Wednesday, September 15, 2010


Alex Bogusky
I was reading Fast Company the other morning, picking through the features, and I was grabbed by "Alex Bogusky Tells All: He Left the World's Hottest Agency to Find His Soul", by Danielle Sacks.

It was fascinating for a number of reasons, most not relevant here. In short, the titular figure is an adman of rare renown. In the middle of much success, he dropped out of his role to pursue...something. (You need to read the article to find out more.)

Near the end of the profile is the following set of quotations (emphasis is mine):

"I don't think we're good at being selfish," Bogusky had mused to me on one of those idyllic Boulder mornings. "Most of humanity, we're total rookies at being selfish and being narcissists. Because if you're really good at narcissism, you get to the point where that rookie kind of selfish doesn't even exist. A really excellent narcissist would be a really powerful tool for saving the planet. If everyone was a perfect narcissist, there would be nothing to worry about because we'd automatically fix everything and our purchases would be so benign. It's not self-absorbed, it's just knowing what's good for self. Let's say that steaks, scotch, and lots of cigars are what you put in your body -- that's a rookie-narcissistic move. That's where we're uneducated narcissists. But as we perfect our narcissism, it comes around where you're actually doing things that feel like sharing, that feel like connected behavior."

I told my friend this theory, and he said, 'You may be the most narcissistic person I know. It used to piss me off, and now I've come to be okay with it.' "

Does this sound like anyone?

Inadvertent though it may be, it perfectly describes and explains Lance Armstrong. But, does it damn him?

I plan to explore that question in a coming post: Lance Revisited.

Where Have You Been?

I know, I have not posted in almost two weeks.

Since Pelotonia, I have spent my time recovering--emotionally and physically. I've spent quality time with BCB and the LAs, and I have several drafts of posts that are to come, including:
  • Real Men Wear Pink
  • Saddle Sore
  • Pelotonia 10 Ride Report (Day 1)
  • Pelotonia 10 Ride Report (Day 2)
  • Life as a Symbol
  • Lance Revisited

Those are working titles. They are teasers. They are coming soon, as well as a non-cycling post entitled: "Off Topic: Thanking The Charlatans".

Stay tuned!

Friday, September 3, 2010

2010 Cyclocross Season Schedule

With help, I have compiled a list of cyclocross races in the Mid-Atlantic region, with particular care paid to Maryland. There are two regional, season-long competitions:
There are few other races, too. If I missed anything, please let me know!

Sat 9/11 Nittany Cross MAC #1 Trexlertown, PA
Sat 9/18 Charm City MAC #2 Baltimore, MD
Sun 9/19 Charm City MAC #3 Baltimore, MD
Sun 9/26 Ed Sanders Memorial MABRA #1 Adamstown, MD
Sun 9/26 Whirlybird Cyclocross MAC #4 Bryn Athyn, PA
Sat 10/2 Breast Cancer Awareness
Cyclocross Challenge
MABRA #2 Cascade, MD
Sat 10/3 Winchester Apple
Harvest Cross
MABRA #3 Winchester, VA
Sat 10/10 Hyattsville CX MABRA #4 Hyattsville, MD
Sat 10/16 Granogue Cross (Day 1) MAC #5 Granogue, DE
Sun 10/17 Granogue Cross (Day 2) MAC #6 Granogue, DE
Sun 10/24 DCCX MABRA #5 Washington, DC
Sat 10/30 All Hallows Cross MABRA #6 Hughesville, MD
Sat 10/30 Beacon Cyclocross MAC#7 Bridgeton, NJ
Sun 10/31 ABRT CX N/A Severna Park, MD
Sat 11/6 Fair Hill MAC #9 Fair Hill, DE
Sun 11/7 Tacchino Ciclocross MABRA #7 Upper Marlboro, MD
Sun 11/14 UrbanCross at Ix MABRA #8 Charlotsville, VA
Sat 11/20 HoCo2xCx:
Schooley Mill Cross
MABRA #9 Highland, MD
Sat 11/20 Super Cross Cup Day 1 MAC #10 Southampton, NY
Sun 11/21 HoCo2xCx:
Rockburn Cross
MABRA #10 Elkridge, MD
Sun 11/21 Super Cross Cup Day 2 MAC #11 Southampton, NY
Sun 11/28 Turkey Chase
MABRAcross Championships
Sun 12/8 -
US Nationals National
Bend, OR

Header Content

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Cancer Claims Another: Laurent Fignon, RIP

Author's note: I had planned a different post for today. Alas, the sad news of Laurent Fignon's death preempts more trivial musings.

In 1989 I was one of (maybe) 15 other people in the United States who cared.

I watched this, enraptured:

We celebrated Greg LeMond's incredible victory. The comeback. The impossibility of those eight seconds. The shotgun pellets in his heart's lining. It was an American story with an American hero, defeating some damned foreigner.
Nous étions jeunes et insouciants ("We were young and carefree")

The story appealed to our American virtues—work ethic, innovation, humility, family—and one of our great vices—jingoism.

Yet, vices aside, it was impossible to not sympathize with the man who was beaten; for Laurent Fignon was a champion. A champion's champion.

No shrinking violet, he was the perfect, media-made foil for the aw-gee-shucks child of the American West that was Greg LeMond. Fignon looked the part: he was "continental", "euro", and "sophisticated". Her personified panache. Nicknamed "The Professor", he was bespectacled—favoring not-quite-round lenses—with a streaming, blond ponytail, pulled back from his receding hairline. Fignon was debonair. He instantly stood out—even within the peloton of the 1980s.

Fignon: a studious, stylish champion
But he was more than a notable, if unique, fashion plate. He was also a tenacious rider. As Reuters reported: "[He] had made no secret of the fact that rivalry, almost hatred, was necessary for him as a competitor and he had few friends in cycling."

His approach—however unsavory in these days of the Contador/Schleck lovefest—was effective, as his results testify. His palmarès? Outstanding:
  • Tour de France (1983, 1984)
  • Giro d'Italia (1989)
  • Milan - San Remo (1988, 1989)
  • La Fleche Wallonne (1986)
  • Criterium International (1982 and 1990)
  • among others...
As LeMond ascended, Fignon demurred, retiring from the professional peloton in 1993. But he remained close to the sport, managing races (notably Paris–Nice) until 2004.

You know he fought his cancer with the same tenacity.
He resurfaced on the global stage in 2009, for tragic reasons. As reported in
Fignon disclosed in June 2009 that he was undergoing treatment for cancer. It is said to have started in his intestine and then spread further through his body. He continued to commentate for French television on the Tour de France this summer despite a tumour affecting his vocal chords.

In this book, "We Were Young and Carefree", Fignon admitted that he had used amphetamines and cortisone during his career. To me, it's interesting, but not surprising, and certainly within cycling's long history of improving performance through the transforming power of chemistry. I do not think it diminishes his legacy. Considering the way the cycling culture embraces and celebrates Tom Simpson's death on Ventoux, it would be churlish to dismiss Fignon as anything less than a champion.

In both 2009 and 2010, despite his treatments, Fignon remained a Tour de France commentator for France Television. In one of his public statements about his cancer, he declared:
“I don’t want to die at 50,” he said, earlier this summer. “All I know is that my cancer isn’t evolving. I’m still fighting.”
He died at age 50.

