Saturday, February 23, 2013


Often when you ride by yourself you know where the tough routes are and ways around them. There are those few occasions that you seek out those tough routes early on just to stretch your legs, and lungs, out. White Rd. is one if those roads. At 1 mile in length and 15% grade, it isn't a hill I will seek out too often. I just happen to be in the neighborhood.

Saturday, February 16, 2013


Just learning about watches at Timex camp. Ya know, same ol' same ol'.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Portland Triathlon. BOUS Qualifier.

The Calm Before The Storm
Portland Triathlon…this has been a race that I have wanted to do for a few years.  Big city, big race, big fields.  Finally I was able to step up to the line this year at its new location.  The start was on the Willamette riverbank right below St. John’s bridge.  The same bridge you run over in the Portland Marathon.  I have to say that when you look from the transition area, located under the bridge, it seems like an awful lot of vertical feet you have to climb.  And it was.

After driving over the night before with Greg and Natalie, we stayed at the Swansons.  It sounds like a resort, and in a way, it was.  Tim and Andi treated us to phenomenal hospitality, a phenomenal dinner, and phenomenal accommodations in their phenomenal new home.  Tim likes it when I use the word ‘phenomenal.’  Staying with the Swanson family was a lot of fun and afforded us an opportunity to catch up and step out of “race mode.”

But, race morning came and we were up before the sun and at the race venue before the sun as well.  The morning was cool, and forecasted temps were in the mid 70s.  A typical early fall day.

The swim was in the Willamette, which is a river with minimal current.  But based on the swim times, there must have been more current that I suspected.  We went off in waves and I was the 3rd of the 4 waves for the men.  I didn't mind because I like racing from behind.  Though the swim is a little chaotic, it’s nice to see people on the bike and run.  At the start, I was able to catch up with some athletes I had not seen for a bit, who would also be likely the most competitive people as well.  A couple of the guys were super cyclist David Gettle, and all rounder Craig Dean (who also writes for racecenter.com).  Gettle was finishing his long season here in Portland, and Craig was just coming off a first time Ironman finish up in Canada in a smoking time of 9:50.  I knew there would be others that I didn’t know that would pop up as well. Gettle started 2 minutes ahead in wave 2.  So I could use him as a marker for my race.

The swim was interesting.  Right when the horn sounded, I took one step and dove in.  On my first stroke, I felt a hand/arm hit my face and my goggles immediately shifted to a 45 degree angle on my face.  I understand that you can easily adjust your goggles when swimming, but trying to do that in the first 100 meters of a race would be stupid.  So I swam by feel a bit for the first 300 yards to a point where I felt there was a little separation.  I rolled over on my back, did a quick flip of my B70 goggles, and was on my way.  We swam directly into the sun, and with the multiple waves ahead, there was really nothing to spot off of.  I just kept plodding along, not really “working” too hard.  I eventually made the turn at the far end and was heading back.  I have found that when you cannot really see where you are going, it is better to relax and swim smart rather than going hard in the wrong direction.  I used people as my guide as well as the shoreline.

Heading Out
Heading Into T2
 I exited the water and felt relatively good.  I was running quite well up the ramp and to T1.  I could hear some cheers for me and figured they were from the Swansons.  Nice to hear that.  When I race away from home, and my family isn’t with me, I miss those cheers from Jessi and the tiny, yet enormous, voice of Emma.  Owen might chime in too by setting off the car alarm with the remote.  T1 wasn’t a short run, but not too long either. I peeled off my B70 Helix and was able to get on my shoes quickly. I decided to put on my cycling shoes in T1 since the start of the bike was immediately up hill…like a 15% hill.  If I were to wait until I was on my bike, it may not happen.  All was going to plan.  My QR CD0.1 was running smooth as always producing the power I needed.  At the top of the hill, about 1k in, I passed Gettle, and he knew it.  I could hear him pick it up to match my pace.  I decided to ride a little harder than I normally do for the first bit, but no later than 2 minutes, Gettle came by me.  I decided to see what kind of ‘relative’ watts he was pushing to see how far off I was.  It seemed he was lower than what I was doing, but decided to stay behind for a bit.  After a mile or so, I made the pass.  After 4 more miles, I saw that I had about 10-15 seconds on him.  Hmmm…not too much.  But after another 4 miles the gap grew to about 30 seconds.  I think I was starting to put some time into him now.   I kept it steady and rolled into T2 feeling ready for the run and the…gulp…hill.

