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Mar
22

By Guest KIT Blogger, Eletrico

Have you ever noticed, after sometime off the bike, that when you suit up for a ride it feels slightly foreign? The garish-looking jackets, the thermal tights, it’s a fleeting sensation, a perception distorted by the day to day routine of work clothes, perhaps a tie, a tucked in shirt and patent-leather shoes. “Who dresses like that?” you think. Then you zip up, put the cleats on and go for a ride. Even before the first few pedal strokes you’re already past the micro-awkwardness of donning something akin to a super hero costume, and things more or less fall into place. Speaking of super heroes, have you also noticed that most super power (or comic book) characters always seem to have a sidekick? Asterix has Obelix. Batman has Robin. Zorro has Tonto. Some of them hang out in crews, like the Fantastic Four, The Avengers, or The Galaxy Rangers. I am lucky enough to have Dimitri and Sílvio, who despite lacking any particular noteworthy super powers, carry on as if they just materialized out of comic book pages.

The Three Amigos I have known both Dimitri and Sílvio for at least 10-plus years. We have raced in the same team together and share the common passion for bicycles. Road bicycles, that is. But time went by, we all got married, had kids, and our consistent and aggressive riding activities have been significantly curtailed to mesh with our new lifestyles.  Due to time constraints Dimitri ditched his roadie credentials to devote his athletic time to Triathlons (“Hey, what is the most time efficient athletic activity out there? Oh yeah, Triathlon seems like a great idea”). Sílvio, on the other hand, goes out of his way to step inside very cool and expensive in-line skates and participates in track racing. Track racing? Yes. Sílvio has a very sweet track bike that he occasionally (but seriously) races at local track.  I also suspect that Sílvio likes to ride in circles, but I digress.  No matter what our current athletic passion may be, we still appreciate a good hammer session and never miss the opportunity to make each other hurt when the time is right.

What has brought us together – and kept us together – is the collective appreciation of each other’s skills on and off the bike. Dimitri has the sense of humor of a 14 year old, which alone doesn’t say much, but complemented by Sílvio’s vast library of AM-radio folk jokes and my prodigious built-in artillery of filth, result in very colorful banter that adds to the convivial nature of our relationship. But this is not the point. The point is, through years of constantly challenging ourselves on rides, as well as dishing obnoxious retorts to each other, we developed our own language and (currently) unspoken rules to ride by – rules that are generally applicable to our regular, non-costume lives as well. This is not a clique-thing or hijinks fit for pre-school children – one of our main credos is “everyone’s welcome, and we fully expect you to be prepared to PTHD”. The sharp language and sharper efforts leave no room for half measures, half words or empty promises. The product of seemingly verbal and physical abuse – albeit dispensed collegially – has improved our riding and helped us deal with off-the bike matters in unceremonious ways. We learned that informing your riding buddies that “this is gonna be a harder session” is kindness rather than a dire warning. Or specifically communicating to the spouse that “I need 3 hours this coming Saturday” can do wonders for the relationship; what kind of wonders is up to you, though: it can be wonderfully awesome or it can leave you wondering why your partner is not laughing at your jokes, to say the least.

I suppose what I’m getting at is, performing heroics on the bike is far more enjoyable in the sturdy ensemble of good allies who know your strengths and weaknesses. The beauty of our workouts becomes an exercise in sneak attacks, strong turns at the front and town line sprints. When all those align, the hammer will drop. The suffering will be unleashed – resulting in better riding for all of us.

Caped crusaders, unite! Bring your crews, take your pulls and hold your line. There’s always room for good riding, keeping it real and keeping it tight.

Keep it tight,

Eletrico

*Elétrico is a local roadie aficionado who enjoys good banter, spirited hammer sessions and awesome beers.

 

Feb
28

KIT_in_Spain

By KIT guest blogger, Dave Andersen

Most of us have a limit to which we can prioritize our lives around training and racing. A pro athlete, or a single person with a cushy job, probably has the best opportunity for low stress and maximum training.   For the rest of us, the athletic lifestyle is one in which you do what you can within your “life” constraints to achieve your fitness/training goals.  And thus, the philosophy of “Keep it Tight” (KIT) must be adopted.

Ideally, you constantly monitor your training; rest-sleep-relaxation; nutrition; and equipment. All this works best when you plan ahead, stay organized, be honest with yourself, and live a tranquil life.  It’s important that you make the rest of your life as stress-free as possible. Stress from work, family, and other responsibilities is a part of life, but it is what you do to minimize these daily stresses that can make the difference between whether you recover properly and perform to your maximum ability.

Beyond living a tranquil life, consistency of training may be the single most important thing you can do to reach your potential and reach your fitness and/or competitive goals. Therein lies the challenge for many folks. How can you fit your training into your daily life so that it becomes a part of your day without sacrificing too much on the family and work front? Cycling, walking or running to work is one strategy. Training on your lunch hour or after work every day is another. Getting up early is common for many folks with busy lives. Talk with your partner about a routine that works best for you and your family and commit to it!

Another strategy you could employ is to make your workouts as efficient as possible.  Read up on how to incorporate speed walking, progressive running, interval training, etc. so that every moment devoted to exercising/training is generating the maximal benefit.  No “junk” miles!  If you adopt this approach, you can be just as fit AND spend more quality time on other areas of your life, including rest.  Don’t forget that you must give your body time to recuperate if you want to reach the next level.

