Tuesday Coffee Talk - Can great racing and great parenting coexist?

This week's coffee talk has to do with racing and parenting. Can great bicycle racing and great parenting coexist? Coffee talk discussion gives me the chance to rant and you a chance to fire back with your 2 or 4 cents.

I was recently reading an article on a local healthy-family website, ZisBoomBah.com about a mother who had just completed her first triathlon. Her spin was that parents have the power to inspire kids to participate in athletics. Case in point, after finishing her first triathlon, her daughter was so impressed that she asked if she could take swimming lessons in order to "swim like mommy".

"I realized then and in the days that followed
that I accomplished more on that October day
than just my first triathlon. I also inspired
Bella to give the sport of swimming a try. Sure,
she has taken swim lessons off and on since she
was nine months old. But I chose to enroll her
in those classes as a safety precaution. This
time around was different, because Bella voiced
her wish to do more than blow bubbles in a pool.
She wants to swim like her mommy."

I am sure this is the case for many of our local bike racers, their kids watch the races and want to race too. Fortunately for us in Colorado, many race promoters oblige by offering lots of fun events for kids. Besides the obvious health and fitness benefits, kids who get involved with bike racing learn about commitment and training to prepare for races, tenacity to finish a race (even if it has a huge hill) and great sportsmanship, learning to both win and lose gracefully. Cycling has the added advantage of being a very individual sport which can be attractive to kids who don't care for team sports. Even if your kids aren't inspired to race bicycles, racing parents are setting a great example of being active and getting outdoors. They also show kids and other parents alike that athletics aren't just for kids. How many adults do you know who stopped exercising once they graduated from high school or college?

But what about the flip side? Bicycle racing is expensive and can be draining to family resources. Even more draining is the time issue, effective race training takes hours every week added to the time commitment of doing a race (packing, driving, registering, warming-up, actually racing, and going home can suck up an entire day). Kris at 303 has often joked that they need a "married with kids and a full time job" race category. Other local racing parents have shared that they have family rules around racing, like only one race per weekend. So what about you? Do you think great racing and great parenting can coexist? Take our poll and share how your family manages racing and child rearing.

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7 Comments

Cool subject, Amy. Can these

Cool subject, Amy. Can these two 'things' coexist. Yes. They most certainly can. It comes down to the parent acting...well, parental. It's about balancing priorities and being able to 'listen' to the needs of everyone else around you (significant others, kids, your boss at work...) as you strive for goals while being completely present for the needs (and goals) of those around you. Your article has two distinct 'halves' it seems to me: kids who are inspired by the antics of their parants....and parents who want to race yet have kids. In the case of the former, I consider that a blessing. Something's working if your child wants to pin on a number and ride a bike 2x their body weight in the mud. It is likely due to the parents positive attitude and the demonstrable fun the parent is having....up to and including coming across the finish line in a good mood regardless of place. Kids see ALL OF THIS. Even if they don't understand it is seeping in. So if you're a bitter racer, you really think your child wants to be a pill like you? No.

In the case of the latter, I feel it comes down to insanely great communication. The racing parent needs to communicate...yes, I mean TALK...about their goals with their loved ones. You can't drop bombshells on the family like: "Honey, I forgot to tell you I wanted to do this race tomorrow. Can you take Johnny to the pool like we promised for a fun day of swimming?" Translation: dick move. You need to articulate what you want and what you think it will take to get there. Then sacrifice like hell to make it happen. Train in the dark on the rollers, sacrifice a weekend of racing when it's clear the long season is dragging on your family.

Simply put: be an adult.

Parenting and racing

At this point I might be able to write a book on this subject, juggling work, racing, kids, and family life.
I remember as a child growing up in the gym watching my Mom "pump the iron". She was a competitive body builder and I was always filled with such pride as I watched her competitions. I witnessed her triumphs and failures, the emotions that went along with these and how she handled herself. For me, important life lessons.

My racing career has a small shelf life at this point, and sometimes I wonder what the hell I'm trying to do, racing and raising a family at the same time. I'm following my passion and what I love, something I hope my children will do in their lives. Parenting is always a balance and in this day and age everyone is overloaded and busy. It's just what you choose to be busy with and the example you lead with that your children will take with them throughout their lives.

