Work put in. Results come out. It's a simple equation applied to virtually anything....work, sports, relationships....and of course given my last 2 months of pretty scary body melt-downs: lots of work put into healing. All of this has caused my writing to take a back seat as I continue to get some strength back in my aging corpse...all the while also being pretty much completely consumed with life lately. I'm in this vast stretch of learning...and in learning, falling on my proverbial knees, skinning them into bloody pulps and simply learning by experience how not to do [said wrong thing] again.
Train and ride hard for years and don't give back? Wham! Skinned knees. Jump head first into a job doing things I've never done before and fumbling about like an imbecile until it becomes instinctive? Wham! Skinned knees. Trying to be a father to sons who are growing mentally and physically at such a ferocious pace these days, I feel like I'm flailing and inadequate. WHAM! Skinned knees.
"If you know what you're doing, you're not learning."
Here's the period where I am letting go. Not holding on like a stubborn pile of shit who is convinced his way is best. I'm relying on gut....and the theory that most times, less is more...all to be able to learn these new lessons (or at least not combat them...and let the knowledge pour in).
Don't do the work for the employee - Tell 'em they'll find the answer and to go deeper.
Don't go ballistic on your sons when they simply outright refuse to get out of bed for school...for the 4th day in a row. - Ask 'em why they are behaving this way.
Don't try to get back on the bike when your back is yelling at you - Chill...the riding is in the legs all these years.
I'm not re-inventing by any means. Just listening more. Stretching mind and body so I can sustain. Life.
I have taken, taken more, and taken yet again….way more than my proverbial fill. Consider me a glutton who continually would take from my body’s resources…and never gave back.
And to think the only thing I want out of all of this bike stuff is to pop wheelies and shred with my friends. To be the 50+ year old dad some day railing with my sons in Fruita or God knows where.
The past month I had a wake up call. Extremely scary and all demonstrable of the fact that living in fast forward for almost 20 straight years of riding, training and racing yet never giving back to my body what it needs to continue doing it. What happened? Well, let me explain…and I’m sure many of you will immediately know what I am talking about…
Race. Train. Ride. Race. Rest a bit. Train. Train. Ride. Eat Well. Race. Race. Train. Ride more.
Notice anything here? Lots and lots of on the bike volume. Some rest and thankfully due to my unbelievable wife, supreme nutrition.
But all this time: NO BODY CARE. No stretching, massage, yoga…NOTHING. And all the while my muscles getting stronger…but only in their repetitive planes of motion. Yanking, pulling, melding with one another into singular masses of muscle doing the same repetitions over and over. My regular routine was this…
- Train my butt off during the week…typically before work hours.
- Immediately shower and get back into work, slumped over my computer, or trapped in a tortuous seat on some airplane.
- Race on weekends
- Rinse and repeat for, oh ~20 years.
About a year ago, I’d finish a cross and my back would essentially be seized. As in ‘Robotic back.’ No real pain per se, just effectively rigor mortis of the back. Stiff as a board. It’d ‘fade away’ eventually so I never got concerned. I’d had no serious bike fit changes so attributed it to a case of the O.L.D. ™ Michael Robson.
Fast forward. About a month ago, the pain settled in. Truly (like I’ve heard it said before) like a stabbing pain. Right in the “Q-L” (quadratus lumborum) above my hip bone (the iliac crest). It was immobilizing. No sleep, difficulty walking, sitting, lying, bending over. A cripple.
And yes, like a child I was scared and freaked out that “this is it! I think my racing is done!” (Ha…).
And yes, this is exactly why I married my wife. She did the equivalent of the bitch slap of my small brain saying: “Dude…you need to give back for everything you take. Duh.”
And thus began my story of “The Obvious” and all the things I’ve done this past month to get back on track with the help of my wife and good friends here in town.
Here is a list of the things I am incorporating and integrating into my life which I would implore you all to do if you feel cycling is going to be one of those lifer things:
- Stretching – I do not know about you, but I was brittle. As in could not touch my toes. I began to slowly and steadily begin a DAILY stretching routine.
