Wednesday, September 25, 2013

American or Americant

Six years ago I had my first Americano.  I had never had anything besides coffee at this point and I didn't even know what an Americano was.  It's espresso with hot water.  Nothing fancy really.  In fact all my experience with coffee to that point was mostly milk and sugar with a splash of coffee used specifically to stay awake and not for taste.

I've ordered thousands of dollars worth of coffee and even worked for a short period of time as a barista at a gourmet coffee shop where I made "Latte Art". Since then coffee has become more than a utility for me and my expanse appreciation and knowledge of the process, taste, and international business for coffee is as serious as my love for cycling. And let's be honest, anyone who rides a bike without coffee is at a disadvantage.  Sorry tea-lovers or caffeine-haters.

This really isn't about coffee. But that Americano and the story behind it is all I can think about today. I ordered that drink specifically because it had America in the title. I'm not pointing that out to incorporate some sort of patriotism. I had been living in East Africa for six months and I was homesick and I was confused. I had gone to Uganda for one reason, bounced around several organizations trying to help in some way or another, and ended up in Kenya for some other reason and left with very little fulfillment in myself and the work I had done. I'm being very broad, but I can imagine anyone who has set off on a mission to "Save The World!" spends a lot of time feeling like they fell short. I knew what America was and I figured an Americano just had to be good. It needed to be good.

I had that Americano at a coffee stand searching for an internet hotspot in Nairobi's Westgate Mall to write home or search for jobs back home.  Something insignificant enough that I can't remember. This past Saturday that mall was terrorized resulting in at least 72 deaths and 200 injuries. This past Saturday I was racing cyclocross in Baltimore, MD. I'm reminded that I have unfinished business. I'm reminded of why I went to East Africa and not what I did. The why is more powerful and will hopefully get me back on track. 

I want to tell about an amazing story about my two-day adventure ride with JB, Dave, and Joe D from Harrisonburg, VA to a ski resort in West Virginia last week. I want to complain about the how I haven't been able to get an insurance company to underwrite my pre-existing conditions and give me insurance. And about how all the recent politics revolving around Obamacare impacts me. I'm hesitant to tell anyone recent considerations that deviate from dreams that I've outlined before in fear of letting anyone down. Yet, each time I try to write anything about any of that, I just delete it. Just one of those days you feel guilty talking about yourself. It's a weird feeling having stories to tell but not being able to tell them for whatever reason. Timing is everything and life is not fair. Make the most out of every ride and every adventure.

It is always worth it.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

CX: Tim Rugg p/b Friends

I rarely come up with a title before I finish writing but this was just too cheesy to resist and something that's been heavy on my mind.

I believe I can fly.

It's hard for me to just stick to the coaches plan of using cyclocross just for training and fun.  Don't get me wrong it's fun no matter how seriously you take it, but winning is the most fun!  I didn't look for sponsorship soon enough for cyclocross because I just didn't know how committed I could be with my focus still being on the road.  Plus I have PTSD from my bike failure and collarbone explosion from last year.

When I knew that I was definitely going to race I had a week to learn how to ride a cross bike again and a week to get a bike and some support.  Immediately my friends at Pro Tested Gear offered help getting me in the races and a sick looking kit to wear during the races.  I was telling my friend Simon while hanging out at The Bike Rack in DC that I was just not having any luck, and he handed me his Pake C'mute to race until and if I find anything better.

Now there's no denying that the Pake is a tank, as heavy and indestructible, but with my ENVE fork and wheels, it's getting me to and through some training and racing.  I was sitting 3rd before rolling a tubular tire Saturday at Jamestown and landed 5th on the podium in a stacked field in South Germantown Sunday.  My favorite moment from Sunday's race was when Joe Jefferson made a comment over the sound system that it looked like I was riding a bike a newspaper delivery boy would use.  Joe is about as good as it gets when he emcee's.

With the Charm City UCI 2-day weekend in Baltimore, MD coming up this weekend - I knew the Pake needed to spend more time as the spare bike.  Within minutes of reaching out again, I had multiple friends offering to let me ride there whip for the weekend.  Let me emphasize that these are friends that know how much I crash and are still there to support me.  My buddy Michael and Marc came through both offering me a place to stay and to be able to use there bike.  Amazing.  I've been feeling really lucky lately to have support for what I'm trying to do and what people believe I can do.

I'm really hoping a race-ready bike will make a difference this weekend as I try to grab some UCI points and some off-road cred' to add to my street cred'.  Speaking of off-road cred', my friends at Diamondback have really made my week rewarding me with a Mason 29er Full Suspension Mountain Bike for landing on the podium in both an NCC and NRC professional race this past season.  I'm going to take my first stab at mountain bike racing at the 26th Annual Tidewater Mountain Bike Challenge in Williamsburg, VA.  Thanks Phil, it's been a pleasure racing for Diamondback this year!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Calm Before The Storm

Team H-Burg - Waite, Bishop, and Rugg

There's never a dull moment with my new lifestyle of cycling, trumpeting, and soul-searching.  Rather, there's never a moment where I don't have something I could be doing.  I'm not saying "I'm busy", nor complaining, because I've realized the negative connotation that reflects after reading the Harvard Business Review blog post "Please Stop Complaining About How Busy You Are" by Meredith Fineman.  The humble-brag of being busy can often be interpreted as "I’m busier, more in-demand, more successful."  I'm not busy.  I have just been aware of how much time I have and that there are so many things I can do to fill my time, and me being terrible at being lazy I resort to doing different things almost constantly.  That's what I mean.

