Monthly Archives: May 2015


Article published May 17, 2015, Rutland Herald & Times Argus, ‘ACTIVE VERMONT’


With death resulting. It’s an unimaginable way to end a sentence, an outing and a life. Every time a runner laces up his running shoes, a cyclist clicks into her pedals or a driver fastens his seatbelt, he or she ventures onto a road that may lead nowhere.

Vermont attracts people who choose the outdoors, who choose to walk, run and ride. The reasons for doing so vary from an economic or environmental incentive to leave the car home, to recreation, health and fitness or training for pleasure or competition. That people who make this choice risk injury and death is an unnecessary and sad reality.

Sometimes the line between safety and fatality is as fine as simple courtesy. Vermont law dictates the rights and responsibilities of all concerned in what is known as the Vulnerable User law in which motorists, cyclists and pedestrians are mandated to share the road and to do so abiding by laws designed to protect, not to punish.

Transcending the clearly defined rules of the road are actions that bond a community and build a state in which quality of life is imperative: respect, tolerance, patience; a pause, a smile, a thank you.

Already this year the news has been sobering. On April 14, Kelly Boe of Middlebury was struck and killed by a motorist while riding his bike in Weybridge. On April 26, Richard Tom of Hinesburg was killed by a motorist while riding 1⁄2 mile from his home, an incident in which the young driver lost his life as well.

Yes, in Vermont communities, such sorrows serve to bring out the best in neighbors and friends. On May 4, 400 rode in memory of both Richard Tom and Joseph Marshall; and on May 5, a ride was held in Middlebury to honor Kelly Boe.

The Green Mountain Bicycle Club established The Richard Tom Foundation to honor the cyclist’s memory and to promote bicycling and bicycle safety. The Kelly Boe Memorial Scholarship Fund, dedicated in his memory, is to encourage Middlebury Union High School students and continue Boe’s commitment to their success.

Jason Van Driesche is Director of Advocacy and Education for Local Motion, an organization designed to promote opportunity and safety for pedestrians and cyclists. This spring’s fatalities have spurred the organization to take stronger and broader steps to reach goals and function effectively.

“Local Motion is officially statewide,” Van Driesche said. “Now we have to make good on that promise. We must engage in communities all over the state.” What works in one community might not work in another, he said. “We must explore their needs and wants.” (

Van Driesche and his wife moved from Western Massachusetts to Vermont after a Christmas visit with family in Middlebury and then welcoming the New Year in Burlington. They loved what they observed and experienced.“We saw some of the best qualities of where we grew up,” Van Driesche said. Shortly after their relocation to Vermont, each embarked on a new job. Van Driesche has been with Local Motion for six years and embraces the mission “to help communities become great places to walk and bike,” he said.

With advanced degrees in urban planning and conservation management, Van Driesche said: “What I’m interested in is connection between people and places. We need to relocalize Vermont’s transportation system. We need to make it safe and comfortable to travel around your own community, to give people choices.” Van Driesche doesn’t live far from his work, but a sharply uphill morning ride begins his day. As a commuter, he recognizes the difference between biking as a means of transportation or recreation and that of training for cycling performance. “We try to talk about activities and choices,” he said. “The focus on what we do is on the middle drive-walk-bike. Some people would do more if they actually felt safe.”

Most people who walk or ride a bike, also drive a car. The reverse is not always the case. Perhaps there would be more understanding if it were so. Van Driesche believes it is divisive to consider bicyclists and pedestrians separately as both need consideration, and, in fact, many more walk than ride.

Local Motion identifies street and road design as particularly significant for pedestrian safety. Noting individual action and personal responsibility, Van Driesche said: “There’s a much larger piece, bigger than any individual. The best way is to design an environment for safety.”

Working closely with VTrans, Local Motion finds partnership in revisiting state road standards, plans, construction and maintenance, attempting to look forward in so doing.

Local Motion offers the program, “Everyday Bicycling Project” to give people practical skills to use a bike as transportation. These free workshops are available around the state. (Contact Mary Catherine Graziano,

“The Vulnerable User law,” Van Driesche said, “has given people a vocabulary for talking about how our streets and roads can work. Having discussion helps to shift conversation from ‘what are the cyclists doing on the road?’ to ‘how can we play safe together?’”

