Sunday, 9 August 2015

I haven't written my blog for ages, but the only thing worse than intermittent blogs are intermittent blogs which apologize for being intermittent. So sorry i'm not sorry!

anyway, i wanted to write a tiny bit about the change from bike racing to non profit and the pleasure it brings me. One of my Yaqui friends posted a photo today. A photo of her, her son , her husband and her nephew going for a bike ride. It's not that remarkable, it's 5 Native American people in lycra on various bikes. But for some reason it made tear up . 4 years ago that wouldn't have happened and if all my friends hadn't helped as much as they have it wouldn't be happening. And the fact it happens means so much to me, to the community and to the health of those people and future generations.

It's hard to know how to feel, this means more to me than bike racing ever did. I've won bike races before, not many but some. but when i saw that picture the joy was far more profound than any pleasure i experienced in a skinsuit with a number on. Maybe it's because nobody had to be defeated for me to win, or maybe it's because it's not a victory that will be meaningless in 6 days. But I have never cried, or cared so deeply, about bike racing.

It's a funny feeling. I don't get to punch the air, or stand on an inverted box, or get kissed by two women in a weird sexualized ritual that upsets me, or spray crappy sparkling wine on my friends. And when i wake up tomorrow nobody's world will be any different and i can't clip the page out of the newspaper that reports my result, or send a photo to my granny. but somehow it still feels wonderful, because the results aren't a trophy or a cheque or a jersey. The results are people seeing their children grow up, Living happy, healthy lives and being empowered to stretch their horizons. I always took bike riding for granted until I saw that not everyone could. sharing that with them is the most special thing i have ever done, and the support that people who read this give me in doing that means an awful lot to me.

If you want t donate, you can do so here but this isn't so much about asking you to donate as sharing something with other people that makes my life a very happy one. I have written a lot about bike racing and my journey with diabetes and cycling and I think that it has bought me here, to the best possible road with the most beautiful views i can imagine. I can't wait to see where it goes next!

Sunday, 7 June 2015

broken bones

I'm typing this with one hand because the other one is in an ultrasound machine ( don't worry, my forearm isn't pregnant) which is supposed to make my bones heal more quickly. A week ago, I was finishing up a decent block of training , riding down a hill and eating a cookie. Apparently I share some qualities with Gerald Ford because I managed to wipe myself out and break the radial head of my elbow (third time I've done that) . I managed to laugh at myself, ride back to a convenient place to meet a friend, drop the cookie and smash my helmet.

I took a trip to urgent care, told the doctor I had a radial head fracture, he told me that he would be the judge of what was wrong with me. Then he looked at my X ray and informed me i had a radial head fracture. He put me in a plaster cast. I took a dremel to that pretty quickly, but not before getting in a few quality signatures.

Since then I have ridden a super secret new bike (don't tell the doctor I did that) , visited Trek HQ in Wisconsin (look out for an article in RIDE) and attempted to start running whilst I heal. Wisconsin was great, I rode on fantastic roads, met great people and ate some great food. I consider it a measure of how good my new friends are when I can rely on them to dress/ undress me within a week of meeting them. In general, anyone prepared to listen to me swearing about every bump we ride over and still drink beer with me afterwards passes the friend test.

I was thinking about all the times I have broken myself today whilst I was making inglorious progress through Balboa park and thought it might be fun to make a list. In all honesty I don't really mind the pain that occurs when I break bones, it has never really felt that terrible. But it does make me sad when I have to curtail my adventures to spend time in plaster.

in no particular order, here are some highlights

broken wrist , twice. Falling out of a tree and riding a borrowed mountain bike at the Sea Otter classic , apparently real 'mericans run their brakes the other way around

broken pelvis, i think we all remember that one

compound fracture of my spine (thanks to the lady who drove into me and drove off)
the first bracelet was when I was only speaking nonsense in French and nobody knew my name!
Broken ribs -  have a video of that one

Broken nose - the same way every young adult male gets a broken nose, someone punched me in the face

broken metatarsal in my hand - i punched him in the head

herniated discs - godawful bike fit , rowing

clavicle - Old pubelo Grand Prix

Scapula - road biking on a mountain bike

you get the picture, anyway each bump and break and crack comes with a great story attached. I wouldn't trade any of them for a safe life wrapped in cotton wool in a cubicle. Thanks to the guys at cycle fit, I keep getting back on my bike somehow and finding ways to go fast enough to hurt myself again, but I wouldn't want it any other way.

