Monday, November 24, 2014

The story of the tattoo

I had some questions about the tattoo. I got it because I wanted to be like Doug Sumi. End of blog post.

In a more serious way, I thought I'd share with you my tattoo and my full reasons behind it. First:

Photo credit: Graham Watson
Alright, so there's my new tattoo. It healed pretty quickly and I'm getting used to seeing it on myself.

As a little back story, I've always been a very vivid dreamer. My whole life I'm used to having lots of dreams and great recollection of those dreams in the morning. If not a dream, I'll be able to recall what I was thinking about before falling asleep quite regularly. I dream often - occasionally three times a week.

Since the my accident and TBI, I've had zero dreams.

That's a small exaggeration. I had one dream about five weeks post-crash and nothing before and nothing since. That dream was very vivid and very clear- and as I woke up and recalled it- it was quite powerful. Having had a blank slate for such a long time made this dream feel extraordinary.

In this dream I got a tattoo of a plus sign on my left wrist. I drew it out in a very specific Sharpie and was able to get a feel on if I liked it enough to get it.

I thought about it for several days, then decided to find that Sharpie. Thinking about it more, I started to see the reasonings behind the plus sign. To me, I think of the plus symbol as a visible form of positivity. Math nerd. Throughout my whole recovery in the hospital, I'd always try to find the good in whatever was happening. I'd look to unlimited extents to find the positive in things, and it truly helped me deeply while suffering in the hospital. I knew that this recovery will be a long road and being positive through it will be something that I always need to rely on.

I drew lots of options in a notepad, and tried out several variations on my wrist in Sharpie.

I decided on the outline with open ends because it also represents a crossroads to me. This accident has been life-changing and will always be a part of me. This tattoo represents how I have and will carry myself through this recovery and the rest of my life.

Continuing on, the more I thought about my dream the more it made greater sense to me. The wrist seemed like a good spot for many reasons: It's easy for me to see, but also not flashy. It's visible to me while I'm riding- so even though I'm riding the trainer- I can be positive while I'm doing it. Also, you better believe that when I win again, it will be very visible in the victory salute. See that! That's being positive right there.

So I drew countless plus signs on my wrists, talked to my "tattooed friend" (asked Tre some questions) and finally got it done after lots of thought to make sure that I was not blindly following a dream like some crazy person.

I never thought I'd get a tattoo. I never thought I'd put such weight into a dream. I've been craving normalcy, and a dream is a semblance of that. Also, I was super tough guying this whole process. I thought that I was invincible and nothing could cause me pain through the tattooing. WRONG! 98% of the tattoo didn't bother me, but going over the tendons was definitely a much more noticeable pain. I've got lots of respect for people who get teardrop tattoos on their faces now!

So that's that.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Real updates!

Hey all, I wanted to send a little positive bird flying from my direction towards your windowsills. I think metaphors can be hilarious, case in point that one right before this sentence!

Let's see.. halloween happened, and Marissa and I attended a costume party at a friend's house. I tweeted around halloween-time: "When wearing a neck brace you can call anything a Halloween costume. Easiest holiday ever!" I was NOT joking! You see, neck braces make it so pretty much anything you choose to dress up as has a little flair of inaccuracy. Want to be Robin Hood? Maybe the prince of thieves with a sore neck! A banana costume? Sure, if your banana happened to have a sleeve guarding it from bruises! What I've decided is you pretty much can wear anything you want and the neck brace fits into the costume. Seriously, Google search "costume ideas with neck brace" and there aren't very many options. So when Marissa was loaned a 1950's era dress and makeup, I had to fit with that because nothing is more adorable than couple costumes. Except maybe puppies. So I decided that I'd be rocking blue jeans, white shirt and older shoes. Oh right, and a neck brace. That made me... James Dean POST fatal car crash. Boom! Then I consulted this chart from GQ magazine to determine if that could be seen as a "too soon" type costume:

If anyone's offended, I was dressed as James Dean but recently hurt my neck so I have to wear the brace.
Right, so if I'm dressing up in costume (jeans and a tshirt) things have to be going well, right? Things are going great! Here's an update for y'all:

Recovery is a slow process, and gone are the daily incredible changes. That's a great thing because I have been feeling normal for quite awhile and that's been awesome. I had a long stretch of head injury related issues, but I've progressed away from those and am able to thrive back at my own home without a need for supervision. I get excited about doing little things now, like going to the grocery store or cooking dinner! The neck brace is still around, but the great news is that yesterday I got the all clear to start weening off of it. That means when I'm at home I don't need to wear it, but any time I'm out and about I need to have it on. As of now the weening process is about a week, but could be longer depending on how my neck and head respond. Sleeping is WAY easier without a neck brace on! I'm happy to, in a week or so, be able to start working on PT to get some motion back in my neck. It's amazing how much functionality you lose while stagnant for so long, and the athlete in me is very excited to have the ability to improve upon that. My lips, teeth, and cheeks are still about the same but I graduated from drinking out of a syringe to a straw, and now am trying to learn how to drink without a tool. It's way more enjoyable drinking a coffee from a mug compared to a straw, believe me. I'm doing alright and besides an occasional - ok fairly regular- spill, I am way happier to be drinking more normally. I'm hopeful my lip and teeth fixes will be able to happen soon.