Rest peacefully, M. Fignon. And many thanks for the memories.

Monday, August 30, 2010

In a Lighter Tone...

NOT his seatpost (but you get the idea...)
A fellow on my team had a problem, and he posted it to our team mail list:
The glue that holds my seatpost onto the part that lets you adjust the seat has worn out and I can take it apart. Should I reglue it and with what or should I buy a new seatpost?
You can imagine the responses. Here was mine:
Ellicott City, MD
Sunday, August 29, 2010
For immediate release...

An Ellicott City man was admitted to Howard County General Hospital this morning with a rare and unsettling case of cycleous anus insertus irreversus. The CDC has been alerted, and the ward is under quarantine.

The man, Christopher Hilfiger, a middle-aged cycling enthusiast and noted collector of imported beers and obscure bicycle parts, is reported to be in serious, but stable, condition.

Cycleous anus insertus irreversus only manifests when certain two-wheeled transportation devices come into contact with the human perineum, while in the presence of high tensile-strength bonding materials. Under these conditions a most horrid confluence of man and machine occurs, where the bicycle is no longer removable from the (deleted for propriety's sake!).

One complicating factor—rumored to have occurred—is the influence of methane gas upon the bonding materials. Mr. Hilfiger's flatulence, it seems, caused additional chemical reactions to occur. Biochemists on the scene recounted their wonder.

According to Dr. I. Rather Schtinky: "We've never witnessed quite such a collection of volatile materials in open space. Usually, such toxins are released only under tightly-controlled laboratory conditions. It's a wonder he's alive!"

The victim—unable to comment due to the aluminum tube thrusting out of his gullet—has been communicating with medical personnel by assorted grunts and a deep, resonating chime, reminiscent of a tubular bell....
The best response from the list was from Dr. Bill (anesthesiologist, RAAM veteran, and endurance/adventure racer):
One thing I will never forget, while Ray was having surgery on his clavicle. A nurse said to me afterward, "are all cyclists that funny when they are on morphine"?

Friday, August 27, 2010

There, but for the grace of God, go I

I can be a superstitious fellow. I throw a pinch of salt over my shoulder. I carry an umbrella on threatening, but not-yet-rainy days, and I "knock on wood" (or my forehead, which is much the same substance) when appropriate.

On rides, I have my superstitions as well. I like to wear my socks just so and I always check my front wheel's quick release after starting the ride.

And when I see roadkill, I always state purposefully, consciously, and honestly: "There, but for the grace of God, go I."

Seriously. I do. Always.

The Risks We Run

If you ride a bike, you will fall. It's a universal truth, like taxes. And death.

And if you ride a bike, you risk your life.

In the United States, fewer than 1,000 cyclists are killed each year.** It's not a big number. Yet, it's no consolation for the families. Numbers are cold, and all-but-meaningless. It's like when the doctors assign you with a 97% chance of survival. It means nothing—if you are in the other 3%.

We know this. It's a knowledge that resides deep down below, in that inner space where we contain our fears, dreads, and apprehensions. Sometimes it surfaces, like great cetacean breaching, disturbing our placidity with a crashing, splashing, distressed anxiety. Then...quiet once again.

We don't like those waters. We fear swimming within them, so we suppress our fears and move along.

To do otherwise would paralyze.

The Tragedy within Pelotonia 2010

A rider died.
A Reynoldsburg woman riding in the Pelotonia bicycle tour died Saturday after being struck by a vehicle in Hocking County, the Ohio State Highway Patrol said.
She had a name: Michelle Kazlausky.

She could have been any one of us.

But...They Did Everything Right!
A trooper was directing traffic at the intersection at about 2:15 p.m. with his marked cruiser's lights on, Norris said. He motioned for the pickup truck driven by Ervin Blackston, 57, of Rockbridge, to stop, but the pickup truck continued into the intersection.

Norris said Kazlausky realized the truck wasn't going to stop and tried evade by ditching the bike.

"So the bike slides one way, she's not on it. She slides another as an evasive action," Norris said. Blackston also swerved to avoid the crash, Norris said, missing the bike, but hitting Kazlausky....

Two physicians and a nurse were at the intersection along with a Pelotonia care vehicle, which follows the route to provide support and emergency aid, he said.
No matter what we do, how we plan, or how we prepare, the scythe will cut when the scythe will cut.

We have no control. We have no say.

When It's Time, It's Time

I suppose that is the message, the take-away, the lingering thought: when it's your time, it's your time.

It's stoical, but what else is there?

How else could we get back on our bikes for the return trip—knowing that we would pass through that intersection?

How else can we continue to ride, to pursue our passion? We have responsibilities. We are sons and daughters. We are husbands and wives. We are parents and grandparents. We are friends, lovers, and everything in-between.

Yet, when it's your time, it's your time.

Michelle—“Shelli” to her friends and family—was a mother and a daughter. She was a friend to many. She was described by Tom Lennox (Executive Director of Pelotonia) as: "a compassionate staff member in the rapid response lab at University Hospital East and a caring coworker." She knew the risks, and she rode.
Nagging effects of carpal-tunnel syndrome and a spill two weeks ago didn't dampen Kazlausky's enthusiasm, friends and family said yesterday.

"She still came to work, even with broken bones in her face," said Dr. JoAnna Williams, director of pathology at University Hospital East, where Kazlausky worked.
She had fallen during a ride two weeks prior to Pelotonia. She broke bones in her face. Most certainly, she knew the risks.

Yet, she rode.

We Ride On

Yes, she rode. As do we all.

Knowing what had happened, and what could happen, I rode. My friends rode. Their friends rode.

We rode.

We knew the risks.

And I will continue to ride.

I cannot live in fear, awaiting fate's next great blow. And I will not ride in fear. Riding is my passion and my freedom. I ride to live.

I never met Shelli, yet I know her...a little. She lived with purpose. She was a a thriver. She knew the risks; yet, she rode.

And by riding on, I honor her.

So, I will remain my superstitious self. I will still pinch salt, check my quick release, and all the rest.

And when I see death, I will always state purposefully, consciously, and honestly: "There, but for the grace of God, go I."

**Resources for that <1,000 cyclists each year statement...

Saturday, August 21, 2010

For the Iron Chicas: Final Thoughts


Tomorrow you will glide through the water like dolphins, splashing and cavorting with joy!

Tomorrow you will roll across the countryside like bullet trains, surging over hills and dales—powerful, awesome.

Tomorrow you will stride across well-trod pathways, blazing your own trail to your personal victory.

Your will is strong. You are the masters of your minds and bodies.

Envision your ideal race. Take the time to close your eyes. Make perfect pictures of your perfect moments. String them together. Press "Play". This is your filmstrip. This is your vision. Use it. And make it real.

Tomorrow you race. It's your race. It's your gift to you. Be generous. Be grateful. And in the end, you'll be:

Friday, August 20, 2010

Fight for What You Love (Pelotonia)

Bike to Battle, Missouri
The diseases we call cancer are legion. Mobilizing a counterforce to do battle is our challenge. The enemy must be engaged on all fronts: financial, scientific, spiritual.... Such an undertaking requires endless resources and boundless passion.

