by Dave Noda
Some questions I get asked often include:
- How did you get into cycling?
- How did you and Robbie meet?
- How is it training with the Spider Monkeys?
- Really? You’re 5’6”? Come on, are you sure you’re not exaggerating a little, Dave?
So yes, I really am 5’6”…but I am drinking milk and hopefully one day…
I started cycling and endurance training on a bet. Well, not so much a bet, but as the result of one of those times when all my closest buddies were sitting around and came up with an idea: “Hey, has anyone watched that TV show, EcoChallenge?” The more talking we did, the more I thought “Yeah, I can do that. Heck, I could do really good…” And then we talked for the rest of the night about how we were all “in” and we were going to train and work out, really get ready for it.
And then came the day of the registration boom. My friends were nowhere to be found. They would have been quick to reply to an “I’m buying the beers” text, but at that moment I could not locate a single one to save my life.
So my brother and I decided instead to do something similar. We decided to try that thing called a “triathlon.” I signed up for the ruthless, unforgiving terrain of the “Fleet Feet Super Sprint Triathlon” and boy, let me tell you, I was pumped!
For those that have no idea of the distances involved, let me educate you:
- 0.25 mile swim
- 6.2 mile bike ride
- 1.5 mile run
Naturally, I took off from work that Monday knowing I was going to be cooked after this big race!
Yep. I took that Monday off. It’s funny to think about where you come from. I came from a stick and ball background: some baseball, lots of basketball (laugh…it’s ok…you’re reading…I’m not in front of you), and football (keep laughing). The endurance thing was new to me. I had no idea what I was in for, but wanted to do it. When it came to training, my brother and I just knew we could train ourselves. We had both been in the Marine Corps and felt that if we could handle the Marines, we could definitely handle a triathlon. Some of our training consisted of riding our bikes with medicine balls in backpacks for a maximum of 5 miles, but most were 3-mile rides. And don’t get me started on swimming at the Y. Through it all, we just knew “no one–NO ONE–is training harder than we are!”
I’ll save you all a Google search. My time was 58:29.
After the race–and the well deserved Monday off–I knew I loved it. The best part of it was that I truly sucked and still felt that feeling of “wow, I can get better at this.” So after that stellar performance at the triathlon, my brother and I decided to try another one, but this time, why not try that Ironman thing?
How I got connected with Vision Quest Coaching
Around 2004 I started looking into actual coaching services. My brother had just joined VQ and he was drinking the kool-aid for sure. He wanted me to try it out, so finally one day, I did. I joined one of the slower rides on a Saturday. (Back then Robbie was still on the USPS Team and a group ride was really just how long you could stay on his wheel.) When my brother told me the ride was 40 miles, I said, “OK, I’m in. Should I book the hotel for the stay-over or will you?” The chuckle you’re having now is exactly what my brother had then.
When I first joined and met Robbie, our relationship was funny. I’m not too hyper-competitive and it seemed like he always saw me on group rides not going too hard or just at the wrong times. He thought I was a slacker.
The moment I remember though was on that first 40-mile bike ride. We were going home and I was cracked, more than you can imagine. But we still had another 7- to 8- mile ride ahead of us. Robbie yelled out, “OK guys, let’s go nice and easy home and not go hard.” People were talking and chit-chatting and there I was in this group of about 50, barely hanging on. (One lady wearing sandals with clips and a frog on her helmet dropped me!) I got frustrated and started pedaling harder, which lasted all of 5 seconds. Then Robbie dropped back to me and said “Hey, how you doing?” I could have lied, but my face and tongue couldn’t. So I told him I was hurting. “Don’t worry, we’ll get you home.” He ended up pushing me 7 miles, all the way home, with his hand on my back. Let me tell you how much of an ego-killer that was! But it also told me how cool VQ was. It brought the brotherhood I’d had in the Marine Corps into cycling.
We are all into cycling for one reason or another. For some it’s stress relief, some it’s lifestyle, and some to stay in shape. At first, I did it so that pushing situation would NEVER happen again. Moreover, it motivated me to get better and know that I could make it happen as long as I put in the time. I could move from the back of the pack to the front of the pack (still trying to get there though).
At that time, I was in finance, doing residential loans for the family business since 1995. I have always loved business and looking at Vision Quest back then, I saw so many opportunities! One example was the weekly e-mail. Robbie would send a quick e-mail from Lake Bluff to the local people up there. I would then rewrite it a bit to customize for the Chicago group. (At that time, we were a solid 10-strong in Chicago meeting at the Running Away on Damen.) As we grew, I suggested a weekly e-mail sent out to let everyone know what we were doing on a week-to-week basis. It went from a one-line e-mail to now including videos, pictures, and links to sign up for rides. Another example was membership. Back then, athletes either joined for the full boat membership (annually, all at once) or nothing. We talked about needing a hybrid, something that allowed people to “taste” what Vision Quest had to offer. We scheduled it at times that VQ wasn’t busy, on a specific day each week for 8 weeks. Originally it was to be the same 8-week program each time, but people loved it, so we made it a staple class. It has grown each and every year since.
My passion on the whole is not cycling. My passion is getting people to see something in themselves that they might not even be able to see yet–just like Robbie did with me. Endurance is such a great sport. The older you get and the more time you put in, the better you get. It’s a sport wherein you really can’t size people up as with other sports. And best of all, you have to leave your EGO at the door and be open-minded, for sure.
How is it training with the Spidermonkeys?
Well, I don’t want this to be too long. All I can say is that it’s great. It’s a lot of fun to have a group of people that are such great representatives of the sport, while having fun and being smartasses at the same time. Spidermonkeys has grown each year, now even doing camps in Vegas and holding holiday parties. I can’t say enough about how much fun it is to do the Thursday class and know that everyone is there to train, but also have fun.
Kudos to Dean, Vanessa, and all the Spidermonkeys for being such ambassadors of the sport! I can’t wait til Thursday! We will have a lot to talk about after this blog!