Friday, October 28, 2011

Got a Call from My Doctor

"Mr. Wheelsucker, this is Dr. ___'s office. Dr.___ needs to talk with you about your blood test from last Friday."

Ice water rushed down my back.

Bone-chills. Sweaty palms. Heart races.

Spooked, I twitched a glance over my shoulder. Just the dog...unsettled. Does he know something?

The kids burst into the room, joyfully embracing after school freedom on a cool, autumn evening. The circled the kitchen, foraging, and flashed out into the yard like two roman candle bursts—all light and color and energy

Their shooting-star brilliance filled my world for a moment, burning away my chilled fear—but only for a moment. In their wake I remained—unsteady, shaken, but upright and mindful.

Fear Is the Mind-Killer...

I've been through this before.

I have the confidence of hard-won experience. I've learned. I've grown. It's just a could be anything.

I mused.

I'm blessed with the love of a wonderful woman, whom I hardly deserve. I'm humbled and honored to be the father of two girls who amaze me every day. I'm connected and supported by loving, caring, devoted friends and family.

I'm blessed.

I'm grateful.

It matters.


"Good morning, I'm Wheelsucker. I received a message that Dr. ___ needed to talk with me about some test results."

Some test results. So insouciant. What a poseur. I guess if it helps me manage my anxiety...

"Just a moment Mr. Wheelsucker. I'll see if the doctor is available."

Muzak. "Just the Way You Are." Thanks Billy. Not right now. How about some Smiths, please, so I can feel sorry for myself. No, this is more a Nine Inch Nails kind of morning...

"Mr. Wheelsucker?"

"Yes." I knew her voice.

"This is Dr. ___." I know! Get on with it! "I wanted to touch base with you about your blood test results."

Good sweet mother of all that is holy and not-so holy. Tell me! Tellme! TellmeTellmeTellme!

"I understand. I'm all ears." How composed. I impressed myself.

"Well, I want to congratulate you..."

Warmth flowed through me. Somewhere inside the Ode to Joy echoed...just outside my hearing.

"...your numbers are completely normal..."

I hugged myself, eyes welling...

"...across the board. You've done very well. You are in remarkable health for your age. Congratulations!"

I know I thanked her for telling me directly. I expressed real, deep appreciation for the caring and the support. I have no idea if it came out in anything like English. I babbled...

"We just need to send the results..."

And so it went. Details. No problem.

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

We'd celebrated prematurely. It haunted me.

We were beholden to a date, but I hadn't taken my test. I'd done my homework—I was fit and living a healthy lifestyle. But we held the graduation party before I took my final.


Partly logistics—making the time took time that I didn't want to spend.

Partly laziness—everything felt fine! Everything's okay!

Mostly, it was fear.

Yep. I was scared.

"What if..." reigned.

What if the cancer returned? What if I need chemo? What if it's a new cancer? What if...

What If...

How many of us are ruled by What If...?

How much of your life is dominated by fear?

How often are we held back from what we should be...could What If...?

It's a trap. Fear is the mind-killer... It's an elegant, infernal, impersonal, intimate trap.

We're not held back by What If...

We're held back by ourselves.

The challenge is to master it. The task is to overcome doubts and fears and move into a new space.

And it's hard. It's damned hard.

But it's possible.

And it's necessary. If we are to become; if we are to thrive.

Sometimes It's Hard Not to Think

After sitting on my test paperwork for a month, one morning I simply stopped thinking and did it. It was that simple. Okay, so I exaggerate. I needed to fast, so it was per-meditated. But you get the idea.

It's like the day I decided to take my 215-pound fatty, slovenly, grey-skinned carcass to the gym for the first time. I simply did it. I stopped thinking and I did it.

So, yes. It's hard to not think. But sometimes we simply have to get out of and beyond ourselves to stop being a barrier to our selves.

"Sometimes I suspect that we build our traps ourselves, then we back into them, pretending amazement the while."

All limitations are self-imposed.

When we get out of our own way, what might we accomplish? What might we learn? Where might we go? How high might we fly?

Let's find out, shall we?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Line in the Sand (a Sort-of Manifesto)

I wrote a post the other day in which I commented on my weaknesses in the face of (yet another) recovery.

I wrote "Something's got to change..."

Let's begin.

Seven Pledges

I hereby pledge to myself, mine own self, and none other self, in the full light of day, under the gaze of all who read the words written herein and all who witness the deeds (or deed-nots) of my self, mine own self, and none but myself, that I (hereinafter known as "Wheelsucker", "Flalloper", "The Accidental Runner", "Mr. OneNutt", or "Bobo the Idiot Circus Clown") will adhere to the following declaration of intentions and activities.
  1. I shall write a post to this blog a minimum of once per week.

