Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Sunday, December 13, 2009
Thursday, December 3, 2009
I’m intrigued by people's relationships with a little thing called "real life." Now, I'm real and alive, so I suppose technically, I'm part of this real life business. But not really. Essentially, I live the life of a retiree… at 21, and without any money. By no means am I complaining, no, I love my life, but real life is something I’d like to understand a little better. My reality is much different than most people’s and I’m just curious.
Almost all of my friends went the traditional college route after high school. I did not, and I don’t feel like I missed out on anything at all. (Read my post about The Gypsy Life for more deets.) Now though, they’re all thinking about internships, salaries, grad school and higher higher education. I go to fake school. Mobile school. Community college. School of convenience. Instead of a focus on pursuing education or being able to support myself, I chose to dress in stretchy shorts and ride a bicycle everyday. Let me say, it was a phenomenal decision.
This alternate reality that I live in started when I decided to be an athlete, move to the OTC and live in a fish bowl. In early January, I’ll reach my three year anniversary at the training center. They’ve been the best three years of my life. Of course there’s sucky parts to being an athlete like wanting to cry or throw up in training, and the countless hours spent in airports around the world with the sickest, smelliest people imaginable, but there are far more positives. I get to do what I love, and while I don’t make much money at all, it’s what I love to do. We meet tons of people, travel the world on someone else’s dime, push our bodies and minds to the limit, and get to represent the United States of America.
Each day I wake up on my own, eat breakfast, train, eat lunch, tune in to mobile school, train, eat dinner, a little more mobile school, go to sleep. I never watch the news, rarely read the paper, and change the station in search of music when the radio goes to the news segments. I don’t have to take care of anything other than a few plants, and even that has proved difficult at times. All my financial stuff is set up to go automatically, and the only bill I have is for my cell phone.
Now though, I’m visiting family in Chicago where I’m as close to “real life” as I’ve been in a while. I’m using my sister’s car which means I drop her off at school in the morning and pick her up. The dog needs to be walked, dishes washed, floors vacuumed and groceries purchased. What is this?! It’s about as foreign to me as dentists are to the British (I kid, I love the Brits!). The past week has been a real eye opener, and actually it’s been quite nice. Finally I get a taste of what everyone else does during the day, well, beside that four letter word “work.” Reading the paper with a glass of apple juice, eating an eggo waffle made me feel the slightest bit sophisticated. Then I got bored. But they say it’s the effort that counts right? Sure. While real life is nice, it’s like New York City: good for a visit, but not forever. My alternate reality will be nice to go back to.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
Thanksgiving- and the general holiday season- is a time to give thanks for everything in your life- family and friends, your job, your home, your health- like not having diabetes after last year’s feast and ensuing gluttony- and good fortune. My feeling is that you should be thankful everyday, but hey, what do I know? There are a lot of things in life that I’m extremely thankful for so I’m just going to make a list.
-My mom, one of the strongest people I know.
-Nadia and Jake for being the two best siblings you could ask for
-My grandma who’s always been my #1 fan and supporter
-My entire family for their unwavering support in everything that I do
-Being raised basically as a modern day pilgrim child in the city of Chicago; only being able to watch PBS and play with “museum quality” toys as a kid
-Ron FW for giving me the push I needed to get into cycling
-My coach, Craig, for helping me become a bike racer
-Having the opportunity to live and train at the OTC
-The staff and athletes at the OTC who make it their mission to help everyone here succeed
-My teammates who have been with me for success and failure, good and bad days and tons of unforgettable experiences
-Everyone I’ve called just to talk (It doesn’t happen very often)
-Everyone else that’s supported me in someway, shape or form over the years (There are a lot)
-Living in the US where everything is much easier than the rest of the world
-Being able to see the world from a two-wheeled perspective (You should try it sometime)
-The challenges presented to me, without which my life would be ordinary and boring
-The 300+ days of sunshine in Colorado Springs
The list goes on, but nobody really likes reading lists. What’s more important is for all of you to think about what’s important in your lives. Maybe this list helps spark your thought process, maybe you just read this list at your Thanksgiving dinner as your own, that’s fine. There are people out there that have much more material wealth than you do, but you are much richer. Happy holidays everyone.
Monday, November 23, 2009
Or Hanukkah, Kwanza, or Festivus. I don't really care. I'm going back to Chicago and I'm SO excited! I'm staying for over a month which is the longest I've been there since 2006 when I still lived at home. Technically there's a camp in the middle so I won't be in IL the entire time, but... mostly. United was kind enough to provide me with a voucher after a bag was lost, so I got the flight on the cheap. It shows too. My route is Colorado Springs to Denver, Denver to Omaha (New airport!) then to Chicago. The ticket lady saw my itinerary and said something like "Well aren't you going all over god's good creation?!" Well yes I am! Amen!
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Most people do a yearly recap at the end of the year, but since November is the end of my year, I’m writing this now. Last season was somewhat disappointing for me- 4th place really sucks if you didn’t already know- and there were a lot of outside stresses to be dealt with, but it is what it is. I had to get over that. While being 4th is an awful feeling, it’s a great motivator. It was the fire I needed to get rolling stronger than ever into the 2009 season.
After a much needed mental break, the year started in earnest in January in the lab with Craig and Randy Wilbur. The focus of this season was to be the 3k on the track, so 3 minute power intervals would become my friend- or nemesis- over the coming weeks and months. After plateauing on the track in 2008 I was dedicated 100% to the endeavor; the gap between Sarah and I would start closing. Everything was going according to plan- numbers were where they were supposed to be, and I was clearly becoming a track specialist. Then we got the terrific news that Worlds would be split, meaning two separate qualification processes. (Previously, you could use either a road or track qualification to get you on both road and track teams. Not any more.) It was April at this point, which meant shifting from 5th to reverse to get back into some sort of road shape for trials.
The plan? Superweek. Matt Bigos and I loaded up the car and drove to Chicago to race our legs off. Our schedule consisted of 11 races in 14 days, and ended up requiring 140 some hours in the car and over 8000 miles of driving. This might sound like misery to some of you, but it made for the best summer I’ve ever had. Shockingly Matt and I didn’t try to kill each other, and we even picked up my sister in Chicago to help with some of the driving. After the block of racing, I was able to “cat up” or move up to the next level of racing.
From there we drove back across the country for road nationals/trials. Time trialing doesn’t necessarily come easily to me, but I’ve been able to get some decent results in the event. This year though, I was a little nervous going into trials, not sure if I’d be able to qualify. The course was in the middle of nowhere USA- Bend, OR. It was one of the simplest courses you could design- an out and back, uphill then downhill course. Climbing hasn’t ever been a strength of mine, which only made my nerves worse. I convinced myself that the crit racing I’d just done at Superweek would help me get up the hill faster, and it ended up being a pretty solid ride. It was a little off standard but much better than my track performance. Go figure. My silver streak continued.
By now it’s August, and road worlds is fast approaching. Italy in September? Not a bad deal if you ask me. My track bike was sitting quietly in the cage at the track, not being used at all. From here out it would be time trial and road bikes. Having the team here to train with was really great. This year it seemed like the team was especially cohesive- as a training group and a group of friends. The week in Italy was awesome. I’d been there once before, but not for racing. Traveling for racing is much different than traveling for pleasure. These are all business trips; no sight seeing, or souvenir shops, we don’t leave the hotel except for rides and racing. I’m a terrible card player (Clark and Ali can attest to that) but we played almost every night. Clark and I had an epic game of War where I won on a triple war victory. That is the highlight of my card-playing career. The highlight of the racing came in the time trial. I don’t know what it is about Americans and time trialing, but it seems that across the board, we do pretty well. Everyone finished top 10, we picked up a few jerseys, and a bunch of medals. Again, the silver streak continued, and I finished second to Sarah. I was absolutely stoked with my ride. Sarah was one minute behind me in the start order; my goal was to hold her off as long as possible. If I could hold her off till the second lap, it would be a good ride for me. Coming through for the second lap, I half expected to hear her and her follow car behind me. Nothing. I made it all the way to the 1k banner when she caught me. I absolutely imploded on the last climb, and she was able to put a ton of time into me there. The last 1000 meters we were as together as you can ride in a TT, and crossed the finish 1 second apart. Despite being caught, it was the fastest I’d ever gone in a TT. The road race played out just as expected, only sooner.
The saying “No rest for the weary” comes to mind in regards to prep for track worlds. We had a few days to recover from the racing and travel, then jumped head first into track training. A good portion of the team was here in Colorado Springs to train on the track which was different than flying solo in training. Ali and I can only do so much on the track by ourselves. It was fun! Having a group of teammates here totally changed how I train… for the better. Having a cohesive group really benefits everyone involved, and it showed. We had three track camps to get ready for worlds ad in each one we had good, hard sessions. Craig warned us that we’d want to quit, and give up, and wonder why we even ride bikes. He was right. The first LA camp was deathly, but I (and everyone else for that matter) came out stronger and more focused than ever. Compared to the camps, racing was the easy part.
“Manchester in November” is not nearly as appealing as “September in Italy” but it’s what we got. Cold, rainy, gloomy; it seemed as though the atmosphere itself sucked the tan off my skin. Ten days in Manchester undid ten months in the sun baking my skin to a fine, dark beige. I digress. The racing went as well as I’d hoped. The schedule was a bit different in that the pursuits were first rather than the sprint. It was phenomenal for me. I enjoy the pursuit- I feel like I need a mental health screening for just saying that- and having it first was a good mental boost for me. Again, it was Sarah and I racing against each other. I knew she’d catch me, it was just a matter of when, and trying to hold her off as long as possible. It started off well, had a good start, was ahead of schedule but felt really good, then I looked at the lap counter. Nine laps to go. Out of twelve. Are you kidding me? It felt like I’d been riding circles for eternity already and I wasn’t even 1/3 of the way through. I was able to pull it together mentally and refocus on the effort. I finished up just a touch off schedule, but not too bad, for a new personal best. And it meant that I’d get to ride again vs. Sarah in the final that afternoon. She caught me like five laps in after her blistering opening kilo- a 1:10. Really, I was OK with it because it meant less suffering for me. What? I’m a realist. Had a new personal best in the 500 too which was nice.
After the 500, we packed all our bikes in the romantic lighting of the Holiday Inn parking lot after dark. We ate our last meal at the hotel, then went out to enjoy at least a little bit of Manchester. It was Sunday so our options were somewhat limited, but we found a cool little club in the city. Sam, Clark and I danced for an hour and a half straight! Taj was floating in and out, but danced quite a bit too. Let me tell you, dancing is exhausting! Fun, but exhausting. Maybe when people that aren’t of the Caucasian persuasion, it’s easier. I suppose jerking around the dance floor so it resembles an epileptic’s seizure isn’t really dancing either. We made it back to the hotel to catch an hour nap before getting on the shuttle for the airport.
I experienced quite a bit of success this year, and for that I’m blessed. It would not have been possible without the generosity of everyone who’s supported me in my endeavors. Sponsors CAF for the race wheels, Greg Geisler for the amazing road bike- that thing’s like a Porsche! Anthony Zhan and Fuji Bikes for the best track bike I’ve ever ridden, Mert Lawwill and John Cain for the racing hands, and Powerbar for keeping me fueled along the way. Of course thanks to my friends, family, coaches and teammates for their unwavering support in my journey over the years. You guys are the best of the best and make it all possible. I owe any and all success I have to you guys.
Clif notes highlights, plus some bonus ones:
Halfway decent showing at Elite Nats
Staying in the sketchiest motel ever with Dave
First cross country, nighttime road trip- Chicago with Nadia
Nicest Christmas to date with the family in Chicago
Working with Craig and Randy Wilbur in the lab in the dead of winter
5 week training road trip- Tucson, Chula, SLO
xXx team camp- crashing on the first day
Finding out Worlds would be split, and the season would be extended 8 more weeks.
Shifting gears (no pun intended) back into road mode
Presenting to the IOC to get the Games in Chicago in 2016
Having a horrendous performance at track nationals
Gypsy trip with Matt- racing more than some people thought was a good idea
~140 hours and 8000 miles in 7 weeks in the car (Not counting the previous 5 week trip)
Getting the W at Superweek
Only letting Sarah put a minute into me in the TT
Shifting back to track mode after road worlds
StoryCorps recording- forever preserved at the Library of Congress
Craig’s deathly LA track camps
Riding my fastest 3k and opening kilo ever.
Seeing teammates be successful
Feeling more connected to my family
And coming up: Going home to Chicago for over a month… all three holidays.
Monday, November 16, 2009
This is a list of (very dumb) things that I’ve done while traveling. Yes, they’re true, and no, I don’t recommend doing any of them.
