Wednesday, February 25, 2009

"Breaking Away" with my son

Being an ultracyclist means that, by definition, I have to put family time on hold more than I would like. While my cycling is not a rejection of my kids, I know they must feel like it is.

Including your family in the fun is, of course, the logical place to start, but riding on a 3-mile rail trail is not quite the same thing as a 100-mile training ride or a 300K brevet. The cycling I did as a boy fuels my love of the bike even today, but my dad wasn’t a cyclist and I’ve noticed that kids can quickly develop an aversion to the passions of their parents so I try not to push too hard.

The other day, I was stuck with a conflict between a two-hour training ride and an afternoon of caring for my 9-year old son. I decided to set up the trainer in front of my laptop, invited my son to pull up a chair and the two of us watched “Breaking Away.” The film is one of my favorites and he’s always up for an excuse to watch a movie during the middle of the week.

As we watched the film together, he asked a range of questions about the cycling, “Are you going the same speed as them, dad, or faster?” “Why doesn’t the main character just tell the judges that the Italian team cheated?” “Wow, I don’t want to get my finger stuck in that rear wheel of yours!”

As you may recall, the film is also a timeless story about the powerful generational dynamics between a father and a son. As if in counterpoint to my own story, it is the son who is obsessed with cycling and the father who just can’t understand the attraction. By the end of the film, the two reconcile and the middle-aged father even takes up cycling for fitness. As the credits rolled, my son looked over and asked, “Dad, will my bike fit on the trainer, too?” It brought a tear to my eye.

By some odd coincidence, I received an email yesterday from a group called Team Get Outdoors that is sponsoring the “International Challenge of Endurance” for children aged 9-20 to spread the good word about endurance sports and love of the great outdoors to the next generation. There are four different age groups each of which has different minimum distances for qualifying miles and certificates and medals are awarded to finishers and mileage leaders.

When I mentioned this opportunity to my son, he said, “Sign me up! How far is it to school, dad? Maybe we could ride together.”

Maybe our interests won’t be so far apart after all . . .

1 comment:

  1. Nine years old is a very sweet age. My son reached the pinnacle of his cycling career right around that age, and was so pleased to tell grown-ups he rode 22 miles in one day, then watch their eyes boggle. You see, I remember that one ride above all others, and I am a passionate long-distance cyclist like you. Truth is, I can't remember a single other ride I did that year, although I am sure they all seemed important at the time. Here is my view of it now: I could easily have taken a year off my own long-distance training and come back to it later, but I will never, ever be able to come back to that nine-year-old boy.

    Your posting really struck a chord. Thank you.

    Will Hively
    Canaan, NH