Friday, 20 March 2015

good fortune, donkeys and Karl Marx

It's been an inexorably long time since I wrote something for this page. No shortage of flights, rest days and thesis procrastination opportunities have gone unused . I could probably make excuses about AYUDA work, finishing my Phd or even writing down my thoughts in RIDE. But realistically there's still time, I just spend it working on my perfect cappuccino and seeing how many things I can balance on my Roomba whilst it clatters around my tiny home. 

Rather than boring you with the mundane details of what I've been up to, I wanted to take your time and use it to reflect on something we don't think about enough : luck. This applies to both the possible reasons you've come here: cycling and diabetes (if you've come here because you're one of my parents, your luck has run out, sorry to be the bearer of bad news). I'm both cases I think most of us are incredibly blind to our good fortune . 

I've read quite a few cyclist's autobiographies this year for the magazine and, if there's one trend, it's the consistent narrative of sacrifice , hard work and desire. Nearly every athlete claims that's what got them to the top. They fail to mention that they were already pretty close to the top when they still had stabilizers on their bikes. When you're born with a v02 max of 78, the sacrifices you make are always going to be rewarded. And that's fine, you're very fortunate. I do think thT as athletes we owe those who don't excel a little more respect than to suggest that we just "wanted it more". Realistically, anyone who gets paid to race a bike is very fortunate. And the sacrifices we make to do it (or made in many cases) are, in the grand scheme of things , minor. Even the amateur guys getting up at 5 am have to give up more than most pros in terms of sleep , social life and spending money. And even then getting up early to partake in your hobby is hardly a day down the mines is it? 

Whilst this narrative isn't intended to be dismissive or dangerous we should apply some caution to it. I see an increasing number of young cyclists making frankly irresponsible decisions based in the notion that anyone can achieve lofty goals if they are willing to give up other things. It's sad, but that's not true. I work with athletes as a coach and I think it's important to be clear with them that all i can make them is the best version of themselves they can be . And that that is a great thing to be. No amount of gluten free food , massage and foam rolling will turn a donkey into a race horse, but sometimes , there's a place for a damn fine donkey. 

The same is true in the world of diabetes , it's very easy for us to make our condition all about ourselves , to speak a narrative of sickness and suffering. In reality , we don't suffer from diabetes in the developed world , I don't suffer from diabetes. I just get pissed off by it sometimes. People do suffer from
Diabetes , people die from diabetes . I understand that some people, sometimes, in the USA, have died from hypos. But as someone living with diabetes you're still way more likely to die in your car. So instead, we should do those less fortunate than is the courtesy of acknowledging out own good fortune. None of us worked out way into being born rich. I'm always happy when young people I work with choose to test more and take a more active role i. Their blood glucose management , but I am as happy when they acknowledge the great good fortune they have to be able to make that choice. In general , I find that acknowledging the latter helps with the former. We realize that we didn't earn our right to be privileged , but that it would be asinine to waste such great good fortune.

Marx said that "Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past."  I agree , I think the amongst the most empowering things we can Do is be hike enough to step back from the narrative of agency and acknowledge the role of fortune . We dont have to allot everything to luck, there's a lot we can change still. But the fact that we get the chance to change our lives and those of others is, in itself, a great stroke of luck . 

Thursday, 13 November 2014

world diabetes day

November the 14th is World Diabetes day, that means that all over the world (in theory) people stop and think about Diabetes. In practice it means that those of us with the luxury of access to information and free time and energy pay attention to diabetes for about 5 minutes. Please take your 5 minutes to read this:

Diabetes is a condition which, with access to insulin and testing supplies is of little impediment to my life. I'm very lucky to be able to travel, exercise and make a fool of myself every day despite the fact that my pancreas doesn't fo everything it should. Many organizations want your money for a cure for diabetes, that's very nice and I hope that they have every success in their work.

