Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Brown County

This weekend, heading for a race here:

Here's somebodies Garmin link (note the climb the I get to ascend 3x on sunday at mile 4.2):

A full mile long!

Monday, May 23, 2011


Seems a bit cheezy for a title doesn't it?

Well, you have to comprehend how huge this past week was in order to understand that last monday, I had little and now I have a ton, of hope. And hope, is one of the most important things in life.

Last week: 1.5 years of uncertainty, with a significant possibility that the weird disease I live with had morphed into something more serious.

This monday: Significant evidence that my thyroid cancer is 'stable' in the form of:
1. Stable tumor marker
2. No radiological change in 16 months time
3. No significant physical symptoms

By stable, I mean no growth and no shrinkage.

That is awesome in my mind because:
1. The lifestyle choices I've made with respect to (a) work, (b) family, (c) family, and (d) exercise are having a positive affect. Yes, this is an n=1 experiment and as a future doctor, I couldn't actually Rx what I believe to be beneficial, but I can still feel empowered by it.
2. The fact that my thyroid cancer is stable, 'rules-down' the possibility that there is some kind of weird mutation suggestive of a more aggressive cancer (which was a significant possibility when we learned I had a met in my bone).
3. Because my disease is stable, there is more time for my bad-ass doctors to do trials on people who are really sick and hopefully come up with a cure.

That last part about a cure, well, that represents a HUGE psychological shift for me. My PhD will eventually be in the field of cancer biology. And some combination of being an adult, skeptical thinking, my own experience with cancer, and knowing so many young people who have lost the fight despite living as strong as fucking possible, has made me think that talking about 'cures' to cancer is intellectually and practically a forlorn pursuit.

Call me selfish, but this week I feel a lot more like a hopeful kid...starting over again with a sense that anything is possible. I have every confidence that in my lifetime, we will eclipse our current knowledge regarding the signaling circuitry and intercommunication between cancer cells and all of the other many types of cells in the body connected to these cells. To be sure, cancer is not a single group of cells, but a developed tissue...with perhaps as many different cell types involved in the pathology as is present in the normal physiology of the GI tract.

I now truly believe that in the coming decade, we will see "cancer research as an increasingly logical science, in which myriad phenotypic complexities are manifestations of a small set of underlying organizing principles” (Hanahan and Weinberg, Cell 2011).

This past weekend was a whirlwind. Saturday was a morning with the family at the farmer's market and library. Then a crit in the afternoon where I effectively buried myself and tried too work together with some other folks to bridge up to a break, but could never quite summon the necessary sustained ability to deal with pain.

Sunday was a 6hr team mountain bike race. I rode the new Kona Big Unit (single speed currently) which has a 20mm thru axle up front, and I must say that it is hand's down the best mountain bike I've ever ridden. Fatty TAs are the future.

My teammate and I ended up 2nd on the day. I felt like I'm finally getting some fitness back this year. Thanks so much to Bob Arnold for hooking up the rear wheel. Hopefully things will come together so I can run the Big Unit as a 1x10 for the next few races. The plan is to have another 2 weeks of hard riding, then a little taper, a race, then the long run towards cyclocross next fall.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Big week and race reports

I'm heading to MD Anderson in houston this week to get checked out by my cancer docs. The anxiety has been very high over the past few months...so many questions unanswered. We fly out Tuesday, get in around dinner on tuesday night, then wake up and have the following schedule:

07:00 AM 1 hour of yoga and meditation
09:50 AM- Eat a shit ton of food from the buffet
11:30 AM- ride the crappy spin bike in the exercise room
06:30 PM- get loaded with my wife on cheap wine at the hospital bar, then eat, then watch movies (we don't have TV so always go a bit nuts when we do)

If anything needs to be biopsied, it will be during the US (aka ultrasound).

Then I see the doctor the following day at 9:30.

I've been quite depressed over the past few months. For some reason, despite living with cancer for 6 years now, the last year has been hard with the last 6 months being absolutely soul crushing. I just can't see past this incredible sensation of impending doom.

I miss a ton of my friends who are spread across the globe and the bike community here in Columbia has been different this year than in the past. I've been riding a bunch by myself and didn't go hard at all until around early April. From then, I started doing some short intervals and raced mountain bikes a few times. Inertia sucks sometimes because it's inertial...basically I've found it hard to get going.

Last saturday was Greensfelder marathon. I rode hard and pretty well for 45 minutes, then flatted and subsequently felt like poo. I don't think I'm built for marathon, metabolically speaking. My mountain bike season so far has gone something like this:

At least this past week I had a ton of fun and rode in some awesome weather:
Monday was a 2.5hr easy ride on gravel with 2 laps at cosmo.
Tuesday was the Tuesday night crit in St Louis, first road 'race' of the season. Buried myself. I tfelt great.
Wednesday- easy 2 hrs with a hot lap at cosmo
Thursday- trainer ride, mostly easy with a little tempo
Sat- top-secret openers bestowed from Schottler for helping him out last week.
Sun- race mtn bikes

I haven't really felt great about any racing this year. But today was exactly what I needed. Sometimes when your body is fighting something it can alter your emotions which affects your thinking. Other times, you mind affects your emotions which may or may not affect your body. The problem is that it is hard to tell in which direction the flow is moving. Today, I was tired of not feeling good on the bike, so I brought my trainer to the race and warmed up properly for the first time ever. The race went great and I finally feel a sense of inner strength again....the whole reason I ever started in any athletic pursuit.

