Crossword Puzzles and Mountain Bike Races

Will Shortz always knew what he wanted to do in life. At 13, he wrote to Dimitri Borgmann, author of “Language on Vacation” a word puzzle book from the 60s, asking how to pursue a career making puzzles. Will Shortz always wanted to be a puzzle maker.  

My fleeting concentration focused on James Altucher’s podcast interview with Will Shortz while I drove from Hartford, CT to Greenfield, MA.  Shortz and Altucher recounted how the puzzler graduated from Indiana University with a self devised degree in “Enigmatology”.  

Will is the editor of the New York Times Crossword Puzzle. He became the paper’s fourth crossword editor in 1993. Will Shortz knew what he wanted to do in life from a young age and went after it with unwavering determination. I am not like Will Shortz.

From an early age I’ve had multiple callings and missions which have materialized and disappeared like the bright bursts of light of a fireworks display.

When I was twelve I wanted to be a rock star.  My parents got me an electric guitar, and even got me some lessons.  Practicing wasn’t really my thing, though,  after the first few weeks, I didn’t get good at it right away, and well, I lost interest.

Recently, like many other well intentioned fitness deficient folks, I joined a gym. That was in December.  Last time I went was the beginning of February.  Somehow it’s the beginning of March.

At best, I’m inconsistent at showing persistence. Failure to adhere to a diet tracking app inspired me to write a blog post about creating good habits. And I challenged myself to start a new habit.  That had nothing to do with the diet tracking app.  

I started a blog 2 years ago.  I intended to post once a week, with the subject alternating each week. One week my post would recap my after work and weekend mountain biking . The next week would cover business or self development topics. At best I’m blogging once a month and the topics do alternate, often within the same post, or paragraph.  What was I talking about?

I do think about the blog often.  I guess I just like thinking about writing more than actually doing it.  Its a pattern that permeates my life in many ways. 

I should take a stopwatch and measure the time I spend thinking about something like writing.  Then I should also time how much time I spend at my laptop actually typing away.  I could then calculate a thinking to acting ratio, and come up with an action plan to lower that number.  Damn it, I’m doing it right now.  See what I mean?

So one thing I routinely do a lot of thinking. about this time of year is entering a mountain bike race.  I’ve thought about it each year, for the past, I don’t know, 13 years? 

See, I’m really struggling with this winter.  Maybe I’m depressed.  Snow, rain, and everything on the spectrum between take turns falling from the sky, and even sometimes join together, creating a dreary symphony of frozen slush.  The ground is covered in what looks like a big poop Slurpee. 

I do see people are getting out on their mountain bikes.  I’m lurking on Facebook so much lately, how could I miss it.  Maybe I should just get out there too, but I just can’t imagine it can be all that much fun. 

I have been using my bike in the basement.  I have been doing some trainerroad workouts.   But with the combination of being sick and lack of motivation, I haven’t been exercising as much.  I am not feeling great.  So I decided to do something about it, besides just think about it.  

I signed up for a mountain bike race.  I’m not great at sticking with things.  I accept that.  Its good to have some self awareness.  I also know that fear motivates me.  So, here’s my plan.  I sign up for a a hard race, and the fear will drive me to train for it.  Instead of rationalizing why I can’t ride my bike, I’ll make time to train, knowing that I have this race coming up.  The exercise and sense of accomplishment I get from the training will counteract my winter blues. Therefore, I’ll be a much happier person, and I’ll actually enjoy this time of year.   Win win, right?   Fear works.  I know I don’t have the resolve to “exercise more”, or “eat better”.  So, I’m tricking myself into it.  And if it works, then who cares?

Wait, though.  I may have been a bit too ambitious. I’ve had this idea of racing single speed for a while. It seems to bounce around my head every now and then. So, I registered for the single speed class in the April Hop Brook MTB Race. I just don’t know how much the weather will allow me to get outside and ride my single speed bike in the meantime,  making race day even more challenging. 

 And there’s another wrinkle to this. The race is a 5 mile route. Beginners do 1 lap. Then there are two lap, three lap, and four lap options also. Apparently, the shortest option for singlespeed is 3 laps, or 15 miles. That’s a long race. I think the longest singlespeed ride I did this summer was 10 miles, so this will be all new territory.  

I hate making commitments.  And I hate not sticking to them.  I’m not sure how this is going to end up.  Maybe in glory.  Maybe in defeat.  Probably somewhere in the middle.  

But at least I did something.  Maybe it’s not too late to find my calling in life and pursue it like Will Shortz.  But then again, Will isn’t only into Crossword Puzzles.   He also owns the Westchester Table Tennis Center, a sport he is also very passionate about.  

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