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!