Monday, March 31, 2014

“In like a lion, out like a lamb

 “My new teammates Cara and Chas remind me what it’s like to be a college student again”-Billy.

As I sat and read through my teammate’s blog last week, I read that quote a second and third time. It left me frozen at my laptop screen as I realized that for the first time in awhile I forgot what it was like to be a college student myself. I tried jamming so many things into the beginning of the semester that I was barely having time to enjoy them. It wasn’t a surprise that it all caught up with me and I was left locked out my apartment dressed in my bike kit and slippers.
            After a long phone call with my dad who is 330 miles back home in New Jersey, I found a new perspective and reconnected with my old self again. It reminded me why I wanted to learn how to ride a road bike in the first place: to be able to finally join my dad on bike rides. Somehow in the mist of the chaos, I had spread myself so thin to the point that I grown farther away from my family. I’m glad that it only took a couple little dumb mistakes to realize it, but I just wish I would’ve seen it before it affected others around me as well.

(My dad and I at the Navy road race last spring)
On a brighter note, I was able to make it to some pretty sick competitions in the past month.

I traveled down to UNC with the WVU Cycling team for an amazing weekend with a second in the crit and third in the road race. 

(Chas and I trying to stay warm before the race. I will never own enough clothes to be warm.)

(My girls and I at the start line.)

I also became closer with some new friends :) 

I ended the month with Equestrian Semifinals Championship. Even though I know you all are huge collegiate equestrian super fans, I will briefly explain what this means. Each Region sends their Regional Champion Western Team to one of three Semi-Final sites (which is Ohio, Texas, and North Carolina this year). The three top teams at each site will advance onto Finals in May. Riders from all over the country from California to Arizona to Indiana shuffled into the St Andrews University show grounds bright and early for day 1. By day 2 only a few schools remained standing. It ended up being the closest horse show I have ever been apart of with Clemson and St Andrews running away with the top 2 spots and leaving a 3-way tie for the last Nationals spot going into the last class between Delaware Valley, New York State, and WVU. Unfortunately, Delaware Valley took the 3rd spot. However, one of my teammates qualified for Nationals individually, so we are all wishing her the best of luck.

(Members of the WVU Equestrian Team that qualified for Semifinals)

I prepare to finish out the last month of this semester with a few changes set forth. The first is obvious: To not overschedule myself. I need to refocus on school and slowing down the pace to be able to enjoy every minute left of being a student. Second, to never go a week without talking to my family again. No one should ever be too busy to talk to his or her mom. Period.

I have already started my first steps into getting back to the old way of life. I recently stepped down as Co-Captain of the Equestrian Team. I’ve come to the conclusion that I can only focus on one sport while I finish out the remaining of my Masters to be able to get the most out of it.

March happened in the split of a second and it left me with a giant lesson learned the hard way.

Side lesson learned: don’t race sick. Ever. Even if it is a training race. Your doctor will lecture you when he gives you antibiotics. Also, the last 4 laps will be the worst. I also learned this the hard way…           

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Broccolini What?

I think I have some kind of black rash on my face...
A couple weeks ago, after the first West Pennsylginia Spring Classic, the ABRA Training Race at the base of the Laurel Mountains in Fairchance, PA, the Allegheny Cycling Association was to hold their annual Awards Banquet at Lattitude 40. Like so many of the race participants, at the conclusion of the racing, I packed up and quickly headed for parts north. This was going to be my second Banquet that I’d be attending and was really looking forward to the evening with Amber and so many of my cycling friends. The first year was a very special year for me because I took home the Individual Championship in the “C”s with Teammate Shawn Geiger taking home 4th place honors in the “C”s as well.  And this year was special for another reason as the Dynamic Physical Therapy powered by Pathfinder Cycling Team took home the Team Championship in the “B”s and I would be introduced as one of the new board members for the ACA.  After getting all gussied up, Amber and I headed out to Robinson with Mackdiddle in tow.  At almost 2 years old, it can be a real crap shoot as to whether or not she is going to be on her best behavior.  I swear she has already learned to say the word “NO” in 14 different languages as well as morse code. But on this night, we were blessed with the little angel that we know and love.  Thank God for answered prayers!
All gussied up!

