Monday, October 7, 2013

Why it was good I wasn't athletic in high school

I'm ending my 2013 season on a bittersweet note. I structured my season around the solo 24 hour world champs in Australia, but due to Oz being a very difficult and expensive location to get to - I had to pull the plug last minute. The good news is that my preparation for the worlds produced a great byproduct of a few unexpected wins along the way, making this season possibly the best of my cycling career. However, for me the experience of the cliched journey is really what I take away every season and it makes it all worth it.

A good friend of mine said to me the other day, 'Your biggest win is coming back from your injury.' He's completely right. Just over a year ago I was laid up for 4 months unable to stand for more than 5 minutes. I worried about every day that I didn't exercise and how much weight I'd gain, which really put me in a bad place. Fast forward to this summer and I'm riding my mountain bike through the high country of Colorado, racing plenty and feeling I'm where I'm supposed to be. A place I thought I wouldn't get to again.

I'm lucky in the sense that I found my sport, albeit later in life. I sometimes wish I was an athlete in high school. (fun fact: I DID letter in girls volleyball as a manager/stat taker. You may laugh, but when you really think about it - it's genius. A high school guy hanging out and traveling with a team of girls.) The thoughts of missing an athletic background don't last long when I think about my motivation to train and race at age 33 when most pro cyclists are thinking about hanging it up and moving on. I love it. It all still feels relatively new to me. I love the work and suffering that comes with being a bike racer. I love preparing all winter and hand crafting my preparation for the upcoming season. Win or lose at the race, it's all part of that journey. And most of all, I love it when I look up and see my family, Rachel, and friends at races.

As I close out my 2013 season, I have to say thanks to everyone who supports me. Of course Honey Stinger, Trek, and Bontrager who truly make it possible for me to compete at a high level.

Thanks to my family and Rachel - who give 100% support. It's a selfish sport and requires a lot. My family have stepped up in a huge way any time I've needed help with travel and moral support. And Rachel, who has helped me step up my ice cream intake... and has been ultra patient with my long stories of training rides and races.

Now it's time to kick back, eat some cheeseburgers, and do some casual mountain biking to take in the fall colors...

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Happy New Year! (time to brush up on my non-existant French!)

I've got a great excuse for not showing this blog any love lately. (and it's not only the holidays...) There's been a lot going on, but since this is geared more towards cycling I'll keep it reigned in.

I'll start by saying I'm learning a new sport, (swimming) and I'm completely awful at it. It's not that I would drown if thrown into a pool before I started, but I didn't have any form. I've been working at this for a couple months now and I actually hit a milestone over Christmas when I was able to swim laps without stopping. This, however, doesn't mean I'm good on any level, but it's so fun. I've also been running a lot, too. Ever since I started feeling better after the back injury I'm really focusing on not taking my health for granted. (More on that in a second) All of this cross training coupled with my normal time on the bike has me feeling good about the approach to 2013. I'm almost dialed with the schedule for the season, which might include a couple surprises.

Before the season gets underway I'll be heading to Spain for a week followed by a drive along the coast to Nice, France for a month-long stay there. Rachel and I decided we would commit to getting acquainted in a foreign land so we rented an apartment for an entire month. It's going to be an interesting journey and I imagine a very fun and adventurous one! I'll be training in the mornings and diving into work at night when the US wakes up. I'll be updating this blog with photos and reports from the French Riviera.

As mentioned above, I have a quick something to say about back injuries. More specifically, disc injuries. Since everyone is totally different, I must say I have no business giving any advice. I would, however, like to share my story for those who google, 'back injury successful recovery' like I did when I was desperate to hear something good. In fact, my next blog will be dedicated to this so it will be easier for people to find. I cringe when I see people posting about their injures and whatnot, so I'm reluctantly adding a photo of my MRI as a reference for where I was in June of last year.

I feel very fortunate I've been able to come out of the pain I was in last year, but the reality is that I'll never be 100% safe from another episode. As of today, I've been able to train at full capacity with zero pain. I can tell when I push it close to overdoing it, but I feel great. I've worked my ass off to get here, but man it's worth it.

Here's to a happy and healthy new year to you all!


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

This is the start of it

There's something I love about November. I'm a big fan of the Fall, the thought of nordic skiing, and the fact I start my preparation for the next cycling season. Now some athletes get all hussy about hearing other athletes starting so early, but for me it's a great way to keep relatively fit and my weight down throughout the Winter months. I also have my methods for preventing burnout.

