Running to Stand Still

…busy Dad trying to make it all work

Category Archives: Cycling

My 20 Years of Bike Commuting Tips…A Survival Guide

So you want to start riding your bike to work to save money on gas and public transportation and to start getting in shape right?

Well there’s a few things I’d like to share with you on bike commuting in a big Northern city.  For me that would be Chicago.

First up let me tell you about how I started bike commuting.  I started seriously commuting back in 1991.  I had been a pretty avid racquetball player playing around four to five days a week.  Complete gym rat.  I loved it…but it didn’t love my knees.  After playing for three hours I’d limp home like a 47 year old (hey! I’m 47 now!) soak my legs and go to bed.

Someone at the club told me to ride my bike more.  “It’s a more fluid motion and would help strengthen your crappy knees” he said.  So I did.  And I remembered that as a kid I always loved to ride my bike.  My Dad would sit on the front porch and time me as I raced around the block.  Soon I found myself riding more and more and I’ve never looked back.  Over the years my bike has become my therapist with wheels.

OK so here are my tips for bike commuting.  They are in no particular order except for the first one.

RULE # 1 – Always Always Always wear a helmet.  In 20 years of commuting I’ve seen cars hit bikes, bikes hit cars and bikes hit people.  All with bad results.  Wear a helmet.  And if you’re one of those people who hang your helmet on your handlebars because you don’t want to mess up your groovy hair when you ride then you’re a fool.

– Wear bright colors…night or day.  You need to be seen.  Period.

– Always look over your left shoulder before you pass cars, other bikers or runners…and always say “On your left” on a bike path.  Know there might be someone much faster than you trying to pass!  Runners also need to do this…especially runners wearing iPods.  Both bikers and runners need to look before they make their turn arounds.  One of my biggest bike crashes happened when another biker didn’t look back before she turned into me (she also didn’t hear me say “on your left”).  The impact of that crash catapulted me WAY over the handlebars and the force of the bikes hitting each other bend her front wheel like a pretzel.  Thank God I was wearing my helmet!

– Learn how to change a tire on the fly.  I see new commuters walking their bikes all the time because they didn’t have a spare.  I carry a spare tire, CO2 and tire irons.  I also carry 2 surgical gloves.  Keeps the grease and grime off the hands when I’m changing the tire.  Then just toss them out and ride home.

– Please stop at stop lights.  Rolling through red lights is just plain stupid.  Experienced bike commuters stop at stop lights and will probably give you an ear full when they have to pass you AGAIN in traffic!  Remember you can’t bike if you’re dead.

– Beware of Starbucks!!  Or any coffee shop for that matter for people in need of the java loose their minds if they see a spot near the store.  They’ll cut you off in a heart beat then fling the door open and really ruin your commute.

– Always have lights to snap on your bike.  When the sun goes down earlier toward the end of the year I’m lit up like a Christmas tree.

– When riding on a busy street with parked cars on your right always look for heads behind the wheel.  These are the people who might door you.  I also worry about the drivers passing you on the left but not as much.  They can see you…unless they’re texting… 😦

– When you swallow a bug on a ride don’t freak out.  If you can’t get it out then deal with it and take a drink of water.  Think of it as natures energy pill.

– If you decide to draft someone be prepared to then be drafted.  As they used to say in the 1960s…”ass, grass or cash…nobody rides for free!”

– Don’t wear headphones on a bike.  If I have to explain why you’re beyond help.  Also it’s against the law…I think.

– Always check the weather before you ride.  In Chicago it could be 80 at 7:30am and 35 at 5pm.  I’m not kidding.

– If you have to talk on the phone please pull it over.  My favorite is when I see a guy with no helmet talking on the phone with no hands.  Just makes me want to jam a stick in his spokes.

– Always have alternative routes for your normal commutes.  When it’s raining (I still bike in the rain) I always take side streets where there’s less traffic.  I don’t assume a driver can see me.

– I find that the most dangerous season to bike commute is in the spring.  Drivers aren’t used to seeing bikes on the road yet.

