Day of Rest

Today is a recovery day…good timing too, based off the morning moans and groans as the battered and bruised emerged from a restless night of sleep. It would seem, despite yesterday’s scare, the team is intact and as ambitious as ever. In fact, unwelcome wrecks, lost skin, broken helmets and beyond, are just part of a bike racer’s life.

So what exactly does an elite cyclist do on a recovery day to pass the time and recharge for the following days of training? Go for a ride of course.

Today’s ride-start was pushed back to 10 a.m. affording a late breakfast and some extra sleep; that is if your body did not find it fitting to rise at 4 a.m. as mine did.  A leisure breakfast got the day back on the right foot though.

Breakfast is my favorite meal but history would suggest that in Europe, breakfast is not their finest hour. Thus I have been pleasantly surprised by the quality and variety we have been presented for breakfast here in Newport, Wales.  I will however continue to pass on the Blood Sausage.

Post breakfast we rolled out on a slow spin through the country side. The light rain midway through did nothing to dampen the general mood of the group and overall views. The greenery of the surroundings has hints of the Pacific Northwest but the immediate rural feel and rolling hills seem more a kin to the western prairie.

Rides through the country consist of narrow roads winding their way through minor village to minor village.  Mix in small farms, 15 foot tall hedgerows, and fields of endless sheep, and you have Wales.  Alas, it would not be Europe without a quick diversion for a picture in front of the neighborhood castle.

With the recovery ride in the bag, the rest of the day has been spent taking advantage of the exceptional services provided by our staff.  First a massage, followed by a quick once over by the Chiro. Then off to the mechanics to make sure the bikes are in prime shape for the next block of training.  With heavy lifting out of the way for the day it was afternoon nap time.

Recovery comes to an end tomorrow at 6:30 a.m.

The reality of going to the Paralympics

Letting it all sink in:

I must admit when I was first informed I had been named to the USA Paralympic Team it was all a bit surreal. Surreal in many ways because of just how long and complex the journey to get to this point in my cycling career had become. For the better part of 6 years, my life and its corresponding daily choices have all been weighed against the potential effects such choice would have on my making the London Paralympic Team. Alas when the day came to be named, it seemed nearly unfathomable that we had made it.

I recall, at hearing the words of my selection, breathing a deep sigh of relief as if a large weight had been lifted from my shoulders. Those simple words of “you made it” affirmed all the unyielding support and belief in my abilities that everyone had bestowed on me for so many years. In addition, it was an exhale of relief to know that on many levels, all of the hard work was coming to a close.

This is not to say I did not understand that the intensity of my training and commitment to racing my bike would not reach new heights in the remaining weeks to the London Paralympics. Instead, I misjudged the behind-the-scenes work that would be involved in assuring I arrived inLondon100% prepared to compete at my ultimate best.

In the past several weeks, the reality of my misguided assumptions has come crashing in. In my six years of para-cycling racing, I have participated in multiple World Championships that up until now represented the pinnacle of cycling to me. However, the magnitude of what the Paralympics is to me and the rest of the World, has ushered in a new respect and humbleness in what it means to be one of a select few that has the honor to represent his/her country on the World’s largest sporting stage. This being the case I quickly found myself overwhelmed with a sense of urgency to make sure that I am prepared on levels well beyond physical prowess to represent theUnited Statesto the best of my ability.

Training marches on as if little has changed but it is the once less significant details that I now find demanding my utmost attention. Meditating on the grandness of the Paralympic Games I find myself surveying my entire surroundings in order to assure I have left nothing to chance. Thus, it has been a bit of rude awakening to see how many details while small, can so often be overlooked.

I reflect on my fleet of bikes and race equipment which has served me well over the years but not without moments of failure. In the past, failures have been lessons learned and recoverable, but now they are questions of unpreparedness and inexcusable fault. To that end I have been scrambling to replace well worn equipment and assure that all is running smoothly.

Where once having my family cheering thousands of miles away waiting on baited breath for internet updates and emails was an expectable sacrifice, I find myself focusing my attention on assuring they are there on the sidelines to infuse me with there unquantifiable energy and love that has driven me on these past six years.

Mental stillness and confidence in my athletic abilities have reached new importance. Now is not the time to reflect on could haves and what ifs; now is the time to find solace in my abilities and instincts as a bike racer. My performances in the races will not be product of my fellow competitor’s actions, but rather my resolve and faith in my own potential.

In short, representing our country at the Paralympic Games has given me a new sense of awareness for what it takes to be my best. I humbly accept this increased work load and feel honored to be muddled in the details of making this the most memorable sporting achievement of my life… and to imagine the starting gun has yet to sound…

 

 

Italy and beyond

It has been some time since I posted last.  Just enough time in fact for Sara and I to have completed our move toColorado, having rented a home in Castle Rock, CO.  Days after moving the last box from the U-haul truck to the garage, I was back on the road.  First, forSilver City,NMto race in the Tour of the Gila.  This was followed by speaking inSeattle.  As of right now, I am on my final flight home fromItalyhaving just competed in a P1 event inPiacenzaand World Cup #1 inRomewith the US Para-cycling team. Notably, I have spent less than 30% of my nights in our new home or inColoradofor that matter.

In short yes, we have moved toColorado, but as a family we have yet to slow down enough and embrace and integrate into our new surroundings. The time that we have had to be the Kavy’s inColorado, have been thoroughly enjoyed, and the list of things we look forward to doing and visiting are growing daily.

