Monthly Archives: April 2013

Ride with Christian and George 10K

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I am going to try to not make this a post on doping in the cycling. I want it to address the question of the human thought process and mentality towards things that seem very similar, but the reactions to them are vastly different.

I got an email with the picture below of a training camp that Christian Vande Velde is doing in Rancho Santa Fe next January. He and George Hincapie are doing a 5 day, ride camp from some spa in Rancho and asking people to pay $10000 to do it with them. The flyer says, Train Alongside The Best Cyclists In The World. I personally think that is false advertising, but whatever.

Then a little while ago, Velopress released a new book about core strength by Tom Danielson. The book is really by Allison Westfahl, with a forword by the actor Patrick Dempsey. So, I guess they were just using Tom as a figurehead, I don’t know.

Anyway, it sort of amazing to me how public these guys are, doing the same old stuff, hardly a stub on their toe, freshly off a 6 month, wrist slapping, suspensions for doping, thus cheating.

And everyone seems to just go along with it. Obviously, Velonews is condoning the whole thing, publishing “Tom’s book” less than two months from his time out. The other sponsors of the VDV camp, Skratch Labs and Giro must think all is great.

What I don’t understand is how forgiving the fans and sponsors are for doping when I can give you examples of other things, that seem nearly exactly the same, and the public and sponsors disappear immediately.

Let’s use music as an example. I believe that people have the same sort of fascination and loyalty towards musicians as they do sport figures. Maybe even more. I don’t seem many people waking around with Lance Armstrong tatted on their forearms, but I’ve seen maybe people with Grateful Dead written in block letters across their whole backs.

But, when a musician or group is found out to be frauds, they are outcasts forever. Use Milli Vanilli as an example. Number one hit after number one hit. Then, they were found to have been lip-synching and boom, done. Nothing left. Fab and Rob could sing and had talent. They even recorded music after they were shamed, but the fans had vanished. Rob was so despondent that he turned to burglary and drugs, eventually dying from an accidental overdose.

It’s the same in the art world. Art sometimes goes for millions upon millions of dollars. Art fans and critics spend nearly their whole lives involved in the appreciation and collecting. But sometimes it is very hard to tell the difference between the work of a true master and a forger, nearly impossible. The real art is worth millions and the fake, nothing. If it is so close to being the real thing, then shouldn’t they be worth the same? No, I guess not, because one is real and the other isn’t.

But in cycling, the lip-synchers, and forgers don’t seem to miss a beat. Cycling fans seem to assume that their heros naturally had/have talent and that the drugs were just a small blip, something that was nearly forced upon them, and they are forgiven. I really don’t understand the difference in mentality.

All the examples don’t seem that dissimilar, yet the reaction to them are vastly different. Are sport fans and sponsors just that much more forgiving, understanding? Is it a different area of the brain that deals with betrayal and loyalty concerning athletics compared to music or art? I’m just throwing this out there, I don’t have an answer. It is so perplexing to me.

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Teetering

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This past weekend was the Joe Martin Stage Race. And also the Capitol City Omnium up in Iowa City. I’ve done both of these races tons of times over the past few decades. I believe the first time I did Joe Martin was 1979. I finished 2nd in the hillclimb to John Howard when I was a first year senior that year. I finished 2nd overall there twice, once to Jason McCartney and then once Thurlow Rogers. I won the Iowa City Criterium in 1983, I think, then again a couple years ago. Anyway, those results don’t really matter.

What matters is the way I’m feeling, being sort of left out of the loop of bike racing. Catherine and my guys wanted me to go with them to Iowa City this weekend. They thought it might be fun for me. It would have been torture. I don’t mind watching races I feel like I should be racing when I can’t, but it would be awful watching races that I feel that I could do physically, but the risks are too high. I realize it is self imposed, but I also realize that if it was maybe as few as 5 years ago, I’d already be racing by now.

The reason I’m not racing is because of the risk reward ratio. I can intellectually understand that completely. I think I can do just about everything I need to do to race road bikes. The problem would be if I fell. I don’t think my shoulder is anywhere nearly strong enough to be able to handle a big hit. I think the surrounding muscles need to be a lot stronger so when I do fall, which bike racers always do, my shoulder doesn’t explode. I have no intention of ever doing this surgery again. If it was something as easy as a broken collarbone or separated shoulder, I would be already racing. But this surgery, and the recuperation from it, is way too intense to be risking for a couple races.