I still have quite some time before I will be cleared by the doctors to ride outdoors again, but nothing is stopping me from riding the trainer. This situation has given me the longest amount of time I've been away from riding in... forever maybe.... and with that comes the sensation of being truly out of shape. Luckily trainer riding doesn't accentuate that sensation. Ha! The good news is I'm working on being positive about this riding outlet so.... while all my competition are coasting and going downhill and stuff, I'm pedaling. Also sweating profusely.
I still can't drive and since I can't ride a bike either, I've learned of another form of transportation. Did you all know that by standing on your legs and moving your feet in a forwards direction, you can WALK for transpo?!?!?! That's right- me, who always avoided walking because of well, bikes- walking for the sake of getting places. Turns out that just riding the trainer isn't enough to tire a guy out (at least with my current training) so I've been going on walks in order to get outside and move a bit more. Does it count as walking for exercise if you also happen to stop for lunch or a coffee in the middle of your walk? shhhhhh

Who knows what's next. Maybe I'll pilot a rocketship because those people don't move their head around much either!

Also, sneak peak:

Never thought I'd get a tattoo, but a lot of things happened this year that I never thought would have. There's another!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

USA Pro Challenge race report

Yesterday I left off with the team presentation that officially kicked off the race festivities. Here are my memories from the first six stages of the USA Pro Challenge. It was an honor to be on the start line of this race.

Stage 1: Aspen Circuit Race

Race hotel- hilarious art in rooms, hard to find way around, delicious spreads for toast at the buffet. Same meals every night (4 days!)
The race- Started off feeling like a normal bike race. Then the neutral roll out stopped. Racing at 9000 feet was… different… The short punchy climbs took their toll on me and I was dropped in a small group up the run in to the final KOM of the day. Meanwhile, Ben and Matt were up the road being all lithe and limber and stuff winning KOM points and making our team look awesome.

Stage 2: Aspen to Crested Butte

Race Hotel- Same as day 1
The Race- Ah yeah. This one. WOW. I’ve forgotten much of the less than important details, but stage 2 was the day that the skies opened up as we rode the final ¼ of the race on dirt mountain roads. I was dropped in a 15 rider or so group when it was still brilliantly sunny, probably halfway up the final dirt climb. We hit the top, it got dark, and we proceeded to descend down the mountain on dirt roads in a thundering and lightning rain storm. I heard that somewhere up the road they neutralized the main field and everyone got cold. Our dropped group continued to ride for the length of the race.
We finished and our new hotel was about 500 meters from the finish line. I got into the shower in full kit. Including shoes.

After I got done in the shower.
Stage 3: Gunnison to Monarch Mountain

Race Hotel- conveniently close to the finish of the day before. Very heavy woodsman vibe. Meals were across the street somewhere else. Nothing stands out to me if they were delicious or not. I’ll just assume they were.

The Race- This was the stage I was most nervous about leading into the race. I’m confident with how I climb at the NRC level, but this stage had an HC category climb up to 11+k feet right in the middle of the stage, then a Category 1 climb up to the finish. In the most convenient of things for probably everyone, there were crosswinds for the entire lead-in to the HC climb. That made people tired, which turned this stage into a 100+ rider grupetto. I accidentally was the first to cross the line at the end of the race out of the grupetto so if you look at only the results from this stage you’ll very wrongly assume that I had a great day.

Stage 4: Colorado Sprints Circuit Race

Race Hotel- very nice hotel, except it was incredibly confusing. Good luck finding dinner here because there were about 15 different wings of the hotel. I believe that the dinners were good, and I’m fairly certain that THIS was the best dessert table of the entire race. There were cakes, pies, tortes, fruits, cookies and bars, and many other treats. Since we’re all bike racers, everyone judged each other as they went back for their 5th serving of dessert. But everyone went for seconds, or more. Hopefully… Maybe THAT explains why I didn't win this darn race!

The Race- this was my favorite stage of the USA Pro Challenge. Ben made the break again, which would lock up his KOM lead. I figured this as one of the few opportunities for a reduced bunch sprint, so I tried to race smart and position myself well in the shrinking field.  Things went well, and I crested the steep final climb suffering badly but still in good position. Then I looked up, and saw that it was my teammate Robbie Squire setting the pace on the front of the field. No doubt trying to help catch the last breakaway survivor (Jens Voigt) so the field sprint would occur, but I had to jokingly give him a hard time after the race about putting me close to dropped!

I followed US National Champion Eric Marcotte and NRC Champion Travis McCabe as they jumped with around a kilometer to go. They strung it out, and I was 3rd wheel with 300 meters to go. I learned a valuable lesson on this stage, and that is that you can’t hesitate when sprinting against WorldTour riders. I got swarmed, and turned an amazing opportunity into a bunch of “OMG I saw you on TV” text messages and a valuable lesson for me.

This stage made me hungry for more.

Stage 5: Woodland Park to Breckenridge

Race hotel- Same as Stage 4

The Race- Mostly flat, with a big climb close to the finish, followed by a descent into another finish climb. This stage was the most miserable I’ve ever been in a race as we were pelted by cold rain, winds, and dark/dreary conditions. I froze, then we started climbing, and life was good again. I crested the climb in the second group, my best climb of the race, and did the technical descent well. I'm going to assume that this was my best climb of the race because of Winters spent training in the cold rain in Seattle. Tough man training! The highlight from this stage was that I was in the Jens Voigt group, and people love that guy. As we approached the final, crowd-packed climb, a person with a speaker system announced to the crowd “and here comes the Jens Voigt group!!!!” This turned a certainly already amazing environment into a deafening one.