For starters, I DO NOT COMPETE in the off season. I like watching cyclocross, but you won't find me toeing the line at the beginning of a 1-hour sufferfest. I actually don't do much intensity in my training in the winter, but I usually learn a new sport - or focus on getting better at another sport outside of cycling - which is intensely hard in another way. Last year I started skate skiing, which turned into one of my favorite activities. This year I started swimming, which is turning into another favorite activity. I think the main reason I love doing these other sports is that it challenges you as an athlete in a way you don't often get challenged when all you do is the sport that you're professional in. Nordic skiing and swimming have completely humbled me, (as cycling often does) and they kick my ass every time I go. For that reason alone, I love the those sports.

I also love the fact that when I do switch into high gear, I'm not starting from such a hole. I can often get right into intervals and the harder riding without the amount of pain I used to feel coming off 3 months of rest. Add the fact that I had to sit out - and by that I mean, lay down on the ground - for 3 months of the season this year, I'd say I'm ready to hit the physical activity again.

With that said, everyone is different and prepares differently. I know people do what works for them and that's what they should stick to. For me, I'll be working on my freestyle swimming technique as well as learning how to go down hill on xc skis - not something a long-time snowboarded knows a lot about.

Friday, October 19, 2012

The best time to be in Colorado. (and Hawaii)

Words can't describe what it feels like to be back on the bike, training and racing. Add in the fact that it's Fall in Colorado and that's a recipe for a good couple months.

Fall has been busy with all the good stuff. Mountains, bikes, weddings, friends, working in Hawaii, etc. Putting a tumultuous Summer of 2012 behind me feels good as I look forward to a fun Fall and Winter. As far as my motivation for racing bikes in 2013, it's never been this high. I have a good feeling for next year and if I can stay injury-free, I'll be making up for a rough 2012 season.

To sum up the lengthy amount of time between the last time I logged into this thing, I'll post up some photos. 

Training partner, Julie D, and I ran into a car fire out near Lyons a while back. I was expecting a full-on Jason Bourne-style car explosion. It didn't happen. (everyone was okay)

In Crested Butte there is a festival called, Vinotok - which is a celebration of the Harvest Mother - which means all types of crazies come out of the woodwork - which means it's pretty much awesome. They 'burn the grump' after putting him on trial on main street. As you can see by our reactions, it's pretty amazing.

I'd say Red Mountain Pass may be the most beautiful Fall drive in Colorado. Standing between Durango and a little town called, Ridgeway, the landscape is littered with remnants of old mines.

And speaking of Ridgeway our friend, John Billings, is responsible for every single GRAMMY trophy made and delivered for the last 35-40 years. That right there is a 'stunt' GRAMMY - one of 8 that are handed out during the broadcast.

And finally, we helped shoot the NBC broadcast of the Ironman World Championships which is going to be aired on Saturday, October 27th. (4PM EST) The trip was chaotic, but great all in the same. A huge congrats goes out to Leanda Cave and Pete Jacobs for bringing home the titles.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Cutting Edge

I found out some great news a couple days ago. My cousin, Kayla, got off crutches. This is especialy huge because she and her sister, Hayley, are super athletes. Both of these girls have a schedule that would rival anyone's, and their talent on the ice is humbling. Involved in several sports, including figure skating, Kayla was sidelined for a couple months due to possible hairline fractures in her foot. This is tough on anyone, but I think it's a bit more difficult the younger you are.

When I went back home to ND for the annual Race to Sunset, I wasn't able to race due to the injury I have so it was nice to be able to sit with the family and enjoy some much needed time with them - and dish with Kayla about being injured. It was a bit tough not being able to be the guy they're used to seeing out on the course, racing my heart out, but at the end of the day we were able to crack jokes about limping around.

Hayley and Kayla are my biggest fans and I couldn't be prouder to have them as my cousins. From the first time I saw each of them sleeping in my jerseys, (which became a 'good luck' ritual for a couple years) to present-day where, as young women, they still cheer me on - there hasn't been a single race that I've won where part of it wasn't for them.

I'm big on family and I feel I have the best from the top down. We all feel it when someone else is at a tough spot. When I heard the news that the crutches were out of the picture and Kayla was back on the ice, I felt a sense of relief. Maybe the tables are turning a bit and I'm becoming the super fan of the girls now, watching videos of their performances and feeling nervous for them.

