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Evolution: how did you get here?

I think it’s really important to reflect on how you got to certain places in your life. “You may find yourself living in a shotgun shack You may find yourself in another part of the world You may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile You may find yourself in a beautiful house with a beautiful wife You may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?” Seriously. This morning as I was riding my track bike (which has no brakes or gears and cannot coast) I thought, “Wow, this puppy is so different from my Tri bike!” Then I remembered, track bikes are my roots! If I had never started riding a track bike, I would have never attempted a triathlon! In case you don’t know my athletic past, there is none! I went to art school people, and am still an artist. In the year 2000 (say that in the movie preview guy voice) my mountain bike was destroyed by a truck in midtown. I had ridden it like 10 times, it was a graduation gift from my Dad and to help for when I moved to the city. I was pretty bummed. I was telling my friend Jae (aka Hardy Boy) about the ordeal. He rode track bikes, the most dangerous of al bikes, and suggested I get one since I had such strong legs from playing ice hockey. I did just that and was propelled into a world of bike riding. Thanks Jae! I rode NYC streets every day for around 9 years. Then, in 2008 the president of our company told me I needed to run the NYC Marathon. I did and was propelled into the world of running. Thanks Allen! In January of 2009, shortly after getting hooked on running my friend Todd told me I needed to do triathlons. “Todd, I can’t swim to save my life!” He agreed to teach me how to swim in order for me to get my triathlon on. I learned to swim and competed in my first of many triathlons. Thanks Todd! Looking back, all three were catalysts to each other, the end result being that I became a triathlete. Had my 3 friends not believed in me, and I not believed in myself, I would not be where I am today. How did you get... read more

I am a surfer!

One of my life dreams is to live on a beach and surf. I would own a little taco hut, tikki bar thing and in the afternoons I bar tend. The problem is, or was, that I had never surfed. After I closed on my new apartment this spring I went to inspect it. Inside the previous owner had left his old, perfectly awesome surfboard! It’s a Gordon & Smith Fish, which I think is a respectable surf board. This seemed to me like a surf omen. I must surf. I must surf soon. Enter Delvecs. He is an old friend of mine who happens to love surfing. We kind of put all the pieces together and planned some weekend trips to surf! Awesome! We drove out to Rockaway Beach “New York City’s only break.” There, we met Delvec’s pal Jay (who actually happens to work with my brother) and got suited up in our wetsuits. What did I wear? You’re g’damnd right I wore my TYR Cat 5 triathlon wetsuit! Turns out it was perfect for the water temps. Out at the beach we had a little Surf 101. Jay is a very good surfer from California so between him and Delvecs I was covered. The breaks were pretty crowded so we hung to the right by a jetty to start. I jumped in the water and started paddling, worried I wouldn’t get past the breakers, but I did. I guess all those Triathlons have helped my swimmy arms. We floated on our boards now, waiting for the good stuff. Songs like ‘Catch a Wave and you’re sitting on top of the World’ and ‘Surf Wax America’ rattling around in my head. Then, Delvecs instructed me to catch the next one and to start paddling. I did this and I did it without looking back, I just paddled. Out of nowhere this unseen force swept me up and sped me along at an increasing speed! Without thinking, as I barreled down the wave, I just ‘popped’ up as they had instructed me. I was surfing! I held the line until the wave faded out. I was so happy! Back out with the guys they they congratulated me. I was thrilled and so we kept at it. We surfed from 8AM to 11:30AM. I caught a few more waves and really started to get a good feel for it. Now, I would be a poor sport if I left... read more

