Friday, December 14, 2012

MO State Cyclocross Championship

Time has escaped me this week.

It's weird, but when I'm sitting in the lab all day reading about RNA, diseases, and cancer cells, I really don't feel much like a bike racer. I've been drinking quite a bit of beer since I hurt my calf in every night, and generally just feel like a pretty normal person who enjoys riding bikes around fields on the weekends. It's just become such a central part of my life.

With all that said, I was really happy with the way the race unfolded on Sunday.

I liked the course quite a bit. With the rain the evening before, it was a little slick which I thought significantly improved the technical challenge of the course. When it was dry on Saturday, it was apparent that it was hard to flow on this course. Line selection and cornering didn't matter much because the corners were a little off-camber but all pretty slow since you could never really get going. But on Sunday, you had to choose good lines and there were parts of the course where it was faster to run than all-in-all I thought it was a good cross course; especially because spectators could see almost everything from the top of the hill.

Since the course was hilly and there were lots of turns, it was pretty selective. I barely shifted into my big ring all weekend; it was just kicker followed by grinder followed by kicker, with a bunch of turns in between, and a couple of slightly technical descents.

I managed to ride off the front during the 3rd of 10 laps and stayed there for the rest of the race. The mental aspect of breaking a course down into little segments is one of the things I love the most about off-road bicycle racing, and it felt really good to be on my mental game.

I'm very satisfied and proud to have won the race. I'm thankful to all my friends in bike racing and to those who help me keep my head about things. This week I've just been trying to savor it and reflect on the journey over the past few years. I'm trying not to think too much about next season, and for now focus more on science, friends here in Columbia, and family. But in the meantime, I'm in the process of selling a bunch of equipment and am trying to simplify my life with respect to bikes and bike racing. As of right now, I only own 1 bicycle and hopefully am sorting out some priorities for the future.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Bubba: St Vincent

It's strange that no matter how bad my week went, how poorly I slept the few nights prior, and sometimes even how much beer I drank the night before, the pain of a cyclocross race brings a little smile to my face (I guess I talk to angels).

Yesterday was St Vincent, on the north side of St Louis. It's a park near Normandy high school, and as someone who grew up south, within the erected and metaphoric walls of Clayton, it's a really special place to race. The park is just this crazy anomaly of topographical terrain in the middle of an area of St Louis that will likely never be cool or gentrified. The nearby buildings have really cool old architecture and I swear the park has this grass more like some kind of emerald-irish-isle, then anywhere else in St Louis.

In terms of Bubba history, it's the infamous sight of my buddy Schottler's incredible solo effort off the front, only to be slowly reeled in by the ever methodical and well-paced Butthead. Last year, I won there...whilst sick as a dog. This year I don't think I'm quite so stupid or motivated to race sick (although my child is sick right now and with my luck, I'm virtually certain I'll catch it in time for the state cyclocross next weekend).

The real story yesterday, is one that's been interwoven into Missouri cyclocross for a long time, but highlighted yesterday because it's a trend likely to continue; we love cyclocross in BoCoMo. My teamate Jesse Maggard won the B race! Mike Morgan, who was riding a hunk of junk bike that if he doesn't like he should trade wit me, was top 5. And the A race saw PedNet director Lawrence Simonson, Butthead, and myself 5th, 2nd, and 1st respectively.

Two things I've learned in cyclocross this year:
1. Pacing on a qualitative scale: Basically there are 4 effort levels in a cross race, that over the course of racing this year, feel incredibly distinct and concrete.

-Warm-up spinning; this is easy, like Z1 or Z2 HR, 0-220watts

-Lung pace: this is typical 'tempo' riding of a cross race. You're pushing the pedals hard, but if you're driving your bike well and getting in a little recovery on the sections that allow for it, breathing is still out of the nose. It's probably like upper Z3 to Z4 HR, 240-300watts, RPE 5-7. The thing about lung pace is that it's sufficiently discombobulating that driving the bike becomes more difficult.

-Leg pace: These are the efforts that make cross a unique form of cycling...these are the repeated bursts of power the occur coming out of corners, on the climbs, over the bumps, and in a UCI race...they're basically the whole damn race. These are HR Z5, and are >320watts, with the shorter accelerations being 400-800w, RPE 8.

-Heart pace: this is when you put your chips in. Leg pace is part of the game and shouldn't hurt that bad. Heart pace is when you stretch out the leg pace into long efforts and you start to suck more at driving the bike. This is when you're gassed, seeing cross eyed. This is RPE 9 to 10.

2. Cross is just silly expensive. A broken fork and tubular this year isn't quite as bad as a couple of broken derailleurs and a broken frame last year, but it still sucks. I originally wanted to go to nationals again this year, but mostly due to funds, will be packing things up and selling a bunch of cross equipment after the state race next week. The reality of my wife still being on student loans and me with an incredibly meager scientist-level income (with 2 more years of student loans beginning next June when I finish up med school) has completely set-in. My choices need to be more sustainable and I'm not sure that cross, at least not in the way that I've approached it, will be in the cards for me next year.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Back at it

After a week in Florida, a couple weeks easy due to injury, and 4 weekends of not racing I wasn't quite sure what to expect in coming back to Bubba #9 at Spanish Lake this past Sunday. The night before consisted of solid family-man, local cat 2 race preparation; a bourbon tasting, a bunch of delicious holiday beers following a day of errands, way too much dessert, a little housework, and a hike with the family.

Alas, sometimes rest following a year of good preparation is a good thing. The calf seems to be fully healed, and I was probably the only one happy to see that yesterday's course had absolutely no dismounting at all. In fact, it was a gravel road 17.5-18mph average fast cross race. 

Within a couple of laps, it was myself, Butthead (I'm going to call him that until he carpools to a race with me), future-domestic pro Devin Clark, and Colorado native Taylor Carrington (number 1 ranked 30-39 year old cat 2 cyclocrosser in the country) dragging each other around. A washout would remove Devin from the mix and the last lap was pure planning and strategy. I was 3rd wheel on the 1.33 gravel road, which was a pretty good place to be. The last 1/4 lap had a grassy very steep kicker, then a couple turns followed by a big-ring grinder gravel climb, a couple of turns, then a pretty long pavement finish straight. I wanted to get around both of them on the first kicker and peg it up the longer gravel climb but couldn't manage to get around Josh, er Butthead until we got onto the gravel. At that point, it was wide enough for Taylor to come with me. He then followed my wheel for a sprint finish. 
Above, I should have remembered that air drag increases with the square of speed. Oops.

Didn't quite make that one. Dang it was fun though. 

Monday, November 5, 2012

Cross season

Over the last few years, I transitioned from a minimalist commuter on a surly showing up at my first cyclocross race in a Tshirt, to a dedicated competitor with multiple skinsuits, tires for every condition, and identical carbon race bikes. My wife has been more-or-less supportive of this change. I really do have fun racing my bike and try to keep it real and not make things to serious. The only problem with the cyclocross season (from both of our perspectives) is that it is a period of time of weekly racing (requiring 4+ hrs in the car every single weekend), during a time of the year when so many awesome things are going on. The training has always been the easy part for me. Riding 1 to 2 hrs Tue-Thurs isn't work and I really don't care what the weather is like; it keeps me sane and I do it regardless of whether or not I was racing. But seriously, do you know how many amazing beers come out in the fall? Yes, they can all wait til January, and I can practice moderation now, but I really don't want too.

