Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Independent Fabrication Factory Life

Back in 2011, after 17 years, Independent Fabrication closed up shop in Somerville, MA and moved to Newmarket, NH. Here's a slick video of life on the factory floor. While I've heard that not everyone was pleased with the move, if the reality is even remotely similar to the film, I'm very pleased to see the environment within which my bike was born.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

The 2011 Rapha Festive 500 is finally over!

The 2011 Rapha Festive 500 is finally over! While I didn't win a fancy new bike, placing 4th out of 970 finishers and 3030 starters due to the warm tailwinds of support from my friends and family was amazing and heartwarming. What would I do with another fancy new bike anyway? That's just gluttony. After all, I didn't enter the Festive 500 to win a prize, but rather to challenge myself to ride 500 kilometers between Christmas and New Year's Day. It was a great way to ring in the New Year leaving 18 months of recovery behind me. Thanks so much to everyone who spread the word and lent a hand in this exciting journey. I can't wait until next year.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Rapha's Festive 500: I'd Love Your VOTE!

Well, it certainly was a ride to redemption for me and it turns out that my blog posts and photos were selected as contest finalists by the Rapha staff from among the 950 finishers and 3030 participants who successfully completed the Festive 500! Now, the voting begins. Please go to Rapha's Facebook page at this link and "LIKE" my photo and story. Voting ends on January 27, 2012. Spread the word!

Here's the photo they chose for the site.

The grand prize is a Trek Madone 6.9 pictured below. WOW! It just looks so darned light doesn't it? You may say I need another bike like I need a hole in the head, and you'd be right (sort of). While I love my two Indy Fab Club Racers, neither one is nearly as light or as fast as this beauty. Of course, in addition to the grand prize, four other lucky winners will be walking (riding?) away with treats and one can only hope the booty involves some choice Rapha gear.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Lake Placid Training Ride (with Coach Troy)

18 degrees with 4 inches of fresh snow on the ground? Sounds like a perfect morning for a 56-mile spin over the Lake Placid Ironman course . . . on my trainer. Coach Troy to the rescue. Knowing the storm was on the horizon, I set up the studio last night and rolled out of bed before 9:00 this morning, brewed a pot of coffee and clipped in for a 3-hour training session. Living in the cold and snowy Northeast, I love the Spinervals Virtual Reality Series of training DVDs, each of which follows a loop of an Ironman bike course. So far, I've got Lake Placid, NY, Louisville, Kentucky and Madison, Wisconsin. It's pretty hard to keep up the motivation to get on the trainer for a one-hour workout, but 3-hours - forget about it. These DVDs make all the difference and really help build aerobic endurance over the winter in order to hit the spring in good form.

Well, I wasn't able to meet my three trainer session workout goal this week, but I did get to the gym for a good strength workout and managed to hit the trainer once mid-week before this morning's ride. I hope for better results with a few hour-long interval sessions and at least one 3-hour session per week to get my muscular and aerobic endurance up.

In ultracycling news: Bryce Walsh just posted a stage win in his Cairo-to-Cape Town race. Go Bryce! More on that here.

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Indoor Season Begins

With all the dry, mild weather we've been having, who wants to ride indoors? I sure haven't. Today, as temperatures dropped into the single digits over night, though, it was time to dust off the machines and give it a go. I had originally planned to try out my new Spinervals "Virtual Reality" DVD (this one in Louisville, KY) but didn't quite have the 3.5 hours today that it would have required. Good thing, too, as it's probably wise for me to lay down a bit of a base before getting all epic on the trainer. So instead, I did an hour. Time to go into the pain cave and build a cardio base.

Up next: intervals on the trainer 3 nights this week and a 3-hour session on the weekend.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

My Story Published in American Randonneur (Winter 2012)

I was honored to have my reflections on my accident and subsequent recovery included in the Winter 2012 issue of American Randonneur. While much of the article was adapted from writing that appeared first on this blog, here is the article in its entirety.

As I look up into the bright lights, I realize that I’m definitely not still riding my bicycle. The fact that I cannot remember anything about my crash is probably a significant factor in my ability to ride again. I have no creepy feelings when I ride; I don’t look over my shoulder with dread every time I hear a car roll up beside me. While I’m told I was conscious and able to communicate with the paramedics on the side of the road for at least a few minutes, I have no memory before looking up into those lights. I don’t know whether I was in the ambulance or the hospital at that point.