-Get lost in a country where you do not speak a word of the language. Austria, 2000
This was my first international experience, and also a family vacation, so it was an experience to say the least. My cousin and I decided to go for a walk in Vienna, to get some fresh air. We were told to just walk around the block- which would prevent us from getting lost- but why would we listen to something like that? (We were 12 btw) We just started walking and soon enough we didn’t know where we were anymore. We managed to find a police station and one of the officers spoke enough English to understand that we were staying in the building with the mermaid on the side. No address, just a giant mermaid mural on the building. After a while of phenomenal people watching we were picked up by our family who, from that point on, stayed with us for the remainder of our vacation. Lesson: Carry a map, or at least know where you’re staying.
-Pack irreplaceable items in your suitcase hoping it won’t get lost, because it will. Chicago, 2008
For most of you reading this, this doesn’t apply at all, but for a select few it does. One of the things I’ve learned while traveling with the cycling team is to always carry your custom, one-of-a-kind pieces of equipment with you on the plane. This would include prosthetics. Now, I’m pretty lazy, and I don’t like to carry a bunch of stuff with me on the plane, so I check everything. Well this time I decided to pack my arm (and cycling shoes, pedals, and helmet) in my duffel and check it. Of course my bag won’t get lost! I mean, don’t they know who I am? Nothing bad could ever happen to me! Newsflash, shit happens to everyone, usually when you’re least prepared for it. This was one of those times. Sure enough, I was the last one standing at baggage claim when they turned the belt off. No bag for Greta! Somehow my bag got routed through Hong Kong or someplace ridiculous like that I wouldn’t be able to get it for at least 36 hours. Faaaantastic. I need my arm to ride (along with shoes, pedals and a helmet) and when you’re job is Cyclist that becomes problematic. I did get all my stuff back, just a while later. Lesson: Don’t pack your arm in your suitcase. Carry it with you.
-Lock your passport in the hotel safe after mistyping the lock code. Italy, 2009
This one seems like a no-brainer (I guess my brain was routed through Hong Kong with my arm as I wasn’t able to use it.) Nowadays most hotel rooms have safes for your valuables. My only valuable- beside my good looks and wit- was my passport. I decided it could go in the safe with my roommate’s stuff. This safe didn’t just close to lock, you needed to enter the code. Whatever code you enter to lock it, is the code to unlock it as well. When you mistype the locking code and don’t know what you actually typed it becomes an issue. This was an issue I didn’t want to deal with, so my roommate Babs took care of it. Here’s the good part. She found me 15min later and asked what day we were leaving. Why does this matter? She followed that up with “Well, we can wait a week for the safe guy or the hotel can drill it and we’ll have to pay $1000.” Do you have a mouse in your pocket? Who’s this “WE” you speak of? She started laughing 5 seconds after my jaw hit the floor. The hotel was able to get it open without a problem. Lesson: Remember your birthday which doubles as the safe code.
At what point in your life do you say “I want to live out of a backpack and a car when I grow up.”? I don’t remember aspiring to that, but that’s where I’m at now. Five weeks ago I packed my laundry basket with clothes and a race bag with my competition gear and got in the car. This was to be an epic road trip full of bike racing, some eating, Redbull, bike racing, Clif Bars and more bike racing. Our car had enough equipment to supply a small pro team, and the collective value of said equipment was definitely worth more than the Yukon. You know you’re a bike racer when the stuff on and inside your car is worth more than the car itself.
First up was SoCal for our track national championships. Going there we drove south through Arizona and New Mexico, which was really like Dante’s 5th ring of hell. Not even kidding, it was 115° at 11am wherever it was that we were. I don’t even know, nor do I really care to know. While in central CA we spent the night at a college house with a friend, and let me tell you, I didn’t miss out on anything by skipping “real college” to ride my bike. We slept in the garage (seriously) on a couch and a futon with beer and mystery stains on it. I laid there on top of a sleeping bag with all my clothes on and debated leaving my shoes on incase of a late night escape. It was horrible. The next morning we didn’t even brush our teeth- we just grabbed our backpacks and left.
From there we (another para-cyclist Matt and I) came back to Colorado Springs basically to repack the car and grab different bikes before heading on to Chicago. We drove through the night through the heartland- Nebraska and Iowa. If you’ve seen one corn field, you’ve seen middle America, just repeat that image for 1000 miles. Chicago is my hometown, and I was looking forward to being back. We were greeted by my mom, our dog and the “backup meatloaf” my mother decided to whip up for us just incase we needed a meatloaf sandwich when we got in at 1am.