- 20min in the AM (first thing, before breakfast). Hamstrings, IT, QL, Glutes, Psoas and back. In addition getting my thoracic area to open (e.g. to work on preventing back rounding and better breathing)
- 40min in the evening (same pattern but integrated in strectch bands...e.g. HUGE rubber bands to help pull my legs farther)
- Massage - OK, I admit it's a blessing having my wife be a massage therapist...but even I have to beg to get time on her table!
- Trigger release therapy...to essentially fire the most problematic muscles literally 'releasing' them when they get into their defensive postures to protect the body when it's reacting to muscle issues.
- Back Stregthening via Foundation Roots - I am on my 2nd full week of this but it is rather mind blowing. See here for info. Get yourself to a class. DO NOT fool yourself that you can watch the YouTube videos and just do it. You really need to be assisted before you go on your own so you do not wreak havoc on your back muscles. CRITICAL for lower back strength. Especially for 'cross when your back is going UP DOWN UP DOWN UP DOWN for 60 minutes violently.
- Core Stregnthening – I am not a fat guy, but not a ripped 6 pack-core guy either. It all comes down to what’s under the surface not only of your stomach, but also of the back (see Foundation Roots above). But for core, I am doing a ton of strengthening to breath better and to generally support my body for longer periods under duress (think: a cross race).
- Physical Therapy - This was SO instrumental for my recovery. I visited my good friend, amazing PT and fellow 'crosser Charlie Merrill as he is the 'guru'. I was crippled and his treatment of physical therapy was amazing. I am working on plans with Charlie for 'maintenence' as well. The core of his work was:
- PT via deep manipulation of my muscles via slow and methodic pulling and stretching.
- Dry Needle Therapy- 6cm acupuncture needles deep within the muscles to literally/directly trigger and release them. It was the spark to get them to release deeply along with my wife's trigger release massage (deep...but not as deep as the needles can go).
So what does all this mean: More work. I need to put back in the till what I take out. It means that I need to tack on and carve out times of day where I need to focus on this. More balance needed so I can ensure my family and work needs are met, but allowing time for these critical things I need to do to keep rolling. And that means what you see above is now a forever part of my life. Many of you will read this and undoubtedly say: No shit, dumbass. But what can I say? I'm a full-gas guy and thus am paying for my sins blazing in fast forward all these years. But alas, I see the magic to this type of body maintenance and the benefits are already surfacing.
Hope it helps you in "planning for prevention!"
I'm passing from one side to the next. Crossing the gap. Pushing yet again to make it all right. Life, my mental state, my passions. A gear higher to cross the space between losing control and gaining it back.
My writing as taken a back seat. Many things have in fact. But it must be this way while the good efforts are put in to learn more about myself.
This time I am in control of the teeter totter, sons. And it's OK.
Pete here. Hope you are well!
Next month I am participating in "Tim Johnson’s Ride on Washington" and I'm asking my friends to donate to the project. It is a 500-mile bike ride from Boston to Washington (ouch!) and the goal is to raise $100,000 for the Bikes Belong Foundation, the group that works to make biking safer and better in the U.S.
The money we raise will leverage government funding for bike paths, bike lanes, and bike programs. The ride will finish in D.C. at the National Bike Summit, where cyclists nationwide will gather to rally Congress on bicycling issues.
If you would like to make a donation, please go to my fundraising page here:https://www.pledgereg.com/27898 Any size donation would be wonderful, it's tax deductible!
My personal goal is to raise $2,500. Every $50 you donate gives you one entry in our fundraiser raffle, which includes awesome prizes!
Here's the project's website: http://rideonwashington.org/
And please forward this to any of your friends who ride bikes or care about the future of cycling in the U.S.!