All things in moderation, including moderation.

I really want to be a good dad. And husband. And also friend, son, brother, mountain bike racer, and cross racer. And on top of those things, I really, really care about being a good scientist. And doctor. And unfortunately, I kind of give a shit about this election tomorrow. And reading. Plus, there's a bunch of good food too cook, vegetables too grow, beer to drink, house projects too complete, and maybe there'll be some time to watch some sports on TV. Or maybe a movie.

So much for voluntary simplicity.

Two Sunday's ago, I raced in KC and ended up having some really nasty calf pain towards the end of the race. It seemed like a cramp and therefore ignorable, but it actually got worse once I stopped racing. And by the time I drove home, it was totally debilitating, leaving me hopping around and needing crutches at first. I saw a couple of sports docs on Monday, who both thought I tore a muscle in my calf and that it would take 6-8weeks too fully heal. Luckily I was scheduled to fly down to Florida on Wednesday morning for a few days on the beach at this medical conference my wife's family attends every year, so I had the opportunity to be away from bikes and to relax.

After talking things over with my wife, I decided that it'd be better to 'let-go' and re-focus for the remainder of the fall. Time to get into the gym, start riding my mountain bike more, and planning for next mountain bike season.

Florida was awesome.

Thursday, November 1, 2012


Sometimes I catch myself being a crotchety-old-grouch when it comes to certain cancer related things. For example, when I read about 'X' cancer awareness campaign, I find myself thinking, 'what exactly are we supposed to be aware of'?

The statistics? Yes, the figures are staggering; just about everyone knows someone who's died from cancer. Residents of the US have about a 1 in 5 chance of dying of cancer. In 2008, ~5-600,000 people in the US died from cancer (23% of all mortality), which is a frequency surpassed only by heart/vascular disease.

That people do research and that private/donor money is important for research? Well, that's a huge area that does need more awareness.

Recently I was riding by some outdoor University tennis courts. There were a ton of construction workers putting some kind of pipes and electrical stuff under the courts. I don't know this for sure, but it seemed like they were installing equipment that will help keep the outdoor courts warm during the cold months of the year. I counted the construction workers; there were 46 of them. Oh yeah, and these courts are right next to an indoor tennis facility.  But, I guess now that we're in the SEC, we need to keep up with Georgia, Florida, et al.

Meanwhile, researchers and students pinch pennies and pray for miracles.

Sometimes I think I'm crazy for taking the MD/PhD educational route at my particular University. But when I examine my value system and my motivation, deep down I believe that research is important for society and that my voice in research (as someone with cancer) is important. It's a little sad, but there was a facebook conversation/debate I recently witnessed where someone was basically saying that research is really only funded by the private sector and that basic science research does little for the economy. Unfortunately, after really thinking about the economics of things and reading this, I can't really disprove that point of view. But, I BELIEVE that it is wrong. And I choose to BELIEVE that discoveries made on the bench-top do lead to improvements in patient care and that these discoveries, no matter how obscure or strange sounding, often do spur economic growth (both because Universities create jobs and because discoveries are often open sourced and can be built upon by a poor grad student in Cambodia or Genentech).

Anyway, my point in all of this: we need to examine our beliefs, our priorities, and realize that gestures like growing a mustache or wearing pink also need to be backed up with tangible substance. It's not just the thought that counts. Wearing pink in October is fine and dandy, but it doesn't make anyone a better person for doing so, and ultimately it doesn't mean much unless it really inspires people to work for change...maybe it's figuring out WHY the breast cancer statistics are as they are or any number of other questions. Or maybe someone interested in doing something positive would donate to the University of Missouri MD/PhD program? Clearly our University is more interested in things in the same ballpark as the football coaches incredible salary.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Mid-October Cyclocross

Official cyclocross racing season runs from September through December in this country. Although now it is a bit longer because beginning last year, the national championships was moved from mid-December too early January. Further, the Master's world championships is in the US for 2012 and 2013 and this year (well, actually early Feb 2013), the elite World Championships is going to be in the US. So now you can race in the US from September through early February. That get's to be a pretty long season, and similar to baseball, different riders (teams) ratchet things up at different times.

This past weekend was an exciting one for cyclocross fans because the American hero of our sport, Jeremy Powers, got his best ever finish in a world cup...which bodes extremely well for the rest of his season and the possibility to see him on the podium at the world championships.

Locally, there was a big race weekend down in Tulsa, OK, which originally looked extremely attractive. But seeing that the friday and saturday races started at 9:30pm, I decided that I'm too much of an old man, and that it'd be better too stay in Missouri.

This is a point in the season where you can still build some high-end fitness too last through the winter, so I've been hitting it pretty hard during the week and also on Saturday's. So, like all self-centered cyclists, I'm trying to rationalize why my legs didn't feel super hot on race day this past Sunday. One of my favorite racers in cyclocross wrote a great blog piece about those days/times when you're legs don't show up to a race:
"Dear legs,

I regret having to send this letter, but enough is enough. Maybe you never got the memo. Or maybe you just forgot because it doesn't feel like autumn yet and in your defense, it has been quite a while. So let me take this opportunity to remind you that we are supposed to be a bike racer now. Actually, it was supposed to be a week ago and due to your absense, beard and hands were hung out to dry. I have to wonder how you failed to notice how hands were out practicing for bike driving and beard was filling out in preparation for the coming season. What have you been doing? I have supplied you with all the tools you should need to succeed. Hard training, long rest, but you don't seem to take the hint. Well, moving forward, we have a long job ahead of us and it's going to be much longer if you continue to fail at your part of the bargain. Unfortunately I have to put you on the spot. If you don't get it together I am going to have to reconsider your involvement at this facility.

Sincerely your's
Bike Racer Dan"

I think Josh must have sent a similar memo to his legs after last week, because he brought some heat and put me into a serious pain cave yesterday. It was like old times and honestly, really fun to suffer at the hands of the butthead. Well, let me re-phrase, it was really fun too race off the front with Josh from laps 4-10 yesterday. We traded leading and thus, attacking each other and had a solid dual. Which lasted until the finish line and concluded in pats-on-the-back and my comment to him, "thank you sir, may I have another". 

As far as the race report, I've been pretty bad at writing these lately and need to get my day started...but, Kenda/Felt pro-mountain biker and super nice dude, Drew Edsall recently moved to St Louis. He was there and put in a blistering 2nd lap...which almost shattered all of us. Devin Clark was also riding really strong and at one point, it seemed like he and I were going to repeat the shenanigans of Hermann. However, an untimely miscalculated corner would prevent that from being the case. 

Next up for me...well, it's Monday. Time to go cut some cancer cells with a laser (cancer research is awesome). 

