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The past 8 months...

Ever since racing ended last year after the high point of winning an overall world cup title life has been a bit of a bore up until a couple months ago.  The injury I had just before the world cup finale in Spain took almost 6 months to heal.  When you bruise your entire right side front and back I guess it does take some time to get back to normal.  Or what I can call normal.  It is in this time as my body had taken a beating my mind decided to join the fun.

Something many don’t talk about is the blues.  Not the music but the depression kind of blues.  I’ve heard it referred to the “paralympic blues” or something similar. Those that aren’t familiar with it has been defined as, or there about, is when after experiencing the highest of highs in athletic performance one has difficulty adjusting to normal life again, experiencing times of being bummed out to full blown depression.  Dave Mirra comes to mind when I think about this.

Now I did not make it to the Paralympics, however, I feel one can experience something similar when they’ve reached the highest point, so far, of their young para-athletic career.  For me being injured and still training trying to occupy my mind as my body healed, I experienced a whole host of emotions from being bummed out, to sleepless nights, to flat out dread that I had to drag my reluctant ass out and train some more when I didn’t feel like getting out of bed.  

Not many like to talk about the emotional side or even more specific mental health.  The financial side was HUGE and took its toll on me to say the least…but humans run on emotions and when those are messed up we tend to run like a car on bad gasoline.  I talked a lot with my coach and read as much as I could on the subject and s-l-o-w-l-y I got better.  Something I did realize was I don’t have an “after” plan for what I’m going to do after racing.  For 25 years I’ve been around racing, racing myself, or just thinking about it.  My emotional state was tied heavily to how I did racing.  For the first time in 25 years I realized I didn’t have a plan for after racing and I sunk deeper.

BATTLE STATIONS, BATTLE STATIONS!!??!

Of course I’d like to help progress the sport as much as possible and ride but what else?  Do I just walk away and not look back?  Probably not smart, but it’s possible.  But I don’t want to regret anything or any decisions in my life.  Seeing some friends that have retired from racing when they didn’t really want to, gives me hope seeing how they handled it.  They do talk about it from time to time and I think that really helps them and those of us that haven’t got there yet.  It’s not perfect but really what is?  I have no doubt that will be a day to day battle and the tools I learned from training and racing will no doubt help ease the transitional pain to a post racing life.

The distraction of researching my “after plan” helped ease my mind, as I got better and finally my body stopped hurting just to take a breath.  My intensity of my training rides increased not only in my mind, but also according to that “IF” metric in Training Peaks, I was actually getting better physically too.  YAY!

I have to admit the “Intensity Factor” metric I hated it so much for months because I was busting some ass and it was like, “Nope!” in its silent judgmental way.  If anything I was bound and determined to make it my bitch or die trying!

Fast forward a few more months with better nutrition and keeping a constant eye on my emotions, with the help of my awesome coach Rick, I seemed to be okay and was progressing quite well.

Yep, you guessed it I made a change. 

For years I have been taking Ditropan for bladder spasms and it works except two side effects that are hard to deal with, one is overheating and two is not sweating.  Not good when you live in Las Vegas.  I didn’t realize how bad it was until I changed medication and my body had a chance to take a breath for the first time in 12 plus years.  Shit got crazy!  Sensations were happening like someone was flipping switches and 2 weeks later I ended up curled up in the bathroom in MASSIVE pain! 

Let’s put that in perspective: breaking my neck was a 5 on the pain scale, my nerve pain is higher than a second degree burn so that’s a 7, and the pain I was in the day was an autonomic dysreflexia fun level of 11.

After a few hours of nothing really happening it was decided that a trip to the hospital was needed.  An ambulance ride was the only way it was going to happen, just in case…plus I couldn’t move.  As in completely locked out straight in a full body spasm and any movement made the pain worse.

I won’t bore you with the details of going to the emergency room or the week following that but after a few tests there was nothing found to be the cause of my issue.  I can sit here and spit ball some ideas as to what it was but would they be correct?  No idea.  Was it an overload of sensations after suppressing them for years?  Possibly, I really don’t know.  For 12 plus years I’ve been my own lab rat.  Trying meds and modalities to regain what I lost when I broke my neck, injuring my spinal cord, back in 2004.  Some things were good and some bad, but one thing that has helped me through the whole process has been a positive attitude.  Yes even when you feel like the world is crashing down around you there is a lesson to be learned.  Failure is an option and a tangible result in my world.  Might not like it but it is what it is.

