Adelaide

Warning: this is a graphic post–not the pictures, just the content. I felt like I needed to write this as soon as possible to get it out of my head and start my own healing. My intentions aren’t to scare anyone but this is what I went through on Saturday when Adelaide was almost killed by an inattentive driver.

I’ve been planning a blog post for a few weeks now, letting the exciting incidents of my life build so I have material to work with. It’s my usual routine, especially when there aren’t race reports to write. With a number of writeable things going on of late, I figured I had plenty of options 1) Adelaide and I got mountain bikes 2) I saw three black bears on a mountain bike ride the other day 3) I got on a bike team for 2015 4) I saw a house burn down while on a run with Maybellene. A baby was killed in the fire.

The third option, when nothing comes up worth writing about, is to let my anger build over any number of random issues for a good rant.

The following is a story about the worst day of my life, by far.

Adelaide and I woke to a brisk but sunny day on Saturday. Maybellene was super excited to be up and running around as usual. Adelaide took her to the dog park while I was still asleep. After a pancake breakfast, which is our tradition for weekend rides, we met up with friends at Amante for the ride. Adelaide, the only one with an actual race to train for, parted from us early on, going north up highway 36 to Lyons as we went up to Ward. Her iron-distance triathlon was three weeks away and she needed a couple more weekends of long, hard, flat rides to prepare her for the 112 miles she’d encounter down at Lake Havasu on November 8th. Her running and riding form were coming along really well and she was shooting for a sub 11-hour race. Swimming is a non issue for her. She barely even needs to train for it.

The rest of us went at a leisurely pace for a while until I got a branch stuck in my front wheel, which required a brief stop. Matt decided an attack was in order right afterwards, since we’d both been complaining about the slow pace. Liam and I slowly towed him back, then pulled the plug well before that last steep pitch to the water pump. There, we all regrouped. They began the climb up to Brainard Lake and I said goodbye to head off down the mountain and reconnect with Adelaide, who would have been on the second of four 24-mile laps.

With me doing the lap in reverse, we had planned on meeting along the way. Being slow and tired from too much mountain biking and running, I planned to draft off her for a lap then head home to eat, take Maybellene for a walk or to the dog park, and work on the sponsor packet for the Carter Lake road race. A trip to Sprouts for dinner groceries was also in order.

I started to feel the day’s effort in my legs about three hours in. I should have seen her by then too. Her bike wasn’t at the Hygiene store, where she said to look just in case she had stopped for water. She drinks approximately 31 bottles an hour during rides. Zero throughout the rest of the day.

I kept going and took a left on 66 towards Lyons, fairly certain I wasn’t going to see her. Maybe she’d gotten tired early and only did one lap. Or she did a different route completely. I’m not one to worry too much. I was mainly thinking of how hungry I was getting since I’d only brought a small bit of food and the ride was approaching 3.5 hours. My mind drifted for a little while. I had a 15K trail race the next day. Four hours of riding wasn’t going to be the best preparation. Whatever, it was just a practice race anyways. I turned south on 36 towards home.

15 minutes later, as I climbed one of the rollers, I saw an Osmo bottle with a strange yellow lid sitting in the ditch. I recognized it as one of the bottles I’d filled that morning for Adelaide. She doesn’t leave bottles when they’re dropped. I looked up to the left, just now getting to the intersection of Hygiene Rd and Hwy 36 and saw two police cars and some people standing in the grass by the side of the road. It reminded me of a scene I’d come across on my way to Sprouts two days before: Emergency vehicles and a crumpled bike. I’d stopped then to see if anyone was seriously injured, just out of my own curiosity. This time, as I pulled across the road to the police car, I was suddenly very worried.

I asked what happened, if a cyclist was hit, was it a girl, what did her bike look like, what was her name, hair color. He gave me the bike’s description, not hers. He hadn’t seen her and the injuries to her face were substantial, which to me meant that she’d been unrecognizable. She hadn’t been able to give her name, he said. Those last two details made my stomach churn and my heart race. He didn’t have details about her hair color or who she was. He was the crash scene investigator. The female cyclist was taken to the hospital at 12:00. It was now 1:34. If it was Adelaide, she’d probably just started her second lap at that point, so the timing looked right. Or very wrong.

Since the bike he described matched hers and the bottle on the other side of the road looked exactly like hers, I didn’t want to take the chance of it not being her, so I asked for a ride in his car to the hospital (Longmont United). My bike wouldn’t fit. I said I’d leave it in the bushes. While walking it over to dump it off I asked the three civilians standing there what had happened, and if any of them was the driver. One guy said yes. I asked for a description of what she looked like and another guy said he thought her name had been Adelaide.

I paused for a moment, letting the shock hit me. Serious facial trauma and she hadn’t given her name, meaning that she was unconscious or dead (I assumed someone else riding near her had ID’d her and that she hadn’t told her name herself). The officer said she’d gone through the driver’s side window while traveling north on 36 and that the car had pulled out abruptly into the road in front of her to take a left turn. She’d T-boned it. Highway 36, which is the most popular training road in Boulder and had hundreds of cyclists on it that day, is straight at this intersection. So her coming around a corner or him not being able to see her was not the issue.

It’s the sort of “accident” that almost happens every day. It happens when drivers like this one feel just in gambling with a cyclist’s life in order to save five seconds of their precious time. Adelaide had almost been hit last week when someone did this to her while she was commuting home from work.

I turned to the driver and screamed at him and took a half lunge toward him as he stepped back. I stopped myself from doing anything and the police officer stepped between us. My worry was far greater than my rage. I needed to get to the hospital.

I frantically jumped back on my bike and the police officer, who had to stay at the scene with the driver, yelled out some directions for me as I went. I began screaming again a few moments later, now crying uncontrollably as well. Sobbing uncontrollably. Screaming without expletives, or words at all, for the entire ride to Longmont. I thought she’d be dead or paralyzed when I got there.