Random pictures of interesting and strange things:

Does this actually sound appetizing to anyone? You know vitamin D without fat just gets pooped out right?

Mark Twight wrote these words and just posted on his site, please respect them as his (not mine):
"Evolve. Adapt. Grow up.
Be willing to move on from a particular identifying idea or activity or period in your life. When it is time to do so, let it go instead of inhabiting it. Do not become it, or die chained to it.

The first goal need not be the final one
Use physical activity to diagnose and learn oneself
Use physical activity as meditation - become what you are doing
Use physical activity as a developmental tool
Learn the truth of one way and extrapolate to all ways, to self
Do something all the way or don't do it at all
Understand the shallowness of dilettantism
Understand the shallowness amateurism
Also understand the necessity of each
Bite off more than you can chew - deal with indigestion or the tiger on the end of the tail if it becomes an issue
Maybe it won't

Cause change
Try new things
Don't lose track of the past or the path that led here
Let the past influence the future
Do not dwell in that past
Don't get stuck on a particular rung of the ladder
Try on many shoes
Reject stagnation
Understand the danger of repetition
Understand the value of repetition
Constantly shift focus from big picture to small detail, back and forth, wide angle, zoom
Constantly shift focus from master to student and back in an instant

Be dogmatic when it works
Be open and bending when that works
Hard works, soft also works, each appropriate to a moment
Expect more from yourself
Do not settle for good enough unless the task does not truly matter
Obsession is how one gets things done
Body teaches mind and vice-versa
Learn with the body
Learn with the mind
Allow both to grow
Drive both to improve (according to particular objectives)
Do not coast

I will never arrive
I will never "know"
I will only know how little I know
If and when I know more than others I will wear it on my sleeve, as a badge, as my standard. I will be ego-driven where appropriate and sometimes where it's not. I will be ego-less where it is appropriate, and necessary. I will try not to get in my own way. I will use my talent instead of wasting it.

I won't make excuses when I fall short.
Instead I will make corrections."

Monday, May 2, 2011

MFXC 2011

The best group of people I've ever been involved with for any sport or activity put on the second annual Middlefork XC (non)race this weekend.

First, if you've never been to Middle fork and live within 4-5 hrs, you owe it to yourself to head down there. Here is a link to some garmin data:

In terms of the day and the people that were involved, I was one that got to reap the benefits of my teams hardwork, without putting much effort into organizing the thing. That must change. Non-races are free events that may or may not be timed and can be taken as seriously as one wants. I'd say most of the people there yesterday let leash the same level of effort towards the ride as they normally would toward a mountain bike race...so for all intents and purposes, it ended up being a race for most of us.

With all the rain recently, many were nervous about making the trip down. I managed to ride Rhett's run last thursday and after seeing how well the ground was draining, I had a lot of confidence that the non-race would indeed happen. In fact, the conditions ended up being close to perfect. There were some serious creek crossings, but this is mountain biking.

There were 3 start waves for the race, my buddies Matt James and Dan Furhman were the first to go, as the 2 first place (geared and single speed) finishers from last year. Next the first 10 registered, then a larger group which is where I started.

Riding in April has been really good for me this year. I've only raced 2x, but have been motivated to ride hard at least 2-3x during the week. So, I wanted to ride hard and smart for the duration of the 32-33 miles.

After the start, I caught Matt and Dan about 2 miles down the single-track, a little before a 7-ish mile section of gravel road riding. Matt and I took off together, leaving Dan and his single gear to spin his brains out. We traded about 90s pulls and kept a steady tempo pace for the entire 7miles. It was the most boring part of the topography, although the scenery was quite awesome.

When we arrived at a concrete section we saw Caleb from Momentum chasing us doing like a mad-man. He eventually caught us right before the 16 miles of singletrack. Matt led in, then Caleb, and I followed. Caleb looked as though he had burned too many matches catching us and I felt really good. So with about 13-14 miles left, I took off.

The riding was fast, flowy, exciting, and absolutely beautiful. I was seriously in bliss pedaling along and felt like I was hauling. At about 19miles, there was a little gravel section and as I was riding it, I noticed a pink flag and a weird trail to my right. At first, I turned thinking it was the trail. Then I stopped, looked around and decided to keep going. A minute or so later, I turned around and rode back too take a look and decided I was a moron, since there were no tire marks. I looked up and saw Matt and Caleb down the road. Time to haul. I didn't want to ride away from Matt, but he was keeping Caleb in check and I thought it would be good to keep up the pace. I established a gap again and tt was more of the same until mile 27, when all of a sudden I pinched and was riding on my rim. It took me awhile to change the tire and during that time, Matt, then Nico, then Dan Furhman passed me (note, always carry 2 C02s). Once I got back on, I started soft pedaling, then figured what-the-hell, and took off in chase knowing I had 3-4miles to catch people. Looking at my garmin, it looks like a 20min threshold effort, but eventually I caught Matt and he and I finished together in a tie for first place.

I'm sitting in a coffee shop writing this up, and an old ancient Columbia cyclist came up to me and just told me that the state mountain bike used to be in the area of middlefork...probably 13-15 years ago. And consisted of a single loop of about the same length as MFXC. Back then, the locals apparently were into the race, but one year, a cat 4 made some big deal about either his placing or maybe his wife's, and almost started a brawl with the officials. Cops had to come and that was the end of that.