– Be wary of the following vehicles:  Cabs (obliviously) and shit wagons.  You’re probably wondering “What’s a shit wagon?”  It’s what I call the beat up pickup trunks with no brake lights or turn signals that go up and down the alleys and streets looking for junk.  They’d cut off their own Mothers if she were riding a bike.

– Get a RoadID (www.roadid.com).  Just in case you do get whacked by the guy in the shit wagon.  I wear mine cycling and running.  It’s a constant part of all my workouts.

If you have any thing to share please leave a comment and retweet it on Twitter or post it on Facebook.

I hope you find these tips helpful when you decide to hit the streets…maybe I should rephrase that…

My therapist

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Yeah…I ran Boston…sort of.

I met my wife in May of 1999.  We had met through Kris, a mutual running friend.  I was biking a ton back then so I became the friend who took Kris and all of her running girlfriends out for their once a summer long bike rides. I wasn’t really a runner at that point.  The occasional 5k/10k but that was about it.  I had no problem helping out since it was me and about nine women riding bikes.  I used to call these rides the “Bike of the Dead” because they really didn’t want to ride.  They wanted to do what they did when they ran…talk….and talk…and talk.

Anyway on one of these rides I met my future wife.  I thought I had met all of Kris’s running girlfriends but on that Sunday morning this girl showed up who I didn’t know and who Kris had never talked about.  Her name was Donna.  She was a little late getting to the ride.  I didn’t mind because I was a bit “tired” from the Cubs game the night before.  So we start the ride…and they’re all just gabbing away.  After awhile I couldn’t stand going that slow any longer so I took off.  I figured they lived here…they can find their way home.  Anyway I’m riding for a few miles and I turn around and there’s Donna right on my wheel!  No one else is in sight.  It was love.

So we started dating.

The spring of 2000 rolls around and Donna and a few of her friends are training for their 3rd Boston Marathon.  They all had these shirts printed up with their names on the front and their motivations on the back.  Donna was “Discipline” and her best friend Julie was “Strength”.  She and Julie ran the exact same pace, so they planned to run the race together.  I was going out to Boston with Donna that year and she asked if I could jump in and pace her and Julie a few miles at the end of the race.  “Sure…no problem!”

Remember I had never run with her before this point.  I figured I meet them at about mile 22 with food, drink and some encouraging words.  I thought they’d be exhausted at that point and running at my pace which at that time was about a 10 minute mile.

She told me they’d be at mile 22 at this specific time and I’m like “OK no problem”.  Well they were there within 30 seconds of that time.  They were robots.  I jump in with all my gear, long cotton sweats and a long sleeve cotton shirt, and start giving them bananas, water and candy.  Not really noticing at this time how fast we’re running…which was between a 7:20 – 7:30 pace.  A pace, at that time, I can run for maybe a mile….maybe.

Now the Boston Marathon is run on Patriot’s Day.  The Red Sox always play an early day game that let’s out when the marathon is going past the left field wall of Fenway Park, which is one mile from the finish.  Because of this there are large storm fences put up to keep the drunks off the course.  The fences also keep the runners in until the finish.

I made it to about mile 23.5 when I realized I might drop dead.  So I told Donna and Julie go power on and I’d see them at the finish.  I’ll never forget the image of them just disappearing into the crowd.  I slowed to my normal pace.  I was quite bummed.  But then I heard a voice.  A drunk voice, but a voice.  It kept yelling “KEEP GOING…YOU’RE KICKING ASS DUDE….YOU GOT THIS FUCKING THING”  Then another drunk yelled something else, then another, so I started running down the side of the street, staying away from the runners,  high fiving these drunk baseball fans who thought I had run the whole thing.  I was having a blast.  I turned the corner on Boylston street and there’s the finish line.  I raise my hands in victory as I cross.

A volunteer puts a mylar wrap around me.  Another attempts to hand me a medal which I, of course, decline.

I find Donna and Julie about a block up and snap this picture…my absolute favorite running shot.

So it turns out that the girls here decided to run negative splits that year.  At the time I had no idea what that meant.  I do now.

