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Spring Break Party? Naahhh.

While most college co-eds spend the next couple weeks siesta-ing pool-side, drinking to oblivion, and prowling for the next one-night "hook up," it's refreshing to see a group of 18-21 year old men willingly forego these traditional avenues of excess and opt instead for 7 days of grueling athletic activity and healthy living.

I volunteer coach a college cycling team from Indiana University that rides in the annual Little 500 bicycle race. You remember the Academy Award nominated movie "Breaking Away," right? (fyi - it lost to Apocalypse Now in 1980 for Best Picture, but did win for Best Screenplay.) Turns out, the race continues to flourish and is held every April on campus in Bloomington, Indiana. Tens of thousands of fans turn out for the 4-man team, 200 lap race, held on a quarter-mile cinder track.

Competition among the 33 teams that qualify for the event has increased dramatically over the past 10 years thanks to heightened cycling interest levels and strides in bike/training technology. Gone are the days when a group of men or women get together a few months before the race and nominate themselves for a three month crash course to get in shape. Those teams hoping to win must have students willing to commit much of their coveted spare time THROUGHOUT the school year (and the summer) to hours upon hours of training in the saddle.

Each year for winter and spring break, my team travels to San Diego for a week's worth of intense speed work, long and hilly century rides, and very little nightlife. I'm always amazed at the dedication and discipline of these college students and doubt that I would have embraced the same level of commitment in my late teen immaturity.
Spring Break 3

On the road, I teach them everything I can about training, nutrition, diet, and race strategy. Over dinners we discuss more important issues like academics, careers, and lifestyles. Most nights they're asleep by 9pm, exhausted yet ready for tomorrow's work. No booze, no 4am staggers back to the hotel, and no real desire to do so. Certainly, they are future athletic-minded travelers in the making and likely will continue to be leaders of their class, not followers of the masses.

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