Thursday, January 13, 2011

Regarding Change, and Things That Don't...

One of the few constants in life, ironically, is that very little remains the same. The world is always moving faster, and I find myself struggling more and more to keep up. An unending barrage of information, updates, tragedies, and triumphs tumbles into our lives and, more times than not, leaves me bewildered at best and terrified at worst. Moods shift, and even the people you love and rely upon every day fall prey to the tides of time, to the movement of the world. Sometimes, I find myself wondering if I'm standing on firm ground or merely treading water, just a passenger along for the ride.

It's times like this that those few things and people that don't change become such a comfort. In spite of time and the fickleness of  human nature, we all have people that represent cornerstones of our life, stone-like pieces of our foundation laid firm and true into our very psyches.

I have just returned from saying goodbye to one of my cornerstones. Wilton McKinney was laid to rest today. 

You can read his obituary here, and you will see that he was an accomplished man, a member of the Greatest Generation, a leader, a vital part of South Carolina sports history, and a truly beloved figure to all who knew him. What you won't see are the specifics: the wry smile; the gentle demeanor; the enthusiasm and joy with which he tackled every day; the millions of strokes analyzed, broken down and rebuilt; the little lessons imparted patiently on stubborn young brains over and over until they finally sank in:
  1. "It's easier to hit up from down" (regarding topspin shots, how high to toss your serve and how long to wait for it to come back down)
  2. "You can't hit the ball until you there" (regarding footwork and court coverage)
  3. "Keep your weight forward" (footwork again, and power coming from the legs and not the upper body)
  4. "Punch it!!!!" (regarding the proper way to hit a volley)
  5. "Get your racquet back" (so you're always prepared to take the swing, have enough time, and are never rushed)
Wilton taught the fundamentals of tennis to three generations of my family. He watched the game he loved evolve from long pants, all white outfits, wooden racquets, and gentlemanly quiet to tech fibers, foward-thinking (and some times ill-advised) fashion statement, spaceaged racquets, and all out vocal assaults on the court. He also watched my dad and his siblings grow up and have families of their own; taught me, my sisters and my cousins the same lessons; and even managed to pass them on to some of our kids. Wilton has always been there, and though I'm sure he saw a million changes in the game and my family, I know he also saw the same basic fundamentals at play all throughout.

Wilton was much more than a coach. He was a friend. He was a teacher, and probably the first one that I can cast my mind back and truly remember as having had a profound impact on my life. He helped my dad, uncle, and their friends be champion tennis players, basically being a big brother to them on their high school team. When I came along, he made the first chinks that got me out of my shell as an awkward kid. I wasn't one of his big talents, but he taught me to overcome my horrible temper and find ways to win that didn't involve raw aggression.

More than anything, he always reminded us that tennis is meant to be one thing: fun. Winning is great, but Wilton always wanted us to find joy in the competition and learn lessons from every match, no matter the outcome.

Having recent undergone a pretty major change in my life, it's a real blow to lose one of my constants. That being said, I still have the lessons taught to me when I was 10 and that I hope to pass on to my kids. 

In that sense, I reckon Wilton is still there, courtside, imparting little nuggets of wisdom to help us overcome adversity and evolve into better versions of ourselves. Always reaching, trying, improving. Using those little constants that he taught us to bring about the kinds of changes we want and that will make him proud...

Wilton J. McKinney 1921-2011

Sunday, October 31, 2010

1...2...3... GO!!!

Motivation is a fickle monster. The reasons we do things and the impetus is takes to actually set and attain a goal can come from a million different places. The motivation to simply get out of bed in the morning can be a moving target (as it was for me today). Many times yesterday I found myself asking why the hell I decided to do this. I searched around deep inside myself, desperate for a reason to keep going when my mind and body were screaming at me to quit and end all the pain.

Then I'd see something like this:

Jerry from Team Awesome w/ my training partner, Jake

Master Tedd put little signs up like this all over the course

Team Neon was everywhere

I covered 26.2 miles on my feet yesterday, not all of it running, but I did it, and I got a big monkey off my back in the process. I've made it pretty public on twitter and facebook that my training was going well, and I felt pretty confident that I could check this challenge off my bucket list. I might have even looked a little past this race, thinking of newer challenges, or at least a relaxing month of November.

I should have known...

The first 10 miles of this race went according to plan. I felt great. The weather was perfect, and I was running with a good group of people. Then it all fell apart. I felt a bonk coming on, and, despite my best efforts, I couldn't keep it at bay. No matter what I tried, my body kept rebelling on me, with the added fun of the dreaded upset stomach that you can get when you mix nerves, water, gatorade, electrolytes, and energy gels. Long story short, the fun part of my race was done well before the halfway point. I hit the wall, hard, and my legs lost their power. From that point on, it was a matter of survival.

Which brings me back to motivation. This race was personal for me, for a lot of reasons that I won't belabor here. I did almost all of my training alone, with the exception of a few runs with friends and short/medium training runs with my dog Jake. I took a plan that Jeni made for me, and I did my best to get ready, trying to rely only on myself . I figured if I could bang out the training on my own, then the race would be a relative breeze, and the training went well. REALLY well. I had some points where I suffered, but I managed through it, and I felt confident. The last three weeks were kind of weird, but I chalked it up to nerves and a little bit of fatigue. I settled into my taper, and felt like I was going to have a fast race. When that all came crashing down, I needed something else to keep me going.

Those people up above are what did it. I cannot express, in words or in pictures, the level of love and support I received out on that course yesterday. Not 2 miles ever passed without me seeing various members of the Team Neon phalanx out on the course with signs, cowbells, chants, and encouragement. At one point, Legz Hernando, who had snuck up from Miami, pushed me up a tough hill. Unbelievable. At several points along the way, when the ignominy of quitting seemed the better option, there they would be, like a beacon (literally... see how bright those shirts are?) pushing me on, no matter how awful I must have looked. It's because of them that I found each new reason to keep going and push through to the end.

Speaking of the end...

The final mile of the course was a sadistic climb to the baseball stadium, and, by that point, the most I could do was shuffle, and I was having trouble breathing (I now know what it's like to have an asthma attack. It is not awesome). As I rounded the corner, they were all there, bringing me home:
There were about 20 more up ahead
If I had not been so tapped out, I would have been crying. I've always considered myself to be blessed, but it's not often that the shear magnitude of those blessings are revealed in such stark relief. About five hours afterward, I finally figured out how to describe it to Nikki: it was like having the experience of the Ride to Austin boiled down and mainlined into my heart in the span of four hours instead of four days. I was, and still am, overwhelmed...

I am now a marathoner. I trained alone, and I ran for very personal reasons and some friends who know who they are, but I finished because of an army of people lifted me up and collectively willed bib #123 to the line.

Done... with Dots...
Thanks to: Nikki, Mom and Pop, Jeni, Ron, Jen, RJ, Master Tedd, Anne, Mason, Kate, Scott, Robin, Jess, Officer Josh, JD, Rob, Jerry, Linda, Legz (who, again, showed up from Miami), Donna,Matt, Carolyn and everybody else who I might have forgotten or who sent well wishes at any point along the way.

I'm a lucky fool to have you all.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Trace Elements

One of the centerpieces of last year's and this year's Ride to Austin is the Natchez Trace Parkway. This long, smooth-as-glass road marks two important points in the route on the way to Austin.

First, it's the place where the ride makes it's turn south (or in this year's case, loops north towards Nashville first before turning south, causing mass confusion to certain info junkies following the route tracker).

Second, it's the point where the miles really start to melt away, all the teams hit their stride, and serious chunks of distance start getting chewed up.

Some of the best stories and experiences from last year's ride come from the shifts spent on the Trace. From people nearly getting run over by deer, to full moons being sited, to run-ins with the law, everybody has a yarn to spin from the Trace. It's one of the many elements of the actual riding-the-bike portion of the Ride to Austin so special. Already, I'm seeing pictures posted of sunny skies, smooth roads, changing leaves and smiling faces, and I know the P3C3 family is in a very good place.

For me, the Trace will always be at night, pitch dark except for some stars above, with mile markers ticking down one-by-one, the only sounds the hum of our tires, the hiss of our breathing, and the occasional critter scuffling around in the woods, barreling toward the Mighty Mississippi and knocking off my first ever century ride withe my wife and some of my best friends.

Nikki on the Trace right as the sun went down

Team Awesome in Vidalia, LA having just banged out 101 miles

The Trace will always feel a little like home...I'm sure everybody's having a blast.

Follow the team at

Monday, October 18, 2010


I'm a junkie. My life has been reduced to very basic things. Sitting. Watching. Refreshing Checking Facebook and Twitter to see what my P3C3 Family is doing. I have no power over this, either to help them or myself. All I can do is watch, pray, wait for my next fix, and hope that the road stays smooth, the weather clear, and the ride trouble free.