Finishing The Run
 This run was all over the place.  Steep ups, downs, paths, roads, sidewalks, bridges…you name it.  It never got boring.  Right when I left T2, Greg said, “It’s steep at the start.”  Darn, it must be bad.  But I just settled in and kept on moving forward.  The top came and I was back up to full speed.  I was told that I was in 2nd.  Hmmm…in all reality I knew he did not really know my “place” but he did know that there was one person ahead of me.  I eventually had him in my sight, and I could see the lead bike for him as well.  I passed him near 2.5 and was now the ‘leader.’  I kept telling myself to relax and settle in.  No reason to reach for anything right now.  Get to 5 miles.  I was running across the St. John’s bridge and was feeling good.  It was nice to see all the others out there too.  I gave people I came up on a little pat on the back, and a ‘nice work,’ when I went by.  The last kilometer is pretty much downhill and I tried not to kill myself.  I came into the finish and saw the Swansons, and Gallaghers.  Again, friendly faces.  I gave the lead bike rider a high 5, and made the turn to the finish.  I snuck in under 2 hours on a good course.  Nice!

The Finish
 The rest of the day was spent eating post race food and waiting to awards.  This is always a nice time to catch up with people and hear about the day’s events.  I was able to talk with the director who wanted to know what changes could be made, which is always nice to hear.  But in the big picture, they did very well.  Just under 1000 people at a new race site in a city.  That alone is a tough one.  They did amazingly.  I walked away with a cool trophy and some prizes.  Fruits of a hard 2 hours work.
I Never Had A Bowling Trophy...
Thanks to all the amazing staff at TIMEX, and TIMEX Multisport, for outfitting the team, and giving us the support we need to perform at our best.

Craig Dean, racecenter.com writer, did a race report for this event too.  I, personally, like it a lot.  If you read it, you will see why.  It can be found HERE.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Titanium Man

When someone asks me about this race, the first thing I say is, "It is only $35, it's chip timed, and us USAT sanctioned."  Really, what else do you need to say?

This would be my second time racing here...last year was the first when I won it in a time of 1:53.  With all that had been going on this year, I was a little suspicious if I would be able to get anywhere near that time.

Par for the course, I got into the water about 3 minutes before the race start. It is a current aided swim which means that for a warm up, you can swim against the current.

The horn sounded and we were off.  I did not feel like I took advantage of the current as much as I could have, but I was out of the water and onto the bike.  This course is a pretty tough course.  Nothing crazy, but it isn't flat and there are quite a few technical areas.  I was off on the bike and passed a few people in the first mile.  Mostly teams and better swimmers.  I saw a few bikes up the road that I was SLOWLY pulling back.  I was hoping they were teams...just like last year.  I felt like I was moving well and hit the turn a little off the lead two guys, who were teams, who seemed to be riding awfully close to one another.  Oh well, keep going.

I came into T2 and was out of there quickly.  I tried to settle into a solid run and keep a quick turnover and good form.  There were 2 people up ahead.  I hit the turn and took a split.  I caught one of the teams and wanted to run with them for a bit, but they slowed down too much.  So I pressed on.  I saw the second individual and knew I had a good lead on him.  But you always need to run an honest run.  That way you know what you can do.

I neared the finish and made the gradual uphill to the finish.  I saw the clock (with my feeble eyesight) and saw that clock change from 1:49 to 1:50.  Ah, man.  I was so close to going under 1:50!  That's crazy!  All in all my bike and run went well.  My swim is coming along, but does not seem to be killing my race.

Here is a link to a newpaper article in the local paper:  HERE

Thanks to Natalie (pictures are all from her), Greg, and Dave for coming along and making it another memorable day.

Priest Lake Triathlon

This is a must do race that takes place in northern Idaho on a phenomenal lake.  The directors do an amazing job improving it each year and taking feedback to heart.

This year Jessi and I decided to drive up there the day of the race...about 1:30 drive.  After the race, we planned on heading up to Canada to watch the last IM Canada in Penticton and cheer on many friends racing.  It was to be a VERY busy weekend.

On the drive up to Priest Lake, the temps were a tad on the chilly side...like 31 degrees.  But once the sun came out, it warmed up quickly.  Since Jessi was not racing, she kindly set up my transition.  Something that it seems to take me a long time to do.  I tend to 'chat' more than I get ready.