Stage 6: Vail Time Trial

Race Hotel- I don’t remember this one, but I do remember that sometime near the end of the race we stayed in a hotel that was advertised at $750 dollars a night. I believe it was this one. I’ll just assume that the food was amazing as well.

I just looked through my phone photos, and that reminded me of something. THIS hotel was the one that I couldn’t figure out how to turn the shower on in! Then Ben, my roommate for the week, turned the shower on in about an 1/8th of a second. That’s experience for ya folks!

The Race- I had been looking forward to testing myself against the best in a race against the clock so I took this stage pretty seriously. There were a lot of new things for me, the main two being doing a TT at altitude and doing a TT after 5 days of racing. I rode a TT I was fine enough with, and lost something like 4 minutes to TJ Van Garderen. We finished at the top of a crowd-crazed hill, then had to wait for a shuttle to bring us back to the parking lot.

Stage 7: Boulder to Denver

One of the buffet's coffee talking trash about home

Well, a lot went wrong here. Instead let’s focus on what went right! The crowds in Boulder were amazing. Just completely unreal. Making our way to sign in took way longer than any other stage, and the crowds during the neutral rollouts were bonkers. Most of this stage I have no memory of due to the crash, but I do very much remember the first part of the first neutral lap we did in town. Thank you Boulder for coming out in force to support us.

Last thoughts

The crowd support every day was great.

I saw a lot of Colorado that I’ve never seen before, so that was pretty rad.

Much goes into a race like this for each team. The amount of logistical stress that each team has to undertake must be huge, so thanks goes out to all the staff members of Team Jamis HB for taking care of all the details.

Finally, our team’s main goal for the week was to win the KOM jersey. This was known by everyone in the days leading up to the start, and was our number one mission. To be a part of Ben Jacques-Maynes winning the jersey was an incredible experience. Whether it was something as simple as “protect Ben” or something much, much more difficult like “tow Ben across to the break”, myself and my teammates would’ve done anything to help us accomplish our goal.

Writing this post has been healing in its own sense for me. I remembered things I assumed were gone forever, was able to reflect on the athlete of Ian, and as I continue to tick away on the trainer, writing this has helped remind me of the level I want to be at again.  

Thank you all for reading and, again, a very sincere thank you for your continued support as I fight through recovery.

Monday, October 13, 2014

USA Pro Challenge prelude

I haven’t wanted my only recorded thoughts from the USA Pro Challenge to be ones regarding my accident. I’ve been feeling better every day, the fog has lifted and memories have returned from the race so I wanted to make sure that I have record of the positive things as well. 

It may seem strange but I still have good memories from this race. No doubt the crash on the last stage was life-changing but I am a competitor and I really enjoyed having the opportunity to test myself at this level. In fact, my friend Benny and I were talking about things I could focus on while my brain continues to heal, and he suggested competitive Sudoku as an outlet. Since I’m still on the easy section of my brain exercise book, it might be like trying to race the USA Pro Challenge as a category 4.  Yes, it has been almost 8 weeks since the race, which might set a record for me for longest time between race report blog and race, but I have good excuses. Let’s get going!

I spent almost two weeks prior to the race training in Boulder, trying to turn my sea level lungs into high-altitude capable lungs. Turns out that riding at zero feet your whole life doesn’t prepare you for mountain passes above 11k feet. I stayed with my friend Rhae, and spent most of my time either riding or watching episodes of Eastbound and Down. This means that half of my time was spent well.

After feeling better and better riding in Boulder, I headed towards Aspen with my teammate Carson to meet up with the rest of our teammates who had just finished the Tour of Utah. We spent the week prior to the race staying in Snowmass Village, going on awesome rides, watching bad television, and preparing for the big race.

The team presentation kicked off the race festivities and we packed into a gondola for the trip down the mountain. We signed lots of jerseys for the race to give to sponsors, and then headed out on stage to be presented by Phil and Paul. Important to know: I hadn’t brought clothes that matched our team’s dress code for the presentation. Oops! So if there are photos on the Internet that my pants look extra tight in, it’s because they were. They were Carson’s spare set. Luckily, Paul stood in front of me the whole presentation while he interviewed Matt Cooke (2013 KOM winner).

Tomorrow I'll post the actual race report. 

Friday, September 19, 2014

Enjoy The Little Things

Whether that is drinking a latte out of a mug, or riding your bike, make sure that you do it with full excitement. You’re incredibly lucky! To all my friends, as you may have heard I was involved in a pretty heavy crash at the USA Pro Challenge. If you just follow me on the blog and not on Twitter (???) you probably didn’t even know that I was lucky enough to be doing that race. I hope to have an update about the race on here at some point but for now I am going to focus on the more currently relevant topic at hand, which was the big accident that made its way around the internet. 

I’d like to avoid a career in horror/gore writing, so I’ll leave out a lot of details, but I’ve had a fairly wild last three weeks and I’d love to share with all of you. First of all, a huge thank you to all my friends and fans who have reached out to me in this tough time with words of encouragement and support. Reading your cards while in the hospital was a daily dose of positivity for me and they definitely got me through some tough times. Thank you again for all the kind words and I’m truly blown away by the support in our community.

Rewind. The last stage of the USA Pro Challenge started in Boulder and made our way to Denver. I remember the crowd being incredible in Boulder and I was thrilled to be in the race. More in a race-specific post later. The neutral laps in town are the last thing that I remember from the Pro Challenge. From outside information, I heard that we were guttered in a crosswind through a construction zone in the first couple miles of the race and I clipped a tall cone with my bars and put myself on the ground at a high speed. This put me off the back of the race and I began to work my way through the caravan. The cars stopped suddenly and I went face-first through the rear window of one of the team cars. The first crash was all road rash, and all my serious injuries came from this second unfortunate accident. It's important to know that I hold no one to blame for this, and I absolutely know that riding in the caravan is always a risk. 