Are we up to the challenge? Are we prepared to wage total war against this inexhaustible enemy?
Safe & Sound, UAE

The human spirit is able. But have we the will to harness our resources and march forth? Have we the strength to carry ourselves once more into the breach, dear friends? Once more?

Pelotonia is an answer. All who ride have declared themselves. All who support have pledged themselves. All involved have mobilized. We are a force, countering cancer's corruption.

Love Life. Fight Cancer, Netherlands
You play a part. Your neighbors play a part. We are all part of a global struggle. We all fight this battle.

We are the dreamers of dreams...we are the movers and shakers, of the world forever...

We are audacious. We are bold. We draw strength from one other. We are united in our cause: end cancer.

Ride. Roll forth. Show the world that we are making our stand. Here. Now.

Be bold. Be defiant.

Sound your barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world and declare "no more!"

You are among many.

Together, we ride.

Together, we...


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Progress Progresses Apace! (Pelotonia Fundraising)

I am delighted to report that I have inspired people to donate nearly $2,000 to Pelotonia in 2010.

Let's fill the glass!
None of this "half-empty" or
"half full" nonsense!
I am nearly half-way to my $4,000 goal!

That's wonderful!

But cancer never rests; please help!

Do you really need that mocha-frappa-ccino-parfait this morning?

Could you skip the dessert at lunch?

If so, please consider donating $5.

If ten of you donate $5, it's $50. And 100% will be used for life-saving cancer research.

Please help!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Where Does the Money Go? (Pelotonia Fundraising)

Or Mission is clear. Our effort is real.
Please help us END CANCER!
I have been soliciting donations for Pelotonia, using the phrase "to support life-saving cancer research".

So, where does the money go?

In 2009 we raised more than $4.5 million. Nice! So, what's being done with it?

Pelotonia did the right thing, sending out a communiqué to share this information. I'm sharing excerpts here to help make clear "Why We Ride".
  1. The Fellowship Program: One of the biggest challenges facing faculty researchers at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James) is recruiting talented students. Thus, the OSUCCC – James will use $1 million of the funds raised by Pelotonia 2009 to initiate a program to bring the best and brightest graduate and postgraduate students from around the world to its cancer science programs.

  2. Idea Grants: Another that a number of highly talented investigators have unique ideas about how to prevent and treat cancer, but because their ideas are high risk and not yet tested, they receive little attention from the traditional sources of funding...Thus, though quantum leaps in science are often made by thinking “outside of the box,” funding for the early pursuit of such initiatives is very hard to obtain.

    ...The OSUCCC – James will utilize $1 million of the funds raised by Pelotonia 2009 to provide 10 Idea Grants of $100,000 a year. Idea Grants will be awarded through a peer-reviewed process. The success of the Idea Grants will be judged based upon discovery, publication, patents, and subsequent NIH funding.

  3. Faculty Retention and Recruitment: One of the top priorities of OSUCC– James is to recruit and retain talented senior faculty in the basic, translational and clinical arenas...[T]he recruitment of a senior faculty member who is laboratory-based and brings her or his research team to the OSUCCC – James will typically cost $7 million to $10 million, but can easily exceed $10 million depending on the circumstances.

    ...[T]o achieve its goal of attracting and retaining more senior faculty, the OSUCCC – James will use the funds from Pelotonia 2009 to build retention and recruitment packages that will attract and retain the most talented faculty members from around the world.  One such way is to provide funds directly to the investigator via a named Professorship, which honors a distinguished physician or scientist with an annual amount of funding for their research operation.
(You can read the Plans for Funds Allocation in its entirety at the Pelotonia website.)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

How I Realize the AFC Mission

Author's Note: This is a post that I have prepared for my team's website. Please visit Adventures for the Cure for more information about the team, its mission, and its activities.
Let me begin this posting with a reminder: a reminder of why we are here.

AFC was created to inspire everyone to use their gifts and talents to make positive change in the world around us.

The organization has also set out to inspire others to live healthy lifestyles and to adventure beyond their perceived limits, because ANYTH!NG Is Possible

We have focused on using our love of cycling to accomplish this task, but any gift or talent can be used to help others and do something good!

AFC's mission is a clear. How realize that mission, well, that's not so clear.

We love our bikes, and we desire to do something more. We wear the dots to represent something greater than ourselves, and we seek opportunities to help--with our causes and within the community.

This is about my cause and my mission. It's my validation of my choice to join AFC.

What I Do, and Why (Three R's)

My cause focuses on raising money for life-saving cancer research. Why cancer? I am a cancer survivor.

I am riding in an event called Pelotonia. It is a grassroots event that raises awareness and monies for The James, Ohio State's Comprehensive Cancer Center.

In 2009, I raised over $2,000, contributing to a total of more than $4.5 million.

As of Tuesday, August 17, 2010 I have raised $1,700. My goal is to raise $4,000 by October.

I also am an active blogger. Sometimes I am serious, and sometimes I am frivolous.

When I write about the experience of cancer I get more serious.

Recently, I have been evolving a concept surrounding the post-cancer experience. I refer to it as "Cancer, Stage T".
    Staying in Stage T is a daily exercise. It is a daily affirmation. It is a struggle that has its good and bad days. When things are going well, cancer is a distant memory—something you witnessed from the window of your speeding train. It lingers for a moment, but recedes as the new landscape—exciting, new, filled with promise—rushes forward into your consciousness.

    When things are going badly, your private hell beckons.
This approach/philosophy/aspiration crystallized after my four-year cancer anniversary.
So, I raise money, I ride, and I write: the three "R's".

That's how I realize the Mission.

At AFC, we love life. We all experience that differently, but we have connected together to promote an appreciation of life. We may not be able to bring happiness, but I believe that we help to inspire joy.

Please consider supporting my ride with Pelotonia by making a donation to fund life-saving cancer research. 100% of all funds raised support research. And if not now, that's fine! All i really ask is that you live the mission, and that you love life!

That's why we're here.

    I know that this is a bold request. Mine is an ambitious goal.

    $4,000 seems like a lot of money. But when you compare it to the costs of crushing cancer, it's but a drop in a very large barrel. .

    Your help—in any amount—makes a difference.

    Last year someone donated $2.00. It was what he had to give. He simply wanted to help.

    In that spirit, I humbly ask you to donate what you can, if you can.

    Every dollar counts.

    Please help.

For the Iron Chicas: Riding in the Rain

It was 40, not 70, but someone
out there had this image!
During last weekend's four-hour ride, I was hit with rain. At hour two.

Yep, nearly 40 miles of wet wetness was in front of me (to the side of me, on top of me, you get the idea). Occasional wind gusts greeted me too. I liked when they were behind me, but that didn't happen too often.

I know, it's not about's about you!

I realized that we never talked about riding in the rain. It's different from riding in the dry.

Silly, that, but true.

Think about it, if it rains, you get wet. It's not like it will much effect your swim. And it won't much effect your run. But it will effect your ride.

Here are a few things for you to think about and remember.

Double Your Braking Distance

So, I Google image search for
"double distance". This appears.
It made me laugh.
When you first touch your brakes it will feel like nothing is happening. This is scary, if you are approaching a Stop sign or coming down a hill (or better still, approaching a Stop sign at the bottom of a descent).