Almost forgot to mention what’s it like on the new med.  Well, my heat tolerance is way better.  I kind of sweat but not full-blown sweat like before.  Something is happening and my brain doesn’t freak out like before.  Maybe in a few months this will be different so until then I’ll take it.  I would imagine that after not sweating for years the “pipes need cleaning” so to say.  I process liquids more normal and I’m not nearly as thirsty as before.  No more overheating has been great and a positive move in the sweating direction is a nice bonus.

So it’s back to training because in a few weeks I leave for Nationals in Grand Junction, CO., then home for a night and off to Redlands, CA. for the Redlands Classic.  Something like, 4 races in 8 days.  Gonna be sore that week but that’s the beautiful part.  For the first time in 12 plus years of having a spinal cord injury I actually enjoy that kind of pain.  It means I’m alive and that my legs, albeit a bit wonky at times, have recovered to a point where I can do that.

 

Until next time,

Jay

 

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Spain World Cup

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Spain World Cup

Final World Cup in Basque Country Spain was unforgettable to sum it up in one word!

Left Las Vegas in the evening on Friday the 8th of July to arrive in Bilbao Spain in the evening of the 9th, then drive an hour to Onati, Spain on unfamiliar roads at night to get to the final stop at 10:00pm.  Got to bed somewhere around 1am local time. 

Wake up, who knows when, to some of the most spectacular views I’ve seen in a long time.  Onati is nestled in the mountains of Spain and they didn’t disappoint one bit.  Off the kitchen patio or out the bedroom windows you had mountain views so unreal they look painted in the photos that were taken.  Cool and cool! Why Onati?  Well it was way closer to the courses than staying in Bilbao which was a 2 hour round trip to get to each course, according to the map, but actually turns out to be a bit longer.  The roads are fantastic, however they are narrow compared to the fields we drive on in the states and combine that with “traffic O’ plenty” it slows things down a bit.  What Impressed me the most was the semi drivers and how they got everywhere without destroying every car and building in the process.  I know truck drivers in the states that can’t even back their rig up…in Europe you would either learn to make that truck dance or find a new job.  Impressed, I was.   One nice thing was nobody was texting and driving and to be perfectly honest how could you?  Tight twisty roads, a million roundabouts, stick shifts, higher speeds, and people who actually know you’re supposed to stop for them in the crosswalk.  Driving takes your full attention or you’ll kill someone…it’s that simple.

A day off to rest and put the trike together then off to ride the TT course first, in the city of Vitoria-Gastiez, about 35 minutes.  The arena in Vitoria was huge and the parking lot was massive.  Shake down the trike first then out onto the road.  Now if you haven’t ridden in Europe or if you have a problem with cars getting close to you then stay home.  There are bikes lanes here and there but mostly you just ride in the lane like a normal car would obeying the rules like a car would.  Hold your line, signal, and you’ll be fine.  I can say that now but the first 5 miles in the city on my trike was sketchy-nervous!  If I rode with a heart rate monitor on that baby would have been maxed!!  Nobody got pissed you were in the lane or shouted at you as they went by.  They just waited and went around like you’re supposed to do.  After 5 miles I was good…no more nervousness and the course pre-ride went off without incident.

I opted not to pre-ride the road race-course in Elorrio but drive it numerous times instead.  Even with the above knowledge it was just a bit too sketchy for me. Better alive than dead!

I have been keeping an injury hidden as much as possible for almost a month. I tripped and fell a few weeks back and bruised most of the muscles in my shoulders, neck, ribs, and chest. Why does this matter? Well the muscles you use on a trike are the ones I bruised bad enough to not be able to push myself out of bed or even train at a level high enough so I'd be a 100% for the final world cup in Spain. It was more like 75% and in massive pain.

Yes all I had to do was finish one race and I'd win my first world cup title but I don't like to win that way because it feels like I cheated my competition out of seeing what we're all made of. Unfortunately in racing you do win on your bad days and this World Cup title will have an asterisk by it forever and always for me. Sorry peeps that's just how I'm am and always will be. I like to win straight up!

The TT in Vitoria-Gastiez started off good. My speed and pace were good, considering I hate flat courses, then the wind came up and stayed there.  The layout of the course was such that in every direction you went you had a headwind.  Don’t know how but it is what it was so just park it in the pain cave and hammer on.  30 minutes into my 2 lap TT my body went south with no warning.  I couldn’t hang on and everything hurt…my pace went slow and I was in survival mode. I just wanted to finish without crashing. Crossing the finish line I could barely squeeze my brake lever to stop.

