It’s been 4 weeks since I’ve had my surgery. Honestly I can’t believe how good I feel. The pain that has dogged me these last few months has gone away. I’ve been cleared to ride outside, on the road, with a brace.  It was nice because we have had awesome weather in the 60s last week. My doctor says unless I fall or get hit by a car I’m fine. I’m listening to my doctors and staying within the confines of the orders.  Others that do not know me other than through the internet have told me that it is too much too soon. To them I say go somewhere else, it’s my life. I’m a responsible adult and know my limitations as set forth by my care givers. My main goal is to stay in shape. My second goal is to not lose sight of who I am. with a year of recovery in front of me these goals will test me.  As an athlete, I believe that my fitness and good nutrition will aid in a quicker recovery.   it doesn’t hurt that I represent Hammer Nutrition, the best sports and nutrition supplement company around.  Bone growth is a slow process. but can be even slower for those with poor health and eating habits.  My one year goal is to have obtained total fusion of the 3 vertebrae and to be standing on the podium at the 24 Hours of Old Pueblo with my duo partner. A lofty goal but but so far away. That would put me at 13 months post-op. It would be an incredible feat but not the most incredible in my life.

Back in ’91 I was involved in one of the worst accidents in U.S. Cycling history when a vehicle drove through the front of the cat 3 peloton in the Tour de Moore road race. 18 riders ended up in the county hospital that day, many more were lucky that only their bikes were broken.

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I was the worst of the injured, I almost lost my left leg and doctors said I would never compete at a high level again. I proved the doctors wrong when I went on to be one of the best cyclists in northern Italy a few years later.

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I beat dopers and cheats. Now I’m up against myself. It takes time to heal properly.  I have to reign in my desire to do anything more than just maintain fitness.  The older I get the more set in my ways  I become. I’ll need to change up my routine for a year.  I am a survivor, I will return again. Competition is in my DNA. Wether it be against others or myself.

Follow me this year as I make progress towards my return. Time is on my side.

I’m 11 days post-op, I honestly feel good. There is a plate holding 3 vertebrae with material for bone to grow through in place of 2 disks. Pain has been near non existent and I started walking and riding a stationary bike 2 days after, as allowed by my neurosurgeon (NS). I’m wearing a brace for everything except showering. I can’t drive or go back to work yet and no lifting more than 8 pounds. That I hope will change after my 1st follow up with the NS in 12 more days. Till then it’s more of the same, indoor cycling, outdoor walking with my dogs, proper nutrition to aid in healing, and lots of rest.

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It’s crazy how fast some things can change especially medical issues. I’ve been suffering from chronic pain due to an injury I sustained 20 years ago. The last year and a half I’ve noticed reduced strength in my left arm along with an increase in neck and shoulder pain. A trip to the doctor and I was diagnosed with an acute muscle imbalance. 6 months of physical therapy later I felt a bit better but still felt something was wrong. This past year I raced some very long races on a rigid Fatbike. This action, along with several crashes (IKR, like that doesn’t happen MTBing) probably resulted in an accelerated degradation of what was going on in my body. A revisit to a doc that finally listened to me hastened the review of my problems and sent me to a neurosurgeon. On the first visit after a review of all my exams and images I was given one option, a fusing of my C4,5,6. Deep down inside I probably knew this was going to happen but chose to ignore it.
Here is what the MRI of my neck with it’s bulging discs and narrowed spinal column look like

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I was told I’m one severe crash away from possible paralysis.
So, with that knowledge and the possibility of being able to ride with less pain (or, hopefully none at all) I opted to have my discs removed and 3 vertebrae fused together.
I’m optimistic and scared at the same time. Surgery is in 12 hours. See you all soon

2015, after a year of riding fat tires and Singlespeed in some big races (24 Hours in the Old Pueblo, AZT300, Salida BFL, Laramie Enduro, Crested Butte Classic) to some fantastic results, I’m changing gears and going to be riding gears and full suspension on a Salsa Spearfish RS1. I still will hit the trails every now and then on my beloved Black Sheep custom Fatbike, but will primarily be on gears to see what the big deal is 😉.

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And I’m proud to again be representing Hammer Nutrition as a Brand Ambassador. They produce the best all encompassing nutritional products available for endurance athletes and even without representing them I would still use and recommend them to anyone I coach or is looking for a solution to fueling issues in long races.

WyoracerX-Hammer On!