Bike-stuff-wise: I really want to go to a few bigger races this year. Originally the plan was Jingle cross and then try really hard to do well at the master's 30-34 race at nationals. Jingle is a logical choice because it's only 5ish hours from my house, the race supports a good cause (always important to justify our self-centered-ness with pseudo-concern for others), and it's a mid-west thing. But last week I got the urge to travel out to Boulder for the Boulder Cup and the Colorado Cross cup this coming weekend. The family situation will allow for that too happen, but right now an examination of our bank account may prevent that from happening. Which is a shame, because it looks like it is going to snow in Boulder on Friday! I guess it's always good to think about goals in these situations, the reality is that money is the biggest limiting factor in being able to travel for a bike race and the 1500mile round trip to Boulder probably isn't compatible with the cost-benefit equation. 

post-script: I was talking to a friend about favorite CX racers and have established this list:
1. Adam Craig
2. Jeremy Powers
3. Tim Johnson
4. Dan Timmerman
5. Stybar
6. Tie between Tristan Schouten and Brian Matter
7. Zac McDonald
8. Barry Wicks
9. Sven Nys
10. Francis Mourey

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Performance enhancing drugs

"So, I have a question for all my cycling coach, exercise physiologist, fitness expert friends out there. If one took performance-enhancing drugs and improved their VO2 Max and LT, but then stop taking drugs is it safe to say they may still reap some benefits of the enhanced physiological adaptation brought on by the drugs, even years later?"- Brandon Dwight, of Boulder Cycle Sport.

I've thought quite a bit about this question, and although I'm not credentialed in any of the ways he specifically addresses, I do understand medicine, physiology, pharmacology, and have a descent background in exercise phys. So this is all, from my humble opinion:
The bottom line is that performance enhancing drugs can't all be grouped into the same category. That is to say that Epo and blood transfusions are completely different than Clenbuterol, diuretics, anabolics, and things like growth hormone. 

The physical demands of a baseball player are so incredibly different than those of a stage-racer cyclist, which in-turn are pretty different than even mountain biking and especially track cycling. In baseball, cheaters want to get bigger, stronger, and faster. So their enhancing pharmacology with things like growth hormone, estrogen antagonists, and testosterone enhancers all reflect that. And those particular drug regimens definitely alter gene expression in such a way as to produce long-term, performance enhancing benefits. I would imagine that track cyclists, if interested in the benefits of pharmacology, would utilize similar cocktails. 

I'll never forget reading about some cat 2 cyclist from Houston who got busted taking a very advanced (medically speaking) estrogen antagonist and testosterone enhancing approach. He was on a bunch of breast cancer drugs (which as a cancer survivor, bike racer, and physician-scientist in training, really pissed me off). I'd predict that his ability to recover from training was enhanced and that he had a noticeable increase in short-duration power outputs on the bike. He probably won more sprints. But in terms of time trialing or a stage racing, there's a certain point where there would be diminishing returns and frankly null or even detrimental benefits with that particular pharmacologic approach. That's simply because the demands of endurance sports are so incredibly different than power sports. And size especially, but also to some extent the myofibril adaptations associated with high-power, is/are detrimental to type-I (endurance, skinniness) oxidative fibers. It's literally like comparing the white meat associated with a chicken with the red meat of a buffalo. They're metabolically incredibly different and everything from training to fuel-source are almost diametrically opposed. And this difference is mainly associated with the underlined, bolded term and has everything to do with oxidative phosphorylation, mitochondrial efficiency, and the physiology associated with getting hydrogen ions away from, and oxygen into working muscles. 

Oxygen delivery. That's the name of the game in endurance sports. Anabolic's and cortisol synthetics don't really affect it. Genetics are huge, and effect pulmonary/chest anatomy and physiology in such a way that it's probably the biggest difference between a pro-tour rider and the rest of us. But the genetics of erythropoiesis probably don't factor in much...which is to say that most people's bone marrow is on pretty similar playing fields. Unless of course, you alter the kinetics of hematopoeisis. And like most things in physiology, you can increase hematopoesis or decrease it, and these events can occur naturally (you get a bacterial infection, your bone marrow makes more white blood cells) or pharmacologically/iatrogenically (cancer patient get's radiation treatment which damages bone marrow stem cells, so they become deficient in various blood cells). Just to tie the point back to performance, it is the red blood cells which serve to help buffer hydrogen ions (which isn't always talked about but is a HUGE factor) and deliver oxygen from the lungs (genetically determined) to the working tissues.  Measurements of red blood cells often confuse medical students and physicians, so it isn't worth the effort to go through the meanings of Hct, Hgb, MCH, MCV, reticulocyte count, RPI, etc. But the key to discussing the answer to the question at the beginning of this post is that red blood cells hang out in the blood for around 4 months. So changing the kinetics of RBC production, like with EPO, or simple increasing circulating RBC mass, like with autotransfusions, have short-lived effects. 

So in short, anabolics can have potentially long term performance enhancing effects. Drugs and transfusions to affect oxygen delivery almost certainly don't. But, since doping leads to enhanced performance, which can lead to winning races...then (to quote Adam Myerson) 'It can make the ability to return to that higher level easier than it would have if it was done cleanly, and incrementally. But more importantly, the access to better teams, better races, better support, and better money, all lead to an ability to do better preparation, and reach a higher level still. So, not exactly the question you asked, but an example of how it can indirectly continue to benefit the level of fitness reached after doping.'

To me, the use of EPO in endurance sports is a medical travesty and if you want too seriously talk about long term effects of EPO use, I think you're getting into the realm of oncology and cancer biology. Synthetic EPO saves lives; mostly for cancer patients and renal failure patients. And like any drug that is ingested or injected, there are effects beyond those associated with the therapeutic benefit. I was taught in medical school that there is no such thing as drug 'side-effects'. Biology doesn't work that way, there are only effects. For EPO, it's a mitogenic agent, or something that induces/promotes the cell cycle. Anything that does that, has the potential to facilitate conditions that lead to cancer. So in a sense, a cancer patient or former cancer patient that takes EPO is putting themselves at risk for more cancer. And in another, more abstract sense, spitting in the face of the patients for whom EPO was originally intended. 

Personally, I've received enough radiation over the years that my bone marrow has taken a hit. When you measure my white blood cells and red blood cells, you can see that deficiency. Also, I ride and race bikes with active, living tumors in my vertebrae and in my lungs (although those in my lungs are only 5-10mm). I'm clearly not a world class athlete and could never be one, but my point in saying that is that these things effect oxygen delivery in my body, but I'm clearly still capable of having a descent power output at LT and VO2. My own conclusion based on understanding my own physiology, is that training can trump anatomy, but only to a certain point. 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Medicine and the election

It's been a little while since I've posted anything besides bike racing stuff.

I hesitated to post links to the following on facebook, so will therefore post them here and then link to facebook!

Lot's is at stake in this election coming up in November. In terms of healthcare, you should read the following links and think about them no matter where you are on the ideological/political spectrum:
The conservative case fo Obama care

Also, both presidential candidates wrote pieces for the most important journal in medicine.
Replacing Obamacare with real reform- Romney
Securing the future of American Healthcare- Obama

I'm not sure if there's anything more important in my life (besides my family) than being a physician. I have not yet completed my training, but will in the next couple of years. For me there is no higher calling, nothing more meaningful, interesting, exciting, or engaging than the art and science of medicine. I won't go on a rant about what I believe as far as national health care, but suffice to say that having had cancer as a 20-something made it undeniably clear that our healthcare system has been broken. This article by Atul Gawande, a Harvard Suregon essentially summarizes my opinion.

