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Exercise: Every Little Bit Counts

December 3rd, 2014


Short and sweet swim session with Lisa
Short and sweet swim session with Lisa "Rockfish" Ribes in the Endless pool (swimmer's treadmill, if you will).

For the better part of 30 years, I exercised 20-40 hours per week. 45-60 minute runs were the norm, and I never rode my bike for less than 90 minutes.  Like many of us, I became committed to a mindset that believed a 15-30 minute run or ride was a worthless endeavor.

In 2004, after transitioning into life with a real job (sort of) and a family, not only was it hard for me to accept that I only had time for 3-5, 30’ runs and 2-3 hours per week instead of 20-40 hours per week, but it was hard to fathom that 3-5, 30’ runs was even worth the effort.

Fortunately, my wise friends who had busy schedules yet realized the value in exercise, convinced me that when it comes to fitting a workout into our busy schedule - every little bit counts.  It took a year or two, but I eventually embraced the “short and sweet” mentality with regard to working out. Fast forward 10 years, and I’m still fit, faster, relative to my former self, than I thought I’d be, and my love of exercise has continued to grow.

I like to repeat this message over the holidays because free-time is limited and stress levels are high. As a result, many athletes who are used to spending more than 5 hours per week training, throw in the towel for the months of November and December, convinced that a, relatively speaking, nickle and dime workout routine is not worth the effort. 

Don’t do that this holiday season. Accept that a reduced (yet more intense) workout schedule is not only fine, but may even help to get you out of a training rut, and leave you recharged and in a better place when you do commence your event specific training plan during the New Year. Accept the notion that keeping exercise in your life will make you a better parent, partner, friend, more productive at work and at home, a better holiday shopper, and allow that short and sweet exercise bouts of physical activity count as exercise. 

Take advantage of any opportunity to move or get the heart rate up for a minute or five.  Furthermore, if your exercise bouts are short and sweet - and it doesn’t matter how old you are or how slow you are - put some umph into it! Run back to the car after dropping the kids at school or extracurricular activity. Walk with a purpose when holiday shopping.  RUN up the stairs instead of taking the elevator.  Walk around your office while talking on the phone.  Run 1 mile instead of 4, when you don’t have 30-40 minutes to spare - don’t even waste time putting running clothes on. Just step into a pair of running shoes and go!

Here’s some additional reading on the subject.

The bottom line: Just because circumstances prevent you from training as much as you’d like, doesn’t mean you should abandon exercise entirely. Be creative with your exercise, and remember that every little bit counts.

Thank You Kona

October 21st, 2014


Alex Zanardi
Alex Zanardi

A few years back, I completed most of the1987 IRONMAN World Championships.  Unfortunately, I left out the most important part – the finish line.  During the process of almost finishing, I learned a couple of things.  First, not finishing something that you start is a horrible feeling, and second, I don’t enjoy IRONMAN distance triathlons.

Immediately after almost completing the event, as I watched others finish what I did not, I learned a few more things.  Primarily, IRONMAN is a race, an event, and also a journey.  I sat and watched just about every single person cross that finish line – a subconscious penance, perhaps, yet an amazing and enlightening experience.  Each person’s face and body told a story.  Some of the stories were obvious, and some were not.  Trying to figure out the stories that were not obvious, and perhaps apply them to my life, was cathartic, and reminded me of why I got involved in sport in the first place.

I started my life as a triathlete out of admiration for a college professor, and because of intrigue into the process of testing oneself – the journey, if you will.  I did “short” triathlons – one to two hours.  What started out as journeys, gradually morphed into competitions.  Accordingly, my notion of success gradually shifted from the completion of the journey, to finishing before anyone else.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved that my results were directly tied to success – financial and otherwise.  But at some point, that drive obscures the real motivation.  My yearly pilgrimage to watch IRONMAN Kona reminded me that the challenge was the real reason I started.  Because of this reminder, I never tired of my life in sport.

This year in Kona, I listened to Alex Zanardi, one of the greatest sportsman of all time, who lost both of his legs in a horrific IndyCar crash, talk about his successes.  After finishing IRONMAN Kona, with no legs, in 9:47:14 (1:08, 6:07, 2:24), he was asked by a small group of inquisitive fans how he was able to go so fast.  He answered that he did not become an IndyCar Champion because he wanted to drive fast.  He drove fast because he loved the process of learning to drive a race car.  Of his experience in Kona, Mr. Zanardi said, “When I passed down that narrow lane I have never experienced anything like that. It was amazing. I was always close to crying. I am not an emotional guy for these types of things, but this was very special.”

Once again, I’m reminded – if you love the journey, you will enjoy success.

Thank you Kona.

Inside The France Camp Kitchen

October 17th, 2014

France Camp, first and foremost, is about cycling.  Food and friendship, however, are a close runner up.

Cycling up and down the mountains of the French alpes inspires tales of heroism and woe (the good kind), fosters comradery and a sense of community, and whets the appetite.

The France Camp dinner table provides both the remedy for ravenousness and the pulpit for tales.  The kitchen, of course, is the source of its delicious delectables.

At the heart of the kitchen are Chefs Michael and Alex who enthusiastically combine their love of all things food and wine, to expertly prepare what I like to call, France Camp cuisine – mostly French dishes with an English flare.