What followed next was part of the “Ian is incredibly lucky” sequence of events. I am incredibly grateful for the medical staff of the Pro Challenge, and especially Jeff, the first man on scene. He checked me out after the first crash, and called the med car up in the caravan line to follow me back through the caravan to make sure that that first crash hadn’t busted me up in a way that he didn’t notice. Because of this precaution, I had the best possible care very quickly. GRUESOME WARNING! I had cut my jugular when I went through the windshield and a man in the main med car following me was a trauma surgeon, pinched off and sewed my jugular up within 4 seconds of going through the window. Besides this, the Medivac had recently decided to land in a nearby park to watch the race. I went through the window around 800 feet from where the helicopter had landed, which ensured that I made my way to the trauma hospital as soon as was possible. The last “Ian is lucky” for now: I got taken to the #1 hospital for brain injuries in all of Colorado. I was in that hospital for two weeks and truly felt like I was in great hands the whole time. Thank you St. Anthony Hospital!!!

To avoid too many gory details, I will say that I suffered a “traumatic brain injury”, I severely cut my face and neck, broke my scapula, broke my occipital condyle in my head, tore several tendons in my neck, and chipped four of my front teeth in half. Along with these things, I also had perhaps the highest surface area of road rash I’ve had in several years from the first crash. I have no memories from about the neutral start of the stage, and nothing until around 2-3 days after the crash when I woke up from the coma I was in. It’s been pretty amazing though, because the road rash healed faster than any that I’ve had. My sister has been jokingly calling me Wolverine because I’ve been healing so fast! The thing that has been especially tough for me however is that the brain heals at its own rate. There is no seeing your brain heal! I’ve been working on controlling what I can- cycling is such a sport where everything is in your control, so I’ve been making sure that I control what I can in my healing. That means staying on top of my physical therapy and mental exercises.

I was at St. Anthony in Colorado for two weeks, and then experienced something incredible. Steve Berman, one of the title sponsors for my team, had heard of my accident and need to get back home to Washington. He offered his Private Jet for our use, and single handedly he got my family and myself home from Colorado. I am incredibly in debt to Mr. Berman and it showed me something incredible. Often times sponsors are just a blank face behind a computer screen, but with this incident, our title sponsor was a human being, and a tremendous one at that. We are deeply thankful for Mr. Berman and his gesture. I flew back home, in comfort, and transferred to the UW Rehab facility where I spent 8 days. I was discharged on Saturday and I’ve been home for the last couple days!

My brain injury had impacted some simple functions of life: My balance wasn’t great and my depth perception was off. These two things being abnormal make walking hard! Again, I had great care at UW Rehab and I went from hardly being able to walk, to going on long strolls outside. I even got to ride the exercise bike for twenty minutes! Today, I even stood on one foot for a minute, which gave me some great positivity about the direction that my healing is going. The abrasions and lacerations on my mouth and face have made it difficult for me to drink normally, so I’ve been drinking my coffees out of a syringe, hence the first sentence of this post.

Soon my scapula will heal and my neck will be better and I’ll be able to remove the neck brace. These are quantifiable improvements but the difficult thing will be making sure that I heal my brain and don’t put myself at any risks. Up next for me is a substantial quantity of Outpatient therapy. This is where I will be able to track the progress that my brain is making in healing itself, and ultimately where I will be given the good-to-go on driving as well as riding my bike outdoors. I have no current limitations on exercising though, so I plan to be a trainer interval KING this fall.

A quick story. One of my first nights in the hospital I was woken in the morning by a nurse drawing blood for testing. As a small hallucination, I was absolutely certain that I was at a race and had gotten a visit from USADA. This continues, because I was very sure that I was getting ready to race the Tusher in the Crusher (In Utah) with my teammate Ben Jacques-Maynes. I drowsily requested more breakfast, because I needed the energy for this race.

I hope that this above story reflects something for you all. I 100% plan on making a return to bike racing. It is important for me to make sure that my brain is healed before I do anything risky, but bike racing is a large part of my life. I am doing everything in my power to make sure I am able to return to the sport that I love so much. In fact, now is a good time to announce that I HAVE signed a contract for 2015 and will be a Professional cyclist again.

I would like to make something else known. It was a big goal for me to do one of the Big Three races in the US this year (Utah, Colorado, California), and I am very glad that I had the opportunity to race the Pro Challenge. Although the ending was obviously not to script, the race was still a great experience. More later.

I’d like to make sure and include how lucky I am to have the support that I do from my family (Mom, Dad, and Tela) and my girlfriend, Marissa. All four of these wonderful people flew down to Colorado and were in the hospital when I woke up. I am beyond grateful for the level of care they have given me during this “Worst case scenario” type accident. I’d also like to give a special thanks to my Team’s Manager, Sebastian Alexandre. Besides supporting me throughout my hospital time, he also played a huge role in making sure that my family was looked after as they went through what I’m sure was a very tough time.

Thanks for taking the time to hear my side of the story! Please know that any jokes in this post were meant …simply because I’m the one writing this. I understand that this situation is not something to make light of, so that was not my intention to. I’m a very lucky guy and understand what I got myself into.