The water temp was beautiful and the water crystal clear.  The swim start was fast, but I soon found myself leading my wave.  I knew that I had a couple near, but they were not interested in taking the lead...which I am fine with.  After exciting the swim, it is a bit of an uphill run to T1.  My B70 Helix came off quickly and I was already grabbing my Rudy Project helmet and glasses.  Jessi had put toe covers on my shoes since it was so cold, which I appreciated.  I took off quickly and tried to settle into a sold pace.  But, for some reason, things didn't feel right.  I was working hard, but I felt 'off.'  I had a hard time getting in nutrition.  But I pressed on.  I later realized that the bike was a couple miles short I suspect.  But that was okay.

The run is out a dirt road that wonders up hill, rolling most of it.  I hit the turn and was headed for the finish.  I took a split and knew I had a decent lead.  I pushed all the way to the finish and felt I ran well.


It was a great race and it was also great to see Brian Hadley out there racing again too.  Congrats to 3rd overall male, Nate Birdsall as well.  We got some fast fellas up here in the PNW.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Cda 3.0 "Overcoming"

Race start, Wave #2.  I am the one in the white cap and black suit...with goggles.
Photo by James Richman

Before I even start this post, I must give credit for the pics to the generous people, with their talent and time, who took them.  Without them, this blog post would be, well, boring.  Thanks to James Richman, Bryan Rowe, and Tanya O-Keefe.  Great pics, and ones that I could not have taken myself…for obvious reasons.

This post is mainly about the Cda Scenic Challenge triathlon.  One which I have written about on a few occasions.  The 2011 post HERE, the 2009 HERE, 2008 HERE). This event is near and dear to me.  It always seems to teach me something…something that I must overcome in some facet or another. It challenges me physically as well as emotionally.  I feel so much pressure when racing this event... not from others, but from myself.  I try and downplay it, but no matter what my fitness level, I have never been able to go into it saying, ‘Ah, it’s just another race and I want to have fun.’  I think it’s the history from the first time I raced it.  I have raced 3 different courses here.  And no matter the course, it has always been a challenge on multiple fronts.

1997- My first Oly tri.  Just get it done…and I barely did.
1998- I was done with my triathlon season in June.
1999-2002 No triathlons at all.
2003- I was sick, and wondered why I was even there.  Suffered through but wasn’t happy.
2004- I was racing well, but never really did ‘well’ at Cda. This year I ended up 2nd overall to Matt Seeley, and the first time I beat Cda uber triathlete Brian Hadley.
2005- I was at Nationals, which was cancelled the day of the race.  I tried to fly home to race Cda…but couldn’t make it happen.
2006- Focus was on IM  Canada and Kona and did not race.
2007- Focus was on IM  Canada and Kona and did not race.
2008- I was in great form, but fell apart late in the bike after a few mishaps. (Later to find out that I was under-fueling on all Oly races).
2009- Nailed it.  First time I won Cda Tri.  This was the greatest ‘personal’ race for me.
2010- Did not race any triathlons because I was hit by a car in May.
2011- Training was focused more on family.  This would be a test to see what would happen when triathlon was a 3rd tier priority.  Result, overall win.  Crazy.
2012- read on…

This year would be no different than the other years…a few hurdles before the race even started.  Of course, the one mentioned in the prior post (HERE) regarding the vertebral dissecting artery, and to add to that, I strained my calf the Sunday prior.  As a result, I did not run at all the week and focused recovery which included 2 massages at Elements Therapeutic Massage, icing, heat, electro stim, stretching…you name it.  It was a part of the training each day.  The question was, would I even be able to race?  Even the day before the race I was limping around a bit favoring the calf.  I did a little pre race run, just to test it a little for about 5 minutes, and determined that it bothered me a little, but didn’t seem to as much at harder efforts.

Race day I woke at 4:05 am, and the calf was definitely tight, and a little sore.  But as I walked around a little, it seemed to feel a bit better.  I was counting on a swim and bike to help with blood flow to loosen it up to run.

I got to the race site at 5:30am.  Found a spot on the rack, and placed some of my stuff there.  Immediately I realized I was next to someone I knew and we chatted a bit.  Then I saw Brad Vanwert, a local legend and USAT official, and chatted with him a bit about races, bikes, airplanes…really just about everything.  I told him about my calf and he gave me some really good advice…don’t race.  I figured if my calf acted up, I would stop.  I saw so many other people there, that I had to catch up with, before the race.  I eventually had to get ready and sort out my transition area.
Not the most organized Transition Area...better work on that

This race has 3 different start times: 39 and under, 40 and over, and teams/Clydesdales.  They are all separated by 10 minutes.  Since I am an old guy, 40 years old, this meant that I started at 7:10.  To me, this is a nice spot to start.  Though it is a little congested on the swim, once I start catching the wave ahead, it’s fun to see other people out on the course, e.g. the bike.  It also gives me an idea as to where the competition is.  As long as I could keep the gap less than 10 minutes by the end, I would be ahead.