Donna ran the 2000 Boston Marathon in 3:27.

I didn’t.

But I had so much fun running the last few miles of the race that I did the exact same thing the following year!

Once again I couldn’t keep up with her.

In April 2001 she ran the Boston Marathon in 3:24…her PR.

We were married a month later.

What a Pain in The Ass!

When I turned 40 I realized that I needed a new doctor.  I had a female doctor at the time.  Not that she wasn’t a good doctor but it’s just that I was at the point in my life that a male doctor was in order.  A male doctor with small hands.

According to the American Cancer Society there are five myths about colorectal cancer:

  • It’s a man’s disease
  • It cannot be prevented
  • African Americans are not at risk
  • Age doesn’t matter
  • It’s better not to get tested because it’s a death sentence anyway

These are all bullshit.

Lets go back a bit.  When my Mom was 72 she was diagnosed with a rectal tumor.  She had the surgery, went through chemo and radiation and KICKED IT’S ASS!  That was 13 years ago.

Because of this my new doctor (the one with the tiny hands) thought I better start getting the prostate exams at 40.  It’s always the interesting part of my annual physical.  He’s a runner so as we go through the normal parts of the exam…we BS about running and family then we get to the end and he says something like “Well you know what we have to do” so I get ready and then it’s over, he tells me everything is cool, I exhale then I go home.

But in 2009 (when I was 45) he told me that because of my family history he wanted me to get a colonoscopy.  Usually you don’t need one until you’re 50.  Unless of course you’re having issues down there then by all means get your butts to the doctor!

He gave me instructions on what I needed to do but…I blew it off. Honestly I forgot about it.  I had the slip of paper on my work bench then one day it was gone.

So I go back for my 2010 physical and he looks at me and says “I see you blew off the colonoscopy”.  I felt like an idiot.  I agreed I’d have it done right after the holidays.  I promised.  So January rolls around and I make the appointment.

Now the colonoscopy itself takes roughly 30 minutes.  It’s the prep that sucks.  I had to stop eating at 11pm on a Wednesday, not have anything solid to eat, then start drinking the laxative at about 5pm Thursday night.  You have an hour to drink 16 ounces of this crap that tastes like thick salty lemonade.  It’s the Godzilla of laxatives.  Within 30 minutes it’s working it’s magic and I’m hanging on for dear life!

My doctor was probably at home giggling his ass off because just as you’re feeling back to normal you have to repeat the whole process again!  Another 16 ounces…more eruptions.  I’ve never felt so cleaned out in my life.  You could’ve eaten off my colon.

My appointment was at 8:30am on Friday.  By this time I just wanted to get it over with because I’M STARVED! I hadn’t eaten for almost  35 hours.  They give me a gown tell me to change and go sit in the waiting room.

After awhile the nurse comes and gets me.  I walk into the procedure room to see the doctor, his assistant and in the corner two med students with clipboards.  “Northwestern is a teaching school as you know Mr. Schober.  Do you have any objections to these students sitting in?”  I say “No but I bet they’re wishing they didn’t draw the short sticks back at the dorm this morning.  I look at them and say “You guys have breakfast yet?”  I’m such an asshole when I’m nervous.

So I’m put in twilight and the procedure begins.  I can feel some pressure and a bit of discomfort when they need to expand things with a blast of air.  Then it’s over and he tells me he found two really small polyps but they look benign.  He said they would send them to the lab to make sure.  Asked if I wanted to see them.  In my twilight faze I say “Sure…why not?”  The problem is without my contacts in or glasses on I’m basically blind so he has to hold them 2 inches from my face at which point I tell him to get those things the hell away from me and where can I get a stinking cheeseburger?

He called with the results the following Monday confirming what he said earlier.  No need to have the procedure done for another five years.

Early screening is a major key to cancer prevention.  Don’t wait to get your screening completed after your doctor tells you it’s time to go. Just go and get it done.  It could save your life.

For more information on colon and rectum cancer please see the American Cancer Society link -> here.

I’m glad I got that behind me!




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