Another good read this morning when you are done reading that HBR article... Wait,  let me say one more thing about that before I move on.  The article misses a notion I think is relative to a lot of people I know.  I believe a lot of people say they are busy because they realize what they can't do, what they want to do, because of what they are currently doing.  So really these people should just be saying, "I'm distracted right now."  In the realm of training to be a world-class athlete, it's very easy to get distracted since everything you do, absolutely everything, has to be considered.  In the pursuit of fractional gains and small percentage improvements of fitness and growing more importantly every day, social media presence - everything has to be considered.  I just got overwhelmed with thoughts of the meals I need to eat for the rest of the day, the training I need to complete, the overdue blogpost, the bike maintenance I need to perform before this weekend's cyclocross races, the outreach to pro teams I need to make, the medical bills I need to manage, the trumpet practice schedule I need to write to optimize my training on the horn when I'm not training on the bike.  There's more.  There's always more.  I'm not busy, but it's very easy to get distracted.

That other good read I was talking about, right.  Over on Kevin Cross's blog he writes about the uncontrollable desire to ride hard, even when you don't have to.  To clarify, I don't mean he feels like he has to train.  But he rides hard because he wants to feel the effort that takes him to that familiar place. Sure, the setting sunset, deer that line rock creek park, and the summer fleeting breeze are all things that we tell ourselves are what we ride for.  But it's not.  Those things are fine and all but we really only use these experiences to explain to "non-cyclists" why we ride so much to excuse ourselves from being masochists or suffering from addiction.  I ride, and Kevin rides, for the effort.  We ride for that feeling that makes us feel everything.  We ride hard to remember where we've been, where we are, and where we want to be.  The effort makes us feel like we are home and completely in control.  It's actually pretty simple and only something that "cyclists" understand.

I got on my bike for the first time in ten days after feeling the wrath of Campylobacter Jejuni in my GI tract.  Food poisoning.  Doing my own detective work I imagine I contracted this bacteria while training in the rain on one of the farm roads around Harrisonburg.  This kind of food poisoning is usually contracted from animal feces.  So my breakdown has me riding in the rain, kicking up some cow poop run-off from my tires onto my water bottle nipple, and then taking a swig unknowingly while training, ending five weeks of intense training and not having a result to show for the effort.  Today's my last day of a 5-day probiotic pill regimen and although my insides are still in a twist, the realization I won't get another chance to prove myself on the road for 5-6 months is the hardest pill to swallow and is causing me the most discomfort.

But like Kevin, I found comfort in the effort when I rode Wednesday with Jeremiah Bishop and Nick Waite.  Despite not riding in some time, the 10 pound lighter and super rested (muscularly at least) version of me, made for a day of proving to myself and reminding myself where I had was, where I am now, and where I am going.  I'm not good at easing into anything and went for it on the 211 climb from New Market named "Super Lee".  I surprised myself and set the Strava KOM with a vertical ascent measure above 1400 and a climb averaging 6.9% gradient and 5.9km in distance.  Season is already over and that effort to most seems pointless giving that I'm not even supposed to be training yet.  It's the off-season!  But I needed that effort.  I needed to know I was okay and that my mind was strong and could handle it.  Sometimes the efforts that don't matter or lead to a goal, the ones you can't quantify or qualify, are the ones that matter the most.  With all the distractions I have going on I couldn't be more ready to focus on the training and goals that take me from the coffee shop I am sitting in write now, to the top step of the podium at an NRC race next year.

Calm before the storm.

Friday, September 6, 2013

The boy with the wolf tattoo.

Only 24 hours left until the start of the Bucks County Classic.  A race with a rich cycling history and promise that anything is possible.  In 2000 Tornado Tom Boonen himself raced, still as an amateur, placing second in the race I've been training so hard for.  Boonen went on to win the World Road Race Championships in 2005, the green jersey in the Tour De France in 2007 and Paris-Roubaix, 4 times!

Alright I'm not even trying to create some comparison between the path that I think I'm headed and the path Boonen took, primarily because he's a sprinter, and I am not.  I will also never try cocaine.  So there's that.

In fact, I will not even finish second at Bucks County Classic.  At least not this year.  Six days ago I started running a fever and soon after my whole system went haywire.  I eventually had to go to urgent care and was put on antibiotics for some issues with my intestines.  I can't take chances when there's something wrong with my GI tract due to a congenital defect.  I had to send in the bug bomb to clear everything up.

Things started to feel a little bit better yesterday but I had my name pulled from the roster.  It's hard to explain what this race meant for me, or could have meant for me, and how hard this week has been as result.  But I'll save you the sob story.  I'm in good spirits.  I played my trumpet yesterday, twice.  I bought some valve oil from the local instrument repair shop to play some more today.

I dug into my old chest of books and found my Arban's Complete Conversvatory Method for trumpet. This is no ordinary music book.  It is well known in the trumpeter community that the ability to conquer this book would mean you would have all the skills required to master the trumpet.  Now this book used to always overwhelm me and I'd just flip through and do something here and there back when I was in school.  But I swear I immediately started thinking of a periodization training plan to break up articulation, slurring, and ornament training such as appogiattura into a well structured plan to help me get back to the heyday of my trumpet playing ability and hopefully beyond.

Wow, the road season is really over.  Still so much on my mind.  The trumpet seems like a weird deflection, but there's more to the story still to come.  There's a lot more to come.  A new season has begun.  I'm in a new place.  I am getting healthy.  I am recharging looking forward to some fun cyclocross racing and mountain bike riding.  I am hopeful for what next road season will have for me. Most of all, I'm really happy with what the next six months looks like.  I'm happy.

Stay Tuned.  Ride Safe.