The reason for this behavior is that the brake pads act as "windshield wipers" first, before they can apply the friction you need to slow or stop. When your brakes first come into contact with the smooth aluminum of your rim's braking surface, they sweep away the water. That's why it doesn't feel like they are doing anything!

Then, when they engage, you still won't have the "normal" braking sensations. The water acts as a lubricant, so you need to make sure that you give yourself some extra room to slow.

A final factor is that the pavement is also slick. You don't want to lock up your wheels and skid. If you do, remember the next rule: Keep the Rubber Side Down.

Keep the Rubber Side Down

This would be bad...I repeat BAD...
in the rain.
It's not just a good idea for bed pads and mental health facilities. Look at your tires. Remember that you are riding on a half-inch of width, with less than two square inches total contact with the road.

That's not a lot of forgiveness on a good day. Add rain, and it's something else altogether.

Remember to stay upright. Keep the bike from leaning into turns (as much as possible). you will not be able to completely "not lean", but be cautious. Once the weight shifts, if you slip, you're down. Faster than you can think.

The good news is that if it is wet, skidding on your hip doesn't hurt half as much as it does when it is dry (not that I would know...)

Get Your Behind Behind the Behind

This is NOT proper uphill form.
His behind is in front of the behind
Rain = wet = slick.

Going uphill, those rules still apply.

When you get out of the saddle on a climb, your tendency is to shift your weight forward, mashing down on the pedals. If you do this in the rain, you will spin your wheel...literally.

The result could be...nothing. Nothing but wasted effort. Or, the results could be you falling on your behind.

You need to keep the weight over the rear wheel, so you need to get your behind (your buttocks) behind the centerpoint of your bike. Think of getting behind your bike's behind. Thus you are getting behind the behind.

If your weight is back, you can grind up the steepest hills (if you need to) without spinning out. That is a good thing.

A Final Thought

Remember that most people will be uncomfortable riding in the rain. Be aware of your surroundings and the people around you. Communicate LOUDLY, because any surprises could cause someone to twitch the wrong way, with painful results.

And finally, remember that the beginning of the rainstorm is the slickest time on the roads. The oil and other fluids that drip from the cars will film up first, before washing away. If you are on the ride and it starts raining, be mindful!

You all will do great! Hopefully it won't rain. But if it does, you'll be prepared! And you won't look like this yahoo:

This will NOT happen to you!
(This image has no real place here. Except that I thought this
post needed to end with a little humor and, well...)

Thrivers, Not Survivors

Thoughts sometimes come crashing into my head like a demolition ball. They collide with the stones and boulders that have formed over the years.

Powerful thoughts, these. They move the immovable, breaking down the "tions" (assumptions, conventions, and preconceptions). They prove that we don't have to calcify as we get older—we can evolve.

The latest one has me completely rethinking "survivorship".

Conventionally, survivorship is defined thusly:
Survivorship: In cancer, survivorship covers the physical, psychosocial, and economic issues of cancer, from diagnosis until the end of life. It includes issues related to the ability to get health care and follow up treatment, late effects of treatment, second cancers, and quality of life.

Lance Armstrong is the poster boy for survivorship (ah, there's the cycling connection). His personal struggle with survivorship led to his deeply driven, public crusade to battle cancer on all fronts. It matters not what we may think of him as a person or as a cyclist, within the cancer context he is Saint Lance.

Sepia = Serious. Passchendaele, World War I
But that is the Lance of recent memory—the Lance of today, the champion cyclist cum anti-cancer advocate. Like all of us who have survived, he struggled. Not just to get on the bike, but with life in cancer's wake. He was tired, overwhelmed, downtrodden—a shell of his former self—physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually. Battling cancer takes a heavy toll. Like Sherman's march on Georgia or the trench warfare in the Ardennes, it razes all, leaving desolation in its wake.

Yet, nature finds a way. Razed lands nurture new crops. Deep forests emerge from the desolation. Life begins anew. .

"Live with Purpose"

I got an email from a fellow Pelotonia rider and cancer survivor. He signed off thusly: "Live with Purpose"


He is a constant encouragement to not simply glide through life, but to be conscious and present in our lives. To be mindful. To be there.

Saying (or writing) it is far harder than it may sound. Life may begin anew, but it must first struggle to break through the trodden soil and the cracks of our former lives. The ever-present seeds of life must break free, haltingly emerge, and endure before they can flourish once again.

Survivorship matters. But getting beyond it is the greater goal. It is not enough to survive. We must thrive.

"I'm in Cancer 'Stage S'"

Survivorship is a stage. It is a step. It is the period when you are in remission, getting checkups, and regrouping. It is when you are looking through the pieces of what was once your life. It is a time of fitful starts, when you collide headlong into barriers—some of your own making—and rebound into some other, unforeseen circumstance.

Here's a general description of cancer's stages.
It's when you start to take root once again, making a new life.

I experienced it. Lance experienced it.

Then we—somehow—got beyond it.

Cancer's stages have unique characteristics. We are accustomed to hearing about "Stage IV" or "Stage IIB". They are shorthand descriptions of cancer's advancement through our bodies.

Rodin's Gates of Hell. Not a pretty place.
"Stage S" is my label for survivorship. At some point, all non-terminal cases end up here.

But Stage S is not a destination; it is a stage. It is a gate through which we aspire to pass. All those long nights, all those troubled daydreams, all those dark and heavy emotions—depletion, emptiness, loss, sorrow, and anger—are a visceral hell on Earth—a suffering Dante would recognize, Milton could describe, and Rodin could realize.

The dark days of survivorship will have their time. They must. But we are not meant to dwell there. We are built of sterner stuff; our lives were made for something greater.

Stage S is a place of transience, not residence. It may take us years to leave, and many of us will fail, but those who persist can achieve the next stage: "Stage T"

"I'm in Cancer 'Stage T'"

Thrive, Don't Just Survive

Stage T cancer is when you are living with purpose—mindfully, consciously. It is when you are making real the promise of your renewed life.

Verdant. Lush. Earthy. Organic. Thriving. That's a pretty place.
It is the rebuilding phase, when you actively discard the unwanted from your old life and create new history—day by day.

Saint Lance is in Stage T. The Lance Armstrong Foundation is one manifestation of his new life. His comeback, during which he actively promoted cancer awareness and activism—meeting with global leaders to secure committments to battle cancer—is another powerful example of cancer's Stage T.

I'm not Lance. But I do—with all humility—consider myself to be passing through Stage S and into Stage T.

For me, living with purpose means:
  • Writing this blog
  • Being a partner—not just a husband to BCB (Beautiful and Charming Bride)
  • Being present in my children's lives—not just a father to my LAs (Little Angels)
  • Riding 200 miles per week (in the summer)
  • Sharing my love for riding and fitness by teaching spin classes and coaching the Iron Chicas
  • Fundraising for cancer research
But I don't always get it right. In fact, I probably get it wrong more than I get it right. But I am mindful. I am conscious. I am purposeful

Stage S is the period of recovery and indecision.

Stage T is the rest of your life.

It is realizing your promise as a person and your promises that you have made. Not everyone gets there. Many struggle within Stage S and never emerge. It is hard, hard work.

Socrates is credited with stating: "the unexamined life is not worth living." It is a truth that avoids a simple (yet critical) fact: examining one's life is hard. Looking at one's self critically requires more than studious navel-gazing. It goes deeper. It requires you to ask: who do you want to be?

