Thursday, October 20, 2011

More than i can chew

Well, CX season is here and well underway, and i have to admit i may have bitten off more than i can chew, but i'm enjoying it nonetheless.  Last year after i managed to get used to my prosthetic leg and figured out how to unclip and dismount i did a few races in the 35+C category.  This year i thought i'd up my game a little and challenge myself and so i registered to race in the 35+A division. If you're thinking, "boy Matt, that's pretty ambitious of you," you are right.  I may have envisioned being much faster than i actually am.  I was a little realistic, however, in that my primary goal has been to not come in last place, and so far i have managed to meet that particular goal, but not by much.
At the first race of the season i knew there was a pretty good chance there was someone else, who like me, had overestimated their speed and abilities and mistakenly signed up for the 35+A category when they were in fact better suited for the Bs.  Sure enough, there was one other rider who was slower than me, and i came in second to last.  You can only count on this happening one time, however, as that rider will usually downgrade to a slower race category.  So the next day of the double cross weekend i took my place at the line, and was quickly dropped on the first lap when i had a mind meltdown coming into the barriers the first time and unclipped my wrong foot first and lost time trying to get my prosthetic unclipped.  This race i was saved from the uncoveted DFL when half way through the first lap my foot sole came unglued from the prosthetic foot and i had to pull out.  I was disappointed, however, because last place or not, i wanted to race.

The 3rd race up at Ft. Buenaventura proved to be my best performance so far, as i came in 3rd from last (not counting a couple of guys who dropped out).  Yes, i was able to hold off an attack from skibikejunkie on the last lap when he dropped his chain on some bumps around a tight corner and hold onto 3rd to last place (we had also passed stupidbike Bob who was doing his second race of the day, went out strong, then faded).

This last weekend up at Weber Co. Fairgrounds, i came in 4th from last thanks to mechanicals for my brother the artist (who snapped his derailleur hanger half way through the first lap) and Mike P.  Matt O. also faded about half way through the race, so i was able to pass him as well.

So, for the time being, i have still met my goal of not finishing DFL.  We still have eight races to go, so i hope that i can actually improve on my performance a little, but dang, those 35A guys are fast.  The Glenn Brothers are always talking about how they don't get any time to train, but i don't know how they are so stinking fast without training when i'm training my ass off and can barely hang onto the caboose of each race. 

At any rate, i'm excited this week to race at Wheeler Farm, because if there is such thing as a "home court," this is it.  Since it's only a few miles from my house it's where i usually go during the week to train.  I don't know if that means a whole lot in terms of real advantage, but here's to hoping.  I'm also excited for this weekend because it's the 2nd annual Cross out Cancer event.  Last year we raised almost $30,000 for the Livestrong foundation, and of course this year our goals are even bigger.  Looks like the weather is going to be perfect, so, bring the family out and help raise money for the fight against cancer.  I'm even more excited this year as well because the proceeds will be split between the Livestrong Foundation and the Huntsman Cancer Institute, which you know if you've read my blog for any time, is very dear to me personally. With the exception of the intern who didn't get my epidural right when i had my amputation, i have nothing but good to say about the great staff and doctors at Huntsman.

Maybe you're thinking, "i want to support this event, but i don't want to race," or "i want to support this event, but i'm a runner, not a cyclist."  Well, lucky for you, there are three options that are still available to you:

Option 1:  just go online and donate.  you can make a donation to my personal fundraising goals here at my page with the Huntsman Cancer Institute:

Option 2: If you want to ride a bike, but don't want to race, you can participate in the "fun ride" at 1:20.   This is a non-competitive ride on the race course with the specific goal of raising funds for Huntsman and Livestrong.  Bring your mountain bike down and take an easy lap.  You can register for the fun ride at the UTCX website

Option 3: And finally, for you runners who don't want to ride a bike, but still want to participate, we'll kick off the morning with a 5K at 8:00 am.  You can register for the 5k at the UTCX website as well.

There will also be a silent auction in the barn at Wheeler Farm thoughout the day, so come down and have a good time while helping fight cancer on a beautiful fall day.

Friday, October 14, 2011

What, we're going home already?

This post is long overdue, and since we're already three weeks into CX season, i figured i better get my Paracycling Worlds update done before too much longer.  So first, just let me say, Worlds was a great experience.  I didn't place as well as i hoped, but had a great time racing with Sam and Jon and felt good about the teamwork we did to get good finishes for both of them.  And considering I was competing in Paracycling Worlds only 13 months after my amputation, i can still be proud of my performance, and i come into the next year with even more determination to train smart and hard and do even better next year with an eye on the 2012 Paralympics in London. 