As a young(er) person I spent a lot of time travelling, if I had been born in another part of the world, my life would have been very different. Life expectancy with type one diabetes is 8 - 12 months in Mali. That's less than most cancers and even HIV in many places. Again Diabetes is a condition which is entirely treatable with access to insulin and supplies.

There is only one barrier between my reality and a very different one where i die at 18 years old. That barrier is access to medication, I have it and many don't but without it I'd be long gone. 3 companies make insulins, they all continue to practice olligopolisticaly in order to maintain a high and inaccessible price for insulin. As a result of this people die, every day.

you probably bought a poppy for armistice day, several rubber bracelets for something or other and a handful of pink things in October. I don't want you to light up any buildings in a funny colour or run 10k dressed in a silly costume or even wear a little ribbon. I just want you to engage with 100 campaign and to care about  the incredibly unjust pricing of medications in today's world. I say it a lot but nobody should be poor because they're sick or sick because they're poor. Please take a second longer to think about this, to exercise your empathy and to think about life on the other side of the access divide. Cures are great, but let's work with what we have first and make sure we share it with everyone who needs it before we create another inaccessible medication for a privileged few.   #wdd2014 #diabetes #wdd

Monday, 14 July 2014

Bastille day and a brief story

 It's Bastille day. A few years ago it was also Bastille day when I decided to race in France even though i'd had my ribs broken by an angry cow three days before.

 I rode to the race because it was only 30k away (but i forgot to factor in the Pyrenees so I only just made it). Then i took sleeping pills instead of the paracetamol i thought i had bought. Then we all crashed into a dog, French people flicked lit cigarette butts at me whenever i poked my nose off the front.

 I won a bottle of wine,  i got a flat riding home and arrived in Lourdes in the dark with no battery left in my front light. I drank the wine.

 I sometimes wonder how i have managed to continue being alive.

Friday, 4 July 2014


(please be kind to my spelling, I wrote this with two digits in between two sleepless nights and two rather voluminous Brazilians on an aeroplane between two countries)
On Saturday I rode for 5 hours, first with a group then with my thoughts then with my friend and finally with a pretty high blood lactate level. On Sunday I rode  hours on dirt with another friend. By the 5 hour point on Sunday I was certainly treading on thin ice, I was out of water and my head was thumping, i'd thrown up in my mouth and even benign singletrack was beyond me as I rode the brakes hard.

Descending on a dirt track I saw a puddle, I was so cracked I wanted desperately to roll in it. The first house we came across was the first door I've ever knocked on that far from anywhere, I was expecting a torrent of abuse at worst  d a hose at best. Instead, the lady who came out to meet my salt encrusted self collapsed over my bars on her porch rushed inside to bring us iced water and huge slices of watermelon. After expressing our thanks we rolled to the top of the last hill with our jerseys open and salt and sand caked on our cheeks. We stopped at a store with a swinging sign and a large array of chewing tobacco and animal feed. We drank pop and ate ice cream sandwiches and smiled and laughed and let melted ice cream mix with the sweat on our arms and didn't care.

In the 21st century so few of our pleasures are uncomplicated. Delicious food has too many calories, beer means we can't drive (or dance) safely, clothes come from sweatshops and electronics aren't much better. Even deciding how we want to indulge ourselves is hard: apple or PC? Which of the18 types of ice cream do I want? What I love bout riding my bike is the purity and simplicity. I ride until my body decides there is no more riding in it and then rest until its ready to ride again. I love he lack of gut and the purity of pleasure it provides. Sitting on  a strangers porch eating watermelon was one of the purest moments of joy I can remember because, for that moment nothing else mattered. There was no guilt and no thought that anything else could be preferable. With a glass of water and a piece of fruit I was totally content.

