Sunday, May 26, 2013

Dirt and pavement

MTBs: driving skills, high-end power, flow. Yin. Often fun over suffering.


Road: Team work, patience, lightness, tempo-power, luck...and suffering over fun. Yang. The giro this year just about epitomizes the quintessential essence of the insane difficulty of road racing

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Stand Up to Cancer

Lots of people out there are burnt on cancer charities.

Sometimes it's hard to tell where their money goes.

Stand Up to Cancer, has a pretty amazing track record of helping to fund multi-institutional initiatives that are clearly getting money into the hands of researchers working to understand cancer and save lives. And their website is 100% transparent.

Check them out: http://www.standup2cancer.org/science


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Cycling and sun exposure

I haven't been blogging much recently...bike racing and writing about it definitely qualifies as a hobby, and writing on this blog about bike racing just hasn't fit into the 168hours of the week recently.

Bringing together my own experience with cancer, my training as a physician scientist working on cancer, and my passion for cycling is basically the focus of this blog this year. With that in mind, I thought I'd post on something that doesn't get thought about enough in cycling; our exposure to the sun.

I've been really interested to see that a few companies are starting to manufacture UV protection into the spring/summer cycling apparel. I think it is incredibly important to support this.

Here is an interview with a dermatologist from Stanford about 'facts vs. fiction' associated with sun exposure:
"What does the layperson need to know about UVA and UVB rays? 
Ultraviolet (UV) radiation rays are responsible for sunburn, skin cancer, and “photoaging” (accelerated aging of the skin).  Approximately 95% of UV radiation is comprised of UVA type rays, which are strong all day and all year long. The other 5% are UVB type rays, which  penetrate the skin less deeply but are 400 times more intense in the summer and in the mid-day hours between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. UVB rays play the largest role in causing sunburn and skin cancer, although UVA rays have more recently been linked to skin cancer and photoaging.

Who is at risk for skin cancer?
One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetimes, with the nonmelanoma skin cancer types (basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma) predominating.  Melanoma is the most deadly form of skin cancer, accounting for only 4% of cases but over 80% of skin cancer deaths. People with fair skin (skin types 1 and 2 on the Fitzpatrick skin phototype scale) and those with increased numbers of common and atypical moles, sun sensitivity or family history are more likely to develop melanoma. Older men have the highest incidence and mortality rates from melanoma, although the number of new cases in young women is on the rise — likely related to tanning bed use.

Buying sunscreen can be so confusing.  What should I look for?
The new FDA regulations have resulted in a big change as well as relabeling of sunscreen products, which must filter out the entire range of UVB and UVA wavelengths to be labeled as “broad spectrum.” Effective UVB filters have been available for many years and are measured by the sun protection factor (SPF). Full UVA filtration has been harder to achieve, and in the US, sunscreens that contain a chemical called avobenzone that is photostabilized with octocrylene provide the best UVA protection. Other UVA filters may be more effective but are not yet available in the U.S.

What is the biggest mistake people make with sunscreen?
Insufficient application is the most common mistake. Consumers use only about one-fourth to half of the sunscreen they need to achieve the SPF level that is actually contained in the product. For this reason, it may be more useful to apply a higher SPF-containing sunscreen (30 or above) or simply increase the amount you are putting on your skin. The key is finding a brand you like and using it regularly. A good rule is to use about 2 to 3 tablespoons for your body and 1 tablespoon for your face and to reapply every 2-4 hours. Remember, there is no such thing as a waterproof sunscreen, although sunscreens will soon be rated as either water resistant or very water resistant depending on how well they maintain their SPF level after water immersion. You can apply sunscreen just before you go outside, but you don’t want to put it on and jump right in the pool.

What about Vitamin D exposure?
The Vitamin D controversy has been overblown by the tanning industry, with some companies suggesting that seeking a tan (by artificial or natural UV light) is good for you. Incidental sunlight is likely adequate for sufficient vitamin D levels in most fair-complexioned individuals. Vitamin D supplementation is definitely safer than exposing yourself to excessive UV radiation to increase you blood levels of vitamin D, and there are guidelines for how much vitamin D to take published by the Institute of Medicine.

