Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Best Christmas ever (and what i learned from a botched loaf of bread, a cookbook, and a $7 t-shirt).

I have to admit Christmas Eve i was feeling a bit down, for some legit reasons and for some not-so-legit reasons. The legit reasons, i had not been able to spend as much time with a very important person on account of some different issues. The not-so-legit reasons, well i have to preface the not-so-legit reason with a little description of my family and one of our christmas traditions. Each year all the individual families in my larger collective family make or put together cutesy little creative gifts for the other families. Usually it is some sort of homemade holiday decoration or a favorite recipe with a little package of cooking utensils, something along those lines. I've never really participated in this tradition until last year when T-dub and I decided to give some of the red pepper jelly i had made, all wrapped up in cute bows and ribbons. So this year we decided to give a loaf of beer bread to everyone. I would make it and T-dub would wrap them up all cutesy again. Now the thing you gotta understand about beer bread is it is incredibly easy to make, pour some beer in a bowl of flour, sugar, and baking powder; put it in a bread pan; cook for 50 minutes; and you're done. No waiting for yeast to rise. No kneading. None of that. Mix and cook, that's it. After a little experimentation I had come up with a honey wheat beer bread that T and i both really liked, it's especially good toasted with an egg in the morning, so she bought stuff to wrap it and i started cooking. What i hadn't accounted for was that four loaves cook in the oven a little differently than two loaves, and well, i overcooked the first batch and undercooked the second batch.

Undercooked beer bread, still all doughy in the middle.

T had left for her family dinner and so i was left to head to my family's christmas eve dinner empty handed, no tasty delicious beer bread to share. I was feeling rather glum about it. To make things worse, when i got to the Flogger and the Artist's house, practically the first thing i saw upon entering the kitchen were three perfect loaves of bread that Reggie had made for dinner.
Family arrived, we had a great dinner, kids chased each other around the house and wiped their snotty noses all over their new toys, but i was missing T-dub and bugged that i had botched the beer bread (how's that for alliteration), so i went and sat down in a front room for a minute just to get a minute away from all the wonderful christmas spirit and enthusiasm (and partially to hide from the embarrassing fact that i didn't have any cute gifts to share with the rest of the fam). At this point each of the families had started distributing their presents and the artist and flogger's girls came in and put a book in my lap, wrapped in a pink ribbon. One look at the title and i was both ashamed and deeply saddened.

Here i was upset i had undercooked a couple loaves of bread when i suddenly felt the real tragedy of Bunny's loss. As i was sitting there starting to feel real grief my brother Luke came in the room to see how i was doing. Again, i felt a bit ashamed and deeply saddened. Here i was feeling the emptiness of Bunny's loss, and my brother, the one who deals with it on a daily basis, came in to check on how i was doing. He asked me how i was doing, said if i wanted to cry, he would cry with me because it was something he had gotten real good at over the holidays, and put his arms around me and gave me a big hug. Yes, we cried together, not the first time and i can't imagine it will be the last.

So i got up out of my pouty chair, followed my brother back into the room where the family was gathered, and enjoyed the time i had with my family because i can always make another batch of beer bread, but i won't be able to get back time with the one's i love, some of whom carry much deeper wounds than i.

Nieces dressed up for the nativity reenactment.

The next day T-dub was determined to make Christmas a great day and make up for the time we hadn't been able to spend together. At this point i should preface the rest of the story by saying neither of us is rich. We don't lack by any means, but we're not rich. As a result we had agreed to not get any big gifts, but to keep it simple. We exchanged stockings and a few other small gifts, and this is when i realized how amazing it is to have someone in my life who pays attention and knows the small things that make me happy. I couldn't help but smile when she handed me my stocking and i handed her the stocking i had for her, and they were stuffed with almost identical goodies.

Our Christmas stockings, both of them topped off with Amano chocolate and RJ's soft raspberry licorice.

As i pulled treats out of the stocking i also pulled out a small, wrapped gift. I unwrapped it and immediately got a little emotional again. T had got me a "Twenty12 Women's Professional Cycling" T-shirt. I know, i know, a t-shirt, right, and last-year's design on sale at that? Not that big of a deal, but for me it meant a lot. Again, it was an incredible indication of how much she listens and cares (we had talked about the t-shirts a few weeks earlier when we both saw a twitter about the team clothing on sale). It was also a meaningful indication that she wants me to be a part of this next endeavor of her life, and i couldn't be happier.