I pulled from my bag my brand new B70 Helix…still in the plastic bag.  I know, ‘never try something new race day,’ but I have raced in this suit for years.  Why not?  I noticed there has been some significant changes to the suit over the past few years…I was hoping they would help me.

Pre Swim in my new B70 Helix.
Photo by Mike Winnett

I rolled down to the start and got in a 1 minute warm up…pointless really.  I looked around to see some familiar faces.  With goggles and swim caps, it is tough to spot ‘familiar faces.’  But I did see one.  Gulp.  Matt Seeley.  Matt is a legend.  2nd at IM Cda and countless other high caliber victories.  He is a true competitor and ALWAYS a favorite in ANY race he does.  Back in 1997, the first year I did this race, he won it.  We are 1 year apart in age, so would be racing in the same 40+ wave.  Cool.  I was bummed I was not in top form to test myself against him, but I doubt he was either.  I knew he was having some foot issues, but injured or not, unconditioned or not, he is always ready to race.

The gun went off and we swam.  It was pretty uneventful.  I started to drift off mentally from time to time and then I started running into slower swimmers.  I knew I was near the front of my wave, but needed to swim hard since I had not been in the pool too much the past 3 months.  So even ‘hard’ would result in a time that I would not be too excited about.  I ended up swimming a 22:21, yikes, a tad slow for my liking (it did include a short run to T1).  

 Exiting the swim into T1
Photo by Bryan Rowe

Photo by Ryan Rowe
I transitioned quickly and threw on my Rudy Project Wingspan, and was off.  When I got to my bike, I could see Matt Seeley leaving T1.  ‘Nice, not too far off.’  But Matt can ride with the best of them…literally, the best.  I took off out of T1 and could see him up the road.  I was actually closing on him on the flats bringing him within 4 seconds.  Then we hit the first climb.  We stayed close, but he was eeking away.  At the top, he pulled over to adjust his front brake.  I figured that’s why I closed on him, his brake was rubbing.  I stayed in front for a couple miles, until, the next major climb.  There he passed me again and slowly put more and more time on me.  For some reason, on all the flats and down hills, I would bring him back.  But I never did pass him.  I assumed it was my Quintana Roo CD0.1.  Pretty dang aero.  At the last turn around, I saw that I was still pretty close.  I was also able to see the guys in the first wave and took some splits on them.  I figured we closed about 3 minutes on them, so Matt was in 1st, and I was in 2nd…but they likely did not know that.  As we came into T2, after about a 4 mile flat section, I was only 10 seconds, or so, behind Matt.  Later to find out I had the fastest bike split of the day for individuals.  Cool.

Coming out of T1...left foot still not in my shoe yet
Photo by James Richman

 The end of the bike
Photo by James Richman

Matt took off from T2, and I was near…like 6 seconds or so.  T2 is always fast.  The only hurdle is if your feel easily go in your shoes or not.  This time they slipped into my K-Swiss Kruuz like morning slippers, and I was off.  I ran at the same pace as Matt for about 1 mile.  Then it happened.  My calf ‘popped.’  Crap x2.  I immediately backed off, went to my heels, shortened my stride, and favored it for a bit.  The sharp pain went away and turned into a dull ache.  ‘I can run on this,’ I thought.  That is what I like about Oly races.  You normally don’t notice things that would normally make you stop…like hot spots on your feet…or a rock in your shoe.  You just keep going and if you notice that pain, you just go harder so the pain is somewhere it matters, like your legs.  I hit the first aid station and felt like I raped them for water.  One person handed me a cup, so I reached and robbed a couple more people.  I kept plodding along and watched Matt pull further away.  I was never really concerned about Matt.  I can’t run with him.  He is a phenomenal runner.  I was more concerned about who was behind me and how far the first wave was ahead.  I got a few splits and realized we were into the first wave about 4 minutes.  So at the turnaround, I figured they would have to run 4:50s or so if I maintained the same pace.