My sincere thanks,
More data for you Ridley fans planning your bike building extravaganzas this coming season. Ridley was kind enough to send me some detailed shots of the various products for this coming model year. I focused on the ones related to the disc brake frames to provide some further intel and perhaps give you a leg up when planning for this coming season if Ridley/discs are in your sights.
The X-Fire Disc sporting Shimano
Close up of the rear assembly including IS mount disc tabs and Di2 port
Note the post-mount standard tabs for the front fork.
The boss-less chain stays.
PF30 BB with Di2 battery mount and port for front derailleur.
Note the Ridley X-Ride Disc utilizes the post-mount standard.
A treasure trove of info is streaming in from the Great White North from QBP’s Frost Bike on all the soon-to-be-released Ridley cyclocross products for this coming season. My main man Todd Schmidt of Ridley USA walks us through the 2013 product line in this little ditty.
Also in from Frost Bike are other awesome datapoints for all of you hungry for data on the new disc-brake compatible frames.
2013 Ridley X-Fire Disc-only
Complete Bike MSRP – $3,395 (Ultegra equipped)
Frame Only MSRP – $1,695
-Di2 Compatible-Disc only, 135 spacing
-24-ton high-modulus carbon monocoque frame
-PF30 full carbon bottom bracket shell -Internal cable routing with continuous cable housing
-4ZA Oryx full carbon monocoque fork
-1.5” tapered headtube.
-7sizes from 41-58cm
-Proportionally sized downtube for easy grip
2013 Ridley X-Fire Apex Disc
Complete Bike MSRP – $2,695
The Apex is a price point bike who’s general frame highlights spec is very similar to above. More details coming on the Apex group/brake options.
2013 Ridley X-Ride Apex Disc
Complete Bike $2,195
Frame Only MSRP – &995 (does come in canti-only frame as well for $895)
-Disc brake frame: 135 spacing
-1.5” oversized lower headtube bearing and fork crown
-4ZA Oryx full carbon fork
For those of you hungry to start thinking about your geometry for next season on these steeds above, here are the charts:
And for the pièce de résistance…the 2013 bikes get the custom Belgium Prologo saddle treatment. Bam!
So my spy, otherwise known as Dubba, has been feeding me these incredible pics all morning to share with you from their visit to the Ridely folks in the great white north of Minnesota. More reports soon but have a look at this INCREDIBLE collection of Ridley X-Fire, X-Ride and X-Night all in their new color schemes. We are honored that the new X-Fire Disc will be in Boulder Cycle Sport Colors for 2013!
And please note the Clement Tire spec goodness. Mmmm.
The 2012 / 2013 X-Fire Disc:
A look at the disc brake boss assembly...
The front fork goodness...
In her glory pose...
The 2012 / 2013 X-Fire with traditional cantilever brakes...
Yes...Electric should you want to be like Sven...
The BEAUTIFUL 2012 / 2013 X-Ride Disc! Incredible price popint race bike with DISCS!
The flagship X-Night, more racy than ever...
So my wife and I are going for it. Three weeks of “za program.” All to try and hit that re-set button our bodies pretty much needed 10 years ago. Three weeks of complete diet change and at its core, flowing back into some discipline.
Our main tool is a juicer, Everything goes in…all the richest superfoods you can conjure up juiced into cocktails that are absolutely delicious. Kale, carrots, almond milk, coconut water, whole apples…the list of foods you can ingest is awesome. The downside is that you have to shelve the good stuff for some time…sugars, coffee, adult beverages, processed anything, wheat. But that’s the discipline I mentioned. I’ve got to get into that mental cadence again and this path thus far has been great to re-fire those neurons.
I’m off the bike mostly these days following the cross season, save for roller sessions and an occasional spin outside. I’m back in love with the running though. It feels super flowy and natural railing the trails around here. I’m trying to get out a few times a week. Some days hard-ish, other days soft-ish. I picked up a pair of syncroFuel Trail’s from Pearl Izumi. I swear to you they’re like the Clement PDX or Dugast Rhino of the running world. BOMBING down snowy descents with nary a forward slip. I’m really impressed as I’d never had trail runners that performed quite like these before.