21 trikes or so were slated to start the road race in Elorrio.  A typical town in Spain, with cobble stone walkways, historic buildings, and cafes quite literally on the sidewalk.  The loop course had some short steep climbs around 7-8% in town with a long 2km or so 3-4% climb before a fast descent back into town.  You know those shots of the riders in the Tour de France climbing some super steep grade with loads of people cheering not two feet away?  The short climbs in town were just like that…awesome!!  Spain loves cycling and it shows.  There is nothing like having people cheer for you in 3 different languages while you punish yourself up a hill.  It was really hard not to smile.  Just wish they could line the entire course like that.

My road race went horrible wrong and my body went south on the first lap…not to mention a mechanical in a spot where I couldn’t stop right away to get it fixed.  I spasmed so hard that my right hand slipped of the bar and unplugged my Di2 junction box.

Let’s just say I finished. 

From going as hard as my body would allow me in the TT to pushing through heatstroke, mechanicals, and legs that just didn't want to work in the road race I was fortunate enough to stand at the top to claim the Overall World Cup title, Leader jersey and trophy. It may sound like I'm not happy but I really am. Huge congratulations to the winners in my class, you're all fantastic competitors!

Where does that leave me for Rio? I didn’t participate in the Team selection event due to injury.  In short no Paralympic Games in Rio.  I chose to focus on the World Cup title, which considering everything that’s happened was an epic way to cap my recovery from a spinal cord injury some 12 years ago.

Honestly it doesn’t bother me that I didn’t make it to Rio.  There are many, many things in life that are just as, if not more, fulfilling than the Paralympic Games.  Would it be cool…hell yeah!  Now I’m not saying that to make myself feel better.  There are World Cup titles, World Champion Rainbow jerseys (that would be cool), National Championships and more every year.  Not to mention growing the sport and mentoring those already involved.

Spain is a beautiful country and the people in Onati, Elorrio, Vittoria, and Bilbao have been awesome!! They do love the fact that I was from Las Vegas and visiting their city and many people ask, “Of all places why Onati?”  My neighbor while in Onati was the former mayor and his two sons race bicycles as well.  I can’t forget to mention that they closed the town down at 10pm to have a race in Onati. It’s what we call a fixie or track bike but that was cool to see. By 10pm the sun has barely gone down…crazy!  Also I was hoping to slide into France and catch some of the Tour de France, but they were just too far away to make it worth it.

Need to give many thanks to Steven and Matt for their help at the final World Cup in Spain.  To the Challenged Athletes Foundation, Go Fast Sports, Wittson Ti Cycles, Etienne at Belgium Cycles, Pasadena Athletic Association, my awesome coach Rick, my friends and family thank you so much for helping me get here and making this the most epic year since I broke my neck 12 years ago!!!

From here I’m taking some time off to enjoy riding around the U.S. for a month or so and kind of rest.  I have a lot of things to improve on for next year and you’d be amazed at how fast 8 months will go by when you’re training a lot.  I can hear Alaska, Montana, and Idaho…possibly Seattle…and Canada calling my name.  Not quite sure really.  Just gonna head Northwest and see what happens.

Cheers,

Jay

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2016 Road Nationals

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2016 Road Nationals

Here we are again for another installment of my crazy Para-cycling life!

The scene is Winston-Salem North Carolina in May…and it was HOT!!  As in break out the panty hose and fill them with ice kind of hot.  (Yes that’s an actual thing in hot weather cycling.)  Between Masters and Para racers there were a reported 900 cyclists descending upon Winston Salem bringing with us a couple million in economic revenue.  Win and win!  I have to say most everyone handled the huge surge in people quite well as there are always those people who are unhappy with just about everything.  For the people I was in contact with they absolutely loved having us there and we thank you for that!!

The road race course was green and beautiful with rolling terrain a plenty.  The start time was a smoking hot 4pm…not good for many of us but it is what it is.  This year there was a new T1 racer to the line and not knowing anything about him I was a bit nervous and curious to see what he was all about.  Off we went and all was good until the North Carolina heat started messing with me.  Yes I’m from Vegas and heat sometimes isn’t an issue but humidity is…40 minutes in I blacked out for just a bit then came back and on the next climb I hit the proverbial wall.  I couldn’t get my body to turn the pedals anymore and no amount of self-talk was doing the trick.  Sensing my impending doom in the heat I made a smart decision to abandon the race and not risk hospitalization.  Couple of dudes on motorbikes came by and shortly after that I was off my bike and laying in the grass on the side of the road in the shade.  I guess I was worse off than I thought because when I finally was able to get both feet on the ground I collapsed.  Crap and crap!