Like I stated above, intellectually it is a no-brainer, but emotionally it is trying. I know that it is going to take months for my arm to heal properly now. And I can tell you that there is no way that I’m waiting months to race. So I ask myself, why not just start earlier? The only answer I have for that is that my arm has been improving in leaps and bounds the last couple weeks. I’m doing arm curls with a 5 pound weight now. I know that sounds silly stupid, but considering a couple weeks ago I could barely lift my arm up, it is a vast improvement. I’m thinking if I can put a little muscle back on and gain some strength, then it will come quicker and quicker.

Okay, I’m just kind of venting here. Frustrated. I hope/plan to be racing by memorial day. I thought about maybe trying to race in Austin tomorrow night, but know that isn’t a good idea. I’m holding off for another week and I’ll keep trying to do that a day at a time. Eventually I’ll crack, I know it. But, you can’t fight you’re own personality forever.

I did have the good fortune of finding this small turtle on the bike path on the way to White Rock.  I dropped him into the creek.

I did have the good fortune of finding this small turtle on the bike path on the way to White Rock. I dropped him into the creek.

I'm doing a little manual labor here, building up the shoulder muscles.

I’m doing a little manual labor here, building up the shoulder muscles.

This is a local Dallas suburb high school football stadium.  It is bigger than the one at the University in Topeka.

This is a local Dallas suburb high school football stadium. It is bigger than the one at the University in Topeka.

Stuff Comes and Goes

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I’ve been walking Bromont over at the Menninger Foundation grounds the last few days. The Menninger Foundation was one of the most prestigious psychiatric facilities in the nation up until 10 years ago when they closed up shop and moved to Houston Texas. Lots of famous people have come and gone through Topeka because of it. It has been a part of my life from a very young age. I grew up with a ton of the Menninger kids. I was even college roommates with Fritz, during my short stay at KU.

Anyway, it was strange walking around over there while Bromont was running crazy in the woods. The place is so barren. 10 years ago it was nearly a thriving little city and now just a grassy field. A local hospital, St. Francis, bought the grounds and intended to build their new facilities there. I think a twist in the stock market might have put that on hold, but they did raze all the buildings, but one.

I graduated high school early. I lost interest in it nearly before it started. I used to skip out whenever a class would be doing library study, or anything when I wouldn’t be missed, get on my bike and ride over to the Menninger Campus and train. It is on a hill and there was a hard mile circuit there. Sometimes I would throw my bike over the fence and do hill repeats on a paved road that went down to the river. I’ve ridden up and down that road 1000’s of times. Walking there, the road is only gravel, just a few patches of asphalt here and there. It is amazing how fast the planet reclaims what is its.

Bromont and I got in the van and drove to Texas. I’m going to be installing, in theory, a ceiling fan at Sue’s mom’s in Richardson, plus I wanted to fix a post of the fence I built last year that has moved, then go down to Austin and put in a dog door for my friend Ann. She got a new puppy and wants it able to get in and out of the porch. Plus, obviously train. I’m kicking around maybe trying to race a local training race this week, we’ll see.

I went for a 15 mile spin last night when I arrived. Richardson has changed too, but exactly the opposite. It takes forever to get out of town here. When I first came here in the 80’s, it was the country. Now it’s an hour to get out to the country. I rode by The Richardson Bike Mart. It was closed, there were no cars in front. I might be wrong, but I believe it is the largest, by square footage, and probably sales, of all bike shops in the country, most likely the world. I first met Jimmy Hoyt, the owner of the store when I rode from Schwinn and he was a Schwinn dealer. It was a little shop, nothing at all like he current business.

I guess this is just a part of life. I usually don’t attach much emotional feeling to changes initiated by humans. But, the stark different between the Menninger Campus just disappearing into a field and then the next day coming down to Texas and seeing what was just a field, become landlocked and the center of urban sprawl, got me thinking. All this change is sort of disturbing for some reason. It seems so wasteful. I’m not sure why. Maybe I’m just in one of those moods.

