Thursday, September 29, 2011

So, You've Never Been Here Before?

It's on.

I'm Wheelsucker.

I'm a guy, a dad, a cyclist, and a cancer survivor.

This is my blog.

Well, it's one of my blogs.

I have another blog. It's more along professional lines. It has a (mildly) clever title, but it needs more content. It hasn't matured yet. It's still seeking its voice.

But I digress.

Sorry, I do that a lot.

I'm delighted that you're here!

I suspect that some of you have come here from Pelotonia's "The Rider" blog.

Welcome. Welcome! WELCOME!

Take a look around! It's not dangerous. It may entertain. It may...affect you. It's a labor of love, and I am overjoyed when I get feedback!

Wheelsucker Diaries is an outlet for me. It's my place to write about thriving, not just surviving.

I also write a little cycling—amateur and pro. It gets a bit silly, sometimes.

If you're looking for Pelotonia stuff, you can select "Pelotonia" under "Labels". (It's down there on the right, beneath the Blog Archive.)

Leading up to Pelotonia 11, I wrote ten posts in ten days.

They started with my celebrating my 5th year cancer-free.

They concluded with a re-posting of a Pelotonia 10 post (that I couldn't improve).

They cover sexiness, coolness, geekiness, money, expectations, commitment, and they culminate in a four-part (yeah, it's epic) ride report about Pelotonia 11 (Day 1).

So, again, I welcome you! Poke around. Stay awhile!

Share and enjoy!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Two Words: Mark Cavendish

Long-time club teammates battled
for the rainbow Jersey.
Frantic. Maniac. Terrifying. Blinding. Breathless.

That describes the final 500 meters of the 2011 World Cycling Championships.

If you haven't seen it, you're missing a finish for the ages.

Uphill, after a final right-hand turn into the final strait, the final bunch sprint was always going to go to the man with the most power.

"Of course," you say, "isn't that always the case?"


Sometimes luck has her say. Sometimes guile plays its part. Sometimes it's pure speed. Sometime it's power. And rarely, it's because of a team. The rainbow jersey doesn't always go to the fastest...but it always goes where it is most deserved.

In 2009 Cadel Evans won, with a clever attack at precisely the right moment. He soloed to victory as the other contenders squabbled among themselves.

In 2010 Thor Hushovd won from a small group, using his massive power to carry his massive carriage over the final climbs in Geelong. Power and guile won the day Down Under.

This year was predicted to be a day for the sprinters. The course was largely flat, and it was certainly not difficult enough to cause a selection. The final ramp to the finish, however, was reminiscent of several stages in the past two Tours. It had enough slope to slow the final sprint, making the effort longer than a classic flat sprint. As a result, while many believed that Cavendish could win, others pointed to the possibility of Hushovd repeating last year's triumph.

Predictions are like opinions, everyone has one. And they're usually worth less than the paper they were written upon.

Cavendish won because he is an amazing talent, and because he was the undisputed leader of an eight-man team from Great Britain. That team worked. They controlled the race all day, and they protected Cav until that final turn. Much like the HTC-Columbia train that dominated sprints over the past few years, Great Britain lined up and drove the pack.

Cavendish said after the race: "There couldn't be another
result, after the way the guys rode today. We had
eight of the best guys in the world...They took the
race on from start to finish and we won."
Truer, more graceful words have seldom been
uttered by a newly-crowned World Champion.
It was lovely to watch.

It was inspiring.

And it is a new chapter in the ongoing saga: "Cycling Is a Team Sport."

So, back to Cavendish.

In the final 500 meters, he found himself alone and boxed-in by the remaining contenders. His experience pointed the way, and his 1600+ watt legs powered him. He had to start his kick earlier than is his preference, and if the race were just a few meters longer, he would have been passed by his club teammate Matt Goss.

But if wishes were fishes we'd never do dishes.

And the win went to the most deserving: the fastest rider from the best team. party in Piccadilly!

So, look out world! Cycling's enfant terrible is in the rainbow jersey!


(And doesn't this make the 2012 Olympics even MORE interesting?)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

My First Coaching Gig!

This week I start coaching cyclocross with members of my team.

And one of the LAs is in the class!

We'll be teaching the basics, once a week for eight weeks.

And like any addicted blogger, I created a NEW blog for the class.

Check it out!

The first real post explains what cyclocross is, and what it isn't.

This is gonna be great!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Pelotonia Interlude: Highlights and Lowlights in Athens

I've been working on my write-up for Day 2.