During that awful ride I felt guilt for getting her into bike racing, guilt for leaving her to ride alone while I went up to Ward, guilt for departing Amante at the exact time that would put Adelaide in the path of that car. I began regretting all sorts of little and big things. Had I given her a hug that morning? I couldn’t remember. If I hadn’t, why hadn’t I? I regretted the tiny argument that we’d gotten into a few days earlier, which was really just a debate about how to solve the income gap between whites and blacks. Mainly I regretted not having asked her to marry me yet. Now I knew I wouldn’t have the chance. I imagined a future without her and knew I’d be better off dead too.

I was convinced she was dead from the way the officer had described the collision and her injuries. This must be a dream. This must be a dream. This must be a fucking dream. I was trying to ride as fast as I could but I was crying and screaming too much to get enough air in my lungs. I blew through every stop sign and red light, thinking of how funny it would be if I ended up in the hospital bed next to her.

When I got to Longmont United I dismounted and ran my bike in through the front doors asking where the emergency room was. The next 10 minutes would be the most stressful, horrible of my life. Finding out that it was Adelaide at the crash site and the ride to the hospital were absolutely the worst I’d ever experienced, but now was when I’d get the bad news I knew I wasn’t prepared to receive.

Someone chaperoned me to the ER, hugging my shoulder as we walked through the hall. She asked me what had happened but I couldn’t respond. So she just rubbed my back. I left my bike at the front desk of the ER and they quickly took me off to a private room to discuss Adelaide’s condition.

The doctor started off right away with the good news. She was alive, she had no damage to any of her limbs, spine, or brain. She was talking and somewhat coherent when she came in. That was the good news. The bad news was that all the injuries she sustained were to her face, which had literally been torn off.

He said almost every bone in her face had been broken. Her cheek bone, nose, eye socket, septum, her jaw in numerous places. Everything. The flesh from her upper right lip to her left shoulder had been ripped completely open. Through the tears in my eyes I could see tears even in his. He gave me a long embrace.

They took me in to see her briefly. She was sedated and unconscious, with a room full of doctors and nurses using a hand held pump to make her breath. Her face was mostly covered up and I couldn’t see much of her. I reached for her hand, which was coated in dried blood. It was cold. Pale white under the red stains.

Her surgeon, or doctor, I can’t remember who, arrived and we met briefly before I was taken out of the room and back to the ER center desk area so I could use a computer and look up contact information. I didn’t have a phone on me. The next hour was spent signing forms for the surgery that she was about to have, another form for the anesthesiologist, general information about Adelaide including our address, contact information, insurance, etc, most of which I didn’t have or couldn’t remember. I talked to the same police officer, Officer Wise, who’d been investigating the crash. He discussed with me how he thought it might have happened. He and some of his colleagues had been out searching for me and had been worried. The hospital Chaplain, a gentle motherly woman named Laura, was with me the entire time, bringing pretzels, socks with rubber grippers so I could get out of my cycling shoes, and cup after cup of ice water. I was freezing cold but didn’t have the wherewithal to do anything about it. I had bonked, was in shock, knew I needed to eat but still couldn’t get the pretzels in my hand, let alone my mouth. I spilled most on the ground, then got distracted by the half dozen people with forms and questions for me. All this while I sat at someone’s desk, using an ipad to access facebook and search for someone’s number I could call.

I finally managed to get a hold of my brother Galen, who gave me the cell numbers for Lydia (Adelaide’s sister) and Jeff (Lydia’s fiance). And Adelaide’s mom, Kathleen. Galen hung up and set about getting some things together for me like clothes and food. He and Joslynn, Galen’s girlfriend, were soon on their way.

I left some absolutely terrifying voicemails on everyone’s phone before getting a hold of Kathleen. I could hardly speak at first, knowing very well that my inability to get the whole message out was scaring her more than it should have but I couldn’t help it. I spat it out eventually and finally my job was done. Kathleen would fly in from Pittsburg early next morning. Lydia and Jeff were on their way. Galen and Joss were on their way.

Laura, the Chaplain, took me to the O.R. waiting room, doing her best to console me. She gave me some blankets and she talked to me about a few random little things for a while to get my mind off the situation until Galen and Jos came. They gave me bear hugs and Laura showed me to a bizarre, single-person bathroom with a random bathtub in it. I’d told her I was freezing cold and needed a shower to warm up. I soaked in the tub and cried while drinking a San Pelegrino lemonade and some protein mix that Galen had brought. Later I had a smashed, cold, Square Burrito that Galen had jokingly offered me that morning as we left Amante for the ride. I cracked a smile when I first saw it. Then continued breathlessly sobbing.

Jeff and Lydia showed up shortly after I was out of the bath, warmly dressed in street clothes and puffy jacket. I felt a bit better. Just being warm with some sugar in me was the biggest thing to get me get out of the state of shock that I’d been in. To be truthful I’m still in shock days later, but once I finally had a grasp on the situation and friends and family were around, it made a world of difference. Having other people there felt amazing. I’d never felt so alone on that ride to the hospital and the hour and a half I spent there before anyone else arrived.

She would live. She would walk and talk and run again. That’s what mattered.

We spent the next eight hours waiting for Adelaide to get out of her first surgery, which was just stitching her back up. The facial reconstruction (bone repairs) would occur later in the week. Her surgeon, Dr. Schmidt, came in once to give us an update a few hours in (I think). I was pretty out of it. One of the assistant surgeons or nurses came in a few times to tell us news. At 9:00, Galen, Joss, and I ate at Wahoos while Jeff and Lydia ate next door at Noodles & Company. We went back to the hospital to wait more.

I could barely keep my eyes open from the fatigue and stress of the day. I’d started writing this blog post earlier that afternoon but I was too tired and dazed to write any more. My eyes were incredibly red and dried out and stinging from so many tears. When Adelaide gets really upset about something, like girls do, she tells me she actually gets dehydrated from crying. I never really believed her. Now I know how it feels. I drank liters of water. Cup after cup after cup. I was thirsty to obsession.

