-Where are you from?

I’m from the Midwest. I was born in Kansas City, Missouri. I grew up going to school in Kansas and Ohio. I spent my summers divided between time on the lakes in Missouri and the lakes of Northern Michigan.

– How would you describe yourself in 5 words?

I’d probably say “Five words cannot define me.” I’ve had a life too extraordinary and created a personality that isn’t bound in a small way. One word strikes me above others, however. “Altruism” is a word I’ve lived by for years. I believe in doing good, not for good’s sake, but because I like it personally.

 – What kind of childhood did you have?

I grew up in Kansas in the subculture of the Nazarene Church. I attended Jesus Camp. I was polarized against my peers because of my intelligence. When I was in fourth grade I was doing problems that are similar to the ones used for the LSATs and SATs today. In elementary school, I was living in middle class, Midwestern culture. In middle school I lived for a brief period in Tampa, Florida in the housing complexes of the ghetto. The move had been predicated by a divorce that helped define custody laws for America. I then spent high school going to one of the most prestigious schools in Ohio. Alumni from the school include Martin Sheen and Rob Lowe.

– How did you go from ballet dancer to cyclist?

When I was in high school, I was a long distance runner that competed at the State meets several times. It felt great to be in that kind of shape. I was picking up courses at the community college to narrow down what I wanted to do with myself, I decided I needed some physical activity to stay in shape. I took a ballet course. Over the semester, I was told that I had a talent for the ballet forms. The instructor brought in a dance colleague who was also teaching to observe me. I was invited to an interview he had organized at a local studio. I went and spoke with the owner of the studio, whom had been a prima ballerina for most of her career. She offered me a chance to dance on scholarship, and full access to any classes that could help me improve. I began at the level small children are taught. I learned do the workouts that were done twice a day. I was attending class 4 to 5 times a week for hours at a time. I relished the effect it had on my physique. I looked better than I ever had running sub 5 minute miles. But it was all abruptly ended due to trouble at home. I was absent long enough to reconsider if ballet were my true calling. I’d even given up school to attend the studio classes.  I decided to give it up which was a really hard decision as l love dance. I went back to running from time to time, and tried to get into rock climbing while I started to go to school again. I had lost my mean physique from too many cases of beer going after a degree in English Composition.  I began to attend spinning classes, partly for the need of having a coach/teacher urge me on, and partly for the innumerable, well toned women who attended.  After losing the weight, I began to borrow a road bike from my parents. I would take it out on the Miami River bicycle corridor, which spans about 60 miles. And the rest is history.

– What kind of training is required to be a cyclist?

Many people talk about cross-training. It can help, but only so much. I have experienced running and cycling on a level that pales leisure. Breaking out 70 miles a week for running, or hundreds of miles a week in cycling is not for everyone. Once you have begun a commitment to that level of training the “I don’t really feel like it” attitude melts away. Instead, you find yourself searching for a way to break the monotony of the local courses. It requires a small amount of ingenuity. And namely, you need to just get out and ride the hell out of your bike. I got to know a world champion climber while I lived in Dayton, and I asked him the same question. “Thousands of pull-ups,” was his response. It goes to say if you want to be good at riding a bike, you need saddle time.

– Is it more or less intense training than ballet dancing?

When I think of what intensity ballet was, I remember often sweating a lot. Ballet was the most intense indoor activity I’d ever tried. Cycling doesn’t have as much sweating. But, I feel that’s mostly because of the wind. I thank God for wind.

What are some challenges you have had to face in your career?

I’ve struggled with commitment issues. It took me a long time to get back the drive that I’d had running in high school when I first pitted myself against the seniors and had a coach to help focus my drive. I feel like as a young adult, you take for granted the environment that is created when you want to try something. Being able to compete today is only coupled with a question I’d never asked myself back then: “Why did I work so hard if I’m not going to be prepared for this race?” And there is no answer until you get that new PR. For a long time I relied on flaky workout partners to jumpstart me back into competition mentality. But the reality is that if I worked hard, was accountable to the lifestyle I was trying to build in the competitive world, and dropped the distractions in time for the race, a new PR or top spot was the answer. I could say, “I am prepared. Let’s rock.”

– What motivates you to keep pushing forward?

I live by a saying:   “Have courage. Be courageous. Fight forever.” When I have seen opportunity, I’ve taken it. I lived my twenties as a “yes-man” saying yes to every crazy job and opportunity. Having the courage to push hard and live with the regrets of taking chances has yielded incredible events in my life. Over time it became second nature that I could see opportunity rising, and could act on it. Every single race is the manifestation of that understanding. I can take my hard work, the opportunity of a race, and my drive to compete and produce an incredible outcome. I’m not an Olympian. But I feel the same exhilaration when I show up for a race.

– What are some of your ultimate goals in life?

I would like to sail around the world. I’ve already sailed across Lake Michigan and I’d like a longer trip. I have also had a goal of realizing ambition. I have wanted to see what the upper limit of my capabilities are for a long time. But I had never been able to nail down where I should apply myself.  Reading Forbes articles on my way to work every morning, I made a connection between the energy crisis, technology, and worldwide business that would create one marketable solution. It could potentially mitigate the effects of tornadoes and provide energy for the nation. I’d like to have that industry realized before I retire.

– What do you do when you are not doing some physical activities?

I cook. I volunteer at two local non-profits. One helps teach people how to work on bicycles. The other helps teach people about food and cooking at home. I like to go see movies in the theater, it’s one of my favorite things. I also watch internet videos of cats.

– If there was one thing you can change in the world, what would it be and why?

Actually, there isn’t anything I’d change about the world. I feel like the disparity between Americans and the other first world cultures and how capitalism has gripped our politicians by the fancy bits is incredibly entertaining. I would like to see how technology and the influence of the super rich plays out in this digital-renaissance era.  I’m never bored reading the world news. While there is poverty, and other depravities, seeing if someone like Bill Gates can actually pull off ending it will be historical. The next 60 years are going to be quite unpredictable.

Thank you for taking the time to ask me these questions. I appreciate the interest you’ve shown in me.


Spencer R.