The whole point of going to Chicago was for Superweek, or Stupidweek as more people call it. It’s 17 days of road and crit racing in Illinois and Wisconsin. (A Crit is a type of road race on a ~1 mile course, usually 4 corners in a urban area.) I was registered for 11 races, nine were pro races and two were amateur. When the pros tell you that you’re racing too much, you might be racing too much. But hey, what else do I have going on? Nothing, so I might as well right? Christ, I got my butt cooked well done and handed back to me on a silver platter every day for the first week. It was terrible. Both Matt and I had similar racing experiences. Finally after about 4 races we found our legs and started racing well. It was as if someone flipped a switch and turned our legs on. Towards the end I actually ended up with a few results to write home about, and a little bit of money to boot. By this time we’d spent more time in the car than either of us had spent at home in 6 weeks, and we showed it. At the races everyone knew who we were because we were the crippled kids, and the slowest ones, and the loudest most obnoxious people around. It was fantastic, and neither of us cared. We had sleeping bags that we’d unzip in the middle of the parks on our courses and take naps, make gypsy sandwiches on the tailgate of the car, take water bottle showers parking lots, and I actually debated washing my hair in the sink of a deli bathroom somewhere in Wisconsin. How we became such degenerates so quickly, I don’t know.
Superweek ended and it was on to the next leg of our journey- Milwaukee, WI to Bend, OR. Yes, Oregon is on the other side of the country. 36 hours in the car, 30 spent listening to 60’s on 6 on XM (If our brains were filled with knowledge rather than all the words to every song on the radio, we might actually not be as dumb.) and 6 hours watching movies later we arrived in the middle of nowhere- Bend, OR. The racing in Bend went well for me, finishing 2nd (always the bridesmaid!) in the time trial and qualifying for a spot on the Road World Championship team.
I’ve tried to keep a tally in my head of the hours spent in the car, and I think we’re over 145 hours, and over 8000 miles on this epic journey. We’ve been through deserts, plains, mountains, valleys, the ocean, old roads, new roads, a dead horse on the highway, elk, sheep, cows, corn, soy beans, nice people, mean people, toothless people, dumb people, and had a blast along the way. It’s so good to be home now.
Before I get down to it, I need to give you some background. I grew up going on road trips all over the country with my family, which for most people would turn them off ever driving anywhere ever again. Not me, I love driving. Mix that in with my sport which is all about going fast, the fact that I’ve seen way too many episodes of Top Gear, and that I like driving fast on (unpaved) twisty roads, it should be no surprise that I want to be reincarnated as a rally driver.
While driving from Tucson, AZ to the central coast of California, I came across many things, like border patrol check points, Hollywood traffic and an RV that caught fire in a gas station. All of these things cost me precious time on the 700 mile journey north. In an attempt to make UP time, I was driving a bit over the speed limit, and on highway 154 it finally caught up with me. I’ll admit it, I was bombing down this road, alone, having a great time driving, when I came around a turn and who pulls out right behind me? California Highway Patrol. Womp, womp. This was my first time being pulled over, but I’d seen the movies so I knew what to do. Out run him! No, I kid. I pulled over right away and he promptly blinded me with his flood light through the rearview mirror. He tapped on the passenger side window, I rolled it down, and our conversation went something like this:
Officer- “Good evening! How you doin’ tonight?”
Me- “I was doing alright... how ‘bout yourself?” This isn’t what I’d expected him to say.
Officer- “Good, good. You were going a little fast, you know that? 75 in a 55. Where you headed?” I honestly didn’t realize it was a 55, I thought it was still 65.
Me- “Yeah, I know, I’m sorry. I’m on my way to a cycling training camp in San Luis Obispo.” I’m sure I looked like a hot mess seeing as I’d raced in the morning, not showered and had sat in the car for the previous 9 hours leading up to this moment. And the car was crammed full of bikes and affiliated equipment.
Officer- “Wow, that sounds like a lot of fun! Can I see your license and registration?” I hand him my license and the first card I grab out of the glove box, which is packed full of extra napkins I’d grabbed to check the oil level in my car. They pretty much explode out of the glove box. “Ok, this is your insurance card, which expires tomorrow by the way, do you have your registration?”
Damn it. I rifle through the glove box again, and the billion napkins that are now all over the passenger side of the car. No registration.
“No sir, I’m afraid I don’t have it.”
