Saturday, December 24, 2011

How's your health?

...the inevitable question around the holidays for a person living with cancer. Always has and always will be a difficult question to answer. I usually say something along the lines of "Excellent, but complicated". And then hope I'm not pressed for more.

Generally I feel like I'm being truthful: I do what I love. I feel like I'm making a difference as a dad, husband, and in science. I'm super passionate about riding a bike. I'm riding well and a pretty high level for an amateur. But, of course I literally have lungs full of 2-5mm tumors and a know nodule in my vertebrae that just seems to be hanging out; not growing and not shrinking. And for the time being, causing no problem.

My father-in-law is an oncologist and gave me a great article to read about Steve Jobs and his death from Cancer.

Here is a link

The meat of the article is this:
"This may be unfair, or at least incorrect. The facts are reasonably straightforward, at least as I can piece them together. He was diagnosed with an early stage pancreatic islet cell tumor, the only kind of pancreatic cancer with any sort of cure rate. Despite the entreaties of friends and colleagues he wasted nine months on worthless alternative approaches before finally undergoing pancreatic surgery. He subsequently had a recurrence of his cancer, underwent a liver transplant, received experimental therapies and eventually succumbed to his disease.

Cancer Doesn't Care

But I do know that cancer doesn't care. It doesn't care if you are rich or smart or powerful, it doesn't share your beliefs on nutrition or meditation and it has no desire to ever give you a second chance if you screw up your chance for a cure. It is an agent of entropy. It maximizes disorder, and our short lives are possible only if we try and preserve ourselves from the entropic catastrophes it foments."

Then about his money:
"I (the physician author) have had similar experiences with some (though not all, by any means) high-flyers (mega rich people). Because the normal rules of existence don't seem to apply to them, they sometimes seem to believe that cancer's biologic imperatives are options rather than mandates. They think they can perform, through use of their wealth and position, some Kobayashi Maru maneuver, reprogramming life's computer to alter the outcome of their disease. Curiously, the well off sometimes suffer from lack of access to good medical care. They surround themselves with toadies and yes-men and (viz Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley) the unethical and incompetent. Idiots with medical degrees endorse their magical thinking. Because they can afford concierge doctors they assume that they are receiving better care, when their care is frequently inferior to that received by the average Medicare recipient. This doesn't seem to have been the case with Jobs, however, who received his care at excellent institutions."

And about his liver transplant:
"Leaving aside whether the transplant was medically wise or appropriate, or even if it was performed for his cancer (I lack data sufficient to make a judgment on this), Jobs apparently got the transplant by gaming the system. Because transplants are assigned on a state-by-state basis, there are inequities in distribution that have a geographic basis. Californian Jobs got his replacement liver in Tennessee by getting his name on their state registry, as well as many others.The Apple addict in me mourns the passing of Steve Jobs. The doctor part of me wonders whom he bumped off the transplant list. There are always more candidates for liver transplant than there are livers, and people die while standing in line for their turn."

Monday, December 19, 2011

Veldrijden Holidays

On the finishing stretch...

Semester is done. I have a few weeks to focus on my research and get ready for some really cool science next spring.

I rode hard the last 2 weeks. Definitely the hardest weekday riding I've done since September. This week will be the hardest of the fall/winter. Then there will be a couple of hard workouts, family time, and a taper for the last 3 races of the season: 2 UCI races in Chi-town and Master's 30-34 Nat'l championships.

This weekend was a race held by Mark French in Columbia, IL ( at definitely one of the best (IMHO, the best) local cross courses this year.

Almost every turn you could rail without braking. There was singletrack, climbing, stairs, sand. And it was awesome weather. Plus podium finishers got belgian beer!

A very happy holidays to all blog readers out there. I wish you love and peace during this awesome time of year and a wonderful 2012. I'm certainly thankful for all the support from friends, family, acquaintances, and random internet-folk. 2011 has been a tuff but good year. Watching Cassidy grow and spending time with her is hands-down the highlight of this past year. I'm pretty stoked to be doing what I'm doing right now...completely focused on; family, science, and bike friends/community/racing/training/surfing

Monday, December 12, 2011

Spanish lake

It was a stressful week as far as being the end of the semester, maggie being on call a few nights, and starting to train hard again in a final build up to nationals. My bike situation was essentially taken care of for me by Shimano and my new sponsor, Walt's bike shop. Basically all I had to do was choose a new cross frame and where I wanted my old broken frame to get repaired. I knew what I wanted in a cross frame immediately; carbon, shorter wheel base, 2 water bottle mounts, tapered head tube, preferably not BB30, and preferably internal cable routing. The final decision came down to the Trek Cronus and the Felt, with the Trek finally being an easy choice because of excellent tire clearance, positive recommendations, the internal routing, and availability. By friday afternoon, I was spinning around on the new frame with my mechanical shifting and an ad on StL biking for the electronic Ultegra Di2 for sale!

That being said, let me take a moment and give a plug:
I have for sale a 53cm 2011 Carbon Kona Major Jake frameset + Thompson seatpost (internal headset, option for BB adapter cusps to run conventional cranks).
Also, an Ultegra Di2 upgrade group with a brand new warrantied rear derailleur. Included are shifters, wires, battery, mounting hardware, charger, and a 34.9clamp front derailleur.

The last bubba race turned out to be a ton more fun than I had expected. Wonderful weather helped, and for some reason, even though many people dread racing at Spanish lake, the clock-wise course direction made for a really fun, mostly non-technical power course.

I went pretty hard from the gun and basically felt like I had nothing to loose in this one. Josh had already cinched the series, so I might as well forget racing smart and take a Trebon approach to just laying out some power. That worked for about 2 laps. Then my legs hurt. In the last couple of years, my lungs have always been my limiting factor and I hardly ever feel a cross race purely in my legs, but man did I hit a wall of lactic acid earlier than I expected. Josh rode up and quickly dispatched of me. I chased in vein and basically was humbled by his excellent tactics, skill on the cross course, and well-honed power/fitness. I genuinely hope that he can sustain and continue to build for the next month and go crush some souls at Master's worlds.

As for me, it looks like I have a good starting position right now at nationals. According to USA cycling, my point value predicts a top-5 finish given the current registrants, which doesn't really mean anything to me except for the fact that I'll have a good starting position, which has been my number 1 goal for this season- to go into nationals with a legit shot at doing well.

If you click this link, on the right-hand side of the page, there's a grey button called View registrants. Then go down to 1/7 saturday afternoon at 3:45pm (Master's 30-34). You can see the list and click another button called predictor to see how we rank amongst each-other for start relative start position.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

December plan

Got to clear the air after that last post.


Motivation remains high for training and riding. In terms of work, I have a good deal of stuff to do in the lab (I'm an MD/PhD student working in an immunology lab) and papers to write, so science will keep me busy throughout December.

I did a hard ride the wednesday before Jingle cross, but besides that only did one other hard training ride and 5.5 races in November. This is all to say that bike time has been 6-8hrs/week with the exception of Jingle CX week with much of that as easy spinning. December however is a whole different ball of wax....back to the training. Yesterday was a hard gym session and then an easy spin, today and tomorrow are bread-and-butter subLT 20minute intervals. Then hopefully race this sunday. The last few percentages of fitness are super demanding and seem to require much more time/pain invested. Since most of my fitness this year came from training in July-September and then racing Oct-Nov, I feel pretty confident that a build will yield benefits.

I'm picking Ryan Trebon for the win this weekend. Home town advantage and rest is huge. Nevermind, Powers and Johnson day 1 and 2 respectively.

Monday, December 5, 2011

MO State Race

Walt's was able to obtain a replacement Ui2 derailleur after it snapped last weekend. I basically wrote off the incident as a fluke and due to my trust in Shimano and the knowledge that numerous professionals were racing the Di2 at the highest level, that I'd be good to go.