New York I Love You

I am going to start doing a series of posts on my experiences here in New York City and this is numero one. Dig it. — One of the things that makes New York great is the ability to do anything. Do you like to sew? There are classes and talks on sewing. Maybe you like to collect butterflies. Yes, there is a butterfly collector meet-up. When my friend Elizabeth asked if I wanted to go see Chrissie Wellington speak this week I thought, “Oh man, Triathlon Nerd Meet-up.” “Hell yes I want to go!” For those of you who have no idea who Chrissie Wellington is, I’m going to slap you. Seriously though, the gal won the Ironman World Championships 4 times. What would I wear? A running outfit? Perhaps a Rev 3 visor? My wetsuit minus the goggles and pee? (people were actually wearing these things by the way.) I get out of work at 5 and the event started at 7… what to do, what to do? Abbe invited me to be her guest at a wine tasting downtown that started at 5:30. Perfect! I arrived at the very dark and sleek venue and met some of her colleagues before getting started on my Vouvray wine experience. We started with the drier wines, moving down the spectrum to some sweeter ones One of them literally tasted like you were biting into a crisp green apple. Amazing. All of this was happening while we were being served some spectacular hors d’oeuvres. My favorite were the lamb tacos, which were no taco at all mind you. It was more like spicy lamb wrapped in puff pastry heaven. At 6:30 I left the gals and headed uptown to see Chrissie. I blasted north on the Subway, arriving promptly at 7. Timing is everything. As I was entering I saw my friend Josh! Josh is a speedy runner (Homeslice just ran a 2:38 in the Dirty Jersey Marathon coming in 3rd overall) who runs for the Front Runners team. Shorty after that I found Elizabeth and we took our seats. John Korff, the man who’s company puts on the NYC Tri and Ironman NY was our MC. Chrissie was really fun to listen to. She gave a lot of great pieces of advice, most of which I have heard over the years from others, including my Coach. What was so captivating about her though was how she used Ironman as... read more

Swim Karma

Most of you know, it’s real hard getting me in the pool. It’s been a life-long struggle. As I was walking to the pool today I thought about how crowded it always is, being in the most populated city on the east. Smiling, I thought about how much money I would be willing to pay to have my own private pool, even just my own personal lane. Arriving at the pool it was indeed jumping. From Masters Classes, to Kids Classes to the regular solo swimmers (me) it was a frenzy. I choose the lane along the wall, the ‘slow lane’. There were 2 women doing some drills and seeing as how that was part of my workout we quickly meshed into a rhythm. SIDENOTE: Why is there no ‘E’ in rhythm? Seriously, say it aloud and be mystified. A few minutes into my session the gals left, leaving me to my buoys and paddles. I could see people really flooding in from the entrance across the way and knew it was a matter of time before my lane would be overrun. Then, as I was wrapping up a set, the lifeguard flagged me. Next to him was a blind man waiting to swim. “Excuse me, he normally swims along the walk. Do you mind splitting the lane with him? I will close the lane to just you two.” For the next hour I had my own personal lane in Manhattan’s only Olympic Pool! I couldn’t help but think of how weird it was that I was wishing it on the way to the pool. Was this blind swimmer some sort of guardian angel? Maybe he is the ‘swim genie?’ One thing was for sure, the guy was a fantastic swimmer and was lapping me left and right. I even slowed up to study his form as he cruised by. I thought about making friends with him so we could takeover entire lanes for the rest of our lives… Exhausted, I departed for home very satisfied and extremely inspired.  ... read more

On Fear

What are you afraid of? I have spent a lot of time thinking about fear these past few months, especially after watching my father pass away right in front of me with nothing I could do to stop it. Was I afraid of dying? Was he? Surely he had thought about it, knowing that it was a possible outcome of his Cancer. Fear is a very powerful emotion. It can stop us from achieving our true potential. I was afraid of the water. Since taking on the sport of Triathlon I have learned this. The realization came to me a few weeks ago when swimming the Alcatraz Sharkfest Swim. Without hesitation or fear, I jumped into the icy cold San Francisco Harbor with a smile and started making my way to the shore, anticipating a hot cup of coffee at the finish and hopefully a big breakfast. 2 years ago I would have never attempted such a feat. For all of my life (until now) I have been scared of the water, be it the deep end of a pool or a lake. If I couldn’t touch the bottom, I wasn’t into it. Why? Was I traumatized as a kid? My parents were awesome, they had me in swim lessons at a young age so it’s not like I couldn’t tread water. Looking back, I think my height played a big role in my fear. I hung around really tall swimmers who would venture into the deep and play water football. Knowing I couldn’t touch the bottom I would watch from the sidelines. These were my summers growing up and after awhile I had no interest in even going to the local pool. Ironically, late in High School I used to love going to a place called Difficult Run and cliff diving into the rapids or riding the waterfalls. We also went to an abandoned bridge called ‘Party Bridge’ and jumped off its 40 foot ledge often. These activities might not be considered ’swimming’ though. In 2008 when I took up running, it wasn’t long before I had friends saying “Baker, you should do a triathlon, you are good at running and biking, you just need to get swimming!” I wanted very badly to do a triathlon, but I feared swimming. Luckily, one of my best friends is really stubborn and pretty much ordered me into his buildings pool one night after work, telling me he would re-teach me... read more

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