Quick thought. In 2012 I crashed heavily at the Joe Martin Stage Race. In 2014 I won the Joe Martin Stage Race. By this logic, I will win the 2016 USA Pro Challenge. Take note.

Lastly, let’s talk animal shirts. For those following along on twitter, you may have noticed a trend of animal shirts while I worked on my rehab. They have all been gifts during this whole…ordeal. When I woke up my mom had gotten me three animal shirts as a surprise: The Orangutan, Panther, and Sugar Glider. Laurie O’brien got me a tiger shirt as a surprise after seeing the first three. You all can make your own opinions on them, but I love them. AND they all fit over the neck brace easily. 

Apologies for the long post, but it's been a pretty long three weeks. Thanks for taking the time to read my take on this whole experience! Know that I'm doing everything in my strength to come back an absolute machine. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Photos instead of words

It's raining in Seattle, and 58 degrees. I had just almost started to get comfortable with the desert climate, but now my body is super confused by the need to wear a sweater indoors. In fact, I just sneezed twice- this serves as excellent support to my earlier statement regarding the heat-confusion. Brrr.

I recently discovered all the TV shows that are available on Amazon Prime that aren't on Netflix, and I would rather be doing that than writing a play-by-play of Redmond Derby and Cascade. Instead, here are some really artistic photos that I've taken over the last couple of weeks:

I'm not a professional photographer like Andy Bokanev or DBC Photo. This is not a big statement. However, the mountains in Bend are big and the smoke from the nearby fires was thick, so here's my attempt:

The best part about racing in the smoke was when I also roasted marshmallows.

Our host house had a 400" projection screen and a Wii. They also had Mario Kart. This setup took us almost a week to figure out how to get the screen to turn on and do more than just hear the Wii jingling. We got it figured out by about Saturday morning, which explains our aggressive and crit-sharky evening.

This isn't in the first time that I've really enjoyed contrasting sizes, but it is the first time that it's involved dogs and stuffed bears. It's hard to tell in this photo, but that dog on the bear is a Great Dane.

Here's an interesting fact: A Great Dane mixed with a poodle is known as a "Great Danoodle" which I think is hilarious.

Speaking of hilarious, I have... very fair skin. Surprise! I made a little crash on Friday in the first miles of a 110 mile day. I ripped my shorts, and spent the next four hours telling myself that I needed to drop back to the car to get sunscreen to avoid the inevitable sunburn that I would get through the hole in my shorts. I never did, so now I have a leathery, raised, and very red mark on my leg. This will turn into a tan, and I will have a plum-sized circle tan for the next 8-16 months.

I seemed to not want to use my hands all week. I spent a majority of the road races trying to find a good spot to throw empty bottles. Littering is a pretty unfortunate norm, and since my pockets were full of snacks, I had to figure out where to keep my bottles. This translated to normal life activity as well:

It turns out that it is actually quite difficult to drink from a bottle without using your hands, but I practiced as much as I could while exercising.

Finally, big props to the Jelly Belly guys for defending the GC lead for 3 hard stages. I thought that my pre-existing friendship with Steve might give me some leash to go in the crit breakaway, lap the field and steal the GC lead, but turns out that wasn't the case. I'm almost certain Steve himeself chased me down every time I tried to go in the breakaway. Frenemy syndrome continues.

I'm home for a couple days, then exciting adventures await. Stay tuned.

Friday, June 20, 2014

I will title this post "blahbliddyblahdeedah" because I didn't choose a title BEFORE writing like I normally would

This is a great sport. Every race I go to reminds me of that simple, basic fact.

From afar, every bike race is the same. You pedal around, and someone wins. The sport is doing a tremendous job of reminding me that is about as far as you can get from the truth. I am amazed at how green I still am with this bike racing thing and am learning, what I consider to be huge things, at every race I go to. I've been racing bikes since I was 11! What a crazy, wild, incredible sport.

I'm nine races behind, so I am probably going to avoid the whole race report blahbliddyblahdeedah (very fun to say out-loud, try it) and instead go big picture style. Speaking of big pictures, I have recently watched, on small screens, Non-Stop and The World's End. Non-Stop was an entertaining movie featuring Liam Neeson. If you have seen ANY Liam Neeson movie, you have also seen Non-Stop. The World's End was, I thought, a different Genre of film. I enjoy British humor because they say silly words. All of a sudden they were fighting robots, and I was confused. So that's my world in a nutshell.

UCI GP Saguenay
OK, I wrote about Philly. We continued to drive North. We left the US, and somehow ended up in France. We had "lunch" at a Tim Hortons- not sure why people like this place- and I had a sign language argument with the cashier that didn't go well. I don't speak sign. This was a continued trend throughout the week: our hotel maid spoke no english and I almost certain that Stephen and I were getting yelled at for SOMETHING everytime that she came in while we were basically still asleep. I tried saying "merci" and "weeeeee", which caused her to give me towels and leave. I learned in France that WeeMerci means "we need more towels, please and thank you".

Besides the country change, this race also had a couple new experiences for me. Turns out that I have never done a UCI stage race, and some of the requirements for these events are provided meals and housing. Everyone from the race stayed at the same hotel, and ate the same race buffet breakfasts and dinners. This was a prime opportunity to try and sabotage other teams, but I learned quickly that by the time that meals happened I was so focused on consuming as many dessert creme puffs as possible to focus on other people.

