I was a free-range kid before raising free range kids was thing. See, growing up on a farm in rural Petaluma, CA, in the early '70s, without a TV, meant that I spent plenty of time outdoors roaming the hills looking for adventure when I wasn’t doing ranch chores.
In terms of my athletic career, I played all the stick and ball sports growing up, but wasn’t particularly good, or gifted, at any of them, and it wasn’t until my freshman year in high school that I found my sport: lacrosse. Lacrosse became my ticket to Cal Berkeley, where I was the captain of the team my junior and senior year as well as a West Coast All Star selection. So, how did I go from being a collegiate “meathead” knocking competitors to the astroturf with a stick to pedaling bikes for a living?
It all started in Pottstown, PA, in 1994 while I was teaching English as a second language and American Literature at The Hill School-think Tobias Wolff’s This Boy’s Life or Robin Williams’ Dead Poet’s Society. To fill the athletic void of not playing collegiate lacrosse anymore I began riding with two teacher friends who let me borrow their GT Zaskar. I rode in cutoff jeans, used flat pedals, wore Chuck Taylors, and was a total hack, but I loved it! Exploring foreign places with friends and pushing my physical limits in a new sport had me hooked, and it wasn’t more than a year later that my competitive side got the better of me and I entered my first bike race in the Sport category, still on that borrowed GT Zaskar. And you know what?! I wasn’t very good at it, but I loved it, so I kept pedaling away not exactly knowing where the bike would take me.
As Dr. Seuss famously said, “Oh, the places you’ll go!” In the 25 years I’ve been riding a bike I’ve had an eleven-year career as an elementary school teacher, pedaled thousands of miles (training and racing), traveled countless states and countries, traversed jagged mountain ranges, had too many broken bikes - and body - parts to mention, been lost multiple times, and undergone an evolution from cross country racer to 24-Hour SoIo racer to endurance gravel racer. I turned Pro at the tender age of 36, did my first gravel race in 2013, and won Unbound Gravel at the age of 44. I’m still pedaling away with the same passion I had when I first picked up the bike over two decades ago, although now I ride a sweet carbon Niner RLT and have a few grey hairs I wish I didn’t. I’ve also had a few industry jobs prior to my current role as GU’s Elite Athlete Manager under my belt, all of which have given me a deeper appreciation, and respect, for the outdoor industry.
And since I’m introducing myself to you, I should also share that I’ve had my fair share of nicknames over the past two decades, including such gems as U-Boat, the German, the Godzilla of Gravel, the Diesel, and, most recently, the Gandalf of Gravel (this may have more to do with those grey hairs I spoke of earlier). I have fond memories and associations with all of these monikers, past and present, and encourage you to address me in any way you see fit when our paths, hopefully, cross this year.
Here’s to all the free range “kids” out there who chase their passions, whatever they may be, who try new sports, who explore new places, who make new friends, and who push their limits. And here’s hoping that my words this year, which will run every month, encourage you to embrace saying YES to adventure, and, most importantly, inspire you to tackle big challenges in 2022.