Score at this point Heat 1 – Jay 0!

It really is interesting that you meet some really awesome people when you’re at your worst and this time in the ambulance was no different.  Once EMS got over the fact that an incomplete quadriplegic was riding an upright trike the “How did you do that?” questions started coming.  Can’t say thank you enough to the EMS, fire department and police personnel that saved my bacon and for keeping everyone as safe as possible on such a unique course.  Truly people don’t thank these people enough and you should because no matter what you think of the uniform they’ll always be there when no one else will.

Some 45-60 minutes later I was back in the pit area returning to whatever state of normal I can claim after this injury.  The big topic of the evening was “Who can we talk to to remedy the problems of having paracyclists race in the heat of the day?”  And yes the politically correct answer is it is ultimately up to the racer to decide if conditions are too difficult or risky for them to compete, however, many of us can’t sweat or even regulate the heat like “non-injured” people can, so why create an environment to potentially send people to the hospital?

Any-who... 

What I can say is this, USA Cycling learned in a big way what happens and come race time 2 days later at roughly the same time they showcased what they had learned by having people with ample supplies of water placed along the course drenching whoever needed it.  Score one for things getting sorted out on their own.  Many thanks to volunteers, moto crew, Mavic neutral support, PossAbilities, and anyone else that pitched in to keep us cooler…we all thank you!!

Time Trial in…3…2…1…GO! GO! GO!

The time trial took place on, and I’m not kidding, Red, White, and Blue Road close to Union Grove, NC.  The course was an out and back style with a few climbs and was almost arrow straight, other than the 180 turnaround at the end.  Something a couple of my fellow racers screwed up on and got disqualified…ooops!  Pays to know what 18k is in miles and vice versa.  Plus I think there were more interested in pushing each other and winning than anything else. 

Back to my race… Airflow over the body was a plenty, not to mention the water soakings every 1/2 mile, and the fact I did finish this race and came home with another National Title, which now makes 4, if you were curious.  The week was a success even with a dash of failure thrown in.  Failure seems so negative let’s call them…powerful lessons.

Huge thank you to Challenged Athletes Foundation, Go Fast Sports, my coach Rick, Wittson Ti-Cycles and Belgium Cycles for my sweet trike frame, my friends and family for their help and understanding that even though I hurt like an SOB you didn’t stand in the way of letting me compete again so soon after passing out. 

Up next is I’m off to Reno, NV. for the Biggest Little Paracycling TT and within 2 days of being home back on the road to Colorado to spend some time with my friends at Craig Hospital and support their annual Pedal 4 Possible ride.  Gonna seem weird being back in the ole stomping grounds but it’ll feel good.

I’m not going to mention the Rio Paralympics in this post, other than this sentence, because I still don’t know at this point.  Given the complexity and “politics” of such an event as to how many spots a country gets and ring fencing and this and that and some of those…whoa I was about to step on the soapbox!!  Cycling I think gets 150 spots across all the countries because there are only so many medals, beds, and room to house the hundreds of athletes coming to Rio.  The system is fare given the complexity of it.

As always don’t forget you can always follow along on Twitter or Facebook.

See ya soon!!

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South Africa

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South Africa

My first international race was in Pietermaritzburg (PMB) South Africa this past weekend and it went pretty good if I do say so myself.

We left McCarran airport in Vegas on a Friday afternoon and finally arrived in Durban South Africa some 2 days later on Sunday.  With the time difference it’s only two days without the time difference it’s 3 but it felt like a week.  Short flight from Las Vegas to San Francisco then catch an international flight from San Francisco to Dubai…15 hours of flying bliss!  Actually Emirates does it right and many airlines could learn a lot from them…especially the food!  “Hory Sheet “ it was actually good…I mean actually good!

Landed at Dubai airport, which is massive by the way, to catch our driver to get to the hotel for an overnight stay.  Let’s set the scene…something I learned in Dubai is that the faster you are driven or drive the more important you are and other drivers yield to the faster driver.  Our driver had to of been a retired formula one driver…holy shit that dude drove fast.  I’ve from Las Vegas where people drive fast…this dude put them to shame.  Welcome to Dubai International please “Get In, sit down, shut up and hang on!!  5 minutes later we arrived at the hotel, no joke!

