Well, today’s a year in. That year has gone fast.
I was hoping to have something prophetic and meaningful to say, but alas–
There’s been a ton that has happened this year, in my personal, professional and cycling lives. I have a lot of rules that I’ve imposed on my blogging, and I’m going to break a few of them today.
Rule #1: Limit the Personal.
With rare exception, I keep my personal life out of the blog, and for good reason. I’m only kinda gonna break this one. This past year has made me a lot more reliant on my wife and partner, Dana. I’ve never mentioned her by name on here, prior to today. You don’t get to know anything else about her except that she is exceptional, amazingly kind, thoughtful and patient. She is beautiful and gracious, and she has the most important job of anyone I know–raising our daughter. Dana spends a significant amount of time shuttling between caring for our daughter and caring for me, both of which could be full time jobs in and of themselves. She’s good at all of the things that I am not. And somehow, she knows when I need consolation, and when I need a kick in the butt. I could go on, but the basic point for this post of reflection is simple: the changes in my life have introduced new independence and new dependance. With regard to my lovely bride, the changes have brought dependance. I rely on her more, and more completely, with every passing day.
Before I had a daughter, I didn’t really understand it. I didn’t know what that meant, to be a father. Cliche or not, I didn’t know the true depths of love. When we had our little girl, I experienced new feelings–highs and lows–that were wholly uncharted. In that first year, I thought I had grown as much as it was possible to grow. This blog is not about my relationship with my daughter, because I couldn’t put that into words. But with every passing year, she makes me grow a little more. She humbles me, and makes me a better man…because I’m trying so desperately to be the man that she thinks I am.
My health is pretty well charted on here. Things are pretty stable at the moment. I’m kind of on the anti-doping plan: instead of taking blood transfusions, I’m just doing repeat blood tests. My body fat composition has been roughly halved, and my weight remains right around 145. When I renewed my license, I asked them to drop 60 pounds off of my listed weight. That causes something of a stir at the DMV.
Other significant personal changes? I’ve stopped swearing. Except for the occasional anecdote and the “somethingbadhappensandaswearslipsoutbeforeyoucanstopit” curse, I’ve changed the way that I talk. And when I do swear now, I’m strangely conscious of it. I never really had a mouth like a sailor, but in hearing others talk about how a person’s swearing colors the impressions that the swearer creates…well…I think it’s a change for the better. So no gluten, no dairy, no oats, no artificial sweeteners, and no F-bombs. Dang it feels good to be a gangsta. (That even rhymes better).
Rule #2: Don’t Involve the Professional.
With rare exception (notably, the Strava discussions), I don’t allow crossover from my professional life to the blog. And in the realm of social media, I don’t allow any crossover. Black line. I’m not really going to break that rule here, except to say that this has been a momentous year. I left a job I had for a decade, and started my own company. I’ve started to realize the things that I can and cannot live with, from a job satisfaction perspective. While the people I used to work with are great people for whom I have a great deal of respect, there is no doubt that the job I used to have gave me ulcers, both figuratively and literally. And there’s no doubt that those ulcers lead to my Celiac status. I struggled for years with the things about my old job that didn’t meet my (admittedly lofty) personal standards and expectations, and that struggle lead first to a soaring weight gain and subsequent disastrous health collapse. That is what it is. It’s behind me now. We’ll see what the future holds, but thus far, the difficult choice to leave a known environment for the unknown world of self-employment has been rewarding. And that’s all I have to say about that.
As I write this, I realize how much self-censoring I do. I do a lot. I read things like the Surly blog, much less many other ‘non-work’ blogs, and I envy the freedom that a lot of writers have. When I write, I have to consider the potential that, despite my best efforts, there could be overlap between my professional life and my cycling life. For that reason, there are a lot of deep-seated, well-reasoned opinions that I have, but that I never share…even on a day when I’m breaking the rules. Some day, I’ll work in a position where I don’t have to worry about the photos taken of me, and where I don’t have to hold back my opinions. Until that day, I’ll keep rules. There’s great irony in starting a blog so you have a space to vent, and then realizing that you have to hold back to avoid the implications of venting. From time to time, I’ve considered penning an anonymous blog…but I always come back to a simple truth: if I can’t write it and put my name to it, I wouldn’t expect someone else to read it. The internet is something like EPO for the anonymous–it enables and expands their influence if you let it. From my perspective, if you’re too ashamed to ascribe your name, I don’t really care what your words say.