“Ok” As he writes down my license number, and gives it back to me “Well you take it easy out there, I don’t want you gettin’ hurt.”
“Yes sir.” I say after him because he’s already half way back to his car.
I waited a moment unsure weather he was coming back with a ticket, or if I could leave. I thought I was free to go, but he hadn’t said “I’m letting you off with a warming” like I’d expected him to say after not giving out a ticket. When he started backing up to pull out, I figured it was more than safe to leave- which I did at a much slower speed, and obeyed all posted speed limits and road signs.
*A week later my mother got an envelope from the Arizona Department of Transportation with a photo of me in the car, and a speeding ticket to go along with it. Damn photo enforced speed limit thing got me.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Now that I'm recovered from a marathon of travel, I can sit down and write about track worlds- Worlds Part 2.
Let me start at the very beginning. As per usual, we loaded the bus and left for the airport at 0'dark thirty in the morning for the drive up to Denver. (We have so much stuff we have to fly from Denver because the little planes in Colorado Springs can't carry it all). It’s not one of my serious goals in life, but I’d like to see as
many airports around the world as I can. Luckily when we travel as a team, we get to check a lot off the list. Denver-Detroit-Frankfurt-Manchester. Four in one go! We collected our baggage in Manchester where a small miracle occurred- only one bag was lost. Unfortunately, it was my bike case with both bikes in it. Oh, and my bag came out busted open and tied together with a rope. It sounds like a bummer, but really, it was ok. The bikes were delivered to the hotel and my bag was just unzipped (I guess zippers are hard for TSA agents to figure out.)
This marked my fourth time in Manchester for a cycling event, but for most of the team it was their first. In the world of cycling, the Manchester velodrome is the closest thing we have to a Mecca. Honestly I don’t know how it came to be so revered but it sure is fast. The Brits train there and they’re all fast, so maybe we’re hoping for some type of osmosis to happen and magically become faster. So seeing the excitement on everyone’s face when we walked in for training was pretty darn cool; like kids at Festivus.
Enough about this osmosis business, you want to hear about the racing. OK. I traveled 5000 miles to race 14 laps around the Mecca track. Was it worth it? Definitely. First up was the individual pursuit- 3000 meters (12 laps) in the pain cave doing everything you can to catch your opponent. The 3k was my main focus of the year. The past ten months of training came down to the four minutes of this race. (In this event, two people are on the track at the same time, on opposite sides and try to catch each other. In the first round, the fastest 4 riders go on to finals, and in finals, if you catch your opponent the ride is over and you win.) My race is against Sarah the Brit, who happens to be the world record holder, world and Paralympic champion. We all know I’m going to get caught, it’s just a matter of time, I’m ready for that, and in fact it’s good for me because then I have someone I can see and chase. The gun goes off and we’re racing. Law and order are on it; Mecca tra
ck is bowing down to me. I settle in and after what feels like 6 laps later- I’m well into the cave at this point- I look at the lap counter and see 9. I’m not even 1/3 of the way through this hellish event and my vision is starting to go, my legs feel like battery acid is flowing through them. Terrific. I don’t remember the rest very clearly, but before we left, a friend told me he wanted just 3 more rpm and I did everything I could to get it out. My time is about 4.5 seconds faster than my previous best, and I’m ecstatic. Forget getting passed and Sarah taking 2 more seconds off the insanely fast world record. I had a great ride and I didn’t care about anything else.
The next day was the 500- two laps and it’s over. This is an event that I train for, but don’t focus on at all if that makes any sense. I do it well, because Craig tells me to, but because you have no chance at a medal if you’re not entered. That’s why I do it.
The best part of this trip wasn’t any personal success I had, but seeing the success of the team. Every rider surpassed expectations and we brought back double the projected number of medals. The team basically lived together for two straight months in prep for this event. We were with each other for the highs of success and the lows of bad days and deathly camp workouts. It was way better to finish a race and be greeted by smiling faces, hi-fives and hugs than to get a shiny coin on a ribbon.