It's not ready yet.

And, of course, there's more to the story of Day 1.

Unfortunately, I don't get paid to write this blog, and The Man needs my attention.

So do BCB and the LAs; and they deserve it!

I am accepting that I will never capture it all. I have some memories that will last a lifetime. Other memories will fade into time-fogged images formed more from emotion than reality—the impressionist art of our collected past.

For today, here are a few highlights and lowlights from Athens.


Highlights included seeing volunteer queen extraordinare and absolute cutie Liz (and having her recognize me). Each year she was a beacon of support—for so many. She was always up (even at 0530) and ready for the challenge.

A Brief Digression

Here's an example...

Pelotonia 2010. I finished with the top 20 riders. We were in Athens just after noon. While most of the bags had made it, mine had not. I was standing there, stupidly, exhausted and unsteady on my feet, still wearing my soaking kit and bike shoes, with absolutely no ability to think.

No bag = no shower.

No bag = no personal support (food, clothes, teddy bear).

No bag = no anchor; no clue.

She's the woman in charge—she should be!
She's darned good!
And she's a cutie!
I looked at her blankly. I think I said something like: "Point me in a direction."

She put her hands on my shoulders, looked me in the eye, and said: "Go get some food. Relax. I'll handle this. When your bag gets here, I'll come find you."

I did as I was told. I got some food. I relaxed. I let her handle it.

The next thing I knew (time meant nothing; I could have been sitting there for 10 minutes or an hour), I got a tap on my shoulder from another volunteer, who directed me to my bag, and offered to carry it for me.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is volunteer support at its finest!

Back to the highlights

What else did I enjoy?

  • I loved watching others finish. Everyone has a story. The joy and catharsis is inspiring.
  • I enjoyed telling parts of my story in interviews. Shameless self-promotion? You cynic! I prefer to think of it as furthering my mission as a Thriver.
  • I love the randomness of conversations at the finish. People approach other people to congratulate or appreciate, and warm personal exchanges manifest. It's an absolute joy to soak in the positivity and the overwhelming heart of the finish.


Somebody's got to write it.

To quote Genius Ed:   "We can do more. We can do better, and the best time to fix next year is right now."

The scalding hot-hot-hot showers in the convocation center left something to be desired. In a way it was funny—we all wanted a hot shower after the ride. But the complete lack of cold water was ridiculous. I know that Pelotonia could not control it, but it is worth mentioning...

I was lucky—I got in early enough to get a (very short) massage. Unfortunately,
the lack of massage and chiropractic was disappointing. I applaud those who showed and offered their services. I hope there can be some incentives put in place for future events, to ensure this support for the riders—especially the late arrivals. They were told that there was a four-to-six hour wait for massages. And these are folks who really needed it! Something better can be done.

Wheelsucker on the left.
VS DM Jeffry on the right.
I would have liked to have had a
conversation with my favorite
Victoria's Secret Dungeon Master.
But who could hear anything?
The bands. Crikey! Who thought it a good idea to have music that loud blaring across our recovery meals? Might we maybe have an environment that is simultaneously festive and conversational? We had just ridden long and hard. We wanted to share the experience with family and friends, and we wanted to commune with the wonder and joy of the experience WITHOUT SHOUTING! WHAT, YOU CAN'T HEAR ME? I SAID WITHOUT SHOUTING! I'm not bitter...much. Really, the bands are way over the top. This has nothing to do with musical taste. It has everything to do with the objective of the event. If you want to go over the top on the opening ceremonies, great. more power to you. I can pick up my packet an leave. But the finish is our finish. And we want to share.

Say, maybe channel some of those band funds into incentives for chiropractic and massage therapy for riders. Now there's an idea!

Finally, some kind of carts or logistics to get the bags from the dorms to the trucks on the Sunday morning.

I can completely understand the logistics behind Saturday, and how support to the dorms would be difficult.

Getting out is different. If we had a bag drop at the dorms, it might be possible to pull a truck up to the dorm and sling the bags all in one fell swoop. It would eliminate the problems we have of navigating a long-haul early morning.

None of these individually or in combination reduced the overall goodness of the experience. My Pelotonia memories are not defined by these personal lowlights.

But my experience would have been enriched that much more , if they wre made to (poof!) go away!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Into Athens - Pelotonia 2011 Day 1 Ride Report (Part 4)


"I just got here. Help me out! Don't make me pull!"

