Thank-You Young The Giant

On Tuesday, Marc sent me an email with the MP3 file for Young The Giant’s song My Body. He also excerpted the following lyrics into the email:

My Body tells me no, but I won’t quit
Cause I want more, cause I want more
My Body tells me no, but I won’t quit
Cause I want more, cause I want more

Marc knew I would see this before hopping on my bike for an early morning tempo ride and then rushing off to the hospital for my weekly iron infusion. Some days this guy of mine is just so smart. The song and lyrics couldn’t have come at a better time. I got through the work-out but let me tell you 200 watts didn’t feel as friendly as it did this time last year. But I did it and got through it.

At the hospital I learned that the new medicine I’m taking is working and the measurable inflammatory responses in my body have dropped significantly and I also learned that I’m still severely anemic. Progress but with still one big barrier to feeling 100 per cent again. As I walked to my car, my eyes started to tear up. I was just so happy that the medicine is working because the alternatives to this medicine would have ended my bike racing career forever…

When I turned on the car, what song was playing on the radio? Yes, you got it My Body by Young The Giant. Funny how things work sometimes. I’m listening to the song now and you can click  here to listen as well.

My Body tells me no, but I won’t quit
Cause I want more, cause I want more
My Body tells me no, but I won’t quit
Cause I want more, cause I want more

Ride, Stretch, Eat, Yoga, Live

This basically sums up life right now: ride, stretch, eat, yoga, live. My days are spent with these four actions as my motivators and my mainstays. Not such a bad way to get through the day. I admit that “live” is a rather broad term. I use this to sum up all the parts of my day that make up the “stuff” of life – things like reading, lounging, hanging out with Marc, chilling with friends and simply just being.

The riding part is pretty simple. Check my program and get down to business. Of course it would be much more pleasant if I was able to ride outside. This time last year I was happily pedaling up, down and around the streets south of Barrhaven. Not so right now, nope stuck in the basement on the trainer and rollers. In a way, considering that I’m technically still in a recovery phase (though I don’t want to admit this), it is probably best that I’m riding in a stationary mode.

Stretching always start with earnest. I have a foam roller and a few favorite stretches to work out the kinks in my hamstrings, psoas, glutes and quads. But the problem for me is it is easy to build the foam rolling and stretching into my routine when I’m riding in the basement  – the foam roller is there and the cushioned flooring makes it a pleasant place to stretch. I know that as soon as I get outside this rolling and stretching routine will fall by the wayside. So my goal for this year is to continue my rolling/stretching routine. Maybe I’ll have to leave the foam roller and yoga mat in the garage and do a little bit of outdoor rolling and stretching.

I think I need to change things, eating really is the easiest part. Who doesn’t like to eat? I love to eat and I love to try out new recipes and foods. I’ve learned over the years the importance of food as fuel and also remembering to enjoy food and the pleasure of eating. I think for some athletes, the pleasure of food disappears when there is a focus on performance and often some obsession with weight-management. Now, I’m quite focused on my weight management but I’ve also learned what I like and what works for me. If I have a craving – I give in. This is because 90% of the time I’m eating a clean and natural diet. Throw in the complications of ulcerative colitis with learning to eat for performance and happiness and eating can be a bit complicated. Luckily I’ve found my groove with the food and everyday I look forward to the tasty eats in my kitchen.

Ah yoga – I can’t say enough about how much I enjoy yoga. I particularly enjoy hot power yoga. There is nothing quite like feeling your body lengthen and relax in a hot room. The heat is so soothing for my muscles and more importantly I’m sometimes lucky to have my mind go quiet and I can simply just be. I’ve recently started taking yin yoga – this is done in a neutral temperature room and the focus is on holding seated and on-the-ground poses for three to five minutes. It is so super useful for athletes who often end up with muscle imbalances and chronically tight areas – such as the hip flexors or hamstrings.

Now for the really fun stuff: live. I’m super lucky to live a rich life. I have a lot going on and I always seem to have a full plate of options in front of me. There are always more books and magazines to read. Lots of time to relax and hang out with Marc and my friends. I really feel like I can choose any road presented to me and I’ll end up happy and content. I can’t remember the last time I was bored. It seems like my “to do” and “to get around to” lists are always growing and interesting.

