I think my love for fitness began around the age of 12 -13. I was the kind of kid that was quiet, introspective… you know, a loner… but I always had a love for reading, learning and books. My best friends were the Public Library, Cody’s bookstore and Comix & Comics.
For most of my young life I was an overweight kid and not very athletic, AND not very interested in athletics at ALL. But one summer, all that changed. It wasn’t a sudden change, but I think it was a combination of exposure to all those X-Men, Thor, Hercules, and Spiderman comics with a youthful surge of testosterone. Now here’s where I give thanks to my Pops, for introducing me to the YMCA and involving me in sports and swimming programs at a young age, whether I liked it or not! THANKS dad!
I remember, seeing “Pumping Iron”, and not really understanding the whole bodybuilding scene, but being very interested. Being the book worm that I am at heart, the next stop for me was the good ole’ library, where lo’ and behold there it was, “THE EDUCATION OF A BODYBUILDER”, by Arnold Schwarzenegger. I was hooked. Now I had a swimming background and was a fairly good age group swimmer at the time. I didn’t just dive right in, but I was hooked. I must have checked that book out at least three times in a row to pour over it.
The rest of that summer I thought and planned how I would attack this weight lifting thing. Well, the school year came and I went for it, I would spend up to three hours a day, six days a week weight lifting. But as I got older and realized that weight training is really only a means to an end. For example what good is it if you’re as big as a house but can’t walk a block without gasping for breath? Or, you’ve got the flexibility of a 2x4?
So, I had to rethink my goals, and went back to my first love, swimming, and for a short while martial arts. This finally led to competitive cycling road and track. I really got an education in intensity, dedication and perseverance from my experiences in cycling. My cycling “career” began with a walk inside “The Missing Link” bike shop (Berkeley, Ca). I still was mulling around what I was going to do as far as my training was going, after my epiphany.
I had already decided that swimming & weight training was a good combo for upper body conditioning, but hadn’t come to grips with what would be an adequate lower body trainer. Running didn’t really appeal to me aesthetically (no offense to runners everywhere, but hey, I’m into big muscles, albeit functional big muscles…).
As I walked into the ‘Link’, there he was… on the wall… THE answer… pro cyclist Jan Raas. I took one look at the legs on that guy and that was it. Ihad to get a bike. And so it began. I got my first bike, some ole’ Gitane with some half way decent parts on it, AND rode it everywhere, picking the brain of everyone I knew along the way, pouring through book after book I could find on cycling. Getting some good advice and some not so good…
Like the week I spent riding up Moeser lane every day, a ball-busting hill about 20% grade BEFORE I’d go on the local club rides… well, at least I was a strong rock head… as they say, “youth is wasted on the young”…
But dragging my young, but heavy 185+ lbs and growing, body up and down the hills and byways of northern California, I was quickly learning that you can’t fight mass, physics and an average VO2max. But, here’s where the lesson in perseverance paid off. As I continued to “fight the good fight” on the road bike I ran across some ‘trackies’ on the many club rides in my area. More than one of them would come up to me as we flew up and down hill and dale, and say “man, you’d make a great kilo rider”.
Well, I’d perhaps give a nod as I huffed and puffed up the next climb, without a thought as to what the hell was a ‘kilo’? As time went on, it was more and more difficult to drag my now 200 + lbs self up and down the hillsides, and the words ‘track and kilo’ came to mind. So, it was time to do some due diligence and find out about this ‘track & kilo’ thing…
Unfortunately, I just happened to have my most serious crash to date involving a helicopter ride out of the local regional park and a broken collarbone, five broken ribs and punctured lung. Well, it’s amazing how you can go from doing hilly three hour rides, bench pressing well over 250 lbs and swimming over 2000 yds., to barely able to walk to the bathroom in one fell swoop. Six weeks out of work and a couple of days in bed, gives you a chance to assess your options and make some decisions.
I some how managed to parlay my mishap into a track bike and opened a new chapter in my cycling career. I quickly discovered that all the things that made road cycling a challenge, became my strengths on the track. My size, strength and power all came to bear on the track. Every time I’d ride the track, I’d go faster and faster. But most of all, I wasn’t suffering any more (at least not in the beginning). I was having fun.
All of this culminated in qualifying in the Match Sprint for the 1992 Olympic trials, qualifying again in the 1996 Olympic trials, and lastly, in the 2000 trials. Not to mention top five finishes in the NorCal district championships in the Sr. Men’s Match Sprint, Bronze medal placing in Master’s 30-35 Match Sprint and Silver medal placing in Men’s Olympic (team) Sprint.
All these experiences armed me with an awareness, and an understanding that you can take the strength and power from weight training and integrate that with other sports and activities giving you an ‘edge’ in recovery, speed, endurance, neuromuscular efficiency and focus.