Sunday, March 28, 2010


I decided to hit pause on my race season start... call me smart, call me a sissy - either way I'm NOT racing my MTB today in 50 degree pissing rain and mud.  I usually open my racing season with the Chickasaw Classic an hour south of Nashville, TN but the weather forecast for race day was a consistent 70% chance of rain throughout the week.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not opposed to a sloppy and/or cold race; anybody who races cyclocross in the late fall will at some point have a nasty race.  I raced cyclocross last November in North Carolina in 40 and rain, which ended up taking about 2 hours in the car with the heat cranked and 4 layers of clothes to stop shivering.  Hell, I even did Chickasaw a few years back in sub-par conditions.  The day before saw torrential rain, and race day was overcast and maybe 45 degrees.  The course was a non-stop peanut butter mess, but I had already made the 5 hour trek so I toed the line.  It worked out well for me since I ended up with the win. 

Still eager to race this weekend, I even looked into driving 6 hours North to hit up Barry-Roubaix, but I would have been severely time crunched to work a mostly full day, come home to pack, and leave early enough not to make it another post-midnight bedtime.  That, and it was supposed to be about 30 degrees at the start of the race.  Again, somewhat sissy-ish but at this point in my racing career I think I benefit more from not beating myself down early in the season for a training race.  This will pay dividends in spades come November when I am driving to New Jersey for the USGP, and still have the motivation to do so.  It's always way better to want to race but not than to force yourself to look for motivation and half-ass your effort.

Soooooo, I'm sitting at my desk, enjoying my second pot of coffee on the day getting a laundry list of things done that would have otherwise put yet another time crunch on me - boxing up eBay sales, paying bills, watching Ghent-Wevelgem, downloading training data.  OH, and blogging.  Can't forget about that.

-the Mexler

Saturday, March 13, 2010

A pain that I'm used to

As cyclists, we tend to have a high threshold for pain.  It always ends up the same - "What will it take to get me back on the bike?" or better still, we just push through the pain and deal with it.  That second part really encompasses a wide range of pains; from the mundane dull pain from a hard effort, to the more acute pains associated with crashes and missing chunks of skin and flesh.
Most of us have a number of stories of pushing ourselves to our body's limits to give up and suffer a far worse pain: the pain of regret.  This typically manifests itself in any number of ways such as self-loathing, doubt, questions and maybe even resignation.  Happily I haven't come close to resignation, but have definitely danced with questions, doubt and self-loathing many times over the years.  My typical pattern is a period of self-disgust, then after stewing about the events for some time I doubt myself and the work that I put in to get where I am (this passes quickly), then questions of motivation arise.  Most of the time, if after a race I'm back to normal around half way home.  Of course, it could be because at this point I've stuffed my face with some type of comfort food but I try not to pay attention to those things because they bring on a whole other subset of regret.
Anybody who has turned a pedal in anger for any length of time has almost certainly had some incident happen to cause some type of physical pain.  I've had a few road rash incidents that have resulted in a few weeks of pants stained from wound seepage around the knee.  Not trying to sound too modest, but those are injuries where you just double wrap the gauze, walk slowly and with a limp, then carry on about your way.
It's said that, on average, we'll have a bad crash once every 7 years or so. Since I had two crashes happen one month (31 days exactly) apart I figure I'm good for at least 14, maybe even 21 if I play my cards right.
The first is, to date, my worst crash ever.  Not really in terms of bandages and tape, but out-and-out pain.  It was the first mountain bike race of the year and I was on a completely new bike and didn't have my position on the bike quite right (grossly wrong, as it turns out!).  Long story short, my long-time friend and teammate, who was directly behind me summed it up best "Well, once your face hit the ground, your body just kinda went limp."  I have to rely on his account since I really don't remember anything from about 10 seconds prior to 30 minutes after when I woke up in the ambulance. 
So the end result was a few scrapes and scratches, a bent rim, a concussion and a good story.  I wouldn't really find out the worst of the damage, though, until about a month later which dovetails nicely with my road crash a month later.
That one resulted from me decelerating from 30 mph to about zero by way of a 90 pound dog in the road.  I tried everything short of riding into the ditch to avoid the dog, but the dipshit kept running towards where I was going to be.  With 5 other guys directly behind me not able to see the dog, standing on the brakes was not an option so I hit the dog, went ass over elbows and landed in the ditch.

Again, scrapes and bruises, but I also got 25 stitches in my shin from where my cassette scraped my shin.  Believe me, I've tried to work out the physics of how that could happen but there is no other thing on a bike that can provide 7 equally spaced slices.  Not surprisingly, stitching skin that doesn't really have any meat underneath it is pretty hard to do.  Painful, too.  In line with pushing through the pain, I remounted my bike and rode the 10 miles home, but did have a friend drop me off at the ER.  Thanks, Terry.
Throughout the previous month I had shrugged off a lingering back pain that I figured would just go away.  Alas, no.  After being head over heels for all the wrong reasons twice in a month, I decided to push through the pain no more.  X-ray film at the chiropractor showed the signs of a hyper-extended back that I can only guess was the result of feet touching ground over my head when my face stopped forward progress in my mountain bike crash the month prior (think situp except bend the opposite way).  Fast forward a few years and I still get knots in my back that usually take a few days of deep stretching to remedy.

So anyway, that's the long way around of saying I've had some pains in my day, but I've gotten used to because I love it.  As I type I'm still dealing with a nagging pain from about a month ago that feels like it could be a pinched sciatic nerve resulting from a forgot-to-account-for-suspension-sag incorrect saddle position.  I guess the only thing to say is don't crash, always stretch and don't ever get old.  The wisdom you gain from living and growing older does not fully compensate for the pains you gain.  Trust me.


the ATM