  2. I shall write one post each month focusing on cancer in some significant way.

  3. I shall write a post to my professional blog a minimum of once every two weeks.

  4. I shall document my meal plan on this blog.

  5. I shall document every violation of my eating plan on this blog.

  6. I shall document my exercise plan on this blog each fortnight. This documentation will not count toward my weekly posting requirement.

  7. I shall document every missed (or curtailed) workout on this blog.

I—with open heart and mind—pledge to perform these tasks mindfully. I pinkie-promise myself that I shall be honest and diligent in my disclosures.


A "violation" is defined as actions or inactions by Wheelsucker that prevent him from fulfilling the requirements identified in the aforementioned pledges. Examples of such actions are:
  • Failure to post to this blog once during a Monday-Sunday cycle
  • Failure to post about a cancer-related topic during a calendar month
  • Failure to post to InterWoven thoughts once during a fortnight (beginning November 1, 2011)
  • Failure to document my meal plan or any changes to said meal plan, within one day of said changes
  • Consumption of a Snickers bar constitutes a single violation. Consumption of two Snickers bars constitutes two violations
  • Consumption of two Snickers bars, a granola bar, two bags of chips, and a soda constitutes abject stupidity, probable depression, need for intervention, six violations, and the need for some 'splaining
  • Failure to post my workout schedule in each fortnight, starting November 1, 2011
  • Sleeping in when I should be at the gym
  • Cutting a planned workout short

Vacations and illness do not exempt Wheelsucker from Pledges 1-4. They do exempt him from Pledges 5-7 for the duration of the vacation or illness.


For every violation I pledge to contribute one dollar to a sin-bin.

This sin-bin shall be an unbreakable "piggy bank" of some sort (specifics to be determined).

The proceeds of this sin bin shall be donated to a cancer-related charity in one year's time.


There ain't none. No brownie points here. No getting ahead. No make-ups.

Be accountable.




Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Fix My Sport!

Something stinks.

And (for once) it's not my orthopedic boot.

But...but...but...he just won the 'effing Vuelta!
And this isn't about doping...
Geox-TMC riders shocked
The Italian shoemaker decides to pull its money out of team, leaving riders and staff scrambling for jobs.

This is in the wake of September's bombshell from Bob Stapleton that the winningest team of the last four years—HTC-Highroad (née Columbia-Highroad) had to shut down for lack of sponsorship. Let's put that into perspective: the team that won more than 440 races, providing exceptional exposure for its sponsors, folded.

A lot of pixels have been generated about HTC. Many not-so-labored comparisons to the NY Yankees and Manchester United have been made.

But no one is talking about Geox!

(And heaven forbid that I reference the Dr. Moreau-style vivisectionist horrorshow of the Leopard-Trek-RadioShack-Nissan-smallfurryanimalsfromAlphaCentuari merger. The announcements were hysterical!)


HTC was the winningest. Geox was a an up-and-comer, certainly more than a wannabe, had a small cadre of quality riders (Sastre, Menchov...Cobo?), and they seemed to never get their wheels steadily underneath. Even so, they showed some mettle in the Giro, and famously won the Vuelta. From a exposure standpoint, they provided.

So what happened?

Geox (a shoe manufacturer) determined that cycling was no longer strategic.


A business is a business and it needs to operate accordingly.


When will cycling realize that it's business model is broken? Others have written more knowledgeably about this. I defer to commentaries like Joe Lindsey's Boulder Report.

Cycling needs a plan. I don't trust McQuaid or the UCI to get anything right. They make rules without consultation with those most affected by those changes (Get rid of race radios! They're killing the sport! ...really? Really?), they promote events that don't make any sense whatsoever (Tour of Bejing...really? Really?), and the entire doping mis-management fiasco cluster embarrassment (Contador and myriad others...really? Really?).

So, how does cycling get the grubby UCI paws out of...cycling?

The sport needs a sea change. I hate to admit it (because I consider him to be an insufferable prat), but Jonathan Vaughters makes a lot of sense.

TV revenue needs to be shared. The teams need to have an entirely different foundation upon which they can build a real structure.

Think about the history of cycling, and what do you remember? Riders and teams. But how many of those team's still exist?

Whither Eddy's Molteni?

Where's Coppi's Bianchi? Merckx's Moltini (or Faema)? Hinault's Renault (or La Vie Claire)? LeMond's Z (or ADR)? Armstrong's Motorola (or Postal, or Disco)?

How many of the current teams will be around in two years? Three years? Five years?

If Highroad couldn't cut it...what team will?


My sport is beautiful. It's a compelling blend of elegance and suffering. Remember the old Wide, Wide, World of Sports intro? That's cycling. It's the thrill and the agony. Every event can become epic in a split second. Every event has the potential for...greatness.

Someone, please, fix my sport. Give it what it needs to thrive...not merely survive. Stop the squabbling, grow up, and realize your potential!

This sport is greater than we've seen. I dearly hope to see its becoming.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

How Do You Deal With It?