Finally, after seven hours of surgery and another hour of waiting to hear how it went, Dr. Schmidt came in. He said it had gone really well. All of the tissue had been salvageable and the blood flow to the upper lip was okay. The lip had been hanging on by a thread. Miraculously, none of her nerves had been severed in the crash. There had been just a millimeter to spare. It seemed like her eyes were going to be okay as well. Her tongue had been bitten in half, length-wise and also a chunk had been bitten off entirely but she would keep the majority of it.

He showed us pictures to prepare us–both before and after pictures. I couldn’t look at the before pictures for very long. They were truly horrid. The most disturbing thing I’ve ever seen. It looked like her jaw was completely gone, because it was. How had she been able to talk at all? I couldn’t imagine the pain she was in before she got to the hospital. Hollywood torture scenes would be nothing compared to that. Nothing. Her face was gone.

I came back when he revealed the after pictures, showing a stitched-up Adelaide, looking mostly alive again. He scrolled through the camera to a picture of his daughter by accident, then backed up one to Adelaide again with hundreds of stitches in her face, eyes swollen shut, unconscious. What world was this? Is this even real? Am I really awake?

They took us in to see her at last, I broke down immediately again. She’d been completely fine and cheerful that morning. Now this. Her breathing apparatus was pumping away. Tubes came out of her arms from every vein. Her tongue, sticking out past her broken teeth, made for an almost amused look when combined with the somewhat smiling expression on her face (to me anyways). It only looked that way because of how the breathing tube was positioned, pulling her mouth up in a half smile. Her face and neck were covered in thick black stitches and slathered in antibacterial ointment and blood. Her eyes, which were taped shut and were completely swollen black and blue. Her limbs, hands, and feet, and of course her face, were all swollen and almost unrecognizable. Her hair was red from blood and antiseptic. She was pale. I felt her hand and this time it was warm.

Her surgeon, Dr. Schmidt had done an amazing job despite the pitiful state she appeared to be in and every one of his colleagues had mentioned how talented he was and how lucky we were that he was the one doing the procedure. I felt like that’s something they always tell you, but I let myself believe it. And I still do.

We squeezed Adelaide’s hands, gently stroked her legs, and quietly talked to her. They said she could probably hear us, but of course she couldn’t respond due to the breathing tube and the injuries. The coma-like state that the drugs put her in would make it seem almost like a dream to her and she wouldn’t remember any of this. She probably wouldn’t remember anything for the next week or more.

She squeezed my hand back early on, very hard. Surprisingly hard. I knew she was with us. She came to more and more, and even nodded yes a few times to questions. In particular to the comment about us getting her a Vitamix. We spent about 40 minutes with her and it was time to go since she was becoming too agitated. When everyone had left the room, I asked her an important question that I know I’ll have to re-ask in a few weeks since she won’t remember. Then I told her I was going to leave and she freaked out, her arm restraints easily held her weak limbs down. I stepped out to tell Lydia and Jeff that I was going to stay. In the end I decided to lie and tell Adelaide that I’d just be waiting outside her room and that I’d see her in the morning. That calmed her down again. Having me in the room with her or outside down the hall in the urgent care guest sleeping room would do neither of us any good. We both needed rest.

I got home and into bed at 1AM with Maybellene, who was allowed to sleep in bed with me so she could lick away my tears as I drifted off in a nightmarish sleep.

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Photo credit for this last one: D2 photography

 

His legs are strong Mrs. Gump. As strong as I ever seen. But his Glutes are as crooked as a politician.

Do you have tendonitis? Well, it’s probably because you have weak glutes like me. Do you suffer from knee pain? Again, it’s likely due to weak glutes. Shin splints? You guessed it…it’s your weak-ass glutes.

Planter fasciitis? Glutes
Stress fracture? Glutes
Tenis elbow? Glutes
Head ache? Glutes.
Ingrown fingernail? Glutes
Flatulence? Glutes
Nearsighted? Glutes
Hard of hearing? Glutes
Low IQ? Glutes
Immoral? Glutes
Small penis? Glutes
Weak glutes? Glutes

With my last blog post, I left off with the depressing news that I had Achilles bursitis. I went back into Boulder Center for Sports Medicine and they downgraded me to just some minor tendonitis in the connective ligaments that attach the Achilles tendon to the heel bone.

The cause of this was from too much running of course, but the reason that too much running resulted in this injury was partially because my glutes are weak. Like I said above, if you have weak glutes, you’ve probably got some body part that’s injured or working improperly because of it. Cycling, like running actually, is a one-dimensional exercise and the smaller muscles in my general gluteal region that stabilize the pelvis and legs weren’t and most likely still aren’t strong enough. This caused my knees to buckle in when I ran, which put too much stress on my calves and Achilles, which pulled too hard on those connective ligaments attached to my heel. Or so the story goes.

As with just about any injury, time off always helps and the two weeks off that I took were needed, as they did the trick to reduce the swelling and repair those tendons. Something else seems to have helped the injury from reoccurring since I started running and hiking again. The glute exercises that the trainers at BCSM are likely a big part of it. I’ve been doing them twice a day now for about three weeks, as well as thinking about activating my glutes while I’m running. I may not have been a believer to begin with about the whole “Your glutes are weak and therefore you have an injury way the hell down in your heal,” but now I’m coming around. I guess you could say I’m like an evangelist. I don’t know what’s true so I keep my beliefs vague and go to church (glute exercises) just in case.

Aside from BCSM, there are a few others who have helped me get over the still-somewhat-present injury. I saw Brent Apgar of Synch Chiropractic immediately and had him dry needle the hell out of my legs and ankles. He put me on a treadmill right afterwards and, to my near disbelief, I noticed an instant reduction in pain when I ran. The guy is a god damn miracle worker. Seriously, it was weird how much of an improvement there was after just 90 minutes of therapy.

To speed my recovery and reduce the shock to my feet, pro triathlete Erich Wegscheider (a former roommate of mine) sent me a pair of Hoka Ones, which are extra-supportive running shoes. They weigh nothing and offer padding like none other. Thanks for being such a great ambassador for your sponsors Erich, and thanks for the shoes!