For someone who LOVES bubbles, this lighted bubble wall left a lasting impression on Mackdiddle 

For a second year in a row, the food was outstanding and with the asparagus being on the menu, I was reminded about the previous year when I discovered my love for that vegetable. Up until I was 41 years old, I had it ingrained in my head that I hated that particular vegetable. But being left with no other healthy option, I had put a healthy portion on my plate and vowed to myself that I would eat as much as I could without complaining about it. To my surprise, I found myself devouring that, plus a second portion as I had found a new favorite veggie.  And as I sat there eating dinner this year, I kindof laughed to myself out how ironic it was that I went from cringing at the thought of eating asparagus to buying 4-5 pounds in an average month. (Heck, there are 4 pounds of it in my fridge right now.) And with that little revelation, my mind started wandering... what are some other vegetables that I shy away from because I learned as a kid to hate them. Or what have I've never tried because I always had a different, more familiar option to eat instead?  I made up my mind to be more open to trying new foods, especially healthy ones and to make decisions based on whats true for my tastebuds and not on stories.

Ten days later, I found myself shopping Brunton's Chocolate milk at McGinnis Sisters in Monroeville. With a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, I was reminded of my promise I had made myself at the banquet. So I started shopping the produce aisle. One of the things that caught my eye was Brocolini. So I grabbed a "bunch" and checked out. When I got back to the office, I googled Broccolini and found out that it was a cross between Broccoli and Chinese Kale. It had florets similar to its big brother but had stalks more like the consistency of asparagus. I found a recipe or two online and thought sauteing them in butter, garlic, salt, and a dash of red pepper sounded good. But when I got home, Amber said she was in the mood to make one of her favorites, pasta with broccoli and cheese. With a little convincing, I persuaded her to give the Broccolini a go. 

So we started prepping. I blanched the broccolini in salt water and after a couple minutes, shocked them in an ice bath. On a whim, I blanched some of the asparagus for a few minutes as well and added that to the dish. 

Amber prepared 2 boxes of whole wheat rotini and started dicing a small block of Monterey Jack. 

With the pasta done, we placed that into a cold water bath to stop the cooking process as well. We set aside a portion of the plain pasta for Mackdiddle to snack on this week. We cut the broccolini and asparagus into about 1 inch long sections and added that to the bowl with the cheese cubes. A little parmesan cheese, lite italian dressing, and some chia seeds and dinner was ready.

So my thoughts on the broccolini is that I will definitely eat it again.  As you might expect, it tastes alot like broccoli but with a flavor all its own. In hindsight, its a safe food adventure but it was nice to actually get Amber to try a new food with out having to threaten her with bodily harm.

If I had my own rating scale, I would give it a 5 out of a possible 5 cranks.

Spoiler alert... I also bought Golden Beets. I haven't eaten beets since I was about 6 years old and eating dinner at my friend, Gregg Cooks. Stay tuned for my impressions of that adventure

Monday, March 24, 2014

Viva la Suenos-A Mexican Pictorial

Days in Mexico for me usually begin here on the roof with a cup of coffee and a nice view of the East side of Isla Mujeres. I can have a beautiful view and check out the morning traffic before starting out for morning training.

Mara Villa Caribe,  Isla Mujeres 
I recommend getting in a nice breakfast before doing any hard training. I like to work on sprints and 20 minute intervals here because there is a variety of terrain. I fuel up heavily before I roll out.

Breakfast on the Villa private beach
7am is the time of choice to get on the road. It gets pretty hot mid-day so I like to be back in by 10 or 11.

Getting on with it-Isla Mujeres 
2 long stretches of road make Isla Mujeres perfect for intervals. The views are awesome for dulling the pain or enjoying the recovery.

Open Roads

All Roads have a View

Spending so much time on the bike would typically be a problem but Caito loves to collect sea glass for jewelry designs and ride around in her Barbie Car while I train!

After many hard days on the bike we decided to head off the island and into the Jungle. This year we went to Chichen Itza. This is the best time of year for a visit as it is the Spring Equinox. The most special time for the Mayan people. History tells us that they believe it the combining of the Earthworld and the Underworld. A perfect time to make wishes to the Gods.

El Castillo, Chichen Itza
We drum and dance to summon the Serpent Kulkukan!