Recently Van Driesche addressed the role of law enforcement at the Vermont Police Academy in Pittsfield. He told a class of new candidates, “Vermont is the third highest state in the nation of people who walk or ride to work.” He pursued the effective use of enforcement as a tool for improving safety. The law is spelled out and enforceable.

The vulnerable user, one with no built-in protection, also travels roads that were, for the most part, not originally designed with their safety in mind.

Though the specifics are clear with respect to rights and responsibilities of all users, there are gray areas that are often a matter of judgment. For example, a cyclist may attempt to ride predictably and toward the side of a road, but to do so insofar as it is practical. When a motorist approaches a cyclist, the motorist might not understand that there is a pothole or debris on the shoulder that the cyclist needs to avoid. Awareness is a significant concept. Simply taking a foot off the accelerator could prevent an accident.

“Consider this,” Van Driesche said. “If a car travels at 40 mph in a 25 mph zone and hits a walker or cyclist, there is an 85 percent chance of death. In a 55 mph zone, though, it doesn’t matter if a car is going 55 or 70 – you’re dead either way.” If, however, a car has slowed to 25 mph with 45 feet in which to stop, there is a 95 percent chance of survival for the pedestrian or cyclist. If a motorist is in a hurry, perhaps a good habit would be to leave a few minutes earlier.

There is much to discuss and, in light of recent events, discussions are more meaningful. Information needs to be disseminated to participants, law enforcement, driver’s education instructors and students, and the public in general.

Ride of Silence, photo by Jeb Wallace Brodeur Each year the National Ride of Silence is held on the 3rd Wednesday in May to honor victims of bicycle and automobile collisions. (Photo by Jeb Wallace Brodeur.  Vermont Lt. Gov. Phil Scott leading the 2014 Ride of Silence in Montpelier.) This year rides are planned for Northfield and Middlebury. Not everyone participates as each has his or her own way of promoting safety and honoring victims. “My preference is to focus on positive solutions,” Van Driesche said.

There is a clear correlation between increasing numbers of walkers, runners and cyclists on the road and the potential for accidents. Interestingly, in practice, roads that are highly utilized by vulnerable users are often safer; perhaps because motorists anticipate sharing the road.

While there is a pressing need to address safety here in Vermont, there is also a need to preserve the joy of walking, running and riding. This is not a case of us versus them, motorists versus athletes and active others. This is a case of communities coming together, of a state that supports, encourages and attracts active participants, a case of sharing the road and infrastructure on which to do so. Courtesy — motorist to vulnerable user and pedestrian, runner and cyclist to motorist — is a big part of the answer.


Lessons from an Equine Athlete and His Jockey

American Pharoah

American Pharoah

Take-home lessons from watching the running of the Preakness 5-16-2015.

Did you watch the Preakness on Saturday? The Preakness is the 2nd race in the Triple Crown series. Once again we have a contender. American Pharoah (I know, they spelled his name wrong, I didn’t, and spellcheck keeps correcting me.), the winning bay colt, is not a particularly big boy, measuring in at an average 16.1 hands, but he seems unflappable and I’m not sure we’ve seen him go to the limit yet. Both the horse and his jockey, Victor Espinoza, seem pleasantly confident – not cocky, but just kind of nice about their possibilities.

Who knows? Maybe this horse will be the one to finally do it – win the Belmont Stakes in 3 weeks and thus become the first horse since Affirmed in 1978 to win all three legs of the Triple Crown. Only 11 horses have done so.

Belmont may present the biggest challenge of all for 3 reasons:

  1. American Pharoah must race on only 3 weeks’ rest while many of his opponents will have either skipped the Preakness or even face him for the first time – all on fresher legs than his.
  2. At 1.5 miles, it is the longest of the three races.
  3. He could just plain be getting tired of this stuff. You know how it is with athletes, at some point we just get enough of a competitive season and need to recoup.

BTW, personally I think the rules should be changed – not as some suggest and allow more recovery time between races, but to level the playing field at the Belmont. I think any horse allowed to start should have also competed in the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness. Oh well, but what do I know…?

But here’s what I really want to share with you. It’s a little lesson that I learned while watching. First of all, just as the horses took to the track the sky opened and all concerned were pelted (a word trainer Bob Baffert later used to describe the conditions) with buckets of rain. The camera lenses were so wet it was difficult to see. Jockeys tried to tuck their chins into non-existent collars on their silks and horses blinked their eyes in futility trying to keep the rain out while their hooves splashed through the mini flash flood on the track.

