Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Giving Game

I'm not good at Christmas. Don't get me wrong, I love the pretty lights, the trees, the cookies, the music and the Holiday quaffs. But I'm usually really bad at buying Christmas presents. And it's not that I don't like giving people things, I think it's that I really have a hard time buying for someone something that will rarely or never get used. It's tough. Most people in this country have everything they need and most things that they want (within reason). I suppose I should be 'showing' my love and doing my part to stimulate the economy...but I still have a hard time with this game.
This year, my dad came to visit us in Boulder the week before Christmas and brought me some really nice Christmas gifts. And what did I get him this year? Well, I picked up the tab at dinner one night because I didn't want to play the game. Lame. And now I'm feeling guilty even though I know he doesn't mind one bit. So here is my solution to this dilemma:
Dad, I bought you a bike. You'll never get to ride this bike that I bought for you and probably will never see it either. But know that your bike is going to help a lot of people in Zambia. This 'community' bike in Zambia will help multiple people get to and from work and school much faster and more efficiently. World Bicycle Relief was just named one of the best not-for-profit organizations in terms of amount good done per dollar donated. I really believe it will be an effective gift/donation.
My only regret is that I can't put Z-Man on the down tube of the bike. Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Hut Trip

I decided that I needed to post something to replace the negativity and drama from the last post.
Rebecca and I went on a hut trip near Vail with some friends last weekend. We had beautiful weather and a fun time so I wanted to share some photos:
photo taken by Dawn near our hut.












photo by Rebecca











photo by Rebecca from inside the hut.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Justice!

Well, I have to admit that I've been a little down in the dumps lately. I've known that this WADA Code that rules over cycling and other sports is unfair at times but this latest example is down right ridiculous.
Recently two Arbitration decisions have been ruled on. One was with LaShawn Merritt, a 400m runner that has represented the USA in the Olympics. He was found to have DHEA in his system during his off season in the Fall of 2009. He took his case to arbitration and he proved that he ingested the DHEA unknowingly through the supplement ExtenZe. We've probably all seen the late night annoying commercials for ExtenZe. Haha, right? Well, I'm not laughing. I feel so badly for this guy who made a stupid decision but had no intention of cheating. Of course, Extenze spikes their product with DHEA so it's not on the label. And from what little I understand about dietary supplements - that's perfectly okay! DHEA won't harm anyone (it won't help them either but that's a different issue)...oh, except for elite athletes who are responsible for everything that goes in their bodies. As if we all have mass spectrometers in our basement so we can check compositions of everything we consume. Granted, Extenze isn't exactly a reputable company that anyone in their right mind would trust but no one is denying that he made a stupid decision. To me, this is the key point of the case - excerpt taken from the Arbitration ruling found on the USADA website:
"At his hearing, Mr. Merritt proved two things beyond a reasonable doubt, (i) he tested positive as a result of ingesting the product ExtenZe, he purchased at a 7-Eleven store, and (ii) he did not purchase this product to enhance his sports performance. His evidence was so convincing that after his submission the USADA agreed that Mr. Merritt's positive tests were caused by ExtenZe."
Okay, so USADA admits that he took it accidentally with no intent to cheat. We also know that the scientific evidence of the performance enhancing benefits of DHEA are inconclusive at best. So, in light of these facts what did the panel decide? They decided to reduce his sentence from 24 months to 21 months. A whopping 3 month reduction for a guy who took something that was mis-labeled in his offseason which likely helped him athletically in no way. Wow. I bet USADA feels all warm and fuzzy about that one.
Next up we have the recent CONI deal with the Danilo Di Luca case. Admittedly, I don't know anything about this case than what I read in the headlines. But here is the story in Velonews. So let me recap, Di Luca won a bunch of races and in particular finished 2nd on GC in the Giro in 2008 on CERA, the next generation EPO that didn't have an approved test until about the time he got caught. Well, Di Luca realized he couldn't beat the charges so decided he'd detail to the anti-doping authorities his doping methods. This disclosure was enough to get him a reduction from 24 months to 15 months. An admitted cheater, who won races 'doped to the gills' as they say, gets 15 months. And what did Di Luca have to say about it?
“I gave no names. I did it for (the good of) cycling, not to point the finger at any cyclists. I explained the methods (of doping). My decision to speak was above all to help educate the youth.”
Translation: "I'm not a narc! I didn't roll on anyone, I promise! I did it...I did it for the kids! Yep, it was all for the kids. Oh, and being able to race (and get paid a shit load of money) in 2011 may have played a small part in my admission."
That's our anti-doping system in a nutshell. If only I were an actual doper with knowledge of methods, suppliers, and other dopers - I too, could possibly get a reduction. Bummer, I guess I'll just have to sit out my 2 years.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Summer in Pics

Labor Day Weekend = official end of summer. ugh. Here are some pics documenting some activities one can enjoy when not racing their bike EVERY weekend! :)
Top of Mt. Audubon (13,000+ft) in May. We hiked in waist deep snow at times!










Randomly ran into college bud Brock and fam in Estes Park when my mom was in town.










Rebecca straddling a rock in Boulder Canyon











CL Class of '97 representin RAGBRAI!











Sally, Rebecca, and I at the summit of Mt. Elbert, 14,400 ft. and the 2nd highest point in the continuous 48 States.











On the way up to the summit of Mt. Elbert










Hydration!