Paired with some Recofit compression calf sleeves to reduce muscle oscillation, my legs have never felt better or been adorned with quite as much steez. I’m lucky to have all this great gear at my disposal and so many people to offer support and motivation.

Dang, look at all that sponsor-shouting I just did! Good job Kennett!

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Speaking of providing motivation, Adelaide just DEMOLISHED her first triathlon of the season, winning her age group and finishing 3rd overall in the women’s field of 150 starters. It was a lot of fun watching and yelling at her in the transition zones to “speed the hell up you’re in 2nd right now!!” The Harvest Moon half-ironman was her ‘practice’ race for the full iron-distance event this November in Las Vegas. This was her 2nd triathlon ever (the first was like five years ago on a Surly Long Haul Trucker so it hardly counts) and she’s been training for just two months. She’s a bit of a genetic freak for sure. A future Kona competitor? I think so.

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She collapsed at the finish line with excruciating pain from the recent onslaught of tendonitis in her foot. The cause? You guessed it: weak glutes! The booty-crazed pirates at BCSM certainly think so anyways. She’s been doing physical therapy with them and has been prescribed many of the same glute exercises as me. Her tendonitis, aside from the last five miles of the race anyways, has been slowly dissipating, so the glute hypothesis continues to gain traction.

Now for a quick recap of my longest run yet. Maybellene, my running companion, is laying here beside me on the couch in a stupor, so drained that earlier she was too tired to eat her post-run dog bone treat. I, on the other hand, still had an appetite as per usual. I will neither confirm nor deny how that dog bone disappeared. Anyways…

I woke to rain this morning. The sky was a dreary gray, the streets saturated and so too the trails of Chataqua. Mud was on our forecast. Thick and slippery.

After breakfast, Maybellene and I walked over to Amante to catch the last few kilometers of the Vuelta, drink coffee, and lick crumbs off the floor. We returned home and got ready for the run. Maybellene worriedly paced back and forth through the apartment with me as I collected gear and chugged a liter of green tea, her most likely hoping that she wasn’t getting left behind. Yesterday, out of boredom, she destroyed the bed in her crate while I was at work. Since Adelaide is at Interbike this week, Maybellene has had to spend more time crated. I planned on making her too tired to care for the next few days.

The ride to the trailhead was wet and chilly. Maybellene was shivering in the Burly trailer by the time we pulled up to the bike rack at Chataqua.

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Photo taken on a much warmer, sunnier day.

I replaced my cycling shoes with running shoes, we split an old banana nut muffin from Amante, and were off.

We took it easy up Mesa trail, just getting into the groove of things. I can’t go nearly as fast as my cardio system wants since my joints are still sickly weak compared to a real runner’s. As the trail narrowed down I saw two women coming towards us; they quickly leashed a large bernese mountain dog as we approached. Trouble.

Maybellene was behind me, out of my footsteps where she always runs, when the dog lunged forward, easily yanking the leash clean out of the woman’s hands. It growled savagely and went for Maybellene. I got in the way and kicked him in the ribs. He turned back to his owner and I got tangled in the leashes, tripped and came down for a split second. I got up fast and grabbed the dog’s collar, which was a pinch collar, and forced his head down to the ground. I pinned him with my knee, continuing to force his head to the ground with one hand as I raised the other in a fist to deliver the finishing blows to the head, which likely would have broken my hand since dogs’ skulls are like 7-inches thick.

The dog whimpered, the woman frantically yelled, “I’ve got the leash he’s under control, he’s under control!” and I let him go. I grabbed up Maybellene’s leash, cursed, and ran off thinking that I’d take a dog fight over a car-buzz any day.

The dog and I were equal on weight but I had a lot more anger on my side. Bernese mountain dogs are usually pretty tame and friendly. I’m sure if it had been a rottweiler, things would have turned out differently.

We ran on through the dripping forest, continuing south on the Mesa trail for an hour or so until we got to the base of Shadow Canyon, a real brute of a climb. I unleashed Maybellene for it since it’s very steep and you need your hands to scramble. Because of her age, Maybellene doesn’t own one of those coveted Green Dog Tags that allows her to be off leash for certain trails. I did make one but she tore it off and ate it. So I only unleash her on the steep stuff and hope the ranger who sees us can’t run more than 4.5 miles an hour.

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There are those who make the rules, those who break them, and the sheep that blindly follow. Practice civil disobedience. #FreeTheBarrelDog

This past week or so I’ve been hiking the steep climbs and running everything else, to save my Achilles. In fact, I’ve really only done three runs since coming back from the injury. The other stuff has just been hikes. Anyways, Shadow Canyon is so steep that hiking is almost just as fast as running, at least at my pace. It climbs up a boulder-strewn creek bed and at times you’re basically scrambling up it, full red zone.

During one of the steeper sections, I paused at the top of a big boulder to scout for the trail. It’s difficult to know exactly where to go at points if your head is down and you don’t know the trail that well, especially if you’re well within threshold and concentrating hard about gluteal activation. As I stood on the boulder for just that extra half second, Maybellene jumped up behind me and ended up tangled between my legs (in her defense she was in the red too). I jumped to the right and Maybellene tumbled backwards off the boulder and landed on her back, sandwiched between two large rocks.

She rolled over and scrambled to catch up to me, limping slightly with her front right paw. I gave it a quick rub and told her it was fine, then we continued on at an equally relentless pace. Maybellene needs to learn that we keep going when we’re hurt and that around here we give our own compliments.

We ran through the blackened burn zone at the top, passed just under the rocky summit of Bear Mountain at 8,100 ft, picked our way down the steep, barren west side populated by jagged rocks, and upped the pace along the smooth ridge trail heading towards Green Mountain. The clouds had turned to white mist, blowing by quickly and equal to us in altitude. They momentarily revealed the city to the east, way down below, before we passed behind the next ridge. Wild flowers brushed our legs and stained us yellow and green with pollen. The trees thickened as the burn thinned. The sun beat down and I continued sweating, already drenched from the effort up Shadow Canyon. It was a good day to be out in nature. A very good day.