Perhaps not the best way to announce yourself. Not exactly "Bonjour, je m'appelle 'Wheelsucker'. Comment ça va?"

But it was all I had. And in the circumstances, it made sense.

The group was small—four or five riders, and they were cursing their misfortune. They were stopped by a light, and traffic, having lost the blessing of a police escort (bless those OHiPs!). I recognized Dave C. and Bob Kirk. Dave looked...bad. (Sorry to say it, Dave!) Bob Bob.

Bob's US Cycling racing age 63. The man's my idol (hereinafter known as MI Kirk). Twenty years from now, I plan to be as fit and centered as is he. In 2010 he was hugely supportive of me on Pelotonia Day 1.

I had no idea I was in such exalted company!
The guy's a stud. And incredibly generous, too.
When we finished last year—beating my five-hour goal by six minutes—I had something of a breakdown in Athens. Emotional floodwaters overwhelmed me, and I cried salty tears in a purging cry that emptied me. In 2010 I was completely invested in Pelotonia. I had come through a period of self-reflection—on this blog—that changed my life. Crossing the line in Athens was the culmination of so, so much.

And it all had to be released.

And release it did.

And as I stood there, banshee-howling, with tears and snot dripping from my face, there was MI Bob.

And here is what he said:
"I don't know who you're riding for, but you're a hell of a rider, and It was a pleasure riding with you."

And here we were, once again, riding together.

What to Do?

As I recovered, drinking and eating and hiding from the wind, I sensed that I was surrounded by disappointment. Dave C. was hurting—cramps had gotten to him earlier—and he was distraught. For the most part, the others seemed to be suffering from ennui. There was no spark! No...something!

I moved to the front with MI Bob, pacing us through town. Dave C was in "game over" mode. For him, as soon as he lost contact with that lead group, his day was done. His ambition was to finish in 4:30. He'd worked for months to get ready. He was disconsolate.

I felt for him. He had, after all, been my contact with Rick. My entire PPPPP-PP strategy was built around my connection to Dave. I owed him a lot. And it was hard to listen to the tone in his voice.

Making things worse, we were in one of the most dispiriting places you can be when you're suffering: town. Stop signs, traffic lights, quick turns, railroad tracks, traffic: they're all obstacles; they're in your face; and they kill your legs with all the stop-start, stop-start.

And then entered the other worst place to be: flatland. A long, flat, wind-swept road endlessly unrolled in front of us. Misery. Pure misery.

I'd had a mechanical. He had cramps. Big difference. It's empathetic to state: when you're done, you're done. Dave C was done. It was only a matter of time.

So, what did that mean for me?

A standard paceline gives the point
man a lot of responsibility—
for good or for bad.
On the straightaway, our paceline was a mess. We just couldn't seem to get it together. Maybe I was being impatient, but I had bridged up to these guys, working hellaciously to do so, and I wasn't going to soft-pedal the remaining miles. I had my ambitions, too.

I knew Bob was strong, and there was a guy in an Ohio State kit (with 437 water bottles attached to him), who had good legs, so I suggested we try a reverse (rotating, rolling) paceline. It would enable us to get breaks, and it would pick up the pace.

This technique is different from the standard paceline. While the lead rider still sets the pace, he no longer determines the length and speed of the pull. It's the responsibility of the the overtaking rider to get to the front. Once on the front, that rider simply maintains, knowing that another rider is approaching from the rear at speed, and that a rest is soon to come.

When it works, it's an elegant flow. Bikes rotate with clockwork regularity, and the entire group glides forward with inevitability. It cycles beautifully.
In a reverse paceline, the overtaking riders
shoulder responsibility. It's fast and effective.

In our case, I hoped to spark something in the group. A reverse paceline mitigates the situation we were having—where riders got on the front, tired, and slowed the pace (or riders simply did not ride on the front). I wanted to ride. I wanted to see who wanted to ride. Someone had to try something.

It didn't take. A few of us took the point in turns. Onward we labored.

But I lit a small spark. The pace quickened.


There was one more hill to come: Carbon Hill. We all knew it was out there; but I couldn't remember how far it was, or what led up to it. It's one of those landmarks that impresses itself on you, but that seems to come out of nowhere.

In Pelotonia's two previous editions I rode over it strongly—to the consternation of my companions. Like Starner Hill (whoa), it's perfect for my power-climbing style.

If only I could make it there!

