Thursday, October 28, 2010

Getting Tough

Every so often I set up these little "Get Tough" blocks. Sometimes they last a long weekend, sometimes a week. I had always kind of did them on my own, but the naming rights belong to OJ. Usually in March of each year he'll attempt a week straight of 5000m/50mi/8mi (each day) of swim/bike/run, respectively. That's pretty big. Especially to have a 300+ mile bike week. I'm not sure what his final outcome is every year, since I don't do the whole thing with him, but even if he's coming close, that's still pretty gnarly.

In the past I've used weekends like Memorial Day, 4th of July and Labor Day to focus around big blocks. You know the weather's usually decent, there will be people to ride with and non-athletes are doing other things so the roads don't seem to be as bad. I feel like the blast of riding miles helps immensely, especially when focused and done at the right time before a goal event. I usually get in 250-300 miles over the 3 or 4 days, and then I feel like my body can "live off the fat" for a few weeks.

This year was a little bit different. Swimming was going okay, but I just wasn't able to ride or run very much. I kicked things off with 4th of July weekend. At this point, I had gone for a 4 mile run with Ed, so I felt like 4 miles was something I could do, and would stick with that distance for now. I went up to LBI for the weekend, and brought my bike. My standard LBI ride is just the length of the island and back, making it about 40 miles. During the week I was making sure I was getting in the pool for 5000m a day, and then I managed a 40 mile ride Saturday, 30 mile ride Sunday, and Fri-Sat-Sun ran 4 miles each, while on the island. I came back on Monday to ride the Loch Raven loop with Alyssa, and it was a few minutes faster than the previous time I rode it.

I thought Get Tough Week would just be that - one week. I figured I would catapult things via 4th of July weekend, then try and record training every day that next week. It was on that Thursday, July 8, that I made my return to my Thursday Night Ride up in Owings Mills. This was one of the first group workouts I had found about and gone to when I first moved here, thanks to running into Peter Bolster out on the roads. He told me about the group and since June of 2005, that's become my go-to ride during the week. I've gotten so much faster because of it.

Saturday, July 10, was a big day for me, as it marked one year since I had been hit. I had intentions of going out for a great ride, but when I woke up and saw the rain I figured I was better served not tempting fate. I took it as a sign and pushed my ride til Sunday. I thought it would be an appropriate way to "celebrate" if I put in a real big day to bring to a close my Get Tough Week. I wound up riding 84 miles - not even sure how I made it through that, honestly, and ran 4/swam 3600m.

So the results of that Get Tough Week were good. 24000m in the pool, 204 miles on the bike and 21 miles running (up from 15 the previous). I had also worked up to a 6 mile "long run."

Now I didn't want to stop. I figured I knew my body only had so many runs in it each week, and that I needed to save the efforts. I was trying to get into the habit of swimming every day so I swam that Monday (7/13) and just kept going. Get Tough Week was quickly turning into Get Tough Month. The previous week at track I managed 3x1600 @ 6:10, 6:00, 5:59, then 2x400 at 87/78 and then an 800 at 2:58. It was, to say, surprising. The next week was hills on Bellemore, which I was able to run much better up than I was down (still a big problem, as my knee/quad aren't strong enough to handle the steep downhills right now).

My goal was now to ride a little longer each week for my long ride. First week was the 84 mile version of Rocks with Alyssa, the second week was now the PA ride with Pat. We drove up to TriSpeed so that it wasn't too long of a day, but it still wound up being 94 or so miles. The ride is hard, and it was hot. But it's one of my favorite rides because of Leone Springs, nicely situated around 2.5 hours into the ride. I started chasing the Saturday long ride with another ride on Sunday. The day after the PA ride I went out with Pat, OJ and Zero for the Loch Raven loop, and was real tired. The next weekend, so now 7/24, I rode the longer version of Rocks (up to Aberdeen) with Ben W. and Alyssa. It was probably the hottest day I've ever gone out for something that long, maybe the hottest day of training ever. 96 degrees at 9:30am. Apparently got up to 106. It was a very tough ride, just under 98 miles. Chased that on Sunday with a Hunt Valley 56 mile ride the next day with OJ and Alyssa.

So now I've had three weeks of steady progress, with the last three being 204/209/221 on the bike, and 21/26/17 running. I was starting to get a little tired and knew my body needed a break.