Most of last week was spent working. Most of my bicycle related activities consisted of talking with Maggie and thinking about the next month of our lives, with the question-Is it worth it for a regionally strong amateur racer to continue training through the holidays in order to make a run at the Master's 30-34 national championship in Madison Wisconsin on Jan 7th. Given a number of pluses and minuses, we've ultimately decided that the sacrifices are worth it and that I'm going to work my butt-off over the next month getting ready.

My friend's at Columbia Strength and Conditioning must really believe in me and appreciate the significance of a guy with lungs full of tumors and bone metastases being able to compete at a high level. They've offered too sponsor me and train me in the weight room over the next month! These guys are hands-down the best weight trainers I've ever encountered. They're continually attending national and international seminars and back-up their methods with scientifically proven research. Many of their views are extreme in some ways, but essentially their biggest influence is Charles Poliquin, who is probably one of the most successful strength coaches on the planet. I'm a big believer in the benefits of weight lifting for cycling and CSC is the best I've ever encountered, so I'm incredibly excited to have my first individual sponsor!

So, I got psyched for nationals. Really psyched. The state race this past weekend had been a goal for 2 years. I felt like I was riding well enough to win in almost any conditions on almost any course. I've significantly improved in the mud the last few weeks and basically did everything I could to prepare...I started wearing my contacts lenses again so that I could see without glasses and last wednesday, arranged to have my friends from Walt's (Josh Carrol in particular, HUGE THANK YOU) work the pits so that I was doing bike changes at regular intervals.

The rest of the week was spent recovering from Jingle cross. I did some easy endurance-paced riding, but that was it. Saturday during my opener ride, I knew my legs were good.

Sunday was very thick, heavy mud. Very similar to jingle cross day 3. The course however had considerably more pedaling sections and most of the hard mud sections were not at turns, but were seated-power or even slight downhills. I was stoked with the course. At the start, I had an uncharacteristic bad start, while a Travis Donn and another KC-area rider had fantastic starts. A few others were in front of me including my teamate Devin, Josh Johnson, and maybe one other. But at a big technical 180, I took an inside line while everyone else went wide and next thing I knew, I was chasing down Travis with Devin in tow. By the end of the lap, I Travis had a 5 sec gap and I was alone chasing. It stayed that way for a few laps and I was pretty happy with where everyone was on the race course and how I felt. The pace was solid, but I hadn't gone into the red yet. I eventually caught and passed him on a slight uphill, only to have him reclaim the lead at some point during the following lap.

During those laps, I was doing bike changes at the pits to ensure problems didn't happen. Basically the plan was 2 laps per bike. At some point I gapped Travis and started settling into a solid pace knowing I needed to save a bunch for the last 4. This must have been lap 5 or 6 in the race because I was on my Ui2 bike. It was functioning flawlessly. Really precise, incredible shifting. It was like the mud wasn't there and there was always the option no matter what kind of wattage I was putting out to shift in front.

After the start/finish and before the barriers, I looked back to see Josh had is disel engine firing full gas and even appeared to have a little more kick. He was bridging up to me. Stay calm I thought, no problem. Just ride clean and take deep breaths. My legs weren't burning and I was breathing out of my nose, so I knew this was where the race was beginning. This is the moment I had been waiting for. I started thinking about Wash U, my friend Jason, and my own cancer...I started getting myself psyched and ready to hurt.

Then my bike broke. Catastrophically.

And that was the end of my race.

I ran a very long way, including the long pool of thick-mud with my bike on my shoulder. The rear derailleur had snapped in the exact same fashion as last sunday. I probably should have quit, but honestly that didn't occur to me. Immediately I started thinking about nationals. Johnson passed, Donn passed, and Schottler passed. That was it. And it was a long run. I grabbed my pit bike and kept going...full of rage. Managed to finish 4th. Not the result I was hoping for.

The caveat to intrepretting the following pictures is that n=1 and the conditions were indeed muddy. However, I was definitely doing bike changes, unlike the prior week. The derailleur did not shift into the spokes and the break did not happen during a shift. It was simply under-load and forced the derailleur to fly between the seatstay and spokes. As you can see, the metal surrounding the mounting bolt is extremely thin. In neither this break or last week's did the derailleur hanger break. And in both cases it was actually the metal of the derailleur:

Unfortunately this time, when the derailleur flew into my frame, it must have hit the right chainstay, as it is cracked all the way through:

Right now I hope to race next weekend. Then train for a few weeks and finish off the month by lining up at the UCI race in Chicago over New Years weekend. Maggie is going to come for that one and then I'll head to Notre Dame to do some experiment's in my old bosses lab. From there, I'll drive straight to Madison at the end of the week and hopefully my luck will start to change.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

KC-St Louis and Nationals

I hate the fact that there is hatred/anger/competition/resentment, etc between the cycling communities of KC and St Louis. Seriously, we do the same biggish races, therefore we're essentially part of the same community. Get over yourselves and stop giving people a hard time for where the live/race.

One of my goals for this season was to get connected to some kind of cycling-health advocacy group and use my racing as a means for spreading awareness and educating people about living with the chronic disease of cancer. Despite my best efforts, it feels like no one really cares. High level amateur racing seems to exist in a kind of Ayn-Randian type plane of personal satisfaction. There are a lot of Rand quote's I really like (particularly about rationality) from the perspective of a scientist but mostly, from the perspective of a person who places compassion as the highest moral value, I can't stand what her philosophy suggests about community and personal happiness.

Anyway, at the moment I'm trying to weigh the rest of the season out and decide how to spend the next 6 weeks of my life. Part of me wants to make this next sunday my last cross race. However, I'm well positioned at the moment, at least from a racing perspective, to go race Master's 30-34 cyclocross nationals in Madison, WI on Jan 7th.

Basically starting position for that race is determined on prior results at national championships and also on the lowest USA-cycling (USAC) point value. As of now, mine is 214...which should be a descent starting spot.
Points per race (a few buba races are missing and also the CoMo Awesomo):


From a material perspective, I have the clothes to stay warm in January in Wisconsin. I always ride that time of year anyway and actually like the cold. I just feel too selfish about committing myself to going right now.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Jingle CX

This is my 4th season racing cyclocross, and ever since I started there was a mystique and draw to attend the 3 day Jingle Cross event. This year, Maggie was finishing her family medicine rotation on wednesday and beginning her medicine rotation on monday, which gave her the first break >2days since early June. So, we decided to make it a family trip and give it a shot.

The drive was all good with appropriate distractions. Here is a chocolate croissant taking a long time to eat:

The atmosphere of the race is really awesome. I hope to attend again next year for sure. The weather made things pretty intense in terms of racing, but offered some very challenging conditions to continue improving on the cross skills.

In terms of a full race report, the last few weeks have been such a blur that it is hard to keep friday/saturday/sunday straight in my head.

The one thing to say before I attempt a race report, is that I was lucky enough to get an opportunity to pick-up (in the form of purchasing) the coveted new ultegra ui2 groupo. Walt's bike shop really hooked it up and over the last few year's has been incredibly supportive in my families bicycle related endeavors. After last weekend's problems with my Shorty Ultimate's, I also switched my brakes and put the pit bike's CX70s on my 'A' bike and the shorty's on the pit bike. So, I had new digs for the race. And also some crazy conditions to try them out.

Friday night: Mid to low 50s and clear. But the ascent of Mt Krummpet was a long and brutal run-up that I was only able to ride 1x during warm-ups and not at all during the race. I had a great start and found myself around 10th for the 2 laps. I was definitely near my limit, but confident I could hang in the group of 5-or-so riders. On lap 3 someone botched an off camber section and I flew into the tape. From there I was chasing, and simply didn't have the fitness to close the gap. From there on out, it was riding in no-man's land or with one other guy. I came across the line in 18th and was pleased with a top-20 in a UCI race. The next couple of hours were spent trying to wind Cassidy down, who was almost literally bouncing-off-the-walls when we got back to the hotel. Tonight (sunday evening, back in Columbia) we asked her what her 'happy thought' is about the day when we were tucking her in bed and she replied, 'bike racing at the night race'! The Ui2 stopped shifting towards the end. I guess it thought I crashed and went into crash mode, even though I didn't and actually managed to ride a very clean race. A mechanic who used to work for Garmin helped me out and had it functioning flawlessly for day 2.