Every Day, for the Rest of Your Life

The Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog.
Caspar David Friedrich
Staying in Stage T is a daily exercise. It is a daily affirmation. It is a struggle that has its good and bad days. When things are going well, cancer is a distant memory—something you witnessed from the window of your speeding train. It lingers for a moment, but recedes as the new landscape—exciting, new, filled with promise—rushes forward into your consciousness.

When things are going badly, your private hell beckons.

I imagine this experience most closely resembles the struggle of recovering addicts. I suspect that they follow a similar path, through Stage S and into Stage T. I know theirs, too, is a daily exercise. We can learn from one another.

What happens next? I don't know. Where do you go when you have passed through into a time when your life has meaning?

From my vantage point, the next stage is the realm of gurus, spiritual leaders, and shamans. Wise folk who can guide, but who will not direct. Experienced and knowledgeable people for whom the definition of "humanity" extends beyond my understanding.

Yep, it's woo-woo stuff. When we aspire to be more, we must imagine more.

But isn't that what life is all about?


Friday, August 13, 2010

We're Making Progress (Pelotonia Fundraising)

Friday, August 13, 2010

Here's where we stand with fundraising for 2010 Pelotonia:

Not Bad.

But...we can do better...

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Please Help Me Ride Cancer Into the Ground

I write today to ask you to help me ride cancer into the ground. Please support my ride with Pelotonia.

Last year we raised $4.5 million to fund cancer research at The James**.

That's a nice number. Unfortunately, other numbers tell a less-pleasing tale: nearly 1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women will develop cancer during their lifetime. Some day, in some way, cancer will impact your life.

100% of all Pelotonia donations go directly to finding cures to the myriad diseases known collectively as "cancer". The event is underwritten to make sure that all contributions are directed to this life-saving work.

My personal goal is to raise $4,000.

Please help.


I am proof that cancer can be beaten. Four years ago I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of testicular cancer. Everything changed. I was turned inside-out.

I'm still here.

I'm stronger than before.

And I don't want you or any of your loved ones to go through what I—and my family—went through.

Please help.


The ride is in Columbus, but its cause crosses all borders. Cancer's reach is everywhere.

I am going to ride my bike 180 miles over two days to help raise awareness and give a specific focus to my fundraising efforts.

180 miles. Like I said: I'm stronger.

But it's not about the bike.

It's about celebrating my cancer experience.

It's about the cancer community.

It's about riding these diseases into the ground, defying them, grinding them underfoot, and declaring: "no more!"

Please help.


I know that this is a bold request. Mine is an ambitious goal.

$4,000 seems like a lot of money. But when you compare it to the costs of crushing cancer, it's but a drop in a very large barrel. .

Your help—in any amount—makes a difference.

Last year someone donated $2.00. It was what he had to give. He simply wanted to help.

In that spirit, I humbly ask you to donate what you can, if you can.

Every dollar counts.

Please help.

For your time and your consideration, I thank you.
**Officially, "The James" is the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center - James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute. It's one of only 40 centers in the United States designated by the National Cancer Institute as a Comprehensive Cancer Center. The James is a national leader in creating and testing new therapies based on scientific research, many of which are offered nowhere else in the world.

Maybe the Stolen Bike Was a Good Thing?

Today is Thursday: bike commute day. But not today, because my bike was stolen last week.

And this morning, I am thankful, for today I took the bus.

A vicious storm raged through Silver Spring. Had I been on my bike, I would have been right in the center of it.
  • Heavy rain? check
    (at a rate of 4-5 inches an hour)
  • Lightning? check
    (More than 800 strikes, according to the weather folks.)
  • Hail? check
  • Felled trees? check
  • Felled trees on cars? check
  • Flooding? check
  • Power outages? check
    (more than 100,000 customers in the dark)

Sligo Creek Parkway was underwater. So much for that route.

Rock Creek was flooded. There were rescues performed due to the flash floods.

Today is Thursday: bike commute day. But not today, because my bike was stolen last week.

And this morning, I am thankful.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

I'm Tired...

The Teutonic Titwillow has it right**...I'm tired.

Sunday I did more hill repeats. Lots of hill repeats. Ten hill repeats. Roughly two hours of hill repeats.

Sunday I rode 67 miles in 4 hours. Meh. So what?

Sunday I rode ~4,250 feet. Of the repeats, 9 of the 10 featured grades at or above 18%.


I'm tired.

Pelotonia is less than two weeks away. I'm nearly ready.

**YouTube has disabled the embed code for the Blazing Saddles version of this song. This version is from Comic Relief...

Friday, August 6, 2010

Celebrating Cancer...Happy Anniversary!

Yesterday was a bad day. I am, however, making lemonade from lemons. It's time to build a cyclocross bike.

But that is a story for a different day. Today's tale is about a special day.

This day—today—August 6th—is the day I choose to celebrate my cancer experience.


You read it correctly: celebrate my cancer experience. Be patient...I'll get there...

Milestones and Celebrations

A little of Ray's philosophy...

It's better than a photo of childbirth...
Each of our lives has its milestones. Beginning with that whole screaming-into-the-world-all-sightlessly-pink-and-purple-and-slimy birth experience, we mark our time in this life with events of great importance. These should all sound familiar: first day of school, first kiss, first lover, high school graduation, college graduation, first can picture the timeline in your head, with tick marks at the appropriate (and approximate) dates for each.

Annually, we celebrate the truly special milestones: our wedding day, the birth dates of our children, the day we committed to sobriety, our own howling-pink day. These are the days that deserve greater attention. On these days we do more than mark time. We celebrate

In my experience (coughs for dramatic effect) these celebrations have three phases: the oh-my-god-we/I-can't-believe-it's-another-year-already phase, the I-am-in-the-moment-of-the-celebration/anti-celebration phase, and the what-the-future-will-bring phase. They can occur in any order, and they most likely will overlap and crash into one another (with unpredictable consequences). There is no pattern, there is merely completeness; in other words, when all three elements get their due, you have a complete celebration. Eliminate one, and you have diminishment.

Let's look at them:
  • Oh-my-god-we/I-can't-believe-it's-another-year-already: This phase surveys the landscape of our experience. It seeks perspective. It contextualizes.

    When in this phase we are reflective—even if we don't share it with others (or even with our conscious selves). It's the "I/We got here" moment. "Please be upstanding for me/us!" It's the moment when pride steps in, makes an appearance, and shines like a supernova (or throws grenades, depending on you ego's state at that time).

    It's the time of regrets (I've had a few...) and recriminations. If we're not careful, we can get mired in its muck.

  • Party! Party! Party!
  • I-am-in-the-moment-of-the-celebration/anti-celebration: Here is *here*. It's that silent moment in the middle of the event when you step outside yourself and see yourself in the middle of it all—and let yourself go. It's when you realize that feeling good feels good, and that you can allow yourself to enjoy the feeling. It's savory. It's the moment when that fabulous dessert explodes with flavor, tantalizing your tongue with delicious joy.

    It's a time of narcissism, and therin lies the rub. Too much is mental masturbation—empty self-pleasure. Lingering here gives you a hangover of the spirit for which there is no "morning after" cure. Alternatively, "anti-celebration" is that terrible moment when you step outside yourself and...shackle yourself. It's when you declare yourself unworthy of the joyful moment.