Finish stretch
Photo by James Richman

Finish stretch
Photo by James Richman

I ended up finishing 1:03 behind Matt.  Not too bad all things considered.  But no matter what place you get, 1st to 2000th, you have to look at ‘your’ race.  Did you do what you wanted?  Did you control what you needed to?  Did you meet your goals?  I really did not know what to expect on this day.  My bike and run were faster than last year when I won.  My overall time was as well.  So does that mean that I am in better shape now?  Not likely.  My swim was sub par.  My bike felt good, but I have not looked at, or compared, power numbers.  I suspect that my Quintana Roo is simply ‘faster’ than the Orbea was…aerodynamically speaking of course.  Over 1 hour, it does add up at 25 mph.  My run was a little faster this year, but the course was a tad different.  Just a flat out and back.  So it is comparative…but not truly the same.  Bottom line, a decent effort and I was surprised with the result.  Happy with it too.
Now that is one big mug.  Great for iced coffees I suppose.

I can’t say I was out there alone.  I had a lot of cheers that kept me going and Jessi, Emma, Owen, Greg, and Natalie were following the race a bit.  I saw a ton of familiar faces, and heard voices out there too.  Always a little push.  Weeks leading up to these 'emotional' races seem to require a bit more from my family...especially Jessi.  She is so in tune with me, and does everything right.  I am so fortunate to have a wife that knows me and supports me in what I do.  Also, my mom.  She normally gets put on 'Owen Duty,' which she says she loves.  But I know she does it just as much for me as well.

Owen and me post race
Photo by Tawnya O'Keefe

So, what was the hurdle?  This was a race that I was truly not too sure if I would even be able to finish because of the calf strain.  A calf strain isn’t an injury that you can just ‘power through.’  So the days leading up were uncertain and I was so close to throwing in the towel.  The ’09 win was accomplishment.  The ’11 win was about prioritization (family first). ’12 second place was about accepting the unknown and still race like you know.  That goes beyond the calf, but to my fitness level and the hurdles with the paralysis in my right arm and the vertebral dissection.  A little more complicated.  I am not some unique or special story, we all have hurdles and other parts of our lives that create challenges.  The ones we know about, we can generally manage.  It is the ones that hit us from the side, or from behind, that put us on our heels and make us juggle things.  Then comes the subsequent problem, or question, ‘What should I do now?’  Rarely are things ever perfect…but they can always be worse.

Next race on the schedule will be Priest Lake Triathlon.  Hopefully my calf will be back to 100%...or even 80% would be good.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

MRIs, Coumadin, Dissecting Arteries, what else?

Through each year, it seems that I learn something about myself that I never knew prior.  Sometimes it is about pain, power thresholds, prioritization, equipment, races, etc.  Then there are years you find out ways around things like injuries (being hit by a car), family health needs, vacation…you know, ‘life.’  Then there is this year… the year when a curveball came and really stumped a lot of people.  Very few know the whole story. Those that do, were likely stuck with me in car for a long time, and unfortunately asked the question, “So what happened?”

Here is the gist (I laugh when I say that because there is no ‘gist.’  It’s a friggin’ story).  A couple months back I went to our 6th grade campout.  After getting off the bus at camp, my right shoulder area hurt quite a bit…kind of like a pinched nerve.  I figured it would work itself out.  After 4 nights of not being able to sleep very well because of the discomfort, I decided to schedule an appt with Dr. Brian Mather, my chiropractor for the following Monday.  Rolling into that Sunday prior, I showed up to our Master swim group and noticed that my right arm felt fatigued…kind of like I just had swum 6000 yards with XL paddles.  Kind of like my arm was 2” longer…or like I had been carrying an arm full of firewood for 2 miles.  You get it, right?  During the swim I noticed that I was compensating quite a bit…pulling harder with my left arm and kicking a lot more.  Not good for technique, but I was making the send offs.  Afterward, I just figured it was something in my back and I would be seeing Brian the next day.

Monday rolls around and I go to grab my first cup of coffee for the day and I can hardly reach up to grab a cup from the cupboard.  Dang, this isn’t good.  The whole day at work I was massaging my shoulder trying to figure it out.  That afternoon I met with Brian.  He made a few adjustments and ran me through a slug of tests for ALS, MS, etc.  He wasn’t sure what was going on; the symptoms just did not seem to add up.  I asked if I should see my general doc., and he said they would likely get x-rays…find nothing…then order an MRI and put me on prednisone.  Guess what, he was exactly correct.  BUT, the MRI would help rule things out, right?  Gulp, nope.