As for training and racing, things are going very well at this point. Despite the chaos that has been selling our home and moving to Colorado, I have managed to put in some real quality training blocks and as of recently, I have backed it up with intense racing.

The Tour of the Gila, earlier this month, marked the longest and physically demanding stage race I have done as a bike racer. I must admit that when my coach initially pitched the idea of racing Gila, I was very skeptical of my ability to compete in such a difficult climbing race and how exactly I would benefit from the race. Thus, it was reluctantly that I agreed to enter. In hindsight though, I am grateful for the stiff shove I was given by my coach because not only did I survive with the 5 of us that raced Gila on behalf of the Para-cycling team, we thrived. On all levels our expectations for racing at Gila quickly transformed from survival to meshing as a cohesive team, exploiting our talents to ultimately contend for the overall and stage victories. In the end, each athlete earned multiple top 10 finishes and as a team we put two riders in the top 15 overall (7th and 12th).

With just enough time at home to wash my clothes and pack the bikes, I was off toItaly. The first weekend of racing inPiacenzaturned out to be a bit of a mixed bag. Despite riding very well in the road race I had an unfortunate encounter with the pavement at a mere 500 meters from the finish.  Netting me a trip to the hospital for six stitches in my forehead. The fact that I was back racing my bike the next day after slamming my face into the asphalt at 35mph was hard to put into words, and drove home the importance of helmets. The TT on the second day was a breath of fresh air; after sorting out a timing issue it was confirmed that I had blazed the course for the fastest time of the day with my teammate Jon, in close second which vaulted him into the overall victory for the weekend.

Riding our victory wave the team hit the road south toRomeand the first World Cup race of the year. In particular this weekend of racing would provide a great opportunity to measure ourselves against the top ranked riders in the world, and the racing did not disappoint.

The time trial was the our first race and in particular this was the best opportunity for me to evaluate my current fitness among my competitors. The course was anything but technical being a 4.8-km rectangle circuit located along the Mediterranean coast. What it lacked in technical aspects, however, it made up for by demanding constant focus and constant application of power. Afraid to go out too hard, I found myself down over 8 seconds in the first 2.5 km to the fastest competitors…clearly not the start I was looking for.  Upon hearing my split I got my mind out of the way and let me legs do the talking. I jumped on a big gear and once I got it rolling, I refused to let up. Trying to avoid the pain I spent much of the final 4-km of the race counting over and over again to 10 just to escape the mounting acidic burn in my legs. Crossing the finish line I knew that I had little if anything left to give on the bike and regardless of time, knew that I had ridden to the best of my ability on that day. Deep down though, there was a nagging desire that my time would make a statement to my competitors that I was not to be overlooked. The final riders crossed the finish line and  then I heard it over the loud speaker: I had ridden the 2nd fastest time of the day.  I had bested many of the world’s best time trialers and finished 20 seconds out of first, having given up nearly half of those seconds in the first minutes of the race. To say I was pleased with my result would be an understatement…clocking such a competitive time gave me a huge boost of confidence in all the training and sacrifices my family and I have made over the last few months. It was so refreshing to sit back and reflect on the months of unknowns and difficulties and suddenly feel like the path was clear and making sense.

The following day was the road race. What the TT lacked in technical challenges, the road coarse made up for ten-fold. Located less than 1-km from the Coliseum, the coarse was demanding not only in the bike handling department but thanks to the numerous turns and several notable hills, there was little time for recovery. Within the first 100-meters of the race attacks were flying off the front and our entire field was strung out single file. By the time we had completed one 5-km lap, we were already loosing riders out the back…in fact despite a timely break going up the road, it was largely a race of attrition. Merely a measure of one man’s ability to suffer more than the collective suffering of the peloton. With three laps to go. I went to the front of the race in an attempt to control the attacks, setting a pace that discouraged anyone from attacking. As fate would have it I ended leading nearly all of the remaining 3 laps and as we swooped on the finishing straight I committed every last ounce of energy I had to leading out my teammate Jon. Jon timed his jump perfectly surging to line just in front of me netting us 1st and 2nd in the field sprint and 5th and 6th respectively overall.

All in all, both Jon and I had some disappointment for having not made the break in the road race, but we were both very pleased with how we had ridden in what was one of the most difficult single days of racing either one of us has had. I certainly learned things not only about myself, but also about my competitors, that will make me more effective in my racing. I continue to be amazed at the level of racing my competitors have brought to the Para-cycling world, and I am very grateful to be right in the mix of it all.

 

 

Clarity

I want to be World Champion…

For those that have followed and/or been apart of my journey over the past 6.5 years, you may find this statement to be a forgone conclusion. However, for me it has great impact.

On my last night in Sydney following the first World Cup race of the season, I found myself  lying on my bed caught in a state of half-sleep.  When out of the darkness, I sat up clear-minded as midday, and proclaimed I want to be World Champion. I must admit to date, I have let the dream rattle around in my head and even tried on the jersey in my mind, but until that last night, it has never been so clear as to how much I want to wear the Rainbow jersey.

It is as if all of those hours of training have been done looking through blurry binoculars, spinning the focus ring in search of a clear picture. I have, all along, envisioned being the best I could be, but now the image is clearer than ever before. I want to be THE BEST. Up until now I have trained to be a bike racer. Now I am training to be more than a bike racer; today I begin my World Champion training.