Despite my PPPPP-PP, I had a problem. I was nearly out of water, and the thirst was upon me. Thirst is like...needing to pee—as soon as you acknowledge the sensation, you need to pee more. If only you could ignore it! In this case, as soon as I felt thirsty, I started seeing water everywhere. I just couldn't drink any of it. A stream here, a puddle there, water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink!

You caught me. I'm exaggerating.

I did have a quarter-bottle of water left. But I knew I needed much more than that to support my effort. And if I killed that reserve, I would find myself in bonk-town.

There's a literary/film reference you
didn't expect!
So I turned to Gunga Din, the previously-mentioned, Ohio-State jersey wearing, 437 bottle carrying, strong-legged fella with the aerobars.
"How are you for water?" I asked, fully knowing that he had several full bottles.

"Um, ok," he responded, confusedly. As in: why-is-this-guy-asking-about-water-this-can't-be-good.

"Can I have some?" I ventured. "I promise not to drink it all."

Kindly, and patiently, he responded: "Sure."
My faith in human nature restored, I drank lustily.

In seconds I felt stronger. I hadn't felt weak, but the speed with which the water had an effect told me that I was closer to the edge than I'd thought.

I thanked him, and we rode on—closer and closer to the hill.

Just like Starner Hill (whoa) I kept asking the locals where it would start. I knew there was a slight turn to the left (at least I thought it was to the left), but I didn't know where it would appear.

And just like Starner Hill (whoa) it was suddenly upon me—84 miles into the ride.

I shifted my gear, rose from my saddle, and found my rhythm. Just like Starner Hill (whoa), I told myself to ride, not to race. There were no King of the Mountain points here.

I crested and descended, relieved. The hard stuff was in our wake. Now we would run in to the finish.

And what a run-in it would be.

The Strait

We navigated Nelsonville and halted at the last traffic signal we would see before Athens. As we waited for the ruby light to change, I looked at my companions.

Tired: that's what we all were. Yet everyone was itching to go. When the signal did turn, we dashed off—across the railroad tracks, and up the gentle grade beyond.

Up we went, softly curving left, and then down to the long, flat, final road leading to the bike path.

This stretch was just that—a stretch. We shook out what needed shaking out, fed, and assessed. I felt good; Mission Control was still reporting a status of "Go!"

I finished my borrowed water and my own meager bottle. Rick was somewhere ahead. I was confident I would make good on my promise to Gunga Din.

Two dodgy twitches—left and right—and we were on the path—the Strait of Athens.

And there was Rick!

Looking for all the world like a goateed boy hosting a summertime lemonade stand, he had set a table lined with bottles. I screeched to a stop, swapped bottles, and surged away, to bridge back to Gunga Din and those others who hadn't stopped.

I was sprinting down the path when I realized: I was sprinting down a bike path.

It's not the tunnel of love, I can assure you of that!
Really? Is this a good idea?

Anyone planning to fly through Pelotonia's course (such as the lead group with their 4:30 ambition) is challenged by the course itself. While the last ten miles are smoothly paved and on an aggregate downslope, they're mostly on a bike path. Even if you had a police escort through all the previous roads, you would need to share these miles with local runners, dog walkers, kids, and cyclists.

It was a short sprint, but it gave me much to think about, as I slowed from 30 mph.
Ok. It's not yellow, and not merely a pole,
but you get the idea. Road furniture is the
stuff of cyclists' nightmares!

The group re-formed and we pacelined through the canopy. I glanced down and saw that our speed floated between 24 and 25 mph. On the open road, that was lovely! Here? I was so tense, I was waterproof.

Adding to the excitement, at irregular intervals we encountered "traffic furniture"—cycling parlance for "shit that can hurt you."

At each road crossing—the path intersected a number of minor roads and other paths—we dodged around yellow-painted posts. These were placed to keep motor vehicles off the bike path—a noble idea. But they had a devastating effect on our group.

Nope, no-one crashed (thanks, Holy Spoke!).. Instead, we became rubberband men.

Stretching, Stretching, SNAP!

We WISH we had rubber-band propulsion!
Curious things happen in traffic. When the head of a line of vehicles slows, the line compresses, with everyone filling the micro-space between bumpers. When the head of the line speeds up, the line elongates, with large gaps forming between vehicles, due to uneven reactions and accelerations. Then—as speed normalizes—spacing normalizes.