Rebecca finishing her 1st ever Duathlon!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Next Up

This is a busy weekend with the Grand Opening of the FasCat Performance Center on Saturday and a trail running race that I'm doing on Sunday. The Grand Opening will start (of course) with the showing of the Tour on the bigscreen, but we'll have events all day capping it off with "happy hour" at 4p.
Sunday is the Barr Trail Mountain Race. 12.6 miles total up and down the same narrow trail. It nets over 3600' to the halfway point - Barr Camp situated at 10,200 ft above sea level. Betts has assured me that he doesn't walk any portion of it but I'm skeptical. And then on the way down, it is as fast as you can go without eating s#!t on one of the many switchbacks. Should be fun! Apparently they have a competition after the race awarding medals to the top 3 bloodiest runners from falls on the way down. They're a sick lot.
It should be a fun weekend...if I don't get too carried away with the FasCat 'Happy Hour' on Saturday!

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Announcement

Being as the Tour Day France is upon us and teams are announcing their exciting new sponsors, I thought I should hold my own private press conference to announce my new sponsor (employer): FasCat Coaching. Many of you know that Frank Overton has coached me in the past and helped me achieve the results that landed my first pro contract. Well, over the years Frank and I have spent many hours in intense 'business meetings' discussing all things cycling over the local breweries' finest. And recently, in lieu of racing due to my current unforeseen situation, Frank took me on as an apprentice coach with his business FasCat Coaching. I have been at it for a couple of months now and I am having fun being part of the team. FasCat just opened a new Performance Center in Boulder on N. Broadway so that has been really exciting as well. If you're local make sure you stop in, say hello, and check out the new digs. We have a lot of cools things going on including live coverage of the Tour everyday in HD on the big screen! I plan to be there every morning drinking coffee and screaming at the T.V.
So that's what's new with me. I have been riding quite a bit but still no real 'training'. I have a 13 mile trail running race coming up in 2 weeks so I've been trying to half-heartedly prepare for that. I've been managing to get those competitive outlets in here and there for sanity purposes. But now that I'm a coach, I may just try to live through the athletes I'm working with!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Chamois Time!

I finished. Woo hoo! I lined up in Bailey, CO at 6 a.m. on Saturday with 150 of my closest Off-roadie friends for my first mountain bike event ever. My furthest mountain bike training ride to that point had been a 24 mile, 3 hour ride with Andy Brannon from Trips for Kids. Unprepared perhaps? Yes. But I had a game plan: I was going to simply 'survive' the singletrack sections all the while consuming so many calories and salty fluids that I could survive double that distance if I had to.
And it was a good plan. But. Turns out my tummy doesn't like to have oatmeal and coffee shoved into it at 4:30a. It was so unhappy, in fact, that I was 3 hours into the race before I could start drinking normally and eat anything at all. At that point, as they say, the damage had been done. I was already behind the 8 ball and trying desperately to make up my fluid and electrolyte deficit. I will also add that the 40 miles of singletrack in the race comes in the first 53 miles. That means that beginner Tommy was so busy death-gripping his handlebars and trying not to die that he probably wouldn't have eaten much anyway. Okay, that's enough 3rd person blogging for today. So, when I exited the last singletrack section at mile 53, I was already starting to get that 'ghoulish' look when all the hours of evaporated sweat on my skin leaves behind a salty residue that just keeps getting thicker and thicker as the hours pass by. But I was so overjoyed to be able to pedal unencumbered on a road that I carried on. However, about midway up the massive 20 mile climb that starts at mile 70, I began to crack hard. I'll try to give you a visual: we're on a one lane gravel road that climbs and climbs and climbs all the while surrounded by burnt out trees (there was a massive fire in the area a few years ago) without a cloud in the sky. Hot, dusty, exposed, searing are a few adjectives that come to mind. At one point I found an evergreen tree that produced a minimal amount of shade and planted myself beneath it for 5-10' while I watched racers go by and tried to force electrolyte drink down my gullet. Okay, get back on the horse - I knew I had 2-3 hours ahead of me still so I might as well get it over with. For the next hour or so I continued to struggle while climbing on and taking a drink every time I felt that my stomach could keep it down. At about 15 miles to go, my body started to rally a little, going from completely worthless to mostly worthless but the improvement was much appreciated.
I finished with little ado but not before the organizer played a nasty trick on us and made us do a 15% hidden gravel track climb just before the finish. Grrrr. I would hate to have gotten an audio recording of the filth that came out of my mouth during that little climb!
So, Frank Overton from FasCat Coaching let me borrow his Garmin Edge 500 for the race so I have an elevation profile and route from the race. I started the Garmin about a half mile late but made up for it by going off course for about the same distance (if you look closely at the map, you can see where I took a right at around mi 38 and then flipped it when I figured out I was off course).
Here's the Garmin info.
Post Race thoughts:
That was the longest (by time) ride of my life at 8:11.
46 psi tire pressure is too high for a mountain bike race.
I had about 2000 calories of food still in my pockets at the finish (bad sign).
I don't know that I've ever been beaten by over 90' in a race before (JHK in 6:37)
Mountain biking is hard. Oh, and I think I finished 25th. And when I start to feel sorry for myself, I think about my friend Sarai who had the determination to still finish 13 hours after starting! Wow, that's a long day. Good job Sarai.
THANK YOU to everyone who contributed to our fundraising efforts. I haven't gotten a final tally but I've heard I was in the running for the highest fundraiser in the whole race! Also, a thank you to all of the volunteers and course marshals for the race. Everyone was so helpful and smiley that it made that death march a little more tolerable.
100 mile mountain bike race: check.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Full Steam Ahead