When I went out for my ride today I decided I would try and add some climbing into the picture and see how I felt. It's hard for me to imagine, but I haven't ridden up a mountain in over two months - which is one of my favorite things in the world. I headed up Golden Gate Canyon which is where I cut my teeth as a professional cyclist. I felt good at the bottom and by the top I was feeling great. This was a huge feat for me today and on the way down I thought to myself, 'This was a personal victory'. Being forced away from anything you love is painful, and when you get it back the feeling is unexplainable. Congrats, Kayla, on getting back on the ice.

As for my personal victory on the road today - that's for you Hayley and Kayla.

Monday, July 16, 2012

If Heaven Were a Place on Earth

It would have been on 44th Ave, just East of Golden, CO yesterday morning. More on that in a second.

It's remarkable to think about the sheer amount of love and support you have from friends and family. It's even more shocking when you realize you've (not purposely) taken that for granted. These things come to light when you hit a low point. And to save everyone from a long, drawn-out typical story about being an injured athlete, I'll keep it short and get to the real point.

As I've mentioned in posts below, I'm out for the season. I've never been injured, never had to miss a race because of injury, and have certainly never been laid up for an entire summer! This is new - and obviously devastating - to me. What I've come to realize is that it's devastating for everyone who cares for you, too. Mainly people are bummed because they don't like seeing you in pain, missing your favorite activity and seeing you not feel like yourself. However, after a while it becomes more of a pain for them when you mope around and constantly talk about how your world is ending in a slow and horrible death. (I'm, of course, talking bout me. Not you.)

I owe a lot of people, more than I can write in here, for keeping me going through the dark times. For starters, Rachel has gone above and beyond, and even beyond that to cheer me up and make me feel better. I cannot believe the patience this woman has. I'm not inherently a negative person by nature - nor do I believe I've been super negative, but there comes a time when you just can't conjure up the energy to be positive - and Rach has given me some slack.

My family and friends have lifted me up, carried me over some rough patches, and now it's time to start walking with them. The lesson here is that yes, we will no doubt fall, have a low point, hit rock bottom - whatever you want to call it - but no matter what, always show the people around you that you love them. I'm still trying to figure out how to do this for everyone who helped me, made me laugh, and told me their own stories about being injured.

With all that to say, let's get back to heaven on earth. I got the green light to start doing very small rides - and let me tell you, a 25min super easy ride with no left leg strength was one of the best things that I've done in the last two months! I've worked my way up to 1:20 with a ride out to Golden and back. On that stretch of road on 44th Ave just East of Golden, I remember thinking, I have a major headwind and it's about 95 degrees - and I can't imagine anything better at this moment.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Injured Reserve List

For the past several years, in the month of June I've written about the Race to Sunset, how great it was to be suffering for 10 hours and how I would sneak out to the Badlands to do some riding while visiting my parents in North Dakota. I did visit them again, but this time I spent time in an MRI machine instead of on some sweet singletrack.

To make a long story short. I developed some significant pain in my lower back a few weeks ago that began radiating down my left hamstring and ultimately into my calf. I thought I'd tough it out and see where it went from there. Well, it went South. The pain became debilitating and pretty much put me into a place where I could only lie on a hardwood floor for two days. Rachel was a total angel and basically had to do everything for me for that time.

Judging from my experiences as a young child, I decided to make the trip to ND to see my family - as they've always provided that magical healing touch. My Aunt Sandy (who is the manager at an MRI center) ran an MRI on me and it was clear as day. I have two trouble discs - one herniated and one with a tear. This was probably the hardest moment I've had in a long time. I knew my season was over - and I knew it was going to be a long road to recovery. I don't know what caused it, but I know how I'm going to prevent it in the future.

I did stop by the Race to Sunset and saw all my friends out there. Although it was tough to see everyone racing while I was on the sidelines in pain, it was important to see everyone. My family had already posted up out on course to ring cowbells and cheer. I think seeing that made me realize how great it's been for me to come back and take part in this event. I've received an outpouring of support from the community up there and it has meant a lot. It is amazing when you realize just how many people have faced a similar situation with an injury. It does seem like it's the end of your athletic career, but I know I'll make progress and come back stronger. 2013 will be my strongest and fastest season. This I believe.

In the 'good news' column, I did hit up some North Dakota staple attractions.

Salem Sue. (She's only the world's LARGEST Holstein cow)

Ahhh, the Badlands...

I owe my parents more than I could ever repay. We left ND with a recharged feeling. (until we hit rush hour getting back into Denver, that is)
To all my sponsors and family - I will work harder than ever to get back in action as soon as I can. The amount of support you've shown me has taught me a lot - and getting back to riding and racing is the closest thing I can find to paying you back. Until then, I'll have some extra time to watch the Tour de France this July...