The last remaining building on the Menninger Campus.

The last remaining building on the Menninger Campus.

What it looks like now.

What it looks like now.

10 years ago it looked like this.

10 years ago it looked like this.

Richardson Bike Mart.  It is huge.

Richardson Bike Mart. It is huge.

The road where I did intervals in high school.

The road where I did intervals in high school.

Just a few spots of asphalt left.

Just a few spots of asphalt left.

Bromont looking all proud and happy after running around Menninger's.

Bromont looking all proud and happy after running around Menninger’s.

His normal position driving to Texas.

His normal position driving to Texas.

Stanley and Lulu on an outing.

Stanley and Lulu on an outing.

I found this bird flopping around on my walk at Menningers yesterday.

I found this bird flopping around on my walk at Menningers yesterday.

Boromont was concerned of course.

Boromont was concerned of course.

I took it here and the lady there does bird rehabilitation.  She said it was a full grown Barn Swallow.  It had a broken wing.  She said she could probably fix it.  That surprised me, but I gladly left it with her.

I took it here and the lady there does bird rehabilitation. She said it was a full grown Barn Swallow. It had a broken wing. She said she could probably fix it. That surprised me, but I gladly left it with her.

I took this out of the car window driving out of Topeka.  It is finally Spring.

I took this out of the car window driving out of Topeka. It is finally Spring.

Letter from Andy Hampsten Nearly 9 Years Ago

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Below is a letter than my friend and ex-team mate, Andy Hampsten wrote in Velonews nearly 9 years ago. I found it last night sorting through some old paperwork. I printed the letter out back then because I thought it was a very exceptional risk and special act, defending Greg Lemond. Greg’s vocal criticism of Lance, during this time, the Lance Era, was unpopular to say the least. Andy’s support of Greg was very brave and honest. I wrote to Velonews supporting Andy’s position, thus Greg’s. But, whenever I ran into Greg, I told him that he was fighting a very unpopular and losing battle. It was a lose/lose situation for him. He understood that, but that didn’t deter him. Another brave and honest act.

It is embarrassing how little we’ve progressed, in close to a decade, addressing this issue. Obviously, the actions taken by our sport haven’t been very effective in deterring the problem. Anyway, it is nearly the same old, same old. I don’t want to be able to write a web post 9 years from now that is applicable to today’s problems concerning doping in the sport.

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Those Magic Moments

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I was sort of irked a couple days ago when someone left a comments asking me, it’s “unclear where you obtained your moral high ground” concerning doping. I felt it was a slam. I felt it was a slam because I didn’t think I take any different stance than every other bike racer out there that doesn’t use drugs to race. I just state mine publicly.

I understand some of the reasons that people use to dope in the sport. None are justifiable. And I don’t understand all the excuses that others use to forgive the riders that “had to” dope.

I still race bicycles for a lot of reasons. But one of the main reasons because I think I understand, at least I believe I have the knowledge, to recognize small, magical moments that occur constantly during a race. The reason that I like to race the hardest, highest category event I can do, is because this moments occur much more often than at a local event or a masters race.

Observing the moments, the “I can’t believe he just did that” actions, is moving. It is intellectually and emotionally relevant to me. And when I have the ability to actually initiate the moment, then I take pride in possessing the abilities and showing the other competitors what can be done at certain times. It helps confirms the reasons I spend such a large portion of my life in the sport.

Cycling attracts me because it is not all brute strength. Many times, a weaker rider can win an event because he used his wits to accomplish something that all the other competitors couldn’t. I love those moments. I give as much respect to a smart rider, actually more respect to a smart rider, than one that is just physically strong.

I believe someone that studies the sport of bicycle racing, participates in the sport, is somewhat of an artist. All artists have their own individual styles and abilities, plus many can recognize greatness in others. When a rider dopes, he has shown that he isn’t comfortable with his own abilities, so he steals his way into the sport. He creates moments that aren’t real. I have no interest in unreal moments. I hate them.

Doping in the sport, ruins special moments that never occur because some jerk has thrown paint all over a newly painted canvas before we all get a chance to see it. He has taken away potential moments because he can.

