Wednesday, 15 September 2010

little steps in the big apple

the next installment of my riveting series of random musings is once again coming from the almost impossibly glam location of a small turbo-prop (sounds like a rapid rugby player doesn't it?) plane headed from La Guardia to Dallas. I'm just coming back from some athlete days with our sponsors in the Bronx.

first up i want to say i had fun, i stayed in a pretty swish hotel, ate food which costs more than i spend in a week on groceries and i managed to use my ability to fit through small gaps to sneak into flushing meadow. There wasn't much tennis going down but i did pilfer a couple of US open balls and one of those re-entry stampers which allowed me to liberally distribute the benefits of free entry to the people of queens. which brings me to my next point, those re-entry stampers are straight up racist - think about it. right now im writing a letter to Obama but he'll probably ignore me 'cos he's a muslim, or the antichrist, or not a real American, heck i bet he doesn't even drink bud light. Oh no , hang on, thats a load of rubbish he's just a lot more intelligent and less rampantly populist than Glen Beck.

anyway was i've started to get a teeny bit political i want to continue in a slightly more serious vein. Some of the stuff i saw in the Bronx was really upsetting. I met a lot of people who have lost, limbs, eyesight and loved ones to diabetes. I think that up until now, the people i had encountered how were not managing their sugars well were doing so because they chose not to but this isn't always the case. These guys want to be better, they want to see their children grow up healthy and even still be able to see their grandchildren and have both their legs so that they can walk around and play with them. In a rich country which can afford numerous global wars, is it too much to ask that these people are given (yes given, for free by the taxpayer) the ability to check their sugars more than 3 times a day?

I met a gentleman yesterday whos truck me as one of the most badass guys i'm ever likely to encounter, he was as tall as i am, covered in tattoos and he had shoulders which would put most carthorses to shame. Let's call him carlos, not because it's his name but because it helps to have a name when telling a story. I was talking to him about diet, asking him how large a portion of rice should be, he indicated his plate, all of it, and then motioned to show about an inch of thickness. I smiled and said no, that a portion should be roughly fist sized, he looked at me and told me he was a big guy and he liked to eat, this was his portion he said.

The community outreach co-ordinator overheard this and stepped in. Let's call the community worker Henry, because that's his name so it seems sensible to use it. He asked the carlos if he had kids and carlos responded that yes, he did. Then Henry proceeded to ask Carlos if he wanted to see his Kids grow up, Henry said he's lost 4 siblings to Diabetes; his first brother to survive to 50 was currently undergoing a second progressive amputation cycle, none of the others had got that far.Some of henry's siblings had children he said; he tries to be a good uncle (and having seen how caring he is in his work, i have no doubt he is an excellent one) but nothing would bring their parents back. Pretty soon Carlos was dealing with his disease, for the first time and the enormity of it moved him to tears, it was hard not to join him.

that night i went to the sugar babies club for children, we talked for a few hours about our diabetes. One girl was hugely resistant, she claimed she wasn't taking her insulin and didn't need to. We talked for what seemed like forever, i could see she was clever and a rebel, she didn't want to be told what to do. I can sympathize with that, neither do I. it was the hardest i think i've ever worked with a young person and i'm a teacher but we talked and talked. She said she wanted to start taking exercise and i helped her with some ideas, some strategies. When she left, i still felt partially defeated. then the pediatric endo who was attending came up to ame and said "you know what, right before she left she asked me if she could go back on the pump. She saw you had yours on your arm and she thought it was cool you were proud of it" that made me pretty happy.

What made me really happy were the three little boys. 5, 7 and 10 years old; two brothers and a cousin. the youngest kid pulled on my shirt and wanted to talk, so i bent down and asked him what he wanted. He wanted to know how he could sign up for the team, and could i teach him to ride a bike. i thought that was very cool, i hope i can go back and i hope they can get bikes and i can ride with them but i know it must be tough growing up in the Bronx. you're battling poverty, a cultural inclination towards poor diet and cheap food, a lack of options for exercise and provision for education and health care. Not to mention a language barrier, i only spoke for maybe 1 hour in English during a 9 hour day.

anyway it's nice to make a difference to one, or two or three people but that isn't going to solve the problem. the community there is afflicted with type 2 diabetes in a big way and big changes need to be made to help them.There are fantastic people like Henry out there giving of their time and opening up their deeply personal stories to make sure they don't get repeated. I don't know many people who would refer to their loss of an eye as an "educable opportunity" i think that's also pretty cool. Anyway, next time you think about health care reform or you think about giving to charity think about those little kids and big men who really really need help. Our friends in the industry are working to get them meters, strips and medications but it seems like an uphill struggle.

Friday, 3 September 2010

the love from above

two blog entries in rapid succession - it's not often you get this lucky now is it. I wouldn't expect much at Christmas this year kids, with the sort of treats you're getting right now the blog-o-bank might soon become depleted.

