Zach’s Training Diary: The Beginning

We know that for many of you, cycling is about the journey and not the destination. It’s the same story for Zach, who works here at our home office in North Carolina. His passion for cycling has changed his life for the better and he’s graciously agreed to share his story right here on our blog, as he trains throughout the season to get ready for the epic Alpine Loop Grand Fondo this fall.

As a 30 year old, 5’ 11” father and husband, online calculators tell me I’m supposed to be around 180 pounds. My “ideal cycling weight”, according to Bicycling Magazine, is 172 pounds.

In September of 2012, I plan to do one of the hardest one-day rides in the US, the Alpine Loop Grand Fondo, hosted by world class mountain bike racer Jeremiah Bishop. The ride is over 100 miles long and climbs 11,000 feet on both pavement and gravel roads. It will be the hardest ride I’ve done in my four years as a cyclist, and this is my story.

I rode bicycles when I was younger. My father, aside from being my hero, was also a dedicated triathlete and road cyclist. As a kid it was my dream to be able to keep up with him on the road and if all went according to plan, eventually be faster than he was. Fast-forward just about ten years. I had gone to college, graduated and was out in the real world, working at a desk job. Before I knew it, I had gone from my high school weight of around 185 pounds, to an astonishing, and scary, 276 pounds.

I was sitting in my office one day when I received a call from my Dad. He and my brother had decided to do a sprint triathlon, and wanted me to join in. “It’ll be like old times.” Dad said. “It’ll be me and my boys.” I figured why not? I signed up for the triathlon, and decided to start “training.” Part of my training was commuting on my clapped-out mountain bike that was rusty and grimy from years of abuse and neglect. So, I started riding a bike regularly for the first time in almost ten years. I’ll be honest, it sucked.

I felt like a fish out of water. I didn’t know what to wear. It was kind of scary riding next to cars. It was really hot in the middle of the North Carolina summer where the humidity is something you can reach out and grab. Most of all, it was just really, really, hard. Even though the commute was only four miles, it had long and steep hills with a backpack slammed full of work attire, lunch, and various electronics. It took weeks to get into a routine. I would forget lunch frequently, or forget a shirt, or belt, or my phone. You get the idea.

I was ready to quit this commuting business several times, but the promise of doing the triathlon with my dad and brother kept me going. After about a month of commuting and training, I jumped on the scale and realized that I had lost weight for the first time in years. While what I was doing was tough, it seemed to be getting a little easier, was giving me numbers driven results, and was actually fun. I began to take my triathlon training a bit more seriously (the cycling aspect, that is). I started talking to some friends about cycling, and started visiting local bike shops. Soon thereafter, I realized that if I wanted to get to work faster and easier, and if I wanted to be a bit more competitive during my triathlon, I was going to need a road bike with those bigger wheels and skinnier tires.

I jumped for a $300 road bike off craigslist (lovingly named ‘ole blue). It was too small for me, but I didn’t know that at the time. Throughout the next year or so I did the triathlon, rode in regular weekly group rides, and got involved with a local team who raised money and rode bicycles to fight Multiple Sclerosis. I was riding almost every day, whether to work or on a group ride, or just out by myself. It was fun, a LOT of fun, and I was feeling great. Oh yeah, and I was losing a ton of weight as a byproduct.

Cycling was changing my life. I was getting more fit, was in a great mood, was productive at work, and was actually starting to get dates with hot women (one of which I tricked into marrying me). I got so into cycling that when a sales position opened at one of the local bike shops, I made a career change from a stable 8-5 to an hourly wage plus commission retail sales job. I joined a local race club and started trying my hand at criteriums and road races – where I continue to fail miserably, but have too much fun to quit. I became great friends with people of all ages and backgrounds all through the common bond of cycling. I was riding and I was hooked – the lifestyle had consumed me.

After a few years in the local retail shops, my wife and I had twins. Family life and a retail work schedule don’t mix very well, so I applied for a position here at Performance Bicycle’s home office and here I am, telling my story. I’m 203 pounds now, which is still a hefty load to carry. While I’ve gotten stronger on the bike since I first started riding my old mountain bike, I still get dropped on the hills at the local weekly world championships out of Wilson Park. Seriously, I am so slow on hills!

I have a burning desire to become a better climber, get faster on my bike, and reach my “ideal” weight of 180 pounds. To do this I know I have to put a lot of work in. I have to eat right, not drink too much beer, ride bikes and work out as much as time allows. I’ve got a job that takes a lot of time during the week, plus I love spending as much time with my wife and kids as possible, so time is limited when it comes to training for a ride such as the Alpine Loop Grand Fondo. But, it’s going to be worth it.

I do this for myself and my need to ride, but I also do it for my family. I want to be as healthy as possible so I can live a long and full life with my wife, and be there for my daughters as they grow old. Anytime I head out for a local group ride, or a race, or even just a solo ride, my wife tells me as I’m walking out the door, or lining up for the start, “Go get ‘em darlin’!” That’s what I’m going to do, and I’m going to share my journey with you.

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