As an aside, in terms of those two articles from each candidate in the New England Journal, I speak essentially 3 languages: English, spanish, and medical. And honestly, even though I read it with an open mind, I have no idea what Mitt Romney is saying in some sections of his piece.

There are a bunch of comments following each piece. My own view is summarized by the following:
"We Need to Go Deeper Than Glossy Rhetoric
We will never have a smart, cost-effective healthcare system in this country until we address the way we pay for health care. Our third party payer system - private as well as government-funded - supports the health industrial complex, not health care. It provides all the wrong incentives for specialist care, overmedicalization and procedures, and shapes the way a doctor practices at least as much as medical science does. To think that an unregulated free market system will put less emphasis on profit and put patients' interests first is to be stuck in a 1950's mentality: as long as clean cut white men in suits are in charge, we are all in good hands.
The Affordable Care Act, as well as its earlier version, Romneycare, moves us towards providing incentives for quality outcomes and cost-effectiveness rather than for productivity. We the people, in the form of a democratic government, need to continue to work towards this critical goal, keeping special interests at arms length. Private business has very different goals, ones that are often directly at odds with patient's best interests."
-RANDY KOZEL, MD | Physician | Disclosure: None

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Gateway Cross

Getting a top-10 at this race, and therefore a UCI point, was a major goal of mine. I was pretty psyched with the result, but honestly feel like I just made a ton of stupid mistakes so have mixed feelings about the race as a whole. 

The funny thing now is that I don't really know what I'll do with that UCI point! It was really just a goal too see if I could get one! Traveling on my own to USGP's doesn't really sound like much fun. And I guess I can understand why people that want to compete at the national level really benefit from a team with whom too travel. 

But, Last night was fun for fast dudes I don't know is awesome. Man, it was muddy! Really weird too race in such thick slop and not have it be cold. 

The first 2 laps (of 8) were typical big-race craziness. Not so much because there were lots of participants, in fact it was a pretty small race, but because things are really aggressive when there are pro's and want-to-be pro's.

On the first lap, I botched 2 run-up's and then on lap 2, I crashed in a boggy, peanut-butter mud poorly lit corner. I think I was riding 7th at that point. Despite mistakes, I was never worse than 13th. WIth 6 to go, I found myself in a group with the guys who all ended up 10th-15th.  With 5 to go, I was 5th wheel in my group coming through the start finish. Everyone looked like they were going hard on the concrete, so I wanted to test my legs and put in a little dig which ended up with me passing those guys. So I basically kept going with it, which broke up the group and made it me and 2 others. The pace with those 3 guys wasn't too hard, so it seemed like we wouldn't catch who ever was in 9th, so our race was for the last UCI points spot.

With 2 to go, I attacked on the boggy straight near the pits and got a gap. But towards the end of that lap, I lost grip on my hood and crashed and was passed by Brandon Cross a fellow mountain biker from Salt Lake City, who I would end up chasing really hard on the bell lap. I caught him with about a quarter of the lap left and passed on a tricky little kicker. I then blocked and pegged it coming through the turns before the start/finish straight. It was then a sprint finish for the last UCI point. I've only sprinted for a win a handful of times; so was mostly just winging it!

Now it's back to work and research. In terms of bikes, I can't really decide what to do with myself during October. My mountain bike was sold in order replace Maggie's bike, or otherwise I think I'd start riding more singletrack and try my legs at the Berryman Epic.

The thought of traveling to Ft Collins on my own or with Maggie/Cassidy in tow, seems like a quixotic quest and just not in the cards in terms of money/time. So, I'll probably do some local bubba races and try to get faster in time for Jingle cross, where I can put my UCI point too use!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Hermann CX

Sometimes I can't believe my wife tolerates me.

Saturday was her 30th birthday and somehow in the grand negotiation that is marriage, I had the green light to go race my bike in the evening of her birthday, while she went to a party at one of our friends houses here in Columbia.

A lot of time, energy, planning, and of course, money goes into amateur bike racing. Sometimes it's quite staggering to think about. This year, the bike racing associated bargain with myself, family, and work is that I'd race much less going into cross season and then try not too race every single weekend from now until January. As such, Hermann and Gateway cross were the clear targets for early season racing. Both are reasonably near home and are national-caliber events. I feel pretty confident in saying that if people drove from out of town, they would not be disappointed with the course, volunteers, and promoter of Hermann CX. I only wish more people from Missouri could fit the race into their schedules.

In the build-up to September's CX racing, I opted to not race at all during August. Mostly too stoke my competitive fire, i.e. to get really hungry for the entire experience. But also just too have more time on the weekends. I took a 2 week break, almost completely off the bike in late July and early August, then did 2 weeks of endurance riding in the 13-15hrs/week range. Those are big weeks for me, as I normally average 6-10, sometimes 11 or 12hrs/week. After that, it was 4 weeks of specific CX-style training almost always first thing in the morning as per work and family obligations.

Anyway, we're in the process of moving right now so things have been pretty hectic in general, so the escape to the pain cave of cyclocross racing really served as a much needed mental re-ordering. I still don't know what it is about cross that I find so incredibly fun and engrossing, but I really do love every minute of it.

The weekend started with a trip to a bed & breakfast in Rocheport for me and Maggie. I figured it'd be a nice way to celebrate her birthday and get in a mellow evening in this very hectic time. I had picked up some kind of GI-nastiness on Thursday which persisted all day Friday, so at about 5pm friday, I thought I might need to pull the plug on the plan to race saturday. But come Saturday, I was feeling much better and proceeded to gorge myself full of food just about all day.

I really had no idea what to expect from my body that evening. I knew that Josh, the Ethos boys, Devin, and Jay could all cause some serious pain, so my race plan was too keep the pace pretty high early and then see what happened. I was particularly watchful of Josh, as I knew he's fast from a bunch of road racing and always the smoothest guy out there, so a course like Hermann is right up his alley. On a side note, if you're an intermediate or beginner cyclocross racer, do yourself a favor and become a student of the riders who ride the smoothest (Josh). Study every turn they make, where they go hard, how they recover, and just generally how they manage their energy in a CX race. For me, it's made the learning curve over the last 4 years much easier. Hard too believe that just 4 years ago, I was showing up to my first bike race in 10 years in a t-shirt, on my Surly cross check, with my wife, and 2- week-old baby in tow for Bubba #1 2008.

Anyway, the race started, Jay took off like a mad man, and the next thing I knew I was riding with Devin with a little gap on people...which is a situation I found myself in quite a bit last year, but this year we're on different teams! Josh was close behind, dangling at about the same distance for the remaining 10 of 12 laps. I'm not sure why an hour on a course where you do 12 laps seems so much longer than an hour where you do 7 laps, but man was that a mental battle.

