Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Learning How To Walk....again

Its almost one year since I purchased my USAC License. This time last year I was under the knife, getting my final knee surgery. Dr. Brian McKeon telling me, "look, there is really not much left to do other than manage the pain. This means not running so much. If you treat your knees well you'll be fine but if you keep pounding there's few options. Microfracture, O.A.T.S, but you really don't want to deal with those surgeries at this stage". He was right, at 33 why would I choose an evasive surgery to help one of my knees when the other knee was also bad, not to mention the many other problems I have in my hips and back. That was the day I became a jogger and a cyclist.

A guy like me never stops dreaming and deep down I still fantasized about a miraculous cure. One day I'd go for a run and everything would be normal. I wouldn't have to sit on a one inch wide, carbon fiber saddle anymore. I'd get on my shoes and run, thats what I love, thats what I'm good at. And I thought about it all the time - still do. Standing at a show watching one of my beloved bands I would drift into dreaming about running the Boston Marathon. Like an addiction, I had to come to terms that I needed to let go and move on to something that was better for me. And that "better" is cycling.

This morning I renewed my membership and I face a season of racing at the highest level in New England. Not where I was running but who wants to go back to that, living race to race, stressing about everything because the sport is the job. That ship has sailed. Cat. 1 racing at the Amateur level is perfect. On Monday, after a hard race, I want to go to work. With that said it is still bizarre to face this season. After nearly a year of racing I still feel like a blow in. I know everything about running. I can debate with any coach/athlete and be completely dialed in. But with cycling every ride I learn something new. While the rest of my life is still going through a process - visas/job issues - cycling is the only thing I have control over so I'm reading, and learning as much as I can. Do I get a coach, buy a powermeter, get a professional fit etc. All questions I've been researching. My own team mates talk in Watts, the way we would talk about pace in running. You run your 8 mile threshold runs at about 5 min mile pace is now you ride 40 minutes at 300 Watts. I have NO IDEA what watts are about because I don't own a power meter and I really don't know if I want one.

My coach Ray Treacy is old skool. If he was a cycling coach he would have the attitude of Sean Kelly. Its about getting the work done without any bells and whistles. When I lived with Steve Jones it was the same. He firmly believed that too many athletes spend their energy thinking about the micro details rather than just getting out, putting in hard work, and resting. And now I find myself at a cross roads. Do I continue to ride like I did last year, 4 hours one week, 10 hours the next week, intervals because I feel like it or 3 days off because I have a pain in my arse from sitting on the saddle. OR do I develop a training program, get the power meter, get tested, and work on hard data. Its a tough one because cycling is very different to running. Not nearly as black and white. Its in between running and formula 1 racing. Like running it requires fitness, ability to suffer, sacrifice, bravery. But then there is the machine, the wheels, the position, and the power. I fear that if I don't learn these basics I'll lose races. Talent can get you through the early categories but now its the real deal. Guys that have been racing for years with legs carved out of stone. My feeble ass won't be able to match their power unless I train. I need to learn how to ride with stabilizers again.

Fortunately I am surrounded by great people willing to share advice. The great riders at Arc-En-Ciel like Dave Kellogg, all my new teammates at Upton Bass Racing, or the guys I will ride with up here in Boston. Ciaran Mangan, and lately Skip Foley. Guys that have been around the block.  This past Sunday I went for a ride with Skip, Peter Sullivan, and a former European Pro Justin Spinelli. Lots of information to be gathered. These rides are like going back to school, at 34! And like a sponge I absorb all the tidbits of wisdom.
We rode some hills up in New Hampshire. At a regrouping after a climb we found ourselves stopped in front of this church. Literally in the middle of nowhere this white chapel and a small house next door. Who goes here? Its part of the charm of New England, something much of us don't appreciate. What we did appreciate was at break after a 3km climb. Skip and Peter looking very "tranquilo" while we regroup. Justin is an interesting bloke. He rode for Farm Frites and Seaco when he was 20. With a lot of bravado around the cycling scene it was refreshing to hear that a former Giro D'Italia rider lives a few miles away and doesn't carry any arrogance. I enjoyed hearing stories about Mario Chipollini.

Yesterday was another 3 hours. Trying to take advantage of the free time and the great weather. I felt amazing. Missing a few days due to a head cold seems to have given me extra energy stores. My only concern now is that I am getting too fit too soon......

Radiohead are headlining the Saturday night at Coachella. I welcomed a text from a buddy last night suggesting we go. There is no doubt that I want to attend this festival but it seems like a hassle. If I go any year though, this is the one. The line up is excellent and the first weekend would work really well. Lots of bands I want to see in addition to Radiohead. Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Buzzcocks, Pulp, Feist, Modeselektor....... Might have to make this one happen.

Meanwhile I just downloaded Memory Tapes - Piano Player. The record is not a patch on Seek Magic but still decent. I was moved to get the album when Stereogum posted the video to Trance Sisters. Lovely tune and on heavy rotation in Brookline this morning.

Peace and Love,

Memory Tapes 'Trance Sisters' from Ooh Brilliant on Vimeo.


  1. Always followed this blog since you won the National title a couple of years ago,great you see you back blogging now,always interesting and honest.