After exchanging gifts we put on our warm weather gear and went out for a little ride. Actually we planned a longer ride, but my chain broke, so by the time i got that fixed we had to cut it short, but nonetheless, it was great to get outside, ride in the sun, and wrap up a wonderful Christmas doing something we both love.

Overall our Christmas wasn't extravagant. It wasn't super fancy or full of expensive gifts. But it was wonderful, the best ever even, notwithstanding Bunny's absence, because it was marked by time spent with the people i love and simple gifts from the heart.

christmas ride with T-dub from matt bradley on Vimeo.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Bend over, put your head between your knees, and . . .

hold on!!

Yesterday I had the opportunity to give bobsledding a try with the USA adaptive bobsled team up at the Utah Olympic Sports Park. A couple of months ago another amputee connected me to Dave, the guy who heads up the team and has done quite a bit to organize and legitimize adaptive bobsledding with the hopes of someday getting it as a para Olympic sport.

Dave waiting at the top to unload the sled from the truck. Props to Dave for not crashing, i'm glad i didn't get any iceburns my first time out.

Prior to this experience i didn't know a whole lot about bobsledding except you go real fast down an icy track in a big fiberglass sled. It always looked fun, but i hadn't ever given it a second thought until i was invited to slide with the adaptive team and see if it was something i liked. So finally yesterday we connected and i went up and did a few runs.

Dave and Olympic skeleton gold medalist Jimmy Shea and the adaptive sled (notice the "rollbars").

First thing you gotta know about bobsledding is there is the driver, and then there's everyone else. In a two man sled there's the driver and the brakeman. It takes a lot of training and practice and "drive school" before you can drive a half ton sled down an icy track, so you can imagine i was relegated to the brakeman position. You'll also quickly find in the arena of bobsled racing there are a lot more people who want to be drivers, and not very many who want to be brakemen. I quickly found out the reason for this. For the brakeman bobsledding basically consists of: push like the dickens from the start block, jump in the sled, put your head between your knees, hold on, bounce around against the insides of the sled and feel your guts get pulled up through your throat from the g-force, hope like hell your driver doesn't crash, then pull the brake at the end when the driver yells at you to brake (cuz of course you can't see where you are with your head between your knees). Yup, that's it. If you opt to be a brakeman, this is what your view will be like for the entire 50 second ride from top to bottom (except your head will actually be all the way down between your knees):

The bottom of the sled. The two silver levers in between my feet are the brake. Right on the outside of my toes you can see two small handles, those are what you hold onto. The driver chair in this sled is a lot bigger too, with race car style seat belts to keep the driver inside in case of a crash since a few of the drivers in the adaptive program can't walk.

Riding in the back of the shuttle truck with the sled up to the top of the track.

We did four runs yesterday, and by the time i got home later in the afternoon my lower back was so stiff i could barely move. In fact, i didn't know how i was going to bend over to take my prosthetic foot off. Doesn't seem like a short sub-minute run could do that much damage, but i guess the g-forces in the turns and the effort of holding on while rattling around all while doubled over will do that.

When all is said and done, however, it was fun. Even though i couldn't see a thing but the sun and shade flickering off the bottom of the sled, it was an experience, but let's be clear, if given the chance, I'll take the opportunity to learn to drive.

Two of the other guys practicing at the track jumping in the sled after the push.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Because cancer doesn't care how old you are

Over the past week a few other folks in the local cycling/cancer community (i know, crazy to think we have such a thing, and frightening how big it actually is) have shared the story of young Andreas Knickman with me.
At a mere 13 years old Andreas was diagnosed with bone cancer, and is now fighting the disease, going through chemo and all that fighting cancer entails. His mom posts daily updates on his webpage and has suggested how much Andreas loves to read the comments and support others leave on his webpage guestbook.

Fatcyclist is running a little fundraiser for Andreas, with the added incentive of winning a cycling tour in Italy with Andy Hampsten. Go here to read about the contest/fundraiser and make a donation.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

End of one season, beginning of another

The artist after going down on a slick corner while warming up.

