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Any training advice from racing/avid-riding dads?(23 posts)

Any training advice from racing/avid-riding dads?bigdave
Jun 4, 2001 8:32 AM
I am going to be a dad in January. I'm looking forward to it eagerly. So, with that said...

I happened to start road racing this year. Great timing huh? :-) I really like it. I have a few questions for you dads/racers/serious riders: how do you blend new family and racing? Can it be done? When do you get your rides in? How do you blend spending quality time with the family with quality time on the bike?

Did you have to give up racing altogether? Is it a good idea to forsake racing for a few years and just enjoy doing occasional group rides?

This is going to be all new to me... any tips/suggestions or experiences you can share would be great so I can start preparing my wife now. :-)


As the father of 4 boys age 10 and under,Steve Davis
Jun 4, 2001 9:17 AM
I manage to ride about 5000 miles each year and do it mostly at off-peak family times. Our boys are very active and play organized baseball and soccer. I coach several of the teams so this is a big time commitment too. In addition, Sunday mornings are spent at church where I am the Sunday School superintendant. My wife is terrific, but sometimes gets a bit tired of all my riding, so here's what seems to work for me:

I would suggest you set the alarm clock early. I've found several other dads in the area that ride. We have 3 scheduled weekday morning rides of 30 +/- miles that start a 6 a.m. On the weekends, I'll try to fit a long ride in on Saturday so that I'm back to the house by 10 or so. The only "peak time" riding I do is Sunday afternoon, or on a ride that I've scheduled in advance (e.g., race, organized century, charity ride). Usually, there are only a handful of these types of rides that I can participate in (with a good conscience). Sometimes, I feel real guilty leaving my wife at home with all the kids for the day after she's spent the whole week doing the same while I've been at work...

My racing is very limited right now. Many races in New England are held on Sunday mornings so they're out for me. At this point in time, I'm more interested in fitness although I LOVE the competitive atmosphere at the races I've done! Maybe as the boys get older I'll get into racing more.

By the way, my 10 year old talked me into running a 5k at the local YMCA on Saturday. I haven't run in years, but play basketball in the winter and feel like I'm in good shape so I agreed to do it. Well, when the gun went off, I found myself looking at the back of my boy as he took off. No way I was going to keep up. He finished in 23 minutes and beat me by 4 minutes. Very humbling. I can't tell you how sore my legs are right now too. :-)

Congratulations on becoming a dad. It's great. mcmahon
Jun 4, 2001 9:27 AM
re: Any training advice from racing/avid-riding dads?
A couple of things. You will be a wreck for the first fewbill
Jun 4, 2001 9:29 AM
months. Depends a lot on how you share responsibility with the missus, but, even though she has the breasts, you both will have had a kid, and the days of daddy's doing nothing but waking momma are ancient history.
You needn't be out of cycling commission entirely, although it is easy to fall into thinking that you are choosing between your family and your life. Integrating should begin early. You should try to make some time for yourself. Also make sure that your wife makes time for herself, too. This is only enlightened self-interest; new moms can be so frighteningly devoted that they can lose themselves some, and the resulting frustration can be vented on you. Keep it fair, and you'll both have a better time of it.
Some dads hitch on the trailer and get workouts by hauling junior around. Neither of my kids liked the trailer very much for very long, and you can't do this until the kid is about one year old, at least, anyway, so it is not something that can solve your more immediate problems.
You pretty much have to pack more into less time. Increase the intenstity for shorter workouts. Actually, indoor training is probably your best bet, because you can measure and adjust the intenstity at will, but for the occasional 2-3 hour ride. Much more than that, unless grandparents and aunts and uncles want to help out with your kid, you're asking a lot.
More general advice that I wish I'd heeded. An infant seems incredibly demanding. In reality, they're not demanding at all (three-year-olds are demanding -- you just wait); their needs are simple and easily met. They are just relentless in their needs, having to be fed and changed at regular and inconvenient intervals. They are, however, sweet and uncomplicated, so don't sweat it. Enjoy them. Everybody says this, and I don't think that you really know what it means until you're standing next to your daughter at her wedding or whatever, but they grow up fast. Way fast.
Sorry about the last message: this one has some contentmike mcmahon
Jun 4, 2001 9:31 AM
I don't know what happened with the last message. It should have said:

I've got a four year old and a seven month old. After our oldest was born, I had to modify my riding. I had to do so even more with after our newest was born. On the weekends, I'm usually out of the house when it's just barely light enough to ride without a light. I ride without stopping until my agreed return time: 11:00 on Saturdays, 10:00 on Sundays. The remainder of the day is devoted to family (and maybe cleaning the bike if the kids nap). I also try to get in 2 or 3 days a week before work while the family is sleeping. I usually end up at about 6-7000 a year. One thing you'll find is that you can rarely make "cast-in-stone" plans for a ride. Kids stay up all night teething, get sick in the middle of the night, etc. Let your buddies know to leave without you if you're not at the starting spot by, say, 15 minutes after the scheduled start time. Leaving your wife/husband/significant other alone with a sick kids while you take off for a long bike ride is not recommended if you'd like to stay in a long-term relationship. Congratulations! Being a dad is the best.
Don't forget the kids come first...for about 20 yearscory
Jun 4, 2001 9:45 AM
Everybody's given you good advice as far as fitting in the riding...but don't forget that your priorities have changed . When you look back on this after 20 years (the position I'm in now), I'll guarantee you won't say, "Ah, jeez, I wish I hadn't spent so much time with my kids." You've got to work the riding (and the job and everything else) around THEM, not find time for them when you're done with everything else you want to do.
Too big a sacrifice? Should've thought of that last year.
Commute if you canAlan B
Jun 4, 2001 9:55 AM
Just this year I started commuting twice a week, for a midweek total of 80 miles, plus carve out "sanity time" for both of you. Three or four hours a week when your wife is totally free of childcare while you watch junior, and vice versa while you cycle. Everybody wins. My wife usually goes to the gym or gets her nails done -- I'm on the road doin' 50. It might not keep you in racing conditon, but you can still stay in decent century shape, which ain't bad for a new Dad. I've got kids 3, 11 and 14 and I agree with the other poster that the time of least interference seems to be from about 6-10 on Saturday morning. They barely know I'm gone.
BTW, Congrats, Dad!
Some people may regard this as pathetic...MikeC
Jun 4, 2001 10:27 AM
...but this was my entry in Bicycling Magazine's "Win Any Bike" contest. It sorta sums up how parenthood has affected me as a rider:

Megan's eight years old. She has blue eyes that open wider than mine, calling me to take her hand and travel to places where everything I find common becomes wondrous and sparkling again.

Erin is six, and her dimples are impossible. They come from nowhere, and bring magic with them, changing dark Monday mornings into star-spangled national holidays and t-shirts to satin and silk.

So, you see, I can't justify buying a truly great bike, because I don't seem to be at the center of my universe anymore. My summer evening rides now include my two little girls and my wife, touring the neighborhood, stopping to talk with neighbors, and unclipping so often that I wear out my cleats before my tires.

But at 5:30 am, when it's dark in the winter and still silent in the summer, the world is mine alone for just a short while. I pull on my Lycra, and give the straps on my shoes an extra tug, like I imagine Lance doing before the big climbs. Then, as I curve out of my driveway, I always feel the magic take hold as unobtrusive millimeters of rubber kiss the runway, and the breeze brushes my face as I slip away from Earth's gravity. Everything is right and simple. I fly when I should fly, I hurt when I should hurt, and twenty pounds of elegant metal, plastic, and rubber restores justice to the world.

When I'm on my bike, I know a little of what Megan and Erin feel every day. And afterward, when I look at my bike just standing there, I'm irrationally grateful, humbled, and at peace.

So I'm asking you to give me a Seven Cycles Odonata Ti frame because, like a child, I simply can't make it happen by myself. But you have the ability to make a sensible, mature grownup's eyes open a little wider. You can take me to a sorcerer's workshop where magicians conjure up flying dragons that can burn down mountains yet land on the puff of a dandelion. You can make me soar higher, longer, because my top tube will be exactly the right length. You can save my knees for a few more years, soothe my shoulders, and keep me from always wondering if things could be better. It's about Seven Cycles' unique attention to the numbers and formulas that will form a frame that's exactly right for me, that will place me just where I should be.

It's also about art and craftsmanship, and that rarest of feelings: the certainty that you would change nothing.

If you give me an Odonata frame, you can probably even make me get up at four-thirty in the morning. But I'll still ride it with my family on those summer evenings.