In our case, every time we would come to one of those crossings, we'd compress (to mere inches), expand (to several feet), and normalize, returning to our one-foot spacing, with each rider adjusting his speed accordingly.

This elasticity is a horrorshow, if you're not ready for it. Especially for the guy on the back.

On the front? You call the shots. You control the line. In the next three? Get gunslinger-ready! You're going to be braking blindly, and you'll need your fast-twitch reactions to not crash. On the back?

Well, that's where it gets bad. If you're near the rear you have the greatest distance to cover when the line accelerates. You're a rubberband man.


Let's say the line is eight riders long. Normally, in the paceline, you have a one-foot gap between your front wheel and the rear wheel of the rider in front of you. When the line slows, that gap shrinks to inches (centimeters!). But when the line accelerates, the gaps can grow, the rubberband stretches until there's an average of a six-foot gap in between.

Then it the rubberband contracts; it normalizes.

The second rider in line only needs to close five feet (from a six-foot gap to a one-foot gap for a total of five feet). The third rider needs to close twice that (two six-foot gaps are closed to two, two-foot gaps—one for his gap and another for the gap of the rider in front of him. Rider three closes a gap of 10 feet).

Confused yet?

Here's the important part: On the back = bad.

The 8th rider needs to close a 40-foot gap. That, dear readers, is work—especially at the speeds we were sustaining.

The guy in yellow is off the back.
He's  got some work to do,
or he's going to be in the hurt locker.
So, being on the back hurts. But it's part of your paceline responsibility—everyone takes a turn on the front and drops back to the rear, rotating through the entire line.

But, sometimes you're on the edge. You're tired, cramping, sore, and just this side of being cooked. If—God forbid!—you are stuck on the rear and can't move up in the line, then every time the line slows, you're going to be sprinting for your life.

I don't know how many crossings that path had. I do know this: I never got out of the top four—I was happy to take pulls, rather than become elasticized. I was pushing the pace, despite my misgivings about racing down the path (BIKE UP! MOVE LEFT!).

And at some point we lost Dave C and others.

I'm not proud of it, but it's a fact: they was gone. I knew it would happen, though I'd hoped it wouldn't. Even so, in my hyper-aware, are-we-really-going-this-fast-on-a-bike-path (RUNNER UP!) mode, I barely noticed.

IM Bob, a few others, and I took turns pulling on the front. Gunga Din was there—and I had returned a full bottle to him at some point on the path—as was Riley Adams, with his escort and confidante, Richard Lewis. I know very little about Richard

Riley? He has a powerful story (and a lifetime ahead of him to realize his dreams). Godspeed, lad. You're a strong rider and a better person. May your wishes be fulfilled...

Off the Path

The final stages of the path include a long straightaway with woods tight to the right and open fields to the left. It's a fast runway that leads to a long, sweeping left. we hit this stretch and I knew we were home free—it was just a matter of completing the run-in. A shorter-pitched curve to the right carries you to a short rise and more traffic furniture. Careful, careful boys!

Then, POP!, you're on the street. You can feel the rubber bite the road as you bank hard-over, keeping your  speed in a tight, fast left.

For more than a few miles I'd been thinking about the finish. Who was going to do what? Did the group have an unspoken commitment to finish together? Was is every man for himself? How was this going to go? Would some folks get cagey and slow, looking for draft position in anticipation of a sprint?

I had no idea.

Until we came off the path, and all hell broke loose.

It was just like a Cat 5 race—everyone went, and they all went too early. We were a good mile or so from the finish—a long way!

I came onto the road and instantly got passed by IM Bob, in full-out sprint mode. Maybe he was trying to break away, I dunno. I stopped thinking. I reacted.

I jumped his wheel and tucked into his slipstream. We were surging ahead when he suddenly pulled up and slowed.


Somehow I didn't crash. I was hyper-aware, and I was lucky. I shouted something guttural as I slowed, losing top-end speed. I watched several riders sweep past us.

What to do?

I stayed in the saddle and re-accelerated without sprinting. I needed a moment to recover and view the situation.

Everyone had sprinted out of the bike path. Now, they all slowed. We made the final right turn into the finishing sweep. Everyone was gassed, or they had simply stopped racing. Gruppo compacto. Or becoming so, at least.


That's a look of joy...intensity...desire...focus...passion.
I owe this photographer for capturing the essential me on the bike

I was behind the bunch as it re-settled. And I had no intention of joining them.

When IM Bob flew past me earlier, it triggered me. All my ambition came forward. All my hard work justified it, and the group's disintegration cleared my conscience.