Yesterday was the last race of the UTCX 2010 series. I'm a little bummed, since i was out most of the season, you know with the whole amputation thing, i only got to race the last few races, and yesterday, finally felt like i was actually racing, actually in the competition. I wasn't at the front of the pack, but did start to feel like i had a little better fitness and could at least hang in there and keep up. Of course the big joke on me during yesterday's race was the extensive concrete stair run up. Although i get along pretty well in regular activities, stairs are still kind of a challenge for a gimp. First lap i got dropped on the stairs, and then even more so trying to clip in after the stairs. My cleat picked up all the slush left on the concrete making it near impossible to clip in once i jumped back on my bike. After some work, i managed to get my foot in and then reconnect with the group in the first tight turn. Throughout the rest of the first lap I even managed to pass a handful of other riders through some of the technical turns and straightaways. Then on the stairs on the 2nd lap they all came rushing past me again. And so it went. At any rate, i was feeling good, was feeling like i was racing again (albeit mid-pack in the Men's C group), and then with three laps to go my rear derailleur snapped clean in half.

Of course this would have to happen at the point of the course furthest from the pit as well. So i picked up my bike and walked back to the pit, switched bikes, and finished out the race and still managed to not take last place. Here's a vid of the first lap, my derailleur snap, bike swap, and finishing out the race. You can see the stair run up in the first 30 seconds of the vid, and then watch as i struggle to clip in while everyone passes me.

Utah Cyclcocross, race no. 11 from matt bradley on Vimeo.

And so another year is over, another bike season has passed, another semester has ended (though i've still got a good lot of papers to finish grading), and time to take a little break, then start all over again. Usually after the end of CX season i'll take a week or two off the bike, and then start training again for the next year's road season, but since i haven't had much serious training in the last six months, i'm going to forego the break this year and jump right back in. Yes, training starts tomorrow. And now that i've reached my immediate goal, race CX by the end of the season, i've set a new goal: race at the paracycling nationals in Augusta, GA in June 2011.
I know i've got a lot of work to do to get my fitness back, and then learn how to get power out of my residual limb (not to mention lose those extra holiday pounds), but i'm excited about the opportunity and ready for the challenge.

In other great news for the upcoming season, T-dub signed with the professional women's team Peanut Butter & Company/Twenty12. This is awesome, not only because she's now a pro and will get a supply of some of the best gourmet peanut butter you've ever tried (the "Dark Chocolate Dreams" peanut butter is so good you can just eat it with a spoon straight out of the jar), but because she gets to race on a team with so many up and coming riders as well as seasoned pros like Kristen Armstrong who won the Olympic gold medal for the time trial in 2008. Looking forward to making the best of the upcoming year.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

racing and grading and riding for righty

Yes, it's that time of year: the end of CX season and the crux of grading before the end of the semester. Every semester i try to figure out how to maintain the level of work that the students do, but decrease the amount of grading i have to do. So far, i've been unsuccessful, as the pile of papers to grade on my kitchen table can attest.

And this season i obviously haven't been able to race much of the series, but i have been able to race the last two races, and plan on the final race this coming weekend. My results haven't been that great, but i didn't finish last in either race, so at least the one-legged guy isn't bringing in the caboose (just close to it). My fitness is pretty lousy, and the lack of time i've been on the bike in the last two weeks on account of grading hasn't helped any. I'm still a bit sloppy on the dismounts, barriers, and especially clipping in, but i feel like i'm improving. My first race i had a great first lap, sloppy second lap (crashed twice and got my pedal stuck on the bottom of my new foot, wedged between the cleat and the side, rather than clipped into the cleap), and fair third lap. Overall, however, it was great to race again, especially to start racing on the same day as the Cross out Cancer event.

The "Crossbot" riding to cross out cancer!

Big props to Matt Ohran, Melissa Parry, and the O'Learys for organizing the "Cross out Cancer." At last report the event had raised in excess of $25,000 to help fight cancer. If you didn't get a chance to participate, but still want to donate, you can follow this link and make an online contribution. Thanks to Uncle Bob, D. "the brewmaster" C., and everyone else who came out to support.