Quick Hundo Training Update: 3 rides, 2 crashes.
I am now the proud owner of a 29er mountain bike. I've taken it out on two rides so far and have only crashed once. Not a bad percentage for me. It is a ton of fun and I've been riding the trails with a perma-smile. I can't wait to explore some new trails.
The fundraising for Trips For Kids Denver/Boulder has been going great as well. With the donation of my old mountain bike (est. $200?), I believe nearly $1000 has been raised so far for my Bailey Hundo Charity Ride/Race! In no small part due to General CB Lee's generous donation for the ride. Sir, thank you Sir! If you'd like to help get us into the quadruple digits, please go to the Bailey Hundo website and click on "Donate", then I guess just mention my name in the comment section. Thank you to everyone who has helped out.
And um, regarding my comments on this Landis drama - these are just my beliefs/opinions and you should treat them as such. I've never seen anyone dope in my life and I'm by no means an expert just because I'm serving a suspension. I just believe that doping in cycling was the norm a few years ago but also that it is the exception now. I may be wrong on both accounts for all that I know, but this is what I believe based on all that I've seen and heard over the years. There's my disclaimer.
Thanks for following.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

My Thoughts

It's usually bad policy for me to react to something that I'm passionate about before sitting on it and having a think. But that's what is going to happen now, so you've been warned:
I think Floyd Landis is a good person who f'ed up. I believe the content of those emails is truthful and accurate. I think he's probably doing this out of a combination of guilt and unfairness. Guilt because he brought too many good and honest people along with his lies. And the unfairness is that too many other cheaters are getting away with it while leading happy and successful lives. His happiness and success were taken away from him and while that in itself may be fair, it's completely unfair and arbitrary that others of the same ilk or still being worshiped as heroes. So, how can I see him as a good person? Because I can see how the sequence of events could lead to him making the decision to dope. If he had successful, charismatic people mentoring him and showing him the ropes, it's easy to see how he would follow that path, especially when you consider that it may have been the 'norm' in that era. If everyone you are racing against is doping, is it still cheating? Cheating means getting an unfair advantage - what if you're just trying to level the playing field? These arguments are nothing new and I'm not condoning his actions, but I can understand how it happened and I don't think that every doper is a POS. Most are, though. :) Especially now when it seems as though cycling is making a concerted effort to clean up the sport.
So what are my emotions this morning?
Anger. I'm pissed (like Landis) that people are out there cheating (or have cheated) and racing their bikes and having successes. I'm angry that I am sitting here at home in my athletic prime and not in Italy or California racing though I never knowingly cheated in my life.
Fear. I'm worried about our sport. How is this going to affect sponsorship? How will cycling be viewed by the masses? Will people realize that doping is rampant in EVERY sport where significant money is at stake but that cycling goes further than perhaps any other sport to rid cheaters from the ranks?
Pride. I'm proud of the fact that I have achieved all that I did with a clean body and conscience. Who knows how many people who have beaten me over the years have done so dirty. However, I have thought about the possibility that whatever was found in my system did illegally enhance my performance but then I think about the facts surrounding my test. Tour of Utah TT victory, negative urine test - 8 days later USPro TT I was blown out of the water, pos. urine test. I don't think there was much performance enhancement happening that day.
So there you go. That's my reaction to the latest scandal to hit our wonderful sport. My stomach has been in knots all morning thinking about it and part of me hopes that Landis will be shooed aside as a disgruntled, lying cheater. That way we can go on thinking that the world is just and fair - that those who cheat get caught and those who don't get to go for the glory.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Mental Training

Hello,
Not much mountain bike training going on here (still lacking a working/fitting bike but that should be taken care of by Fri.) but Sarai Snyder, who will be representing TFK at the Bailey Hundo as well, her friend Johnny and I got some mental toughness training in yesterday. We found ourselves descending on road bikes during an intense hail storm that was passing through the front range at the time. It wasn't too much of a surprise, we saw the black clouds coming but we decided to roll the dice and try our best to avoid them. Nope. We got hit at the worst possible time - descending Lee Hill (a steep and fairly technical descent that leads back into town). However, Sarai gets the gold medal for toughness for not stopping even though she had nothing but a short sleeved kit on. Try to imagine hail hitting your bare skin at 50? mph. Think pins and needles or maybe paintball gun shooting range. We passed lesser men on the side of the road taking cover under trees. It was an experience. We were entertained afterward by showing each other our welts (battle scars). And it was Johnny's first ride in Colorado so I thought it was fitting. By the time we got home, the sun was shining.
The fund raising is going well and continues to exceed my expectations. Again, thank you to everyone who has contributed to Trips For Kids Denver/Boulder. I believe some technical mountain biking is in my future so I will keep you updated and try to take pictures (hopefully not of my resulting injuries).
Thanks for reading!

Thursday, May 06, 2010

On Our Way!

