The Split

The Split

When I was in graduate school I rode for the UMASS cycling team. From 1989 to 1993 I was one of those riders who could be counted on to show up for the club meetings, many of the team rides that started from the campus’ Newman Center, and most all the races. I wasn’t fast, which was no great surprise, but my lack of knowledge about what it took to be fit combined with my lack of actual aerobic fitness shown in a comic chiaroscuro by riding with multiple national champions like Adam Myerson, Peter Vollers and Greg Swinand (a master’s national champ in Ireland these days). Guys who would have been the big stick swingers on other teams were relegated to draft horse work while I and my fellow C or D squad mates were busy trying to figure out how to pull through in a team time trial without causing mass devastation; a Cat IV taking a pull has storm surge like a hurricane.

What I lacked on the road, initially, I made up for in organization and resources, which, in retrospect, given my organization and theirs, was no great accomplishment. I was one of a handful of guys on the team who had a reliable car, could be counted on to go to all the races, and on more than one occasion was the only person to show up to a weekend of racing with a floor pump. Spare wheels? Check with Patrick. Tools? Check with Patrick. First aid kit? Ibid.

A few years passed before I joined another cycling team, partly because it took some time for me to think I could replicate the good without picking up all the bad.  All my teammates in the new club were young professionals, with resources, calendars, phones and the wherewithal to arrive at a race with their bike in working order. I’d never have to ask what happened to my tools, my drink mix or the bib shorts I ordered. But I not have the experience of killing myself in a team time trial, of someone farting in the car while we were changing or of sharing a post-race pizza after winning the mid-race prime.

Leaving a team and finding a new one is a workable metaphor for talking about divorce. It’s less painful, the stakes much lower, the blast radius of emotion much less powerful. There is, however, no disguising the fact that my life is significantly different from what it was this time last year. My ex-wife and I have moved on to new orbits, new associations, a bit like finding a new team.

I’ve given myself time to think about that on the bike these last few weeks as well as the parallel set of changes we’ve imposed on our boys. After movers did their thing, all I could feel was relief. It blotted every other emotion like the moon blocking the sun in an eclipse, saving me from anger or regret, but also depriving me of tenderness for what had ended.

In the years that followed graduate school, I often saw my former teammates’ names in results and I felt something akin to pride, a happiness for them entirely independent of my association with them. Some have accomplished far more in the bike industry than they did with numbers pinned, from starting to organizing the Vermont Overland.

Seeing my teammates’ lives evolve and prosper holds a kind of promise for me. They went on to other happy developments, as did I. And that happiness, I’ve realized, is a decision, one I hope we all find easier to make today.

, , ,


  1. Steven Toplitz

    So young and so much has past. Black Sheep still there. Loved meeting at Newman and riding with the team. Hasn’t been much of a team in many years don’t know what happened.

  2. Stebe

    The Happy Valley left an indelible mark on us all. I like to think it was for the better. In the early 2000’s I would make a day trip of heading out to roll through DMZ. I’ve resorted to teaching life lessons to my kids with stories of the camaraderie seen on some of those group rides like the day we rode the orchards where Vollers and Swinand came back down to literally push us up the hill.

    1. Author

      And thank heaven for guys like you so that I knew I wasn’t the only rider suffering. Misery loves company.

  3. Chris

    We have traded emails from time to time about similar early trajectories for The Deuce and my daughter, trying to connect for rides on a trip to Santa Rosa that never happened, and random comments on your posts. I have been following you voyage through your depression treatment, and now starting the divorce journey that you are completing. The movers are gone, the kids are figuring out visiting Dad, and the lawyers are chopping up the finances and assets. The bikes remain.
    I’m starting a new orbit, taking the bike and starting from a pretty low place of fitness, health and motivation. CoronaSummer is coming, so the weather will be welcoming me to the roads and old training grounds, even without riding buddies or groups. I don’t know if you are staying in Santa Rosa or moving again, but if you make it to the SF Peninsula, I’d love to finally get that ride and coffee with you.
    Keep riding, keep sharing, keep being open and a guiding light for so many of us readers. Robot too.

    1. Author

      I’m pleased to be say that the casualties are few. We aren’t using lawyers and we were splitting custody very evenly up to the point of Shelter-in-Place. At this point, they are actually with me the majority of the time, which has had a variety of effects. I will be staying here for a variety of reasons, the two biggest being that I can’t live in a different county than my boys and I really don’t want to leave Sonoma County at all, regardless. Thank you for the support and when life calms down, let’s get that ride in.

  4. Bill Humphreys

    I started back at U mass Amherst To pick up my long lost bachelor’s degree at age 50.

    I think Ken Avery was there or shortly after. With my backpack full of books I would sit in the back of the club ride starts. Everyone would wonder who the old guy was on his mountain bike.

    1. Author

      Awesome. And Ken is a good guy.

      For those who don’t know, Ken manages Vittoria here in the U.S. and does a lot of their tire development.

  5. DaveinME

    Thanks for your thoughtful writing Patrick.

    I went through a similar divorce and my ex and I still get along great. The big thing was making sure the girls were well taken care of. Nothing else mattered and it sounds like you and your wife are taking a similar approach. In the end it’s worth it

    Thanks again for your writing. I always look forward to seeing new content here.


    P.S. my mom went to Amherst in the 60s!

    1. Author

      Thanks much. My ex is a great person; I have no reason to stop thinking that. And we are united in wanting great lives for our boys.

  6. Bruce_in_NC

    Padraig, Hello and thanks for the great writing (bonus points for using “chiaroscuro”!). I have lurked on here for some time. I suspect we may have crossed some of the same paths in the distant past. I biked to class regularly at Memphis State in the early 80s and also went north to New England for grad school. At MSU I even took a journalism course from a guy named Tucker who played in the Bill Black Combo. Still cycling and enjoying riding and restoring both classic and modern bikes. Cheers!

    1. Author

      Thanks for the kind words Bruce. I’d bet you a Pliny the Elder (or two) that we did cross paths at some point. Stranger still is that it might have happened more than once. Wow. I’m trying to think of who it was I knew from the Bill Black Combo, but he was in the commercial music department. The one journalism course I took was photojournalism from the photographer who won the Pulitzer for the shot of Lee Harvey Oswald being shot by Jack Ruby. Fascinating guy. Anyway, thanks so much for reading.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *