July 2010 Reader Athlete – Wilson Skinner

Sky Barsch Gleiner
Posted June 30th, 2010

Age: 27
Residence: Burlington
Family: Wife, Angela Madonia
Occupation: Para-educator at Champlain Valley Union
Primary sport: Cycling
VS: You’re one of the ultimate frisbee coaches at CVU. How strong is the interest in the sport?
WS: It’s huge. CVU’s been playing ultimate for over 10 years. We have an intramural league two days a week. Then we have a club team that goes out and plays in a scholastic way, so they play other schools. We probably have a total of 45 kids who come out.
VS: Where’s your favorite place to play ultimate?
WS: The Burlington area has an awesome summer league. We play out in Williston at the Central School. It’s a killer summer league, and we play every Tuesday night all summer.
VS: When did you start playing?
WS: I’ve been playing since high school, since about ‘98.
VS: You have bike-commuted 3,000 miles this school year. What inspired you to do that?
WS: I did Americorps in Burlington with Bike Recycle Vermont. It’s a project of Local Motion that takes donated bikes, fixes them up, and re-sells them to lower income people, including a lot of refugees and homeless people. I bike commuted within Burlington then, but that was only three or four miles. This past year, I got a job at CVU, and we only had one car. So the choices were either try to get a ride every day, get a car, or get a bike. So, I’ve biked 3,000 miles this year just in commuting.
VS: You rode all winter?
WS: I went all through the winter, all through January and February. I wore these giant muck boots and long underwear.
VS: What are some recommendations for potential bike commuters?
WS: I think the biggest thing is to be optimistic. I think people think they don’t have enough time because they don’t take the time. For me, it’s about an hour, so some days it can be tiring. But it’s only a half hour or 40 minutes longer than it would be if I drove. It takes a little extra time and a little extra planning. So, some tips: Make sure you have a full change of clothes. Wear layers. You’d never want to go with a heavy sweatshirt. You think you’d wear your winter parka, but you really only want those wind layers right at the beginning. Once you get cooking you’ll want to get rid of some of those layers. I even layer my gloves. I wear gloves with liners, so sometimes I would even take off the outside shell and just wear the liners.
VS: You mentioned you “human powered” yourself to a family gathering in New York. Can you share that story?
WS: I try to use my bicycle not just for going out for a 40-mile ride with my friends. I like to find adventures. Right now I’m commuting on my single speed. That’s one of my traditions, I ride the Onion River Century on a single speed. So, the family gathering—I bet my wife that I could make it down to the Catskills in time to help her for a wedding rehearsal dinner. I rode on Friday about 50 miles, and then camped out behind a barn. I rode the next 100 or so miles to the Catskills the next day. I made it with an hour-and-a-half to spare. I love long-distance riding when there’s a goal at the end. I have ridden to New York City with my friend Roy.
VS: How many times have you ridden the Onion River Century?
WS: Every year that it’s happened, so six. It’s cool, I’ve seen it grow from this tiny little affair with maybe 14 riders the first year. I showed up on probably the worst bike in the whole crowd and people were laughing at me. I made my bike a single speed; I basically took off the derailleur and pulled the chain tight. People were pretty forgiving on the ride. I kept up with the crowd for the most part. Andrew Brewer was really good about circling back with the sag wagon. He was watching me to see if I needed any assistance. My bike was pretty crappy, so crappy that someone took a picture, and someone said, “I thought my bike was bad, but …” Since then, my single speed has gotten better.
VS: What do you think about the ride?
WS: It’s a great ride, and the reason I love doing it every year is they have the best food stops. The Kellogg-Hubbard librarians make all the food, and it’s just this incredible array of food. You go to some rides, and you can tell they just went to Costco. Not here. The food is tremendous. I love riding up to Hardwick, into Irasburg and Albany, it’s just gorgeous up there. You come back and you get to hang out, and we always stop and swim in the river on the way back. It always ends up being one of those super fun days. I have added albatross handlebars to my bike and people started referring to my bike as a vintage, antique-bike.
VS: You must get a lot of looks and cheering.
WS: I get a lot of “Man, you’re crazy.” It is pretty exhausting. It means I can really haul ass up hill, but if it’s any kind of downhill or flat I just can’t keep up with the pack.
VS: What is your favorite stretch of the ride?
WS: My favorite stretch of the ORC is from Irasburg to Albany. It’s God’s country up there, everything is so lush and beautiful.
VS: What is your toughest athletic adventure to date?
WS: I think it would probably be the first Onion River Century ride, when I had that makeshift bike and my chain kept falling off. I remember being up past Hardwick, in Orleans or Stannard, somewhere way out in the middle of nowhere, and my chain kept falling off. I got the bike rolling again, but I kept waiting for something to happen. Your senses are heightened the whole time to that. Physically that ride is hard every year, but I’m more comfortable with the single speed now.
VS: Why do you think exercise is so important to you?
WS: I think it’s something that I’ve done with my family since I was young. My mom has described herself as a middle-aged jock. I have these wonderfully compulsive parents. My mom walks every day, rain or shine, and my dad has said that it’s not an adventure if you’re know you’re going to complete it. Plus, exercise is my chance to almost meditate, to work through things in my head, process things, relax, and set some goals.
VS: What do you enjoy doing with your wife?
WS: We love hiking. I’m trying to get her into biking, and she’s trying to get me into yoga. We love food, and we love sharing food with friends, and we love spending time with our families.
VS: You’re working your way to teach at the high school level. What subject do you hope to teach?
WS: I would like to teach social studies, but I have a great mentor at CVU, a fellow runner and ultimate player. He’s a special educator, and seeing his work is really inspiring, so now I’m thinking about special education.