Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


When I have sugar before I go to sleep I have some wild dreams. I’ve dreamt about all sorts of things like being a bug, going back to high school- because it’s just easier that way. I’ve dreamed that I somehow ended up with a kid- I’m unsure if it was mine or if I found it at The Coffee Bean, nevertheless, it was terrifying. I’ve had dreams about good things and terrible things happening, happy and sad, scary and funny. You know, just like anybody else.

A few days ago though, I had one that struck me as odd. I dreamt that my dad had faked his own death and I found him on the street in a foreign country. I know that probably wasn’t what you were expecting to read. I don’t know what country we were in or why I was in that country but I was walking through a marketplace and saw a man who looked amazingly like my dad. I stared because of the resemblance and out of confusion. He looked over and we made eye contact. At that moment, I knew it was him. We were both shocked and, understandably, I felt like I’d just seen a ghost. Then he ran off! I chased him through the market and was eventually able to catch up to him. When I was chasing him I don’t remember thinking much other than “I can’t let him run away” and then felt angry. I was mad and wanted to know why he would’ve faked his death, what he was doing in X foreign country and how he could have put his family through everything that he did. When I finally caught up to him, my anger had subsided. I wanted to sit and talk to him. And then I woke up. My timing really could use some improvement.

I’m not one to invest in the meaning of dreams, but I do think it’s sort of wild one to have. I know that he didn’t fake his death. It would be ridiculous to think that. He looked different in the dream too. He was dressed differently than he ever had when I knew him. He was younger, fit, and energetic- enough to go on a foot chase anyway. He was laughing and looked happy from across the marketplace.

For some time since his death, I’ve thought that we would’ve been good friends. In the past two and a half years, I’ve learned to place a higher value on things like interpersonal interactions and relationships. I have a better understanding of different situations and people. It’s helped me realize what a great person he was and that I missed out on getting to know him. I think, or hope, that we could’ve gotten along well in my adult life.

So Dad, wherever you are I hope you’re happy and having fun. I miss you.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Track Worlds Recap

Track World Championships just wrapped up in Montchiari, Italy. They proved to be a bag of mixed emotions with a little bit of disappointment but also a little bit of excitement thrown in. Our team of 11 was comprised of the core group of familiar faces and we also had several riders making their international debuts.

Day one kicked off with kilos for the tandems and pursuits for the men. Everybody smashed their previous best times for their respective events. Like my teammates, I wanted to ride a new best time and, more importantly, for bragging rights. There are a number of healthy rivalries within the team which helps to keep us all pushing to be better.

My ride in the pursuit qualifier was rough at best. The first five laps or so were good and I felt like I’d gotten on top of the gear pretty well. Then two things happened. First, I got caught. I was paired up against the reigning World Champion and record holder whose time is far out of reach at this point in my career. That said, I knew going in that it would happen and it was all about minimizing damages. The second thing that happened was someone constructed a brick wall on the track over the course of a lap that I ran straight into. At the moment of impact, the wheels came off, the anchor dropped, the parachute deployed, the elephant climbed on my back, or any other hyperbolical phrase that could be substituted, happened. The time started slipping away and it seemed that there was nothing that could be done to grab hold of it again. As much as I tried to get a grip on it, it was ineffective.

Think of it as holding onto the middle of a rope- your lifeline- that if you lose hold of, you fall and you die. When you’re up on time you’re climbing up the rope and moving towards safety. When you’re down on schedule or begin losing time, you start to slide down the rope towards the danger zone. As soon as anchor dropped, it was like the rope was being pulled through my hands and there was nothing I could do to regain a firm hold of it.
There was a movie with a shark or a big fish in it, maybe it was Jaws where they hooked the shark or fish and all of a sudden their line started being ripped out to sea and they couldn’t do anything to slow it down. There was smoke coming off the line and the guys were doing everything they could to stop the line from breaking and the fish getting away. My pursuit felt like that- I was out of control until the very end where I was able to grab onto the end of the rope and claw my way back up a hand hold or two. It was a messy ride but, somehow, was enough to get me into the medal rounds. The evening proved to be quick and relatively painless for a pursuit and finished off with a silver. I was very disappointed with my qualifying time but it was enough to sneak into the finals- by the skin of my teeth. That said it’s not fair to complain and still make it into the finals. It was great to be able to contribute to the medal count.

The next afternoon was my 500m time trial which, historically, has been my weakest and least favorite event. This weekend was a bit different and I was able to set a new best time for my opening lap and tie my personal best time for the event. This marks the first time that rode the National Team time standard in the 500 and not in the pursuit. This is the part that I’m excited about. For the past several weeks I’ve been… blah. Just flat. The legs have been dull and haven’t responded very well to training for a while. It’s been very frustrating and neither Craig nor I can really put a finger on it. Having said that, it’s encouraging to see a new PR for an opening lap and tie my best time in my weakest event. I don’t interpret this to mean that I’m going to become a sprinter, but it’s an indication that life still exists in my legs! I was getting worried.