Ride. Stretch. Eat. Yoga. Live.

The best part is not knowing what is around the corner…

Friday Afternoon Inspiration

Each one of us needs some inspiration once-in-awhile. With large parts of Canada and the U.S. being blanketed with snow today and this weekend, it can be hard to keep up the motivation to hit up the trainer or the rollers. This is when a bit of inspiration is useful.

This article sent to me by Ken Hoppner is an example of such inspiration: Back In Racing Form After Dropping The Fork. This article tells of João Correia’s return to professional racing after many years of working an office job. It is an interesting story and one that reminds us that really anything is possible – it is all up to you.

Perhaps you’d like your inspiration to be more of the visual sort? Well, the classics season kicks off on Saturday with the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad (Omloop Het Volk) race. Check out cyclingfans.com for the live feed of this race. And if you still need more, tune in on Sunday for Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne on Sunday. Watching these races will make your trainer/roller rides feel a little less bumpy and bone rattling.

If you’re still not inspired, there are lots of excellent cycling blogs to read or perhaps you’d like to read something longer like a book? First off we have a personal favorite of many cyclists: The Rider by Tim Krabbe – a short and easy ride about the clutches of a road race. And of course, there is always my book: An Unlikely Elite. I’ve received a few comments from readers who have said it is “motivating” and “an emotional roller coaster”. My book is available for free (though a donation to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of Canada is deeply appreciated) and is in two formats: EPUB or PDF. Download the PDF here and the EPUB here.

As for me and my inspiration? Well, to be honest I don’t really need any inspiration these days. Having my 2010-2011 season end early due to sickness is all the inspiration and motivation I need. Not being able to ride, train or race showed me how much I value it. So I’ll be up with birds on Saturday morning for a 30 minute trail run followed by a 60 minute ride on the trainer.

Keep on keeping on – spring will be here soon…

What’s Up?

I have to admit that it can be hard to come up with something to write on a cycling-focused web site in February. Like most of you, I’m busy with training and looking forward to warm days. Really not much else is going on. There are no spring or late-winter training camps or trips “down south” in my horizons.

I guess I should start looking at race calendars and get myself organized for some spring and summer racing. Last season I didn’t do any racing, I realized that I missed the racing. Besides the fun that comes with racing it has a pretty good training effect (I think). Yes, I know that racing doesn’t build fitness but you can often go deeper in a race than you can do alone out on a quiet road with only your power meeter as your measuring stick. There are also all the intangibles that come with the racing experience: pack riding skills, learning your limits, forcing your limits, taking risks, and simply having a good time. For these reasons, I’ll be out racing on the road this year.

I’m not planning on doing a lot of races. Yes, I know, famous last words… Really I’m hoping to get in a few road races and some criteriums. I think the bulk of this racing will happen in the May – June/mid-July timeframe. Then I’ll have to change my focus and really get down to business fine-tuning my cyclo-cross fitness. Of course, as has become the norm for me, I’ll be getting out on my ‘cross bike regularly to work on my skills.

One event I’m definitely doing this year is the Rideau Lakes Cycle Tour. I had a blast last year and I’m looking forward to doing it again. Yep, even with the crazy rain on the second day, I still had a good time. So to get ready for this ride I’ll once again be putting in lots of long rides. Really, these are my favorite rides. I really enjoy getting out for four or five hours on the bike. I wonder how early I can get a ride to Merickville in this season? That peanut butter bar is so very tempting…

Today I hit a big milestone with my training… I rode the rollers for one hour! Yes, my second roller ride in over ten years and I lasted for an hour. It is not the effort that I have trouble with, it is the wobbly factor. I haven’t found that roller riding groove that allows me to move my head around, move my hands around, and generally relax. I know will soon enough since back in the day, (1995ish) I used to attend roller riding sessions in local area shopping malls with the Sportable cycling team. We’d set up the rollers in a busy spot, for example in front of Eaton’s in the Rideau Centre and put up a few signs and place some boxes out and then we’d ride the rollers all day – people would stare at us and sometimes give us money (portion of which went to CHEO). I remember once I was riding and a woman walked by and took my front wheel out with her shopping bags… Miraculously I stayed up. I don’t plan on doing any roller riding demos in malls anytime soon, but I would like to be able to take my hands off the bars soon.