As challenging as the 2009 Challenge to Conquer Cancer was for me, I find this infinitely more difficult. Instead of being a part of this amazing adventure, sharing in the experience with some of my closest friends, doing what I can to help, and joining with the millions who have stood up to spread the word that cancer can, and will, be beaten, I am on the sidelines.I'm a spectator. A voyeur. A peeping tom.

When I did this ride last year, I called my father after we had arrived in Austin. He told me that he reckoned I was coming back a completely different person. He was right. The Ride to Austin changes you. Makes you better. Sharper. It also gets you hooked on emotional highs. That's the only way you get through a four day 1500 mile journey when your either pedaling a bike, crammed in a minivan, or trying to get some sleep in a hotel along the road. You come back from Austin with a growing sense of desperation, to do more, to at the very least be with the people who did it with you.

That feeling is coming back to me. I long to be with them. My heart and mind are, but I want to be stuffed in the back corner of the team van, telling jokes, passing bacon/cheddar scones around and being one with my team. I want to be fighting a headwind, taking a pull and pushing to the next transition. I want to be dancing in a gas station parking lot in the early hours of the morning, blaring Black Eyed Peas and not giving a rip who hears or sees me. I want to be rolling with my Warrior friends, staring in awe at their toughness and their pride.

I feel sorry for my co-workers, and not only because they have to deal with a very distracted version of me this week. I feel sorry that they can't have this experience like I did, that they don't know the most passionate, dedicated and loving group of people I've ever known.

And, yes, I feel sorry for myself. Which is about as much of a junkie characteristic that I can have. So, I'll be sitting here, all week, watching my friend thumb their noses at this most insidious of diseases, stare it down, and beat it back. If that means something to you, check out the blog at While you're there, make a donation. We're all in this together.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Bon Voyage

For the 4 or 5 of  you that actually read these feeble ramblings, this is old news, but the wifey and I are goin' on a little trip starting tomorrow. You may not have heard, but there's this bike race going on over in the lovely little backwater known as France. Being two-wheeled enthusiasts, the wifey and I have long dreamed of watching the best in the world throw the hammer down in the biggest race in the world. The opportunity presented itself to not only go, but do so we some good friends, and, well, we had to take the plunge.

Why should you care? Well, maybe you shouldn't, but in case you do, here are some instructions. The wifey and I are planning on chronicling the odyssey to the Pyrenees, taking pictures, videos, and generally making fools of ourselves with the locals. We hope that will lead to some interesting stories, and we'd like to share them with you. We want to do it all in the same place, so, for the next couple of weeks, make a point to swing by the wifey's blog, where we'll be posting various sundry experiences that will include, but will not be limited
  • Wine (duh)
  • NOMs (double duh)
  • Various climbs in the Pyrenees (like the iconic Tourmalet)
  • Attempts by yours truly to beg beer off of campers from various countries at the top of several mountains while waiting on the arrival of the peloton
  • French hydration and nutrition strategies (I'm pretty sure this mostly involves espresso, baguette, and brie)
  • Attempts by your truly not to be too much of a groupie as I stalk the likes of Jens Voigt, Fabian Cancellara, and George Hincapie
  • Attempts by the wifey to prevent me from (fill in the blank)
Anyway, you get the idea. Like John Denver said "All my bags are packed, and I'm ready to go." Well, the bags are mostly packed, but I'm definitely ready to go, so, for now, we will be saying bon voyage to you, dearest readers, from this space. Get thee over to the Wandering Cyclist early and often, we promise to provide first rate time wasting material for the difficult work day.

Until then, stay hungry friends, and I bid you adieu...

PS: If you happen to be watching the Tour next week, and, as the riders crest the Tourmalet, you see a dashing young bloke who looks astonishingly like me sprinting alongside with the "Big Red" version of the South Carolina state flag tied around his neck, Superman style, making a complete ass out of himself, that's not me. That's my evil French twin.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Through the Bonking Glass: Looking Back at 3 State 3 Mountain 2010

I’m not going to lie: I’ve never actually read Lewis Carroll’s masterpiece Alice in Wonderland or its sequel Through the Looking Glass (but I’ve seen the movie for Alice, so that counts for something, right? Right?! Bueller??!!). That being said, I’ve always admired the sheer imaginative muscle that it must have taken to create the world behind both books. I also love the notion that journeys do not always occur merely in the physical space, but also in your mind.

By this juncture, the three of you left that are still reading this are saying, “um, ok, so what, pray tell, is your point?”