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July 15 2014, the Classic took on a new date slot moving from late September/October to July to avoid cancellation due to snow (like last years race) and to let riders enjoy more daylight and a warmer start. 2 out of 3 isn’t bad as there was still some snow on trail 403 supposedly that caused a last minute change in the course. I, for one, was fine with the trails north off Gothic left out. The brake smoking decent off 403 to Gothic road will wait for another classic. I did miss the ascent of Slate d’Huez though.

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This years starting field was relatively small compared to previous editions where a waiting list starts filling soon after the first 74 entrants have listed their intentions to commit to the Classic. The first 74 usually fills in February shortly after race date announcement, tentative or not. It’s that fun of a race. Many riders only attempt the first loop, it’s that hard.
This years race totaled ~108 miles +12500′ of climbing. I ended up getting 115 miles due to a few miscues.
My bike of choice for this year was my beautiful Black Sheep Phat Speedster SS

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The race starts at Brick Oven Pizzeria downtown CB. The 30-40 riders were dressed fairly light as the morning temps were in the upper 50s. Much nicer than previous years where temps have been as low as the mid 20s.

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My bottles packed with Hammer Perpetuem and HEED we rolled out of town to the first loop, Strand-Teocalli Ridge-Canal. I opted to take the first loop easy by riding along with another rider from Cheyenne on his first attempt at a Classic Epic.

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The first loop was a blast, big mountains, long climbs/descents, epic views, and big and little water crossings.

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if you zoom in you might just see Mike in the middle of the photo

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After the start of Teocalli, I pushed on knowing Mike would indeed finish the first loop. Racing down the sweet descent off Teo I came up on a rider with a torn sidewall at the bead. Life was going to be sucking for him. He was on a 26er, no spare tube, no sewing kit or anyway to patch it up to keep on riding. He had none of this stuff yet his pack was twice the size of mine. Go figure. At least it was all downhill to the road.
I completed the lap and said hi to Mike’s girlfriend, telling her he was doing great and that he could stop and enjoy the day (like so many others were doing). He already had an epic in the books as far as I could tell.
Perpetuem bottles and a few gels replenished, I headed out on the next loop with Dominic L. This guy has a motor that just runs forever. He just pedals on and hardly anything bothers him (from what I can tell). We take to the highway that leads us to an area I’ve wanted to ride at but have yet to, South Crested Butte (South CB for short). When we start up Cement Creek rd I bid adieu to Dom as I’m riding a singlespeed and uphill is much easier at my pace. The road goes on forever. I even get to see the leader, Kelly Magelky as he is rolling downhill enroute back to CB. Eventually I hit dirt and the road gets steeper. I come across a guy in a meticulously clean 4×4 that I move over for and wave by. But he just stops on the road and jumps out of the driver side. Uh-oh I think. Then he asks me if I’m in the Classic.
Relieved I reply yes, and he starts snapping photos. I wish I knew who it was because I’d like to get a copy of them pics. Another mile or so and I reach the top of Reno. There is a group of motos and a couple cyclists that aren’t in the Classic standing around. I ride forward to a trail sign that says Flag. That’s all I needed to go straight down an insane multi-use trail that drops a bunch of elevation. I rip it on my Fatbike eventually catching another rider. We rode together flying along the sweet singletrack. Eventually coming across a trail intersection. I had no gps track of the area and for whatever reason, incorrectly assumed we should continue downhill. A couple or so miles later he slashes a sidewall in a muddy crossing, his second flat of the day. A couple of moto riders come through a gate and we ask how far to the road. This is when we discover that we should not have continued downhill. He pulls out his map, and I do a quick assessment and realize our turn was “way back up there”. There wasn’t much I could do for him as my fat tube was not going to fit his 29er. He said he was ok and I pressed on back onto the course. Interesting was that I passed a sign indicating I was on course now and 6 miles from the road. Lies, all lies; it was 10 miles to the road and after the climb (it was turning slick from a slight precipitation that had been going on for bit now) there was a steep switchback decent that led to the biggest water crossing of the race. Thank God there was a rope to hold onto. As with several previous crossings, I removed my shoes and socks. It was pretty fast and the bike floated due to the 4″ tires, pulling me downstream. I was relieved when I finally got to the other side.
Shoes on, I motored down the descent to the highway back to CB.
Now the whole while I had only intended on riding the first 2 laps, but the conversation with Dom was that I have to finish. I was the only Singlespeeder. I still felt relatively good when I rolled up to my truck and decided that I would go on and finish. ~25 miles left and 3 hours of daylight, how hard could it be? The check-in even asked if I had lights. I did, but had figured I could ride the last loop w/out the need for them.
It started thundering and eventually drizzling as I made my way up the pass enroute to Dyke trail. I had ridden this loop in the past but in a group and was not remembering much after I turned onto the road to the lake. By now I had put on my rain jacket as the rain had increased. Encountering the lake I headed around the SW corner on the road looking for the trail. After some climbing on the road, I decided that I must have missed the TH and with the increasing rain and no lights decided it best to head home for the dnf. On the descent I came across Dom again. I flipped a U and asked if he knew where the trail was and if he had lights that I could follow. Yes on both, we proceeded back up from where I came…all the way. 100′ past where I had previously turned around was a TH sign showing Dyke trail. A couple expletives later I join Dom on the slick trail. So slick was the traIl at times that riding uphill was not possible and walking even less. Slog and cussing later we eventually made it to the road. The uphill to the pass was much longer than we had remembered. I was suffering a bit by this time. And was only thinking of getting over the pass, down the other side and getting warm. Shivering is not fun, especially when you have a 9 mile descent in the cold. We rolled into the Brick Oven as the last 2 finishers.
14 hours 43 minutes, 115 miles. I was shivering uncontrollably and needed warmth. Mike brings me a heavy jacket and someone from the Oven got me a hot chocolate. I eventually warmed up enough to have a beer and someone offered me his leftover pizza. Life was better now.