A little over two hours in and we stopped for a minute to eat some Cliff Bloks. Maybellene had one square, I had two. We would save the second serving for later. We were both thirsty but the single bottle of Osmo I’d been carrying was nearing its end. I didn’t give Maybellene any. She could lap up her fill at a creek if she wanted…though we never stopped so not really.

We summited Flagstaff, turned back and summited Green Mountain, carefully picked our way down Saddle, and made a left onto Ranger. The trees continued to thicken and grow tall around us as we lost elevation. From Ranger we headed down Gregory Canyon, took a wrong turn at the base and went part way up Amphitheater, backtracked, did a loop around Bluebell with aching knees, ankles, hips, feet, Achilles (whoops I was supposed to stop running when that happened), and finally limped down Chataqua trail to the parking lot. 18.2 miles, +5,000 ft of climbing, 3 hours, 50 minutes. It felt a lot longer than that.

The first thing Maybellene did when we slowed to a walk in the parking lot was pee, right on the cement with a large puddle forming under her feet. I didn’t care at all. I bent over and put my hands on my knees, not out of breath, I was just out of working skeletal support. My lower back was gone, actually everything lower than mid torso was ready for the grave. The ride home, pulling 75 pounds of trailer and dog, would likely be very slow.

But once I was on the bike I felt great. Fresh as a daisy. Go figure.

 

 

Can’t stand still but can’t really stand

I got back from Cascade fairly motivated to train hard for Steamboat and Bucks County, the final two races I’d planned for the 2014 season. After a week-long bout of the sickness, I started doing some moderate rides. Like a virgin in a whore house, my motivation didn’t last long.

I did an easier five hours one day then went out the day after to do another five, only to find that my brain was having none of it. I turned back after 15 minutes, pissed off and depressed, knowing that I’d reached my limit this year. I didn’t have the motivation to ride, which scared me because it was only August. It was too early to hang everything up, yet I didn’t have the drive needed to perform well.

Not knowing quite what to do, I went on a run. The next day I rode for a bit, still wondering what to do with the next three months of off season besides drink white Russians and eat gelato. I needed something to occupy my body and mend my stressed-out mind. The run had been fun, albeit slow and a bit painful on the old joints and ligaments and things that normally just sit there doing nothing at all during bike rides. So I decided to go on another run two days later with Galen and Maybellene.

Right when we got back, I signed up for a trail race when since there wasn’t anyone around with the wherewithal to stop me (Galen was sitting right there). Here’s the race I found on the gOOgle: Indian Creek Fifties. Quite stupidly, I opted for the 50-mile version instead of the 50km. The longest I’d ever run was 11 or 12 miles, and that was on pavement back in high school. The total number of miles I’d ran in the past five years was probably like 20. Maybe less. To make things worse (or better), the race has a total elevation gain of just under 12,000 feet. Most 50-milers seem to have somewhere around 6,000.

As usual, everyone and their brother (mine included) told me to take things slow and easy as I got started or else I’d get hurt. But fuck that shit. I was up to 2.5 hour runs by the end of my second week. Over the weeks, the pain in my left knee had receded from stabbing, to sharp, to dull, to grinding, then to just a faint ache (I’m talking about the middle of my runs. By the end, everything always hurt at a constant pounding throb). 

If you didn’t know, the trail system we have here in Boulder, just like the mountain roads, is awesome. Just mile after mile of steep switch back boulder-hopping fun. It feels great to be out in the real wilderness without cars. It’s incredibly peacful to just slog away for hours in the mountains with no equipment other than shoes and a Cambelback.

With running, I could feel my brain getting healed from all the shit that’s happened this year. I would daydream about all the normal things like what a frog’s field of vision must look like, plus I’d think about the running race and even quite a bit about next year’s bike racing season. Already, running seemed to help my motivation to ride again.

The convenience factor of trail running is pretty appealing too. There’s a trail a half mile from our house that climbs almost a thousand feet round trip, though that’s nothing compared to the stuff down south near Chautauqua. I stuck mainly to those trails, riding 20 minutes there and stashing my bike and backpack in the bushes. The trails that go up Flagstaff, Green Mountain, and the ones meandering up and down the Flatirons are my favorite. My joints couldn’t take the downhills before the jolting pain consumed me, so I pretty much just stuck to going hard uphill and super easy downhill. I ran with my shirt off, letting the hot August sun bake away the cycling tan lines. It was a lot of fun. Notice how all this is in the past tense.

That’s because I’m stupid.

At the beginning of my third week, I did a 2.5 hour run at a good pace (for me): 11:37 minutes per miles sounds slow, and for a good trail runner I think it is, but when you add in 3,300 feet of climbing on technical terrain, it’s a little better. I was happy with the run as it was my longest yet, and I’d taken 2 minutes per mile off my time from a few days before. I decided to celebrate with another 2-3 hour run the next day. 

I woke up feeling very stiff. Good. Nothing unusual. I began running and everything below my knees felt like absolute shit. Good, still nothing unusual. Except for a tight Achilles. Extra tight. It had hurt a bit the day before, but keeping track of everything that hurt would have been a full time job. 

I should have called it quits on that run immediately, because I knew that if I went for another couple minutes the pain would quickly dull and I’d assume everything was fine. I kept running. The more I ran the better I felt of course. But I did keep it real easy and even walked parts of the downhill. After 2 hours and 15 minutes I was back to my bike in the bushes, happy to have done the workout without having anything catastrophic happen in my knees or ankles (the second week of running was hampered by that sort of thing about 45-60 minutes into my runs and I’d have to limp for a few minutes before the pain subsided). I vowed to take the next two days off to let things heal properly and give my joints some catchup time, hold the mustard. 

That evening I went on a fast, 20-minute flat pavement run with Adelaide.

It’s been five days now with zero running. I limped for two days and decided that I needed more time off. Even going for a two-hour ride a few days later caused more inflammation in my heel/Achilles tendon region. I did some research and decided that I had Achilles tendenosis. Yesterday I went into Boulder Center for Sports Medicine to hear about the damage and how I’d need to take lots of time off and probably get my foot amputated. 