Training this weekend should be pretty good. I’ve got the run and ride thing happening on Saturday. A little trail run followed by 30 minutes or so on the trainer. Sunday I’ve got another 2 hours of hiking planned with a some trainer time first. It is a nice change this winter to be able to get outside and really “enjoy” the weather. Of course on the days when it is super cold and I’m supposed to be training outside, I’ve done a bit of switcheroo with the training days…

Well, I best get off this computer and get myself outside for that run. Thanks for downloading and reading my book. I hope you’re enjoying it. Please send me any comments or feedback you have on it – I’d really like to find out what you think of it. And if you haven’t downloaded and read my book? Well, what are you waiting for? Go check it out over here: An Unlikely Elite. Or click to the link in the sidebar to download the PDF version.

Training Days

The middle of February… This can be a tough time in what seems like a long month for pretty much anyone. We are still stuck in the dead of winter and the days really don’t feel much longer. If you’re in Ottawa, you’re surrounded by snow and is very cold (at least today). This can make for some long days.

Well, I’ve found a way to beat the winter malaise. (And yes, I know. I’ve only been back in Ottawa for a week now so I shouldn’t be moaning about the cold and snow..) My solution to these days that really aren’t that friendly to us bike racers? Ride the rollers… Yep, never will 45 minutes or an hour go by so quickly as it does as you’re slip sliding around the rollers on your two-wheeler. Trust me, I know.

I just finished my first roller ride of the season. Wow, hard to believe that way back in the ’90s I used to only train on the rollers. Let me tell you it wasn’t a pretty down there in the basement. I was wobbly. I definitely didn’t ride in a straight line. My shoulders were in my ears. I gripped the bars a bit too tight. My knees were sticking out. I even fell off once. But I got through it.

45 minutes of roller riding is done. The time went by so quickly. Much more quickly than when riding the trainer. I guess because I was too busy focusing on staying upright that I didn’t have time or the energy to think about the slowly ticking clock. I’m not ready to watch television and ride the rollers yet. So I listened to a podcast on my iPod and tried to ignore the sweat puddles forming on my body. Thing is, with the trainer I can towel off and wipe my glasses whenever I want – on the roller this just isn’t happening.

It’s tempting to take the easy route and ride the trainer. Much less risk involved. I can watch television, drink water, and wipe away the sweat. But riding the rollers will pay off in the racing season with a more fluid pedaling stroke and an effortless high cadence (at least this is what I’m telling myself). Besides time flies on the rollers.

Tomorrow I’ll break out and get outside for another trail run followed by some trainer riding time to flush out my legs. I’m fully back in the groove of training now. My body is feeling good. I really missed this structured training. So far the fatigue levels haven’t been that severe and luckily I’m not experiencing much muscle soreness. I’ve reacquainted myself with my foam roller and my stretching routine to help keep my muscles loose and limber.

So there you have it. Almost one week into training for the 2011-2012 cyclo-cross season. It feels good to be coming back!

On another note, I have written a book. It is called: An Unlikely Elite. This is my story of reaching my goal of racing at the World Cyclo-Cross Championships. You can download it in epub format or in pdf. If you like what you read, it would be great if you made a donation to my fundraising efforts for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of Canada. You can use the PayPal button on the An Unlikely Elite web site. Thanks in advance for taking the time to read my book and for making a donation.

 

Rebuilding

Got some more good news from the doctor yesterday – green light to get back into training. What excellent news. I kind of anticipated this so I’ve been taking a very leisurely week with regards to the bike. If I felt like riding and it was nice out, I went for a ride. If I wasn’t feeling it, well I simply didn’t ride. I did this because I know next week once I’m home in Ottawa I’ll be spending quality time with my bike on the trainer in the basement.

I have to say this week has been rather nice. I just rode when I wanted. Did whatever type of ride I felt like. So it is Friday and I last rode on Thursday. It was an excellent off-road ride in the woods of Tesenderlo. I rode steady letting my legs churn at whatever effort they wanted. This meant I did sprint up some steep inclines. This meant I did work on a high cadence and not getting bogged down in the mud. This meant I cruised the bicycle path. Really, this meant I just rode and thoroughly enjoyed it.