Up early to catch the morning flight to Durban…another long flight but only eight hours this time.  I’ll put in here this is when I started shivering and did so for 8 hours because being skinny sucks some times.

Land in Durban only to find that my bike box and wheel case hasn’t made it…it was actually still in the states come to find out.  Well time to collect the rental car and get to Pietermaritzburg for some much needed rest.  Nothing like driving on the opposite side of the road at night after some long travel days with a GPS that cut out half way to the guest lodge.  No map, no cell service, no nothing in the van.  A couple friends in the other van had the only working GPS, which gave out on the way to the airport the next day picking up another member of the crew for the week.  FN technology!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The Bed and Breakfast that we all stayed at was fantastic and our host and kitchen staff was top notch.  Google Arlington Guest Lodge to find out more about it. Ben, Aggie, and Derrick are fantastic people and made our crew of 8 feel right at home.  We had the entire Bed and Breakfast for most of the week, which was good with 3 trikes, wheel cases, bike boxes, rollers, and 2 bikes it was a bit full.  

Let the fun begin!!!

Remember the shivering…yep I got sick and as I type this I’m just starting to feel better.  International race crisis level was stuck on 11 the whole time but I have an awesome coach who had prepared me for such things like this.  Many thanks to my coach for your experiences that help keep me going when “crisis mode” is WFO.

In the meantime, while waiting for my trike, it was off to get classified at the Imperial Hotel in downtown PMB.  This hotel was built back in the 1800’s and for being around 190 years old was beautiful.  It’s actually a historical icon (or whatever that’s called) and they really can’t change it.  Even better, why change something that’s beautiful.

(Enter Coolaid guy, “Oh yeah!”) I finally got classified correctly as a T1 with a fixed date so if I get chosen to go to Rio I can.  This clears up 3 years of confusion trying to get it right, but who’s counting?  Lesson learned #2: sometimes the UCI puts you into a category to see what you’ll do with it and see if the athlete can come up to a higher level of competition.

Three days later my trike finally arrives!!  Yay! Time to put it together and shook down before the World Cup race the following day.  Course recon was an interesting time, as South Africa doesn’t have bike lanes like we do in the states.  You just ride in the lane and hope for the best.  Quite literally cars would pass so close that their mirrors would be maybe a foot away…sketchy it was…but nobody got upset if they had to wait behind a trike if the road didn’t allow a safe passage.  They were close don’t get me wrong but respectful, unless it was a cab company (run by the mafia) then you just get the hell out of the way!

Race day morning arrives, it’s just pissing down rain and I still feel like crap.  My body finally woke up hungry, which is fantastic and just in time.  Eat everything I can find then head to the venue for the time trial, the first of two races that weekend.  It was decided that the best warm up for my legs would be massage so I can keep my energy level high but still warm up for the race.  That was done, thanks Sam, and off to the start house on time only to wait 20 minutes for an accident to clear the road.  It was bad enough that the cars went into the racecourse barriers.  20 minutes later it was clear and it was race time!!!  

As my time counts down I hear over the speakers AC/DC’s Shoot to Thrill…my thought are “HELL YEAH” and off I go!  My time trial was only 2 laps so after about a ½ km it was time to “Drop Z Hammer!!  No time to mess about and about a ½ km later my chain decided to come off on the only climb…yep crisis mode up to 12…got a bit of help as allowed in Para-cycling and back to dropping the hammer, this time some 2 ½ minutes down from where I was.  Yep it cost me that much time!!   

Side note: I need to mention South Africa has speed bumps on a whole other level.  One big hump followed by three smaller bumps and there were somewhere around 15 of those things on the course.  My bits hurt at the end due to me not really slowing down for them…I caught air on a few of those things…I swear I did!  It was sketchy to do in the rain but I got skills so I wasn’t worried until my hands decided to come off.  Well no need to poop later or take a shower, this day is epic!!  LOL! Those things were brutal and after that I slowed just a little, not much, but a little.  You know what they say, “Safety third.”  

At the end of my first Dukes of Hazzard lap the time came to drop down deep into the pain cave and stoke the fire, as I wasn’t happy with losing so much time. 

(At this point I’m cursing the “Rain down in Africa” and not blessing it Toto!)