Saturday: Rain. Mid to low 40s. Mud. Slop. Dead-last starting position. I suck in the mud and want to get better. This was a good opportunity. But I still got lapped by Todd Wells and pulled, and finished a disappointing 23rd out of 24 finishers and 28 starters. Shifting and brakes were amazing, no problems at all. The only bad thing about the day was that my glasses got so covered in mud that I decided to ditch them in the pits. Considering I'm extremely near-sighted, that was pretty dumb. I couldn't see much and literally was asking spectators and Brett Heuring in the pits how close Well's was to lapping me (since I couldn't see).
All smiles after the race:

Sunday: Cold and windy. Low to upper 30s and 15mph winds. Long story short, I had a great start and was riding within the top 15 or so, right on Ben Berden's wheel (who respectively had a lousy start). By lap 2 I settled into a comfortable pace and was riding with Steve Tilford. We were probably around 16th or 17th. He led some sections and I led others. We both talked a bit and clearly weren't gassing ourselves. I was pretty excited with around 3 or 4 to go, until when I was going through a grinding soupy 180 turn, I heard a loud snap and my pedals locked up. I looked down and in horror saw that the rear derailleur had snapped off at it's mounting bolt. Strangely the hanger and bolt were fine, the derailleur seems to have just broken. I was right by the pits and basically walked in and then just stood there dumbfounded. I didn't have anyone helping me in the pits, so I hesitated to even go find my pit bike and continue. After a minute or so, I finally jumped on bike 2 and started riding again. The rest of the race was with Andrew Coe which was nice to see a familiar face and also someone of pretty similar skill/fitness level.

Anyway, it was painful to clean up my bike and assess the damage.

Then on the way home, we pulled off the highway after about an hour to get some dinner and a deer ran out in front of our car. I slammed on the brakes and swerved and managed to hit it on the left front fender. At first I couldn't open or close the driver's side door, but Maggie popped the sheet metal back with a screw driver and from what we can tell, there is minimal damage.

Wow. What a weekend.

Sunday, November 20, 2011


(Thanks to Mike Dawson for the always amazing pictures)

Oh man that was a crazy week.

Big news is that I had my 6-month check-up and MD Anderson. I was super nervous as there is still no reasonable explanation for why my blood tumor marker went up in July of 2010, i.e. the marker went up but it didn't correlate with the detection of any new tumors. But since then, it has been very stable. Actually, exactly stable. When I go down there, I start the day at 7am with a blood draw, then head over to CT for a head/neck and chest scan. Then I go to ultrasound and have an ultrasound of my neck. Next, MRI for a T-spine and then L-spine magnetic resonance scan. The MRI sucks the most because you lie in a very small tube for about an hour and it is about the loudest, worst-sounding thing you can possibly imagine. If you're a physicist or know a physicist you should get to work or tell them to get to work making those things shorter and quieter. Everytime I go, when I fill out the paper work beforehand, they ask if I've had an MRI before, then "what was your experience". I usually say something annoying like "peachy". Then when asked if there is anything that could make it better, besides stating the obvious like shorter or less-loud, this time I said a waterbed and a massage.

After a full day of scans wednesday I see the doc on thursday morning after they've looked over all the data. Long-story short, there is no progression and the cancer in my neck, lungs, and vertebrae is all the same size. And my blood tumor marker is exactly the same.

Anyway, we got back really late thursday night and then spent friday getting some work done, cleaning up from Louisville, and hanging out with Cassidy (who was extremely attention starved).

Maggie has a shelf-exam for her family medicine clerkship this wednesday, so she wanted to spend the weekend studying. Daddy-daughter-time and racing cyclocross then proceeded to be a juggling act for saturday and sunday as there was a local race here in Columbia saturday and a bubba race in St Louis on sunday. I ended up making it to both and had really good times duking-it-out on both days. Josh is riding really well and with Schottler, we had battle-royale on saturday. The course was really fast and windy. I knew I needed to ride hard from the beginning and do some fitness damage as soon as possible. The plan was coming together pretty well. Then a crash happened and my bars got bent. Josh attacked and I found myself in chase-mode once again.

I don't understand how I have gone 3 season without a pit bike and only 1 DNF and this year, now that I have a pit bike, I think I've used it every race except maybe 3.

After a couple of bike changes, Josh and I battled until the last few feet of the race. I narrowly escaped with the win, but definitely had to work really hard and the legs let me know that last lap. Ouch.

Sunday was a very muddy Mt Pleasant. I was stoked to ride in the mud. And confident going into a hilly course.
Laps 1 and 2:

Unfortunately the quick release of my rear brake kept popping out. It happened 2x while I was off the front early. The second time I got caught soon after. Then it happened a third time and I ended up getting passed by most of the field while trying to get it back on. This time there was too much mud, so I grabbed my pit bike and started chasing. Immediately I started crashing, lost my cool, and subsequently my confidence. Luckily the guys from the Hub fixed my 'A' bike and had it back soon, but I felt totally different.

Not the bike, but riding. Pretty amazing what a lack of confidence does on a course like that.

I moved up some, but there was nothing to do on such a muddy off-camber, technical course, so mostly I just tried to have fun and not freeze. I finished the race without a rear brake as the quick release came out 2 more times. Holy shit was it scary going down one of those hills with only a front brake...but I rode the last 2 laps like that. Salvaged 3rd place, so not too shabby but I never even rode with Josh (winner) or Dwayne (2nd).

Anyway, gotta get some things adjusted before Jingle cross this weekend!

Monday, November 14, 2011


I need to preface my little race report here with an admission that this weekend was a mixture of:
1. guilt of being away from family,
2. doubt about my abilities as an athlete,
3. skepticism about my financial investment in traveling because of or for a hobby,
4. desire to completely and utterly absorb my mind, psyche, and body in massive amounts of suffering and mental focus, and
5. some solid fun, new friends, and new goals for the future with respect to bike racing.

That last part is key and warrants explanation.

2-3x per year I travel with my wife to MD Anderson in Houston, a refuge for those with weird, aggressive, or otherwise exceptional cancer diagnoses that were less-optimally managed by local health care providers. MD Anderson is known for being very aggressive and similar to Memorial Sloan Kettering, Mayo clinic, Johns Hopkins, UCSF, and Stanford is a go-to for cancer patients who have exhausted or exceeded the normal scope of local medical care. Anyway, when I go down I get a ton of scans and tests the first day, then meet with my doctor the following day. The purpose of the scans and tests is to see if the known disease in my body has either (a) grown, (b) remained stable, or (c) improved. Given my clinical course over the past few years, we generally hope for (b). But unfortunately at a few points have been dealt with an (a) hand, which at this point would have uncomfortable implications: mainly, I've exhausted most standard treatment protocols for thyroid cancer and would need a 'novel' agent, aka fancy-new-chemo drug.

Suffering on a bicycle is a wonderful way to keep my mind off what I have very little power to effect.

So, it was a perfect weekend to travel too a bike race where I could spend almost the entire time absorbed in the activities surrounding pedaling a bicycle. Believe me, thinking about a trip like the one I'm going to take this week does not do much good.

Originally the St Louis UCI race was going to be my first adventure into the highest category of American cyclocross racing. But, that didn't happen, so Louisville was the time to have my proverbial cherry popped by a group of bike riders fully capable of lapping me on a cyclocross course given certain conditions (jeez, I'm making this post sound really negative and myself out to be some kind of masochist. Not sure why...hopefully this is cathartic or something). Alternatively, I could learn that my training is paying off and that the St Louis/Columbia, MO cyclocross scene is capable of producing nationally-competitive riders.