Somehow I was pulling off decent track workouts, as in I was negative splitting intervals (never happens) and running super consistent paces. The 27th we did 800-800-1600-800-800-1600-800-800, and I was able to be 2:59, 2:56, 6:00, 2:59, 2:55, 6:00, 2:59, 2:45. I didn't have great turnover, and in general it wasn't comfortable to run at all, but I was getting through it. I figured I would eventually take a day off, so I wanted to push the volume a little bit this last week of July. 25,600m in the pool and 23 miles running were solid, and that last Saturday of the month I decided it was time to really get tough. A hearty crew consisting of Adam Z., Ben W., Zero, Pat and John Eisenhardt for a little left from the city, embarking on the PA ride. It was a weird day. Ben's spoke broke an hour in and left his wheel, to me, unrideable. But he barreled through it. Adam, who hadn't ridden more than 70 this year, and also weighs way more than any of us, struggled on York Rd. In fact, everyone started struggling as I made them ride up Jerome Jay at 90 miles into the ride. It was hot, as was the theme of the summer, and exposed. By the time we got to the top, nobody wanted to even pedal anymore. Everyone was slumped over their bars. This is where I started feeling strangely good.

That ride turned out to be 114 miles. That's a long day. With enough left in the tank for Sunday, Pat and I met OJ for a tough 45 miles in Cockeysville and chased that with my first brick workout - a 5 mile run in Loch Raven. So not only was I doing my first brick after that weekend, but was doing it on the trails.

July, as a result, turned out to be the biggest month of training I'd ever put in on the bike and swim. 101,000m in the pool (62.7 miles) and 928 miles on the bike, including the last week of 269. 94.5 miles of running. It really had been a Get Tough Month.

My takeaways from July were that 1) it was really hot. Like, scalding hot, all the time. I remember one day driving to the track with my arm out of the window and it seriously felt like it was in an oven. 2) no matter how little fitness you feel you have, if you've done it before, you can do it again. It may be dormant, but it's like a sleeping giant. Once you wake it up, it's back in full force. 3) I'd rather ride in the heat with no wind, then in any temperature with wind.

It was a great month. I managed to train every single day, even with big days and big weeks. I was looking forward to August.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Turning Point

Moving on...

I had a little momentum going into June now, mostly in the pool, where I was getting in some decent swims. I decided since I wasn't racing, and had no goals, that I would just try and swim 5 days a week and build up my volume slowly. My knee still hurt when I did things, so I didn't want to be in a situation where I was punishing myself for no reason. I had swim weeks of 16800m, 14000m, 8000m, 19400m and 26500m. But I still wasn't running, save the 2 miles I ran with Zero down at Alyssa's Old Dominion 100 Miler. It was dark, drizzly and on the trails. I was surprised I made it. I took another 10 days off from running after that (that was June 5).

In the meanwhile, I was attempting to at least ride my bike once a week. Usually this meant riding to Fed Hill on Mondays and following the guys as they went for their run. It would turn out to be short, easy mileage. Hardly enough to call it a ride, as soft pedaling at 8-9mph doesn't really get you anywhere I've found. Still, one week I had Alex and Tank to ride with for a little bit, and another week Alex and I went along the Shady 7 route. It was embarrassing to me to try and feel good about doing that little, as never in a million years would I have thought 14 mile in 75min rides would take that much out of me.

June 15 was a bit of a breakthrough day. Two days prior I had watched most of my friends suffer at Eagleman. I felt like it was about time I started running. I did one mile on the track, and it felt uncomfortable at best. My splits were 1:54.3, 1:46.8, 1:40.5, 1:33.2 = 6:54.8. Seeing as I had run that one mile race just over a month ago at 6:15, I was surprised it was that hard for me.

Then came the day that really got me back. It was Monday, June 21. I had gone home to visit my dad for Father's Day for the weekend, but due to oppressive heat we didn't get out on Saturday or Sunday. Monday evening, after it had cooled down a bit, he and I headed out to Sandy Hook for a little bike ride. The Hook is a cool place, albeit unforgiving at times. It usually has a very strong directional wind, and during the summer is filled with BENNYs - but some summer nights during the week aren't bad and this was one of the better nights. It's a little over 6 miles end to end, so we rode out and back and did a small loop twice. It was 13 miles and took us an hour and one minute.

