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.