I was going to finish. I was going to finish alone. I was going to finish strong.

It had been a long day. My abilities and my mettle had been tested. My planning had paid off, and Dame Fortune had looked upon me with favor.

In the morning I had declared: It's on.

I saw no reason to turn it off now.

Just as the group came together, compacting back into a bunch, I spied a gap on the left.

I punched my pedals.

We were inside the finish barriers, on a sweeping left turn.

I shot through that inside gap like a cork from a well-shaken champagne bottle. I had some distance! No one followed. I was clear!

I have no doubt that everyone in that group cursed me. I am absolutely certain that I was called names that I would prefer my LAs to not hear.

I didn't care.

I was completing my mission.

The finishing archway greeted me home.

I sat up, crossing the line, with my SURVIVOR arm thrust in front of me... 9th overall. 4:40—a 21.7 mph average. the first Limited Brands finisher.

...wearing my heart on my sleeve. a testament to what survivors can do.
And it was done.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Nothing Is Easy - Pelotonia 2011 Day 1 Ride Report (Part 3)

Author's Note: I apologize in advance for some language that will appear early in this post. I try to be PG-13 on this blog. However, circumstances dictate otherwise on this day.


(Heart leaps into throat)
      Fuuuuck! Noooo! That was me? Fuck! WOW! Loud! No!
(Glances back at rear wheel)
(Looks ahead, seeing the lead riders roll away)
      Goddammit! No! Shit...shit...SHIT!
      Rick! Bugger! Where's Rick? The plan! Get to Rick... Where the hell is Rick?

It's amazing how many thoughts explode through your mind the moment your ride is flushed down the crapper.





In which the author faces his fate...

No time for regrets, recriminations, or sadness: disaster focuses the mind nicely.

Could I yet salvage this ride?

Dave C. and a few others raced past—no doubt thinking that I'd blown up (racer-speak for "exceeded my limits")—and he called out to me. I shouted back "Flat! Where's Rick?"

Gravel = bad.
Mood = worse.
"A mile," came the response.

And with that I limped up the gravelly hill.

Complete concentration consumed me. My eyes were riveted to the road. If I rode perfectly upright, keeping the tire between the road and the rim, I might make it to Rick without destroying my beloved Zipps. If I hit a rock just wrong—game over. The rim would be damaged beyond repair.

Either way, I had to get to Rick. He wouldn't wait forever.

Each contour, fissure, pebble and gradient impressed itself on me. I rode steadily—and slowly—and in complete control. Few riders passed me, and I expect that those who did thought it was "game over" for me.

So did I.

Crunching grey matter under my wheels, I rolled, my breath sucking deeply the woody-scented, dusty air.

Mindful Breathing.

In which the author describes a tactic for managing effort (and mood)...

When the littlest LA is upset (frustrated, angry, wild), and in that state where she lashes out at others, I try to help her calm herself by telling her: "Breathe!"

Breathing works.

It's one of the main lessons I try to share with my spin classes: breathe mindfully.

Don't let the breathing happen to you. Be in control. Be aware. Use your breathing to meter your effort. Seek and find your rhythm. Draw breath from your belly. Suck it in and savor it. Feel it open your chest and cleanse the humours. Push it out and purge the demons.

Manage yourself by breathing.

It's amazing how well it works. You can be in the middle of a spin class climb—with your focus on everything but your breathing—and when someone says "breathe", the effort suddenly becomes...less. Even when sprinting, an exhortation to "Breathe!" centers you.

It's the same on the road. In the middle of an ego-bumping, frenetic group ride, when the hormone/endorphin cocktail is at its corrosive height, a reminder to "Breathe!" calms me. It's all still there—the chemistry and the physicality of the event—but it's managed.

Powerful stuff. Simple stuff. Internal stuff. And I'll be damned, if it doesn't work. Sometimes the simplest solutions are the most effective.

Sucking in the wooded air, I was breathing.

SAG Support

In which the author describes how PPPPP-PP works in the field...

The grey blur rolled upward and turned black. Pavement!

I was so far inside that I had no idea how long I had been riding flatted. Suddenly, a panorama opened before me. I crested the rise on the blessedly smooth tarmac and...there was Rick!

It's Qatar (NOT Ohio!). But you get the idea...
And there was a crew collecting their caches.

I wasn't dropped (yet)!


I bumped down the hill and shouted: "Flat! Rear wheel!"