During the ride my dad suggested that I "take off" or "do some sprints" or something - which I scoffed at and said "what's the point?" I told him the purpose was to ride together, although I know he was just saying it to hopefully ignite something for me to start thinking, perhaps, like an athlete again. When we got back to the car, the ocean looked inviting, and I happened to have my goggles in the car. I told him I was going to just jump in for a minute. It was now about 8pm, so there was still light, being about the longest day of the year, and the beach was surprisingly crowded. I maybe swam 400m - definitely wasn't in the water any more than 10 minutes. The current was strong so I swam close to the shoreline. The water was as clear as I've ever seen it in NJ and the temperature was awesome.

I came out of the water and felt exhilarated. 2 out of 3 ain't bad, I thought, but maybe I can get my little sister to run with me when we get home. It was now about 9pm, so it was dark, and I made her go run to the end of the neighborhood and back. It was probably 1.75 miles, but I didn't care. On this day, I had "done" all 3 sports again. Now I was determined to not look back.

The next day I got back to Baltimore and headed to the track. I did an 800m warmup in 3:22, and then was going to do 1600m as hard as I could run. This week was much better than last, with my splits at 1:28.3, 1:29.4, 1:28.3, 1:27.1 = 5:53.1.

That was a Tuesday. On Wednesday I would face my first significant challenge: back on the bike, on a real actual road ride. I met Alyssa at Oregon Ridge Park just around 5:30pm, and we were going to do the Wednesday Night Ride. It's a 30 mile figure 8-ish in hilly north Baltimore County. Knowing that the organized (and also super fast) ride started at 6, my goal was to not get beat by them. They usually ride just over 1h20m, and I didn't know how long it would take us, but we didn't start til 5:50 I think. It was going to be close.

I hadn't been on a road ride since at least November, when I made it out two or three times to Gunpowder. After that, a lot changed. Jordan Rapp, professional triathlete and winner of IM Canada and IM Arizona last year, was hit by a car while on a training ride in California. It was almost identical to my accident, although due to him going through glass, he was in much worse shape than I was. Shortly after, two guys I would ride with on my Thursday Night Ride, Larry and Joel, were riding together on Falls Road up at Butler Road when an older lady driver hit the two of them. Joel would make it, not without some serious damage, but Larry did not.

Whether drivers like it or not, there are more people riding bikes nowadays. Some for competition, some for fitness, some just to get places because any other way is too expensive and it's more earth-conscious. Meanwhile, roads are more and more congested with drivers, who are on the phone and texting, and shoot just too old to be driving. With these instances fresh in my head, I did not want to ride anymore. You can say the same, but until you've gone through it, you can't understand the fear in the same fashion. It fucking hurts. A lot. And it ruins every ride you go on after that.

Back to the ride with Alyssa, though, and as soon as you start the ride you go uphill for a mile and change. My heart rate was through the roof. Once I settled in I felt like we were riding okay, but since I haven't had a computer on my bike in a few years, I had no concept of speed or distance. Was just out to pound my brains in and maybe feel alive again. At this time I also had the rush of "I don't want OJ to catch me and then make fun of me for riding so slow," so I was going as fast as my legs would allow. Somehow we managed to stay in front of them and rode the ride in a little under 1h50m. I found out later that the usual group of speedsters didn't show up, and someone had a mechanical, which kept them at bay. But hey, I made it. 30 miles.

Definitely too soon to say I was "back" but it was a great start.

I was keeping my runs to less than 2 miles for now, but that Saturday, just a few days after the 30 miles, I was determined to make it through my old Loch Raven 48 mile loop. The first half felt fine, but by the time I made it up and out of LR, and then still had to go up Bellemore, I was cooked.

The next Tuesday was another 1600m on the track. I was already feeling a bit better about running, and my splits showed it: 1:24.3, 1:24.4, 1:24.3, 1:23.8 = 5:36.8. The day after I did the Oregon Ridge ride again with Alyssa and we were 3 minutes faster than last week. I ended June on a positive note with that ride, and the month totals looked like:

71,800m swimming (pretty sure this was the most I've ever swam in a month)
204 miles on the bike
18 miles of running

I went from riding 0 miles to being able to ride 48 miles. I remember when 48 miles was a long ride for me. I remember Tom Stott and I riding to DC, bonking, him stealing Snickers bars from a Giant in Bethesda, getting lost and that ride being 42 miles. That was 2001.

I went from running a 6:55 mile to being able to run a 5:36 in just 14 days on almost no running. I remember being a freshman in high school working real hard to run a 5:27.

While it may have seemed insignificant at the time, and certainly doesn't mean anything to anyone other than myself, I'll look at that 13 mile bike ride with my dad as the turning point for getting myself back together a little bit. As of right now it's been 129 days since June 21, and I haven't missed a single day of training. So thanks, dad, even though you don't read this, for the little boost.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Ides of March

Continuing along as I said I would, a brief update with January to March 15, and then maybe a little beyond.