So go these gray days of winter as I gear down, focus on some new things and clear out the badness in me that’s been building a home in my gullet. Time to wipe it clean.
Right about now the hangover from this past weekend is juuuuuust about starting to diminish. Everyone I talked to was on a high watching the culmination of an amazing 2011/12 season with the World Championships streaming right into the comfort of all of our living rooms. It’s amazing this thing called the internet. It wasn’t too long ago that we all had to (literally) give a secret password to some guy in Seattle who had a pipeline to bootlegged copies of races on DVD ripped from primitive DVRs in Belgium and had to wait weeks after the event to get our copies. It’s that much easier now to see your heroes on your flat screens nowadays. As it’s happening. It’s that much easier to see more, be inspired and repeat what you see.
This season was pivotal…truly a tipping point…in terms of our sport’s visibility and growth. The racer-participation numbers were staggering…most demonstrably in the junior and youth categories. As I keep repeating, we’re witnessing ‘the new Little League’ begin to cut its teeth with kids pouring in. All so they can ride their bikes around in circles, in the mud, over boards about a 1/3rd of their height with crazy people screaming their guts out for them. How incredible that must feel.
So, as I lean back and observe, the state of our sport in the U.S. is healthy and showing green sprouts of success.
But what is ‘healthy? And what is our definition of the sport’s ‘success’? Does success begin and end by statistics entirely driven by and dependent upon “racer-spectators?” Another way of saying that is our racer-cum-spectator community is applauding only itself. We race, we change clothes, we stay a bit at the venue and spectate other categories…and we marginally grow in this closed-circuit system. Net-net: if a tree falls in the forest, does anyone hear it?
I tend to break down success into two categories…but categories that are mutually dependent upon each other if not inseparable:
Exhibit A: U.S. racer success
Exhibit B: Success of the the sport here in the United States
Let me walk you through my thoughts here…
U.S. Racer success
I am going to focus my attention here on the ‘elite level’. Let’s start with this past weekend at the World Championships. 18th place. That was Ryan Trebon’s scoring at Koksijde and the best ranked U.S. rider on the day. One of the last to sneak through the 80% rule of not being counted as a lapped rider. And honestly, an incredible result in the grand scheme of things. I am sick and tired of seeing yet another tweet or hear another comment of ‘pathetic’ or ‘we should be ashamed’ or any number of completely idiotic, naïve and otherwise uneducated reactions. It is a result that was well earned if not miraculous when you step back and see the bigger picture. Were there better results historically? Sure…Page’s silver in ‘07 and probably most impressive and similar to Ryan’s was Marc Gullickson with his 13th in 2001. Everything is different, folks, from this side of the pond to that side. Everything. About the only ‘constant’ between us is the equipment we use in this day and age. It wasn’t always like that either. We finally have top notch supplies…tires, frames, etc. But all of the rest is completely foreign to us. Unknown with the exception of what can be gleaned from YouTube. What’s misunderstood and different? Seasonal build up and training: different. Racer incentives: different. Racer motivations: different. Competition: completely different.
Let’s talk about incentives and motivation. Take a guy like Tim Johnson. By all definitions, other than perhaps Mark and Frank McCormack, he has been ‘Mr. Cyclocross’ of the most recent generation here in the States. He is a champion if there ever was one. But is the archetypal example (if not the painfully true example) of the necessary struggles a U.S. racer passionate for the sport must do to build it and make a living at it for he and Lyne. It is he who must hunt. Hunt for sponsorships, for escalating visibility of himself and the sport. He is creating a new model of professional (cycling) athlete in the U.S. I like to call them “athletepreneurs”. Athletes who must build a personal brand, spend inordinate amounts of time maintaining their brand…and in the case of Tim along with Stu Thorne…the brand and image of the ‘team’ at large. It’s an incredible amount of energy and with that likely a pull from the focus required to do one thing: go fast when it counts.