I felt pretty ill driving to the race on friday. Cold symptoms all above the head. But I figured it had been 10 days and I might wake up sat or sun feeling great. That didn't exactly happen either day, but I felt generally OK.

Saturday: I suffered. A lot. Legs were bad, I couldn't recover. The course was painfully hard. But, I didn't fall! I rode clean lines, including the sand almost every lap. Bad legs however made the ride/run-up a definite run-up. I started 64th (dead-last) and suffered almost the entire time to finish 46th. And with a certain degree of pride and thankfulness to people like Josh Johnson and Brian Matter who teach me a ton about cross and training, I finished on the lead lap, i.e. I didn't get lapped! The only thing 'bad' about the day was that on the last lap I was heckled into catching air on a jump and when I landed I rolled a tubular. Rhino down!

Saturday night: I knew I was sick and that I was coughing up nastiness. I knew I should sleep and not do much. But, I was staying with some of the Dogfish crew and couldn't turn-down a chance to go out to a microbrewery for a 7pm dinner. I kind-of had a feeling that getting a table at 7pm on a saturday night in downtown Louisville (bad-ass city btw) would be difficult, but whatever. Anyway, it was in fact a 90min wait. I also knew drinking beer is supposed to be bad before a race, but oh well. I did that too. And it was fun. Then when we finally got back to the hotel and into bed, the hotel's fire-alarm went off and we had to evacuate the building in our pajamas. That sucked.

Sunday: Woke up feeling like I needed more sleep. Legs were stiff. Nose was still stuffy, but I was hopeful that when I registered I would pull a number out of the bag that would at least put me in the middle of the field for starting position. Nope. Dead last, #65. Amazing. But at least I had good legs. I was behind a bunch of crashes the first lap and just couldn't move up at all. Then lap 2 started going to work. I felt like I rode OK. Probably a hard tempo pace, but my lines were pretty descent and I was clearing the run/ride-up 90% of the time. The best heckle of the day came in the second to last lap when I was with another guy on the run/ride-up and he ran and I rode and one of the heckler's yelled at him "Don't let that guy pass you, he's the slowest guy riding the run-up!". Sweet.

Here's a shot Matt Dawson took of me alone on the run/ride-up one lap:

I finished 35th on sunday, which all-things-considered has signs of hope. But, I'm not taking too-much away from it or drawing any conclusions. We'll see what happens over the next few weeks; anything can change.

A huge thanks to Casey and Brett from Dogfish for the help this weekend in the pits! And also to the Kona mechanic who was super nice and friendly! And to Anthony, Matt, and all the dogfish dudes who were a bunch of fun to hang with.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Academia: I would like to quote Gordie LeChance in Stand by Me to Ace at the end.

Wednesday about mid-day the throat got scratchy, my body seemed way too achey, and I was absolutely exhausted. The salvage process began with as much rest-as-possible, supra hydration, echinacea tea, vit C, and an extra 1000mg of vit D3/day. But, the non-specific viral funkiness already done got me. And by 7pm that night I was hard asleep with a fever...wait a minute, you don't want to hear about my cold?! I was sick. It sucked. I had to miss Iceman. End of story, try again next year. Something really calls to me about that race. I think it is the potential to be done in under 2 hrs...which is bordering on ultra-endurance for me.

Anyway, by friday afternoon, I was feeling a ton better and saturday I rode without feeling too parsimoniously decided to come to St Louis on sunday for the 6th Bubba race.

To my surprise, I felt ok. I guess of the races I've done this year, 2 were with a splint from a broken wrist (and it kinda-hurt to race). The following involved a possible concussion. Then 2 relatively pain-free races, followed by getting over a cold. I gotta start making my own luck and moving on from Sep/Oct. I love me some holiday-season.

I never know how to say things like this; but, hopefully shit will come together for next week. One of the reasons I love bike racing so much is the incredible complexity that goes into the preparation process. Often it begins months in advance, other times, it doesn't seem too matter how much or little you're riding during the week, as long as sleep is good. Anyway, by "shit coming together" I mean all of those intangible things.

I raced a little angry today. Not sure if readers of this blog are aware exactly of what has been happening academically/professionally with my wife and myself, but I had applied to transfer to the MD/PhD program at Wash U. I'm in the PhD portion of my education and unlike most early graduate students, I wrote a grant and actually got it. Which means, I'm fully funded to do my research, take classes, buy supplies, etc. Getting grants in this country to study health/biology is abysmally hard...the last I read, first time grant-seekers have a 12% success rate while other's get funded at a whopping rate of 8%. So, I don't meant to sound haughty, but it is pretty exciting that my idea got funded. For some reason however, Wash U basically straight-up rejected me even without an interview. Odd given I have 99%-ile board scores, amazing letters of recommendation, and very good academic history while in med school. Maybe they were pissed that I didn't ace chemistry as an 18-year old freshman in college. Nope. I pretty much hated all pre-med classes and immediately began an alternative course of study after only that first semester. Anyway, rant over. The world's unfair and we all know that. Today I made up some emotional ground as I thought about that rejection email almost the entire time.

Rest-up today, easy 45-60minutes tuesday, hard ride wednesday, then recover, and travel to Louisville for the USGP . Anyone have any advice for a punchy-135lb, occasionally smooth cyclocross rider from missouri who will be starting at the back?

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Acceptance vs fighting

This past weekend was race #4 and #5 of the St Louis, Bubba-memorial cyclocross series. I started doing these 4 years ago now after having wanted to race cyclocross for years. I had even lived in St Louis for 2 years prior to medical school and knew my cousin was racing, but something was stopping me. I don't mean to make this post hokey or whatever, but one of my big goals for this season is:

"Connect my cancer story and work experience to my hobby of racing bikes. Not sure how, but I am going to make this happen with the goals of:
a. Helping a larger cancer or health related cause
b. Helping people learn about living with a chronic disease, in my case thyroid cancer that is hanging-out (literally) in my lungs, vertebrae, and neck.
c. Inspiring and being inspired by those who live with the uncertainty of cancer..."fight"; win or loose, including patients, family members, friends, health professionals, or scientists. (I can write a book about how my day-to-day approach is not "fighting" per se, but rather a tender, accepting, loving, and often very painful experience....but in this case, "fight" will do just fine."

The reason I was scared to race is because the radiological description of my lungs is: "innumerable tiny (all considerably less than 5 mm) pulmonary nodules visualized bilaterally. The nodules display a lower lobe predominance, although they are seen in all lung zones". These are small metastases from thyroid cancer. And they're still there to this day and haven't improved despite additional radiation treatments. Luckily, the radiation treatments also don't appear too have significantly damaged my lungs, which has always been a concern. Anyway, for those years before med school, I was scared that I wouldn't be able to breath well. I spent those years climbing a bunch, doing yoga, and lifting weights.

Now that I have a few seasons under my belt, I'm still not completely sure that the lung disease has no affect on my performance. It might. But especially this year, I've made an intention to myself to do everything I can to improve the other areas of my life that contribute too performance; and see how hard I can push it. Basically I trained hard all summer for cross. I cut out some of my beer consumption. I try to sleep enough. Pam told me to eat more carbs. I also have been doing something I never really thought would be helpful, or fun, but has turned out to be one of the best things; get some coaching advice and help planning training/riding. The thing about it is though, that it can't just be a written plan. And I don't think it can just come from anyone. The person has to get your goals, where you are, and offer what you can't really figure out on your own. But who on earth has the cash to pay for upper-level cycling coaching? I ended up getting lucky and started by sending some casual emails and ended up with a friend and supporter out of it...Brian matter.