Anyone can pick up a bucket of paint and destroy a work of art. Anyone can dope to win bike racing. They are both very easy and should be given the same amount of acknowledgment. None.

This whole thing can corrupt you if you let it. I try my best not to allow that to happen, but it does have a way to work its ugly way back in. This is probably when I take a “moral high ground”.

Cycling fans are an easy mark. They want to believe. I am concerned that doping in cycling isn’t going to change. More than concerned. Because then, the sport has no interest for me. I have no desire in watching a bunch of artist wannabes, making photocopies of others work.

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George

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Before Bromont, we lived with a dog we called George. I say we lived with him because I don’t really think you own animals, I think they choose to live with you. You might not agree with me on that, it was really the case with George because he didn’t really need us for all that much. He was a free spirit.

George was what people call a once in a lifetime dog. I love Bromont to death, as I do all the pets, but George was super special. He was the smartest dog in the world.

George happened into my life one day when we were playing ice hockey over at Lake Shawnee in the winter. He was a super small puppy and tumbled onto the ice from the shore. He could barely run, but wouldn’t stop chasing the puck across the ice. He was fearless. We went over to the Park keepers house to see if it was their dog and the daughter said that no, there was a whole litter of puppies left there and they had been taken to the humane shelter. George must of escaped I guess.

Anyway, we took him home and that was it. He was wonderful. I could write stories here all day about him. The dog could remember every place he’d ever been in his life, even if he was there only once, years earlier.

He eventually got into the hearts of nearly everyone in the neighborhood. We didn’t have a fenced yard and George just wandered free. He started walking in the morning with a group of woman that got together every morning and did a long speed walk. There was an early group of women and then a later. He did both walks, so I never saw him much in the morning, he was busy.

At Christmas time, we would get tons of gifts left on the porch for George. Tons of dog treats, toys, one year a bottle of doggie champagne. George would get more Christmas cards than us.

One time when we were gone, Kris let George out at night. A storm rolled in and Kris went out to look for him. It was a big storm and Kris couldn’t find him. Then next morning, the phone rang and it was a person from the nursing home that my grandmother was staying at. She said there was a dog outside howling and a woman there said it was Mrs.Tilford’s grandson’s dog.

So Kris drove over there. It was 3 miles away and George had only been there once. When Kris pulled up, there was George, sitting underneath my grandmother’s window. He’d been there all night. At that time, we’d only taken him to the nursing home once before and that was from a different direction, not directly from our house. When Kris went in to talk to the nurses, a woman came up, all shaking and flustered and said she’d been telling the nurses all night that the dog was ours and they thought she was crazy. George spent a lot of time after that at the nursing home. The people there, most I’d never heard speak a word, would open up and talk about their dogs through their lifetimes and you could see on their faces how happy that the memory made them.

George was super fit too. He would run and run. He was nearly Forest Gump. He just loved to run. Honestly, he would run probably close to 20 miles a day, never less than 10. He would run whatever speed we went. If we were on our bikes, that was the speed. If we were roller blading or running, slower. He loved it.

When George was around 9, he got cancer. He had a lump on his chest that we had removed. Then another one came back in his mouth and we took him to the K-State vet hospital. I was waiting there and they announce my name over the loudspeaker. A guy working there, Ken Harkin, heard my name. He had went to vet school in Ames Iowa, where I spent a ton of time when I road for the Levis Team. He rode bikes and remembered me. Ken came out and introduced himself and took over George’s case.

Ken said that they would remove the tumor from George’s mouth, but it wasn’t good. He had tumors in his lungs and that the prognosis was bleak. We were devastated. A couple weeks later, Ken called me and said he’d been searching around and that there was an experimental study going on in Denver that might help George.

We called the lady there and got George enrolled. It was a gene therapy study that cost $1000 and we had to drive George out to Denver for one day a week for 10 weeks. It’s about 600 miles. So, we started doing that. Trudi did it the first couple times, then me. Finally we were both gone and Kris was driving him. He stopped to walk George and he wasn’t doing too good. He was coughing up bloodly stuff and was dazed. By the time George got to Denver, he could hardly walk. The woman that ran the study said that George had pneumonia and it was going to be super expensive to treat and that he would be kicked out of the study. Kris called and asked me what to do and I told him to drive him back to K-State. Kris drove over 100 mph and got back to Manhattan in 5 hours.