  • You know this is a serious conversation
    because...he's in sepia tone!
  • What-the-future-will-bring: This is when we wonder. It's when we cast our gaze forward with an unsure hand. It's an emotional journey that mixes enthusiasm and trepidation, clashes imagination with reality, confronts optimism with pessimism, and gives flight to our audacities and anxieties. All our contradictions have their moment—the dominant ones overshadowing our lesser foibles—releasing themselves in our future visions.

    What dreams may come when we free ourselves to wonder? What nightmares, too? You can see the risk. Lingering here is a trap. Do we dream, or do we fantasize? Neal Peart, philosopher and drummer (you may have heard of his band...Rush) expresses it beautifully: "fantasies are futile, self-defeating. But dreams? Dreams are beautiful, life-affirming and powerful.

True Celebrations

You see the challenge. All celebrations mix these elements together. True celebrations, however, possess a beautiful alchemy, where balance is achieved among the contradictions, and each element has its moment in the sunshine of your consciousness. We seldom recognize the challenge for what it is. We see its component parts, but we fail to see them in context. It's a major cause of distress. How many times have you been a part of a celebration that failed to celebrate? What was missing? Where was the imbalance? Who lingered where? Past? Present? Future?

Effing Hades! What About the Cancer Already?

I celebrate my cancer experience—my odyssey—because it broke me. It broke me in so many ways and into so many pieces that I still don't recognize me. I am picking up the pieces, dusting them off, considering them, and either retaining or rejecting. What do I keep? What do I toss?

I am forging a new life from the scraps, building around the core me that remains.

I'm not particularly a Talking Heads fan, but the song "Once in a Lifetime" resonates:
You may ask yourself, where does that highway lead to?
You may ask yourself, am I right, am I wrong?
You may ask yourself, my god, what have I done?
Letting the days go by, let the water hold me down.
The Topic of Cancer

On August 6, 2006 I underwent RPLND surgery. I was turned inside-out.


I survived.

I have no desire to let the water hold me down. I am learning to swim again. I am jettisoning those things that held me underwater. But it is a process. Sometimes slow. Sometimes abrupt.

And it is a cause for celebration. A True Celebration: intentional, committed, and aware.

Happy cancer day, self. Carpe diem.

My Bike Was Stolen In DC

My bike was stolen this morning, and I am bitter. It's challenging my ability to make lemonade from lemons.
We bid you "adieu"...

This is not be my usual style of post....I had planned to blog today about my one man revolution to improve the surliness of cyclists in Rock Creek park (it is going to involve waving and saying a cheerful "hello", despite the grousing, grumbling, and grumpiness I see every time I ride through there). it might have been humorous.

It certainty would have been entertaining.

Now I get to blog about my experience of a stolen bicycle.

Just the Facts, Man

I rode my morning commute route into DC, pulled up in front of the YMCA on Rhode Island Avenue, and dutifully locked my bike to one of the many permanent racks there. I had a cable lock, and I looped it through both wheels and my seat. I then looped it through the rack.

The scene of the crime...

Inside I went, seeking a shower and a few conversations about my new role as a spin class instructor. Cleansed and informed, I went back outside to mount my steed for the short (two block) trip to the office.

I walked to the rack...and nada.

Mere vapor where my bike should have been.


Someone else was unlocking her bike as I cursed. I told her my bike had just been stolen. She was shocked.

I then walked the ten paces over to the welcome table the Y has set up for the Day Camp kids. Five young men and women were there. No one saw anything. And who could blame them? A score or more cyclists lock their bikes in the mornings. Cyclists are so much background noise to them.

...but not your bike...

Inside, better information, one of the gentlemen who works at the Y said that he had seen someone sitting near the bike (that turned out to have been mine). He looked "suspicious". He was described as a tall, thin, black man with a grey floppy hat. (Aside: the person doing the describing is from the Caribbean, and he used the term "black". My generation can be a bit confused about the use of the terms "African American" and "Black". That's a subject for a different blog on a different day. Fortunately, it is not my description.)

Y employee looked him over, but couldn't see what he was doing. He filed the experience away, and was distressed to learn that my now-stolen bike was the bike that the suspect was sitting near. No one else saw anything else.

What to Do? (Metropolitan Police Oddnesses)

My conversations with the folks at the Y informed me that there have been at least four bikes stolen from there this summer. So, I figured that I should file a police report.

I wonder if any of these lot will help crack the case...
I called the general DC police number and was given another number to file a report. That number linked me into the 911 system. Odd, it was't an emergency. And I did not dial 911.

No worries, I was told. So I gave the basic information to the dispatcher, who told me I would get a call to file the report by phone.

Less than an hour later, I received a phone call from a heavily-accented male. Very heavily accented. An accent from the Indian sub-continent. Odd, I thought. I don't imagine that there are many heavily-accented Indians in the Metropolitan Police Department.

I gave my report. When he heard that I had a potential witness, he suggested that he dispatch a unit to the scene of the crime to take a statement.  "Cool," I thought. At least it will be official.

Long story longer, the officer was on scene prior to my arrival. he had already interviewed Y employee, and he informed me that there was very little he could do. He also set the expectation that it was unlikely that I would ever recover the stolen item.

Fair enough. At least I have done my due diligence in the matter.

The Aftermath

Bike, gone. No expectations of finding it again. As a member of my team wrote me: "your donation to the community, while unwitting, is appreciated none the less". I'll be sure to claim it on my taxes.

Insurance will cover part of the cost to replace, so I'm not going to let this get me too down.

I'm certainly not going to let this keep me from the commute. The solution? Ride directly to work and lock the bike in the garage. Walk to the gym to de-louse. Move along. Time to focus. I have a ton of parts sitting around, squirreled away over the years. And I really want a cyclocross bike.

So, let's get cracking! Let's build a bike!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

For the Iron Chicas: Tapering

Here's some quick advice on tapering prior to IronGirl.

Tapering means that you take it very easy the week before the race. You will not lose any cardio fitness if you "rest" for 5 days.

The trick is to manage your eating while tapering. The week before the race eat "clean". Only eat foods you are familiar with, and avoid chips and other crap that directly destroy performance. No red meat or fried foods. Fruit, vegetable, fish, chicken, whole grains, yoghurt.

My suggestion is that you do a final, hard workout Saturday or Sunday prior. Then, on Tuesday, do something light and fun for one hour. Ride the bike without hard climbs. Jog without pushing. If you can mix these with an easy swim (for a total of 60 minutes of activity) that's even better. Stretch well. Really well. Take the time to know your tight, problem areas. The purpose of this is to let the muscles work without damaging them, while elevating your heart rate into zone 2 (effort should be such that you can chat with a training partner without gasping for breath).

Then, on Friday, do something again. Even less strenuous. The purpose here is to make sure everything is loose and perform a "system check up". Anything hurt? Anything tight? Now is the time to address it. Again, stretching is important, as is "getting into yourself".

I believe that the taper week is critical for two reasons. First, it let's your body heal and restore itself, so that you are as near to 100% as possible for the event. Second, it enables you to get your headspace right. Take the time during the week, and during those light workouts, to focus on what you've learned and what the race will be.

