Saturday, July 31, 2010

Working the Night Away

I'm sitting at work right now staring at monitors and computer screens. You can only watch clips so much in the early A.M. hours before your vision starts to blur and your eyes look increasingly blood shot in the mirror. That's not to say that I'm not working hard, I just get my tasks done and then work on mindlessness (while paying attention to my patients of course).

Work brought me back into reality with no more vacation days to spare on week long stage races. It is almost a relief after the 5.5 months of racing behind me along with the night shifts training my stuporous, sleepless work binges every week. I love both work and racing thankfully and I am grateful to have a fun and challenging job.

This time of the year has turned into a transitional phase in life for many reasons. I'm moving into a house, down the road from my apartment, with two guys and a puppy. Juanita is moving to Kentucky for graduate school and I need a break to be social and hang out with friends around town. All of this has been pretty chaotic, but a welcome change (besides Juanita leaving) from the training, racing, working routine I've been perfecting since December. I feel more and more like a "normal" person every day. Though I don't know that most people feel sore after running for ten minutes. I guess that's something to work on for the next couple of months, along with my sick, shin busting mountain biking skills.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Happenings

I recently talked to an old friend here in MI that suggested I keep up with the blog posts to at least talk about all of my experiences racing this year. I know I have at least one reader, so why not?

I've been spiraling down hill both physically and mentally lately. I had a great time racing and getting experience at the Mt Hood Cycling Classic and at Nationals, but both experiences were far from what I hoped coming off of La Vuelta de Bisbee 7th overall and then finishing the Tour of the Gila after a few issues. A crash took me right out of any GC hopes at the first stage of MT Hood and fatigue overshadowed nationals. I don't want to make too many excuses, but working full-time night shifts while trying to squeeze in as many stage races as possible hasn't been the best option for getting results. Before Redlands I worked a night shift until 7am, left AZ at 8am to drive 8 hours into California, staying up for around 30 hours before racing the prologue the next morning. Mt hood was about the same. I worked until 7am, drove to phoenix, flew to Portland, then raced a rainy prologue 4 hours later. Experience wise however, I never thought I would get a decent result in a big race let alone race these NRC stage races.

Last July I was settling into Flagstaff, AZ after finishing up college. I didn't even start racing until August and I was just fishing for results to upgrade to category 1 (the level that the pros race at). Cycling couldn't have gone better since then until about mid-season this year when fatigue from insomnia, loads of training, travel and racing caught up with me.

That's where Michigan comes in. I came back to see my family, friends and fit in a NRC criterium as the icing on the cake. It's been great relaxing with people I haven't seen from a year to six months ago. Plus a few days of training on the roads I first started riding on 3 years ago has been refreshing.

The crit in Grand Rapids was fun because my family in the area came out to watch along with my brother and parents. I felt pretty good fitness wise even after working early in the week and a bunch of intervals/intensity. Everything was in place until my second water bottle bounced out on the first lap after hitting a pothole full-force. This is a race-limiting anomaly in 90 degree weather and I was frustrated as all hell.

Regardless, I was down to one bottle and feeling good, so I jumped around the side of the field with 3 others to try and get in a breakaway. We rode around only for a lap or two and I slowed down with them because they were solely going for the primes (the intermediate sprint prizes); they had no interest in working to stay away. This was for the better as I realized I was down to half a water bottle already with about 70 minutes left in the race.

I ended up sitting in the back to middle of the small field trying to conserve energy while taking small sips from the bottle. Tail-gunning isn't always advisable in big fields, over technical courses or in strong winds, but in this case it was a matter of pedaling smoothly around all the corners. Forty minutes in, my bottle was gone and chills took over. The 90 degree, humid air hit me and dropping out of the race sounded better every lap. But I thought I could maybe sit on, cool off temperature wise and make a move at the end of the race.

Once I saw 7 to go on the lap card, I decided to ignore the chills and make a chase. There was a small breakaway gone and I figured I could get into a group to catch up with them since I will rarely sprint well against the fast-twitch guys. I attacked the field and three or four guys came with me. Unfortunately, at least one was a sprinter from a top team. He didn't want to help catch the break even his team wasn't represented up front. That would be his mistake as one of the riders from the break away stayed away by himself to take the win. I stayed on the front for that lap and then tried to ride away on the second lap again. It didn't work and another few riders went for it. We ended in a bunch sprint behind the solo winner. It was a great race and I was more excited than anything to drink a coke following the race. My bottle cages aren't the best and next time I'm going to bring a third bottle in my jersey. Checking out my average heart rate following the race, I was shocked to see the highest number I've ever seen. The race was relatively low-key in the field so I'm guessing the heat and dehydration brought this out.

Speaking of the heat, there couldn't be a better week to have people over to swim. I'm having a mellow little pool party at my house this afternoon and evening to catch up with everyone before heading home Wednesday. I'll work four more night shifts and then it's off to Bend, OR for the BMC Cascades Cycling Classic. We'll see if this relaxing has paid off.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Reflections, Racing the End of the Season Away & Results

I finally have a break to sit down and be bored. Though just as boredom set in, I began to think about how I still don't know my new town of Flagstaff, AZ. I'm in the hospital clique and I'm slightly into the road cycling clique, though I haven't actually ridden with the group in about two months. Racing takes a toll on social life from the large scheme of getting to know a new place and meeting people to the micro level of giving Juanita (my girlfriend) the time and affection she deserves.