Think like an athlete and live like one. And above all else, enjoy the process.

Keep It Tight,

Dave

*Dave Andersen lives in Boston and works in the educational publishing business. He shares his passion for cycling and sport with a wide range of friends and competitors.

 

Feb
22

By guest KIT blogger, Eletrico

bike_beerNot too long ago, while meandering through stop-go traffic on our way to a debaucherous bachelor weekend, I was faced with a most interesting question. The question couldn’t have been posed at a more inappropriate time, after all, the imminence of a booze and food overload on the next few days stared the query’s absurdity in the face. The driver (let’s call him “Dimitri”) and I go back many years and we live in a similar world: passionate, active sports folks who tread the ultra thin ice that divides the dark cold waters of our myriad-obligations and the fresh-breathing freedom that our exercise sessions provide. As married men with kids, we often define ourselves as currently-sort-of-former-but-not-quite-yet-retired racers, me as the perpetual roadie and him the triathlete. Athletic folks, in sum. Or are we?

Point blank, he asked: “Do you consider yourself an athlete?” I thought about it for a while, watching the construction trucks do their thing in a city that is never really done repairing itself. The workers needed more space, we backed up, the beep-beep warning of reverse as the “time’s up!” alarm for my reflections. “No, I do not consider myself an athlete.” I really do not. At all. And I’ll elaborate.

When one thinks of an athlete, the image that comes to mind, at least for me, is of a young-ish person standing on a podium, tears-filled eyes, mumbling the lyrics of his/her national anthem, crown of wild olive leaves, maybe a flag draped across the shoulders. That person is the celebration of athletic achievement, the iconic figure that generally conjures up on our collective imagination. And why is that? What constitutes an athlete? We can first determine the most reductive form of the idea: physical stress and adaptation that sort out the ones who do not respond well from those who do, whatever the sport may be. We think of sweat and repeated physical work. Particular skills, like throwing/kicking a ball, or shooting an arrow just right. Lifting heavy things. Running really fast, either around circles or through a pre-determined road (or dirt) course. But does the person need to be in sports? What about acrobat folks in the circus, hanging upside down while doing airborne pirouettes and landing just right? That is very physically intense, super dangerous, and definitely requires a refined set of abilities. How about Kobayashi, the famous Japanese who eats competitively for a living? Sounds trite, but he actually practices by gobbling down kilos of cabbage to distend this stomach so he can eat however many dozens of hot dogs and beat his opponents come go time. Or is it physical appearance? Do we define an athlete as someone with a chiseled physique, better yet; does one have to be lean? A Football player would easily fail that category – so would the entire “Clydesdale” field at your local tri. Does the sport have to be in the Olympics? If so, cyclo-cross, which is one of the most strenuous activities you can do to your body, is not a sport, therefore not consisted of athletes. And therein lies a panoply of micro-distinctions that are not really doing a good job at presenting compelling differences.

Which brings us back to our car ride. We had initially agreed that what we do requires athleticism. We race bikes; our rides together do require an unspoken and never mentioned “be physically well-prepared” at all times. Our workouts can be really hard, the sort that pops up temple veins, can make you heave, or feel momentarily disoriented due to huge, successive efforts. Those efforts require top level skills and constant maintenance. Am I athletic? Perhaps so. But I drink a bit too many beers and sometimes my diet can be faulty. Dimitri is even worse – folks at Dairy Queen address him on a first name basis. But those are superficial, tangible ways of identifying an athlete. From my limited experience, the intangibles are really the distinguishing actors: determination, passion, not only for the sport, but also to win, plus focus, something we refer to as “the edge”. When I’m on the bike, I am definitely an athlete. But off the bike my workouts are a patchwork with little structure outside of the “must include at least a few hard sections to be minimally fit”. Yesterday alone I ate close to 1 pound of candy corn prior to a very demanding indoor session; come to think of it, it’s a miracle my inside ride and my pre-ride insides didn’t meet each other. But seriously, real athletes carry themselves as such on and off the bike, on and off the pool, or and off the courts. Athletes take good care of their bodies, but at the same time remain athletic during sleep, while making choices at the grocery store, filling up the tank at the gas station, picking up clothes at the dry-cleaning or brushing their teeth. They offer very little in terms of excuses or disclaimers, live an ascetic life and remember the last time they had a glass of wine in terms of years, not days. The mundane doesn’t steer them away from their calling, they just do them, well, athletically. You cannot separate the athlete from the person and vice versa as they’re inextricably connected: the person is born an athlete, just like someone is born a doctor, or an actor, or a firefighter.

Our conversation eventually more or less reached a conclusion on this topic: yes, astride our bikes we’re definitely athletes. Off the bike, though, it’s a different story. Real athletes don’t fill up on candy corn, do intervals and get proud (marveled, really) of holding it down. Plus, there’s no athletic way to refer to beer as post ride beverage, not even if you swig it “athletically”.

Keep it tight,

Eletrico

Elétrico is a local roadie aficionado who enjoys good banter, spirited hammer sessions and awesome beers.