By the last time I had posted, somewhere around January 6th I think, I was able to run a little bit. My knee hurt every single stride of every run, as my range of motion was tremendously restricted. It didn't help that it was very cold all the time. I would run every couple of days, and by mid January had worked up to a 6 mile run, including one night keeping up with the gang at Fed Hill. It nearly killed me, but I did it. I was following the protocol at physical therapy, but there didn't seem to be much, or any, improvement. I was swimming as much as I could handle, and was cycling indoors on the trainer a few times each week. Tuesdays and Thursdays it would be me, Pat and Alyssa on trainers in the basement for 75-90 minutes, and I think I even went outside once or twice. (Note: most days it did not feel any better to ride).

Simultaneously, inspired by Ben's original 2k10 mission (A Year of Deconsumption), I attempted to cut out a few things myself. Unlike Ben, however, I succeeded at whatever I put my mind to. First up was no Coke or alcohol in January. The Coke was the harder of the two. February was "Facebook-free February," which was actually not that hard, but I also couldn't make comments about girls (e.g., oh man that chick is so hot, did you see her hammers, etc). That was very challenging, but I did it. In March I decided my goal would be to read 3 books, which I did. Then I realized I proved my point and stopped doing it, mostly because I felt I had done everything that would have posed a significant challenge. Sorry for the sidebar topic.

Our 2nd annual trip to Miami came at the end of January, and while I had been intending on running the 5k on Saturday, two weeks before we left I knew something was not right and I just stopped running. I was still going to Fed Hill, and would typically walk into the Inner Harbor and try and pick up the group for their last 4 miles in. So running once a week, I decided no 5k for me. It was nice to see everyone go by at mile 5 - our hotel's front door was exactly the mile 5 marker. Of course I don't think anybody who ran that day enjoyed it, but that's what happens when you go out hard before races, and also why we don't take Miami very seriously.

January Totals: 58,700m swimming, 210 miles cycling, 38.75 miles running.

Onto February, and this was a tough month for no reason other than the massive amount of snowfall. My knee was not very stable, so walking around was truly difficult, and because my car was snowed into the garage for THREE WEEKS, I was pretty much trapped. I had to walk to PT 3 days a week, and relied on other people for rides if I had to get somewhere. I had just acquired a car, and now couldn't even use it. I decided I would stop running altogether, for safety's sake and also because it was not comfortable. I got to the pool as much as I could, but they were closed a bunch of days/it was too hard for me to get there, and I was riding still up to 3 times per week, all inside.

Then I went up to see my surgeon again, and the decision was made to have another surgery, because something just wasn't right. If I felt like graphing my training numbers, you would see a low, steady volume then a complete drop to zero for all things. No more riding. No more swimming. I finished the month with just 33,600m swimming, 185 miles cycling and 0 miles running.

Surgery was set now for March 15th - great omen, right? Beware the Ides of March. I wound up taking a spur of the moment trip to Amsterdam at the beginning of March to visit with Sgrizzi and Thais, see them one last time before their baby arrived. After I got back, it was a crazy little week that involved driving to NJ for a visit with the legal team/the deposition, back to Baltimore to spectate the Shamrock 5k, dropping someone off in DC followed by immediately going back UP to New Jersey, for surgery the next morning. After surgery I thought I'd be able to be back in Baltimore by Wednesday for St. Patrick's Day (a favorite Baltimore holiday) but I still couldn't drive. I wound up being just barely able to do it by the weekend, so I drove down to DC and was able to catch Brennan (and Dusty, Diane, Zero, Nina and Terence) run in the National Half.

Right after getting cut up again, I felt awesome. And no, it wasn't just the medication. My knee felt more mobile than it had been, which was great. The corrective procedure seemed to free up my knee a little. Of course, it's not just "cut open, seal up and go." I'd at this point been going to physical therapy for 9 months. 3 days a week. That's a lot of time. It was also at this point that my physical therapist seemed to have hit the wall. His attitude was worse than mine, I think - and I don't think the injured patient should have to be the one trying to pump up the therapist. I was going to PT but really just going to go. I was getting nothing out of it. Either I needed to go somewhere new, or stop going altogether.