T-dub even got her MTB out for a lap in the cold!

The artist got some pics of the race (above) and i tried to get some video, but it was a new video camera, so when i pushed the button at the start of the race to record, i actually just set the camera to take one time delayed photo, rather than start the video camera, so all i got was this photo of me trying to get my gloves on as everyone else was trying to get the hole shot around the first corner.

I did get some footage of the "cross out cancer" ride. I know, i know, "stand by me," is a little cliché, but short of including "we will survive," it feels the most appropriate to me right now. Some people say cancer makes them stronger, i dont' know about that, what i do know is this whole experience has brought me closer to the people i love, and others who i'm getting to know and love, and it's the incredible support from my family, friends, colleagues, students, and even strangers, that have made this whole thing bearable, so "stand by me" it is.

Cross out Cancer, UTCX from matt bradley on Vimeo.

I did figure out how to use the camera the next weekend at Ft. Buenaventura, so here's the unedited footage of about six minutes of the first lap. I think i forgot to charge the battery, and the cold doesn't help with battery life, so the camera went dead right before i missed a turn and went right through the course marker tape and lost about four places as i turned around and got back on course.

Utah Cyclocross, Ft Buenaventura from matt bradley on Vimeo.

The river bed section was the worst of this course for me; running is still not my forté and the mix of river rock and sand was no picnic. The barriers were also spaced in a way that made them kind of awkward, i was doing a funny half step between each one. Yesterday i went to Wheeler and practiced barriers for a while, and although my residual limb was getting pretty sore, i finally felt by the end of the time i was there i was starting to get better flow and rhythm. One more CX race next weekend to give it a go, then it's back to training for road.

Friday, November 26, 2010

We're Racing Bicycles!

Yup! Tomorrow is the day: my first race back after the amputation. Come out and join the fun, and ride your bike in the "Cross out Cancer" fundraiser. I know, it's been stinking cold, but the weather is supposed to warm up quite a bit tomorrow, so get your mountain bike out, bring the kids, the cousins, the college buddies, your significant other, your mother, and do a lap to help fight cancer!!

My fitness is still pretty lousy, but i can clip in and out of my pedal with some level of confidence now, thanks in part to the new mtb foot that the good guys at Emotis put together for me.

New CX and MTB foot, custom made from the Emotis Ibex.

They took the tread off one of my MTB shoes, removed it from the shoe, glued it on the carbon foot plate, then also recessed the foot plate to add an adjustable cleat. I gave it a little go yesterday at Wheeler and found it's a lot easier to clip in and out of, and has a nice overall feel, especially when jumping out of the saddle.

Big thanks to Joe at Peak Prosthetics as well, for fitting the new MTB foot to my socket. Joe also put together a new road cycling foot for me. Since i don't really need to run or walk while road cycling, he went straight from the pylon to the cleat, a speedplay in this case, without a foot.

This obviously eliminates all the extra slop of the plastic foot cover and shoe that i have if i put a road cycling shoe over the carbon foot, and thus increases power. I'm still experimenting with cleat placement a little, but overall it feels great. It gives me a much smoother pedal stroke, especially over TDC when i'm out of the saddle.

As is customary of this time of year, i've given some thought to what i'm thankful for. I have a long list, but, given the events of this past summer, solidly at the top of the list right now is LIFE!!

There are a lot of other things as well, but suffice it to say on this crisp, sunny November morning that i'm extremely grateful to be alive, to look out my kitchen window and see the dogs wresting in the snow and the chickens and turkey strutting around the backyard looking for scraps of food (i'll bet that turkey is pretty grateful to have made it past Thanksgiving as well).

Sunday, November 21, 2010

silver linings

Thanks to some advice from Sam K., i've figured out how to unclip by turning my heel in, rather than trying to turn it out. This doesn't work because of the positioning of the crank arm on the forward stroke of the pedal, but once i hit the bottom of the stroke, i can turn my heel in and unclip without too much problem. Thanks also to the Revolution crew who have helped me with some minor adjustments to my cleat and shoe that have also helped. So with the major obstacle of getting out of my cleat solved, time to race!!