I recently read a ROAD article discussing when a cyclist should quit. It talks about trying to devote the amount of time into cycling that the professionals do all the while maintaining as much of a job and social life as possible. Most everyone reading this knows exactly what we're talking about. At a certain point, the author of the article says that it might be better to quit cycling at the high level to salvage other parts of life. This is absurd. I prefer his other suggestion of winding it down in the fall, which is inevitable, and focusing on the neglected parts of life. Many top cyclists, believe it or not, race professionally and work. Look at Michigan's own Tim Finkel who recently moved up to the Gary Fisher 29er Crew to come away 15th at the World Solo 24 Hour Championships this year.

Back to my thoughts on the neglected parts of life. Just as I was trying to dazzle Juanita, she left for a work trip. I have a week off from riding and I'm not working until tomorrow (my regular three 12 hour shifts). This is where that thing I talked about above, Boredom, prevails. It's been a while, approximately four years since I've sat around lazily with no school papers to work on. I'm not going to lie, it is quite nice for a change.

One thing I'm doing is looking into the Flagstaff Biking Organization to see if I can join in on the fun. We will see where that goes. I'd love to see more kids riding road bikes. With a youth mountain biking program in place, the template is set. I won't go too far into this little vision, but I think I might try to give back to this seemingly vein and selfish pursuit of becoming a professional cyclist, by infusing the dream into young ones. It could be a full-circle result. Plus continued support of the youth is exactly what's missing from curative health care, i.e. my job as a nurse. I see the kids to good health and then our short relationship (usually mentor-like and supportive in nature) abruptly ends as they go home. Just a warning, I'm not too great at following through with things all of the time...I need to work on giving more than taking now that school is no longer an excuse.

These are my most recent thoughts. I could talk more about the sacrifices we all go through during the season and the years devoted to our chosen lifestyle. Moving out here and not having too many friends in Flagstaff would be a starter, but I don't feel sorry for myself one iota. I love the adventure and sacrifice. These risks are meant to be taken. You have to put everything into it at first to see some eventual gains.

And now to the gains. I hate to talk about myself, really, but I need to put my results somewhere. Just in case you are a new reader in search of an up-and-coming climber (in the future) for your cycling team, here are my notable results from this year. In addition, I submitted my Category 1 request yesterday with the points required. To make sure it is known, I recently joined a great team called Bicycle Haus Racing (Scottsdale, AZ). From an outsiders perspective, the brothas appear to make up a little shaven legged family from the cat 5's to the cat 1's. The highlights of my 2008-2009 resume are as follows:

Pro 1/2 & Collegiate “A” Midwest Collegiate Cycling Conference (MWCCC)

University of Wisconsin Criterium A (pro1/2) 4/19/09 75 minutes 2/45

New Mexico State Road Race Championships 8/22/09 70 miles 2/23

Bernalillo Time Trial Series #4 Albuquerque, NM TT 8/23/09 9miles 3/77
(77 total starters)

CBR CA State Criterium Championships 9/6/2009 9/50

Everest Challenge Stage Race CA/NV State Climbing Championships 9/12-9/13 2009

Stage 1 -102 miles 3/25
Stage 2 -82 miles 3/25

Overall 3rd Place

Mount Charleston Hill Climb (mass start) 9/19/09 17miles 2/17
[Neil Shirley (Kelly Benefit Strategies) 1st, Tinker Juarez (MonaVie Cannondale) 3rd]

Interbike: USA Crits Finals Pro/1 (2 invite) 9/24/09 60 kilometers 28/45

Mount Graham Hill Climb (mass start)- Arizona State Hill Climbing Championships 9/27/09 20 miles
3rd overall finisher
1st Cat 2
(Pro1/2 riders split into age groups or however they signed up)

Tour de Scottsdale Pro1/2 10/4/09 73 miles 2/47

Notes: 1. 2009 Mid West Collegiate Cycling Conference Ranked 15 (individual nationals qualification)
2. I'm working on a full results page

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Who ordered eggs?

Commuting to work has been prosperous the last week and a half. For every day of walking or riding, employees of the Flagstaff Medical Center get a $5 food voucher. I've been living large in the cafeteria with my Odwalla bars and stir frys.

Energized to get home and ride, I began to question the clouds as I pedaled in my floppy dress shoes. Monsoon season is upon us here in Arizona, bringing short periods of rain with intermittent to long bouts of sunshine. That's the glass half-full attitude I took while getting dressed for my ride.