For the last 2 years, I was doing a hard ride Tues, cross practice Wed, then a long ride or second hard ride thursday, and finally racing sundays or possibly both sat/sun. I'd get going pretty good but couldn't sustain it for more than 4-6 weeks. This year, I'd say I'm doing 25 or 50% of that intensity. However, I spent July and August (and september since I broke my wrist and was confined to the trainer) specifically working on my weakness: steady LT efforts. I also had no clue about openers, warming-up, cooling down, or the importance of treating recovery as part of training. Anyway, it is fun to push myself and see what my lungs and legs can do. I

I've always had a problem with the 'fighting cancer' cliche. It seems to me that, especially when you're living with chronic disease, that acceptance is far more powerful. Sometimes that acceptance dictates significant changes in lifestyle. I have no doubt that I'll continue to change mine year-to-year. I don't know how long racing bicycles will be healthy for me or even if it is at the moment (but I believe it is). If I wouldn't have learned of the vertebral metastasis 2 years ago, I wouldn't be doing research at the moment, which despite being very hard work, I can discipline myself to confine my schedule to set periods and if Cassidy get's sick or Maggie needs something, I can almost always drop what I'm doing to be there. Plus I can take care of myself and sleep 8-9hrs a night...i think the first 2 years of med school I average 5-6.

Next weekend is Iceman Cometh! Super stoked to go ride my mountain bike with almost 4000 other people. I'll ride hard but don't have any serious expectations of myself. The following weekend is Louisville USGP. I'll be starting in the back with a ton of fast dudes and Pros. For that, anything can happen and my goal is much less outcome based, and more an expectation that I ride myself cross-eyed and try not to crash anyone!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Bubba #3

I'm not quite sure what to think about this race at this point. Between people being reprimanded for speaking their mind on the message board to the possibility that people are talking about this race in Colorado Springs, it just seems like a strange mess. I won't go into the details if you have no idea what I'm talking about, but between facebook and the message board, it just seems like there are positive ways to talk about bike racing and there are negative ways and unfortunately, the latter has prevailed this past weekend.

One thing is for sure though; I'm glad Maggie wasn't there. She probably would forbid me from bike racing ever again if she would have witnessed my fall on lap 2. Mike Weiss described it as just like "Joey's Crash" except "instead of my bike stopping and body flying, my body stopped and bike went flying". Honestly, I don't remember it at all. All I know is, I was leading going into a crazy bumpy downhill; I hit a rut and next thing I knew, I was running with my bike on my shoulder.

I could go on with my account of the I felt, the events of the day and such, but for some reason it doesn't feel right.

A couple of months ago I wrote out my goals for cyclocross season. For whatever reason, pathological or not, I feel super driven and focused this year. The goals have changed, but the enthusiasm is still there. But I do find myself on the edge of getting enough family time. I really love this sport and like the whole atmosphere of fall and cross racing. I love that my friend Matt James helped me out immensely on sunday and fixed my bike for me and did a few hand-offs. I love that families and friend can pretty much see the whole course. I love that there's running. My cross country coach in college always encouraged us to run negative splits. That is what she considered a successful race. It has taken a long time to learn to pace myself in cross, but I'm finally starting to get it a bit.

Anyway, I was able to get the win sunday. It wasn't easy, but I'm excited to keep pushing myself and hopefully will start feeling smoother each week. Mike Dawson took lots of great shots. Being my blog, of course I'll just post the one's about me : )

My life this fall basically revolves around my family, immunology, cancer biology, and cyclocross. I wish there were time to watch the Cardinals, but I've been choosing to read and go to bed early. The gym where I lift has a great piece on the wall by a strength coach called "The Myth of Discipline", by Charles Poliquin.

Basically here is a paraphrase:
"There is no such thing as discipline. There is only love. Love is the most powerful creative force in the universe. You are the result of what you love most. You either love finely etched muscular abs more than donuts or you love donuts more than wash board abs you could do your laundry on (edit: yeah, he's a strength coach, but hopefully you get the point that this isn't just about bodybuilding or whatever). It is as simple as that. Self-esteem is the reflection of self-judgment. One of the best ways to raise self-esteem is to make truly loving choices that lead to increased strength of body and mind. When you are faced with difficult choices, ask yourself, in context of course, what would a loving expert recommend? When people comment on your results and say things like “Wow you have a lot discipline” answer “No, I just make loving choices for myself". Reinforcing your own positive behavior will help you grow in strength. What you appreciate appreciates. Whenever you make a truly loving choice, say to yourself ‘Thank you for taking care of me in a loving way”. The more you talk to yourself like a loving parent, the faster you will grow. Let’s say, for example, you just did a single on the squat with a load you didn’t feel like doing. Say: “Wow! I am impressed with your strength of mind, that’s why you are a champion”. By documenting and rewarding your successes, they will grow in magnitude and frequency. The more you believe in yourself, the more objectively you will be able to take the advice of authority figures."

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Finally racing

First, this past weekend was 5 weeks after breaking my wrist. In a 31 y/o male, it generally takes 8-10weeks for a hairline fracture to lay down hard bone, so at 4-8 weeks, generally a break is held together by softer, unorganized scar-type tissue. So, I knew I would be pushing it by racing the cross bike this weekend. But, I also missed some of the racing that I worked really hard for this past summer, so I was chomping at the bit to get out. Plus, I love the bubba series and really wanted to be there on the course.

I told myself that I'd go and pre-ride. If it hurt, I wouldn't race.

Sat night: arrived for a 10pm start time at about 5pm. I pre-rode from 5-6pm and had no pain. The wrist felt fine, so I was stoked. Fast forward a few hours...managed a solid start and was running second wheel heading into the second ride up and managed to ride myself into the tape. Oops. Man, did I feel unsmooth out there. The barriers were almost a joke for me. I smacked my bike and shins at least a few times and just generally felt uncomfortable. Lap 2: around a swooping, fast right hander, my buddy Schottler laid it down right in front of me. Somehow I managed to not hit him or his bike by riding between the two. From there on, I was even more shaky and less-smooth than before. Later, I went down and lost my chain...which had kinked over itself on the inside of my front chain ring. 1 minute later, I was chasing. Bike change, then a hard chase. Upon catching folks towards the back, my chain popped off and somehow managed to escape the confines of my Paul chain keeper in front, rendering it very difficult to get back on while on the course. So, I ran to the pits for 1/2 lap. Jumped on my other bike and kept going. Now on this bike, I couldn't shift very well...especially in front. Part of this was due to my hand/wrist being super weak, the other part was that my whole drive train seemed off. Then I got lapped. Oh well. Races like that happen.

That night, teamate Devin texted me to meet him at the hub the next morning and he'd help me fix my bikes. Sweet...motivation.

Sun: Whole different ball of wax. Except the smoothness part. That was still pretty bad and running sucked. But, I started further back this time and decided to pace myself. Devin and I did not have a plan at all as I had told him I was really going to try and not crash. A few laps into the race, Devin was off the front, being chased by Casey, then a group with me somewhere in it. At some point I decided to see if I could manage to bridge to Casey and not bring anyone with me. Carefully, it worked. Then after another lap or so, I attacked Casey on a hill and found myself bridging up to Devin. From there, we traded pulls and rode a solid pace. With around 4-to-go, Devin slowed down. I was feeling pretty good and am pretty confident that the last 4 laps were my fastest of the weekend, so I managed my first win at a 'race' in 2011.

Apparently indoor trainers and weightlifting are a good way to spend a month prior to cross season!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Mountain biking in the fall

It's the best.

This wrist injury has been nice in some ways. I've slowed way down. Focused on work. Drove a ton less and have been saving money on gas, race entries, etc. Actually I don't think we've left Columbia in a month, which is a record for us.

I was out at Rockbridge today and saw 8 turtles. I think the universe is trying to tell me something.

Heading out this weekend for more mountain biking. Then hopefully cross the following weekend. Man, I can't wait for Iceman cometh.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Good riddance september.

Holy shit. Stuff to look forward too:

-Race support! My Dad and I are taking a man's trip to the great northwoods of Michigan in November. Just me and him, like I'm 10 or something. And I get to race Iceman cometh, a true cyclocrossers mountain bike race!
-More race support! Momma Miller and myself are taking Cassidy and heading to derby city for the USGP de Louisville. I'm registered for the UCI race and can't freakin wait. I hope it is cold.