On Thursday I had an appt. for my MRI as well as an appt. with Brian immediately afterward.  At this point, I could no longer lift my arm.  What little I could move it, I had no strength at all.  Nothing hurt, I just could not move it any higher than about 45 degrees.  At about 2:00 pm, I went in to get my shoulder and neck MRI.  Before I did, I had to get injections…i.e. needles.  Deep breath.  The doc. administering the injections was a parent of a student I had last year.  I was trying to remember what grade he got…I guess I would find out based on the pain.  After the injection I went into the ‘tube’ fairly soon afterward.  I got the directions for what was going to happen. The tech told me at the start that I would have a safety button that I could push if I ever felt uneasy.  ‘What, me uneasy?  Come on, how tough can this be?’  As I was lying down on the platform, and was slowly being pushed in to the small mouse sized tube, I asked, ‘How long am I going to be in here?’  He replied, ‘Oh, about an hour.’  I immediately felt my heart rate increase, and nerves start to go awry. As I was in there for about 10 seconds, I opened my eyes and immediately felt like I could not breathe.  I was going to die for sure at this point.  I reached for the button thinking I needed to press it.  My legs were getting tingly, I was feeling cold…in other words, I was about ready to pass out.  I closed my eyes and started to think about other things.  What was Jessi doing right now?  Does Emma have swim today?  When is her next swim meet?  I immediately calmed down and did not press the button.  Whew.  But thinking about my family and what they were doing would only consume a few minutes.  I needed to think of other things.  Something LONG that would take some time to retrace.  Okay, Ironman.  I decided to reflect back on my first IM that I did in Cda.  The one that I flatted on the bike and walked/ran the marathon.  What could be longer? That got me though most of the MRI, so I had to throw in a couple sprints at the end as well.  Whew, done! After that, I like said earlier, I had a chiro appt. with Brian.  I headed straight there where he would have the results of the MRI I just finished.  I was excited to find out what was going on.  Little did I know…

I arrived a little late so I chilled in the massage chairs while I waited since they pushed me back a smidge.  Brian came out and said, “Let’s see what we’ve got.”  He looked over the MRI first identifying some early signs of arthritis (common) and some discs that looked a little thinner.  All in all, nothing that would suggest anything crazy.  THEN he said it was time to read what the radiologist’s report said.  Cut to the chase, it said that I had a dissecting vertebral artery between the C4 and C5 (neck).  Gulp, what does that mean?  Simply put: Arterial dissection refers to the abnormal, and usually abrupt, formation of a tear along the inside wall of an artery. As the tear becomes larger, it forms a small pouch which doctors call a “false lumen.” The blood that accumulates inside this false lumen can lead to a stroke.  Brian said that it was a little out of his wheel house, so he called the best sports med doctor around, Dr. PZ Pearce.  He said that if it was truly a dissecting artery, I needed to contact Dr. Madeleine Geraghty down at Sacred Heart who is a phenomenal vascular neurosurgeon.  So, that’s what Brian did.  After that, she said that I needed to get down to the Sacred Heart ER and get admitted for full brain MRI.  The concern was that the dissecting artery could have caused a stroke, which would explain the paralysis in my right arm.  Still, no good news.  I felt like a ticking time bomb.

As I left Brian’s office, I started to feel really concerned.  Could I all of a sudden ‘stroke out?’  Is this how it ends?  Will I make it to the hospital?  Just then, I saw a group of Tri Fusion members out on a run, and there was Jessi.  I stopped ahead of them and tried to calmly explain what was going on.  Hmm…how do you quickly and calmly communicate something with such urgency?  Fortunately we have such great people in our lives and things just fell into place.  Owen and Emma were immediately covered, and Jessi and I were off to the hospital.

Heading into the Stroke Unit at Sacred Heart just did not seem right.  I mean, I am only 40.  Am I that old?  Upon arrival to any ER you are greeted by some of the community’s finest injured people.  People who are convinced their life is over with the sprained ankle…or their pro basketball contract is out of reach now because of a jammed finger.  And for some reason, they need to be in a wheelchair as well…for a finger.  I started filling out the paperwork and before I finished, they called me back.  I was immediately set up in a trauma room.  IVs being plugged in and electrodes all hooked up.  I guess I was pretty safe now.

After introductions, I discovered that the ER dr. knew me from…get this…Strava.  If you don’t know what Strava is, think of it like Facebook for cyclists.  So we chatted about some routes and stuff bike related.  Kind of comforting knowing that he was a cyclist and knew me as a cyclist, though an injured one, rather than some random 40 year old potential stroke patient.