We got to Roskilde the Sunday prior to our road race.  Racing actually started on thursday, but the C4 RR wasn't till Sunday, and each country only gets two slots for the TT in each classification, and since i was 3rd at Nationals, that means i was not on the start list for the friday TT.  We traveled with about 21 athletes and 8 staff, so you can imagine getting that many bicycles, handcycles, and all the necessary equipment, including four massage tables, left us with quite a bit of luggage.

We made it to our hotel in Roskilde without too much lost luggage, got our bikes put together, and set out for a ride of the course, a 15 k lap that goes out of town, through some beautiful countryside and a couple of small villages, then circles back into town.  The course had a few short hills, but nothing over 200 meters and nothing very steep, but what struck us all was a) how narrow it was and b) how tight some of the corners were.  Overall though, it was a great course with good road conditions through some nice scenery.  Over the next week, we all rode the course countless times as we prepped for our races.  Tuesday and Wednesday the weather was terrible: windy and rainy. There was no clothes washer or drier in the hotel either, so we all had to hand wash and hair drier dry our kits each night so we'd have something fresh for the next day.  Fortunately by thursday when the racing began the wind died down and little and the rain stayed away.

By the time everyone started racing thursday, i was ready to go, but still had three days till our sunday race.  The hardest part was the waiting and getting a little psyched out by the unknown.  I've obviously never raced against any of these guys, so i didn't know what to expect.  I knew the competition was going to be hard, but i didn't know how hard. I didn't know who was a factor and who wasn't.  Fortunately Sam has been racing these guys for a few years now and could point out some of the different riders as we saw them riding around town, but i was still dealing with the big unknown factor.  And then just getting antsy.  I watched for 2 days, then 3 days as everyone else raced, just dying to be doing more than easy laps as i tapered for sunday.

Finally Sunday rolled around and we got up at 4:30 for our 8:30 start time.  Our race was five laps of the 15k course, so just under 50 miles.  Most of my recent races here in Utah had been more in the 75-100 mile range, so i wasn't too worried about the distance, but shorter distances usually means more attacks and an overall harder pace for the duration.  As the race started, Sam got the no. 6 callup because of his UCI ranking, but because it was the first race for Jon and I, we didn't get called up until the very end, yea, we were starting at the back of the pack.  We were a bit nervous about being able to move up on the narrow roads, but the race started out a moderate tempo, and we were both able to move up pretty easily.  But then the attacks started.  And as i had imagined, they kept up for the duration of the race.  For the first three laps i was staying near the front and marking some of the attacks, but i'm afraid i exerted a little too much energy chasing down attacks that i shouldn't have been worried about.  Again, since i didn't know all the racers, i wasn't sure who to be concerned about and who not to worry about.  It took me about half the race to figure out who the players were and what i should be watching.  On the fourth lap an italian and a german opened up a small gap about 5k from the start/finish.  I saw them getting some ground, so i jumped from the group and bridged the gap.  We rode hard, but got caught by the group on one of the hills just before a hard right turn that led to a 1.5 k straightaway into the finish line.  As soon as we got caught, i attacked again, and the german went with me.  This time, however, a bunch of other racers jumped started to close our gap immediately and we were soon reeled in.  Sam and Jon were right in the group that caught us, as a group of C5 racers passed me and moved up the road (they race the C5 and C4 classifications together. Theoretically you are supposed to be able to tell the difference because C5 racers are supposed to wear red helmets and C4 racers wear white helmets).  I paid very close attention to all the racers who passed us and noted that they all had red helmets, because i didn't want any C4s to get ahead of our group.  Sam rode up next to me and confirmed they were all C5s and we didn't need to worry about them, so we settled in with the rest of the group and the small pack of C5s opened up a gap ahead of us as we started into the 5th and final lap.