--That's the registration. SCARY! I wish there were 2 of me there...that'd be sweet.
-Even more race support!!! For my 32nd birthday, Maggie got us 2 nights stay in beautiful Iowa City during thanksgiving weekend...JINGLE CROSS is finally happening. Somehow the stars aligned and Maggie get's to go as well.

-I've been riding outside!!!! I took my 2010 major jake and put a cross top lever on the left side so that I can brake whilst wearing my cast that is actually now a brace. Weekdays have been longish or easy spins with some weight lifting thrown in. Weekends have been 3x20min SubLTs. I love my carbon Major, but man that classic major rides SO nice. Such a comfortable bike. I just can't wait to race either one!

We're unfortunately probably not going to Burnin next week. Cassidy turns 3 and Maggie is on a new rotation, which basically means she has no idea what her days will be like. How bad would it suck to go to your job and have no idea what time you'll be getting home? Thus is Maggie's life for a large portion of this year.

I see the doc wednesday, hopefully the bone is almost done cooking....I have some other wrists to snap.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Practice, practice, practice

Promises to Yourself By Christian D. Larsen

Promise yourself….
To be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind;
To talk health, happiness, and prosperity to every person you meet;
To make all your friends feel that there is something in them;
To look at the sunny side of everything and make your optimism come true;
To think only the best, to work only for the best, and to expect only the best;
To be just as enthusiastic about the success of others as you are about your own;
To forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievements of the future;
To wear a cheerful countenance at all times and give every living creature you meet a smile;
To give so much time to the improvement of yourself that you have no time to criticize others;
To be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear; and too happy to permit the presence of trouble;
To think well of yourself and to proclaim this fact to the world, not in loud words, but in great deeds;
To live in the faith that the whole world is on your side so long as you are true to the best that is in you.

The wrist is slowing me down and changing plans. Ouch! That hurts quite a bit given the planning and preparation for this fall. But, the fire is burning inside...sometimes there is no other choice, despite even the shrewdest skepticism, to believe that sometimes things happen for a reason.

I see the doctor again on monday 9/26 and will probably get the cast off. He'll also give me a good idea of when I can start racing again. I'm hoping to do Cross our Cancer in KC , but that will probably be too soon. We'll see. If not, Bubba #1.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The agony of amateur athletics

So I broke my wrist on the friday before my first weekend of cross racing. I wasn't even doing openers or anything cool. I was just spinning around making sure my bike worked when I was passing a runner with a dog on a wet asphalt bike bath. When I passed, the dog lurched at me a bit so I reflexively turned and had my front wheel slip out. I picked myself up and rode another 30 minutes. At the time my wrist hurt, but I went off road and told myself that if bumps didn't hurt it couldn't be broken. At 2am that night, I was thinking about it very differently.

First thing in the morning I ate breakfast and told my 2-yr-old and mom that I needed to go to the ER. I figured I'd decrease my wait time by brining a box of baked goodies...which actually worked, since about an hour after going in, I was walking our with a diagnosis of a broken distal radius.

The funny thing about the first day or so was that I really seemed to take it in stride. Oh well. More beer and cookies and rest and not training. Then monday started.

Let's just say that my work and academic situation at the moment is highly stressful and full of incredibly stupid and frustrating bullshit. By 5pm monday, I was about ready to curl-up in a ball. Tomorrow however, does not hold an hour or two of riding on the trail. Wednesday, I'll be cooking dinner for my family while my BoCoMo buddies are out on the CX practice course. Next saturday, I'll do a trainer ride then eat dinner and watch a movie instead of racing Hermann.

Don't get me wrong about the direction in which my writing is leading me...I really love what I do professionally and I LOVE my family. But shit. Racing and training to race helps me cope! I feel so....normal when I'm pissed off at 5pm and don't want to cook dinner and don't get to ride tomorrow. Normal sucks. And my wrist hurts. Shit my wrist hurts. Maybe if i had cable and could zone out and focus on other people's problems. Maybe reality TV would help? If not, I'm sure Fox news would convince me that I have lots of people to blame besides my own ego-driven desires and the frustrations/suffering we all experience.

The honest assessment of the situation is that cross season in this country is too long anyway. And missing the first 4-6 weeks only means that I don't peak and then have to re-peak again. Instead, I'll have 8-10 weeks of focus, fun, friends, and fall to lead up to the racing that matters for those of us who value the 'glory' of amateur racing...jersey's and bragging rights and maybe , just maybe, beating a bunch of jerks on a sure-to-be-cold day in Wisconsin in January (aka the national championships the first week of January).

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Tall Oak 6hr...err 3hr race

Last week was a bit stressful. MU started classes again and I'm signed up to TA a cancer biology class (fitting right?) and am also taking 2 advanced immunology courses for my PhD. One is super hard, like reading 6-10 papers per week hard. The other is pretty easy and a lot of review.

I had really wanted to race the 6hr team category at Binder lake 6hr race, but various arrangements with 3 different partners all got messed up for various reasons. So, a few years ago I did this race and managed 2nd in the solo category on my SS, so I figured I was in better shape and wouldn't have a problem on gears.

First lap, I was riding with the top 5-6 guys, all of whom were riding on teams. I was still breathing out of my nose and RPE was probably around a 5 or 6, so I thought I'd be all good with a plan to slow down lap 2 and then keep it steady for the following 10 laps. I had looked at Winkler's times from a few years ago when he got 11 laps solo and I even had the necessary splits written down on a note card taped to my top tube.

Lap 2 was interesting. I was cruising at a nice endurance pace, knowing that there were no solo riders in front on me. I had my plan and I think it was a good one. I was eating, drinking, and having a great time. Not to imply that having a good time changed, but half-way through the lap I got passed by the local legend Sam Moore, who was both solo and flat-out hauling. Like XC pace hauling. I decided to follow him and soon realized that we weren't slowing down anytime soon. By lap 4, we were definitely on an 11lap pace. But man was I hurting, not even half-way into the race! My legs weren't the problem at all. Instead, the simple problem of riding my road and CX a ton more than my mountain bike this summer laid the foundation for seriously sore lower back, triceps, shoulders, and neck. Lap 5 I slowed way down, but the pain in those areas didn't feel any better. I ate and drank but no improvement. It started to really suck. I started thinking about the next few weeks and cross and simply decided to pull the plug at the end of lap 5.

I have no major regrets at all.

It was good to see my mountain bike friends again. I miss my buddies on team seagal and genuinely feel like I'm part of the best team around. Even though the Hub and Team Seagal are closely related, sibling teams and I love them both, my heart is always riding in a Seagal kit even when I line up wearing only the socks.

I think my plan for cross will be to ride for the Hub when I have teamates in the race and in my Seagal kit when I don't. My best buddy designed new kits for Seagal and I have to say the templates are the best looking kits around. We haven't ordered yet, but hopefully by the time CX season in in full swing!

Only 11 days til cross! The plan is for 3 hard days and the rest off or easy. I can't wait!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Goals for 2011/12 Cyclocross

1. Have fun. This isn't my job, and I absolutely love this sport.

2. Connect my cancer story and work experience to my hobby of racing bikes. Not sure how, but I am going to make this happen with the goals of:
a. Helping a larger cancer or health related cause
b. Helping people learn about living with a chronic disease, in my case thyroid cancer that is hanging-out (literally) in my lungs, vertebrae, and neck.
c. Inspiring and being inspired by those who live with the uncertainty of cancer..."fight"; win or loose, including patients, family members, friends, health professionals, or scientists. (I can write a book about how my day-to-day approach is not "fighting" per se, but rather a tender, accepting, loving, and often very painful experience....but in this case, "fight" will do just fine.