Their daily interplay, occasional debates about the source or origin of the night’s creation, and their knowledge of food, wine, and local history, are a big part of the France Camp culinary experience.

I hope you enjoy this glimpse into the France Camp kitchen and hope that it entices you to come and ride, eat, and tell stories with us next July (click here for France Camp details).


Come To France Camp 2015!

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October 16th, 2014


St. Christophe, on the way to La Berarde.
St. Christophe, on the way to La Berarde.
On top of the clouds - summer road between Villard Reculas and l'alpe d'Huez.
On top of the clouds - summer road between Villard Reculas and l'alpe d'Huez.
Lunch break - La Berarde.
Lunch break - La Berarde.
Obligatory cafe break for the three C's - coffee, cola, croissants.
Obligatory cafe break for the three C's - coffee, cola, croissants.
On the Chalet back porch.
On the Chalet back porch.

If you love cycling, you’ll love France Camp.  If you love climbing and descending – you’ll love France Camp even more.

Each day France Camp features a major climb (or two) in the French alpes.  You don’t have to be a climbing specialist to participate in France Camp, but you do have to enjoy climbing.

If you marginally enjoy climbing, remember that what goes up, must come down!  France Camp descents are just as epic, or more so, than the climbs.

Food is also a huge part of France Camp.  Chefs Michael and Alex prepare ample portions of fresh food, daily.  Food and wine comes from the region, and many of the vegetables come from the Chalet garden.

Finally, friendship and comradery are focal points of France Camp.  You will leave with lasting friendships and priceless memories.

The Tour de France route will be announced Wednesday, Oct. 22, and the route will most likely feature our home-climb of the mystical l’alpe d’Huez.  This means that there will be at least two options for up close and personal TdF viewing during Week 2 of France Camp.

Check the Photos tab of my website for pictures of France Camp 2014 and 2012, or visit Riccitello’s France Cycling Camp on Facebook.

Come and enjoy France and France Camp with us!  Check details here.


August 28th, 2014


Way back in January of this year, as a way to celebrate my 50th year on this earth, I decided to do a couple of things – to participate in the Race Across America (RAAM), and to participate in Ironman Tahoe.  I committed to these things for both altruistic and selfish reasons. On the one hand, I wanted to support a couple causes near and dear to my heart, and on the other hand, after 10 years of sitting on the sidelines, I needed a reason to get off my lazy butt and re-engage in the competitive side of sport, which I truly miss.

I suppose you can say this year has been my “Ice Bucket Challenge” - only sweatier . . . and longer . . . and hotter . . . with no ice.  (Well – Tahoe may have ice, but I am really hoping for no ice.)

First up was RAAM.  RAAM is a bike race from Oceanside, California to Baltimore, Maryland, and I was both the team manager and a team member (cyclist).  Our mission was to raise awareness and funds for the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund (IFHF), and to finish in seven days or less. IFHF is a fund that supports soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries. As a Vietnam era military child, this one was important to me. To make a long story short, we finished in five days and twenty-one hours, won the eight-person team division, raised awareness about IFHF, and raised $653,000 dollars.  Mission accomplished!

Next up (as in right around the corner) is Ironman Lake Tahoe.  I am participating in Ironman Lake Tahoe to raise awareness and funds for Tu Nidito Children and Family Services. Tu Nidito provides comfort, hope and support to children and families whose lives have been impacted by a serious medical condition or death.  My wife Traci and I have been involved with Tu Nidito for the past couple years.  I’m participating in memory of Jose Rincon, Jr. who, while riding bicycles with a friend, was struck and killed by a drunk driver.  Unfortunately, I did not have the opportunity to meet Jose, but through Tu Nidito, I have gotten to know his family a bit.  Jose’s amazing family is a testament to the positive impact Tu Nidito can have on a families who have suffered a loss.

Jose’s little sister, Juli, had this to say about Tu Nidito, “I was 8-years-old when my brother died.  It was one of the worst and most confusing days of my life.  Being only 8 years old, I didn’t really understand what had happened.  I didn’t know that I wouldn’t get to see my brother again.  I didn’t know that from that day on, my family would change from being a family of 6, to a family of 5.  That year, my family and I received much love and support from family and friends, but it was hard because none of them knew exactly what we had gone through.  They didn’t understand how truly hard it was.  But that all changed when we began going to Tu Nidito.  The first day I went, it was so amazing and eye opening.  I finally felt like I belonged here again.  I felt like I actually fit in and I wasn’t ‘the girl who lost her brother.’  I was surrounded by kids my own age who had just recently gone through this tragic experience.  I wasn’t in this alone anymore.”

I hate asking for money.  But this year I am asking.  I have seen, firsthand, the amazing impact that Tu Nidito has on families suffering from the most unthinkable grief, and I’m honored to help raise money so that they can continue to help children and families deal with their loss.  The entire Rincon family volunteers at Tu Nidito helping other families cope with tragedy and grief, and I’m continually amazed and inspired by their generosity, courage, and strength.

My goal is to raise $20,000 in honor of Jose Jr.  A HUGE thank you to those of you who have already contributed.  If you have not yet contributed and you would like to – PLEASE DONATE HERE.

Now I’m going to head out for a little training so that I get to the IRONMAN Lake Tahoe finish line before the midnight cut-off!

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