The race was intense. It consisted of three ~160km circuit races and one 75km crit. With no time trials, the mid-race time bonus sprints were very important for the GC. Each day was full gas, all day, because at any given point everyone was a GC threat. We had a great week: JJ won the crit after every guy BUT me crushed it in the leadout. I was a victim of their speed and watched from the gutter. Luis and I spent the week sprinting for bonus seconds, and Stephen, Robbie, Carson and Tyler raced super aggressively to set us up for those time bonuses. Luis finished 3rd and I ended up 5th on GC.

One thing I did learn: there were MANY languages being yelled all weekend. English swearwords are the only curse words that are universal. Thank you Hollywood.

NRC North Star Grand Prix
Quite thankfully I took an airplane from Quebec City to Minneapolis. Our 15 hour travel day is a blog post on its own, but I'll forget about that. It involved JJ being "randomly selected" three different times, and JJ and Luis paying $150 for their bike cases while the same lady only charged me $30.

I thought that this race would be an... easier... NRC stage race because although six stages, three of those were crits, one was a short road bike time trial, and the other two were gently rolling road races.

WRONG. The race started Wednesday morning. On Thursday night, I painfully rolled over and sadly realized that it was still Thursday and we somehow were only halfway done with the race. Ouch.

Wednesday was the short time trial in the morning and a twilight crit. Ben smashed the TT pretty well for 6th, and the rest of us were scattered in the 10s-30s. As is the norm with sub-11 minute efforts, I coughed for 3-7 hours immediately following my race. The twilight crit was relatively straight-forward. Optum let a break go, which Ruben surfed. He was 13th in the TT, so it was a good card for us to have up the road. Optum brought the break back, and with two to go Luis hit the front with Ben, myself, and JJ following behind. Luis did a full lap on the front, and Ben led us through the finish with one to go. He took it all the way to the second-to-last straightaway, and I slowly ramped up the speed into the last corner. I came out of the corner first, continued to accelerate, and held it to the line. JJ had backed off into the last corner, opening up the gap for me and giving me the opportunity to get the stage win. He didn't need to come around, so we were able to go 1-2 on the stage! 

Photo from Velonews.
One of my goals going into this season was to be part of a successful leadout for JJ. This was the first full leadout that I've been a part of and it was an incredibly cool experience. Luis and Ben were amazing, and made it so the team would be in a position to win. JJ backed off, and made it so I was in the position to win.

At the end of the day, anytime there are two Jamis HB jerseys on the podium it is a good day. 
credit: Joe Holmes

Thursday's road race was the hardest race of my life. I think. Heavy winds for 3.5 hours blew the field to shreds, and 12 of us (5 Optum and 4 of us!) went onto the final circuits 4 minutes up on the remnants of the field. Luis made the select front group of four and finished second on the day, moving up to 2nd on GC.

Friday and Saturday were predictable. The GC race was down to the 12 guys who finished in the front split on Thursdy, so the race leader's team could pretty much let any breakaway go to the line that didn't have one of the 11 other guys from Thursday's front group in it. Friday I practiced guarding JJ's wheel, and Saturday I rode in the rain freezing for what felt like two hours but was probably closer to 30 minutes. We all attacked like spider monkeys on the closing circuits, but the 2+ inches of standing water on the course and the 100 corners per lap made attacking difficult.

Photo: BMW Dev Team
Sunday was the Stillwater Crit, another race that I've always wanted to do. Any race that finishes with a front group of 18 guys is alright in my book. We had Luis 16 seconds out of the lead, but also had JJ, Ben, and myself all in the top 10. We had to put pressure on Optum early, so Ben went in the breakaway. They had to chase all day to keep the gap at 20 seconds, and the rest of us tucked in behind them and waited. With 6 to go we were about 8 seconds back and Luis had me attack. I went hard up the hill and went across the gap with Travis McCabe, integrating with the break then forming a new split. We were brought back, but I was happy to see that Optum was down a couple riders. Luis attacked HARD with three to go, splitting the group into less than ten guys and isolating the yellow jersey. I knew that this was an optimal time to counter-attack, and as I started to get out of the saddle to accelerate up the right side, McCabe went up the left. The group moved right, pinching me on the curb, and Travis rode away. He held on to win the stage, and a group of 17 of us sprinted for the rest.

We weren't able to get the seconds we needed, but we raced very hard. Luis was second, and JJ, Ben and myself all finished in the top ten.


That took a turn for the race-report-style-blog-post pretty quick, my bad. Minnesota was fresh in my mind, unlike Saguenay. I didn't post there because there is no internet in Saguenay. That was a lie, there is. Sorry.

I'm back in Seattle for an extended amount of time! About three weeks, so I'll see you cats on the flipside.

What does that even mean?

This is what happens when you search "cats on the flipside"

Monday, June 2, 2014

It's been, one month since you've looked at me

Ooooh. That’s right. I have a blog where I am supposed to write stuff that comes out of my brain whenever things happen that I consider worthy. Not that nothing has happened to be worthy, but instead of blogging I have been doing more productive things with my days: riding, sleeping, and watching Workaholics.

If you were curious, I have functioned as a member of society since the last time I focused. That is again a bit of an overstatement on my part, since my functioning role has been that of the lion at a zoo. Very fierce activities for short amounts of time (mainly involving eating) and then a fair amount of sleeping.

The real reason that blogging hasn’t happened is I was home, not racing, for most of the month of May. I had a bit of a mid-season break and I needed every minute of it to recharge for my next big block of racing. In one trip, I’ll race US Nationals, Philadelphia Cycling Classic, GP Saugenay, and the North Star GP. I haven’t done the counting, but I think that is about 47 race days over the four weekends of racing.