Devin and I rode hard, occasionally putting in little digs but also not full-on attacking each other. He crashed 2 separate times and each time, I rode the same pace we had been riding, which was probably a 6 or 7 out of 10. I'm guessing that too catch back on, we was 8 or 9 out of 10 effort. So when it came to the last lap, I dug deep and buried myself on every section I could hoping that he had burned some matches earlier. I made it to the stairs without him passing, which basically meant I had a few turns, a technical sandy run, then a short swooping grass section to the finish. I don't mean to sound at all like it was nonchalant or no-big-deal, as the reality of coming across the line first on Saturday night was pure elation. A whole lot of heart, soul, blood, sweat, and tears poured into training and riding over the past few years. I always hate it when people make hard things sound like they were easy. So, I just want to say that I don't take getting to ride my bike in a race like this for granted. There are times when I feel like the little tiny metastases in my lungs are keeping me from riding hard. And trying to be a decent Dad/husband, going to med school, and actually staying healthy while being completely addicted to entering a world on the bicycle where I can push myself as hard as I possibly can, somehow, at least for the time being, seems to find equilibrium and strangely, bring peace.

I can summarize day 2 by saying, it hurt. And running the entire length of the stairs at Faurot field was excellent training.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Media exposure?

I spent last week working at my PhD mentor's lab at University of Notre Dame. She moved there last summer and because my wife is an MD student and I'm an MD/PhD student, there was too much craziness in moving. So we decided to stay here in Columbia. After 5 years of living here, it finally feels like we're planting some roots down. We actually bought a house this month and took our first trip to Home Depot today. One of they guys working there seemed to get a little made at me for being a cyclist because the olympic coverage of the road race was 4 or 5 hours long. It was pretty hilarious I guess.

Anyway, I had planned on being at Notre Dame for 2 weeks but the equipment I was using broke, so I came home early. As I was driving back on saturday afternoon, I remembered that the Show Me state mountain bike race was 10 minutes from my house on sunday. I've never raced after not riding at all for a week. I guess it's hard to generalize as say that I'll never do it again, but the pain and shock to my body was such that I think I'll do my best to avoid repeating that again.

Pretty cool to be in the paper yesterday. The reporter got a few things off, but generally did a great job. I don't think he wrote a single thing down when he interviewed me so that was all from memory.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Been awhile

Summer is rolling along here in the midwest...

There hasn't been much too blog about lately. I've been working on my PhD project a bunch and will be traveling to do some experiments in my mentor's lab at Notre Dame next week. Pretty cool stuff...I'll be using a very fancy laser and microscope to cut out individual cancer cells from 60-70 different patient's throat cancers. I'll then isolate the RNA from those cancers and perform next generation deep sequencing on each sample with the goal of identifying molecules called microRNAs that correlate with the presence of cancer and the severity of cancer. From there, we'll integrate that information into a nanomembrane-based nucleic acid sensor to provide a multiplexed platform to be able to detect cancers and viral infections associated with cancers. The long term goal is to optimize a technology to enable analysis of cells obtained from an oral rinse and gargle protocole and develop point-of-care diagnostics that can be used in a common dental clinic to detect oncogenic HPV.

I'm also super stoked that I'll have more teaching responsibilities this coming fall. I'll get to help 2nd year medical students learn about basic pathology, cancer biology, and immunology.

Then my wife (who just accepted a residency position in Anesthesiology here at MU...which means we'll be Tigers longterm) is working on a cool research project as a medical student where she's trying to get some statistical power to make some conclusions about common injuries in cyclocross compared to other forms of cycling. Anyway, stay tuned if you wouldn't mind filling out a survey sometime. I'm hoping she can get a little travel funding so we can go to Madison for nationals!

Riding-wise, I did a local road race today. It was a bunch of fun. My goal was just to keep the pace high and do as much work as possible then co-operate/align myself with anyone interested in a joint-effort (can you tell I'm a shitty road racer?). I got in a break at the end but couldn't bridge up to Tracy Smith or this other guy from KC, so I tried to lead out Benji and Tony Mayfield from Big Tree cycling (I didn't have teammates in the race). Almost a 300w and 24-25mph average for a little over an hour, so definitely a solid effort. I felt really good but don't have much high-end fitness at all right now.

Next up is 1-2 weeks off  from riding and transitioning to some CX training. Can't wait!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Leadbelt XC

I can't believe it's Wednesday already?! And 3 o'clock too boot. Man, June and July alway seem to fly by. 

Last year maggie was starting her third year of med school at this time and began with the most time, energy, and emotionally intensive speciality- Surgery. I basically didn't see her much last summer so I'd take Cassidy too school as early as possible (Maggie would have left the house at like 4:30), go into the lab, get some experiments cooking, then ride for 2hrs from work, come back and work until 4ish, pick up Cassidy, then go home too cook and hope too eat dinner with Maggie (I do 99.8256% of the cooking around here). Now things are finally slowing down a bit, although my day's are almost identical! I'm even doing pretty similar rides as last year: 2 to 2.5hrs with 2-3 20min subLT intervals. Anyway, this is supposed to be a race here it goes:

St Joe Park near Farmington, MO is awesome. Next time you get the chance, go ride there. The way the course ended up this year, with some rain the night before, made it my favorite course I've raced this year. There was one pretty decisive climb with a few hundred meter flat and non-technical section at the top, so laying it down and keeping on the gas for the flat at the top seemed to have been the golden ticket...for the first time ever in a XC mtn bike race I was able to run almost exactly even splits for the 3 laps and even a negative split between laps 2 and 3. Too me that's the ultimate measure of a good performance and is one of the most satisfying feelings I can have in a race. My cross country (running) coach in college taught me about that and always emphasized that if you can pace like that, it doesn't matter if you're winning or not, it's pretty much the goal of endurance racing in my's like being in this zone right on the edge of your limits. The feeling reminds me of a quote from this old runner named George 'Doc' Sheehan: "Sweat cleanses from the inside. It comes from places a shower will never reach". 

If you're looking for a good book to read sometime, check out his book called "Running and being". Very applicable stuff to any endurance sport, e.g. "The mind's first step to self-awareness must be through the body" and "The distance runner is mysteriously reconciling the separations of body and mind, of pain and pleasure, of the conscious and the unconscious. He is repairing the rent, and healing the wound in his divided self. He has found a way to make the ordinary extraordinary; the commonplace unique; the everyday eternal".