Track Worlds is over and the local track scene won’t be starting for a while. I feel like this is the end of one book and I’m moving now able to move onto the next. In some ways it seems like putting the track behind me for some time will help me get over the flat, dull feeling. Maybe it’s all mental, maybe it’s all training related, it’s likely a combination of the two, but psychologically I feel like I’m starting fresh. While I don’t want to forget the past three months of track training, camps, or Worlds, or not acknowledge it at all, I’m very glad that it’s over and now in the past.

I’m excited for the road season and to see what comes of this year. A lot of new opportunities are on the plate and I feel very lucky to have them. It will be a busy competition schedule with a lot of new paralympic races and also a full season of able-bodied racing with Peanut Butter & Co. 2011 has to start looking up sometime, and I think things are finally starting to change.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Pre-Race update

It’s time for me to get back on the blog wagon. If I had a dollar for every time I wrote that, well, I would have a lot of dollars. As I write this, I’m sitting in a dimly lit hotel room in Italy, appropriately listening to Andrea Bocelli. I’ve been here for the past five days or so- they’ve all blended together a bit- but that is unimportant.

I’m here, in Montichiari, Italy, for the 2011 UCI Para-cycling Track World Championships. The racing program starts tomorrow with the men’s C’s (single bikes) racing the pursuit and the tandems racing the Kilo. The women’s single bikes will race the pursuit on Saturday and the 500 on Sunday. The team sprint and match sprints will be held on Sunday as well. Here is the schedule, but what this means for you, in regards to me- I race pursuit qualifying Saturday morning and if things go well then I’ll race for a medal that evening. Sunday morning will the 500 and then I am done racing. After that I plan to watch the rest of the racing on the program and enjoy our time left in Italy before heading to the airport at about 3am Monday morning.

Here’s a bit about the trip over: The ~26 hour day of travel to Europe was complete with its concomitant mishaps. Most people had seats in the “cattle car” or the back of the plane, flight delays, one lost passport resulting in a two day expedited replacement of said passport, and 25 bike boxes being left in Munich on the tarmac. In all honesty, this was one of the simpler trips across the pond. We usually fly with both or all three of our bikes to competitions but this time Adam, our LA based track coach, took almost all of the bikes with him when he flew. That left just a few bikes to travel with the athletes from their various departure cities. I flew with my road bike, and I must say that traveling with only one bike is pretty nice.

I don’t usually talk to strangers, but the flight to Munich was different. My seatmate and I exchanged the typical pre-flight banter of Hi, how are you? Are you traveling on business or for pleasure? What type of business? Bicycle racing sounds like a pretty good business to be in! One question led to another and we ended up talking for three and a half hours! There are few people on Earth that I have conversed with for three and a half hours straight and Jason, in 39B is now one of them. This is the second interesting person I’ve met on an airplane- the previous being a civilian demolitions expert contracted by the military who is also a gunsmith, shoots competitively, has some type of engineering background and also keeps bees and has a honey and beeswax product company. Jason is a drag racer and as a racer, was able to ask intelligent questions about cycling, the different races and the different types of equipment. It was actually pretty fun to answer all of his questions and teach him about the sport. It was also interesting to learn about cars and drag racing. After saying nearly everything I know about the sport of cycling, I was pretty tuckered out and fell asleep. Before landing, I was able to squeeze in a viewing of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I. Think what you will of me, I love those movies and have seen them all. This is the first one that I have not viewed in theatres but I assure you that I will see Part II on the big screen. Don’t you worry about that!

After checking into the hotel in Montichiari, we sat down for dinner. Our first course: assorted steamed veggies and lettuce (not all together). Second course: Pasta or rice (both are very good). Third course: flattened chicken with tiny potatoes. Fourth course: fruit. Dinner since then has been basically the same, with variations on the main course and type of meat. One night we had flattened beef, the other night we each got half of a chicken, and tonight we had three wings of chicken. Mine still had some feathers and a few chicken hairs on them.

The bikes finally arrived mostly undamaged. Mine was the only one that sustained any damage in transit. The dropout, or part where the wheel is held into the frame was severely bent. In the process of trying to straighten it out, it snapped off. It sounds minor, but actually rendered the bike unrideable. Because the bike is/was a fancy-pants bike, it did not have removeable or replaceable dropout. So, shortly after the bike was unpacked, I repacked it and boxed it right back up for the trip back to the states. It was definitely a sad day for me. I quite like that bike and have had a good long run with it. But, all things must come to an end. Thankfully, most of us on the team are all close enough in size to each other that borrowing bikes is not a problem.

The track bike was undamaged and is in perfect working order. I would much rather have a broken road bike than not have a track bike- this is track worlds after all. We’ve ridden the track and besides it being really, really cold, I like it. The LA velodrome is shaped more like a hotdog than a hamburger. A hamburger track is much smoother to ride because you don’t get big power spikes going through the turns. It’s a much more consistent effort. That said, the hotdog tracks are fun because you can feel more G’s in the turns than the rounder tracks. Like each city, each track has its own personality and different characteristics. The are all unique and have different things to offer the racers. It’s one of the nice things about track cycling- while it’s the same event, distance, equipment and competitors, you have to be able to adapt to the situation.

I’m feeling confident and excited as we close in on Saturday’s racing. First up though are the men and the tandems tomorrow. Everybody is flying and I’m looking forward to getting all the results as they trickle in throughout the day. Check Twitter and Facebook for updates from me and the results website for official results.