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My bike in dire need of a wash.
On Sunday, my dogs got full attention for their patience in letting me ride all day Saturday.

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We went on an easy ride after I washed the bike up to a beautiful cirque off Slate road. Paradise

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Sandwiched between Fort Collins and Cheyenne, these two open spaces share interconnecting trails. It’s not technical riding in the slightest but the sandy washes, long climbs, fast twisty descents and sheer beauty of the Big Hole make it an underground destination for endurance riders looking for a solid +5 hours of riding. There are shorter loops but I prefer mine @ ~40 miles and +4000′ of climbing.

Red Mountain Open Space

Soapstone Prairie

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The race is part of the Colorado Endurance Series, a series of self-supported, on your own, no assistance provided other than what you can find along the way races. Fully decked out in my Hammer kit, I did the Bigger Loop, consisting of 106 miles and ~13000′ climbing. This race takes in the Colorado Trail from near Salida Colorado to Buena Vista then heads east and rides up and down the Arkansas Hills before returning to the start. 64 of us met early at Cafe Dawn in downtown Salida. We signed in and Tom P gave us last minute instructions and we were off.

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This year I decided to do the race on gears and suspension versus last years rigid Blacksheep Fatbike, it was a hard decision.

The roll out was fast and I found myself in the back watching the top dogs roll away, most of them were doing the “shorter” race (89miles) and this old dog needed to ride sensible and warm up proper before “throwing down”. On the 8.8 miles of pavement before we hit dirt I warmed up quickly in the rising sun. I left the group I was in and began to ride my own pace which would have me riding solo all the way to Buena Vista. On the horizon was the first objective the climb to the Shavano TH on the Colorado Trail.

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Of the ~13000′ of climbing, the course climbs 3400′ in the first 15 miles alone.

I didn’t go crazy hard, I kept it real and rode smooth.  The beauty of the Colorado Trail and the podcasts of NPRs Snap Judgement loaded on my IPod kept me in good spirits.  With Hammer Nutrition gels/bars and Perpetuem, I knew that only a mechanical or crash would delay me arriving in BV in around 5 hours. 

Halfway to Princeton Hot Springs I had my only crash, it was on an off camber washed out section of the CT.  It wasn’t bad as I was able to jump off my bike, but the rear derailleur smacked something hard enough to bend it or the hanger out of whack.  I figured this out pretty quickly when I shifted into my spokes on the next steep climb.  

The rest of the trail was fairly uneventful, with the exception that I got to watch a rider go over the bars on a section that I figured was safer to walk than ride.  He was OK by the way.

With a resupply at 47 miles in Buena Vista I was able to carry a ziplock bag of Perpetuem to refill my food bottles and thanks to the bike shop, Boneshaker Cycles, having cold Heed available was able to fill my 3ltr water bladder full for the heat i would encounter over the next 60 miles.