Drafting cars in the stop and start traffic on my way through downtown, I headed towards highway 180 which leads to Snowbowl road, and eventually, the Grand Canyon. To give you a little context, Snowbowl road wraps around the west side of Humphrey's peak in switchbacks that rise precisely a few thousand feet in a few miles. Hitting the smooth shoulder pavement of 180, large raindrops began to smack me. These drops fell at a slow rate barely getting me wet. The sky was at first tentative about the whole rain thing. But the rays of sun began to quickly disappear as lightening struck all around the forest. I had a gut feeling to keep going. The bad weather was moving over me, away from the mountains.

Jamming to Thievery Corporation's "Sweet Tides" song, I felt un-worldly as I ascended the gradual hills of highway 180 towards the base of Snowbowl Road. The rain began to soak through my kit and the sky transitioned to a dark gray, adding to that "yea, I'm a hardcore athlete" feeling that we often get before realizing we are just not thinking like a normal person. Putting my rear flashing light onto my jersey pocket, I simultaneously felt something hit my back and ooze. I quickly examined my hand to find egg shell and some yoke dripping from my palm. Looking to the road, I saw a tan Ford Ranger tailgating a mini-van as the driver appeared to be escaping the scene of a crime. This person had to have the intellect of a second grader. Why throw an egg at a cyclist in a misty thunderstorm, speed away before seeing his reaction, and make it look like your running away from him. This person and his egg launcher resembled middle school kids throwing snowballs at cars and then running away, except these clowns were in the car and I was the vulnerable, pedaling one. Were my shaven legs and spandex getup that intimidating?

I hope these people seek help and learn to take out their frustrations in a more productive way. At least ding-dong-ditch someone's house and see their reaction. I did of course throw up my arms like I won a race but with only one finger showing from each hand, I couldn't help myself. But if I could go back I would have simply waved; kill 'em with kindness, right? I wasn't even mad, I actually felt more epic. Is that crazy or what? That's the kind of normalcy I question in myself and other like-minded athletes. Riding through a thunderstorm and getting egged shouldn't make a person happy. I guess nothing can ruin your day when your doing what you love.

Flagstaff Arizona where the Javelina Rome

You likely already know that I moved, but in case you missed the memo, I now live in Flagstaff, Arizona with my lovely girlfriend Juanita. Keeping up with blogging has been hard in the past few months with graduation, heavy racing and the move, but I finally feel settled and may be able to put some time into this. Well at least after my nursing board exam that is. The NCLEX as it is called is currently dwelling on my shoulders and controlling my mind. When I begin to study for it, however, my mind focuses on cycling and I forget the importance of it. Why is this? I began studying after dinner tonight and just couldn't stop thinking about riding (I needed another hour of riding to complete the day's time) so I jumped on the mountain bike and went for a spin in a canyon nearby.

A new buddy from work introduced me to the trail on Sunday. We were subject to ospreys perched in the pines and we were swarmed by gnats in a small cave we explored. I was taken aback by the beauty of the place as I noticed trees growing sideways out of the canyon's wall. Brad told me that he had collectively spent over a year in this canyon as a child; at that point in his life he preferred nature to the BS of his school-aged compatriots.

Trying to recreate the experience this evening, I ended up missing the turn in the trail and riding through the ponderosa pines to find small boulders, rocks and tree stumps covering the forest's floor. Jumping off the bike after almost endo-ing over a tree stump and the rock that succeeded it, I decided to head towards where I thought the trail continued. I saw it and ended up riding the rest smoothly. My ride ended with the sun setting over the mountains and I was reminded why I wanted to move out here again--beauty and peace of mind.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Sleepless Night

Now that I have more time on my hands, it seems more appropriate to be checking out all of the blogs and writing a bit myself. I didn't sleep well at all last night, probably because I stopped riding a day or two ago and have been doing nothing but resting. Darrell mandated a week off of the bike...say what? No really, it is a transition week in my plan right now since I peaked out for nationals. Darrell's words echo in my sleep deprived brain, "It is a long season my young friend and you have to think long term, beyond this year." Darrell's words of wisdom do make sense. If I want to perform all the way until and through track nationals (which I am thinking about racing without being at a velodrome for two months), I need this break both psychologically and physiologically.

I would like to do it all and feel that I'm not making much progress, with a 61/130 in the collegiate national road race and a 32/100 at the criterium, but I must remember that I'm fairly new to the sport. Development takes time and it is pretty exciting to be racing national events during my second season of dedicated training. Sometimes some reflection can go a long way when worrying about results. I have many years of racing left in my legs and if the progress continues as it has been, I should have no problem developing further.

We'll see if I can make it a week. With the time off driving me stir crazy, I might have to race both Thursday and Saturday. Either way, I'm visiting my family on the west coast of Michigan this weekend. It might be my last chance before moving to Arizona.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Twitter & Collegiate Nationals

I haven't posted in a while thanks to school ending, interviewing for a job and training, but I am now chilling out for two months before heading to Flagstaff, AZ for a nursing job.

For starters, be sure to check out twitter at

Also, check out my first ever VeloNews photo at I've gone from a small legged climber to a larger legged criterium racer, at least that's what it looks like. I'm going to have to do some work on my power to weight ratio before heading out to Flagstaff!

I can't wait to get back to Michigan to race with everyone and to start working out at the track. See you all soon.