Visualize. Focus on one key to each leg (swim, bike, run) and master it...inside. And make it positive.
  • It should NOT be: "don't do X".
  • It SHOULD be: "finish strong over hill Y".
Specific. Positive. Visual.

Don't make it general, like "keep a high cadence". Better would be "keep a high cadence up highland road".

Make it so real that you can taste, smell, and sense it. The result is that when you are in the event you already have the memory of success. It works.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

For the Iron Chicas (Longest. Post. Ever.)

chica: A name for a girl, preferably an extremely hot girl, that you find pride in just knowing her.
Saturday was the official Iron Chica Cycling Clinic, held at Chez Ramy. I did some basic fitting and mechanicals with the bikes, and provided a lot of notes on basic cycling technique, logistics, and mental focus. We then went on a ride in terrain very similar to that of the Iron Girl bike route.

Rather than a full account, I need to post my notes for the lay-deees.

On Your Body
  • Bliss!
    As the man says: "protect your junk!"
  • Ice
    If it's a brutally hot day, consider placing a long, ice-filled sock (or stocking) down the back of your jersey. Leave it in a cooler in the transition area along with some iced drinks.
  • Driver's license, health insurance card, credit card, $20
    If you get into real trouble, you'll need these things. If not originals, make a copy of them and place the paper into a Ziploc. Carry in your jersey/top.

In Your Bag
You are responsible for your own ride support. Translation; if you flat, you have problems—like a flat—you need to handle it! So, make sure you have the following in your bag:
  • Tire Levers (Do NOT use anything metal, you will destroy things!)
  • Tube(s)
  • Patch Kit
  • Pump (or C02 cartridges...if CO2, have the inflation trigger!)
  • Multi tool (something like this...don't buy anything more complex until you know how to use the tools on it!)
  • Money (to bribe race officials...)

In Your Belly

Eat 2-3 hours beforehand. Eat a mix of protein, simple carbohydrates (sugars), and complex carbohydrates (steel cut oatmeal, whole grain rice, quinoa), and some caffeine. Protein is long-lasting, helps fill you, and provides mental clarity. Simple carbohydrates give you the immediate fuel that your rampant, raging pre-race anxiety needs, so you don't get the shakes. Complex carbohydrates give you the long-burn energy you need to get you through the start of the race. Caffeine makes you poop.

My perfect pre-event meal:
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup steel-cut oatmeal (the long-cooking kind)
  • 2 squares dark chocolate
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground chimayo or chipotle chile
Mix entire contents in a a bowl and heat in microwave. Add 1 splash of milk or 1 tablespoon plain yogurt to texture and taste. Enjoy with a cup of green tea or coffee.

This is what I call a "yucky-yummie" meal. It looks like crap, but it tastes divine!

During the race make sure that you top-off your fuel. 45 minutes of activity eliminates your blood glycogen levels. Considering the activity happening immediately pre-swim (unless you are well-focused your heart rate will be in Zone 2 just from nerves), you will probably exhaust this blood-fuel reserve when you complete the swim.

We all tolerate foods differently. Experiment with gels, energy drinks, and real foods. I have different strategies for different days, depending on how I feel and what my goals are.

For example, pre-collarbone I was training for the Columbia Tri. I tolerate almond butter or peanut butter (1/2 sandwiches) really well. I planned to have one ready at T1, shoving it in my mouth as I got to my transition for the bike, chewing and swallowing as I dressed and moved through T1. I also planned to have a few gels in my jersey, to let me stay fueled as I approached the run.

Manage your hydration. If you can (prior to the race), weigh yourself before a hard workout in the heat. The idea is to see how quickly your body cools (via perspiration) in the heat. When you workout, remember how much you drank. Then weigh yourself immediately after the workout (before re-hydrating, and after urinating, if you have the inclination).

The weight change, minus the weight of water you drank (one bottle = ~1 pound) will be your lost water weight. If you lose 1-2 pounds it is not a big deal. If you are losing more, you need to drink more.

For example, the Sunday after our clinic I had a hard, four-hour ride that featured hill repeats. I weighed 181 when I left the house. I drank four bottles. I weighed 172 when I got home.

181 (pre) - 172 (post) = 9 (total change)
9 (total change) - 4 = 5

I was hurting. I was 5 bottles down. I needed to drink 3-4 more bottles that day.

If you notice, had I drunk one bottle every half-hour (for a total of eight bottles), I would have managed myself very well.

What kind of sweater are you? →

Now, there are a lot of factors that affect the results. If I had filled one of Amy's sexie fishnet stockings with ice and thrust it down my, er...shirt, it would have helped me cool (and thus not sweat so much). If I had soaked my hair beforehand, it would have helped, but not as much as it would help you chicas, since you have more hair that I do. Again, I recommend a cooler at T1 and T2 with cold bottles available for dumping over yourself. It will help cool you (and it will help overheat all the males spectators...nothing quite like soaking wet hotties to get the blood flowing!)

Kim had a great point when she said that she didn't want to have the feeling of water sloshing around in her belly during the run. There are a few solutions to this. One is to sip water every few minutes. Don't gulp down mouthfuls. Again, everyone has different tolerances for this sort of thing. Another solution is to try to front-load your drinking. Make sure any volume is consumed early. There is risk here, especially if you are a heavy sweater. You will still need to sip.

Regardless of how you manage it, if it is a hot day you will need to drink during the run. I don't know of an elegant way to grab a cup at a water station and drink it on the run. When I watch the pros, they grab the cups and throw the liquid in the general direction of their faces. Inelegant, but at least some of it gets down their throats!

I'm sure some of the husbands would be happy to practice this technique...

In Your Head

This is Amy's race, Kay's race, Kim's race, and Val's race. It's not Amy, Kay, Kim, and Val's race. Do you spot the difference?

You need to stay within yourself. You each have strengths and weaknesses. You each have likes and dislikes. Decide before the race what you are planning to do, and do it. Don't make decisions on the fly (unless it is at the very end, during the run), because your brain will be overloaded. During the race you need to focus on you and your plan. There will be a ton of distractions.

Don't place yourself in this position:

Or this one:

Make a race plan. For example (again, and will he please stop relating everything to himself?), my plan for Columbia was this: survive the swim, rock the ride, relax the run.


Survive the swim meant that I would get from point A to point B, eventually. I would place absolutely no stress on myself whatsoever. I am coming off shoulder surgery, so its not like I was going to get all Mark Spitz on everyone. Rock the bike meant that I planned to go balls out on the bike leg. I was seriously looking for a top 10 placement in my age group for that leg. Relax the run meant that I would flow with the run and let whatever happened happen. I am not generally a strong runner, but if I find a rhythm, I can motor. I would let myself relax and see what happened.

Make a plan and stick to it. Don't get creative yet (you need more experience for that). The caveat is that if you are on the run and feeling good, go for it. You're at the end, so let 'er rip!

Place yourself in this position (~1:30 in):

On Your Bike

We talked about a lot during our ride last Saturday. As a reminder, you were on terrain very similar to what you will experience during the race. The profile (over there, on the right) should give you some context regarding the hills.

You did this! →

Saturday you all rode more than 15 miles. Val had the privilege of riding a little more. You all are capable of completing the ride comfortably--not just complete it, but ride it with some authority.