Rick was frantically handing-out bottles, sorting through what was who's and reacting to the moment.

Just as I rolled next to him, with his hands slotting my refill-bottles into my bottle cages, I heard him say: "did someone flat?"

With acidic adrenaline flowing through me like jet fuel! I shouted: "Rear wheel! I need a rear wheel!"

Rick jumped to the wheel bag, arms a-flurry like a dervish. I pedaled over to the truck, shifting into my lowest cog to get the derailleur out of the way of a quick wheel change.

And suddenly, with almighty urgency driven by my heightened senses, I had to pee!

As Rick changed my wheel, I leaped away and (with acidic adrenaline flowing through me like jet fuel) shouted: "I gotta pee!"

Now, I have no idea what Rick's reaction was to that declaration. He probably thought it a might bit strange. Yet, in the moment, I could not have cared any less.

I had to pee.

Many, many, many ounces later I came back to my bike, wheel changed and bottles full. I hopped on and started pedaling, getting a fantastic push from someone.

And the long chase had begun.

What Next?

Wherein the author describes torn allegiances and NASA...

Two hundred yards in front of me was OS Blair, his pink Limited Brands jersey a beckoning beacon. I mouthed some water and tempoed up to him. He seemed to have waited. "Let's work!" I declared as I pulled past him.

He was eating, and when ready he hopped on my wheel. The rolling road rose to meet us. I pulled, then rotated to recover in his wake. He pulled, and as he drifted next to me, he let me know that he could follow, but that he couldn't pull—he was cooked.

I grunted, and said: "get on." And off we went.

We approached one of the Clydesdales as he labored up another rise. I sat on his wheel to get a breather, and considered. .

Should I stay? Or, should I go?

On that day, in that moment, I knew I was stronger than either of my companions. But I like OS Blair. He was kind to me in 2010, and he had been a supportive companion all morning. Should I leave him? Should the three of us work together?

I had no idea how far ahead anyone was. Three minutes? Five minutes? After my misadventure, did the leaders form a paceline and drill it? Did they remain scattered? Were they strong? Suffering?

And what of me? How was I really doing?

I dove inside (again). How was I?

I checked with mission control:
  • Head? Clear and focused. Go!
  • Lungs? Clear and calm. Go!
  • Heart rate? Strady and strong. Go!
  • Neck and back? Some stiffness, but not limiting. Go!
  • Shoulder and collarbone? Sore, but manageable. Go!
  • Hands and feet? Recovered from the Road to Roubaix. Go!
  • Perineum? Just fine (thanks for asking!). Go!
  • Legs? ...
  • Legs? I was thinking! ...Um .glutes, quads, hams good. Calf?
  • Well? Er, the calf's surprisingly good! Go!
  • Feet? No hotspots. Ankle brace is biting into arch, but I can handle that. Go!
  • Headspace? Well, we're having this conversation, so it's obvious that it's a... Go!
System check complete!
All systems, GO!

Nothing Worth Doing Is Easy.

Wherein the author makes a decision...

The body and mind were capable. Were they willing?

My major concern was my injury. Thus far it had survived the harshest tests. Was it ready for another?

It was gut-check time.
"It's not a race," I told myself. "You can hang and enjoy," I continued. "No one—but you—expects you to do anything. You're injured—seriously injured. Finishing will be an accomplishment, and something to savor. There's no need to work this hard!"

I grabbed a sandwich to chew on my thoughts.
You're Ohio. You did the right thing. I know you were luke-warm about it this year. I know you've been conflicted. I know how many doubts you wrestled with just to be here, and I know that leg hurts like hell."

I chewed some more, I couldn't swallow.
"Sit up! Pace yourself! Cobble together a group and finish with them. Be a leader; but don't hurt yourself. It isn't worth it. Why are you even considering it?"

Chewing. Bitter. I couldn't swallow that. Peanut butter and honey never tasted so...bitter.

Thanks, Kara.
I reached down with my left hand—breaking the habit of many miles—and grabbed a bottle. As my arm came up, I saw Kara's artwork: SURVIVOR.

That's why.

I was done chewing.

That I could swallow.

And I was gone.


Wherein the author discusses loneliness and rabbits...

When I raced Giro di Coppi this year, I chased...a lot! Who knew that it would be perfect Pelotonia preparation?