On another note, it's hot out. We need lots of Na and some K, Mg, and Ca when we sweat. There was an interesting article in outside magazine that I didn't really agree with...but posted on twitted to Skratch labs and received a good response from Dr Allen Lim, this is his response to the article:

"Water Alone Can Kill You:
    All of this may lead people to think that if hydration were the primary goal then just drinking water would be the quickest and most effective way to hydrate. In fact, because water can be transported passively along its osmotic gradient and also co-transported with sodium and glucose, having some salt and sugar in a drink solution that is hypotonic (less concentrated) or even isotonic (same concentration) compared to blood would actually be the fastest way to hydrate. While drinking water alone is just fine if you’re sitting around or having dinner at home, drinking water alone is not fine if you’re trying to rehydrate when you’re sweating or have some illness or hangover that results in diarrhea or vomiting. In fact, drinking water alone when we are exercising can be risky since we can lose an appreciable amount of sodium in our sweat (400 to 800 mg per liter of sweat) and if we don’t replace that sodium then an influx of just water can dilute the sodium in our body.  This can lead to a scenario called hyponatremia, which include symptoms like headache, confusion, a drop in performance, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, irritability, muscle spasms, seizures, coma, incontinence, and in some very rare cases death. 
So the point is that you CAN drink too much water, but if what you're drinking is balanced properly you need to drink before you're thirsty.  Allen weighs all his riders before and after training to teach them how easy it is to loose massive amounts of water even when they're drinking what they think is enough.  Staying hydrated (ie not losing more than 2% body weight) is one of his points of focus with his athletes. " -Dr Allen Lim

Monday, June 11, 2012

Say What? MO State championship mountain bike race

I wanted to win this race. I hoped it would be hard and that the course would be a good combination of fitness, skill, and strategy. I guess there are some things you can control and others you can' was there, I've been practicing the dirt biking 2-3x per week and hitting the road for some speed worshipping. After crashing at Greensfelder, I've been seriously reminded how important it is too either:
 A.) SLOW THE HELL DOWN when you're redlined on singletrack and you're coming to a technical/loose turn, or
B.) be like Eric Pirtle and virtually never be redlined or always able to floss the trail and remain upright.

I was actually hoping E.P. and a few other strong dirt bikers from across the show-me state would show-up. But, the race was a little bit of a trek since it was ~4hrs from STL, 2 from Columbia, and 1-2 from Springfield and KC.
J.P. Brocket and family (his daughter is crazy fast!), Travis, and Caleb from Momentum racing were some of the guys I knew were fast standing at the start, but everyone else was a big question mark.

The course was pretty awesome. I'd call it a state-championship-worthy course. Moderately technical because of abundant sharp rocks, some dips, and only a few spots too really attack. Mac and the folks down in Warsaw are really doing some great things for mountain biking and if you ever get the chance, definitely check out their next race.

The family and I drove out saturday morning too camp at Truman lake, check out the course, and hangout in Warsaw. I don't know how old I was when I first started camping or sleeping on sail boats, but outdoor-sailing-muddigging-fishing-shooting guns-bow&arrows-threewheelers and other proper-childhood activities always allowed a nice balance growing up in urban St Louis. But i definitely remember when I started mountain biking: 7th grade (1992 or 93) @ Chubb trail on a rigid yellow/green Trek 800 purchased from Touring cyclist. 2 summers later my mom and I took a trip to Vermont just to go mountain biking at Mt Snow and Mt Stowe. It was pretty awesome and Maggie and I are committed to keeping some 'country' in our little girl. So, we took her camping for the first time. She slept outside for the first time, fed fish, dug holes, and steered our car while sitting on my lap on a dirt road. She's well on the way.

Back to the race. At the start, there was flat double track lead out too start the race. Caleb was going pretty good off the line and I jumped on his wheel. I knew he had also pre-rode the course and that he's young and fast, so I was psyched too follow at first. We split-up the field pretty quick. J.P flatted early leaving Travis, Caleb, me, and a few others. There was a little kicker of a climb at 3.5 miles into the course. I distinctly remember taking note of it as a good place too attack while pre-riding...and luckily Caleb must have felt the same way because at the top we both kept on the gas and next thing we knew the two of us had a little gap on Travis and everyone else. I went to the front and kept things pretty steady. We'd be doing 3 laps and the day was in the 90's, so hydration, salt, and good pacing were going to be key. But I also wanted to take advantage of the little gap on Travis so coming through the start/finish at the beginning of lap 2, I went pretty hard. Next thing I knew I was by myself and super focused on ever little turn and rock ahead of me. The next 2 laps were fun and just on the verge of beginning to hurt without ever really going over the top. I never saw anyone again so didn't know what was happening behind me. But after finishing, I found out that both Caleb and Travis had flatted, so there was a pretty big gap between me and 2nd after the race.

I just have one picture at the moment, and it is a podium shot where I'm inadvertently giving the team seagal salute while my medal is hanging off my finger, so I don't think I'll post it.

A huge thanks to my awesome wife Maggie for putting up with my competitive athletic pursuits! There's only one like you, ain't no way they could have made two.

And also a big shout out to Walt's bike shop...thank you guys so much for your support!

Oh yeah-almost forgot...we ate dinner saturday night in downtown Warsaw at this really cool restaurant. We ordered sandwiches, salads, and dessert, then after eating the waitress came up and said, "did anyone tell you that we're not charging for any of our food today?" We thought she was kidding, but she wasn't. dinner because they aren't normally open on saturdays and opened up for a festival happening in town and wanted to do some good for the people coming to visit Warsaw! WOW!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Progress report

The NIH asks that recipients of research grants (which is basically what I live on) write a progress report 1x per year communicating what has been accomplished and where things are going. For some reason, it's like pulling teeth to get myself to sit down and write this thing. Even though I'm supposed to only write about science and all, I can't help but think about the last year a bit more holistically and I guess I'm pretty happy right now in general.

It's easy for all of us to say that our family is number one and that we sacrifice a lot for our families, but in the end it's amazing too me how much of our time we spend thinking about being someplace else or doing something else even when we're with our families. My cell phone usage is a perfect example. I think I'd probably puke if someone recorded how many times I do something on my cell phone like check who's winning the Giro, what's happening on facebook, or whether I've received an email I'm hoping for, while I'm sitting hanging out with Cassidy. I'm supposed to have made all this time available in my life by focusing more on research and basically taking a hiatus from conventional medical school...certainly I spend more time doing domestic things. I definitely am able to get outside and ride my bike sufficiently. But lately, I've been realizing how much of the time technology and a lack of mindfulness pulls me away from what is most important.

The pool at our apartment opened this past weekend and I think we made a total of 8 trips to the pool in 3 days. Cassidy loves swimming and with this weather, it's been awesome going up there and hanging out with her. It's a really cool process watching a kid grow and become more comfortable doing something like swimming. She can't swim without floaties yet, but I bet by the end of July she'll be swimming on her own.

Anyway, I guess I'm supposed to be writing about cancer or bikes on this blog. Even though those two things fill a lot of my time and I wouldn't be myself without them, I think I can honestly say that more time is devoted this past year to thinking about and being with the family then anything else.

In terms of bike activities at the moment, I'm really glad to be following a plan to get ready for cross this year. I guess there are a bunch of things to my own 'plan', but two things that come to mind when thinking about priorities are:
1. This year I really wanted to do was build a big aerobic engine with lots of base miles. Done. Not sure if it is going to do anything, as I actually feel pretty slow and am a bit heavier than I've been in awhile. But the past 2 weeks I've been doing more sustained tempo riding...basically 87-92% of my 'threshold HR' for 40-60min in a 2-3hr ride. After this, it's on to subLT intervals. In theory, the base miles raise my chronic training load which correlates with increased aerobic enzymes, mitochondrial efficiency, capillary density, general efficiency on the bike, and a bunch of other stuff.

2. Not race every weekend. Mostly because in cross season there seems to be races almost every weekend from September to December...which seriously eats into family time. So up until cross season, I decided to do only the racing which I think is most fun....XC mountain bike racing. The best thing about it this year is that none of the races have been cancelled and most of them are separated by at least 2 weeks. This helps keep the motivation high, adds some V02 efforts, and most importantly-doesn't take up every weekend.