3. Keep racing healthy by balancing the stress physical preparation induces with excellent nutrition, meditation/stress management, and love of family and friends.

4. Training hard, learning from my cycling teachers, and giving everything I have on the cross courses of Gateway Cup and Madison USGP. We'll see what happens from there.

5. Defend St Louis (bubba) series first place overall finish from last year, enter the state championship and master's 30+ nationals mentally and physically prepared to stand on the top step of the podium.

6. If goal #5 ever interferes with goal #3, the goal will be letting go.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Cross is almost here!

I tend too not get bummed out if for some reason or another I can't make a mountain bike race happen. This past weekend were 2 that I would have liked to do, Spoke Pony and the SS-MO Championships. Work called both days in the morning...I'm trying to get a bunch of stuff in the lab done before the University starts up again on Monday. There are tons of students moving in this week and the amount of traffic in Columbia seems to have tripled.

On Saturday, I had a nice 3hr ride with some seated accelerations in preparation fro cross. Then Sunday, spend the morning in the lab and in the afternoon down in Jeff City at the MO state criterium race, which was nice because it started at 4pm. I really wanted to help Devin get the jersey. That was the goal for the race and the plan was too ride near the front, chase down threatening attacks if other's wouldn't and hopefully stay clear of danger. The plan worked great, except when the winning break took off, I had been off the front and got gassed quick. Devin bridged, but then they attacked hard and he was back with the pack.

Ok, field sprint. Well, it turns out Devin didn't need my help. We came out of the last corner in front of the pack with him leading (I think it was supposed to be the other way around, oh well) and then he took off. I went hard and always forget to use the curly things that stick out below my hoods...drops? Lots of fast dudes came around me and I finished somewhere in the middle.

My buddy Derek took some great shots:

Next definite race is finally a mountain bike race, Binder! I don't think I can make it this weekend, 8hrs in the car is just too much. But who knows, maybe I'll change my mind. Or maybe Indiana Jones James will finally come out and we'll be in St Louis anyway.

I do love me some cyclocross. I sure hope I don't take that shit too seriously and get all competitive and bent out of shape with myself. It is just too much of a positive activity to do that. But, it seems like I'm moving in that direction...2 bikes for the year, being selective about when too race, etc! At least both bikes are Konas, it seems that provides an ora of laid-backness to it!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Summer reflections

Cross is just around the corner and the dirt crits only have 2 more races! Pretty crazy that the summer has gone by so quickly. I haven't blogged much, mostly because I haven't had too much to say with respect to my cancer...which generally seems to be the more therapeutic and justifiable topic upon which to blorg. I mean blog. Bike racing, riding, and training this year is something I feel is simultaneously a selfish but extremely humbling and gratifying experience. I guess I should try to write more about the humbling and gratifying part.

With respect to dirt bike riding, other riders (namely Pirtle and Chris Ploch), the trails, weather, bike parts flatting or breaking, and training all keep kicking my butt. I'm glad I've been able to pull myself up each time, but there have been some nasty crashes while mountain biking and some close calls on the road. Time spent on the bike this year is around 280hrs and around 4000miles have been ridden. Last wednesday I was out doing 20min intervals and puked in my mouth. Jeez. This is totally and completely all for fun and even upon reflection looking back on the money spent, time taken from other parts of life, and the amount of energy going into riding...I guess I really am an adrenaline junkie. But strangely, probably 90% of my time riding I'm in a very different place with my mind, emotions, and spirit than the fight-or-flight catecholamine induced high of adrenaline pumping through my veins. I love this form of being outside and I love the feeling of crushing a steep hill and then shredding a downhill on my mountain bike. I love the sound and feeling of floating down the local farm roads on a road bike. And I love the solitude and beauty encountered while riding gravel roads that always, eventually, connect to the katy trail along the Missouri river, what an incredible part of this continent!

I'm addicted and I don't think I get addicted easily to things.

The racing is amazing, but I imagine at some point in the next 2-3 years (basically when I'm done with my research and PhD) racing probably won't happen at all. So it goes. This year I'm lucky enough to keep things pretty well balanced. I've found myself the homemaker, a very happy father and supportive husband, and still able to get some good work done as a scientist. And racing has fit in. I'm stoked to give it my all this year and next...keeping things super amateur, ultra-fun, and hopefully safe.

I spent some energy earlier this year trying to somehow unite all of what is above, with some type of cancer-service-based thing. I tried to get a race team involved with Pedal the Cause but things haven't worked out. I don't usually say this particular phrase, but 'it isn't meant to be'. I guess one of the reasons I'm drawn to science and medicine is that I just simply don't understand business. Oh well. It ultimately has just felt like this lofty goal was just some way of justifying an ultimately somewhat selfish activity. But like I said, I'm all good with that. Life is short, you gotta do things you love each and every day if you can.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Presence, Sadness, and smiles.

My wife has an incredible ability. It has manifest a few times now, but most recently this past friday I was in St Louis and she was working on the burn unit in her surgery rotation here in Columbia. I usually text or talk on the phone at least a few times per day just to check in, ask questions, or make plans. But last friday I hadn't heard a thing. She didn't respond to my emails, texts, or calls. At about 6pm, I started getting freaked out. A little while later, I had worked myself up and was in the process of trying to contact a med student I knew was on the service with her just too see if she'd seen her that day. Then I realized I could page her, so I did and within a few minutes I was relieved to hear her voice on the phone at around 6:30pm. She'd been there since 6am and had no idea what time it was. She thought it was mid-day. She said that she was so focused on what she was doing that she hadn't checked her phone, looked at her email, or even thought about anything else besides patients, doctors, nurses, and surgery. Can you imagine that kind of focus? I know I don't have it. I'd have checked my email a few times, looked up tour results, and generally would have not been fully present for a descent portion of the day. Man, I sure hope I get a doctor like her next time I need surgery.

A friend lost his young child this weekend. I thought a lot about Dwayne and his family this weekend. I thought about suffering and pain. I thought about biology and fairness. It is a very sad time and I hope for peace and healing to the Goscinski's.

It was good to get out on saturday and to do Pfoodman team's Castlewood race. These guys always put on great events and I love racing at Castlewood. Everyone there seems to have the Goscinski's somewhere in their mind that day and it was good to see that there are so many positive and friendly people involved in mountain biking in the St Louis area.

The race went well. It started with a Lone wolf (big wall of a climb). I was 3rd wheel going in and as soon as the grade increased, I passed and put in a good tempo pace...nothing that felt crazy, just a solid pace. Nearing the top, I turned around and has a pretty good gap on the field! After some rocky ridge riding we hit a technical descent with lots of switch backs. I rode pretty well, but got caught by Chris Ploch...who's pretty ridiculous in descending. We rode together for the first lap (of three). I had no problems with the exceptions of the descents...way out of my comfort zone. Starting lap 2, I attacked on the start hill. Got a little gap but he clawed back on the ridge. He was on a dualie and he gapped me on a short rocky straight section where he could pedal very efficiently. That was right before a descent, so the gap stuck and the rest of the race I kept trying to close it but couldn't make it happen. Psyched for 2nd on the day and a great time at an awesome event!

Irish Blessing for the Goscinski's:
Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there... I do not sleep.
I am the thousand winds that blow...
I am the diamond glints on snow...
I am the sunlight on ripened grain...
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you waken in the morning's hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of gentle birds in circling flight...
I am the soft star that shines at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry—
I am not there... I did not die...

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Webster Crit: Mix of emotion

Sorrow: Big crash in the cat 5 race. Randy. ICP or intracranial pressure due to trauma is scary stuff. I'm virtually certain that if I would have seen it or been on the scene after, I would not have raced. Not because of anything dangerous about the course, but because of the inherent ambiguity and the potential for shit to happen. I really hope he pulls through and has no deficits because of something relatively random that happened doing something he loved.