Tribal Drums to Summon the Cycling Gods

Dance to Summon the Cycling Gods

I not very superstitious but decided this was the perfect time to prey to the Gods for a safe and productive year! The story says that at the moment of the Equinox a Serpent Snake Spirit (called Kulkukan) will slither down the side of the pyramid El Castillo and into the underworld. I decided to follow him.

Kulkukan to the Underworld
I climb deep to wrestle Kulkukan.

Cenote Snake Wrestling
I defeated him so the Mayan people danced in my honor!

Devin was Victorious!
 They put me on the Local Mayan liquor Label!

I'm Famous Here!

All the fame must have gone to my head. Caito was not very happy so she decided to put life back into perspective.


No Way Jose

Got it!

Wow-that was close. I guess I should include Caito on a recovery spin.

After 10 days of hard training it's time to put the legs up. Hopefully I will have a chance to balance some of those wicked tan lines.


In the end I remind myself that it is a privilege to be supported by such great teammates and sponsors. Cycling is a difficult road to travel. We spend much time and money in order to live up to our own expectations, fulfill dreams and play a part in something bigger than ourselves- Our Team. All of the help during our journey is needed, welcomed and apppreciated. We can't do what we love without You. Thanks Team!

12 days later and 4 lbs lighter

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Winter Cross Training

As spring arrives and the first road race of the ABRA season in the books, I’m reflecting on the winter of 2014 and beginning to wonder if my offseason “training” was enough to maintain or improve on my level of fitness from last year.   During the holiday season and unusually cold winter this year, I searched for some motivation to exercise.  The 2014 cycling season was too far away to use as my “carrot on a string”.  But, television coverage of the 2014 Winter Olympics would prove to be a factor in getting me outside, or at least a diversion to exercising inside on the dreaded trainer.  With all of the various sports showcased in the Olympics, I was sure to be inspired for some cross-training. 

XC Skiing in the Fields
(for endurance...but mostly balance)

Snow Tubing
(not really sure how it benefited)

Snow Shoveling My Driveway
(for strength training...and to get home)

And, Recovery
(an important part of any winter training program)

I'm not really sure if my winter olympic “cross training” provided any benefit to my first road race of the season.  But, I felt much better than I had expected.  And, although I didn’t have a podium finish, I was pleased with my effort and performance, particularly when compared to last season. 

Cycling photos courtesy of Fred Jordan

A special thanks to all of our 2014 sponsors...

Friday, March 21, 2014

The season has started…………but without me.

The 2014 cycling season has officially started with the Dynamic Physical Therapy Cycling Team powered by Pathfinder training camp weekend and two ABRA races now in the books.  Just like last year, the 2014 team training camp weekend was a blast.  We got to visit some of our sponsors and we got in a lot of riding with very nice weather.  Plus, this year the team welcomed aboard 4 new teammates so getting to know them along with catching up with last year’s returning teammates was quite enjoyable.  My highlights of this year’s training camp weekend would have to include the following:

·         The coffee porter and Chris Jones’ french fries I enjoyed at Morgantown BrewingCompany.  (Thanks Chris!)

·         The crème brulee stout I enjoyed at Apothecary Ale House& Café.

·         Having my beautiful wife accompany me this year.

·         Getting my bike tuned up and ready for the racing season at Pathfinder of WV.

·         Watching my teammate Derek Clark climb like a mountain goat.

·         Having my new teammates Cara and Chas remind me what it’s like to be a college student again.

·         And of course all the nice swag from our great sponsors we received!

(The 2014 team at Dynamic Physical Therapy)

Unfortunately my racing season is getting a late start due to an unexpected death in the family.  However, there is always something good that can be taken from a bad, or unfortunate, circumstance.  The loss of a young 24 year old cousin in our family left us saddened, however, it also has reminded us how short life can be.  With that being said, our family has decided to make our 2014 motto be “Family First” with the focus on making sure each day that we thank God for another day that we get to spend with each other here on this earth.  And although my personal cycling season is getting started late, for the team it got started with a big “W” right out of the gate!  A big congrats to teammate Chas on getting the first win for the Dynamic Physical Therapy Cycling Team powered by Pathfinder at the ABRA training race.  Nothing like getting the season started off on the right foot.