THANK YOU to everyone who has contributed to Trips For Kids for the Bailey Hundo charity event. I am told that donations with the "for Tom Zirbel's Bailey Hundo ride" designation are pouring in. Well maybe not 'pouring' in, but I'm definitely impressed with the level of giving thus far. For each person who has taken the time and money to contribute - a thousand thanks!
The course has been posted for the ride: 40 miles of single track and over 14,000 ft of climbing. And I'm happy to report that my mountain bike training has begun. I bought a cheap front wheel and tuned up my Cannondale Jackyl as best as I could and went out on a technically easy route the other day (Marshall Mesa) and crashed about 10 min. after hitting the trails! Seems my pedal clearance isn't as high as on the CX bike and I clipped a pedal on a rock going about 15 mph. Sprawled out on the ground with a few minor cuts and bruises, I decided that was enough mtn bike training for day 1. One ride, one crash. It can only get better from here!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Bailey Uh-Oh

I mean - the Bailey Hundo! I may have bitten off more than I can chew recently when I agreed to ride a 100 mile mountain biking charity event in less than 8 weeks.
A) I have not ridden a mountain bike in 4 years
B) My current mountain bike has a bent deraileur, bad breaks, and is missing a front wheel
C) I should be more worried about paying my mortgage than donating to charities
D) I would have a hard time finishing 100 miles on a road bike these days.
E) Oh, and if I get my mtn bike operational again, it's too small for me anyway.

But here is the good news: this biking event will raise money for Trips For Kids Denver/Boulder. I think TFK is a great organization that uses bikes to provide something positive and productive into which at-risk youth can channel their energy. In addition, it will raise money to build more trails in the Bailey, CO area which will in turn get more people out on their bikes. Also, not to be forgotten, this event will get me out the door to train!
So, here's what I'd like: I'd like each person reading this to take 4 minutes out of their day and go to this website and donate $5-$10 to Trips for Kids. And in the comment section, you can write that it's for "Tom Zirbel's Bailey Hundo ride". I'm making this up as I go, but that sounds reasonable to me. I will be tapping my dwindling savings account for this cause, and I'm hoping for $5 from YOU. And I'll let you in a well-known secret in case this is your first time donating in awhile: In addition to helping out a worthy cause, donating helps the donor. I feel pretty good about myself after donating to charities. Donating is actually a very selfish act for me. So go ahead, indulge yourself today! :)
Thanks for reading. I'll give updates on how this little project is progressing.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Quantifying Form

I've been watching my body transform over the past few months, and I recently thought of a way that cyclists can finally quantify their "form". Some might point to 20 min. wattage divided by weight or some highly scientific method like that. Well I'm here to tell you that there's a much simpler way to measure your form. All it takes is a tape measure and the ability to divide two numbers. First a little background - I'm actually not as fat as I thought I would be after not training seriously for 6 months...though still eating like I am. But I'm definitely not fit, so weight is not a reliable gauge. However, my body has changed quite dramatically - in different ways than developing love handles. So, I've come up with a simple equation that is bullet-proof: Form = (circumference of thigh) / (circumference of arm)
The larger the number, the better the form. That's all! I'm telling you it's brilliant. These past 6 months my biceps have gotten bigger and my legs have shrunk seemingly before my very eyes. I feel like if I watched them closely enough I could actually see the difference happening - sort of like the hour hand on an analog clock. If you're wondering, my numerical representation of form is 1.82*. I'm sure that 8 months ago it was closer to 3, maybe even 4. Obviously, the goal in racing is to look as lopsided and goofy as possible (i.e. resemble the characters on Triplets of Belleville). Um, I hope no one steals my revolutionary idea on how to quantify form before I can figure out how to make money on it.
In other news on the cycling front - I've been on a mini speaking tour of late. I spoke to the ACA Officials a few weeks ago about the 'grey area' of my situation with regards to anti-doping punishments. And the following week, I spoke to the CU Cycling Club about racing, the benefits of collegiate cycling, and of course doping in sport. No one in either crowd booed or threw rotten tomatoes, so I was encouraged by that. And today I'm riding with the Trips for Kids crew for the 2nd time. I find myself constantly lured back to this sport that I love so much. Breaking up is hard!
Thanks for reading.


* Yes, I did use a tape measure on my thighs and arms for the first time ever (okay, maybe I did it as a teenager?). Not proud of it, but I wanted to test out my theory if I ever get fit again.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Presumption of Guilt