Looks like slowmo, but i'm really just going that slow. It's a lot harder to get your foot over the barrier when you don't have any flex in your ankle, but i'll get the hang of it with some practice.

I've been getting in practice laps here and there between announcing races and though i'm still not in great shape, and don't have much of a run yet, i'm excited to race this weekend, especially considering it's also the "Cross out Cancer" fundraiser for the Livestrong Foundation at Wheeler Farm.

Bring the family, bring the bikes, wear yellow, have some fun while racing bikes (or just taking an easy lap), and support the fight against cancer. There will also be a silent auction in the barn at Wheeler Farm. After the "cross out cancer" ceremonial lap, i'm going to race the Men's 35+C group. This is a shorter race, with guys who are theoretically slower, so i'm hoping to be able to hang in there and put in a good effort. Hopefully next year, after i've been able to develop some better fitness i'll be able to compete back in the 35+B group again.

This past week I also had my first post-amputation follow up screening. Doc Jones did CT scans of my lungs to check for any tumors or irregular growths, and the scans came back clean! So far, so good! I go back again in March for some more comprehensive scans, x-rays, and MRIs of my lungs and leg, and that's the way it will go for the next few years, scans every 3-6 months to make sure nothing that shouldn't be there starts growing again. In the meantime, "We're racing Bicycles!!"

Monday, November 8, 2010


I'm coming up on three months since the amputation this week. Things generally get a little easier and i'm a little more mobile each day. I shrunk out of my first socket (the part of the prosthesis that my residual leg sits in) in about three weeks, so Joe fit me for a new one last week. You can see in the pic below how much extra sock padding i had to wear to keep the socket fitting snug.

So now i'm on my second socket, and i got a new foot which is a little more heavy duty. It's a bit better for walking, but actually not as good for cycling. The design of this foot is a little different, which causes the cleat on the cycling shoe to be positioned further forward in relation to the juncture of the foot and the socket, and this creates a bad angle for maintaining a good, circular pedal stroke. It's most evident when i get out of the saddle to pedal and really have to get over the top of the pedals, even forward a little, to avoid having an awkward transition over TDC. I'm hopefully meeting with some guys from emotis this week, however, to work on some custom road and mountain bike feet. That will hopefully also help with the clipping in/clipping out situation, as i still can't unclip at all with my road shoe, and have just now managed to clip out on the go with my mtb shoe, but only if i really concentrate and crank down on the foot.

Yesterday i rode Emigration Canyon to the top of Little Mountain from my house. This was my longest ride so far since the amputation (3 hrs.) and i was beat by the time i got home. This was probably also due to the 30 mph headwinds i had from the mouth of the canyon back to my house. It was also the first climbing of any sort of done since the amputation (although Emigration is a pretty moderate climb). I decided to try to TT from the bottom to the top just to give myself a benchmark, though it wasn't really a TT since my HR wasn't pegged at my LT, but it was the best effort i could muster given my current state of conditioning. The ride took me 39:50. Not that great, but i guess not too bad for losing my leg three months ago.

Next week i got back to see Doc Jones for my first post-surgery CT scans. Actually he took some CT scans of my leg before i got the prosthesis to make sure the bone graft was healing up correctly, but this will be the first CT scans specifically to check for any more signs of tumors in my lungs and lymphatic system. Although i'm hopeful that we got everything when we cut my foot off, i'm still a bit apprehensive, as i'm sure you can imagine, but here's hoping for the best.

I've also set a specific date for my goal to do a cyclocross race before the end of the season: Nov. 27. This is Thanksgiving weekend, but, to add to the significance, will also coincide with the "Cross out Cancer" Cyclocross weekend. Cross out Cancer is being organized by David O'Leary and Matt Ohran. Matt is the Utah Cyclocross series promoter and David O'Leary is the father of Connor O'Leary, a young and talented cyclist now fighting testicular cancer. This story is a little dated, but you can read about Connor here. After David approached Matt about putting together a fundraiser, Matt asked me if i was interested as well, and of course i said yes. Regardless of whether Lance doped or not (and i'm not saying he did, just saying "even if"), he beat cancer and the LAF has grown to be one of the biggest fundraisers and advocacy groups in the fight against cancer.