Me chasing. Practice makes perfect (or something)...
Chasing takes balls. (Stop snickering, you in the back! I know I only have's figurative!). It's a leap of faith. You may chase and never catch anyone! (I did that at Coppi.) Or, you may chase passing stragglers without ever forming a cohesive group. Either of those options sucks your soul.

I had little information: I couldn't meter my efforts. I didn't know the time-gaps. I wasn't well-familiar with the course or the distances between landmarks (especially the upcoming hills). And I no longer had a power meter; the wheel change eliminated that.

So, I did the only thing I could do: I found a strong tempo; I swallowed the pain; I breathed through the effort; and I got on with getting on.


Chasing is lonely.

There's no other way to describe it. You're fighting the wind with no relief. You're alone with your screaming doubts and body sensations that universally declare: "Stop! Now!"

Spanish riders often describe—at the end of long stages of the grand tours—their "sensations". On good days they talk about having "good sensations" and being tranquilo on the bike. When chasing, that's precisely where you need to be: you need good sensations and tranquility. Which is precisely the opposite of what you're feeling!

So, how do you get there?

You need a surplus of motivation. Heaps and gobs of the stuff. You're entirely self-dependent. You need to have something inside of you that shouts down those screaming doubts and fills you with sensations other than suffering.

So what if the Yellow Jersey was on his wheel?
Cadel was racing his demons...
I love Cadel Evans. He's been one of my favorite pro riders for some time. He's a tenacious, tough bastard, and I absolutely love the way he's "real"—he wears his heart on his sleeve.

In this year's Tour, on Stage 18, he delivered a masterclass on chasing. With Andy Schleck more than four minutes ahead, up the road on the legendary Galibier climb, Cadel assumed his crocodile-wrestling, I'm-a-hard-man-so-to-hell-with-how-I-look climbing position, and dragged the remaining contenders up the mountain. Not one other rider helped. The chase was Cadel's. On that day he fought and battled and scratched and scrapped—with himself. He wasn't racing those behind him; he was fighting his demons.

The result? He cut two minutes of that four-minute deficit—in 10 kilometers.! On the Galibier!

And if you don't know what he did when chasing time in the penultimate stage, shame on you!

Chasing is lonely: even in a race, it's all about you.


Those Ohio roads twist and turn and undulate. You don't get a lot of straightaway. As a result, you never can see too far ahead. Sometimes, just as you round a bend or crest a hill, you catch a glimpse of another cyclist. Other times you're riding on blind faith

I spent a lot of time with my head down, churning, simply driving—mind empty, living the moment, breathing...breathing.

But when I looked ahead, I prayed for one of those glimpses.

All I needed was a flicker of color, and I would transform into a greyhound in the blocks. A glimpse would set my jaw and slit my eyes. It would flex my fingers on the bars, clenching the carbon, creaking my leather gloves. It made me faster.

How could I resist?
Rabbits: the other riders were rabbits. And how I loved them.

I saw rabbits. I caught rabbits. I left rabbits behind.

Each was a rung on a ladder. I climbed, ever upward.

Ahead, on one of the few long-sighted stretches of road, I spied a group ahead. That's what I was seeking. A train!

They disappeared. I dropped into the drops and paced. I had been making up time! A knowing smile curled my lips. I was going to catch them—whoever they were!

Another climb. Stragglers dropped from the group. I passed them, crested the hill, and tucked down for the long descent to Logan Dam. They were there!

As I hit the nadir of the descent, and started up toward the overpass, I could hear their gears shift. I was just about on them. I would catch them...there, at the intersection after the overpass!

I was no longer alone.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Kust m'n kloete!

Ouch! OUCH!
Kust m'n kloete!
We Interrupt These Pelotonia Proceedings...with a bit of humor.

I'm dutifully writing and preparing posts to continue the Pelotonia 2011 story; but I need a quick break!

So, here's a quickie... You can't make this stuff up!

Boonen Suffering from Open Groin Wound

“I suffer from an injury to the scrotum....There is a hole....I got a 'second skin', and glued it at times to a kind of diaper. The perineum, the area between the scrotum and the anus, is simply the most delicate part of the body."
I know a little about that area—being a guy and a testicular cancer survivor. I feel his pain!

Yep, it's a little sensitive down there!

Boonen's racing in the Vuelta a Espana, preparing for the World Championships. He's a tough bastard (and a funny one!); you have to admire his tenacity. He could have abandoned the race, but he didn't. He finished last in the time trial, but he's still in the race.

Chapeau, M. Boonen!