How do you convince the skeptic that sunscreen is worth the effort?
In 2010, the first prospective randomized trial was published that showed that daily use of sunscreen reduced the risk of melanoma by 50% compared with optional use of sunscreen. The benefits of sunscreen and sun protection in general (including avoidance of mid-day sun and tanning practices, and wearing hats, protective clothing and sunglasses) are well-established in terms of reducing the photoaging process and preventing skin cancer."

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Training/riding as a parent

I've pretty much built my whole life the last couple of years on mechanisms, practices, and schedules that allow different hats to be worn: Dad, friend/husband/supporter to an almost doctor, cancer researcher, bike rider, and doctor-in-training.

This is a great article about having kids and riding: http://www.cxmagazine.com/coaching-corner-guilt-training-kids-time

One of the struggles I've found myself in regarding the Columbia cycling community, is not making it to many group rides. Most are scheduled around 8-5 type jobs, which unfortunately doesn't apply too me. Plus, from about 4:30 until 8:30 every night, I'm busy wearing an apron.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Suffering

I haven't really known what to blog about recently.

Things have been extremely busy with family (my wife's currently working extremely long hours at the hospital...often there at 4:30 or 5am and not home til after dark), research, some consulting I'm doing for an oncology firm, and of course riding.

Last weekend, I returned from a 3hr ride simply ecstatic because I had set a goal for myself regarding not shifting and managed to feel good the whole ride. It's those little, somewhat arbitraty bench marks that I find entertaining. Although I've been opposed to Strava for a while because it seems silly to race virtually, I started using my account a couple of weekes ago so that I can record my volume for the year. Anyway, after this ride I saw that my legs had produced more kJ's in 3hrs then a friend of mine had done in a 6.5hr century. I didn't really feel ecstatic or victorious, or somehow superior in that comparison...it's funny, but competition on the bike for me is much more of an internal, i.e. introverted, process of pushing myself to do things as opposed to me wanting to beat others. I've spent a lot of time thinking about why a ride and why I race and one conclusion I am absolutely certain about is that I don't do it to win or beat others. I do it to challenge myself and break boundaries.

I train on the bike because, quite simply, it (I'm paraphrasing something I read from strength coach Charles Staley) it restores my confidence in the value hard work. Exercise is of course healthy, but I have no delusions that health is the output of the input (physical, emotional, social, financial) I put into cycling. So why do I give it so much? I bleed over it. Why do I aleter and orchestrate my career and lifestyle so that I'll be able to ride and race?

Part of it is that I've always been this way. Speed skating as a kid. Then bikes, then rock climbing, and then back to bikes again. And it was during rock climbing, where pseudo-taoist-buddhist philosophy runs deep, that I think I learned to love and desire the internal process of trying really, really hard to do things...to move, to feel my body, and connect to the earth and feel the elements.

Competition is fun, but self-competition is what drives me. I hate to sound corny, but cancer has deepened this sort of self study, journey, quest, etc. Given the state of my lungs and history with thyroid cancer, pushing myself on the bike, seeing what I'm capable of, somehow provides meaning in all of this.

I'm really excited for this next year. We're going to be super busy...I hope to finish up my PhD by next spring, then will be at a crossroads to decide if I should then try and do both medicine and science, or just one. In the meantime, I'm going to do some NUE racing this next year on the mountain bike; sometimes I set out on my bike with the knowledge that I'm going to suffer. This is one of those cases....but I can't freakin wait!

Cohutta 100 is first in the smoky mountains on April 27th.

Friday, December 14, 2012

MO State Cyclocross Championship

Time has escaped me this week.

It's weird, but when I'm sitting in the lab all day reading about RNA, diseases, and cancer cells, I really don't feel much like a bike racer. I've been drinking quite a bit of beer since I hurt my calf in october...like every night, and generally just feel like a pretty normal person who enjoys riding bikes around fields on the weekends. It's just become such a central part of my life.

With all that said, I was really happy with the way the race unfolded on Sunday.

I liked the course quite a bit. With the rain the evening before, it was a little slick which I thought significantly improved the technical challenge of the course. When it was dry on Saturday, it was apparent that it was hard to flow on this course. Line selection and cornering didn't matter much because the corners were a little off-camber but all pretty slow since you could never really get going. But on Sunday, you had to choose good lines and there were parts of the course where it was faster to run than ride...so all-in-all I thought it was a good cross course; especially because spectators could see almost everything from the top of the hill.

