Thursday, September 27, 2007

Ode to Benno

This poem is for Mr. Oliver, our wonderfully unique wrench
A man who is not only smart but can do 350lb on bench

He’s a dude of many talents, as many of you well know
If you get him drunk and ask nicely, he may show you his “gun show”

Of course he fixes our steeds and even washes them too
But he also gives them his love like only special mechanics do

But there’s even more to this quiet man with all his colorful tats
Though he looks as though he may bite the heads off of bats

His patience is unparalleled, when dealing with high-strung spoiled pros
I wonder why he doesn’t just whoop our ass and feed us to the crows

He’ll consume nothing but coffee and beer for a stage race of 5 days
And then he’ll drive the van home in a drunken, sleep-deprived haze

And don’t be fooled by his scraggly beard and his worn cargo shorts
The man has a better vocabulary than the famous Will Shortz

You may catch him in a corner, reading Waltman, Poe, or Joyce
And this is no assignment mind you, this is his free choice!

Many say his calves are sculpted better than Arnold in his prime
So our mechanic may be juiced, how is that a crime?

And then there’s the team van, this part is hard to describe
He has this special relationship, way more than with the Vibe

He’ll drive that van for hours on end, with his foot firmly affixed to the pedal
Fueled by nothing but caffeine and seeds, while his Ipod blasts Death Metal

Bathroom breaks? Yeah right – those are for the weak!
Those bench seats have essence of sweaty Ben; one might say they reek

It’s considered his permanent residence, that much is for sure
He spends more time in that thing than any human should, anyone will concur

But that’s why we love him, he does all this without complaint
I even heard one time he applied Bag Balm to Garrett’s infected taint

Maybe that’s not true, but I know this for shizzle
We’re lucky to have Benno for 2008 on team Bissell!

Monday, September 24, 2007

who writes this trash?

Sometimes I have to admit that my life seems like a poorly written novel. This year I've been dealt with some fairly extreme circumstances. I'm not trying to be dramatic here, I'm just pointing out that I try to live my life on a relative even keel, and these severe ups and downs are starting to mess with my psyche. Starting out the 2007 season on highs w/ a couple of the best results of my life at the LA World Cup and Tour of California to our team winning its first Tour at Central Valley. Then comes the blood clot out of the blue in March to put me in the gutter. Months later, with no recent results to my name, doubts and questions about my career and life growing louder with each passing day, I'm offered another contract for the 2008 season from my team. "We believe in you" they say and it nearly brings me to tears on the phone because again I'm reminded of how blessed I am. So this is mid-June and the fitness is really coming along and I decide to throw caution to the wind and start utilizing this form and producing some results for this team that I love. Whoops, we know where this leads: my near-death experience with a pulmonary embolism and a forced re-evaluation of what it is I'm actually doing with my life (What's my Personal Legend? "Alchemist" anyone?). My answer? I'm following my dream and my passion with the knowledge that tomorrow may, in fact, never come. That's not to say that I wasn't stupid for cutting my meds like I did but I know that it was a calculated risk based on bad information that led to my actions. My current decision to race on blood thinners is also a calculated risk, but it's a risk that was made after consulting with both a lung specialist and a hematologist and not just from a 28 year old pro racer with a B.A. in chemistry. So with the decision made to race when well enough to do so, I decided that USPro TT (6 weeks after getting out of the hospital) would be a nice starting point. It took the 1st week to get back to full breathing capacity, the 2nd week to get over my fear of suddenly expiring while riding out on my own, and 2 more weeks to actually open up my legs and remember what threshold training was all about. Leading up to the TT, I was getting noticeably stronger every day but still not at the level that I was in late June. I was trying to remain optimistic and not put any pressure on myself to perform, but I couldn't help but remember how fit I knew I was before I got sick again. So, I went out in the TT, played it conservative the first half never digging into the red and really never gave it some stick until the last 10k because my body was so unaccustomed to that level of effort that I was afraid of completely blowing during the race. So, to finish that race in 4th, 8s out of podium and 16s from the jersey was definitely an unexpected surprise. I couldn't have possibly asked for more based on the last 7 weeks leading up to that race. But I can certainly ask for more from myself in coming years. That race showed me what I'm capable of. Results aside, if I were to have proper training and preparation leading into that race, could I have gone 20s? 30s? faster? I think so. Since that TT, our team has had its share of ups and downs as well. In the USPro road race, a tired Ben was forced to lead the team yet again because none of us could make that next step up. 14 hours later, we lined up in Atlanta for the last NRC event in hopes of clinching the NRC individual title that Ben has led since March. We won the race but lost the war as Emile won but Rory finished in front of Ben to take the title. However, Ben had an amazing season and really should be proud of the way he pulled through time and after time for this team while balancing family life and the stress and strain of having another child in July. The team should also be proud of the way they rode so unselfishly for Ben throughout the entire season. The next week, we raced the Grand Rapids crit in front of and put on by our sponsors and we were schooled by 3 (albeit very good) Health Net racers. Last week, we raced the Tour de Leelanau, 109.5 mi road race with relenting hills and wind in northern Michigan. This type of race is right up our alley and so went better for us with Garrett scoring his first victory of the year and the PH boys going 1-3-4-7-10.
One of the downers about this sport is the lack of job security for yourself and your teammates. This coming year, we are keeping the roster mostly the same but not completely the same. As a result, I won't be racing with a couple of my buddies who I've developed friendships with over the past 2 years. A bummer, but hopefully positives will come out of these setbacks.
Okay, so do you want to hear my latest installment "In hindsight...maybe that wasn't such a bright idea"? So, I went to my high school buddy Wells' wedding this past weekend in Chippewa Falls, WI. It was a nice, pretty wedding but that is not the story - the story is how I managed to injure myself at the reception. Because I thought it would be funny (after a few beers, mind you), I decided to dive for the garter belt that Wells flipped to us according to ceremony. I'm talking a full-on, Pete Rose style head first dive on the wooden dance floor. It was a pretty sweet dive, I'm not going to lie. Probably about 10 feet or so of actual sliding on the buffed wooden floor. What I had forgotten was that I had my digital camera in my front pocket and landed with all my force on the camera. Results: I came up a foot short of the belt, my camera was still functional, but my left quad now has a deep bruise/charlie horse that has swelled due to the blood thinners and has kept me off the bike for 2 days now. The next morning as I was driving back to the airport from the venue, barely able to bend my leg past 20 degrees or so, I was again feeling down on myself and life in general. But then my new friend Kanye reminded me "that what does not kill me, will only make me stronger". And I said "Word, Kanye" as I blasted the volume in my compact Dodge rental zooming down the interstate to my destination.