Monday, November 2, 2009
We arrived in Manchester yesterday afternoon after about 26 hours of travel. The 5:30a departure from Colorado Springs was a bit rough, but I managed to sleep on the planes, and even wrote a paper in the airport. (Gotta love a 5 hour layover in Detroit!) Amazingly, only one piece of luggage was lost from our entire group... it happened to be my bike box, with both bikes in it. It was put on the next flight to Manchester- it never left Chicago- and made it to the hotel later that night. Also, my duffel bag came out tied together with a rope. When I saw it, I promptly announced that "That's a janky ass bag! Who's is that?!" Not knowing it was infact mine. Phenomenal. After closer inspection, the zipper was just open, and a simple unzip- zip solved the problem and nothing is actually broken. And now I have 6ft of high quality rope. (The rope they used is of surprising quality, and tied with very good knotsmanship (??) Makes me think they've done that before)
We got on the rollers last night for a little recovery spin (I was able to use Craig's bike for that), ate dinner, and tried our hardest to stay awake till a reasonable bed time. The movie Taken did the trick. So after a solid night's sleep in our scoarching hotel room, we got back on the rollers today, both times in the shelter of the cargo shipping container we're using as a storage room. 6 cyclists and about 20 bike boxes fit nicely inside. It's quite warm once everyone gets rolling. Tomorrow we should be on the track nd everyone is looking forward to it. It's my 4th time in Manchester, but the first for almost everyone else. It's fun to see the excitement people get when riding a new track. Not to sound old and jaded, I'm still really excited to be here, and this is actually one of my favorite tracks.
That's all for now. I should be posting again later this week with hopefully more exciting updates for you all. Thanks for reading!
Friday, October 30, 2009
For those of you that have seen The Big Lebowski, you will appreciate the following quote (edited for our young readers). “Saturday, Donny, is Shabbos, the Jewish day of rest. That means that I don't work, I don't get in a car, I don't *bleeping* ride in a car, I don't pick up the phone, I don't turn on the oven, and I sure as *bleep* don't *bleeping* roll!”
Although I’m not Jewish, I think this is applicable to most athletes and their day of rest. It’s a hallowed day for us - free of the stresses of training. We can sleep in, relax, watch a movie, go to Hobby Lobby or whatever else religious people do on the Sabbath, Shabbos, etc.
I take my rest days just as seriously as I do my bike training. I’ve been told that there’s no such thing as overtraining, just under recovering. I don’t know if that’s actually based on scientific fact or just something people tell me to trick me into going to Hobby Lobby. But I do recover hard. And it pays big dividends. What do I do that’s so important? Well, a strict schedule of movie watching, napping, reading (preferably in a hammock when the weather’s nice), Hulu, more napping, massage and eating, followed my another movie are on tap for my recovery days. See what I’m talking about? That’s all important stuff!
What’s the down side of taking recovery so seriously? You might even ask how could there be a downside to resting, but I digress. Sometimes, my rest schedule conflicts with things like weddings, school activities, and world championships. The Paracycling Track World Championships are set for November 5th through 8th in Manchester, England. That means two of my events fall on Saturday and Sunday, the Jewish and Christian days of rest.
Since I’m not a particularly pious person (although I am considering joining the Order of the Eastern Star after reading Dan Brown’s latest novel), my personal Shabbos is on Monday. Phew! No racing on Monday! Close call! That would have been awkward, not to mention a tough conversation trying to explain why I couldn’t race Worlds because I had to stick to my rest schedule - don’t want to be under recovered! As athletes we have very strict training (and recovery) regimens and something silly like a competition can’t get in the way of that!
*Credit for this idea goes to Clark Rachfal, one of my teammates, and very serious recovery-er.
** I wrote this for the OTC newsletter, and thought I'd share it with all of you outside the fishbowl.
Monday, October 12, 2009
Track World Championships are fast approaching. That means it's training camp time (as opposed to just regular training) which means trips to LA and the indoor track there. The team this year is an amazingly cohesive training group. Basically, we can slay each other properly in training.
Craig promised that we'd want to quit and give up at some point during this camp- he actually said it four times during our meeting- and he wasn't kidding. We spent about 7 hours at the track each day mainly doing power work. That means race gear- if not over geared- efforts either individually or as a group.
*Sidenote* When I say "race gear" I mean the gear that we'll race on in competition. "Over geared" is a bigger gear that we'll race on, but it helps build strength. Think of it as starting a car in 2nd or 3rd gear- it's much harder to come off the line, and you turn a slower rpm, but once you're up to speed, you're rolling. The same is true on a bike. Because track bikes have only one gear, you have to choose what gear you'll ride in competition ahead of time, usually after testing several different gearing options. There's also "under geared" which requires a much higher rpm than race or over geared, and helps build/maintain aerobic function and smoothness on the bike when you feel like you're spinning your legs off.