I thought a good point was raised in a few of the comments in response to my last post. In one, the commenter basically stated “Only you know if you deliberately doped or not.” That is true. Only I truly know if I intentionally cheated or not. Everyone else has to use the evidence at their disposal and they then choose to believe me or not. That evidence could be anything from living with me day in and day out and knowing me for years to having read a few articles about my case and having an opinion on previous doping cases. But, this is no different than in a criminal case in that we usually don't actually know if a person committed a crime or not with 100% certainty. That's why defendants go before a “jury of our peers” to present both sides of the argument and the jury members are given the often difficult task of deciding one way or the other. That is the best we can do. And without a doubt, mistakes are made in this system. Innocent people go to prison and guilty people walk. Even in this advanced technological age, we do not possess the ability to look into the brain and know a person's thoughts.
So I guess my beef with this anti-doping policy is that it does not afford athletes the same rights and presumption of innocence that we afford defendants in a criminal court of law. Athlete's have the option to take their case to an arbitration panel of 3 people who will hear their case, but I encourage you to look at the track record of this. If you come before the arbitration panel with a positive test, you will lose. True, in some instances the suspensions have been reduced due to exceptional circumstances, but what about the people who didn't dope? I'm not even talking about those who've ingested something contaminated unknowingly, I'm talking here about false-positives. I know it's happened. I spoke to someone on the phone last week who was a victim of a false-positive. He spent a fortune defending himself in arbitration to no avail, quit the sport, became successful in his subsequent career, and never looked back. And yes, I am choosing to believe him and I could be wrong but he has some very strong characters vouching for him and that combined with our conversation on the phone was enough to convince me. So why wasn't the 1.2% false-positive rate of the test used to convict him taken into account with this 'impartial' panel? And further, how many people have been falsely convicted just like him, who I/we have no idea about? Is this just the collateral damage of the best system possible?
I guess we have to ask ourselves if we'd rather have innocent people booted out of the sport or have dirty cheaters beat the system. I understand that both are going to happen in any anti-doping code, but the way the code is enforced will determine which of the two is more prevalent. Meaning, maybe our need to catch dopers causes us to rely on analytical instruments and methods that aren't meant to be used as a stand-alone tests but only in conjunction with other confirming tests. Or maybe we lower a particular threshold that makes the rate of false-positives higher. For example, if we believe that many dopers are sophisticated in their cheating, they will manipulate their levels up to the threshold of a banned substance but not go over it (the joke was that a few years ago it was amazing how many European pros had a hematocrit of 49.5). So in response to this we decide to lower the threshold for that substance, and maybe we catch more cheaters but maybe we also catch a few people whose bodies have naturally produced those levels. Is it worth it? I don't think it is. In my opinion, convicting an innocent athlete damages the integrity of the sport more than a cheater getting away with it does. I think that the most sophisticated cheaters are going to get away with it until they are caught in the act or slip up somehow (be it a paper trail or a screwed up dosage). That being said, I really believe that the dopers are in the minority today. The sport is cleaning up. As a fan, I choose to believe that, and I hope you do too.
My point is this: let's stop pretending that there is no such thing as a false-positive in analytical chemistry, be it from an instrumental error or a technician screw up, or even a natural fluctuation in the athlete's body. Why don't we take all of the evidence into consideration: maybe a jump (or not) in performance at the time of the test, character witnesses, motive, and testing history to name a few. Expensive and drawn-out? Probably. Are the athletes' careers and reputations worth the extra effort? I think so.
And just to be clear, I'm talking about the anti-doping system in place and not my particular situation. At this point, I don't think mine is a case of false-positive. I invite any well thought out responses or ideas to my little venting session. Thanks.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Sanctified

Well, actually I've been sanctioned but it's nearly spelled the same. And why can't I believe that this has all happened for a larger purpose? I have agreed to a 2 year sanction from cycling today. Ouch, that hurt my gut. Even when my friends and family know that I am not a cheat, it still hurts to write this and it really hurt to send that fax today. However, I believe this to be my best course of action and I'll try to explain why. Nothing has really changed: I will still continue to have testing done to try and figure out how this all happened in the first place and I still won't be racing. The only difference is that by accepting this sanction, I may actually gain a little credibility with USADA. I really am trying to work with them so we can make sure this doesn't happen again. And if I can walk away from racing forever, maybe people will be more willing to listen when they know I have nothing to gain personally. I'm not lobbying for change to save my own career, I'm lobbying for change to save the next clean athlete's career. In the meantime, I may actually be able to move on with my life and start this next chapter that I've talked about.
So, I guess there will be some sort of press release from USADA announcing my acceptance of the sanction. Then I can only assume there will be much back-slapping and smiles all around as another doper has been purged from sport. Ugh. This anti-doping system in place is....how can we be diplomatic here?...needing serious reform.
Hang with me here, folks. I'm trying my best. I'm not turning my back on cycling and I'm not giving up. As my new friend Sarai pointed out, "Cycling can save the world!" So I guess I can suck it up and help make it better.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Meet Bear Peak

This is Bear Peak taken about 20m from my doorstep. Bear Peak and I have a special relationship. Bear Peak has helped me cope through some of this drama that I've experienced these last 4 months. Heading up to the summit (8400 ft above sea level - so about 2800ft gain) is hard enough to purge all the crummy feelings that I may be having and allow me to feel a little closer to nature. And no matter how many times I get to the top, I feel like I accomplished something because there's no easy way up there. Plus, the views on a clear day can't be beat.
This is Longs Peak from the top of Bear Peak. At 14,259 ft above sea level, it's the closest 14,000+ ft peak to Boulder. It's an incredible mountain to hike. It has so much character and is my favorite of the 10 or so 14ers I've climbed.






This is Boulder from the top of Bear. In an attempt to include the CU campus (red brick roofs in the middle-left of the pic), I cut out our house which is just a little bit to the right of lower right quadrant.






This is Green Mountain (also a great hike) from the top of Bear Pk. You can also see where the foothills meet the plains in the background.


Anyway, I just wanted to share one of the many features in this area that have helped keep me happy (and sane). Also, because I need a competitive outlet these days, a couple of months ago I raced myself to the top and down from my house in 1:21:30 (50 min. up, 31 min. down). That was in snowpack so it was a little slower going up but really fast and out of control at times sliding down! I'd like to see how that compares to the fastest times ever done, so if any of you locals know some ascent times of Bear, Green, and/or Sanitas - let me know if you get a chance. Thanks!

