Touchstone Blog Archive
Sunday, September 12, 2010
  Markham Connolly: Cycling to Success
For the past twenty years, Markham Connolly has worked in the climbing industry. From guiding in Telluride Colorado, starting a climbing program while teaching at an international school in Indonesia, to building climbing walls in Colorado and California, Markham has worked intensively with outdoor education. In August of 1999, he left Colorado, moving to the Bay Area to help develop and manage Berkeley Ironworks. Two years later, he began his current position as Director of Operations.

I got addicted to road cycling. I moved from Telluride, where access to climbing was easy. When I moved to the Bay Area, where outdoor climbing isn't as accessible, I started looking for alternative outdoor activities. I decided to have a go at endurance sports, something I never had done before. I grew up playing team sports and had a passion for skiing and climbing for many years, but I wanted to see what I had in me to compete in individual endurance sports. I first started trail running with the purpose to do a trail marathon. I finished eighth in a trail running marathon that had over 5,000 feet of elevation. It was hard and somewhat fun but I wasn't super excited about doing another one. Then I thought I'd try an off-road triathlon. I did one of those Xterra triathlons. I hated it. Again, I was looking for another activity until I discovered road cycling. I was in search of a new mountain bike for my wife's birthday. She was a huge mountain biker in Colorado and I thought it would be something we could do together. My idea was to do some mountain bike races, but she did a 180 on me and wanted to get road bikes. She'll never forget the look I had on my face of wondering why in the hell would we want road bikes. Once I got on a road bike, it was all over.

The Connolly family.

My wife, Joelle, and I have been married for nine years. We met in Telluride, skied together, mountain biked together, started climbing together, and then we moved to the Bay Area together. We have two children. My daughter Isabelle is four years old and my son Joe will be one this month. Joelle is an art consultant that curates and manages collections for private collectors and corporations.

When Joe was born I started to taper off the cycling and change to family guy. I took a 15 month hiatus but I’m starting to get back on the bike again. I’m just training. Race season is over and my goal is to not get dropped when riding with my teammates, but I have some serious pounds to lose first. Who knows but I'm sure I'll be talked into doing some races with my buddies. (Shhhh...don't tell my wife). I definitely want to get back in shape and maintain a balance between cycling, family and work. I need to find that happy medium where I can do it all.

Isabelle on the day she learned how to ride a bike!

Isabelle's learning how to ride a bike. She’s been riding a thing called a skuut- a wooden bike without pedals that teaches a kid how to balance. She can coast without her feet and then when she wants to go faster she runs her feet, Flintstone style. She’s seen me come home with road rash and stitches from crashing my bike. It hurts but you get used to it. It’s part of the whole thing. She learned how to ride a pedal bike without training wheels over the labor day weekend. She took some diggers and had some scrapes. She got up and shook it off and kept on pedaling. She is now a true cyclist. Her mom took her on a mountain bike ride at the Albany Bulb while taking the dog for a run. Hmmmm...... road or mountain.

Markham speeding down the road.

As director of operations, I am there to support and work with all the gym managers to make sure safety standards are high and keep safety policies in check, to ensure that our staff follow our philosophy on how to treat our members and day users (not as easy as you think since we are not a policy driven company), to create new programs that are current with the times and bring diversity to the gym, something I really enjoy doing. Our goal as a business is to create new cultures and communities within our gyms like Crossfit, Spinning, Boxing, the cycling team. Yes, we sponsor a women's elite cycling team as well as men's teams. Hopefully with the swimming pool and boxing program at Concord, we will bring in a new group of folks that will create a new culture. Another important objective of Touchstone is to make our gyms accessible for kids and adults from less privileged backgrounds. We work with a lot of community groups around all our gyms. We want everyone to have a chance to experience the extraordinary world of rock climbing.

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