Anyway, I guess that's it for now. I've got to run to Walt's bike shop before picking Cassidy up this afternoon- I seem to have worn out both sets of my XTR pedals in the last year. It's funny, because I actually take good care of my bike gear, but for some reason I manage to break the unbreakable (these two sets of pedals follow me breaking Time ATACs, which are also supposed to be pretty burly). At least shimano agrees and is warranting both sets of pedals (the pedal bodies are loose on the spindles...basically the little rubber O-ring come loose too easily and it feels like my cleats are never fully secure). People always talk about how good SRAM is with their warranty, but in my experience Shimano is just as good or even better- I mean how crazy is it that they replaced broken Ultegra Di2 with Dura Ace Di2?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Broemmelsiek Race report

After learning that my cancer situation is stable as a rock (literally, we track a blood marker and measure how big things are with CT/MRI/Ultrasound and nothing has changed), May is flying by.

Despite signing up for Syllamo's, the trip wasn't in the cards this year. Friday was the last day of Maggie's 3rd year of med school, so we went out to dinner and hung around Columbia Saturday. The team I'm with this year works in cahoots with Pednet here in Columbia and saturday night was an awesome trivia night fund raiser for pednet. With that in mind, we had a rigorous cram session of crossword puzzles, trivia pursuit, and popculture gossip review during the day saturday. We were a team of 8 and given an average age of probably 33 at the table, I think we did pretty well...maybe 5th place out of 10-15 teams. I was quite proud of myself for knowing the name of Rubert Murdochs media company, the national sport of Canada, and the country to which Easter Island belongs.

It was a late night though and the free beer probably didn't help my race performance the following day. But I was determined to get in my 3rd mountain bike race of the year and was looking forward to the practical cyclocross course that is Broemmelsiek mountain biking. Similar to cross, we'd be doing a bunch of laps. 6 to be precise, on a 4ish mile course with very few full on switch backs but lots of sweeping turns, open prairie, and a couple of little rock gardens. Elevation change was fairly mild. Probably one of the flatter parkson the UFD schedule. And the significant lack of rainfall recently meant it was going to be dry, dusty, and a little loose...all adding up to conditions that seem to really challenge me; the theoretical ability to go really fast but the reality of many loose corners hampering the speed so as too avoid face plants or pretending I'm a baseball player sliding into home.

The day was hot, which me no likey. But it's Missouri and I love racing my bike, so it's what we deal with. The start of the race saw Dan McCarthy tear by myself, Bob Arnold, and TK. TK latched on Dan's wheel with Bob in tow and me following up the rear. I was riding really carefully so as not to slide out and basically just held on for what felt like short-track speed for the first 40minutes or 2 laps. After the 2nd lap, I tested my legs a bit and attacked on the hill beginning each lap. I stung things out a little and I think had the fastest lap that lap, but couldn't manage to get myself free. So I rode 2nd wheel for the next lap and then attacked again on the hill (I'm quite predictable with 2 to go). This time I stayed on the gas and big ring'd it through the corners.

Despite almost getting caught by Bob at the end of lap 5, most of the last 2 felt like a solid CX effort, i.e. sprinting a bit out of the corners, trying to hold my speed, and keeping the foot down on the gas pedal. All-in-all it was a solid 2 hrs of racing so I was happy to come across the line and cool down under a water faucet. There are 2 races each in June, July, and August on the UFD east schedule so I guess I better get used to the heat! Then cross starts.

Due to extensive cost-benefit analysis I don't think traveling is going to be in the cards for cross this year and I'm having a ton of fun on the mountain bike, so I'm hoping to keep it going until the Berryman epic. I might still try and go to nationals for one last shot at the master's 30-34 race, but the idea of riding hard and trying not to get too fat during the holidays and New Years seems pretty stupid right now.