Abroad, it is quite different. Why? There are far fewer ‘professionals’ who are vying for spots on well-funded trade teams and by extension the ever so critical ‘start money’ received for simply toeing the line by the event organizers (more on this in ‘Sport success’ below). The sponsorship and lucrative start money is there in spades and these European athletes are carefully grown, groomed and then chosen from their youth…a youth which is effectively all about their sporting development (and that is in and of itself a larger sidebar story). This is not the case at any level in the U.S. Not even for our bat-and-ball style sports let alone wheeled sports. We have no ‘Sporting Schools’ that the general populous can attend (P.G. years at Choate do not count, folks). Tim’s manger/handler (a.k.a. himself) isn’t being handed a check from the local newspaper supporting the event in Fort Collins Colorado USA for $12,000 to show off his shiny legs and Red Bull helmet. Quite the opposite. It’s his sponsors who have carried him there to rep the brand, image, etc. Tim, in turn is on the phone with marketing managers and PR reps at Red Bull and a phalanx of other sponsors 300 days a year wherein he must perform ‘duties’ to get paid. PR events, social media, and on and on. All a distraction in my opinion from the quiet focus we see these European athletes exude and are able to maintain.
In addition to the professional deviations between the continents, we have…the riding and racing itself. It’s…fast. It’s different. And it’s simply not the same style. Racers even in the earliest category are trained in tactics. Group racing is the norm even in the younger categories and these continual lessons teach ‘smarts’. We simply don’t behave that way here…with the exception of the 5-7 or so ‘elites’ we have pushing the pace at the fronts at USGPs. It’s about as close as we can get.
Courses are radically different than what we know here as well. They are racing on courses built for professionals. Koksijde is a great example of that. It’s an historic landmark used only for elite-level World Cup and World Championship racing. Compare that to ‘any given Sunday’ in the United States where we have every single age group from Aiden Keller (age 9) to Tim Johnson riding on virtually the same course. That concept simply does not exist in Europe. Masters/Juniors/Amateurs have their race events and respective courses…professionals have their own. Build up for these races is entirely different as well with the majority of the cross peloton sponsored to appear in highly lucrative Kermesses (circuit races) with blistering paces but longer ‘base-centric’ endurance being the side benefits these crossers reap before they plow into the dog days of November and December in the low lands.
Lastly, when you take these elements above, there is one key ingredient to combatting all of that above: being there. Geoff Proctor has created an incredible system vis-à-vis Euro Cros Camp. I will say this out loud: if I win the lottery, I will volunteer ALL of my time to stay there and do what I can to help Geoff. He’s a saint. But it isn't enough to quite literally change the DNA of our young riders to race and compete at the level their Belgian, Dutch and Czech counterparts do weekend in and out. We need riders who can compete alongside them all season…earn points…negotiate start money…get faster…learn tactics...become hard. But who could blame a kid for not wanting to spend all that time away. A high school student simply couldn't (unless they had unique support from their parents and good schooling at ex-pat schools). And it’s not clear to me who in our U23 ranks is dedicated enough to the sport to actually try it. I mean from August to February. Alone. In shitty weather. Underpaid (at first) all in pursuit of being and beating the best.
So before you ever dare mention another foul word about the performance of our boys and girls in the hardest races on earth, think. But before we can think big and reap the rewards of success, we need to pull up our big boy undies and take the plunge. Full stop. And actually be there. Not go on a vacation and have an appetizer.
The Sport’s Success in the U.S.