US Nationals in Chattanooga came first. I was very excited to have the opportunity to race both the TT and the RR. No one else from my team was racing the TT, so I flew to Tennessee several days earlier than the rest of the crew. This is where Workaholics came in. I finished my pre-race ride and it was noon, so I watched TV the rest of the day. Like any good member of society would do. I made another big decision while I was hotel living on week one of this trip. I was making an Aeropress directly into the provided Styrofoam cups, and was using my hand to spread out the pressure, just like any ape would do. However, my hand must’ve been too weak or my pressing muscles too big because the Styrofoam cup crumpled and coffee went everywhere. I decided that I couldn’t deal with a month of Styrofoam, so I went to the Walmart and bought a real mug for $1.75. I really wanted to get a mug that had a handle made of brass knuckles, but I could not find one. Now my new mug lives in my roller bag.

I was optimistic going into the TT. I knew that if I rode to my capabilities a good result might be achievable. What followed was my worst TT of the year, and I averaged about 70 watts lower than what I was hoping to do. I chalked up this race into the experience pile and let myself be grumpy for about 12 minutes, then moved on. I was mostly disappointed that time trials ruin your body with heaving aches of red-hot hatchet mutilation regardless of your result. Win or lose, you’re pretty much broken for the rest of the day.

On Memorial Day we raced the US Pro RR. It was hot, the course was hard, and the field was strong. Tyler made the break, and the rest of us tried to stay fresh in the peleton while Garmin went hard up the long climb every lap. I was riding decent- not amazing, but better than the TT – when I flatted on the descent on the third (of four) lap. I had came off the front group near the top of the climb, but was in site of the group when I flatted. I tried to chase back on, but to no luck. Who knows if I would’ve survived the onslaught over the next lap and closing circuits, but I was happy that my legs were starting to come around after a very sluggish TT. Tyler and Carson rode really well, with Tyler staying off the front the whole race, and Carson being one of the only 4 riders who wasn’t in the original break to make it across to the front group.

Tuesday we drove through four states in thirteen hours. I thought that was special until we drove through three in two hours on yesterday. Which was Sunday night. I don’t know when I’ll have internet to post this, so use your imagination.

Carson, Stephen, Tyler and myself drove from Tennessee to Pennsylvania with Hugo and it took a long time. We drove through Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and finally Pennsylvania. I had four Starbucks iced drinks from Gas Stations. I also went to the bathroom in four different states, which I consider a fairly big accomplishment. We stayed at Tyler’s parents house for several days, which was a relaxing week of quiet country riding.

Saturday we met up with the rest of the team in King of Prussia, which is apparently a town name in PA. Sunday was the Philly Cycling Classic, which is a race that I’ve wanted to do for as long as I can remember. It was indeed everything that I hoped for in a bike race. The day started off great when we pulled up for team parking and were placed directly in front of a lawn party. It was 10am and they were already far into their beer consumption for the day. I then had the opportunity to pet a wonderfully far French Bulldog, and it confirmed my thought that I like that breed of dog.

I really enjoy this style of racing: one long day of aggressive racing. The feature of this course is the Manayunk wall: a steep, 600 meter climb up to the finish line. I got the chance to race hard. One of my tasks for the day was to try and split the field up the climb with three to go. Carson and I lit the group up, forcing a small selection over the top of the climb. I’d like to hope that it led to some people being dropped, because it certainly almost made me get dropped the next time up the hill. On the last lap I tried to fight to keep the guys in position, and cracked spectacularly about a K from the climb. This allowed me to ride the climb slow, high-fiving hundreds of drunken spectators. I crossed the line completely wrecked, and collapsed into our chairs. Where I was promptly told that I had been randomly selected for Anti-doping. This was my first Anti-doping test where I wasn’t doing well in the bike race. It’s slightly less satisfying to pee in front of someone when you finished 45th instead of first. Except I had been needing to go to the bathroom since two laps to go, so it was actually pretty satisfying. Bathroom humor.

Now we’re back in the van, heading North-er. Last night we drove through PA, NJ, and into NY. At some point we’ll be in Canada. I don’t know, man.

You do you, friends.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Joe Martin Stage Race stages 3 and 4

Yesterday's post ended after JJ and I went 1-2 in the first road race. The bonus and time gap gave me an 11 second lead in the GC heading into Saturday's 110 mile road race.

Saturday’s stage is much more difficult than Friday's. We do a hilly circuit four times, and it was quite windy. 20 mph wind, with gusts. I can’t decide if that was a good thing or not. I think it was because although it makes the pedaling hurt much more consistently for much longer, it also makes the race a little bit easier for us to control. Once again the guys rode incredibly- on the front from mile zero. This was another 110-mile day. We knew that the hill on the circuits would be decisive, and my job was simple. The team would be able to get me to the last lap, but up the hill the final time it would be up to myself and Ben to cover the attacks. Ideally, we wanted Ben to be a bit up the road so that I could go across to his group with minimal effort. What followed was the hardest hour or so that I’ve done in quite some time.

Ben followed the first wave of attacks by the Smart Stop guys, and ended up in a select front breakaway group of six riders. They soon got a minute, and the field lulled a bit. We approached the final climb on the last lap, and Kenda 5hr took the front. JJ deposited me on the back of their train, and we hit the climb. After about 15 minutes of hard climbing, a group of about 15 or so had separated ourselves from the rest of the field thanks to the relentless tempo set by the Kenda 5hr team.