The prognosis was Retrocalcaneal bursitis. I’m not exactly sure what that is but I was given some ultra sound treatment, an anit-inflammatory, a few strengthening exercises, and I’m scheduled for another appointment tomorrow. The point being, now it’s someone else’s problem and I can go run again!

Cascade Classic 2014

This may have been the longest I’ve waited to write a race report. Because of that I’ve forgotten most of the memorable events and jokes that took place that week. Since my return home I’ve been busy being sick while in the midst of settling into our new apartment, my new job at Amante, our new puppy Maybellene, and a fresh new outlook on life. Ha. Just kidding I’m still just as dead inside as I was before. There’s nothing like an NRC stage race to crush your spirits and erase all hope of future happiness. Luckily the fix is easy: Dairy Queen.

Once again I was fortunate enough to guest ride with Horizon Organic/Einstein Bagels. The team:

Emerson Oronte
Kit Recca
Fabio Calabria
Mac Cassin
Chris Winn
Jackson Long
Josh Yeaton
Me
with Nick Traggis directing

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Photo: Cheryl Howard

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Photo: Cheryl Howard

The Prologue:

After a huge amount of preparation and stress, the 4 and a half minute effort was over in roughly 4 and a half minutes. I paced myself well and saved it for the last two minutes of “uphill” to finish 32nd out of the huge field of 212. I wasn’t ecstatic about my performance but given how I’ve felt during the training leading up to this race, I wasn’t upset either. Mac was 29th and the rest of the guys were somewhere really far back, like 5 seconds or so. It’s good to remember that prologues don’t mean shit in terms of the overall GC.

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Photo provided by Whit Bazemore Photography

Stage 1:

We missed the breakaway that went on the short climb heading up towards Bachelor. Despite the uncomfortable pace at which we rolled out of the parking lot, it would have been the easiest stage to make the break. By mile 2 it was gone. I spent the rest of the day fetching water and positioning the guys in the scrum line behind the leader’s and other important teams’ trains. None of our guys crashed in the many dumb pile ups, which were mostly caused by large motor homes and other cars that were only partially-pulled off the road on the left side.

I was just a few guys too far back to make the lead group of 40 the second time up Bachelor and I got gapped and popped with a little over 3K to go. So close, yet so close. I was gobbled up by a large chase group and came in 50th something.

Fabio and Emerson had been in the lead group and were therefore still in GC contention, making the team’s day a success.

Stage 2:

Another time trial. Moving on…

Stage 3:

Stage 3 was similar to stage 1 but the opposite direction and started down in Bend. Mac broke his collar bone and Jackson broke his bike in the crashes that marred the beginning of the stage. We were neutralized for a few minutes so the officials could make it look like someone gave a damn about our safety, then we were released. Who are they trying to fool? We don’t even give a damn about our safety!

Man I sucked after that. I got dropped before the plateau near the top of the climb, meaning I had the fitness equivalent to what I had in 2010. I was pretty pissed off about how shitty I was riding and contemplated just veering off into the ditch, or better yet a cliff. No cliffs could be found.

A large chase group of 50 guys formed around me. I was annoyed with the urgency at which they rode, as if we could actually catch back on. The peloton was out of sight and I was ready to just pack it in with the broom wagon. Instead, we caught on shortly after the descent.

I was more than content with being a team helper again for the rest of the day and set about getting water, making fun of Tim Rugg, and positioning the faster guys on our team near the front, using my bulk to block the wind and knock over any BMC devo bitches that dared take the wheel. Actually there are quite a few bigguns’es on that team as well.

In a similar fashion to the other Mt. Bachelor stage, I got dropped with 3K to go. The climb was easier today since it was more stair stepped and gradual with a head wind, but it hurt just the same. Fabio and Emerson both made the front group, but we still didn’t have a stage result to facebook about. Would tomorrow’s downtown crit be the day??  **Dun dun duuuuunnnnnnnnn!!!!!**

No. It would not.

Stage 4:

Downtown crit, same as usual except counterclockwise. None of us did much except sit in. Kit attempted to finish in the top 20 (and did), but the officials decided to bump him back to 170th after he took too long in the pit when his chain broke earlier in the race. Note to Kit: don’t pedal so hard. Who are you trying to impress anyways?

Stage 5:

This was it. The last stage to make something of ourselves. Either get in the move or get dropped. I was off the front in some promising attacks, and felt fairly good finally, but nothing stuck until the 4th lap on the feed zone climb. I was too far back to be in the mix on this occasion. A lap later (the final lap) I was once again too far back on the same climb to make the front split of 15 guys with the yellow jersey. Classic being too far back and having shitty legs.

The break stuck and I came in 30th, 46th on GC. Emerson and Josh made the front split but we didn’t have anyone in the move. The team’s weekend was somewhat salvaged by Emerson’s 20th on GC, but we’d wanted more than that. A stage win, a top 5 GC, or one of the jerseys. At least some time in a break. Instead we broke bones (Mac), bikes (Jackson), hearts (Jackson again most likely), and finished mid pack. Such is the life of a bike racer. You must be a master of failure to succeed.

That’s all for now. Once I’m over this cold I’ll be back to training like a mad man. This year’s not over yet damn it!

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Pictures of camping and stuff

The last two weeks have been great. After North Star I got sick, took a week of rest, then went to Steamboat to camp, hike, and ride with Adelaide. My brother Galen and his girlfriend Joslynn moved to Boulder that weekend as well, and we’ll be moving into a new apartment with them in mid July. Meanwhile, they’re sleeping in the living room. I did a bunch of great training last week then we all went up to the Estes Park area for climbing, hiking, and more camping.

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Adelaide and I before a hike in Steamboat.

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Strawberry hot springs.

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Bike to work day spoils.

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Galen cooking dinner up in Highway 7 near Estes Park.

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Adelaide and I getting to camp after riding up from Boulder, eager for that dinner.

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Galen warming up on the first boulder the next day.