I'm sure I would be much better at winning bicycle races and lots of other things if I was more accepting of shades of gray but I love the black and white agony and ecstasy which I get from riding in my bike.  I love being totally exhausted and totally content and I don't think id give that up for more chances to stand on boxes. Its the same reason I love not for profit and the same reason

Friday, 20 June 2014

updates from the 'states

it has been an irredeemably long tie since i wrote on here, i'm sorry about that. I've been otherwise engaged posing in lycra with needles and being mistaken for a colonial by the "special" people at Morgan Hill. I also completed another lap around the sun, resulting in my family sending me items which might be useful in the life they would like me to live. Case in point this rather classy razor which comes with the inference that i should never again rock the Jesus look. And yes, that is a real badger hair brush (i actually participated in a Badger conservation project when i was 11 and spent far too long in a sleeping bag counting baby badgers when i should have been playing video games or watching violent movies like a real kid).

(If you don't want to read the soapboxy bit you may want to skip the next part) 

As always I have been busy with 100 campaign ( and Pascua Yaqui ( work. We've been trying hard to find a bike and equipment sponsor for the latter (any help appreciated, a certain major US firm led us down the garden path and then shut the gate on us). Both of these projects are what gives me the energy to keep going out and training, racing, tweeting and blogging. they put a smile on my face every day and really are the most rewarding things i do. For those of you interested in helping we will be riding El Tour together gaain this year. Please feel free to express interest in joining us (jstout at ayudainc dot net ) for a week of bikes 'betes (some beer) and lots and lots of happy thoughts to get you through the winter.

 It also makes me incredibly angry to think that people STILL average just 7-12 months post diagnosis before they die of diabetes related complications in Mali, this is totally abhorrent and unecessary. It also makes me pretty darn angry that after years of working to remedy this without taking a penny from the pharma companies who CREATE the problem in the first place, I see that the golden child of the US pharmaceutical industry has hopped on the bandwagon as it gathers speed. Whilst we welcome support and awareness of the situation I don't really believe that it's possible for one to act to change a system when one relies on that system for one's not insubstantial paycheck.  Oh and that education and empowerment line, yeah I think i  know where that came from....

keep checking the 100 campaign facebook and website as we are working on some cool updates soon for which we will need your help and your beautiful faces but not your money. So there's no excuse not to support us!

I have also been engaging with people on the internet about the fact that it seems to be ok for people in the USA to keep fu**ing killing each other in places of education and for the only form of action that society takes to be flying their flags a bit lower for a week or so until the next group of innocent young people gets massacred. if you follow me on twitter you've likely seen my weekly gun rant, i am sorry if that upsets you but i teach at a university. Someone walked into my lecture late the other week and half the class ducked, that upsets me, a lot. I'll save my rage for another platform, or for the next person who quotes the US constitution at me like it came down from heaven on the back of an angel, (if so I am guessing that angel was white as the constitution is pretty clear on the role and status of black people in the "land of the free).

the not so angry bit, cycling and coffee
OK, deep breath. I have also spending a totally ridiculous amount of time trying to perfect my espresso game. I quite like my new coffee machine (it's a gaggia baby classic), i find it to be a lot like cycling. you change something tiny and the result is huge, you balance all the many variables and strive for perfect output, and most of the time the result is just dark and bitter but there's always just enough lingering sweetness and the hint of something truly wonderful, so you keep trying.

 and yes, that is indeed a large mason jar full of energy gels. Judge me 

Also much like cycling, coffee has different disciplines and skillsets. Excelling at espresso doesn't make you a pourover guru and making good microfoam doesn't give you much cred in the world of roasting and blending. Thus far i have found latte art to be the equivalent of North Shore MTB in that it is entirely beyond my capacities .

Obviously coffee plays a pretty big role IN cycling, i think about 30% of my rides involve some form of caffeine intake and the amount of instagramming i do from birdrock is shamefully hipster. I really appreciate the difference between bad coffee and good coffee. To me, it's a lot like bike riding or life in general, a quality espresso beats out a 20oz gas station mug of hot brown water. Consistency and quality inputs are rewarded and as you keep trying you always get better. But you can overdo it as well, just like the old pedaling.

Oh and talking of pedaling i have entered some bicycling contests with mixed success