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

Monday, 28 April 2014

baja bike racing, being nice and better breakfasts

it' been a month. Sorry about that. In my defense I've submitted a chapter of my thesis, done some writing in other places  and pedaled around a bit. I've still been twittering and 'gramming away like nobody's business but sometimes it's cathartic to sit down and share something longer than 140 characters.

So in no particular order here's what I've been up to (is this the point when everyone who isn't my mother stops reading?) : I have entered some bike races, mostly in Baja but with a smattering of (arriba?) California thrown in a well. I managed to distinguish myself in one by falling over, getting angry, catching up, getting angrier when nobody would work in the 30+mph wind (yes it WAS that strong), heading off on my own to try and find co-operative souls. Finding the break uncooperative i headed off on my own again to pursue the leaders and managed to find all but two of them. Thus i managed to make it onto the box for the first time this year, to spend a large majority of the 150k in the wind, to earn Tecate, tacos and a fistful of pesos and of course to get my trophy taken to pieces by the overzealous border guard who thought the sweat, dust, spandex and excessive tamale consumption i was exhibiting were all part of an elaborate ruse. He never actually noticed the fact i DID have syringes, vials and prescription meds in my pocket.
i was standing up here 
and trying not to laugh as these guys played "total eclipse of the heart" in Spanish and all i could think of was this 

(this is the point when my mother stops reading as nobody wants to read my race stories). I've also been experimenting with the Vb6 diet. basically i avoid animal products before 6pm. I like this approach for a number of reasons, not least because it treats food as a pleasure and not a faith. I think labelling oneself by diet is indicative of a less than optimal relationship with food. I try and avoid animal products for most of the day, not because i think that people who don't are the spawn of Satan but because i hope that it help in some way to reduce my environmental impact. If i slip up i'm not going to cry about and feel like i have failed, i'd have eaten animal products later that day anyway. But i have made a commitment to try and so I do try. It seems pretty easy so far. I make a big museli mix of oats and chia and flax seed and all kinds of dried fruit with almond or coconut milk for breakfast. When i am riding i lean on trail mix and peanut butter based sandwiches a lot. I let myself have honey as well because, frankly, agave can bugger off, it's just overpriced hipster HFCS. lunch is easy, hummus, veggies, bread, salad, beans ( i try and avoid too much in the way of soy) , pretzels and raisins have become my go to low snack when teaching and then when i get home i have a nice piece of fish or meat and some yogurt ( i don't need any MORE broken bones!).                                                

powered by peanut butter! 

I have had pretty good control eating like this, not BECAUSE vegan food is better for diabetes or health but mainly because i check the labels on things, don't just grab cookies from the corner of the office and i know what i'm eating. I know everyone will jump down my throat for saying it but i don't feel that i could get out of my own way on a bike without some animal protein each day. Maybe i could if i had the time/ energy to calculate all my macronutrients but the whole point is to eat food that's good for the planet and good for my body and my mind and logging food is far from the latter.
I have a totally healthy relationship with chocolate.....

Writing and researching an article on eating disorders in cyclists has really opened my eyes to how lucky i am to be able to enjoy and appreciate food for what it is which is one of life's great pleasures. It's also taught me that for so many people food is something to be feared. many people who you've heard of have reached out to me to talk. Some anonymously others openly. At this stage I'll just say that it's an issue we should all be aware of and that so many eating disorders stem from low self esteem. The best thing we can do to help people through what is becoming an endemic situation is to let them know we value them as people not just as race winners. I look on twitter and see so much negativity these days, perhaps we could all commit to complementing someone, especially someone who might not be on the receiving end of lots of compliments that day (i.e. not the guy who just won LBL but the dude who went as hard as he could to make it to 50k to go and then got shelled like these peanuts i am munching on) .

As fans of cycling we focus on the idea of a clean sport as if it is a moral end in itself but isn't a lack of doping just a means to an end? Shouldn't we be working towards a healthy, nurturing and safe cycling which doesn't leave riders at 35 with drug issues, depression or disordered eating? All of he above aren't helped by low self esteem and i think we, as fans and commentators CAN help change that culture.

SO until next time, JUST BE NICE. and make this museli, it'll help you start the day in a nice way.

