After Barry Cox printed up his proposed race schedule and put it on the fridge earlier this year, Sandi, his wife, started writing notes on it in blue ink. Balancing bike racing and family life can be tricky, but the couple has found a process that seems to work.
“Home at around 4,” Barry wrote in the Long Sock Classic entry.
“Pending someone’s flats/mechanicals/traffic, blah, blah,” Sandi wrote, but tempered any harshness by drawing a heart.
For the Eager Beaver 100, Barry wrote, “This might be a long day.” To which Sandi added, “What are we talking here?”
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In one section Barry wrote, “Obviously you will be there to cheerlead…” Sandi’s note in the margin: “Are you high?!”
Barry, a lawyer who lives in Oakville, Ont., has been riding for 17 years. About five years ago, he started getting more competitive and targeting mountain bike and cyclocross races. He races in the Sport mountain bike category and Masters 3 cyclocross category. Also around five years ago, he started typing up a proposed race schedule before the season for Sandi to peruse.
In late April, Barry announced on Facebook: “Spousal approval has been secured for the 2017 bike race schedule. Thanks babe, I love you!”
Here’s the road to “spousal approval.”
What’s in a race proposal for a masters rider?
“What Sandi wants to know, and this is fair, is how far away the race is, how long it’s going to take and when am I likely to be home,” Barry said. Barry and Sandi also think about how the racing will affect their 10-year-old son Wesley.
“Barry makes sure that Wesley’s not only accounted for, but having a fun time, and not just getting dragged to a race so he’s looked after,” Sandi said. “Barry’s really good about that: not sacrificing Wesley’s happiness so Barry can go to a race.”
What does Barry’s proposed schedule look like in 2017? He hopes to do about nine mountain bike/gravel races in the summer and six to eight cyclocross races in the fall. This year, because they are moving, he has about a six-week gap in his racing.
Missteps in balancing bike racing and family life
Two seasons ago, Barry prepared for and rode the Leadville 100 race. Preparation was demanding. “I think Sandi thought I’d get it all out of my system. It didn’t quite happen that way,” he said. Last year, he had a pretty big year, too. “It was ridiculous. Including cyclocross, it was 24 races. It was too much,” he said. While a cyclocross race is only about 45 minutes, Barry said he “soft-sold” the impact such a races would have on the family’s Sundays.
“That wasn’t fair,” Barry admitted. “This is a hobby, right? It’s not like I’m racing for food and shelter.”
Sandi confirmed that volume has been a problem and that Barry’s time budgeting has been off. “He’s getting better, but he would poorly estimate return times,” she said. “Some things are out of his control. He’s the kind of guy who’ll help someone if he gets a flat. And there’s traffic and stuff too. He’s getting better, but he was never a great estimator of his time.” As they’ve done more proposals, they look at more details more closely, which improves the planning.
Balancing bike racing and family life is a process
“Sandi is really cool about this,” Barry said of his passion for cycling. “She recognizes that it is something I really enjoy doing. It’s how I de-stress and how I stay in shape. She understands that, so she’s quite supportive of it.”
As for the work that goes into scheduling Barry’s hobby, it’s even enjoyable for Sandi. “It’s fun,” she said. “It’s not like trying to gain absolute permission from a drill sergeant.”
“We go back and forth. I mean, he’s a lawyer, but I’ve learned to negotiate well,” she added with a laugh.
Barry said that his season plan isn’t a static thing. Races come up that peak his interest. Life happens. Plans change.
The whole process has also brought some benefits to Sandi. Their discussions get her to look at what she wants to do with her leisure time and the family’s as a whole. Life can get pretty busy. If you can maximize your fun, whether it’s on or off the bike, that’s a good thing.
5 essential tips for balancing bike racing and family life
Barry offers the following tips to riders making a race plan:
- Be prepared to compromise.
- Don’t take advantage by trying to maximize what you can get out of your race season. Don’t push your luck.
- It’s better to be generous with your time estimates than cheap. You don’t want to underestimate the full time-cost (preparation for the event, travel time, etc.) of an event.
- Stay in touch about plans, even on race day. Maybe you need to lend a hand after an event or simply want to chill with your teammates. Make a call and check in.
- At some point, say to your spouse, “Thank you. I had a really fun day. I really appreciate having a chance to go to this. I had a fun day.”