Monday, May 7, 2012

The course (or at least most of it, my garmin was off for ~30min so i missed 6-7 miles total, including the Pine Ridge singletrack)
Gravel roads are to Columbians (as in Columbia, MO) as heroin is to a 1980’s New York Punk rocker; we just can’t seem to get enough. So the idea of a long gravel race with interspersed sections of singletrack, especially an event that doesn't require our obligatory 2hrs of I-70 driving, had many of us giddy with excitement. I’ll do my best to describe the event’s of the day here in this blog post, but for those of you who just want to skip to any hard data associated with the ride, there is a bike-computer file at the bottom. Preparation for this event began was essentially dialing in the cross bike; and for this event I busted out the wheels I’ve been riding on the road this winter/spring, some sweet Stan’s alpha 340 rims laced with cycleops (G3 rear) hubs and some cushy 34 width tubeless file-tread cross tires inflated to ~40psi.
Otherwise, I did some recon of the northwestern portion of the course and essentially had this race falling on the last week of a 12-week 'base building' period.
I knew that with the right group, average speeds would be 16-18mph and that it’d be a long day. However I did not know how many fellow BoCoMo folks would be doing the race and how collegial the racing would be. It turned out that without planning anything or any explicit alliances, that BoCoMo folks would be watching out for eachother. Bob Jenkins and crew poured their hearts, souls, and muscle power into this race. The amount of work involved in putting on a fun, non-sanctioned 100+ miler with some portions riding on singletrack that they groomed and/or essentially built, is pretty mind boggling. These guys really did a great job. The cue sheets were accurate and with the exception of the last section of river-bottom gravel roads, which to no fault of the promoters, everything was well marked. Speaking of that last section of gravel in the river bottoms, I know I should probably write this little narrative chronologically, but if there was any part of the race where myself and my BoCoMo compatriots all essentially wanted to tear our eyeballs out and curse anything, it was for sure Tebbetts to Jeff City or around mile 90-115. Imagine the gravel that forms the bed of a railroad track, i.e. loose, large pieces, maybe half-golfball sized. Now imagine a perfectly flat 20ish miles with essentially no smooth path through said gravel, 90-95degree temps, no shade, and 90-100miles in the legs at an average power of ~210w. Let's just say that we were happy to finish and if it weren't for Josh Johnson's superman endurance and willingness to pull me and our other two riding partners through all of this, we would have gone a lot slower (or maybe just limped back to the shade of the KT and gone off course, which we didn't). During this part, I kept reminding myself that I had spent just over 2 hours in an MRI tube on Tuesday (no room, lots of hard surfaces, and loud as a railroad train), that this last section was just different suffering and despite the heat, that I was still riding a bike and even, at least overall, having fun. Ok, now re-wind. Back to the beginning...somewhere between 150-200 people setout on this somewhat quixotic adventure at 9am from Jefferson City. We would brave 90+ degree temperatures and unknown amounts of pretty gnarly singletrack (at the end of the day, I think maybe an 45-60min of the course total was spent on singletrack). Almost all of the day's riding would be on gravel. Almost immediately, Josh and myself would be at the front doing some pacemaking. You can see from this map that the section of the course in red, ~10miles was the peak 30min power section (265w for the 30min):
At this point, the pace was solid but not full-on race pace and there were no intentions of deliberately shelling anyone. But, the front group was slowly whittled down to 15-20 by mile 20. Miles 20-30 were more gravel roads at a bit slower pace. This is where, for me, the serious effort to eat/drink enough began. I stared downing some kind of solid-energy-bar + some shot blocks and electrolyte drink basically every hour from then on out, however I'm convinced that the Coca-cola graciously provided by Josh's parents at around mile 70 (Ham's Prairie) was probably the major tipping point in actually finishing the ride. Anyway, we hit the second singletrack at around mile 30 and it was long. Fun, but long. There were sections we rode, but generally opted to walk so as not to risk flatting. By around mile 35 our group was down to 10-15 and we had open gravel roads ahead. Once again, Josh, me, and Steve MacIntyre were riding the front and at some point around mile 40 realized that our group was now 5, with Steve MacIntyre, Josh, Jason Wulff, myself, and the simply-amazing Peat Henry (who was riding a single speed with 38x16 gearing). From there, our group was set and steady until mile 65-75 when Peat came off the back and we were then 4 for the rest of the day.
Except for a rough spot for Jason early on, we were all having a good time until around the KT Trail, which was around mile 80. The balls of my feet started to sear in pain with almost every pedal stroke and we all limped in to Mokane very happy to see Jason's parents with cold drinks. I guess my feet were just getting ischemic because I took my shoes off in Mokane, put some ice on them for about a minute, then walked around in the grass and got back into my shoes and on the bike and the problem was gone. The last section of the KT before we turned and headed out to the dreadful, scorching-hot farm roads was actually quite pleasant. We were not hauling, but we weren't crawling either. But once we headed out onto CtRd 4000, I was at the point where I guess many endurance experiences can take you: on the edge of wondering if you're actually going to make it. The reasonable voice in my head was thinking about how hot it was and the sun. And at that point, we didn't know how rough the gravel was going to be. I don't think I was ever hating life and really on the edge of quitting, but man was it good to be with friends. Like I said earlier, Josh did most of the work on this last section. There was no question that I started to consider myself in survival mode, but at the same time, I was OK with that. If the event were an official race, with money or glory or something like that on the line and one of us really wanted to win, I have little doubt that Josh deserved it the most. He was the strongest out there. But the 4 of us decided that we had all significantly contributed on the day and that when we finally approached the finish, that we'd ride across together...tying for first. Which is to say, that if BoCoMo won, Peat Henry got second place (again, on a single speed, riding the last 1/3 of the race alone!). Summary for the ride (again, add about 30-35min and 6-7miles since I forgot to re-start the garmin):
On the health front and with respect to my trip to MD Anderson: -The cancer cells in my neck, lungs, and vertebrae are all just hanging out; probably wishing they had some more thyroid-stimulating-hormone, that my immune system wasn't in good shape, and that I didn't ride my bike so much thus ensuring excellent insulin sensitivity, aerobic fitness, and mental clarity.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Heading to Houston this next week for my 6month cancer check-in. Definitely a bit nervous as always, but for some reason a bit more so this time around. Good signs on the bike though. I'm halfway through Base 3 and managed this ride solo on the road today:
I was talking to a rider at the Tour of Hermann last week and told him I was still doing base miles...he thought it was a "little late", which was funny. My main goals for the year are in cyclocross, so I'm actually a bit early since I'm almost done with base 3. Also psyched on some mountain bike racing in May and June, but following that, will probably start thinking about cross a lot more. I can't wait to get the appointment next week done. Hopefully everything is still 'stable'.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Tour of Hermann road race

So many good things to say about Jeff Yielding and his crew about putting on such a great event this past weekend. Last year I skipped the event after getting off to a late start and not racing much during the spring. This year, I knew I would not be in great shape for the road race, as almost all of my riding this year has been endurance-paced, but nonetheless, I was excited for the road race and too ride with my teammate Lawrence Simonson.

Saturday I knew I wasn't feeling that well and almost decided to stay home to build some trail and ride mountain bikes. But knowing that it was the last time the Tour of Hermann was happening, I opted to give it a go.

There were some really strong guys in the P/1/2 field, with some national-caliber guys being GC contenders. I've never done a road race where the pace seemed to be so dictated by just a few guys. As such, I felt pretty out of my element. Not so much physiologically, but more because I didn't really understand what was happening! I knew that the climbing was going to be hard in this race, but I don't think I was at all prepared for the amount of yo-yo type pacing. I guess I'm not that smart/experienced of a bike racer in that regard, as I thought a break with the really strong guys would form early and then the rest of the race would be steady-paced. I also thought there was about a 5% chance that I would be able to hang in such a breakaway, so therefore I was pretty much just hoping to ride a hard but somewhat steady 3 lap, 90mile race. What ended up happening was that the field pretty much stayed together during the first lap. After the Guttenberg climb at the beginning of lap 2, a break formed with most of the contenders present. There was no way I was making it, so I settled in for the next 60miles. Strangely, about half-way through the second lap we caught the break. The second half of that 2nd lap was either pretty hard 300+ watt riding or really easy 13-15mph. I guess I just stopped having fun at some point that lap. I never really felt bad but when it started to drizzle and looked like the rain might open up during the last few miles of lap 2, I started to seriously consider whether I would go out for the 3rd lap.

Road racing in the rain is just not something I'm interested in. Even though the probability was relatively low, when Lawrence told me he was going to call it after lap 2, my willingness to potentially seriously suffer for a possibly rainy lap 3 was just not there. So, I joined him in.

Here is my power data from lap 1:

Lap 2:

And a summary/power distribution of the entire 60-ish mile ride:

Many thanks to Jeff and crew for the awesome event! I can't wait to see what replaces the Tour of Hermann on the calendar!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Little talks

I often struggle with whether I should be writing about philosophical/life stuff on here. Originally this blog was created to talk about a stage of my treatment process beginning in 2008, three years after I initially got sick. It then evolved into a standard and probably boring bike racing blog. I hoped to get too busy in medical school to even think about writing on this blog, but I've found myself extremely repulsed and repelled by that particular option (i.e. getting too busy with medical school to stop thinking/feeling/writing/riding/racing). So now when I sit down to write, I try and strike a balance between writing about the realities of a 30-something-guy with a family who lives with cancer in his lungs and bone but also write about stuff that I really love, like bikes, bike racing, food, and occasionally movies/books/beer/music. The reality, I would argue, is that it forces one to confront a very real mortality. As I've learned at every doctor check-up and scan, hoping for the best but being truly prepared to hear the worst is the only legitimate strategy of forward progression. It makes me feel pretty damned scared, occasionally peaceful, slightly carefree, but always very human.

Anyway, I read this piece today and wanted to post. It's worth thinking about:

Top five regrets of the dying (
A nurse has recorded the most common regrets of the dying, and among the top ones is 'I wish I hadn't worked so hard'. What would your biggest regret be if this was your last day of life?

1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

"This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it."

2. I wish I hadn't worked so hard.

"This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children's youth and their partner's companionship. Women also spoke of this regret, but as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence."

3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.

"Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result."

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

"Often they would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying."

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

"This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called 'comfort' of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content, when deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again."

What's your greatest regret so far, and what will you set out to achieve or change before you die?