My family has faced cancer twice. Just over ten years ago my sister was diagnosed with a brain tumor. She's had two major surgeries to remove the tumor, and underwent chemotherapy as well. She is doing well now, but the danger that it could grow back is always present. And now i've also faced the DB and SDB trying to take over my body, but hopefully we routed their efforts before they could get much of a hold. I'm amazed, as others have shared their stories with me, how many lives cancer touches. Like David O'Leary said to me the other day, if cancer hasn't touched the life of someone very close to you, it will. Often we only hear the tragic stories of those who are diagnosed with an aggressive cancer that quickly takes a life. But i've been consistently impressed with the stories of so many cancer survivors who i've met in the last few months, my sister included, who have prevailed. Cancer is a piece of shit disease, it kills and maims, but i am grateful for the community of cancer survivors and those continuing their battle with whom i am becoming acquainted. These are truly amazing and courageous people making the best of their lives despite cancer's best plans to sabotage them. And i'm truly grateful for the amazing medical personnel at the Huntsman Center who continue to serve me and so many others with professionalism, humanity, and a depth of knowledge and experience.

But i digress, as i was saying, Nov. 27 at Wheeler Farm will be the Cross out Cancer fundraiser to benefit the LAF Livestrong Foundation. The event will include a silent auction in the barn at Wheeler, and then at 12:20, an abbreviated CX bike race with a suggested donation of $15. So bring the family, wear yellow, and come ride your bike to help fight cancer. If you haven't ever tried Cyclocross, this will be a great, non-race, easy ride opportunity to give it a try, as well. If you don't have a bike, well, come out and cheer. Mama Glenn even has a megaphone she'll probably let you borrow, as long as she's not yelling at "Rocky Sweet Pea" to pick up the pace.

And after the fundraiser ride, i hope to race the men's 35+C division for my first race back from cancer. Hope to see you there!!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Bring your A game, because only the best will do!!

Shrimp Ceviche by Team Fashionista

Wow!! i'm so impressed with the results of this year's Fall Harvest Smackdown. The theme for this year's competition has to be redemption with Team Fashionista making up for their first year tupperware faux pas with some excellent presentations and Team Mo-Rizzle taking away not one, but two trophies after last year's disappointing fizzle!

Team Fashionista's entries (can you tell who's been watching food network)!

I think L-Ro actually wanted to drop the pointer finger and just give the artist the one-fingered salute!

Despite the almost no-show of one of the judges (who will remain anonymous, but is also known to have a huge fear of bugs flying in her ear) who almost slept through the meal and arrived after everyone had finished eating and the votes have been tallied ("what, i'm too late to judge?"), we pulled off a great event, thanks to all the participating teams, Luke who hosted this year, and T-dub, Camstar, and Sher "middle finger" Mo-Rizzle who reorganized the judging and tallied all the votes. Despite some grumblings that the judging had been fixed this year to throw the victories to the Swenson/Romero participants, we had a great time, ate amazing food, and had a fair amount of sweating as a result of the spicy dishes: three different flavors of habanero ice cream, waffles with a habanero steeped maple syrup and whipped cream, fondue, peach habanero triffle, two different version of ceviche, two different versions of sweet potato fries with a habanero dip, chocolate raspberry habanero cookies, mango habanero salmon, and the list goes on and on. Great creativity and great food and some good laughs with the premier of the artist's film JellyMeloned (available soon through a fine video distributor near you).

But most importantly, here are this year's winners:

Best Appetizer:
Team Dink (they chose the name, not me) for the habanero-raspberry jelly spread on toasted baguettes.

Best Drink and Hottest Dish:
Team Vero and Lu for, well the only drink entry, and Lu's amazing chili.

Best Salad:
Team Fashionista for the habanero shrimp ceviche

Best Main Course:
The artist and the flogger for the Waffles served with Habanero steeped cinnamon syrup and whipped cream.

And best side dish and best dessert:
Team Mo-Rizzle for the Habanero-spiced corn and the Peach-Habanero Triffle (which i have to admit was pretty much to die for; spicy, sweet, and creamy all at once).

I'm not sure what T-dub is doing in this photo!

See you all next year!!