By the time he got there, George was better. The lack of oxygen in Denver wasn’t good for a small lung capacity. Ken said they would put him into a oxygen tent, give him antibiotics to fight the infection and that he would have to stay there a few days at least. Ken called a couple days later and said George could come home. But, it was better than that. They had taken a chest x-ray and all the tumors in George’s lung were gone. It was close to a miracle. It was so weird that George got kicked out of a study and they never knew that it “cured” him. I think he said that the stuff that George was coughing out of his mouth might of been dead tumors, but I might be wrong on that.

George was great for a long while. The cancer came back about 3 years later. He was 13 by then and gray. He slowed down, but never stopped running. We’d let him out of the car a block or two from our house and he would take off like he was a puppy, only going 1/10 the speed.

Finally, one Friday, I decided it was enough. George could barely walk and it seemed it was the right time. Kris begged me to wait until the weekend was over, that we’d have someone come over on Monday to put him to sleep. I agreed because I hated the thought. Anyway, George went downhill badly. By Sunday evening, there was something in his throat that had grown and he was gasping for air. We called every vet in town, left messages and no one was returning our calls. We didn’t have an all night vet hospital in Topeka at the time.

Finally, about 1 in the morning, I realized that no one was going to help. I came to the conclusion that I was going to have to help George out myself. We had an old hunting rifle from my grandfather. He raised hunting dogs and was an avid hunter himself. It was a .22 caliber rifle with a 4-10 shotgun barrel underneath. I think he called it a squirrel gun.

I took George out to the backyard on his favorite blanket. I sat there with him, more upset than I’d ever been in my life. I couldn’t believe that I had gotten to the point when I was going to have to do the most awful thing I could imagine. I would have given anything for the phone to ring and been told a vet was coming to do it. But no. So I just sat there and cried and cried.

Finally, I realized that it was my responsibility. It was strange trying to figure out a way that I could sit with George, with his head in my lap, and hold the gun and get my finger on the trigger. I was so worried about all the blood and also about shooting myself in the leg. George was breathing so badly and labored that it was crazy upsetting. His eyes were pleading with me to help him. Eventually I had figured out everything and said my final goodbye.

It took me forever to pull the trigger. I was so terrified. It was over in a split second. And it was exactly the opposite of what I had imagined. It was total quiet. Nothing. A complete peacefulness. No blood, just a small drop on the top of his head.

I sat there for a while and couldn’t believe how I felt. It was the biggest emotional change I’ve ever experienced. One second I was scared to death about doing something I would do anything to get out of and the next I am at ease with myself, nearly joyful for the moment. I thanked George for letting me experience the moment with him.

It was life changing for me. That experience made my life so much better. It changed the way I think. It’s hard to understand while it is happening how one moment in your life can change the rest of it. I would have given anything, and been so relieved, to have the phone ring and been able to avoid the ordeal, but it turned out to be maybe the most important moment of my life. It gave me strength to do tasks that I previously though were not attainable. It gave me pride. I have to give all the credit to George. Life is strange in that way.

We buried George up on the top of a hill where he used to play. It was the dead of summer and very hot. We carried him up there in his blanket. It was 2 or 3 am. I had a shovel, but realized very quickly that it wasn’t enough. The ground was so hard, it was impossible to dig. Trudi went home and got a pick-ax. It was cathartic digging the hole, sweating, getting bit by bugs. I imagined what the settlers did a century and a half ago when a loved one died. I know they didn’t dig very deep holes in the middle of the summer. That is why they covered the graves with rocks, because it is nearly impossible to dig a 6 foot hole that time of the year.

The closest I get to religion is when a pet dies. We sat up there and talked about what a nice place it was for George. I was creating some sort of Indian like spirit scenario where George has the run of the park and his spirit is eternal. I thanked George for being my friend and for helping me get through the whole experience.

I go over and visit George pretty often. I just ride by and say hi. Sometimes I just sit. It always makes me feel better. I wish, with all my soul, his spirit is running free through the fields and woods.

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He wasn't much into shrimp.

He wasn’t much into shrimp.