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They also had Bacon and Whiskey

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I deserved bonus points as I couldn’t resist a small shot.  It was so smooth and tasty I had to hold myself back from having another.

This was my only stop of the day.  The finish-line beer awaits.

Crossing the Arkansas river I had gained the company of Joe S on my wheel.  I try to keep it as Solo as possible at times and until I took a wrong turn on the Midland trail I kept pretty much to myself and Snap Judgement.  After that SNAFU we rode mostly side by side on the way out to Chub Park (where does that name come from?) I let him roll away hoping to catch him on the climbs after Trout Creek pass. It was warm and I knew what was lying ahead.

Casually descending to Chub Park I was caught by Tom and Robert and I decided to get my act together if I didn’t want to get passed by anyone else.  We rode the windless dirt roads together, which was a nice change from last years stiff headwinds, until after a short rise I found myself alone again. Crossing Hwy 285 I eventually caught up to Raphael from Sub Culture Cycles in Salida.  He had been up with the front group at the start and was showing fatigue on the hills.  He was good company and I slowed to his pace and turned the podcast off in my ears for the last time.  Eventually Robert rejoins us saying that Tom had stopped but would probably catch up.  He would not catch us as we rode together up the long climb interspersed with some short downhill sections.  It was here that another rider came flying by us.  nice Second Wind we remarked.  

After missing the turn to Futurity and being alerted by my GPS, we found ourselves riding back uphill to the hidden turn.  It was here we came back across Second Wind coming towards us remarking that this can’t be the trail with all the down trees.  I assured him the it was and the trees were for walking over. Eventually we would be able to remount our bikes and ride out the rough singletrack.  By now Raphael had faded back and it was just Robert and myself.  We stopped at Futurity and picked up some SBFL chips (rocks) that Tom P had placed in an abandon building.  The chip removes 45 minutes from your finishing time but it doesn’t hurt any less.  

The race was almost over now.  We decended to rejoin the short loop and with one last big climb, a fast descent, another shorter climb, and a faster descent we were back in Salida.  The temps had dropped quickly with a passing shower that we had avoided.  It was enough for my hands to be suffering from a pretty bad case of Reynauds.  I could only tell how hard I was braking into corners by the momentum I felt when slowing down from the high speed descent.

It was a new long course and I was super stoked to finish the 106 miles under 11 hours and in 10th place. 

Colorado Endurance Series SBFL

Results and links to other blogs

Arizona Trail Race, 300 miles of fun and suffering on 4″ tires
Let me preface this by stating this was my first ever bikepacking race. I have only
Parker Canyon lake, 0700 I awoke from my bivy with the others and slowly started the repacking of the bags. 2 hours prior to go time. Tony, Josh, and I had been dropped off the day prior by Steve Osborn. A cyclist, like many, that delighted in watching the blue dots of the riders on trackleaders.com with the desire to one day compete in the race itself. Bags packed, water loaded we made our way from the campground to the start a few uphill miles away. By the time we arrived, the faster ‘alien class’ 750 mile riders were already rolling through having started earlier from the Mexican border. A few good morning greetings and before long race director Scott Morrison was giving last minute instructions.
The descent down “Gear Check” hill seemed smoother than the first time I rode it and I settled into a good pace. The first 30 miles are a seemingly endless mix of rocky steep hills and washes. Following my belief that you can’t finish if your body and bike break, I practiced good judgment by walking down the nasty stuff. Watching El Freako launch over the bars on one downhill only reinforced that thinking. 4.5 hours in I rolled into Patagonia and grabbed a coke and headed to Sonoita for ‘real’ food and a break. I had to stop a few times on the hwy to stretch my cramping legs. Something I heard quite a few riders had to do. I Grabbed some food at the Sonoita market and put my legs up for a bit and discovered a clean 2.5″ cut in the outer casing of my front Husker Du. Visual inspection showed no cords cut, and tubeless integrity intact. This slight issue would weigh heavily on my mind over the next 270 miles. I was determined to finish and rode more cautiously and slower than I would have had this been a normal trail ride. Onto the Kentucky Camp section. A bunch of gravel roads and up/down singletrack lead to KC and some great tasting water. I didn’t waste much time topping off and shortly after nightfall I passed Elliot, a 750 rider on the trail enjoying a dinner break. It was a good idea because after that the trail got fun and fast. All the way to the I-10 underpass. After crossing under I expected more of the same all the way to the Sevilla picnic area and a water fill-up. Wrong expectations as the trail would be rough, not so flowy, and much slower than hoped. I made it there around 1am and went looking for the spigot in the rock. Having found the spigot, I sat, ate, and contemplated pushing on to an area 10-15 miles further. While I was sitting there trying to decide if it was worth it, the El Freako express with Dan, Josh, and Jen in tow rolled in. Liking the suggestion of sleeping a few hours before pressing on to the Rincon Market, we bedded down. I slept on the edge of a shelter that everyone was under and woke up to rain on my face just in time to see Tony come rolling in. According to him, I shooshed him pretty loudly for making noise and he rolled on and I fell back to sleep encased in my SOL bivy.