As we crossed the start/finish and made the first turn out of town, i knew my legs were getting tired from my efforts, so i sat on the back and tried to recover a bit. Because everyone realized no attacks were going to succeed and we all thought the C4s were all together, the pace eased up a little.  Eventually i moved up to the front of the pack again just to be in a better spot, but as we moved through a section with a cross wind, i dropped back with Jon to give Sam some cover so we would be fresh for the sprint.  We paced Sam into the final hill when the pace picked up and i knew my legs were done.  i hung onto the back of the group, barely managed to stick with the group through the sprint out of the corner, and then gave it my all for the last long drag to the finish line even though my legs had nothing left.  Jon gave Sam a great leadout, Sam was in good position for a podium finish, but had to scrub speed when another racer moved into his line, and crossed the line in 3rd.
It wasn't long, however, before we found out that an Italian C4 had snuck into the pack of C5s that had gone up the road on us, and he had come across the line a minute ahead of us, putting him in 1st, and bumping Sam into 4th.  We were of course bummed that Sam barely missed the podium, but pleased overall with how we raced and that Sam got 4th and Jon got 6th  (i came in 15th).  It was the best finish for US in the C4 classification for some time, and we are looking forward to improving on that in the future.

Allison Jones, Me, Sam Kavanagh, and Jon Copsey
So now, i had raced, i loved it, was disappointed i had no legs left for the finish, but was ready for more.  And then we got back to the hotel, and immediately started packing to go home.  "What?" i kept thinking, "we're going home now? Really? I just started racing?  can't we race some more?"  But unfortunately the racing was over and we had to come home. Like i said, it was a great experience, and i can't wait for more.  I love racing the local scene in Utah, but there's certainly something to be said for the international experience and being able to compete against riders from all over the world.
Thanks to everyone who has helped and supported me over the past 13 months that helped me get there and continue to offer support.  I'm looking forward to an even better, stronger 2012.

Most of Team USA taking in a skate park on a group ride before the racing started.
Danish podium girls wearing gowns that had some kind of recycling/energy conservation theme.
Italian rider Michele Pitacollo in the World Champion rainbow jersey. He won the C4 division. Note his legs, he has two of them and they are both very strong!!

Sam in the start house for the TT. 

Our gold medal handcycle relay team.  Overall team USA brought home 14 medals and led in the gold medal count.
And prior to the relay, Oz, Muffy, and Matt warming up.

A short little incline on the race lap, about 3k from the finish. Pre-riding the course here with Jon and Sam. 
Some of the narrow country road we raced on. 

My post race pizza, yea, i ate the whole thing.

Roskilde Cathedral
Great bike shop in downtown Roskilde that had the derailleur hanger i needed.

It was awesome to hang out a bit in a country where bikes are a part of everyday life and everyday transportation. Living in Italy a few years back i saw this, but the Danish take it to a whole other level.
I loved all the tote cars and kid carriers and seeing moms and families riding around doing errands with everyone on bikes. And even with the lousy, wet, windy weather, they keep at it.
Course marshal volunteers headed out to their stations on the race lap.

Hats off to our team of mechanics.  It takes a lot of work to keep a  30 bikes and handcycles in top working condition, especially when each rider has his or her own special adaptations because of the variety of disabilities, but Myke, Eric, and Kimmi were great.

There's a reason they call these Danishes.  Overall i found the Danish cooking rather bland, but oh my goodness, i think i ate about half a dozen of those raspberry danishes every morning.

For a few more photos from Joe, visit the gallery on the DNACycling FB page

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Good bye Colo Springs, Hello Denmark

After a week of training here at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, we are just about to depart for Roskilde, Denmark for Paracycling World Championships.  It's been a great week, kind of like hanging out in a dorm full of lots of really fit people.  Actually it's interesting to see all the different athletic types: everything from massive weightlifters to the tiniest of gymnasts.

The schedule here was great, but it took a little getting used to.  We'd start the day with some type of intensity work out, motorpacing race simulation or TT intervals, then head back and have lunch.  After lunch we would rest.  Yes, just rest.  Do nothing, but rest.  Actually that's not completely true, we could also head over to the recovery center and get a massage, use the compression space legs, or do hot/cold plunges going back and forth from a hot tub to a cold tub.  Then rest some more.  Then late afternoon we would usually do a recovery spin, then some dinner, then more rest.  Rest until bed, then get up and do it again. 

The recovery compression "space legs"

The "radilac": part caddy, part el camino, with a lift kit for good measure. Like one of my friend says, nothing says "USA" like an el camino with a lift kit.

Refueling after some intervals.

Dessert at the OTC cafeteria.

Out for an easy recovery spin.

Went over to the CoSprings velodrome one night to watch the track racing. I think i'd forget their is no freewheel and rip my legs off if i tried track racing.

Coach Durner packing for the trip.

It's been great to get to meet some of the other team members,  an interesting assembly of individuals to say the least, from a variety of backgrounds. I look forward to racing with them in Denmark and cheering for them all in their different race categories. In an hour we head to the airport for our departure.  Can't wait to race!!