As the second lap of playing Dukes of Hazzard on the speed bumps comes to an end I’ve made up a ton of time to cross the finish line exhausted and was actually having a hard time breathing.  That race hurt.  I’m not talking about discomfort I’m talking about putting it into the 7th layer of hell pain and not backing out of it!  Just because you're sick doesn’t mean anything, you still have to put in work. 

"Easy like Sunday morning" race day and its Mother‘s Day to boot.  My mom was with me for this race and I wanted her to appreciate me dragging her half way around the world to race a trike on Mother’s Day.

The race went a bit like this: 2 dropped chains (before and after the climb from the day before), another late start, more Dukes of Hazzard laps over the speed bumps, loose shoes, raining harder than the previous day, dropped the hammer from the start to the finish = one awesome race!!!

COOL ALERT!!!   By the end of the day I was put into the World Cup leader’s jersey on Mother’s Day.  Considering where I started this spinal cord injury journey, barely able to move to standing on the top step of the podium at a World Cup in South Africa was the best way to say thank you to such a wonderful mother who has been with me every step of the way.  Thank you mom and much love for always being there for me, I couldn’t have done it without you!!!!

The remaining time was spent packing and relaxing for the flights home.  It’s been a long time since I’ve been up for 40 hours straight and I don’t miss it…nope, not one bit.   Arrived in Vegas at night and was blessed with a beautiful view of the “Brightest City On Earth.”  I really do love living here!!

Next up…

There are two remaining World Cup races this year, Belgium and Spain.  No World Championships due to the Paralympic year.  I’ll miss Belgium and I’m trying to put together the funds to go to Spain to finish the year at the top of the UCI ranking list for the division I’m in.  Don’t know about Rio yet, as many people have asked me, as there is so much to do before then and if it’s meant to be it’ll happen.  There are 9 spots for the women and 9 spots for the men on the Rio Team across 5 classes and a ton of athletes to choose from.  After former paralympians, ring fencing and such are done the spots fill up quick…but that’s a whole other post in itself.

I need to thank a few people before I’m done.  

Go Fast Sports and Beverage out of Denver, CO.  Thank you so much for the cool wrap on the van and still supporting me in Las Vegas.  I hope the exposure here has been good for the brand and some people have said the original Go Fast tastes like strawberries…

A special shout out to Etienne at Belgium Cycles and Wittson Titanium Cycles for building me a kick ass converted axle trike frame.  Way to nail it!!

My coach for putting up with my constant questions about just about anything under the sun.  Your guidance will no doubt get me where I need to go to do some “Epic Sh*t” in Paracycling.

My family and friends for just about everything I can think of.  You all make the pain and suffering seem just a little easier.

Until next time, hopefully not 6 months later, I really do have a ton of posts started but haven’t finished them yet.  Training does get priority; however telling everyone about South Africa was a much-needed distraction.

 Off to U.S. Nationals in Winston-Salem, the week of May 23rd so follow along on Twitter or Facebook.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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End of another year...YAY!

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End of another year...YAY!

A memorable year is not measured in accomplishments so much as milestones.  As 2015 comes to a close, I’m stoked to have made quite a few and are grateful to those who made them possible.

Well I’ve made it 11 years plus post spinal cord injury and when June 9th came around this year I celebrated by not really recognizing the day and enjoy some time by myself cycling.  I guess after so many years of thinking about it and “recognizing” it I just needed to let it go.  Yes that day will always be the day my life changed…but considering where I was and where I’m at now I think it turned out pretty good.  Sure complaining about what I don’t have, as far as function goes, would be justified, however, I have friends that can’t raise their arms or legs or walk or even take care of themselves.  As a close friend, who may never walk again, said to me after I started complaining about having a bad day on my bike said, “So you’re having a bad day about when you got yourself up, etc. and then went for a bike ride?”  It wasn’t so much the words but the tone and the look that instantly shut me up.  Still to this day if I’m having a bad day training I think about that conversation and all is good, as it could be worse.

2 National titles…doesn’t really need much else to be said after that…AWESOME!

Took some time, about 3 months, to fix up the house in Colorado to get it ready to sell.  A horrifically awesome time to do 3 years of work in 3 months, but it did pay off huge.  Many people may remember that I came to Las Vegas in February and absolutely loved it and didn’t want to drive home again through a massive snowstorm.  Long story short I pulled off the road in Utah and thought long and hard about what needed to happen too avoid another winter of massive nerve pain every time it snowed or got below freezing.  Fast-forward a few months and come October/November of this year I became a resident of Las Vegas.  And I whole-heartedly love it.  I can count on 1 hand the bad nights of sleep I’ve had since being here in comparison to being able to count the nights of good sleep on one hand if I was still living in Colorado.  I’ll say this the only thing that has been more expensive has been vehicle insurance; the rest was less than Colorado.  Yes I left friends behind but this is my life and I need and deserve to be happy and relatively pain free after all the shit I’ve been through.