I can't explain how I found this picture, or why it fits. I laughed too hard
Our group eventually got across to the lead group with Ben, forming a front group of around 20. Smart Stop had four riders to our two, so there was lots of attacking. Eventually, we turned onto the tailwind section of the course and not long after a 30-strong rider group caught back on, led by, to my excitement, JJ. Having another teammate was huge, and he and Ben continued to rotate on the front. Kenda put in three riders to try and set up for the stage win, and Jet Fuel had two riding to protect their rider’s second spot on GC.

We caught the break with 5 miles to go, and Ben and JJ continued to slay themselves on the front of the field. It was a pretty unreal experience having a World Tour level sprinter sacrificing his chances for me, on a stage that he surely could have won. Meanwhile, I fought for Travis McCabe’s wheel the last several K.  I figured that he would win the stage, as he had the most teammates left in the group and is one of the best sprinters in the NRC. I was hoping that by following him I’d be at least kept out of trouble in the final K’s, and maybe even have a shot at a sprint myself. My legs got mad at me when I started to sprint, and all I could manage was 8th on the stage: protecting the GC lead and giving me what turned out later to be a very valuable three points in the sprinter’s competition.

We were all pretty tired after Saturday’s race, but very content. We had stepped up to the challenge on the hardest day of the race and protected the lead. One stage to go.

We went to bed on Saturday night unsure of what type of weather that we would wake up to. The news forecasted a pretty dim future for us: with tornadoes, heavy hail, and thunder and lightning predicted to hit about 15 minutes before we were scheduled to begin our criterium. There was talk of potentially canceling the stage, or shortening it.

Lots to be nervous about here, I definitely wanted to race. I was confident in the team, my strength, and I didn’t want to win the race with an asterisk next to my name. However, I had approximately zero desire to race while getting pelted with the predicted baseball-size hail. I also was in no way interested in seeing what the inside of a tornado looked like.

Side note- check out how awesome Phillip Seymour Hoffman looked in the movie Twister:

We heard rumors that in the event of the inclement weather hitting midrace, we’d see two laps to go and try and get a finish in. That is, assuming we weren’t all lifted to Neverland or Oz by a tornado. This was a nerve-racking possibility because the chance of the race just…ending… meant that we had to be very cautious about the breakaways that we let up the road. No longer could we let someone close on GC up the road in the first twenty minutes, because if all of a sudden we got two laps to go, there would be a frantic chase to try and close the gap.

Terrible weather hit Fayetteville all morning, and we weren’t feeling too optimistic. We headed to the start, and about ten minutes before we were scheduled to go the sun came out and the roads started to dry. Great!

Our team took the front from lap one with every rider on the front. They set a pace that was comfortable for 85 minutes of racing, but fast enough to discourage many attacks. The race went by quite quickly for me, as I sat 6th wheel the entire time- never braking for the corners, fighting for position, or riding in the wind.

photo from Twitter
Then, with 7 laps to go the weather finally rolled in, and it started to rain heavily. The previously dry and safe corners were now slippery any dangerous. The already blown-apart field started to shred even more, and the guys continued to press the pace on the front. With 4 laps to go a crash took out JJ, and it was left with just Ben and I to finish the job. Ben did a superhuman two laps, keeping me second wheel and keeping the attacks at bay. With two laps to go, Ben faded and it was up to me. I planted myself on Ryan Roth, who was second on GC, and made sure I stayed on his wheel. There were 6 bonus seconds at the line, so a five-second gap between Roth and myself would have lost us the GC. Roth attacked on the second-to-last straightaway on the last lap, and I was right on him. I went through the last corner second wheel, saw an opportunity, and started my sprint early.

An uphill and headwind sprint might be my favorite type of finish, and this one is no different. I stomped the pedals, slowly fading in the last 100 meters. With 70 meters to go, Brad Huff from Optum came off my wheel, timing his sprint perfectly and winning the stage. As Brad came around me, I threw my hands in the air- knowing that by finishing in the top 3 I had more than secured the GC lead and that I had just won the Joe Martin Stage Race!

Bought this photo from Dean Warren photography
As a bonus, my first place in the TT, second in the road race, eighth in the second road race, and third in the criterium gave me enough points to win the Green Jersey competition as well, finishing three points ahead of second place. That's where the three points from Saturday's stage came in!

Credit: Ed Beamon
One guy stands on the podium. In our case, two, because Ben finished third on GC entirely due to riding hard. That's unbelievable that he finished so high up on GC after throttling himself for me all weekend.

Credit: Ed Beamon
One guy gets the glory, but the whole team gets the win. There is no way that I would have won this weekend without the unquestioned support by my entire team. I had to do maybe one hour of very hard riding this weekend, where my team rode for ten hours hard. I am so grateful for the opportunity to lead this team, and could not have done it without the leadership of Ben and JJ and the strength of Carson Miller, Stephen Leece, Eloy Teruel, Ruben Companioni, and Guido Palma.

I cannot forget to thank the staff either: I've never gotten massages pre and post race before, so thanks Felix! Hugo kept the bike working perfectly, and Ed/Seba drew up the plans. This weekend was an incredible experience to be a part of, and I'm excited to build upon this success for future races.

Thanks again to everyone for the support.

I'm back in Seattle for a couple weeks, so after some rest, it's back to work. Time to ride the TT bike!!

John Segesta photo, team camp 2014