The first thing I said when RBA Tom Rosenbauer handed me his cell phone to speak with my wife was “oh no, she is going to be so worried.” It didn’t occur to me that she was already pretty worried after being awakened by a 6:30 am call as the words “Hospital . . .Pennsylvania” flashed across the caller ID on the bedside phone. “Yes, there’s been a serious accident,” the voice said, “no, we can’t tell you how he is. You’d better get down here to the hospital as soon as you can. We need to operate.” My wife describes an eerie calm as she woke our two children and called her parents to arrange for the three-hour ride to the hospital.

I rode my first SR series in 2007, but was unable to finagle a trip to Paris that year, so PBP has been on my mind ever since. Riding in the 2009 edition of London-Edinburgh-London further whet my appetite for international rando-adventure and I was riding the Endless Mountains 1000K, in part, to ensure priority pre-registration for PBP 2011. At 4:00 am on August 26, 2010, about 25 riders and I rolled through the dark hilly countryside of Eastern Pennsylvania. At 5:45, I was fully awake and rolling along with the rhythm of the front pack of riders as the sun was just beginning to peek its head over the horizon. As a responsible randonneur, I was lit up like a Christmas tree, but this did not deter a young, distracted driver from gliding into the shoulder and taking me out like a bowling pin. My custom-made Independent Fabrication was totaled. I have no memory of the accident.

Fortunately, my bad luck ended when I was hit. I was rushed by ambulance to St. Luke’s Hospital in Bethlehem, PA where both my legs were operated on within a few hours of the accident to repair my broken right femur and left femoral neck. Two days later, I underwent another surgery to repair a badly broken left clavicle. All in all, I broke 24 bones – none of which was set with a cast. I now have a titanium rod the length of my femur permanently implanted in my right leg. I also have a bunch of screws and a plate holding my left femoral neck and clavicle in the right places. In addition to the breaks that needed surgical repair, I fractured my right scapula, ten ribs, five vertabrae, three hip bones and more things with names I can’t recall. Remarkably, I did not sustain any significant internal injuries, spinal damage or head trauma. There was not even a patch of road rash anywhere on my body. My wife Jessie never left my side and slept in a small foldout chair typically reserved for nervous spouses awaiting the birth of a new child.

With Ron Anderson and Laurent Chambard at St. Luke's Hospital (August 2010)

After two weeks at St. Luke’s, I was transferred to the Helen Hayes Hospital in Haverstraw, NY, which sits atop a hill overlooking the Hudson River about one hour downstream from my home. At Helen Hayes, I lived and worked on the spinal injury floor, not because I injured my spine, but rather because I had similar rehab needs with only one of four limbs able to bear weight. I spent several hours each day in physical and occupational therapy and was able to get around with the help of a motorized wheelchair and spent the time not in therapy outdoors reading in the warm fall sun and connecting with friends, family and acquaintances through social networking sites, which gave me a small window into the power of technology to connect and transform the lives of those with physical challenges.

Luckily, my randonneuring experience came in handy during my recovery. Patience and the ability to endure uncomfortable and fairly unpleasant sensations for an extended period of time is useful during rehab. After four weeks at Helen Hayes and six weeks from the date of my accident, I was released on Columbus Day weekend and finally had the chance to drive home with my wife. I had to swap the time normally spent training and commuting by bike with physical therapy sessions, trips to the gym and stretching. I was directed to stay home to recover more fully and returned to work on a part-time basis in early November.

In November, I met with a shoulder specialist to review the results of a full series of scans and tests to find that her initial suspicions about why my shoulder was lagging were correct. It turns out that I was suffering from the effects of a previously undetected, displaced humerus fracture which involved a piece of bone and the associated rotator cuff muscles swimming around in my shoulder unattached. So my 24 broken bones had now grown to 25. No wonder I couldn’t raise my arm. The only solution was surgical and the likelihood of repair hovered around 50%. I was clear with the doctor that the most important outcome was getting my left arm to "handlebar height;" anything else was extra. In December, I went in for my fourth surgery and after a brief period of rest, the winter and spring were subsumed with shoulder rehab and the quest to build greater stability and strength in my legs.

My return to the road came in late March, after being given permission from both my general orthopedist and my shoulder surgeon. While I thought in the weeks after the accident that I would be able to ride PBP in 2011, I soon realized that the pace of recovery would be much slower than I originally dreamed. When I realized that I could not participate in this year’s edition of PBP, I knew that it would be important to replace it with another epic event to mark my return to riding and to use as a goal in my recovery and training. The famed Deerfield Dirt Road Randonee (D2R2) was just the ticket. At 180K, it was not the distance that makes the ride epic, but rather the 180 kilometers of largely dirt carriage roads that snake their way through the mountains of Western Massachusetts and Southern Vermont.