Anyone who was around me or saw me between the months of January and March can attest that I was a mess. My mental state was in all sorts of disarray, and it was thanks to the help of friends and family that I was able to make it through that time. Most days I didn't even want to wake up, and normally I just power through everything. I hated life, and really didn't care what happened to myself.

Totals for March were a whopping 4000m of swimming and 15 miles on the bike.

April was a new month, but I still wasn't ready to do anything yet. Looking back now, after what I've been doing, I can't believe I was able to go that long recording training zeros. 5 straight weeks without so much as lifting a finger. And even then, my first "session" was a short swim, then I took off again. I guess during this time I was keeping myself busy, as everyone in the DC/MD/PA areas would have seen me outfitted with my camera at just about every road race there was. I think I just passed the 50 race mark of races I've spectated since getting hurt. I took some great pictures with the awesome camera, and most of those can be found with hilarious captions on FB.

Training for me at this point was not really training. I didn't care what I did, so if I took 4 or 5 days off in a row, it really didn't matter to me. I had no fitness, no strength, so I wasn't able to lose any more of it by taking off. However, when Justin asked if I wanted to run one day (Big J's been hurt since a week after I got hurt last year), I obliged. We ran 2 miles on the track in the form of 8x400. I was able to run them in just under 2 minutes a piece, with about a minute rest. I think I worked down to just under 90sec on my last one? Felt like I was going to explode from the lack of aerobic fortitude. Hopefully this paints a picture of my fitness for you. I had not run a single step in 3 months.

April was another banner month, at 15,700m swimming, 0 miles on the bike and 2 miles of running.

Onto May, and honestly I would not have run at all in May had it not been for the 2nd annual Alumni Mile at the University of Maryland's Twilight Meet. The 2009 edition was a great event, with a solid turnout. 2010 was a much different year. Apparently I went to school with the hugest bunch of pussies ever, because everyone had an excuse as to why they couldn't show up on a Thursday night and run one mile. The excuse "I'm not in shape" is not an rmcgrath approved excuse to not do something. The correct answer is, you're in the shape you're in to do whatever you're able to do. I hate to pull the "if I can do it card," but seriously, if I can run one mile, you can run one mile. There were only 3 people that were going to do the race, and they weren't even going to hold it as a result. I said I would do it, to ensure the legacy of this fine little race. The end result was that I got toasted, but I ran a 6:15 full mile. I've never felt burning like that before in my life.

I'm pretty sure I received a number of sympathy claps for running a slow high school girl's time, and even Edmund Burke came up to me after and said it looked like I was limping/favoring one side. I explained why that was the case and he was all "oh, well that explains it."

Following that amazing comeback race I felt like Michael Jordan. I had retired, came back for one moment of glory, and then retired again. Maybe it was time to focus my talents and energy somewhere else, on something else. I went into hiding once more, not running for another month. At this point I had gotten back into the pool on a more consistent basis, and despite being deathly afraid to go outside on my bike (another post will be reserved for why), I finally got back on it on Sunday, May 30th, for 7 miles - which was really just riding my bike around town I think. I chased that with 14 the next day, following the guys as they ran at FHR. May's totals ended up being 51,200m in the pool, 21 miles on the bike and 1 singular mile of running.

I was disappointed that I had to bail on Columbia Triathlon in May. I had signed up last year and thought there would be a chance I could do it, but following that second surgery there was obviously no way. I wasn't able to get any money back for that one so I still went to pick up my number. 69. Dammit. That would have been so awesome. Eagleman, fortunately, has a pretty nice refund policy (surprising given the race organization), so I was able to drop out and get most of my money back. These two races couldn't have been more polar of opposites. Columbia was its typical rainy/not warm, but just a few weeks later, Eagleman 2k10 looked a lot like Eagleman 2k8. Water temp was too warm for wetsuits, and that set up the massive sufferfest that is this half ironman in Cambridge. I was no longer upset that I couldn't do that one.

Meanwhile, I had also signed up for Chicago Marathon on 10/10/10, as most everyone else around here did, and knew that I would need to be able to comfortably run at least 30 miles per week by June to feel like I could run it. Since I had only run 3 miles since February, that was clearly not going to happen. I felt like I made the right decision for my body, waiting a little longer to really start attempting to run, but it was a long time of not running. My surgeon had never restricted what I could do, it was always more on the principle of "see how you feel and listen to your body." Obviously I wasn't going to go jump out for a 12 mile run (even if I could have done it, which I couldn't). But he didn't say I couldn't run. We discussed and I said I would wait a few months after the 2nd surgery and he said that was fine.

So that's what I did.