Of course, if you choose not to give me an Odonata, I'll be forced to send Megan and Erin over to see you. You see, they have these powers.
I know what you mean...4bykn
Jun 4, 2001 10:44 AM
I have a pair of daughters at home also, coincidentally named Megan and Erin, too. Different stages of life, Megan is 16 and Erin is 7 in my world. Enjoyed your essay, although it started to sound like a commercial for Seven at the end. The kids do make one view everything from a whole new perspective. Parenthood can be trying, but the many rewards are more than worth the head and heartaches.
Some people may regard this as pathetic...LLSmith
Jun 4, 2001 11:45 AM
Did you get the bike?
They haven't announced...MikeC
Jun 4, 2001 12:31 PM
...the winner yet, but I doubt it. I'm not "edgy" enough!
And you probably...JamesT.Kirk
Jun 4, 2001 1:12 PM
And you probably have an attention span greaster than 30 seconds. You will definitely NOT win! You don't fit the ideal reader profile!
Determine what's importantmoneyman
Jun 4, 2001 12:51 PM
Kids are not an interference with riding. They are way more important than riding, and while that may be seen as heresy here, it is the truth. Unfortunately, you may not see it until it is too late.

Talk to your wife about time for riding, knowing that it has to be real flexible. Riding is important to you, so you should not give it up, or you'll resent your wife and kids for a long time because of that. But because your family is more important than riding, you should carve out time for both according to their importance.

The first test comes when a bike event conflicts with a family event. I will bet $100 right now that the family event wins. If it doesn't, in fact if it's even a decision you struggle over, then all the advice given in this discussion is useless.

I had a race scheduled for this coming Saturday. My daughter, who is 17, graduates from Girl's State on Saturday. She said "Just do your race, Dad. Graduation is no big deal." Needless to say, I'll be at graduation. Clear choice.

Congratulations on the upcoming event. Your life will never be the same.

Yep, that seems truebigdave
Jun 4, 2001 1:24 PM
Thanks for the replies. I had anticipated the early morning rides as some of you suggested, because there are some dads who are into triathalons that I know... they start their rides before 6. And, the winter spinning 5:45 am classes are jammed with reservations a week in advance... I think everyone bails out of class, then immediately signs up for the next week the second the sheet goes up. It's vicious. :-)

You guys all summed it up well: family is #1, then riding is somewhere down in the mix. But it's got to be there and sacrifices will need to be made all around (ie: getting up at the crack of dawn, bailing out on rides/races at a moment's notice). In short, I can and will keep up riding. Thanks to you fellows though, I have better ideas as how to go about it.

I did commute for two years and loved it. And now I have a beater fixed gear that would be the *perfect* commuting bike. My current job's travel demands require a car, so my next step is to find a job where I can go to one place nearly every day. then commuting can get put back into the equasion.

Thanks again.

Oh yeah, keep em coming :-)bigdave
Jun 4, 2001 1:28 PM
By the time I finished this, two more responses popped up... the more the merrier. :-) Anything anyone else can add is appreciated.

One part bike, two parts family, mix well.4bykn
Jun 4, 2001 2:03 PM
You need to find a way to combine family and riding. When we are going to visit my inlaws :( I will often ride my bike the 80 miles and spend the day, and then the bike goes in the truck for the trip back. You gotta be creative to mix the two sometimes, but it can be done.
re: Any training advice from racing/avid-riding dads?Haiku d'état
Jun 4, 2001 1:11 PM
early morning training (not for me, but evinced in these responses) is the choice for many. i've found the value of trainer time, and of riding circuits after my one-year-old is asleep (blinkie lights and reflective clothing in the industrial park near home).

we also bought a two-wheeled trailer that can seat up to two kids, for use pulled behind the bike. enough space for him and a few toys. last year i strapped his carseat (full body helmet) in there and towed him around the neighborhood with mom in tow on her huffy; he'd sleep through most of the ride and let me know when it was time to wrap it up. this year he's physically much larger and can hold his head up, etc., and is directly seated and strapped into the seat. plays, doesn't sleep, and after a little bit of road time around the neighborhood, he gets that "i'm so wasted!" look and zones out 'til it's time to head home. had to get him a little helmet this year. :-)

put the kid in the bike trailer, shift to a higher gear, remain seated and suffer (leg wise, i mean) the best you can on safe streets. remember they can't maintain their own body temps for 8-12 weeks (minimum), and can't hold their heads up well for awhile. ours was 5 months old before we put him in the trailer.