3 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1 cup wheat bran

1/3 cup chia seeds
1/3 cup flax seeds

1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup dried figs (chopped up)
1/2 cup tart dried cherries / unsulphered apricots

a shake of cinnamon (you can use nutmeg, cardamom)
a pinch of salt

Mix all that in a big jar and shake it about. hen place it in a large tupperware or other sealed container and cover it by two inches with either almond milk, kefir, coconut milk, horchata (yup i've done that) or another delicious liquid and stir it to combine. You can add honey here and vanilla essence. you can also add frozen berries the night before and let them defrost.

leave it overnight and then in the morning mix with chopped up fruit, top with toasted almonds and coconut flakes. ENJOY!

obviously you can mix this up a bit, use other grains, add cocoa powder (this works well with darker dried fruit like plums and raisins), use different fruit or different liquid ( i tried milky coffee once and it was pretty good).

and finally, Marlin is the most delicious thing in the sea. so more food pictures

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

hell is other people

Well for the first time in a few months I'm airborne as a result of planned travel rather than a rolled cyclocross tyre or n ill advised attempt to "shred the gnar" on my road bike. I haven't blogged for a long time, I've been riding lots, racing a little, teaching a lot, desperately chasing money for another year of non profit work and wasting lots of time Googling potential facial hair configurations. Oh and I seem to have become deeply involved with a PhD thesis. I've also being writing about bikes elsewhere (. ).That's part of why I haven't written anything, another part is that, in all honesty I'm growing increasingly frustrated with cyclists, not cycling, just cyclists. I love riding my bike and I don't think I ever won't but the people I love riding my bike with seem to represent but a small sliver of those who don spandex and go out to do battle on the asphalt, trails and (all to often) pavements (that's sidewalks for those of you ho only speak American).

Let me expkain my quandary, I know lots of cyclists who are fast, my issue isn't one of elitism, in fact it's the opposite. So many of the guys who are fast, not really fast mind but quite fast, are also so wrapped up in their diets, power meters and intervals that they seem to suck the joy out of what is, for ll of us, a distraction from real life. When I'm riding my bike, I'm happy, I like to talk, to laugh, to have fun n to have coffee. Sometimes I like to smash myself but not to win a bike race on the internet, or a sprint to a town sign, or even to win some much coveted UCI points. I like to ride hard because nothing makes me happier than how I know i'll feel after I've totally exhausted myself. It's all internal, it's about me, how I feel and why I enjoy. Increasingly I'm eeing guys out on rides who seem to be there to project some image of themselves which is neither factual nor particularly attractive.

This all rather came to a head last week in a couple of incidents. A group of my friends from Canada were in town for a week and I met them for the weekly Wednesday world champs (if you don't stalk me on strata you won't have seen my "Wednesday focused" training regime) . it's a fast ride and for the most part safe. There are a couple of very narrow gates and tunnels where, if so inclined, one can punch out a big effort from the front and make it very, very hard to get back on if you're at the back. Approaching one such section this week I took my north of the border buddies up to the front to avoid giving a bad impression. Sadly the zoo behind us proceeded to churn like piranhas around a pepperoni as I slowed down to negotiate the gate safely. One ting led to another and someone fell off their bicycle. After clearing the danger zone I stopped, next to me Janelle Holcombe of "better a bikes than all the boys" fame also stopped. Meanwhile roughly 100 middle aged men on expensive bicycles charged forth like the Mongol hordes ignoring their fallen brethren (or perhaps relishing the infinitesimal improvement in their non existent chances of winning THE sprint). Having assessed that everyone was OK we proceeded to ride back on, at a not unrepeatable 49kph average. Unsurprisingly we passed several of the riders who had neither the compassion to stop nor the capacity to sit on a wheel in the group.

On the return leg of the group ride, rather than slowing down for the sandy latch where the crash had occurred, the same weekday warriors launched (what I imagine they perceived to be) ferocious 300w efforts in order to emerge in front of the carnage of their own creation. Just as I had with the initial crash I held my tongue, I am happy to sit up and let the group ride off when they run red lights or act dangerously, I'm confident that I can catch them, I'm confident I don't want to. Following our miraculous survival of the tunnel of terror and fatigued from their soul crushing efforts, theusualsuspects returned to the safety of the group where one can happily turn ones compact chaining and, provided that One's helmet, wheels and frame are all sufficiently "aero" (see overpriced), remain undropped. Once we reach a hilly section these upgraded components count a little less and sadly the upgraded cake buying potential of many of the riders is fr from beneficial. But fern not, they are experts in the use of the wrong side of the road and the gutter in order to toke their mediocrity to the very front of the group (or to very near the front, lest they trigger their wind allergies) from where they cn leave cavernous gaps but rest assured tht the draft of the rest of us coming round them will be sufficient to grovel back to glorious retelling of their heroics to their long suffering families.