Anyway, back to camp. Craig wasn’t messing around when he came up with our training plans. We had 7 training sessions on the track- 2 a day, and one on the last day before going to the airport. The final full day, I guess it was Saturday, was the hardest. The afternoon session was especially rough. We did 4x 3 kilometer efforts, which is race distance for me. It may not seem like much, but it really is.
The two tandems were up front like locomotors, followed by Sam, myself, Craig V and Taj. My goal was to just hold on as long as possible, as they were rolling WAY faster than race pace- nearly 35 seconds faster. Craig’s promise was true: I wanted to quit.
Throwing up and crying both require an amount of effort, so I just hoped I'd die instead. With hindsight, maybe that’s a little dramatic, but at the time it was definitely a viable option. And a very good looking one at that. Sitting on the apron of the track between the efforts all I could do was put my head between my knees and close my eyes.
I’d never been so close to crying, vomiting and quitting all at the same time. I told myself it was all for training, and it would pay off in the long run. This was spelunking deep in the pain cave, where few people had gone before (some of my teammates were right there with me) and making gains in the name of personal exploration and pushing my boundaries.
Obviously, I’m not dead (yet) as I’m writing this, but my legs are toast- which was the point of camp. Now it’s recovery for a few days then back into the pain cave for one more camp before heading across the pond for World Part II. Craig knows what he’s doing- he warned us after all- and I trust that Law and Order (my legs) will do justice to the boards of Manchester when the time comes.
Thursday, October 8, 2009
I'm just gonna come out and say it, I hate LA. Now, I'm sure it has something to offer to some people, but I haven't found it. I have found smog, way too many people, traffic, garbage and too many interstates to keep track of. The one good thing they have is the track- the only indoor 250m in the US. Because of that, we come here to train quite a bit, and always stay in the same hotel. In all my trips to LA and the Hampton Inn, Carson, I've stayed on the same side of the hotel all but one time. The view? The 105, or the 110, or the 405 freeway- see, there are too many for me to keep track of, not that they're any different from each other anyway.
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Friday, October 2, 2009
Well, I've never been to Brasil... Chicago was eliminated in the first round of voting today. I was shocked, stunned, and sad, not so much about not getting the bid (which is still disappointing) but that we didn't make it out of the first round! 4th out of 4? Come on now, what's that all about? I really thought Chicago had a legitimate chance and that the final vote would be between Rio and Chicago. If Chicago had been defeated in the final, ok, I can handle that, but 4th really sucks. We're not even on the podium...
Friday, September 25, 2009
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
My people! Stop what you're doing and watch the new Chicago 2016 video, share it with your family, friends, coworkers, and anyone else you can think of.
Monday, September 21, 2009
As most of you already know (because I’m slow at updating this thing) Worlds went very well for me. I don’t want to say I had the ride of my life in the TT- because hopefully I’ll get faster than I am now- but to this point in my career it was my best ride. That’s how it should be right? Anyway, I started 1 min ahead of Sarah the Brit, and going in I knew the likelihood of getting caught was pretty high. Just hold her off as long as possible- we guessed she’d catch me at the beginning of the second lap- so when I didn’t see her at all for the first 15k, I had a good idea I was rolling pretty well. She caught me with 1k to go, right at the top of the final hill, and we rode in basically together (as much “together” you can have in a TT) across the finish line. 28:03 to her 27:02 and good enough to be the bridesmaid. This is the first time I can think of I’m satisfied with 2nd.
The road race went pretty much exactly as I thought it would, just sooner. Sarah attacked on lap 2 of 6 and I tried to go with her, but didn’t have the legs to match. Claire (the Aussie) and I chased for the remainder of the race but were unable to catch her. With 2k to go, I got a little gap and rolled in for 2nd... again. It’s hard for us to road race because our fields are so small. It seemed that this year everyone had much smaller teams, and some countries didn’t come at all, making for much smaller fields. Hopefully the track will have more competitors, and next year’s Worlds (They’ll be road and track together again) will have bigger fields.
The team as a whole did extremely well this year- better than expected. We brought home 11 total medals, 5 jerseys/golds, 5 silvers and 1 bronze. Every rider finished both their races in the top 10, and rode to personal bests. Hopefully we can carry this momentum through the track to keep the tally going.