And now here we are at the end of a pretty epic year.  Told you it was going to be short as I’m tired as hell from my training ride today.  This was the 3rd attempt at climbing this hill over by Lake Las Vegas.  First attempt was pathetic, second attempt was half way, and finally the 3rd time was a full pull.  Why were these so hard?  Well back-to-back 12-13% climbs is hell on the crippled kids legs.  This is done on a compact road crank set and not a mountain bike crank set.  The lack of any other cyclist around tells you that you’re hardcore or stupid but hey no cyclist ever said, “Man all that flat road training really helped my climbing!”  240 feet of climbing in .6 of a mile is Billy goat steep and as it sucks the energy from you it makes you stronger mentally and physically.  I swear even more and laugh a ton on these climbs, and if anything they tell you where your fitness is.  Plus the view from the top is Stratosphere height and it’s AWESOME!

So here we are at the end of another epic year in the post spinal cord injury life of Jay.  (Referring to yourself in the 3rd person is weird.) 

Before I go I really want to thank a few key people:

Of course my family-

Todd and Shauna from BRAAAP and TPD bars-

Emily-

Linda-

Robert S. -

Coach and “DJ Babs”

Etienne and Sophie from Belgium Cycles

Troy, Jill, and the gang at Go Fast Sports

And each and every one of my friends—

Let’s be honest without any of you I would not be where I’m at today.  Thank you all so much!!  Good bye 2015 and hello 2016!!!

 

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A little trip to Bavaria in Vail to talk...

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A little trip to Bavaria in Vail to talk...

This past weekend I had the honor to co-present at a Craig Hospital board member retreat in Vail, CO at the beautiful Sonnenalp Hotel!!

How did I get asked to do such a cool event?  In all actuality this day was 11 years in the making when I broke a vertebrae in my neck and entered the world of spinal cord injury recovery.

Not going to bore you will 11 years of recovery trials and tribulations so let's just rewind about 6 weeks or so...

...I had just come home from a successful weekend of racing in Chattanooga, TN. where I brought home 2 more national titles as a T1 Paracyclist.  Why is this relevant, well, that post spinal cord injury success allows for certain doors to open that might not otherwise open. 

The skinny...

After being asked if such a speaking event would interest me, we started the process of getting everything ready to present our stories of how sports has transformed our lives on and off the proverbial court, if you will, family (nuclear and Craig), when that seed of sport post-injury was planted and the success that has followed in our prospective sports.

Short intro videos were needed to be produced from pictures, You Tube videos, and whatever else we could find that had our mugs on it.  What’s cool about having 2 people speak at different ends of the sports spectrum is that both of us can highlight what it takes to be competitive at a high level of sports versus what it takes to get to that high level of sports from a female and male prospective.  Between the two of us we covered gender, para and quad, bipedal and non, Paralympic medalist and National Champ, 4 different sports (Para-Cycling, wheelchair basketball, downhill skiing, para-canoe) and our universal love for sports from an early age.  And a few various other topics to round it out.

It was the recipe for a 1-2-3 punch at this particular speaking engagement!!

Something that I’ve learned from doing a few different speaking presentations is that no matter what you think you may know about your audience going into it will change at a moments notice.  Also that no matter how in check your emotions may be, they’ll pop up and ambush you when you’re not ready.  Make that about 4 times between the 2 of us…stupid emotions making us all human!

The audience was the Craig Hospital board members and the Craig Hospital Foundation board members along with some spouses and other assorted family.  My only worry was to not showcase my ability to swear with style and grace.  Not in the least worried that I'd be nervous or forget something important.  Just in dropping the F-Bomb at the wrong moment...I was so wrong on the swearing bit.  LOL!  Well let’s just say it happened and on a few occasions over the course of the 2 days but no one really cared.  BONUS!!! 