No leads on the job front yet, but I've had a couple of chats with Mr. Tygart from USADA since announcing that I was no longer going to play the game. They've been potentially productive chats and I've been trying to give them the benefit of the doubt now. After all, they are the good guys right? I've just been trying to convince them that it's in their best interests to help me find out (or allow me access to find out) how this positive test happened. But it takes a lot of trust on their part, I guess. Can't they just see things my way? :)
Also, in a show of my personal recovery of sorts, I was excited to hear that DirecTV will be adding Vs. again to their channel lineup. That means I'll be able to watch the Classics this spring. I'm pretty excited. I guess I'm still a fan of this cycling thing.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Transitions

Hello,
things are going well with me. I'm feeling good about my renewed outlook and I've started the job hunt. I appreciated the heartfelt comments regarding my last post. I'm entering a challenging, exciting, and scary new chapter of my life and it's nice to know that I want be doing it alone.
We had a fun party at our house last weekend to mark the transition in our lives. See if you can guess the theme by the pictures.
We had wine...











We had cookies...












We had a nice spread all-around.











And I've been rock climbing quite a bit as well. Joel and Rand took me outdoors for the third time ever yesterday and I had a blast. We climbed Castle Rock up Boulder Canyon and I did my first ever rappel. It was the scariest part of the day for me. Of course my first time rappelling we do a full 60m (2 ropes tied together) in the snow, but even by the end I was feeling much more comfortable.
That's a big rock! See me up there? This was my "oh shit" moment of the day.











I'm not sure if the smile is because of the thrill or because I'm almost at the ground.
















JoJo had a Birthday a couple weeks ago!










And because I'm very goal oriented and I always have to be targeting something - I've found something new to train for. This is what Davy Mac and I are shooting for at the 2014 Sochi Games!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Semblance of Control

I'm tired of having my destiny in someone else's hands. But today is a different day. Today is the day I take back the reins. However, today is not yesterday...yesterday was the day I was to cut all ties completely. Today, I have a slightly cooler head but the idea is the same. You can thank Rebecca for this 'resignation' letter not going out yesterday:

“Done.
I officially received a 2 year sanction notification from USADA today. No big surprise, right? I alluded to this weeks ago. But my reaction is a surprise. Call it the straw that broke the camel's back – I don't know. Whatever the trigger, I've decided to walk away from the sport. I haven't talked to the friends and family or anyone else about this. Call it a rash decision if you like, but I'll try to explain my reasoning so that you can understand where I'm coming from.
I've been watching the Olympics these last few days and it has been really inspiring for me. For the first time, I can see myself standing on the podium, bowing my head to receive my medal. This is a breakthrough for me. It helped me affirm to myself that I need to come back from this ordeal and rise to the top and accomplish greater things in the sport of cycling. Today, I started asking “Why?”. Why do I 'need' to come back? Well, because I've felt this burning in my gut these last two weeks, propelling me to work harder and become faster than I ever have before. Okay, but that doesn't answer the question, I can do that without racing. Maybe it's because I've grown accustomed to the cycling spotlight and people looking up to me. Maybe it's because I want to show all these doubters just how strong I am. Maybe it's because I want to continue to live the 'pro' lifestyle. I think we're getting to the crux of the reason for a comeback now. But what am I truly after in this life? Asking myself this question today the answer was “to be extraordinary”. I want nothing to do with mediocrity. But on top of that (and what I've lost sight of in the last few years), I want to improve the world. Yes, I am a na├»ve, 30-something dreamer, but I want to help save the world. And I always said that I would use cycling to amass influence and monies and then put myself to good use in helping my causes of choice (like a certain Texan who is a Saint in the cancer community). But the reality is, cycling and racing so consume me that I have little time or energy for anything beyond myself. My first year out of college, I made $28k working at a chemistry lab in Boulder. During that year, I managed to work 40 hrs/week, train between 70-100 miles/week running (which led to a 2:31:40 marathon), buy a new car for my mom, and give around $1000 to various charities. A few years later, when I decided to put everything I had into becoming a pro cyclist, I worked around 25 hrs/week delivering pizzas, trained around 20 hrs/week cycling, and volunteered at the homeless shelter twice a week because I was barely making ends meet and couldn't donate money. For comparison, last year I made more money than I ever have in my life, had no other job than racing my bike 70 or so times during the year, and still only gave maybe $300 to charities over the course of the year and sometimes went months between contacting the teenage boy whom I'm mentoring. What's extraordinary in that? What's more extraordinary – if Greg Mortenson would have made it to the summit of K2 or if Greg Mortenson failed to summit K2 and instead dedicated his life to building hundreds of schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan? I'd say the latter. What's more extraordinary – Eric Heiden the amazing skater and cyclist or Eric Heiden the amazing surgeon? How about Davis Phinney the cyclist or Davis Phinney the Parkinson's crusader? I've come to the realization that I would rather be a David Benke than a Cancellara. I would rather help the boy I'm mentoring graduate from college and break the cycle of poverty in his family than win a Pro Tour TT. To me, the life I'm choosing from this day on is more challenging and potentially rewarding than the life of training to ride in a straight line really fast for 40 minutes. For whatever reason, I haven't been able to do both so it's time to step back and re-prioritize.
And no, I would never have come to this decision without this positive doping test fiasco. So, maybe there's the good out of this situation. Am I giving up? In a way, I'd say I was giving up on my dream while being a pro cyclist. I was so self-absorbed that I did little good with life beyond my self.
And so that's that. It's been fun. I'm taking so many wonderful memories and relationships from the last 6 years with me. And now that I'm done with all of this, I want you to hear the truth once and for all. Come in close so I can whisper.....I didn't dope.”


