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.