Friday night was a dinner and mingle event at Up The Creek in Vail and WOW dinner was off the hook delicious!  A little salad, Alaskan Halibut, and brownie a la mode.  And yes I ate it all and it felt good!!  Mingling was awesome!!  In the back of my mind I thought it was going to be almost too business like and not a lot of fun and had planned on calling it an early evening before I even got there.  Haha…big mistake!  Remember that thing about changing at a moment’s notice…it applied here.  Questions and conversations ranging from childhood, to family, stupid shit done on a motorcycle (my favorite), religion, obesity, processed food versus organic food for athletes with or without SCIs and anything else that anyone wanted to ask.  I didn’t leave early and by the time I got back to the hotel, after taking a humorous pedi-cab ride back, I laid down around 11:30pm.  Completely wiped out from having fun!  

Our presentation time was at 9:30am and slotted to last about 90 minutes. A small team meeting before to get everything straight and off to Bavaria Room we went!! 

Tick, tick, tick...90 minutes later.

It’s difficult to sum up or even give bullet points on the presentation because it was such an intimate, organically flowing, let it ride, and see what happens kind of presentation.  Life can surprise us with some truly beautiful moments when you just jump in and let it work for you!!  Honestly the most awesome co-presented presentation I have ever done….High-fives and hugs were the order of business and business was good!!

On a personal note I finally had the opportunity to do something that I have been waiting 11 years for.  And that was to thank those responsible for paying for a power chair for me to go home with because my insurance at the time wouldn’t pay for the proper equipment needed.  Shocker right?  Insurance not paying…unheard of!  Well that marked my 3rd emotional ambush in 90 minutes!!  FN emotions!  When you’ve waited that long to say thank you, tears are bound to happen when, as a collective decision, so many people had such an impact on my life and believed that once I walked I had to give the chair back so someone else could use it.  Paying it forward is an awesome feeling!! 

This short post does no justice to the magnitude of this wonderful event or to the gratitude for being asked to speak at such an event.  Humbled would just about sum it up in one word.

It goes without saying that I need to thank a few people: Tom, Brian, Alana, all the Craig Hospital and Foundation board members, Mike, Veronica, and anyone else that made this experience possible.  Stoked to have done this and that my Craig Hospital Family has grown by about 40 people!! 

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11 years and counting...a time to look back!

Well last week marked the official 11th year of my spinal cord injury…and baby have we come a long way!!  Looking back it seems so long ago but in the same breath it feels like yesterday.  Leaving Craig Hospital in a power wheelchair after 2 1/2 months of hospital rehab I had no idea what the future had in store for me.  Sometimes you need to create the future you want, not the future someone else told you it should be.  

And that my friends, is exactly what happened!

After completely busting my ass to get stronger, for 2 years, I made my first visit to Project Walk in Carlsbad, California in 2006.   Literally got my ass handed to me for a week but came away with the words I wanted to hear, “You don’t need your wheelchair, so when you visit next time don’t bring it!” 

Two more years of hard work and a return visit to Project Walk in Carlsbad.  I did bring my walker this time and was asked if I had my forearm crutches with me and I was instructed to bring those the following day.  Upon my arrival I asked my trainer what to do with them?  He kindly said, “Put them over there on the floor as you won’t be using them in here, I’m gonna make you walk without them.”  "Damn it!!' I said and then again got my ass handed to me for another week, I went home with the knowledge and confidence to one day leave my wheelchair behind.

Yep you guessed it…more gym time and training at home.  By now SCI Recovery Project in Denver had opened and of course I went.  I think it was a year or 18 months later of getting my ass kicked on a weekly basis I had finally left my wheelchair behind for everything except the long hauls.  About this time I had finally got my hands on a trike so I could ride it when I was not in the gym.  

Ride the trike and hit the gym was my motto for a few years then after speaking with a good friend I made the decision to start training for the chance to represent Team USA in the Paralympic games.  Knowing that even if I put the time and effort in I might not make it.  Many athletes don’t…however what happens along the way will be nothing short of awesome, so enjoy it. 

Well with countless hours in the gym and on the trike I have managed to earn 3 U.S. National titles over the past 2 years and befriended many awesome people along the way.  Yep that saying about the journey being the best part, is so true!!

What about my spinal cord injury in all this?  Honestly I don’t think about it much anymore.  Being so active has helped alleviate many of the secondary side effects of my SCI.  Some I’ll never get rid of and I’m cool with.  At this point what function has returned is probably what I’m going to have forever.  Considering where I came from...I’m cool with that!!

Until next time...stay classy!

Jay

 

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