Today, I laid all my cards on the table for USADA. I told them everything that I know about the positive test, meaning every possible lead as to how it happened, and that I will cooperate in any way that I can. As great as my lawyer has been for me, I told him that I needed to do this on my own from now on. I have no intention of taking this case to a hearing. Now that I've made the determination that I really could and would walk away from the sport forever, it's liberating. USADA, WADA, and the UCI no longer have power over me. But I will continue to jump through a few hoops (if not too high nor on fire) in order to leave the option open for a return in years to come (though I sort of hope I have the courage to begin a completely new career and never look back). I will continue to try and figure out how this happened so that I know for my own sanity and so it won't happen to someone else, but that is a separate issue. I'm ready to turn the page and start living a better, more fulfilling life. Whether or not bicycle racing is in that future is too foggy to tell. I hope you all can understand why I've chosen this road. It feels so good to be out of the holding pattern.
Okay, I gotta go. I have some jobs to apply for!

Monday, February 15, 2010

My First Bicycle Race

No updates on what's going on with my case so I want to tell a story for diversion and entertainment purposes.
In Feb. 2003, I bought my first road bike. It was a Fuji Roubaix, triple chainring, white, blue and orange - a real beaut. I bought it because I had injured my knee the previous fall while racing a marathon and couldn't run more than 40mi/week without pain. So basically, I bought it to cross train. Truth be told, my co-workers at the chemistry lab never stopped talking about bike racing and it piqued my interest. (I had also watched the '02 Vuelta and got caught up in the drama). I remember my second ride I went up Linden Dr. (a short but fairly steep road in Boulder that leads to the foothills). That was the first time I had to dismount my bike and walk up a hill (remember I had a triple chainring!). Humbling. But I kept riding - 5 miles to work and back each day plus a longer ride on the weekend and maybe an extra ride after work (plus 40mi/week running). It started to grow on me. However, I made it clear to myself that this was temporary while my knee healed and I could get back to 100+ mi/week of running. Buuuut, I decided to enter a race on Memorial Day for "fun". My boss was racing and I had never been to Durango so my friend and I decided to go camp for the weekend. The race was on Sunday so Jen and I drove the 5-6 hours to Durango on Sat., got there just before dark, decided to splurge and rent a KOA site for the amenities (hot water, indoor plumbing), and got up at the crack of dawn on Sun. to go do a bike race.
So there I was on the start line of the 2003 Iron Horse Classic as a cat. IV/V. I knew that the race covered two large passes to Silverton. So that meant two big climbs and two big descents. My ensemble: black chamois with no bibs, a white t-shirt from a running race, and I thought it might be cold so I wrapped a wind jacket around my waist for the descents. Oh, and I put a Snickers bar in the pocket of the jacket for fuel. When the race started, of course I was scared shitless to be riding so close to so many people, but once I settled down I remembered that my Boss Shane had explained to me the benefits of riding in the pack and conserving energy rather than sitting on the front and letting others draft. I did that for as long as I could but once we started going uphill, I remember thinking "This is stupid. We're going too slow. This is a race isn't it?" You have to remember the mindset of a runner. We go hard ALL THE TIME. There is no free wheeling in running. So I went to front and went hard. This was not an attack, mind you, this was me trying to get a workout. I pulled for probably 10 min. when I decided that I was hungry. So, I drifted back as I fumbled with my jacket trying to extract the high-performance energy bar we call Snickers. As I was 'refueling', I was at the back of what was maybe 10 guys left in the lead group. The pace started to lag again and so when I was finished stuffing my face, I resumed my role as pace setter. As we neared the summit of the first pass (maybe 2mi out), I really started to give it my all to get a gap on the field. I remember when I really started to push it that only one person could hang with me. He held on for quite awhile but with maybe 800m to go to the summit, I was able to gap him and crest solo. So now I had a descent, climb, then descent to go to the finish. "i can do this" I said to myself so I went about descending as fast as I could on a windy descent that I'd never seen before while only being on my bike a total of 3 months. In other words: slow. Also, to make things interesting, the wind caused my eyes to dry out and I blinked out one of my contacts! I am near-sighted and though not blind - my contacts tend to really help me see. I started to freak out a bit and sure enough was caught by 3 guys before the end of the descent. "Well if I'm going to win this one, I'm going to have to have a huge gap by the top of this last climb." So as soon as we started going up, I started going as hard as I could. Again, it was down to me and this same other guy battling it out on the climb. About midway up, after everyone else is out of sight, he looks me up and down and asks "Dude, what's your deal?" "I'm an injured runner" is all I replied. Then he said "I think we've got them" while looking behind us. I remember thinking "We?". I may have been new to bike racing but I'd been racing in running since age 11 and all I knew is that I wanted to win this race. I wasn't there to make friends nor cross the line together with someone else. So, I did the only thing I could do - I picked up the pace. I turned myself inside out to drop this guy and give myself as big a buffer as possible coming over the top. Finally, he started to fade back and I just kept pushing and pushing until I reached the crest. On the descent, I rode with reckless abandon (still slow) taking turns way faster than my comfort zone. And then early on the descent, what do you know but I blink out my other contact! I'm riding in a blur! "I should stop. I should stop. This is stupid!" But sometimes the competitive drive trumps the brain so I carried on. And somehow I didn't crash and somehow I didn't get caught. I 'broke the tape' in my very first bike race. Did I celebrate? Hell no - my adrenalin was so tapped from feeling like I was on the verge of death on that descent and my legs were screaming at me so loudly that all I wanted to do was get off that stupid machine and lay down on the safe, stable earth.
The guy who pushed me so hard on the climbs finished 2nd. Turns out he is a pretty good guy and a decent rider too. I saw him at a few other races and we chatted from time to time. We were even teammates in 2005. We drove down to New Mexico together to compete in what became my very first Pro/1/2 victory - The Sandia Crest. We shared intimate conversations on life, and how cycling fits in the equation. He became my 'spiritual advisor' to give me perspective with life and cycling. When I signed my first pro contract with Priority Health in 2006, he was the one I called to say "We can do this. This is not an abstract dream, this can be our reality." In 2007, he signed his first professional racing contract with BMC. Since then, we have been there for each other - taking pleasure in the other's successes and picking each other up when we falter. The racing careers of Scott Nydam and myself have taken a very similar trajectory, including our recent rough patches. I'm not sure if I'll ever compete in a bike race again, but I'm becoming okay with that. One thing that Scott has taught me is that a sport cannot encapsulate us. We are too complex to be defined by one thing.
This post wasn't meant to be much more than entertainment. I was riding the other day and was having trouble with one of my contacts and so I naturally started thinking about the Iron Horse with fond memories. And then I started to think about how lucky I am to have Scott as a friend and 'advisor'.
Scott and I drove the 1100+ miles to the 2006 Cascade Cycling Classic in the beat up Corolla behind us. He won the Climber's Jersey and I won stage 2.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Status