Rule #3: Talk About Bikes. A Lot.
The blog adequately chronicles my experience with bikes and gear. That’s what I choose to focus on, because I enjoy trying gear, and sharing my experiences with it. I allow a little personal bleed over, as an outlet for my frustrations with health issues, and to share thoughts with fellow Celiacs that I email with…but I focus on bikes a lot. To break that rule, I’m not going to focus on bikes–with one narrow exception.
In my garage, I presently have a Trek road bike. I have that bike because I believe it is the very best bike on the market, for me, and because I had a unique opportunity to assemble a set of parts into a dream build. In my garage, I have 4 Salsas. I have those for two reasons: 1) because, within each niche that they occupy, I believe them to be the best bikes for the job, and lustworthy ones at that; and, 2) I believe in Salsa. I don’t agree with all of their decisions…but I believe in the company. I know a couple people that work there, and they’re genuinely good and goodly genuine. They’re selling a brand–and it’s a brand that I buy into. Moreover, they’re living the brand, and they’re showing others how to live the brand, as well. Perhaps brand isn’t the right word there…or perhaps it is. But my Salsas have opened doors for me, without a doubt, and will continue to do so. In the coming year and years, I look forward to watching the company continue to mature and refine. And I look forward to watching the people that work there continue to grow. It doesn’t hurt that my primary connection to Salsa is through the world’s best local bike shop…and I do sincerely hope that as Salsa continues to refine itself, it remembers the value of local shops that build long-term relationships, instead of being seduced by the Sirens of online shopping megastores.
Rule #4: Have a Clear Voice.
In 2012, we formed Axletree, which has its own website, its own agenda, and a lot of very talented people. I usually don’t have a problem establishing my voice. Axletree has challenged that. I try to write a blog post for Axletree, and stare at the keyboard. Not because I don’t know what I want to say, and not because I lack enthusiasm for the group–not by a long shot. But it’s really, really challenging to speak for a group, especially one that you believe strongly in, in a public forum. My professional life involves a lot of public speaking…but that speaking is expounding on the views and interests of my clients. My blog involves a lot of public writing, but that writing is limited to my personal views. Axletree involves my best friends, my grandest aspirations, and a bundled up lot of schemes and dreams. I’m having a hard time establishing that clear voice, and today’s post isn’t getting me closer to that goal. Fundamentally, I sometimes worry that I’m not awesome enough to be a speaker on behalf of an organization aimed at the awesome. It’s kind of the “I wouldn’t want to be a part of any group that would have me” syndrome. I don’t mean that in a self-depricating way…I have strengths, but being hip/trendy/cool is not among them. Don’t get the wrong impression–I think Axletree is, and can be, so much more than just another hip/trendy/cool group with good graphics on its kit. But I struggle with its voice.
Rule #5: Talk about Rides. A Lot.
In 2011, my goal was to complete the year with 100 miles for each of my then 32 years. In 2012, I would have eclipsed that goal before summer started. And as it turned out, I didn’t really start putting in miles until summer started. This year has been a monsterous year for me, of putting in hard miles. I’ve grown a lot, but I’ve put in a lot of hours in the saddle. 2013 looms with the threat of intervals–with a solid base established, I need to keep doing pukeworthy efforts to ramp up my power. Guh. I don’t even like typing that. But I’ll keep it real with stupid-fun rides like New Years Eve Eve.
I could keep typing and get to a top 10 list of rules, but I’m not going to, today. I told you at the outset that there was nothing prophetic here. I have some delicious rides, but I’m still a struggling ______. I’m a struggling father, spouse, professional, cyclist and human. Struggling is not meant to have the common adverse connotation–I’m working, hard, to be better, in a variety of realms. I’m dealing with the challenges of life, and sharing a little, tiny piece of those challenges here. If you read the blog, you should know that I never claim to have editorial standards. My words are my own, and they’re colored by many, many things. That’s not to say that I write falsehoods–if I write it, it means that I truly think it. I started the blog to talk about gear, so others could make informed decisions based on my experiences, as I rely on the experience of others when I’m making gear decisions. And I stand behind every single word I write.
In the past year, there have been several hundred thousand visitors to these pages, from over 100 countries. That’s humbling. I get click-back links in a multitude of languages, and have put Google Translate to the test on many occasions trying to see what people are saying. Wanna know what they’re saying?
They’re saying that they like to bike. I like to bike, too.