While the infield was cleared of spectators just in case of lightening, in the absence of a nearby strike, the race went forward as if nothing unusual was happening.

Winning the Preakness 2015

Winning the Preakness 2015

Now here’s where it gets interesting. Jockey Espinoza quickly changed his race plan. Starting at the disadvantageous gate #1, on the rail, Espinoza boldly scrapped his original strategy and as soon as they broke, hustled his horse along the rail to the front. He had to really push him. This was a daring move and rarely pays off. But, the jockey didn’t want his horse to follow anyone on a track where hooves would kick gobs of mud into the face of American Pharoah. And no one did.

So, not only did (a) the show go on no matter how much it rained and (b) the jockey quickly adapted but then (c) when he was where he wanted to be, he let up and let Pharoah find his sweet spot and settle in to regroup and run on – cool, calm and collected. (Oh that we all could do the same!) Then when push came to shove, he pushed and won by a convincing margin.

What an athlete – this horse was mentally and physically prepared to get the job done. Several times the announcers mentioned that he had not lost weight since the Kentucky Derby (aha, someone is seeing to it that his fuel is perfect). In fact, his trainer and the whole stable team that cares for this guy have balanced work, rest, and all that it takes to keep him fit and happy and, well, pardon the pun, stable.

Can we learn from him? Why the heck not?!

May 26th, 2015 – First Group Ride


courtesy of a friend

courtesy of a friend

Be sure to sign up in advance at ORS on Langdon Street.  All riders must sign a waiver before riding. Club membership at $15 is a great way to become part of a community and enjoy additional benefits such as 10% discount on cycling accessories and notices of random discounts offered by ORS only for RS members. 

Represent our club in the Onion River Century  – this year offering a full century(+), a metric(+) and a 40 mile out and back on Route 12 from the pool to the food stop at Lake Elmore – an achievable goal for all riders! Participate in the annual Harpoon Point to Point training ride on Tuesday, July 14 and wear your ORCentury jersey (purchase for the event) that this year will sport the new RS logo.

 Finally – ask if you have any questions. For each ride, ORS will provide a support rider who will sweep and be sure to be there for anyone who needs mechanical help. All riders are, of course, asked to arrive with their bikes in good working order, and clean. But accidents do happen, flats occur and potholes take their toll.  Your ORS rider will be there to help.  
Your ride leaders this year are:  Tom Descoteaux, Kate Harbaugh, Scott Hess, Frank Partsch and Ann Ripley. They will be wearing ORS jerseys and available to any and all for questions or suggestions.
Arrive early. Be ready. And here we go ….:)  linda

‘GO WILD’, Take Your Training to the Next Level – OUTDOORS

Take your training to the next level – outside.

The human body is a wonderful thing. Tracing evolutionary development, we see that the body changes, grows, reaches and adapts with amazing competence. The human body is efficient. When a task is regularly repeated, the body learns to perform that task with minimum stress to muscles, bones and mind. Apply this simple truth to our fitness routines, and we will soon see why we plateau, why exercise that at first was demanding becomes moderate and why results diminish. For example, the new exerciser might struggle to run-walk a mile, lose weight with the effort and then suddenly, at the same pace, cease to lose and become bored and discouraged.

As we incorporate exercise into our daily schedules, it is important to vary that exercise and to continue to challenge in different ways, to embrace complexity. To eat the same foods every day, to run the same route, to work out at the same level of intensity, is counterproductive. More and more of the same, results in less and less. Think about it. Boot camp and Cross-Fit classes address adaptation by providing constantly changing training. Road runners have taken to trails, marathoners have moved to ultras, cyclists have turned onto dirt roads, rail trails and into the woods and swimmers have left the pool for open water.

Making the move takes courage. We must push outside our comfort zones; be bold. But we do not need to be pioneers. Others have gone before us and are eager to encourage and share. There’s more. Moving outdoors is relative to play. Though solitary activity has its own benefits, going outside is often done in community. And, community, as well as exercise, nutrition, recovery, balance and sleep is part of the equation of health and well-being.



“GO WILD” by John J. Ratey, M.D., and Richard Manning (Little, Brown and Company 2014), is my new favorite read. “GO WILD, Free Your Body and Mind From the Afflictions of Civilization”

Go wild. When was the last time you were told to do that? Well, you’re being told to do so now, and in no uncertain or irresponsible way.This book visits many places, sight-sees voraciously, organizes findings and presents convincing proof of what we discovered while we were there. No, this is not a travel book, but it charges through universal themes and connects the dots from early hunter-gatherers to you and me today via evolution and civilization. So if this stuff interests you, grab a copy and settle in for a thought-provoking, perhaps life-altering venture.

