Photo: Clint Cherepa
Clint Cherepa and Dad
He moves through life at a steady cadence. I hear people refer to him as a machine. Is this a compliment? As cyclists aren’t we all machines. We attach to the pedals and become an extension of gears and cranks. We aim for that consistent cadence. We are shaped by every pedal stroke.
My father has been shaped mentally and physically by revolutions of the crank. Looking back, I also feel defined by the miles he pedalled.
Two distinct sounds marked my childhood mornings — Dad’s spoon clinking on his cereal bowl, and the pshish-pshish of his bicycle pump. Whether weekday or weekend he awoke early. Before his eight hour workday he would add miles and miles to his morning commutes. No matter how bad or good his workday turned out, he knew his day was productive. Before the sun awakened his miles were in.
Those early rises never adversely affected our family. Asleep, we did not realize he was up early for us. Even though he weekly tacked on hundreds of miles, he was never missing.
And now I rise early.
I like as many of my miles to be as invisible as possible. I’ve learned that letting my riding interfere with my family life is not an option. This doesn’t mean all of my miles are done in the dark. The majority are ridden at convenient times for my family.
Being up before the sun is an enjoyment that we should all experience. Seeing the sun burst through the trees is worth the loss of sleep.
Riding before the day throws its little curveballs our way, ensures our ride will not be stolen by the day’s inconsistencies.
Dad is 61. He thrives on the inconsistencies of his rides, particularly the hills. A story he likes to tell, that I still don’t know if I like to hear, is about a hill; the steepest and longest hill in my hometown. Twenty years ago as a teenager I would ride with him sporadically. On one of these sequestered rides we ended up on this hill. I was suffering, ready to get off and walk my bike. Roaring up the hill, Dad looked over his shoulder to see if I was doing the same.
“WHAT IS THE POINT?” I asked, half wanting an answer.
I don’t remember his reaction, but I’m sure it matches the reaction he has when he relates the story — his eyes squint, his lips tighten and a shot of breath comes out as he holds back his laugh.
I live in a topographically challenged terrain. Flatland is the name of the game, so I map out my rides to hit the hills.
When I visit him, our rides are peppered with inclines and declines. I try to stay on his tire when he charges the hill, the key word being try. He’ll look back to see how I’m doing. I nod and blow the sweat off my upper lip. Now I understand the “point” or points.
Sweat is cool. Not enough people understand this vital truth. After a hard ride my dad would sit on the steps, shooting snot rockets and glurping phlegm from his throat. His jersey would be marbled with salt stains, his cheekbones were caked in white, and sweat ran from the tip of his nose. I remember searching my shirt after a good day of BMXing or running around, but I never found the salt. Guess I’m not old enough I would think.
Later I realized I wasn’t riding far enough. You don’t get those stains on a five mile ride, you need to earn them. Sweat is a medal of honour after a long ride.
Dad didn’t share many negative stories when it came to riding. There were the flats. One flat tire on a ride was not worthy of complaint, but after two or more we heard about it. I remember thinking, “Flat tires can’t be that bad.” I even remember the excitement of my first one, thinking that it was a rite of passage. If a flat tire happens at a good time it’s no big deal, but they never happen at the right time.
We had been riding over five hours when my friend got a flat. I sat on the side of the road watching him fumble with his tube. While mosquitoes took turns spearing the back of my neck I thought about a cold beer, a warm bath and how we arrived at this standstill. The flat was a negative. There’s no thrill in flats anymore.
We had a family reunion recently. I brought my bike and Dad brought his. We did 40 miles one afternoon. We fought the wind for most of the ride, climbed some decent hills, got away with no flat tires, and left sweat, rubber and stress on the roads we coveed. I spent most of the ride keeping up with the two pistons in front of me. I think about the machine simile.
According to the Oxford Dictionary a machine is, “an apparatus for applying mechanical power, having several parts each with a definite function.” My father applies mechanical power having several parts, namely two legs, with definite function, a function I value.
A coach whose goal is to inspire, motivate and teach fellow athletes to find the joy of training and running.