Author's Note: So many of my posts are of the quasi-heroic nature. Life isn't like that, though. It's filled with bouts of doubt and insecurity. I'm right in the middle of one right now. It's where I've been since Pelotonia. I haven't written about Day 2 for a reason...

I'm just over half-way.

7 out of 12.


Then I start rehab.


I'm recovering from a major injury...again. My third in three years. You'd think I be wiser about it...about recovery.

I'm not.

I'm still learning.

And I'm doing a bad job of it.

What's Going On

I have a torn calf muscle.

Sounds pedestrian, doesn't it?

How's this: I tore part of the muscle from the bone. Think "chicken leg". More specifically, think: "gnaw on chicken leg."

Yep. I excel in the art of the injury.

Simple Is Never Enough

Two years ago it was a torn labrum (shoulder) with a detached bicep tendon. Not enough for me...nope! I had to take it to another level! Two weeks into recovery I developed bronchial pneumonia. You try coughing up buckets of phlegm with an immobilized, excruciatingly painful arm. Five weeks out of work, a frozen shoulder, and scary rehab followed. I rock!

Last year? Same shoulder...still with limited range of motion...and I shatter the collarbone--not broke, shattered five to seven pieces. Surgery. Titanium plate. Later x-rays revealed...the bone not fusing, so all I have holding the shoulder together are six screws, a thin, green (!) titanium plate, and my atrophied muscles. I am awesomeness personified!

So here I am, recovering once again.

You'd think I be wiser about recovery.

I'm not.


Every Snickers I sneak. Every morning I stay in bed. Every "bad for you" food I devour. Every blog post I consider, and abandon, betrays me.

I'm weak stuff.

Sure, I still work out. Fits and starts. No regularity. No plan. No cardio (I can't!) Strictly weights.

I keep trying to convince myself I'm enjoying it. I keep looking at myself in the mirror seeking...something.



Focus, desire, intensity?

Nada. All I see is a flabby forty-something with little self-control and no drive. Where's the fire?

Who is this guy?

I don't recognize him, and I certainly don't like him.

So, back to the beginning.

How do I deal with it?


Something's got to change...

Friday, October 7, 2011

A Vision of Loveliness, and Fond Memories

I was in Los Angeles for a conference. Walking down Hollywood Boulevard. Ray Davies's brilliance echoed in my head.

I stepped over Lou Costello. I tripped on Mel Tormé. I slipped on Ingrid Bergman.

I watched tourists take photos (of what, I have no idea). I listened to shills hustle. I dodged meth-hazed, vacant-eyed locals. I witnessed arrests and pat-downs.

I spotted her.

I stopped breathing.

I stopped moving.

Waves of joy crashed over me!

I blinked.

When my eyes opened, she was still there.


I smiled a smile of pure delight!

There she was! Right in front of me! A vision from my childhood. A memory as fond as any I'll ever have. Here! In LA!


She's wasn't pretty.

Let me re-phrase that: she was pretty battered.

The years had not been kind to her.

But she endured.

She's tough, that way.

She's no longer bright, shiny, or new.

But she's beautiful to me.

Here she is:

Curvacious AND bombproof!

She's a Ross Compact. She's a sister of my first multi-gear bike.

Mine was yellow.

I rode her...everywhere.

Bounding. Exploring. Romping. On road. Off road. BMX tracks. Woods. Trails. Over jumps. Through creeks. Rain. Snow. Who cared?

I remembered racing her. I pedaled furiously through my neighborhood, winning! The competition? Whomever I imagined!

Somehow, the lack of bar tape suits her.
I love those crazy brake extenders on the top bar!
She was my companion on wild adventures. My wanderlust and imagination took us far beyond suburbia. Her rat-trap and my backpack carried the necessities: lunches, soccer ball, baseball mitt (and bat!), basketball, tennis racket, towel, sleeping bag, books, water...everything.

She was bombproof. The wheels may have wobbled some (riding down stairs will do that), but she had friction shifters and heavy-duty brakes. In all the years I had her, I don't think I ever chaged her brake pads. And a cable adjustment? I never heard of such a thing! I don't know that I ever had more than one or two flats. Bombproof. She was bombproof.

We'd crashed—spectacularly. A lot. I skinned my knees and chin and whacked my shins with the spiky pedals. Games and races with neighborhood kids would regularly see me dismounting at speed and thrusting her aside as I ran...somewhere.

Underneath that pedal is where I wore through
the chainstay on my yellow bomber!
What memories!
With all the battering, I don't think anything remained in-line. I know the handlebars were bent and permanently off-center. The seat was tattered. The shifters were constantly out of position. One crank was bent so badly that it clicked against the chainstay until it had worn a deep cut into the metal.

But she rode. She was mine.

She was special.

And here was her sister, in LA, chained to a stand with a flat rear tire. No bar tape, but with end plugs inserted.

She's someone's baby.

I hope her owner knows what a treasure she is.