Climbing Perkins Hill on the NYC 200K (July 2011)

In June, I was riding and reaching my handlebars comfortably enough to justify meeting with Paul Levine of Signature Cycles, the fit expert who put me on my first custom bike. The fitting revealed that I didn’t need any specialized accommodations on the new frame and we put the order through. That month, I also rode in my first events since the accident - a local 50-mile ride followed a few weeks later by an organized century. My return to randonneuring came in July as I rode the NYC 200K, which was both physically and emotionally fulfilling. In August, exactly one year and one day after my accident, I completed D2R2, which was one of the most demanding days of cycling I’ve ever experienced. August also included a local 200K permanent and another in September to lay the groundwork for the R-12, which is a goal that’s eluded me for some time.

So where am I now, almost 14 months after the accident? I still love riding and continue to hope for a full recovery as a randonneur. I’ve yet to tackle distances greater than 200K, but will do so after a bit more training. More importantly, though, I feel like I’m approaching riding with a new mindset. I find myself closer to family than ever and have an even greater appreciation of the need for balance between riding and the other parts of my life. I realize that I’m married to an absolute saint. I’m thankful to everyone who reached out, sent an encouraging email, visited me in the hospital, posted a comment to my blog, prepared dinner for my family or was generally patient with me during my long period of recovery.

After a full year of recovery, I no longer feel like a patient. I’m living without chronic pain and moving around almost like I did before the accident. My hip just received a clean bill of health; it turns out that I do not suffer from avascular necrosis unlike 30% of those with similar breaks so there is no hip replacement in my immediate future. My shoulder mobility is still a bit asymmetrical, but I have a full cycling range and feel comfortable and safe on my bike. So what’s next? Randonnuering, like the rest of life, is about making choices. In addition to the R-12, I plan to ride a full SR series and perhaps a domestic 1200K. My white whale, though, remains PBP. While it may be a long way off, this is my true goal. I just ordered a set of personalized license plates that read “PBP 2015.” Join me. It should one hell of a ride.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Are We Cold Yet? The Catskill Climbfest 200K: January Edition

I decided against this walk after considering another set of broken bones.

In search of a great January R-12 ride in the unseasonably dry and warm weather, Don N. came over from CT and we hit the hills. The Catskill Climbfest 200K permanent is a fixture of the spring/summer/fall season, in other words, when I'm in much better shape and the differences in temperature are not as severe. The good news of the day was that two major bridges, one undergoing repair and one not, were both passable. We no longer needed to undertake a reroute. The bad news: with a forecast of the low 40s at my house, I forgot about the 10 degree drop in the hills @ 2200 feet.

While not yet repaired, with a little cyclocross action, this bridge was passable.

Climbing Route 23A alongside the Kaaterskill Creek to Hunter Mountain alongside SUVs packed with skiis and snowboards to take advantage of the artificial snow, a few gave us encouraging gestures while one honked as if in disbelief. After resting at the first control at the top of the 1500 foot climb, we headed out into a nasty 20+ mph headwind on our way to the glorious 6-mile descent into Phoenicia. Hurricane Irene was still in evidence everywhere along the route.

Don checks out the construction of a new bridge spanning the 50 ft chasm caused by Irene.

I'm certain that someone inserted a bump or two to the great Slide Mountain climb and to add insult to injury, the bucolic Frost Valley fully lived up to its name with snow flurries and wind chills in the teens. When we arrived at Controle #4 at mile 90 in Grahamsville, an angel of mercy served me a cup of the most outstanding bean soup I've ever tasted along with a delicious buttered roll. It was nearly impossible to get back on the bike feeling so chilled to the bone as the sun slid low in the sky. The gentle rolling climb along Peekamoose Mountain Road was lovely, though, and with a slight tailwind and balaclava firmly in place, a much more pleasant experience than the crossing of Frost Valley an hour earlier. We even spied a glorious bald eagle sitting atop his nest along the way which, not being a small furry ground-hugging creature, I took to be a good omen.

As we reached the top of Peekamoose Mountain, the shroud of night was firmly in place. On went the lights and reflective gear and down went the average speed. Luckily temperatures became milder the closer we got to home. As the nearly full moon rose in the sky from behind some clouds, I was reminded of how much I love night riding on quiet back roads.

It was a ride of extremes. At times, I felt at one with my bike, while at others I wanted to hang it up and spend the rest of the day by the fireplace. Despite the difficulties, though, we made it. My January R-12 is now in the books. With five more months left (only one of which is in winter), I'm optimistic. Up next: some indoor trainer work to get my power and speed back on track.