I did a little piece for bikepackersmagazine.com prior to my AZT300 attempt. Check it out here
Bikepackers Magazine

I had this crazy idea many months ago that doing a 24 hour race in February would spark the fitness training Tony and I would need to be in shape for the AZT300 in April. With Tony’s SS and my fat bike and an Airstream we headed down south of Tucson the week before our duo 24 hour attempt to scope out a few segments of the AZT to see how bad it was.

We found our way to the Palmer lake trailhead before noon and headed out on what would be a day of riding and hike-a-biking that took longer than we were expecting. And instead of an out and back we settled for a road ride back to camp.

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It was an eye opener for sure.
Next day we tackled the Reddington road section and checked out our off course support options. Reddington and the 4wd rodeo section that followed was not fun in the heat of the day and I was pretty much out of water by the time we got back to the truck

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AZT mini view done we hauled the Airstream to the race venue where we were told it would open up to camping at noon on Thursday. What we found was that people had been parking trailers here since the previous weekend and it was looking pretty full by normal standards. We found a spot and discovered it would be a madhouse the next day when every inch of space would be a battleground for incoming RVs.

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I was content to ride one lap and say hello to a bunch of people. Tony wanted to see the course at night and while I hung out at the Back of the Pack Racing tent eating chips and drinking beer, he took in the night air and all the scary cacti that wanted a piece of his hide.
I had devised a loose game-plan on what it would take to put us on the podium. Logistics of everything available for each other’s downtime between laps to be most efficient with our time. Charging stations and food/gear hung from an over-the-door shoe organizer

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With our nutritional items at the ready.
We both got a good nights sleep on Friday waking up rested for the next +26 hours we would both be awake for.
Oh yeah, I drew the short straw and got the honor of being the rider to start off first. Which wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t a half mile run to the bike with everyone else, choking down dust and tripping over each other in cycling shoes.
1200 noon, off running I go. I rode fairly quickly and had one of my fastest laps, that included my run time. Baton handed off I rolled back to camp to the start of what be my routine for the next 24 hours. Shoes off, Hydrate, eat, rest, shoes on, bike back to transition tent to await Tony. The first time he came in I never heard our rider number called out and got the stink eye from Tony when I heard him yelling my name, oops sorry.
We were clicking along nicely after that and had moved up to 8th place before midnight. By 3am we were in 6th hot on the heels of the next team when Tony told me one of the teams had lost a rider and would probably stop and sleep soon, bonus! Everything had been going well for us until my 4:30 lap when I lost all power. I had been clocking 1:10 – 1:15 lap times up till then. This one ended up 1:27. I had no idea what had happened and Tony was worried that I was done. Whatever happened, I bounced back the next lap, much to the relief of my teammate. We were in a virtual tie for 5th place at this point and every second counted. Tony continued to pile on fast laps and come in with an advantage and I’d try to hold it. I had calculated that it would take 19 laps to finish on the podium, and at the current pace I would have the honor of riding the last lap, the 19th. If we could keep the pressure on the other team we’d have our podium. Tony came in @10:49am meaning, unless I turned a lap faster than 1:11, he wouldn’t have to ride another lap. I rode a fast lap, spurred on by keeping up with KRefs as we flew through the first half of the course, 1:13 by my estimation, and arrived at the conga line to the finishing tent officially crossing in 1:17. Tony greeted me with a beer and I was all smiles.

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It was hard to describe how I felt. Jubilant joy. 19 laps, over 300 off-road miles ridden between the 2 of us, 5th place Male Duo team, riding a Fatbike and a Singlespeed just to make it interesting.

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