, but I know many people who did. Does that count?)Watching Hope Solo safely guard the US women’s soccer team to a Gold was pure joy. And it looked it. This is cultural, I believe. It’s ingrained. You can’t capture this in the antlers of deer and quietly inject it. You must live it out loud.

Inspiration and joy of motion are two things I try to capture and to develop in my young athletes. The inspiration part is sometimes fleeting. Can you feel the Olympics slipping away? But it’s out there — in all things; shapes and sizes. Magical gardens exist in the most unlikely places. It's the spirit that floats long after the event, which you must learn to catch — like butterflies in a  net — and let free.

It’s not always simple; finding the means to do things that stretch beyond our perceptions of limits. Sometimes it depends on whether we are willing to let ourselves go.  It’s compelling, and something I often consider, as a coach; a parent; a person. One piece of art or performance; or sport; individual in sport; or simply an individual — how we relate to them is for certain as varied as we. Individually, we cast a wide net. Pull in a varied load. There are diamonds contained in the most unlikely places. And some, we find, are not the real thing, after all.

Austria and the people I saw there inspired great dreams in me, of late. The setting and those around me were such sources of light. It's hard to hold onto, though, when you return to your daily life. Although we came down from the mountains to discover the base all alight with the American Para-Olympians training here. The kids and I had conversations about why these people were particularly awe-inspiring as we watched a double-amputee race down the track.

You may find your spirit in an idea; a blog; a 12-year-old girl making waves in fly who lives in Northern Virginia; or if you're lucky, your neighbor. Whatever your stimulation and encouragements, and there could be so many — recognize and capture them. Test them. Those precious moments observed in the Olympics are just that — here and gone. However, the people behind the moments are everywhere.

As fate would have it, as I write this, I read of Lance Armstrong's announcement in yesterday's paper. After all these years of denial, he will no longer fight the drug charges being thrown at him, most recently on his home turf, from the ADA. I remember posting his picture on my office door in the late 90s, as he battled his way back from cancer into the limelight of cycling. 

So many of his achievements served as inspiration to me. His human effort; the work he put into his recovery; his very natural ability and drive — I still consider these legitimate and true. The medals and the glory, though, I don't. He has been stripped of his ability to participate in US Cycling, and all the medals that came with his achievements — along with his dignity, and many of his friends who supported him.

My cup runneth over of late with people and things, which remind me what it means to be here in this place. Flashes of inspiration move us to motion. Do. See. Live strong. But don't cheat.

Friday, August 3, 2012


… “Holy shit!” I yelled at no one. 

Lost in thought, I suddenly focused ahead and realized there was a car coming straight towards me. I was driving on the right side of the road … in England. It's early Monday morning, and traffic is light, which is lucky, because to my best guess, I’d gotten out of the neighborhood and about a half mile down the road before I realized.

“Left side. Left side.” I repeat like a mantra. I’m back in the UK.

I need to plug in my TomTom. That little device is nothing if not good at giving me a heads up about which side of the road to traverse. In the last year, it’s guided me through England, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, and most recently the US.

After our Space A flight to Dayton, it led me to Columbus, then on to Huron, south again to Tennessee, then to Florida and back to Dayton. Upon landing and driving down I-70 the visual disparity between the lushness of England and the burned out flatness of Ohio was distinct. Not attractive scenery, the interstate between Dayton and Columbus. I was disappointed. I wanted my perceived home to feel more welcoming.

It wasn't until we reached the mountains of Kentucky and Tennessee days later that I enjoyed the bucolic setting and visual eye candy I normally associate with that part of the country. It was a welcome change.

We packed a lot in those days — celebrated the 4th of July with family and friends; took in Lake Erie; watched my son drive my beloved dad's boat (a right of passage in my world); rode a few rockin' coasters. But now it's time to head to the emerald coast. I channel the sounds of Zach Brown and point it south.

Florida offers respite and balance. Stark was the contrast between the stifling Ohio drought and the daily damp and downpour of England. As we crossed the border into Kentucky, my car temp read 107 Fahrenheit. I wondered if my tires would melt, or blow, like my bike tires used to in the heat.

But we made it. We soaked in sun, sand, sea, and time with Grandma MJ; along with as much fresh catch as possible. It was grand. The strip of land along the coast known as 30-A is heaven on earth to us.

I’ve been back on British soil for about a week, but literally haven’t left the house. A new house. Another house. Our house hopefully for more than a year this time. Now we're in a neighborhood with lots of folks and other children for the kids to play, away from my beloved woods and backyard cob horses, but I'll adjust —in time.

I keep saying to no one in particular and anyone who will listen, "moving is like giving birth, you need more than one year to recover before contemplating another." But we did it. I've been wrapped up in unwrapping since landing about a week ago. I thwarted the usual jet lag, which accompanies travels in this direction, and jumped right into things. I never rest until nary a box is in the house.

Now I allow for tired, which explains why I'm driving on the right (wrong) side of the road. Oops. I adjust my wheel, and begin travelling forward; finding my home for another year in England.