Anyway, in the grand style of harry enfield and chums, this week i have been mainly; traveling. in fact as i write this i'm in an aeroplane. yep a freaking jumbo jet. unlike a certain mr Armstrong it's not MY plane, just A plane. but then again i'm not being spoofed by the onion either so it all balances out in the end.

the reasons for my jetsetting this week are wide and varied i drove to LA to see my friends (and of course to appreciate the free-flowing beauty of the interstate highways system). now im off to Ct to see a wedding. Then im back to san diego (because you can't miss tuesday night racing now can you) then im off to new york for an athlete day.

i thought seeing as i have been doing so much traveling i might throw out my top ten timely travel tips:
1)the bike boxes with the skewers that bolt in the side aren't great, if you use one, make sure to do up the skewers really loose, or they'll get snapped
2) sitting on your arse for ages does nasty things to your metabolism, so if you're afflicted with the 'betes check more eat less! they can hook up special meals if you ask in advance, they can hook up 2 if you bat your eyelids and flick your hair about a bit.
3) compression socks do good things to your legs - wear them int he car and on the plane
4) don't wear a really big belt buckle, or trousers that wont stay up without the belt in - it's awkward
5) don't tell them your insulin pump is a parole tag, apparently that's not funny
6) airport food is pants so is plane food but you knew that - i always stash some nakd goodies
7) you can get in flight wifi - how nuts is that?
8)earplugs and eyemasks rule for sleeping on the plane, but i still want to try one of those n shaped pillows.
9) ipod chargers/ radio transmitters in the car are cool. so are old mix tapes or cds
10) the drinks are free but they aren't going to run out, if you drink 4 cans dont expect me to get up 4 times for you to go to the toilet - you've got a perfectly good pile of receptacles in front of you.

oh pants the lights just went off and they told us to sit down - not sure i have any tips left for that.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

snorkel summer

well my trip back to the mothership is over and i've returned to San Diego where the weather, (like the majority of the population) maxes up for a lack of anything remarkable by being consistently "pleasant". I've had a fun summer pedalling around europe in what seems to have been a perpetual dirzzle but, like the weather my experiences were punctuated with some exciting thunderclaps and torrential downpours.

The last few race sin Belgium saw some interesting results, notably my foray of the front of a kermis where it was raining so hard we may as well have been racing on an ice rink. My attempts to secure the ultimate prize (or at least a crisp 10 euro bill) were foiled by a chap dressed in green who took a rapid dislike to my ability to go around corners faster than him. He informed me "you will no go up the left" i corrected him and in the next corner i illustrated that i would in fact "go up the left". Seeing his potential career as a fortune teller come crashing down around him.he decided to sprint up to me and inform me once again of my misreading of the impeding corner where i, once again, planned to move up the inside. By the way; if you're wondering why i kept moving up it's because i was moving backwards (not by my own volition) on the screaming fast crosswindy straights. Anyway our leprechaun lookalike decided enough was enough and, as i moved up on his left he hooked my bars and we both made one of the most dramatic entrances into a cafe which i can recall being involved with. Not wanting to hang around and pick up espresso mugs i tried to chase back on. finding the (not so) jolly green gimp in between myself and the bunch i decided to make use of his presence and went for the unsolicited hip sling. This didn't go down well words were exchanged in many languages and Matt stepped in with the night club classic "leave him mate, it's not worth it". Seeing matt and scott slipping off the back ahead of me and the incredible hulk look a like we decided the tactic best suited to our long term well being might be to hop in the corsa and bugger off before the hulk got angry, so that's exactly what we did. Fortunately the field had been shredded so far by this point that i still got a finish in the top half!

the next day my water bottle fell out on the cobbles and mashed my derailleur and put me in the ditch, that was really pants.

Having returned to dear old blighty (and ic an tell you it was quite the trip, but im saving that story for another day). I indulged in some good old fashioned national B chippers. Moments of amusement included the bloke who turned up in a porsche on a 12 grand bike, the porsche was absent at the end of the race, the 12 grand bike, and it's panting owner were absent the second time up the climb: you can't buy speed kids. Another notable James' moment involved my riding of the front of a race, going extra super hypoglycaemic packing in the feed thinking i was dropped, eating sandwiches and a coke only to see the bunch coming along. i joined back in and came a respectable 2nd in the sprint (albeit with a metric shitton of people up the road), nothing like a lunch stop to perk up ahilly road race with 2 inches of rainfall.

the last road race id id at home saw me achieving the unique distinction of being the first human being ever to roll a clincher and i picked a great time to do so. On the start finish climb with a lap to go i found myself 2 minutes adrift holding my ambrosio wheel up in the air (and let me tell you my arms are not optimised for holding anything apart from other people's attention). 8 miles of purgatory and 2 big piles of horse shit later ig ot back into the bunch after an epic effort from the follow car, i got in a good position for the sprint, popped in the clutch lined it up, pressed the button and engaged reverse. lame.

i hope you had as much fun as i did this summer, even if you didn't do everything you wanted to maybe you did everything you needed to. After a few weeks of "proper" racing i've got my enthusiasm back. bring on the time of year for riding bikes on mud :)