How maniac athletes cope with parenthood
By Anne Stanton
Sure, it sounds good to pound out the miles on your bike or skis, but does
all that time short-change your kids? And does it unfairly impose on the
parent who doesnt compulsively exercise, but is always left watching the
kids, buying the groceries, and cleaning the house?
Johanna and Ty Schmidt worried about that and designed a lifestyle to
accommodate their dual roles as parents and athletes. They are arguably
the most talented cycling couple in Traverse City; they both raced for the
Hagerty cycling team, and this year they took top awards in the Iceman
mountain bike race, one of the most prestigious in the Midwest.
They also have, arguably, the most original of lifestyles. Their theme is
simplicity. They spend very little money on the basics, and joke that
frugal is the new black.
Frugal, as in keeping the house temperature down to 58 degrees, and almost
never eating out. They share a single full-time physical therapist job at
Munson Medical Center, which allows them to each work part-time while
still qualifying for full-time health benefits.
I work 25 hours, from 1 to 6 p.m., and Johanna works 15, from 8 until
noon, said Ty. She trains in the morning before she goes to work, and we
take turns training at night after I get home from work.
When one returns from work, the other heads out the door, Johanna said.
Last summer, when Jameson heard the door open, he would say, Bye mom!
Hed automatically know the next person is leaving to go do something.
The family manages to eat three meals a day together, the kids dont go to
daycare, and Johanna and Ty spend Tuesday nights together riding their
bikes along with weekends (kids stay with Grandma). The couple often
figures out a way to get a workout in while their kids are having fun.
This year, for example, Johanna skate-skis the oval track at Hickory Hills
while pulling Jameson on a sled, while Carter, 5, skis on his own (he was
actually going up the tow rope himself and skiing at the age of 3, with
Johanna frequently checking on him).
We try to make our training invisible to the kids so they dont miss
usIll go for a run while theyre still sleeping, or try to incorporate
them into it. In the summer, Ty bikes up M-22 to Suttons Bay and hauls
them in a trailer. So if anyone sees them there, please be careful.
In the winter, Ty runs for exercise, but still rides a bike everywhere,
although not to Suttons Bay. They live with one car, saving on car
payments, gas, and repairs.
Oh, they also turned almost their entire yard into an organic garden and
plan to raise chickens for eggs at their downtown Traverse City home. And
theyre also vegetarians. And they go to Arizona every winter for five
weeks in order to get a jumpstart on race training.
That will have to change, though, when Carter starts first grade next year.
Johanna and Ty emphasize that they figured out their lifestyle over time,
and were extremely lucky. Most people dont have the opportunities,
education or energy they have. On the other hand, theyre a living example
that you dont have to buy into the standard approach of two full-time
jobs, daycare, two cars, and cable bills. There are ways of thinking
outside of the suburban box.
We live simply so we can do the things we like to do, Johanna said. We
live simply so we can travel for five weeks to Arizona, so both of us can
work part-time, which makes work much more enjoyable, and so we can spend
more time with the kids. And because we spend so much time with the kids,
we can ride our bikes more, and we dont feel guilty going out for a
three-hour ride at night. And we commute to work on our bikes for the
environment and because its cheap.
We have one car thats 10 years old, paid for nine years ago, and its
fun to commute to work. Its fun in the winter because its a challenge.
Its fun in the summer because its a quiet way to get to work. And then
we have a garden because its nice to teach the kids where food comes
from, and how its produced and how much work it takes to keep a garden
going. And it saves on grocery bills and its quiet time. Its peaceful,
realizing its out there.
Few people are dying to exercise at 5 in the morning or skate-ski at night
with a lamp on their head, or work until 8 p.m. weeding a garden. And who
keeps their heat down to 58 degrees, shuns cell phones, bikes in the
winter, and doesnt resort to TV as an impromptu babysitter?
But if it sounds like sacrifice, it doesnt feel like it, they said.
Take their cold house: Right now, I have on long underwear, pants on top
of that, a t-shirt, plus a hoody, a scarf around my neck, and my slippers
with two pairs of socks. Im not cold. And then we go out and play in the
snow. When we come in, were actually warm.
Cell phones? I cant imagine ever wanting one. I dont like answering the
phone I have with the sales calls. Why would I want to be contacted 24/7?
And the weekend races turn into family vacations. We take the kids
camping or to a motel with a pool.
A BIKING LIFE
Johanna and Ty first met in January of 2002 at a Tucson hospital, where
Johanna was working her final six-week clinical internship. She was
stunning. I couldnt wait for her to finish her internship so I could ask
her out, Ty said.
At the time, Ty was biking 17 miles to work one-way, taking advantage of
the citys policy of providing bike lanes for all the roads. Johanna
wasnt a biker at the time.
I think the first ride, he took me up Mount Lemmon, and that was 26 miles
up with a 6 percent grade. So he said, Well go half of it. Well drive
to the halfway mark and go to the top and eat at Pie in the Sky
restaurant, where they serve this fantastic pie. So I have this old
50-pound mountain bike, thats the only bike I have. Something I had in
college, rode to classes with, and he had this fancy road bike. Were
trying to get up this hill, and I am just dying. He starts joking that I
need a bonk strap. Hes lucky I didnt break up with him.
Johanna soon was training as hard as Ty, and turned out to be a
preternaturally strong cyclistsomething neither she nor Ty would have
guessed. Now when they bike Mount Lemmon, they easily ride from bottom to
top, no bonk strap necessary, she said.
The couple spent a lot of time in Tys native Canada and married in 2003.
Exactly nine months after their honeymoon, Carter was born and neither Ty
nor Johanna have worked full-time since. They lived in Arizona; Ty worked
part-time and Johanna stayed at home for a year and a half.
Their second son, Jameson, was born on New Years Eve in 2006 when they
moved to Traverse City. They were able to formalize an agreement with
Munson to allow them to job share.
That was the year we moved to Michigan. So I didnt train that whole
summer, and I gained 50 pounds and had Jameson on New Years Eve (at
home), she said.
She was asked to join the Hagerty team, and the first ride was in May.
Our first group ride was up Hoxsie (a hilly road), and we were going as
hard as we could. I was dead last. Absolutely the last person up. I wrote
it on my calendar, DFL, dead f#!% last up Hoxsie!
By the end of the summer though, Johanna was a top team member. This year,
she was the lead attacker on the hills, her specialty, allowing the
Hagerty team to dominate in the state.
All in a simple days work.