I cannot say enough how happy I am to be returning for my third season as a member of the Dynamic Physical Therapy Cycling Team powered by Pathfinder.  This season is definitely going to be exciting with all the new young talent and with the introduction of additional females to the team.  I am really looking forward to helping my teammates achieve success and promoting all of our wonderful sponsors this year.

Thanks for reading and God bless.


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Unexpected Endings

One of the things that helps keeps me riding outside all winter is the Tuesday Night Taco Ride. Each Tuesday Night around 6PM, we meet outside the Over the Bar Café (OTB) on Carson St in the Southside and cruise the rail trails in and round the City of Pittsburgh. The rides are random and last anywhere from 40 minutes to well over an hour. It just depends on the weather, trail conditions, and most importantly the temperatures. After the ride, we all head in to the OTB and enjoy their weekly special, $1 beef and chicken tacos and $1.85 PBR pounders.
Not even in the same category as our sponsor, but we are 80 miles from the Apothecary Ale House and Morgantown Brewing, and beer is always welcome after a long ride!

And as the temperatures topped out in the low 50’s yesterday, that’s where I was headed. Now normally I would pack the bike the night before and take it to work with me but I just ran out of time and figured I would get up a little early and do it in the morning. But when the alarm went off, that plan went out the window too and I decided to opt for a few more minutes of sleep and take a chance on being able to get home in time to throw things together , and catch them before they rolled out. But as luck would have it, my afternoon schedule was suddenly extremely light yesterday and my boss actually told me to take off early since I had been logging so many hours since the start of the year. So I was out the door and headed home by 345 and climbing the steps to my apartment by 420. I was home with plenty of time to spare, so I leisurely set about putting my things together, and a little after 5 I was on the bike and headed to the Southside.  The plan was to head down Noblestown into the west end then take Carson St.  As it was “that time of day”, I knew I would be riding the sidewalks to avoid the heavy traffic of rush hour until I got to the Rail Trail entrance by the incline at the back entrance to station square.
22.4 to 0.7 mph.... I guess thats explains my injuries. And I might have left my GPS running on the drive home

But then it happened. Just as I was making the right hand turn from Noblestown onto Main St in the West End, I was met with a red light 1 block away on Main St at Wabash. I started to brake and then the light turned green so I released the brakes and started pedaling to head down Main St. I had my head up and was looking down the road, hoping that a few more of the redlights would soon be green when all of a sudden, my attention was drawn back to the intersection I was just about to enter.  A silver van was stopped at the previously red light and was starting to accelerate away from its position and started turning left directly infront of me. I again grabbed the brakes with everything I had but knew instantaneously that the inevitable was about to happen. KAPOW! I hit the van in the passenger side rear door and for a split second things went like a million miles an hour. I don’t recall all the details in entirety, but as soon as I hit the ground, I recall craning my neck to see if I could see the license plate on the van.  I could see it clearly, even reading it to myself several times but knowing that I had no chance in hell to remember it. I knew my phone was in my right rear jersey pocket but it was under my windbreaker and I knew I would never get it out in time to take a picture if the vehicle fled. I recall hearing voices and some shrieking in the background, but my focus remained on the van that had now stopped on Wabash St. I started to relax when I saw the van start to move and again I read the plate hoping that I would be able to commit at least part of it to memory.  But fortunately, he was only moving the van out of the lane of traffic and he pulled to the curb to stop. I felt relief when I saw the backup lights flash briefly as the transmission went from drive, through neutral, then reverse and found its home in park.  It was a strange feeling that came over me when I realized I wasn’t the victim of a hit and run.  That feeling of being pissed off and ready for a battle quickly gave way to a feeling of relief and wanting to handle things rationally.
Put the beat down on this old van

(People always joke about your life flashing before your eyes during an accident or traumatic event like this.  But for me, how I was going to react to the situation played out several times as my body was making contact with the van and the pavement.  My initial reaction was to be pissed off and scream and let the guy know how mad I was. I thought about all the BS I was going to have to go through to get my bike fixed and how that was going to be complicated by not having homeowner’s insurance.  But as I saw the vehicle stopped, I knew instantly how I was going to react to the situation, and that was in a calm and collected way.  I knew in that split second that overreacting and being irrational, as good as that might make me feel at the time, wasn’t going to help me in the long run, so I kept my cool and took the reserved approach.)