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Jos climbing. Galen spotting.

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Galen resting while attempting a V9.

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Flower.

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Adelaide and I did an even longer hike than the previous week. I got tired and grumpy after twisting my ankle and had to be fed apples and nuts like a 5-year-old.

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Dinner that night was the best in a long time. Beans, rice, avocado, lettuce, salsa, peppers, mango, cilantro, and chips.

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Jos making easy work of a 5.10.

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Adelaide being proud.

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Adelaide belaying with Joslynn shouting directions to me (climbing).

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Last but not least, I just got a job at Amante!

Unattached

I used to wonder why so many guys would quit the sport after a season of making it onto a pro team. This would inevitably happen after getting booted from that team back to the amateur ranks. I would think, “Why give it all up? You’ve obviously got what it takes to reach that level so why not continue and get back there? You’re throwing it all away!” I thought it was a shame when my friends would drop out of the sport like this.

But now I understand why. Year after year we have this goal in our mind: to be a professional and get paid to ride our bikes. And when that goal is attained, if you’re lucky, talented, hard working, and smart enough to get there, you feel like you’ve finally made it. Your life mission has been accomplished and all your struggles were suddenly made worthwhile. Of course this isn’t true at all. The sport (and life in general) is only worthwhile if you’re enjoying the moment, not some pie in the sky end goal. And I knew that, but still the deep down thing I wanted and thought I needed was to earn a pro contract in order to validate all the years and miles.

When I signed with Firefighters Upsala CK after 8 years of dreaming about this single goal, I felt like my cycling career had been a success. Now I could focus on the next goal, which was…well I guess still really the same: train hard and try to win races. But at least I had accomplished part of my dream. It was a milestone, something concrete I could look at and say, “I accomplished this. And damn does it feel good!”

That feeling of elation and satisfaction that I had last November quickly began to crumble as the fall suddenly slammed into the back of winter. This team, with the supposed multi-million dollar budget, didn’t quite have everything in line like they said it did. In fact, as the racing season approached and bikes went undelivered, salaries went unpaid, and team training camps were cancelled without the slightest bit of communication from the management, a doubt grew within me and I took my first unveiled glance up at the impending shit storm. As I stared up into the sky wondering what was raining down upon me, I was still so much in awe of being on a “pro” team that my gaping mouth quickly filled with excrement without me even realizing it.

After swallowing more than my fair share of said bullshit by mid April, Adelaide bailed me out of the hole I was living in, which was possibly the only disheveled place in all of Sweden. She bought me a ticket home in an attempt to save my mental and physical health and salvage the rest of my season. Luckily Team Horizon Organic/Einstein Bagels stepped in and offered me a spot to guest ride at some later season races in order to fill in for a couple of their injured riders. If it weren’t for those two things happening—Adelaide getting me home and Horizon giving me a chance to race—I would have quit the sport.

I was on the edge. I was so depressed, crushed, and let down from being ignored and lied to over and over again that I didn’t feel like continuing. Everyone has moments like these, though for me they’re never that serious. It was the first real time I’ve contemplated moving on and never looking back. To give up a dream I’ve had for almost a third of my life would have been devastating. Cycling was almost ruined for me, my way of life almost snubbed out. There are others on the team who will almost certainly quit at the end of the year.

I’ll have to give up bike racing someday, or at least be less downsize the amount of time and energy I invest in it, but I want that day to come on my own terms. I want to say when to stop. I hope that all future team owners, managers, sponsors, and anyone up at the top realizes that this is not just a hobby or a game to play for their temporary entertainment. This is our livelihood. More than that, it’s what we wake up for in the morning and what we dream about as we go to sleep at night. I’m all for someone having big ambitions. We need them in the sport because they’re just like us riders: full of self-confidence and certainly a bit delusional, otherwise they’d never take the chance. But please, be honest about it during the process. Truthful communication, and a lot of it, will go farther than the biggest team budget or best equipment sponsor.

I decided to leave the team last week.

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And now it’s back to square one.

(Not really)

North Star Grand Prix Stages 4-6

As social animals, we’re hard-wired to take pride in group efforts. While personal results are what many of us strive for in cycling and life in general, it’s always heart warming to be part of a team effort, especially when it ends in a huge success.

Stage 4 Friday:

The Uptown Minneapolis crit was packed with spectators. It’s usually the rowdiest event I compete in and this year was no different, with somewhere between 30,000 and 300,000,000 people in attendance. A bad crash in the women’s race delayed our start to 8:20 PM and also shortened the race from 40 to 35 laps. I expected a dark finish.

I got off to a perfect start with a line up at the very back, which meant I had no chance of getting in the early breakaway that won. Wait. That’s the exact opposite of a perfect start. Man I’m so dumb sometimes!

The rest of my race unfolded as follows:

1) I slowly made my way to like 60th wheel 20 minutes in.

2) Got stuck behind a large crash and went to the pit.

3) Did four or five more laps before I jammed my brakes on again in corner three to avoid another pile up. Went to the pit and in the process jumped ahead 20 spots from where I’d been before the crash. I hate it when people do this when those people aren’t myself.

4) Karma came back to get me a couple laps later. I managed to keep upright again through the second to last corner when the guy in front of me rolled his tubular. I thought the danger was over as I clipped back in and slowly started rolling forward, but someone came from behind and crashed into me, bending my derailleur hanger. I went to the pit for the third time that night.

5) I finished 8 or 9 laps later in 38th place with the same time as the main group. Got to bed well after midnight once Nick, our host Chad, and I were done doing bike repairs. Faith made sure we had plenty of burritos for the van ride home.

Tobin Ortenblad (Cal Giant) won.

Stage 5 Saturday:

As the second and last road stage, I intended on making my mark on the race today whether it liked it or not. Of course I failed and was pretty much just pack foder. The course was 100 miles with some steep but short climbs. I had good intel that the break would go away early (as did everyone else), so I made sure to attack early and often in the opening miles (as did everyone else). The goal the team had set out for ourselves was to get in the move and scoop up the KOM points, since there were 30 on offer today and whoever won the majority of them today would likely win the overall by the end of the week.