‘Sporting success’ consists of a wildly ranging set of opinions, data points and variables. I’ll walk through a few of my viewpoints but again, success has many definitions. It’s also the one aspect where my doubts truly get the best of me. Why? Well I think we can draw parallels to the basic ‘dud’ that Major League Soccer has gone through here in the U.S. I am of the generation that remembers seeing and cheering for Pele himself when he was on the Cosmos. Nothing has really changed. Soccer remains a very small fringe sport that is entirely misunderstood by the average U.S. Joe. A Joe who would WAY rather sit and watch a sport in his living room…a sport that by its very nature was architected for television. Time outs, replays, and games where there are ‘plays’ versus constant movement (think players on a field passing a ball or cyclists climbing a stage) are the key pillars of ‘TV sports’. The ‘Joe’ goes narcoleptic with continual movement it appears. And that’s no good to sell beer in the U.S. Joe has no patience for it and therefore Budweiser doesn’t either. Entertainment for the Joe comes in 2-10 second ‘bursts’ and then…whew…a funny Bud Light commercial to bring the heart rate back down. The part we must evangelize is the drama of cross. You do not have to understand much about cycling to simply witness the drama…for VERY short periods of time. It’s tuned for the Type A in all of us…and Narcoleptic Joe. Anyone can empathize with someone trying to pedal their bike on sand or through mud and try to keep it together. It’s a spectacle…and it’s the key thing media and advertisers need to be educated upon to have any hope of drawing in the big sponsors.
And speaking of Joe…it’s average Joe who is important for the next item…Spectatorship. And Spectators = cash money. Entry fees, ecosystem revenue (like the frites and beer guys) and follow on merchandising. Cross is a spectators paradise.
The Belgian ‘Politie’ (police) who managed the event in Koksijde estimated 65-70,000 spectators had squeezed themselves into the airfield and surrounding community where the historically famous course lives. It was a record even by European event standards. The average Joe in Belgium is not a racer-spectator. They are a FAN! A cigarette smoking, frite eating, Jupiler swilling, Sven Nys-talking, no bike riding, factory-working FAN. A fan who is willing to pay the required 15-25 Euro (depending upon caliber of event) to get inside the event and line the tape to see their heroes in action. Contrast that with the United States where local race event organizers have to beg and plead to first secure an area to lay a course on, pray they do not get sued for destroying the land (or erode profits re-establishing grass), pay out obscene amounts of cash for liability and then market to an audience of…you guessed it: racer-spectators. All 200-1000 of them on average. The Europeans have it nailed. Land owners fight to have their land used for events versus their neighbors farm fields a town down the road. Fans can come and enjoy beer, music and lastly…a chance to win! In other words, gamble…
Gambling at this level and with this amount of ‘entry level gambling fun’ is simply not allowed here in the U.S. (lest we ‘cross on an Native American reservation…hint hint, promoters). ‘Making it interesting’ at races by putting a few Euro down on ‘your guy’ is like a cultural birthmark in the countries where cycling is an ‘important’ part of a national identity. Beer, bikes, bucks. It’s a beautiful system.
There are a zillion perspectives on the state of cyclocross here in the U.S. I’m merely providing my personal views, counter-examples and perspectives from having been able to go abroad and race my bike at a master’s level…and making great friends who I remain in close contact with to learn what I can about ‘their system.’ U.S. cross is growing well. It’s growing exponentially in Europe as well. But here in the U.S. we can not have our cake and eat it too when we constantly complain of results of our U.S. elite heroes, entry fees being too high for competitors, courses that are too hard…or too mountain bikey…or too easy… or too snowy…or too dusty. The sport needs to professionalize and do so in a manner that demonstrates value outside of us…the racer-spectator. We need to show Narcoleptic Joe that spending a Sunday off the couch and at the course with a beer in hand is fun. The drama is real and quite compelling if not addicting. That race organizers can turn the corner and stop charging racers and start charging spectators to witness the action. That the characters being built like Jeremy Powers and Tim Johnson and Ryan Trebon are true heroes and modern day ‘action figures’ who any kid will know by name and attempt to emulate on their bmx bike.
Sound X-Game-ish? Well maybe there’s a business model there worth looking at.
Stop complaining. Start innovating. Continue evangelizing. The green sprouts are just forming.