At this point I finally let the my guard down a little and layed back in the street. And as soon as I was laying there on the cold pavement, I thought “this is the dumbest thing I’ve ever done” because motorists don’t care about you when you are riding your bike, and they damn sure won’t care about a pedestrian lying in the street. I unclipped… yes, I was still clipped in on one pedal; crawled out from under the bike and rolled/crawled to the nearest corner. I sat there for what seemed like several minutes but in reality was probably only a second or two. I started noticing people coming to my aid. First, there was a lady who asked if I needed an ambulance and I told her no, but asked her to get the information off the van incase it left. And before she could go, there was a kid standing beside me who was apologizing for not seeing me and blah blah blah. With that I heard someone hollering and identifying himself as a police officer and he was on his cell phone already, notifying dispatch. Somewhere in this time frame I noticed a familiar face in the crowd. Barb Clawson just happened to be getting gyros and was parked on Wabash. She was just getting ready to pull out to head up to Steubenville Pike when she saw the events unfold in her side view mirror. Without recognizing who I was, she made a bee line to the intersection to come to “some cyclists” aid.  Little did she know it was me, her safety manager for over 4 years at First Student.  She also happened to be the driver of the van that Amber was the monitor on for about 3 years. Coming from a small town, I am used to those types of coincidences, however, being in a suburb of Pittsburgh, those types of coincidences simply amaze me.

As I was reconfirming to the officer that I didn’t need medical attention, I heard the siren of a fire truck and saw it turning off Steubensville Pike onto Wabash.  I thought to myself “too late”, and watched them turn the truck sideways in the intersection, effectively blocking traffic in all directions. 3 firemen got out and started asking me a few questions  and asking me to demonstrate my range on motion, etc.  I guess I gave them answers that they were happy with and soon they were getting back into the fire truck and left the scene.  Officer Lloyd finished getting the information that he needed and provided me with the accident report number that he would be filing on my behalf.  As the first responders were all leaving, I finally had a chance to talk to the kid who was driving the van. He was shaking uncontrollably and was extremely remorseful. He was so upset that I found myself offering HIM words of encouragement.  The last thing I said to him was to be careful, “because Im not the only cyclist out here today and you’re obviously not in your right mind right now.”  Barb offered to take me home, so she helped me walk my bike up the street to her van and she drove me home. I went to med express and got an xray on my right thumb just to be sure it wasn’t broken.   It was swollen and throbbing with pain at times, but the doctors confirmed my speculation that everything was intact, and it was just sprained/bruised.
The swelling did not go down after 4 hours, so should I still seek medical attention?

When I finally got home a little after 8PM last night, and had a few minutes to reflect on the events that had just been happening in a whirlwind mode, I realized 2 important lessons.  The first lesson was that  you have to remain flexible with life. It’s a “when life hands you lemons… make lemonade” kind of approach. Sure, I would have been well within my right to be angry and bitter and out for revenge but I found the silver lining in the situation almost immediately, even as I was trying to figure out what parts worked on me and what might need looked at.  You know the whole n+1 theory of bike ownership and I think that with a with a couple of favors from some friends, I have the means to add another bike to the stable.  The second lesson I learned was that it takes far more effort and coordination to scoop sherbet than I ever realized. Unable to grip the scoop properly with my right hand I tried going lefty but ran into issues because: A) Isuck at any level of dexterity with my left hand and B) I still couldn’t grip the tub properly with my right hand because of the pain in my wrist. So in support of life lesson #1, I made lemonade out of the situation and took the whole tub of sherbet to the tub and soaked and crushed the contents of an almost full ½ gallon.
And I put a beating on a tub of raspberry sherbet!

I’ll be off the bike for about a week I suspect, but I am already looking forward to next Tuesday and the Final Taco Ride of the year. I’m going to make up for my missed tacos and go for the record by ordering 20 tacos.  If you want to join us, show up to the OTB on Carson St around 6pm.  You’ll be able to recognize me, I will be the one riding the brand new Cannondale. J  Be safe and wear your helmets!