Confidence in physical state: Pulling Devin up to break, ~2min: 544w
Avg for the race: 255w
Best 5min power: 330w
Avg Speed: 26mph
Max Speed: 35mph (and I didn't sprint at all, basically I rode as a support rider)

Stoked: I had a ton of fun. Probably the most fun I've had at a crit. The hub is a really fantastic group of people and it was/is cool to be a part of it. Also, it looks like very exciting things are on the horizon for cyclocross. And of course, I was elated that Devin won...I felt like we worked well as a team.

Bummed: Quite simply, I'd rather be mountain bike racing. But, I'm glad I hadn't planned on the scheduled UFD mountain bike race on sunday. I'm sorry for those who had too cancel, I know it isn't easy. But I also wish things were different for growing the series and sport in the state. After so many cancellations I know I'm essentially out for the rest of the season. My friend from Wisconsin didn't even understand what I was talking about when I said so many of our races get cancelled due to pre-race day rain. Obviously the WORS races are pretty entrenched and they have a huge budget compared to ours...but they had to get there somehow. I understand the ethic regarding the trail and riding. And in fact truly support it in general. But for mountain bike races, it seems to me that the situation is different. I don't know what the solution is, but I know a lot of people have been bummed and turned off from racing because so many of the races are cancelled. As I said a few posts ago, I don't see any reason why we can't have a series that competes with DINO in terms of the number of racers. I hope I'm not offending anyone and like I said, I completely support the ethic of not riding on wet trail, but it seems like we need to compare ourselves with some Midwest series that have been super successful and at least consider what they do.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Is it cross season yet?

Took a nice break from riding after the state road race. The weather was super nice last week so it was nice to get out for some walks but that's about all I did. I ate just about everything in sight and after reading all kinds of stuff on nutrition and cancer in the last year, I'm finally at a point where I can relax and not restrict myself. For awhile I wasn't eating any dairy because of some geeky IGF potentiation issues, but man whole milk yogurt and chocolate milk taste good this summer...and don't make me feel bad.

Maggie spent 2 nights at the hospital (working) last week. That part of this next year is going to be ruff, but sunday we got to spend most of the day together, went out for some awesome dinner...I love me some salmon, and then had icecream.

Last week and this, I'm starting to think a ton about cyclocross. I don't know if I'll have as much time as I do now and next fall anytime in the next few years so this season I'm going to give it all I got. Base building for cross officially began today with some sub-LT intervals. Up next is the Webster crit, Tour of Lawrence, and some dirt crits.

It is pretty crazy how long the season is going to be this year. I'm hoping to come into September with some good roadie form and a solid base. Then take it easy and just enjoy the process being with friends and racing in October. And then in November start building back-up for Jingle-cross and nationals.

If you haven't seen this yet, this is pretty awesome. I wish we had these in the states:

Another view:

Thursday, June 16, 2011

My lab

6am- WakeUp
6:30- Black coffee and emails
7- Breakfast and get Cassidy to school
7:45-8- stain tissue OR if hot outside 8:30-11 Ride trainer
11- ride if not hot
1-5: look at stuff under microscope, read papers, write, plan next day

Then pick up C, cook dinner, have some wine, get to bed.


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Big race June

It's interesting how we arbitrarily assign importance to relatively trivial events and activities. "Sometimes that weight allows us access to deeper meaning. Sometimes it's just bullshit to make us feel better about how we spend our time and energy." (mark twight)

My only goal this year prior to cross season with respect to bike racing was to race well at the state championship mtn bike race. Well, I guess that was a loose goal because when that race had the slightest cast of doubt associated with rain and subsequent cancellation, I began thinking about alternatives. Fitness has been building over the prior months...practicing what works and what doesn't so as to be ready to do the same next fall/winter. I suppose in my mind, the process of building and training is/was more my goal than the actual race. I love training and riding my bike but it is even more fun with something in mind. Unfortunately the execution phase of this particular goal didn't happen...which is certainly the most important part.

The alternate race ended up being the Tour of Ste Genevieve, a race I had wanted to do last year. I was nervous about the almost 90 mile my goals for that race were real simple: help my buddy and teamate Devin get into a break, try and get into a break myself, and hopefully finish. Thanks to Ron, Alex, Devin, and the sponsors of The Hub I was able to ride on an awesome new Giant TCR advanced road bike.

Goals 1 and 3 were accomplished. And before goal 3, I unfortunately dropped a chain at a very inopportune time, lost contact with the group, and finished by myself...pedaling alone with my thoughts and reflections. Satisfaction came from the process not the end. But a few days later, I'm committing to myself to not let a lack of execution become habit.

A long summer is beginning. Maggie is on the most time intensive rotation of medical school (surgery), I'll be doing a lot of elbow grease work in the lab, trying to publish 2 papers, we both must maintain contact with eachother and our daughter...and strangely, not despite-of, but in concert with all of that, riding will continue.


Monday, June 6, 2011

DINO: Brown County

The 2 girls and I were driving around a beautiful portion of Indianapolis on Saturday and encountered 2 cyclists on the road and Cassidy exclaimed, "Bikes belong in a race, NOT on the ROAD!". I guess she's been to a lot of mountain bike and cyclocross races!

A wedding for Maggie's cousin this past weekend just happened to coincide with a DINO series race in the fabled Mid-western mountain biking mecca of Brown County, IN. With the exception of CX nationals and a SSXCWC 2009, I hadn't raced a bike outside of Missouri or Illinois since 1999, so I was really excited to be a nondescript nobody and test myself in a field that is 3-4x bigger than the expert field at local races.

It turned out that some other Missouri riders thought that the 4.5 hr drive was well worth the effort for the quality of the riding and the race, as there were 5 other St Louis riders getting ready for the 10am start on Sunday including Loraine, Christine, Tom A, John M, and Craig W. I had originally signed up for the cat 1 30-39 race, but last minute decided to see if they'd let me race with the pro/elite men.

It was really amazing to see how many people are attracted to mountain bike racing in Indiana. Even though Brown County is such a treasure and attraction, it seems to me that with 3 metropolitan areas and a few college towns and smaller cities, and certainly overall more mountain bike areas, Missouri should be able to draw larger fields. I thought a bunch about this and don't want to get into it too much here, but racing DINO made me want to invest more in our local trails and racing as opposed to traveling more to other mid-western states even though there are deeper fields and the possibility of significant payouts. I've always tried to be a 'bloom-where-I'm-planted' type of person, so I don't think I'll start traveling more anytime soon.

The race and the competition were off-the-hook. We had a fast start on a mile-long section of road with one super steep hill and another big-ring grinder. I was top-10 into the singletrack but found myself gassed from a hard week of training and at some disadvantage without any pre-ride, so began dropping places in the first lap. The hard-tail 29er Big Unit was the perfect bike and the only mistake I made was locking my fork out a few times when right after climbs there were some technical descents and I'd loose a few seconds if I didn't have time to unlock the fork. With the 20mm thru-axle up front and an all-mountain front wheel, I think locking out the fork is a thing of the past and not worth the effort unless I'm riding on pavement or gravel.

Laps 2 and 3 of the 24mile race I was pretty much in no-man's land but able to keep a pretty stable pace and was neither passing or being passed by expert riders. At the end, I was 17th out of 43 riders and about 10 minutes off pace from the leaders...satisfied with that placing. And I felt very psyched to have raced with so many fast riders on incredible trails.

Next up is the State race, then a few weeks of chilling during the week and racing on the weekends (perhaps a trip to Wisconsin for the Subaru Cup), and then the preparation for cyclocross begins!

I'm hoping to do as much as I can in the next few months for Pedal the Cause ride on Oct 1st and 2nd. Currently the plan is to do some writing for their newsletter from the perspective of a cancer survivor, medical student, PhD cancer researcher, yoga teacher, cyclist, and friend/family member of those who fought-like-hell but still lost their lives to cancer.

I used to have a huge problem in talking about a 'cure to cancer'. But am slowly regaining a less cynical view. Especially after reading reports such as this...the impossible is not always as such.