Or you might want to begin with “Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain” by John J. Ratey and Eric Hagerman, first published in 2007. Documented evidence suggests that regular exercise does far more than strengthen the body and help to create a healthy body composition. Dedicated exercise positively affects cognitive development, stress, depression, dementia, ADD, ADHD and a multitude of other disorders related to the brain. Exercise is commonly accepted to be a major contributor to a host of diseases that plague contemporary society.

But back to “GO WILD.” Having laid the foundation of the science behind his experiments and research, Ratey moved on to his more recent book, this time collaborating with Richard Manning, a journalist who was not content to take notes, but needed to put into practice what he was learning.

Trust me, this is not a rah-rah book to encourage you to get to the gym and log your hours, nor is it feel-good pop-psychology. I invite you to do a background check on the authors. You’ll find that Ratey is associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, author and speaker ( and He brings to this project the clinical, academic and yet practical data focusing on movement, nutrition and their effects on the brain and body, while Manning provides balance with personal interests in the wild, agriculture, the environment and eco-system restoration. Each has a story to tell.

Many other names appear on these pages. Some are recognizable for their voice in current fitness and athletic circles: Foreword by David Perlmutter, M.D., author of “Grain Brain” (2013); Dr. Loren Cordain, founder of the Paleo movement; Christopher McDougall, author of the wildly popular “Born to Run” (2009) and just released “Natural Born Heroes: How a Daring Band of Misfits Mastered the Lost Secrets of Strength and Endurance.” There are more, but these few names could whet your appetite. Then there’s talk about the value of CrossFit, Tabattas and TRX. Shall I continue?

Civilization and evolution have brought mixed blessings: an advanced society that diminishes physical exertion, promotes processed foods, extends years, but fails to sustain body and mind. The authors assault heavy issues with audacious assertions yet back their claims with anecdote and science. Though they highlight nutrition and movement as primary movers, they firmly support the value of community, connection and relationship.

Then there’s the whole piece about diseases. “We are designed to be wild, and by living tamely we make ourselves sick and unhappy,” they write. A sedentary lifestyle is relative to many illnesses as well as a culprit in malfunctioning cognitive development and skills. According to the authors, the lack of exercise makes us dumber. While movement may not prevent disease, it may help to lessen the risk and hasten the cure.

Like all good teachers, the authors tell stories; like good researchers, they generously cite resources; and like good scientists, they test their claims. In fact, they use themselves as test subjects as well. “This book is not an academic exercise for either of us, but rather a product of living our real and textured lives,” they write.They stress diversity, applying that concept to the complexity of human wants, needs and experiences. Nutritional advice is founded on two principles: reduce/eliminate the consumption of carbohydrates and, more importantly, make variety paramount in food choices.

Throughout the years, there have been countless theories surrounding sugars, fats (good, bad and trans), cholesterol, bacteria, meat and grains. The authors do not suggest a restrictive diet, but “Nuts, root vegetables, leafy greens, fruits, fish, wild game, clean, cool water. Range far and wide. Eat well.”

Equally important is the mandate to get off the couch and get moving. Go wild. The gym is good, but outdoors is better. “Exercise in nature is exercise squared.” Hit the trails, hike the hills, snowshoe through the woods, backcountry ski. Exercise daily, in many places and in many ways. Find your tribe, friends and family who will join you; a class, running partners, leaders who will challenge and followers who will encourage. Play. Pursue new projects and ideas. And when you have done so, rest. Sleep — eight hours a night if possible.

“Whether you’re stressed or relaxed, well-being is not about always being safe or fed or comfortable. Rather, it is learning to walk the line between the two, to balance, to move back and forth between them with ease and grace. Well-being comes from learning to talk to the lions.”

As you prepare to re-wild (a Ratey word), heed the closing advice: “Take a step. Assess. Then take another. This whole business becomes not an assignment or duty — rather, an exploration, a process of discovery. It’s guided by rewards.”



(Text was part of piece that appeared on the ACTIVE VERMONT page, Rutland Herald & Times Argus, by Linda Freeman, May 3, 2015.)