At this point I'm almost halfway into the year with 40 miles of running, about 100 miles of swimming and maybe 400 miles on the bike.

But things were about to change, and that will be for the next post since I feel like this one is too long already.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A New Beginning

Forgive me, Flying Spaghetti Monster. It has been 9 months since my last post.

A lot has gone on, a lot has changed. I've wanted to write something on so many occasions, but it was as if I didn't know how to start. Part of it has been the ongoing legal situation, and the paranoia I developed as a result. Part of it was I felt like I didn't have anything to say while I wasn't training, or that nobody would care to read. I know that I tie entirely too much of my own self-worth to sport, and not being able to do anything has left me feeling inadequate, and incomplete. From there, I felt like "what's the point?"

My intention for this blog, moving forward, is to be more positive. I've experienced some pretty harsh lows in the last 16 months, so I've got to think things can only get better. I will write about my training, not because anyone actually gives a shit what I'm doing - but rather to show how I got from where I was to where I am now. I'm hoping that, at the very least, it can serve as a motivator to everyone who is injured. It can help them realize that within every competitor is the ability to become fit again. Fitness may lie dormant, but if you've done it before, you can do it again. The only limiter is you. You have to ask yourself, how bad do I want it? Goals have to start smaller.

It has been 122 days since I last took a day off from training. Alyssa pointed out a quote from the NYTimes article on Elite Athletes Pushing Through Pain that accurately sums up my school of thought:

"I was given a body that could train every single day. And a mind, a mentality, that believed if I trained every day - and I could train every day - I'll beat you." ~ Tom Fleming

I'm not going to kid myself and say that I'm an elite athlete, or that I have the capability of winning, well, just about anything. But I know that as long as I have a body that is capable of pushing through (incredible) pain, and is physically capable of training every day - that it's a waste of what I've been given if I don't. I'm not saying I'm against days off, I just don't feel like I need one right now. Take a year off from running or riding a bike and you'll know what I mean.

While my life in triathlon started many, many years ago, my technical journey to reach the Ironman (see also: I paid an entry fee) began 23 months ago. It was a Monday, the day after Ironman Arizona. Zero and I were online at 2pm trying to register ourselves on He got through first, but I was still not getting through. Finally, he got through again and registered for me. We were both really psyched that we were going to get to do this race together. 2009 started off pretty well, with Z recording PRs in every distance from 5k to the marathon, and showing improvement on the swimming, bike and running off the bike. For me, I knew exactly where my fitness was, and with a much better Eagleman under my belt, felt that Arizona was going to be my day.

We all know what happened next.

As I went through my shitty stages of being angry all the time, depressed, unmotivated and in physical agony, I still had enough in the tank to at least get out to Arizona for the swim. WTC wasn't going to get my $575 for doing nothing for me, the least I could do was swim and eat some pizza afterwards. Hell, I paid for it. And while I was out there (and probably there are some who still don't know this), I signed up again for this year. My thought at the time was I'm going to be totally fine a year from today, I'll be good. I had already signed up for races like Columbia and Eagleman, and in February (after my last post), I signed up for the Chicago Marathon.

While things didn't turn out as planned, I sit here today with the same goal I had two years ago - to finish what I started. I don't believe that a person needs to do an Ironman to call themselves a triathlete, or that you need to do one to validate yourself. Race whatever you feel like racing. I was just commenting on how much respect I have for short course specialists like Hunter Kemper that, despite getting older, don't jump into longer races "just because." He's mad old now and has been racing for what seems like forever, and he's still competitive. If he still gets his kicks from that type of racing, good for him.

So, like I said, I'm welcoming a fresh start. It's a new day. I have unfortunate daily reminders of my physical limitations, but thankfully I'm too stupid to realize that and the result is pushing through the pain. I'm fueled by competition and desire. I had always thought of myself as being invicible, and it was really important to me that I was perceived that way by others. There have been many incidents in the past few months that have illustrated our own precious mortality, but I'm also finding that letting fear rule your life is pointless. You have to get back on that "carbon steed" (to quote Craig Hummer) sooner or later.

This is just the beginning. The beginning of a multi-chapter story that is still being written. Kind of like a Choose Your Own Adventure book, the ending is up to me, or, to any of us. My next few posts will shed some light on the earlier part of the year, my second surgery, the day that changed it all and where I'm going from here.

For now, just a quick thanks to the people I have in my corner. I wouldn't be back to this point without any of you, and seeing your success has made me happier than if it were my own.