The Personal and Social Challenge of Endurance Cycling

For those of you that don’t know me that well, I love to cycle.  My interest started shortly after I moved to San Francisco in the fall of 2008.  In 2010 I completed my first century (100 miles), my first double metric (200 km), and finished the season with Death Ride, a grueling 128 mile ride over five mountain passes, totaling 15,000 vertical feet of climbing.

I decided to up the challenge this year by signing up for a 200-mile ride with 20,000 vertical feet of climbing.  The Devil Mountain Double (DMD) is scheduled to take place on April 30th, and I’ve been training like a madman getting prepared.  This blog post is about the training leading up to the big ride, both how it’s impacted my life and how I’ve gone about preparing.

When I signed up for the DMD I assumed the toughest part would be preparing my body for the physical challenge of biking 200 miles in a single day, over long, steep, mountain climbs.  However, to my surprise, I’ve found the toughest part of the training to be the impact it makes on my social and personal life.

For the last two months, with the exception of only two weekends, I’ve spent every Saturday biking more than 80 miles, usually departing my house before 7am.  I’ve spent as many Sundays as possible biking between 40 and 60 miles, usually leaving my house before 10am.  And I’ve been very consistent riding Tuesday and Thursday mornings for 20ish miles, with several Monday and Wednesday bonus rides as well, leaving my house before 6:15am, often climbing up and down the same hill to get the most out of my morning.

Needless to say I’ve been quite a morning person the last several months, which isn’t too much different than my normal schedule.  However, I’ve made a huge effort to get plenty of sleep to aid my leg recovery and prevent me from being a total tired wreck at work.  I’ve had to say “no” to too many fun nights with friends or coworkers.  I’ve had to leave movies before they’ve ended.  I’ve had to say goodbye to a group of awesome friends staying out for an extra beer or two.  I’ve turned down several snowboard/snowmobile trips to keep my weekends open for cycling.  The list goes on.  I feel awful bailing on my friends, but I’m doing what I need to do to survive this ride.

So to all my friends, thanks for your patience while I devote myself to this challenge.  Every time I say goodbye early, or turn down an awesome opportunity to snowboard, drink, eat, run, or do anything else with you, I want you to know that I badly want to throw away my training and enjoy a weekend or night with you.  But I’m devoted to this ride, I’ve trained too hard to lose diligence.  You’ve all been amazingly supportive and understanding.  So, seriously, thanks.  My guilt often reminds me how great of friends you are, and that energy will be what motivates me to turn my pedals over and finish this bear of a ride.

Update: my Ironman friend, Andrew, wrote about this last October, six weeks before his race.  So it’s not just me :).

Young People, I Urge You To Consider Software

I work in a crazy industry called software.  Companies with zero revenue get wild valuations, engineers complain that their employer doesn’t provide free food, and starting salaries are almost at the 6-figure mark.  Yet what’s more crazy is the undeniable need for talented young professionals.  I’ll claim that no other industry is anywhere near as creative and lucrative as the software industry.  Sure, you can go get your law degree or work for an investment bank, and after a few years you’ll be making lots and lots of money.  But the chances are good that you’ll be unhappy with your job.  When I hear about my friends in law and banking I feel sorry for them — so many of them devote hours and hours to mindless, awful work, living lavishly on the weekends, slowly making their way to more creative roles as they mature and gain experience.

Forget giving away your 20s to working your way up the ladder, justifying a shitty job as a means to an end.  The software industry has insanely high starting salaries, startups give out equity that can convert to large sums of money if the startup does well (and many of them do), and most importantly, you’ll be doing wildly creative, awesome, challenging work.  Seriously.  Data is being created faster and faster, and the need for smart, math-oriented analysts and engineers is only growing.  Mobile is blowing up, and the need for mobile engineers and awesome designers/UX people is following in the wake.  New websites are always being started, opening up all sorts of opportunities in scalable web infrastructure engineering, agile software development, design, and product management.  There is so much happening in this industry, and so much opportunity.

I wish I could find a study that goes into the happiness of people in different industries.  Hardly any of my software friends are unhappy: they love their work; they have excellent salaries; they are treated well by their employees; they have insane opportunities to grow and better themselves; and they’re passionate about what they do, the problems they solve, and the people they work with.  In the software industry age and experience don’t matter.  What matters most is your passion and motivation, followed closely by your intelligence and cleverness.  So if you’re on the fence about what to study, give software a shot.  Take a class in college, read a book or two, and see if you’re interested.  The software industry is absolutely amazing, and there’s a huge need for good people.  If you’re interested, be one of those good people, and be happy.  You’ll love it here.