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 bad...so 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?