It was time for the brain scan MRI.  This MRI is even more accurate than the other MRIs I had earlier in the day.  It takes micro images of my brain.  I have to say some big concerns were racing through my mind.  Was this how it ends?  Is this where they find the golf ball sized tumors and Matchbox cars?  This MRI went a little better.  For some reason I was not as nervous.  Not to mention, the guy was talking to me the entire time letting me know how long each section would take.  Before too long, it was over…about 25 minutes.  Then it was back to my ‘trauma’ room to wait for the results.

As I entered the room, Jessi was there waiting and had contacted all the necessary people…parents, close friends, etc.  I did not feel that this was a “Facebook” status update item… sorry.  I really did not know what was going to come of it.  Mark Hodgson, best friend since 5th grade, was obviously getting antsy at home, so he came down with Arby’s for dinner.  Dang Arby’s food is ‘good mood food.’  I could not eat any of it at that point because we did not know what the next step was.  Possible spinal surgery?  Brain surgery?  Who knows.  Then I saw an older man come strolling in…the neurologist.  Gulp.  Deep breath.  I asked him light heartedly, ‘So, was there a brain?’  He said, yes.  I asked how it looked and he said it was fine.  I said, ‘Define ‘fine.’’  He said it all looked great, nothing to worry about.  Whew, good news finally.  He thought he had it all figured out, until I explained the sequence of events, again. Then he was stumped.  Eventually he retired to say, regardless of why your arm does not work, we need to address this dissecting artery.  He also said that I would be the topic of conversation the next morning at the neurologists’ team meeting.  Is that good?

After the news from the neurologist, I felt pretty good.  My right arm did not work, but my overall health was good and ‘hopefully’ this would all work itself out.  Though we were tired (it was 11:30pm) I felt a new sense of energy.  It had been such a downward spiral this afternoon, it was nice to have it belly out and regain control.

The next day started the onslaught of appointments.  First was with a vascular surgeon.  That was fun.  Ultimately I learned that though I was on coumadin, he said I needed to be on Lovenox (big ass shots) until my INR (blood viscosity) was stable 2x thinner, or, taking 2x as long to clot.  I hate shots.  I would need one in the morning and at night for a week.

So, since May my life has been about appointments, drugs, blood, and doctors contemplating what in the world was going on.  I can’t complain though.  It’s only ‘part’ of my right arm.  Could be worse.

As for the training, I have been able to ride a little.  But without full strength in the arm, it is kind of like riding with a broken collar bone.  I am also not too keen on crashing anyway, but if I did, I would have to deal with thinned blood.  So I rode 1x a week…short and easy.  Running was actually more difficult than you’d think.  When you run, your arms are naturally supported with muscles to hold them up, and allow them to swing and control the swing.  Without essentially 3 muscle groups working, others had to work in ways they normally don’t.  So I would suffer extreme muscle fatigue when running.  I felt like I was shaking out my arm every 5 minutes.  It has all been crazy figuring out what you can do and what you cannot.  Swimming has been different.  The first time I tried to swim, it almost made Jessi cry.  It was really weird.  I could get my arm out of the water, but once it entered, it could not resist the force of the water.  So it just got pushed back. Pretty much a worthless stroke.

Since the diagnosis I have been testing my arm each day seeing if it works better.  I ask Jessi “Does this look better?” many times a day.  Normally she just shrugs her shoulders and says, “Not that I can see.”  In the last 2 weeks I have regained a lot of range of motion though.  Not too much strength, but I can actually lift my arm above my head.  Pretty exciting.  So in about 2 months, things are starting to work again.  I feel like I am ahead of the curve.  Swimming is better.  Longer stuff (200s) is difficult because I have no endurance right now.  I feel like that it will only get better.  ‘Fast’ is not there though.  Cycling has increased since our 10 day trip to the coast, and running is getting better too.  So with a couple weeks of training now, I feel like I am slipping back into ‘training.’  Phase one.

Through this process, I had a lot of people ask about racing.  The most common question being, “Aren’t you bummed right now that you cannot race?”  Racing really was the last thing on my mind.  The fact that I could not pick up my kids, was waaaay more important.  Maybe it’s because I have raced a lot so the novelty it gone... don't take that the wrong way.  But the little things that you do day to day are far more important to me.

So what’s next?  Immediately, I plan to race our sprint regional championship this weekend (July 29th).  I am pretty excited about that.  It is a fun race and one that I have done in past years.  There will be some tough competition there, but it is really more about getting out and racing than it is trying to eek by someone and puke at the finish.  The benefit to this race is it is a current aided swim.  That means if I am unable to finish the swim, the current will take me to the finish regardless.  Cool huh?  After that, I will likely race a few more Oly races and end the season with a 5150 or Lifetime Fitness series race.  Still contemplating that currently.