I followed the first move that went. I don’t remember how many I went with afterwards, but my normalized power for the first 40 minutes of the race was 370 and the max was 1,568, which is a lot for me since I’m a pretty lousy sprinter. The entire team covered move after move and attacked non stop. We had a guy in every attempt for the first 30K until Fabio ended up finding the successful one. He would go on to take all the remaining KOM points, the KOM jersey, and second place on the stage behind Tom Devriendt (3M) since the breakaway held off the field by a half minute.

The rest of us back in the peloton helped each other stay close to the front and Mac grabbed plenty of bottles from the car to disperse among us. After that first hour of attacks, the middle two-thirds of the race were tame and boring, though I was definitely feeling it in my legs. I thought I came here in good shape, but I was currently learning the hard way that by June, there’s no substitute for race days, of which I’ve had few this year.

As we entered the final hour and a half of racing, the clouds opened up. The rain was heavy and cold and I immediately began shivering. Everyone’s moral took a turn for the worse and we talked about how they might (hopefully) cancel the finishing circuits. I knew they wouldn’t. We all did.

I quickly ate the rest of my food to help stave off the cold, but within 20 minutes I was shivering uncontrollably. The rolling hills approaching the finishing circuits shed more riders and finally a couple guys crashed at the bottom of a hill. It was incredibly hard to see with the dark skies and thick wheel spray, but I kept my sunglasses on since it was impossible to see anything without them. There were still 20 miles left to race.

I was way too far back by the time we entered the technical finishing circuits, and was on the verge of giving up and letting the gaps go unclosed once I’d completed the first of four, 2-mile laps.

Each lap had 19 corners, I could hardly see from all the wheel spray, my brakes were barely functional, my legs completely and utterly zapped of strength, and my motivation for a stage placing was gone since the breakaway was going to stick. But everyone was in the same shitty situation as I. We were all cold and tired and didn’t want to crash on the slick pavement as the rain continued pissing down. I decided to harden up a bit on lap two and did everything in my power to stay in contact, including some risky chops that I later realized weren’t worth taking.

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Wet corners and chilled bones. Photo: Velonews

Sprinting out of those corners the final two laps and closing down gaps to finish 55th was, at the very least, character building. I was the last rider to come across the line with the same time as the main group. Looking at my power back home after the race showed that I am indeed not as strong as I thought, and the last 30 minutes of racing weren’t even that hard. Hard being a completely subjective term.

We were all ecstatic to hear that Fabio was in the KOM jersey and took 2nd on the stage. Faith and Nick rewarded us with a round of hot chocolates before the long drive home.

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Photos: Velonews

Sunday Stage 6:

At 26th on GC and not currently enjoying great form for such a demanding crit, I knew my personal race was going to take a backseat to Fabio’s and Chris’. Stillwater is 23 laps (which is also roughly the average gradient of the first part of the climb) and 70 minutes of pure anaerobic blood lust. If you want to see pain, there are few places better than standing near the top of Chilkooht hill. The crowd was big, loud, ambitiously drunk, and ready to see some grown men crack! (Not to be confused with grown mens’ cracks).

Our primary goal was to keep Fabio’s KOM jersey. All that we needed to do was make sure neither the 2nd nor 3rd placed KOM guy won all the sprints. Also, if Fabio scored just four points, he would seal it up. The easiest and quickest way to get the jersey was to have a break up the road early on that soaked up the first KOM sprint points.

Our secondary goal was to position Chris for the final lap so that he could take a shot at the win the last time up the climb. He’s been top 10 and top 5 there for five or six years now, so we knew the finish was good for him. Normally this sort of finish and race would be great for me as well, but I knew that I was lacking the form needed for this sort of effort, and even lasting to the finish with the lead group of 20 guys would be a tall task for me.

The race started with a searing effort from the base of the climb. Like all the other crits, I was near the back for the start but today wasted little time moving up into position. By the third lap I was where I needed to be, and attacked near the top of the climb. I made contact with the lone leader (Team 3M) a lap later at the base of the climb and we powered up it under a thunder of cheers and screams. At the top of the course we were bridged to by Ben Jaques-Maynes (Jamis) and one other guy. The 3M guy let a gap open to them a minute afterwards on the descent and I didn’t have the legs to close it. I cursed at him, we sat up, and the pack consumed us shortly afterwards. I was completely gassed by the effort and got shelled two laps later. I pulled out of the race after coasting for a lap and spent the rest of the hour in the parking lot sitting in a chair by myself, incredibly depressed but somewhat content to have done something of at least a little value for the team to help retain the KOM jersey.

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Travis McCabe (Smart Stop) won the stage and Ryan Anderson (Optum) took the overall. Photo: Velonews.

Fabio kept the jersey and ended up 12th on GC, Chris was 5th on the stage, Mac had a great ride for 31st, surprising himself but not the rest of us, and Emerson stuck in to the bitter end. Kit, who’s eye had swelled shut the previous night from either a scratch or bacterial infection, held in as long as he could and made sure to squirt eye juice at anyone who got in his way. We also finished 4th out of 24 squads in the team classification, which doesn’t earn money or bragging rights per-say, but shows depth. This week was a huge success for the team and I’m looking forward to the next race I get to do with them.

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Fabio in the Sports Beans King of the Hills Jersey on the final podium with the rest of the jersey winners.

As for my own North Star GP, I was pretty let down. Last year I was one of the strongest in the race (until I got sick and DNFed, LOL!). This year I was only “okay.” It might take me the rest of the season to get back to where I was in 2013, or I might not get back there until next year. Who knows. The stress of being a part of the fiasco that is Firefighters “pro” Cycling, the lack of racing, the lack of knowing my future, and just the constant let down and battle with the management has destroyed my legs and my season to date. There will be more news about this in the next few days.

To end things on a high note, I’m back in Boulder, it’s sunny and warm out, I’m eager to go train, and I’m sick! Oh wait, that’s not a high note! Silly Kennett!