We are heading home on Monday so my riding is over for this trip. I kind of would like to ride on Sunday (assuming the weather is decent) but I sold one of my bikes today and the other one has a broken shifter. So I won’t ride. No biggie. I got in way more riding in the first month of 2011 than I had expected after my health problems. (I initially didn’t expect to be riding until March…) So I’m happy and content with the miles and time I was able to get in.

These rides I got in probably taught me more about myself than any other rides I’ve done. They reminded me that I love riding my bike. They showed me that it takes time and patience to rebuild and feel whole again. They highlighted how much I really wanted to be racing in St. Wendel, Germany. They gave me the chance to really look at myself as a bike racer and think about what I want and how I’m going to get it. Really can’t ask for much more than that from a month of riding. Those rides I did in January were a gift.

Now I’m looking ahead a little bit. Thinking about and talking with my coach about the upcoming block of training. How are we going to approach it? What kind of spring and early summer do I want? Lots of good ideas and thoughts swirling around. Honestly, I’m looking forward to the trainer… It is a sign that I’m on my way back. I’m rebuilding and I’m getting ready for an excellent season.

Recovery

Got some excellent news yesterday from my Belgian gastro doctor: my recent blood sample shows no signs of inflammation. This means that I’m on my way to full recovery from this recent ulcerative colitis flare. The other piece of good news is that my body is responding well to the Imuran. Definitely the news I’ve been waiting to hear!

I had four days of excellent riding in a row and ended up taking a much needed rest day yesterday. It is so easy to forget during my recovery process that I don’t have nearly the same fitness, strength or reserves that I had in the past. It is amazing to me how much I’ve lost in such a short time.

I think what did me in yesterday was the three hour ride on Tuesday. In retrospect, this was probably a much too ambitious ride to do considering that four weeks ago I was in the hospital hooked up to an intravenous line and eating only chicken broth and dry toast… But it is this ambition that has got me where I am…

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of my recovery process for me has been my mental state. If you’re a regular reader of this web site, you’ll be familiar with my mental battles. All too frequently I would battle my “crazy brain” and lack self-confidence. Well, I’m proud to say that mentally, I’m feeling 100 per cent. It would be easy to get frustrated about my current lack of fitness and strength – but I know this will come back. How I’m riding and recovery right now will not be permanent. If anything this rotten 2010-2011 season has reinforced my mental resolve and strength – I know I didn’t ride and race like I can – so I’m super stoked to get out there and really race the way I know I can.

This period of recovery has also emphasized to me how important it is to get back to the basics.  Basics of cyclo-cross like: smooth transitions and pedaling and focus and aggression on the bike. You might find the word “aggression” a strange on my website. But it is going to be a keyword for my 2011-2012 season. Last night over dinner, Marc pointed out that I’m not aggressive on my bike during cyclo-cross races – instead of fighting for positions at the start, I slip into a complacent mode of being “at the back” – the opposite of how I used to approach my cyclo-cross racing. This we determined is because “I got used to being in the back”. Well this is changing for the new season. I don’t want to be at the back nor am I going to be at the back.

One of the best parts of my recovery process has been the freedom to let my legs and mind wander. While out on the bike I can ride as hard and for as long as I want. My mind is free to simply relax and enjoy the moment. I’m not focusing on wattage numbers, cadence, the next interval, etc. If I am thinking it is typically about the drills and skills I need to focus on when I get home to make me a better racer.

Would I prefer to be in St. Wendel, Germany right now getting ready to race in the World Cyclo-Cross Championships on Sunday? Yes! This was my season goal after all. But everything happens for a reason and I can’t dwell on what didn’t happen. I know that really this season was out of my control. My body took over and I simply couldn’t race my bike.

I don’t know how much longer I’ll be in this recovery phase. I think the next phase will be the re-building stage where with expert guidance from coach Steve Weller, I’ll start getting my fitness and strength back. In a twisted sort of way, I’m looking forward to riding the trainer in my basement in Ottawa – this will be a sure sign that I’m on my way to a bigger and better 2011-2012 season.