I try to get two group rides per week in, and as many solo rides as possible (2-4) per week. after work i can get 40-60 minute rides in during DST, come home and change, my wife power-walks, we tag team the young-un, then dinner, get him in bed, get ourselves cleaned up and the day is over. time is certainly much more valuable these days!

enjoy! remember, it's not how your family can adjust to saddle time--it's the other way around! be a good dad; the world needs more of us!
Ditto on most of the other posts...PaulCL
Jun 4, 2001 1:17 PM
As a father of 3 (ages 8,6,2) my riding time is not what I want it to be. I do as the other "dads" do...get up early on weekends, ride early before work, sneak in an hour at lunch, etc... All racing is done on Sunday in my area, so until my little guy is 3 1/2 and can go to church with mom (I'm the 'house heathen' - I do my praying in the saddle), there will be no racing for me.

A couple of things to add: one look at your new child and you will forget about cycling for a while. A good thing, because you will be too tired from lack of sleep to exercise.
When you catch up on sleep, you must subtley convince your wife that cycling is good your relationship (i.e. makes Daddy a nicer guy to be around). Trying to tell your exhausted wife that you are going out for a 3 hour Sunday ride may just cause fireworks. A little ploy on my part: some evening or weekend, volunteer to watch the little one for a few hours and send your wife to the mall, the spa, the club, or for a nap. Afterwards, when you mention your desire to ride the next day, your well-rested wife won't be able to say no. Bottom line, you will both need a break once in a while.

Enjoy fatherhood, its' beats the heck out of cycling anyday.
sleep is to new parents as cigarettes are to prison inmates!Haiku d'état
Jun 4, 2001 1:30 PM
i've found that volunteering (or, being volunteered) to get up early with the little one and letting mommy sleep in one of two weekend mornings goes a long way. think about it. the other weekend morning i'm out of the house by 7:00, either in the saddle or driving/spinning to the group ride.

the sat/sunday i get up early to get our son dressed and fed, i'll typically get a 2-3 hour late morning/afternoon ride in. it helps that i can ride from the front door and have descent roads in less than five minutes. compromise is everything.
And another thingmike mcmahon
Jun 4, 2001 4:32 PM
Actually, two other things. You'll find that cycling gives you the energy to keep up with young ones when some other (fat) dads are huffing and puffing while chasing junior. Also, my kids (and probably most others) seem to love the fact that dad rides a bike. My four year old loves looking at pictures of bikes on the internet. We've spent quite a bit of time browsing the Photo Gallery together. Get 'em hooked young. Gotta run; the baby's crying!

A somewhat different approach...biknben
Jun 4, 2001 7:44 PM
As you are counting the sacrifices that have to be made, keep in mind that your wife probably has a list of her own. She may not ride but I'm sure she has interests which will have to take a back seat to the newborn.
My wife stayed home and started a business. It requires that I stay home and watch our 2 year old a few weekday evenings each week. Because this is as important to her as riding is to me, I am more than happy to accomodate her. In return she does the same with me and my riding schedule. Before planning weekly rides I check with her and ride when she's available to watch our daughter.

Just so you know, I'm in my second year of racing. One look at my daughter (not coincidentally 2 years old) and I knew I needed to get the competative fire burning again. Dumped 50 pounds, got back in shape, started racing, etc. I'm not the same person...I'm a DAD!!!
What a sweet facemike mcmahon
Jun 4, 2001 7:53 PM
Hers, of course. You're absolutely right about working out a schedule that allows each parent to pursue his/her interests while still making time for the young ones. I've got early mornings for riding; my wife has late mornings for workouts. The rest of the day is the park or somewhere else with kids. Congratulations on dropping all the weight. As I alluded to before, chasing kids around is much easier when you're not a cigarette-smoking, beer-swilling, football-watching couch potato.
good luck!ColnagoFE
Jun 5, 2001 8:51 AM
as a father of 2 with a newborn (8 weeks) i ride when i can now. not too many miles, but it sure feels good when i do get time to ride. no wasted miles. it's all gotta be good and i don't care if it's raining, or the weather isn't too hot or i'm tired. i just ride. get a burley as soon as they can hold their head up and tow that thing around with the kiddies. great power training. also those piggyback bike things work well when they get a bit older. don't expect miracles. unless you neglect your family for racing (not a good idea) you will not be as competitive as those who have all the time in the world to train and sleep properly.