My point is this: your head can really take you places, but it can also hold you back if you’re not paying attention, and I learned a little something about that this weekend. At one point, Alice looks in the mirror and wonders what the world is like on the other side of that looking glass. 

When I woke up Saturday morning, I felt good. I had a good breakfast, and suited up in my Fat Cyclist kit (complete with some new LiveStrong gloves courtesy of Legz Hernando) in plenty of time to make it to the start line for what would, by all accounts, be an awesome ride.  

 It was all uphill from here.

What I didn’t account for was the humidity and my propensity to sweat like a pig. At no point did I set out to bonk, but I did, and I learned something about myself in the journey on the other side of that bonk.

If you came here for a typical ride report, you’re in the wrong place. I had a wonderful, beautiful ride this past Saturday with my wife and some of my closest friends, but I won’t be talking about that type of journey very much right here. 

I came to this same event last year and did not complete it because of inclement (seriously, it was Biblical, where’s-the-Ark rain and lightning) weather and was severely disappointed and borderline depressed that I did not finish. At the time, I was dealing with an illness that had already forced me to abandon training for an attempt to complete my first marathon a month earlier, so to lose a second goal in a row so quickly hit me very, very hard. I came back this year to slay that dragon as my first big goal of the year, and I found an even larger lesson. This ride humbled me. Laid me low. Very low. I bonked hard. I suffered. I hit the wall at about the 50-mile portion of the ride, barely managed to survive the second half, and sustained a big blow to my ego.

But, I finished.

Last year, had I gotten to the point that I did this past Saturday, I have no doubt at all that I would have quit.

This year, I did not quit.

Earlier this year I was taken to task by my coach and friend (Jeni Schumacher) because I was complaining that, although I was hitting some intermediate goals I had set, I hadn’t hit them with the strength or panache that I, in my own addled psyche, figured I should. That may sound stupid, but I’ve always been a self-deprecating person, very much to a fault. With me, it’s always “yes, but…”  I typically joke and just say that I’m a realist, but in fact, it’s just a defense mechanism to try and keep myself from being disappointed. Jeni has had me focusing on positive thinking, visualization, and self-belief. I’m not all the way there yet, but I think I’m improving. 

I have no doubt that I would have been just as much of a brat as I had been earlier in the year at the finish line in Chattanooga had Jeni not already corrected my outlook.

This past Saturday, I wasn’t a brat.

Well, I don’t think I was. At least no more than usual... Let’s just move on…

The lesson: goals aren’t matters of degrees. You either hit them or you don’t. There are no style points, no “yes, but’s”, no “kindof’s”.

I hit my goal. It felt good. More than overcoming a distance, I overcame myself, and, in so doing , realized that the true goal was inside me.

Now, I can’t wait to go back next year and beat the crap out of my goal.
 At the end, looking better than I felt. Those who follow me on Twitter or Facebook know who this ride was with and for...

Awards accolades and inside jokes
What follows will only make sense to my ride mates who went the whole 100 miles with me, but whatever. I submit to you, dear reader, the first annual Yummy NOMs 3 State 3 Mountain “We Very Much Let the Dogs Out” Awards:

Winner of the Mighty Mouse “Here I Come to Save the DAAAAAAAAY” Award
Taylor Lyles, for always swooping back to pull everybody who needed it back to the group, and then oh-so-smugly, blowing past the group on the climbs like we were standing still even after having to chase back on. This kid’s got so much natural talent on the bike that it makes me sick. The fact that he is also such a good man and willing to help alone keeps me from self-combusting in jealousy at his abilities.

Winner of the Billy Goat “I have no business climbing like this but I’m going to anyway” Award
My cousin-in-law, Jason Brandt. Schmuck. He’s from Florida, has NEVER ridden up anything more than a highway overpass in his life, and he comes up to the mountains and makes US look like flatlanders. Stupid 150 lb Floridians make it look sooooo easy. I’ll say it again, with utmost admiration, SCHMUCK!!!

Winner of the Disappearing Man “wait, where did the rest of you go?” Award
John Siddens, for training so hard in the run-up to Mount Mitchell, that he must have dropped at least  a quarter, if not a third, of his body weight. John’s one of my favorite riding buddies, and these long epics are always made better when he’s around, especially when you can grab his wheel on the big descents and really get up some speed.