Since the course was hilly and there were lots of turns, it was pretty selective. I barely shifted into my big ring all weekend; it was just kicker followed by grinder followed by kicker, with a bunch of turns in between, and a couple of slightly technical descents.

I managed to ride off the front during the 3rd of 10 laps and stayed there for the rest of the race. The mental aspect of breaking a course down into little segments is one of the things I love the most about off-road bicycle racing, and it felt really good to be on my mental game.



I'm very satisfied and proud to have won the race. I'm thankful to all my friends in bike racing and to those who help me keep my head about things. This week I've just been trying to savor it and reflect on the journey over the past few years. I'm trying not to think too much about next season, and for now focus more on science, friends here in Columbia, and family. But in the meantime, I'm in the process of selling a bunch of equipment and am trying to simplify my life with respect to bikes and bike racing. As of right now, I only own 1 bicycle and hopefully am sorting out some priorities for the future.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Bubba: St Vincent

It's strange that no matter how bad my week went, how poorly I slept the few nights prior, and sometimes even how much beer I drank the night before, the pain of a cyclocross race brings a little smile to my face (I guess I talk to angels).

Yesterday was St Vincent, on the north side of St Louis. It's a park near Normandy high school, and as someone who grew up south, within the erected and metaphoric walls of Clayton, it's a really special place to race. The park is just this crazy anomaly of topographical terrain in the middle of an area of St Louis that will likely never be cool or gentrified. The nearby buildings have really cool old architecture and I swear the park has this grass more like some kind of emerald-irish-isle, then anywhere else in St Louis.

In terms of Bubba history, it's the infamous sight of my buddy Schottler's incredible solo effort off the front, only to be slowly reeled in by the ever methodical and well-paced Butthead. Last year, I won there...whilst sick as a dog. This year I don't think I'm quite so stupid or motivated to race sick (although my child is sick right now and with my luck, I'm virtually certain I'll catch it in time for the state cyclocross next weekend).

The real story yesterday, is one that's been interwoven into Missouri cyclocross for a long time, but highlighted yesterday because it's a trend likely to continue; we love cyclocross in BoCoMo. My teamate Jesse Maggard won the B race! Mike Morgan, who was riding a hunk of junk bike that if he doesn't like he should trade wit me, was top 5. And the A race saw PedNet director Lawrence Simonson, Butthead, and myself 5th, 2nd, and 1st respectively.

Two things I've learned in cyclocross this year:
1. Pacing on a qualitative scale: Basically there are 4 effort levels in a cross race, that over the course of racing this year, feel incredibly distinct and concrete.

-Warm-up spinning; this is easy, like Z1 or Z2 HR, 0-220watts

-Lung pace: this is typical 'tempo' riding of a cross race. You're pushing the pedals hard, but if you're driving your bike well and getting in a little recovery on the sections that allow for it, breathing is still out of the nose. It's probably like upper Z3 to Z4 HR, 240-300watts, RPE 5-7. The thing about lung pace is that it's sufficiently discombobulating that driving the bike becomes more difficult.

-Leg pace: These are the efforts that make cross a unique form of cycling...these are the repeated bursts of power the occur coming out of corners, on the climbs, over the bumps, and in a UCI race...they're basically the whole damn race. These are HR Z5, and are >320watts, with the shorter accelerations being 400-800w, RPE 8.

-Heart pace: this is when you put your chips in. Leg pace is part of the game and shouldn't hurt that bad. Heart pace is when you stretch out the leg pace into long efforts and you start to suck more at driving the bike. This is when you're gassed, seeing cross eyed. This is RPE 9 to 10.

2. Cross is just silly expensive. A broken fork and tubular this year isn't quite as bad as a couple of broken derailleurs and a broken frame last year, but it still sucks. I originally wanted to go to nationals again this year, but mostly due to funds, will be packing things up and selling a bunch of cross equipment after the state race next week. The reality of my wife still being on student loans and me with an incredibly meager scientist-level income (with 2 more years of student loans beginning next June when I finish up med school) has completely set-in. My choices need to be more sustainable and I'm not sure that cross, at least not in the way that I've approached it, will be in the cards for me next year.