You never want something like this to happen, but inadvertently it usually does.  I am so fortunate to have the support I do.  Jessi has been so amazing and understanding and level headed about this.  Never freaking out and looking at the worst.  I have also been so fortunate to have amazing people in the medical field that were, and have been, looking after me. I cannot imagine if I didn't have Brian Mather in my corner. A huge thank you to all my friends and family who have been there from the start asking how they could help.  It has made all the difference in the world.  I do not understand how people who live away from family can handle these situations.  I really feel blessed.

Sorry for the long blog, if you are still reading, nice work.  Believe it or not, this was the short of it.  Now you are all caught up.

Keep riding,

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Building the QR Illicito

I say this time after time after time. No one does anything in triathlon by themselves...no one. That statement applies to the assembly of my new Quintana Roo Illicito as well. Many hands in the pot.

It started on March 5th, when my QR Illicito arrived, along with my Shimano Pro Missile EVO bars and stem. I love BOXES...especially when they are on your front porch. In the boxes are 2 products that are not that 'available' which means 2 things. 1) Cool factor. 2) Not too many people will be able to help you if you run into a problem. I'm ready...open the BOXES!

Boxes. All good things come in boxes...like donuts

Nice internally routed for Shimano di2

Finally in the shop!

Shimano Pro Missile EVO and EVO stem

I will try and not get too 'technical' with things, but still give you a taste of the excitement in building this bike. Before building any bike I like to have all the "small parts." And trust me, as TT bikes get more and more technical, there are always parts you need that you don't have. Fortunately, Brad DeVaney at Quintana Roo, and his phenomenal staff (Tres in particular), answered a slew of questions and made sure I had all the 'right' parts. I am very fortunate to also have Fitness Fanatics here in Spokane too. They carry QR and always lend a HUGE helping hand.

After taking 100 measurements, and looking at spec numbers over and over, it was time to stop pussy footing around and start building. First things first... cut the fork. That way I can get the Pro EVO stem on and then everything else falls into place so to speak.

Here we go...

I was only able to allocate an hour or two per day building this bike. I know, normal bikes would be done in that amount of time. But routing Di2 internally and through stems and aero bars is a little more time intensive. AND this where I ran into my first hurdle. The front Di2 wire harness I have, is from when Di2 first came out. It is slightly different than the ones today. Because back then (yes, a whole 3 years ago), aero bars and frames were not designed for di2 to be internally routed. Short of it is, the wires did not reach the end of my aero bars. Crap. This is where you take a deep breath and hope for a simple solution. I called Shimano and explained my situation, and 2 days later, wires showed up in the mail. AWESOME! But not just any wires, the RIGHT wires. Now I was ready to roll. My BB30 bearings were pressed in, I threw on the BB30 to standard adapter, and we were off and rolling...not really, more like looking at a frame and fork in a stand.
I could not stop staring at this stem/bar combo

The whole process was pretty simple. But since I did everything 2 or 3 times, it took me a bit longer. When you route housing through a stem and the bars, you only want to cut it and grind it once. Pulling it all through again and re doing it is so frustrating and a waste of materials. And with Di2, you pull a wire too hard, or press/pull against something sharp, cha-ching...$200. I also took some extra time sitting on the shop stool admiring the beauty of the bike. I seem to find myself doing that a lot. It really does not matter too much what kind of bike, I just like looking at the design of it all thinking of all the punishment and abuse that will be had on the steed.

Time to play.

The left side...minus a seat stay

The cockpit.


Nice butt

Where did it go?

Clean front end

SRM and Di2. I'll have that.

Illicito...this is why

Thank you to Jessi and my family for putting up with me the last week. I know Jessi can only absorb so many stories about how cables and wires are run through a stem and bars and little tricks I have found. She brought me a few coffees and even dinner once.

Quintana Roo Illicito frame- Large
Crank: Dura Ace 7800/7900 SRM 42/54
Pedals: Look Carbon Keo
Base Bar/Aero Bar: Shimano Pro Missile EVO
Brakes: TRP
Rear der: Shimano Di2
Front der: Shimano Di2
Brake Levers: Shimano Di2
Shift Levers: Shimano Di2
Chain: Shimano 7900
Cassette: Shimano 7900 11x23
Wheels: Shimano Dura Ace C50 Clinchers