Winner of the Energizer Bunny “I’m a bike shop owner, this is my first vacation since I got married, I’m here with my two young kids, and I haven’t slept, but I keep going, and going, and going” Award
Rich Dybdahl, for not only having more energy that I could ever hope to have in a similar situation, but for somehow, getting STRONGER as the ride wore on. Seriously. He was better on Lookout than he was on Suck Creek. Oh, and he also can quote Space Balls, so we have to give him some kind of an award. If you're ever in the Mt. Dora, FL area, pay Rich a visit at Mount Dora Cycles.

Winner of the White Rabbit “Thanks for getting me up that last climb and we have to keep the Alice in Wonderland theme somehow” Award
Beth Rusch, for rocking the climbs, while rocking her white Cyclists Against Cancer kit, and keeping this completely trashed rider from giving up on the wall at the end of Lookout Mountain. You kept me pedaling, and I was really happy and proud to finish that last climb with you.

Winner of the Little Engine that Could “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can” Award
Paula Whitley, for struggling mightily, working hard, and making it all the way through the ride with a huge smile on your face, all the while rocking the pink compression socks. Paula’s the easiest person to find in the group (see above regarding the big smile and pink socks), and always one of the most fun to talk to.

Winner of the Enrique Iglesias “I Can Be Your Hero, Baby” Award
The wifey, for blowing my mind for the umpteenth time with the strength and determination you displayed out there. Nikki owned this ride. I can honestly say that I never cease to be amazed by my bride and that I am a lucky fool to have somehow tricked her into spending her life with me.

A Yummy NOMs First
We here at Yummy NOMs headquarters are not prone to hyperbole or to doling out awards lightly, so we are proud to bestow our first double award on the organizers, staff, volunteers and sponsors of the 3 State 3 Mountain Challenge. It’s rare that an event matches challenge, beauty, fun, and incredible support and organization in equal parts and all in one, tasty package, but these people have done it.  They’ve got great terrain, but they match it with many well-placed SAG stops, police presence at pretty much every intersection (yes over all 100 miles), a well-marked route, and the most helpful, friendliest, and kindest support staff on this Earth. There’s even free recovery NOMs in the form of Krystal burgers and chix at the end! (side note: we here at Yummy NOMs don’t eat fast food that often, but we submit to you that there are fewer sites in this world more welcome than that of a person handing you a free Krystal bag with two mini-hamburgers, a mini chicken sandwich, and fries after you’ve burned almost 9,000 calories.) There’s no way that this ride could be done better.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: if you are a cyclist in the southeastern US, you owe it to yourself to come to this event at least once. Mitchell may be more glamorous, but I guarantee you that you will not have more fun anywhere than 3 State 3 Mountain. Chattanooga is a wonderful town, and this ride is about as close to perfect as I can imagine. 

It is for these reasons that we double up our awards for 3 Mountain 3 State Challenge with both the Yummy NOMs Seal of Approval, and the Yummy NOMs Tedd Garner Seal of Epic-ness:

Congratulations, and I will see you next year.

Until next time, stay hungry, friends…


Thursday, March 18, 2010

Tony Kornheiser vs. Cyclists

Following Lance Armstrong's Twitter feed, I was appalled to see this.

Scroll down to Tony Kornheiser's March 11, Part 1 segment and fast forward to the 30 minute mark.

If you are as enraged as I am, I encourage you to go here and make your voice heard.

This is what I said:

Mr. Kornheiser,

Your insensitive and inflammatory remarks regarding cyclists in the DC area have caused you to lose a listener of your podcast and viewer of PTI. I understand that your comments were meant in jest, but you neglect to take into account the consequences of the subject. Yes, cyclists, can be territorial and aggressive on the road. I understand that, and I work in my community to try to remind cyclists that courtesy must flow both ways between us and motorists.

That being said, you must understand, that, as a cyclist, stupid hat and shorts and all, when I encounter an aggressive motorist, the potential consequences of an accident range from serious injury at the least to my death in the worst case scenario, whereas you might only be delayed and extra minute or two in your oh-so-hurried efforts to get to where you're going. Hence you might be able to begin to understand why we are so sensitive to this subject.  We like to ride our bikes, and we understand that there are risks involved, but we do not want our lives to be on the line because of impatient motorists when we are merely exercising our rights to the road just like you.

I have been a long time viewer of PTI and have enjoyed your radio show via podcast many times over the years, but you will never get my time again, nor will you ever hear from me again. You are an insensitive, bombastic blowhard, infatuated with the sound of your own voice and enslaved to the pursuit of shocks and ratings. You were relevant at some point, but now I join the growing population of people who wish you'd simply shut up and retire.


Bo Zimmerman