Pedal Stroke: Most athletic endeavors involve head games. Cycling is no different. A good pedal stroke is a round pedal stroke. Don't just pound the pedals downward. You all have clipless (click-in) pedals for a reason: they enable you to pull up.

And a good pedal stroke uses more than your legs. Your glutes, lower back. And lower abs need to work as well. For a really solid, powerful stroke, make sure that you engage your abs by drawing your bellybutton to your spine. That tension provides a lever, supporting your lower body.

I couldn't resist (audio only):

Here are a few mental tricks to get a decent stroke:

  • Scrape the dog poop off your soles. This will get you focusing on pulling across the bottom and up, using your hamstrings.
  • Knees to your boobs. Focus on your knee movement, bringing your kneecaps up to your chest. This will engage your hip flexors, removing focus from quadriceps and hamstrings (while maintaining a round stroke)
  • Powerful pistons. Imagine that your legs are chugging and down like a machine. The fulcrum is your arse. This gets your buttocks working. You are the Captain of the Enterprise, command your butt to "engage".

Cadence: I won't be there in person, but I will be there in spirit. If you drop to a slow cadence, below 90rpm, you are taxing your muscles too much. Ypu are pushing along rather than spinning along. If you do this I will sneak up through your competition-addled mind and scream "cadence!"

It is far more efficient to spin than to power.

Positions: Move around on the saddle, a little forward here and a little forward there. Get out of the saddle on occasion—even when you don't need that power. .

Shifting positions let's you engage different muscles and relieved numbtush (that's a technical term for when your Bliss-kissed zones get numb from the seat).

Breathing: Deep, belly breathing will help you regulate your energy and power. This is especially true during hard efforts. Use your diaphragm like a bellows to suck the air into your engine and then purge it completely.

You can't breathe that way the whole ride, but you can use it to manage yourself.

Gearing: In the front, the big chainring is harder than the little chainring.

In the rear, the big cog is easier than the little cog.

Practice shifting blindly, frequently. You want to get to the point where you don't even think about the direction of your shifting. Take the time on a ride to just shift.

You'll realize a lot of benefit, quickly.

Shifting: Remember: it's not about the gear you're in, it's about the gear you need to be in.

Always think ahead. If you're approaching a corner or a stop sign, downshift (make it easier) beforehand so that you are already in the proper gear when you get going again.

It's the same thing on a hill, going up or down. Shift early and often. Don't ever be in the situation where you can't turn the pedals over—because you are in too hard a gear. Making your chain pop, clank, or grind is worse than bad form, you can do real damage to your bike and (in worse case) strand yourself.

Flats: When riding on relatively flat ground focus on breathing, rhythm, and roundness. This is your chance to relieve muscles. Find a comfortable zone and CRANK!

Downhill: When the warm embrace of gravity is upon you, and you find yourself accelerating to uncomfortable speeds, you still need to pedal.


Thin of yourself as an engine, powering the bike. If you shot off the engine, it takes work to get it started again. Similarly, you should keep pedaling (soft pedaling) when going downhill**. You do not need to be in a high cadence, just keep the legs working. it will maintain your heart rate, making it easier for you to resume effort. (You will need to be in a bigger gear to support this.)

**Of course, the exception is when you are going too fast to pedal. I don't know if any of you will achieve this, since with your gearing you won't get there until you are at more than 37 mph. If you do get to this point, you want to tuck down out of the wind and make yourself invisible. Then, when you come across the nadir of the hill, start pedaling as soon as you feel the sharp edge of your speed dullyou will know when this happens.

Let's be honest, you need to find your comfort zone with speed. I know that Val has just gone to narrower tires, this will affect her stability. Kim is on a new bike, until you have descended a bunch, you won't know your limits. Patience is good. Panic is not. Have fun with it.

Finally, remember that other people will be all around you. You will overtake and you will get passed. Many of these folks will be as uncomfortable as you are. Communication is key. If you are about to pass (and you will!), you need to SHOUT "On Your Left!"

Between the mental focus and the wind noise, you really need to shout it out. They will appreciate it.

Uphill: You do not conquer hills, you manage them.

That hill was there before you were born, and it will be there for many, many years to come. Riding hills is almost entirely mental.

Mentally, you need to focus inward, not outward. Go deep. Breathe deep. Listen to your heart. Feel your legs. With increased effort the deep, deep muscles close to the bone awaken. Feel the blood flow there. Right when you think you're done, drive deeper and focus inside.

She's gone deep to go steep! →

Climbing hills is all about you. It's not about the hill. Like the 20-mile barrier for a marathoner, a hill will teach you something about yourself. Let yourself listen.

That said, there are a few techniques that can help.

Spin it out: It is far more efficient to sit and spin up a hill. It's what the pros do. When you get out of the saddle, you are powering up a climb. It's fine to do it, but it is not sustainable.

Here's an analogy. When you start your ride you have a book of matches. Every time you power up, you burn a match. Sometimes you burn several at one time—going white hot for a few seconds. The problem is that you only have one book of matches. If you run out, you're done.

You only have so many matches. Use them wisely. →

Don't be "The Man' in To Build a Fire. Keep your matches dry, and use them wisely.

Right gear, before you need it. You need to think ahead. There are two ways to go: harder, or easier. What you do depends on the hill and on you.

The worst thing you can do is to start up a hill, decelerating, and get to the point where you HAVE TO SHIFT while slowly grinding, placing a lot of torque on the pedals. When you shift in this situation, you will hear an unwholesome pow, ping, or crack. You may be fine. Or, you may damage something. You might lose the chain. Avoid these situations. Shift early and often.

If you plan to stay in the saddle and carry momentum up the hill, you need to downshift (make it easier) just as you feel your speed diminish ("the sharp edge dulls"). If you are in the big front chainring, an easy technique is to downshift into the smaller front chainring. You may spin a but, so you may need to adjust your rear shift, but you will have placed yourself in a position to continue your roll.

If you plan to stand and power up, burning some matches on the early part of the hill, or if it is a small roller, upshift (go harder) 1-2 gears AS YOU GET OUT OF THE SADDLE. When you stomp on the pedals, you are applying significant force, quickly. You need the gear to be harder so that the value of your effort is not lost.

It should be a smooth motion. Just as you are rising out of the seat to stroke with your dominant leg, upshift. You can then downshift after a few strokes to maintain a comfortable cadence.

Remember: it's not about the gear you're in, it's about the gear you need to be in.

Tawking: You are not out there on your own. be considerate of your fellow racers. You might save someone a trip to the hospital.
  • When slowing shout: "SLOW!"
  • When stopping shout: "STOP!" (it's not very complicated...)
  • If there is a car approaching from the front, shout "CAR UP!"
  • If there is a car approaching from the front, shout "CAR BACK!"
  • If you are passing, shout "ON YOUR LEFT" (and only pass on the left)
  • If you are suffering, shout "ARRRRRUUURRRRGHHHHH!"
  • When you get that endorphin rush, shout incoherently.

You do need to shout. No one can hear you otherwise. Consider it primal scream therapy.

And when it is good, remember that the kids aren't in the next room. Go ahead and let it rip, bang the headboards, and yell "OH! MY! GOD!

It works.

Enjoy the event, my chicas! I know you will be fabulous!