As far as racing, it suffers. I am the only one out there at a top 10 national cyclocross level with children. I don't have family or a nanny, my husband and I are on our own and sometimes we want to pull our hair out. BUT, the strengh and support I get from my family makes up for all the rest.

So to all those parents out there, please follow your passion, but with balance and integrity for your family.

Parenting and racing

Even at the local level, racing, having a family and working full time is a constant balancing act. Every weekend, Sept-early Dec, we bring the whole family out, usually leaving the house by 6:30am (for our son to race) and getting home around 2:00. As we are leaving our house it has become a joke that there is more stuff in our truck than what's left in our house.

Together, our family has experienced the high's and low's that come with doing what you are passionate about. Our kids are learning that not everyone wins but that doesn't make the experience any less exciting. They have made friends through racing and spend the day riding their bikes, playing in the dirt and just being kids.

As for the quality of racing, that can be mixed bag. Sometimes your warmup doesn't happen, sometimes you don't get the quality of training you need during the week, and a cool down…what's that?. But you learn to roll with the punches and I wouldn't change anything.

A few tips:
1. Be flexible
2. Be organized
3. Bring snacks!

Well Said Nicole

I agree with Nicole, she is following her passion but yet balancing her work, racing and family life. Racing at the level that she is at and having a family is in my opinion an accomplishment worthy of a National Title in and of itself. She is also a great roll model to little girls (like my 2 daughters) that you can have a job, be a great mom and follow your passion. Our girls need more role models like that. And you SHOULD write a book. Keep up the great work.

Are we blinded by our own passion?

Are we blinded by our own passion in the sport to provide a unbasised answer? Replace the topic of racing with "work"... aka workaholic and see how this story reads. My father was a work-aholic and as a result he rarely did much with me as a child. Sure he set a good example of hard work pays off at least in $$$ but a bit of my childhood with him was absent due to his obsession.

Now racing/cycling can have a better spin than working and family can be included into the activity better than general work can.... but be cautious with our obsession with this sport.

Here is how Nico T. balances it all (including 4:30am rides)

From 303's interview with Nico: My number one trick to balancing training, racing, family life and work is marrying the right woman. Seriously, however, it's a difficult balancing act, and there is no way to do it all without making some sacrifices, in some areas of your life. My wife and I trade which one of us gets to wake up early and exercise, and which one of us stays at home to handle the morning kid routine. She gets Mondays and Fridays to go to her yoga practice, and I get Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays to do early morning rides. I definitely get the better end of that deal, but she's super supportive of my racing, and knows that I'm happier (and easier to be around) when I'm exercising. We also try to bring our kids to my races and make them into mini family vacations/ fun events. We camped in Durango for the Iron Horse Classic, so for our kids it was a camping trip, not a bicycle race trip. And at the State TT we packed a picnic lunch, crammed the kids' bikes into the back of the car, and made a family outing of the event. The kids rode their bikes around the parking lot and ate lunch under the portable gazebo while I obsessed over how aero my number was pinned on, and whether I should ride with my Zipp 1080 or 808 front wheel. They had a great time and napped solidly all the way back to Boulder in the car.

I also make some cycling sacrifices for the sake of my family life. There are several races that I'll miss so I can do our annual two-week East Coast trip to visit my wife's family. And we have a couple of weekends where I'll miss races so I can spend time with out-of-town visitors, or to go camping with our kids. In the end I think I race better, however, when I balance life with bicycle racing, because the time off forces me to rest, enjoy other aspects of life, and recharge my batteries, both physically and mentally.

Here is the link for the entire interview with Nico:
http://303cycling.com/Interview_nico_Toutenhoofd

Balance: It's a cliche', but...

I read that interview last year and was fairly inspired by it--makes you realize it can be done. The old cliche' of "balance" is the key.

I've seen both sides in the last dozen years: obsessively racing and basically having no life...and having a great family/work life but being 50lbs overweight and months between workouts. Both states of being ultimately lead to dark places. I'm happiest and most present for my family when I am able to somewhat balance all three interests.

Trick with kids is that cycling (or any endurance sport) is a tough sell given the amount of work and suffering involved. My hope is that if I merely do my thing with enthusiasm, they'll become interested in due course.