I write this post armed with a big bowl of ice cream and the Hustle & Flow soundtrack blaring:
As expected (though hope plays funny games with your mind), the 'B' sample of my urine has come back confirming the presence of an exogenous anabolic in my system from the Aug. 29, 2009 test. I expect USADA to come back with a 2 year sanction any day now but I'm tired of waiting for them so I decided to let everyone know what's going on. There will probably be a hearing in a few months whereas I will proclaim my innocence. We all know the drill! How many times have we been through this with this sport? I even secured one of those lawyer fellas to help me through this. We are still attempting to figure out how this happened and I'm optimistic that we'll have an answer in time for the hearing.
I'm sorry that this is more negative press for the sport of cycling, but that is the least of my worries right now. Thank you to everyone who has reached out to share encouraging and supportive words to me. "Keep hustlin'. it ain't over for me. no, it ain't over for me. keep flowin'. i'm gonna step my game up and get what's comin' to me." I love it - that's what playing on the iTunes right now. I guess I should come back from this?
Remember to keep perspective.

Friday, January 08, 2010

drug of choice?

I did a phone interview with Lyne Lamoureux yesterday for her website podiuminsight.com and I wanted to share an exchange we had that I kept laughing about the rest of the day but I was assured wouldn't make the article.
This came after the recorded interview:
Lyne: so how are you doing? Are you taking care of yourself?
me: Yeah, mentally I'm doing pretty well. I'm doing what I need to do to get through this. But physically....sheesh, it's getting pretty bad. I think Jan Ulrich and I have a lot in common.
Lyne: Woah, careful there. That could be taken the wrong way. (laughs)
me: Ha! No, you know I mean...
Lyne: Yes, you mean you both like your donuts and schnitzel, right?
me: Yeah, I think Jan and I both like the schnitzel. (Pause) Whoa. Crap, that could be taken the wrong way too! You stopped recording right?

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

mi bicicleta or mi muerte

I have a t-shirt that says this on it. It has a picture of a phat cruiser bike with long handlebars ("Easy Rider" style) that is popular in some Mexican cultures. I'd have to say that in light of my current situation - I'm bluffing. I love the sport of cycling and more specifically I love racing my bike. But if that is taken away from me, I'm not going to give up on life or play the victim. Life is too full of OTHER cool and exciting things that I can dive into head first. It's also far too short to dwell in the past and be miserable. Typing these words is much easier than putting their message into practice but I'm confident that if it comes to that, I can do it...with the continued support of my kick ass network of friends and family.
On a lighter note, I also have a t-shirt that says "cycling is dope" which I still think is a great shirt. So great, in fact, that I wore it to the opening and testing of the 'B' sample in Utah. Bad form? I thought it was funny, and I'm in need of laughs these days.
Thank you to all of you who have shown your support through emails, calls, texts, and comments on this blog. It means the world to me. And to those of you who think I'm a lying cheat, I can't say that I blame you really. It was always my first reaction to news of another positive test. But hopefully we can find and prove the truth in the coming days, weeks, months. Oh, and there was a comment deleted on my last post after the press release that I can only assume was really nasty with f-bombs and such because I never even got a chance to read it - it must have been flagged and deleted by the server. Thanks blogger.com!
Happy New Year everyone.