Witnessing one suchexploit, and enraged at the individual in question's lack of concern for the wellbeing of others or the reputation of cyclists in general I may have asked, nicely, if the gentleman would mind not splitting two wheels. His response "no, I like it here" didn't help and I asked him if his preferred location was in between two riders or off the back as the latter was where he seemed to spend mist of hus time but he neverlooked very happy in eithersetting. He responded by dribbling on his top tube a little bit and waving his bike wildly from side to side, seemingly he engaged the 11th gear on his super record groupset, the one labeled reverse. I sat behind him for a while, asking if he liked it more 5 yards off the wheel, after a while his failure to respond and now quite unnerving trail of dribble led me to seek conversation on the other side of the 100 yard gap he had created and so off I pedaled.

After the ride was over I turned around to check on my friends who had been dropped, doubtless still feeling the crash as they're strong riders. On encountering our protagonist I asked him if he was any clearer on his preferred position in the group having tried "in the way" and "off the back". At which point he proceeded to try to engage me in pugilist combat. Given that he lackedin the ability to pedal, steer or even enjoy his bicycle he was pretty easy to avoid but he continued to shout at me. I tried o explain that I didn't wan to hurt him, but that I would be very happy if he would kindly dope running red lights, chopping wheels, pushing people out of his way nd riding on the wrong side of he road. He responded that these were his choices and should I wish to "settle I" i should get off my bicycle. I pointed out hat this would settle nothing and hat he would sill be back next week and sill be dangerous. We all look bad when he makes these choices on our behalf and as a result we all have a right to ask him to reconsider. If he refuses to play by the rules of the game, we have a right not to let him ply with us any more.

I'm sure this gentleman is not the only one of his ilk, I see them every time I ride, people who have forgottenthat riding a bike is about having fun, and should be safe and enjoyable. Anything we can do to increase the safety and enjoyment of the sport, we should. If we continue to ride like hooligans anddisregard other cyclists and road user's wellbeing we cannot expect anyone to respects or our sport. If we really believe it's worth hurting someone, either by hitting them or by riding in such a way as to endanger them or by leaving them by the roadside then we really, really need to look at our priorities.

At the end of the day were all just weirdos in our underwear, nothing we do on our bikes is really of great importance. With the exception of what we do with non profit and cycling for health our riding and racing is really only important to us. We cycle for fun (even though may of us seem to find it herd to have fun whilst cycling).

Oh well, I'm off to DC to remind myself that, whilst middle aged people might want nothing more than group ride glory there are still young people who wntto change the world and make it better for others.


Monday, 17 March 2014

a bit more 'betes

This week witnessed my annual diabetes meltdown, about once a year  at this time I seem to screw something up and it sets a giant diabetes snowball of rubbishness rolling to it’s inevitable conclusion by the side of a road somewhere with a can of pop, a chocolate bar, shaky hands and the overhwleming desire to weep like a baby.
I always like to work on my diabetes, to calculate what I did wrong and where and why and how I can learn from it. I thought it might be informative to walk through my process of failure analysis, to go from a hotel in Washington to the side of a Wilderness campground in East county san diego.
The fun began last Sunday, I flew to Washington DC on Friday night for a weekend of AYUDA meetings, it was a great chance to catch up with friends, meet our new volunteers and sit around, be tempted by a seemingly constant supply of food and move very little (apart from the inevitable merengue session which seems to occur every time the Dominicans are about) . Obviously lotsa food, less activity more insulin. By Sunday  I was running about 200% of the basal I had been using for a 30 hour training week.
On returning home on Monday I felt great, I rode 150k and only needed to eat a muffin 2 hours in and had no highs no lows, it was a little ewindow into the world of those of you who have a functioning pancreas. And it was nice. On Tuesday I did a group rid ein the morning, taught all day, was inundated with students in my break and didn’t eat, I stayed good all day and didn’t have any hypos. I had gradually begun reducing my basal that morning as my activity and metabolism were ramping back up. Tuesday night I dropped my basal along the same lines, now down to about 140% my heavy training basal. I think this would’ve been fine if I had eaten well on Tuesday but I didn’t.  At some point on Tuesday night I must have gone low,  and, not wanting to wake up high before the group ride I ate some dextrose and went back to sleep. I didn’t want to wake up high because I like to take very little insulin before a ride, I leave at 6:15 to make it to the ride and I don’t want to get up any earlier to wait on insulin action.
On Wednesday morning the lack of “bounce” from my breakfast (an English muffin and a Korean pancake, so multi culti) should’ve been a clue. I rode up to the start of the ride with some mates, good pace but not splitting it. I had to hit it a bit harder to make it to the toilet in time to make it to “climbing weight” before the ride. I felt a bit low and ate half a twix, once the ride got going I was pretty clearly pretty low, riding with fellow type one diabetic rick benson was fun and we enjoyed exchanging quips as we rotated in the paceline, perhaps so much I forgot to eat/ drink enough. 25 miles into the ride (and about 0 miles into my training for the day) I had a gel,  we turned around and for some reason the group started to drill it. At one point I looked down to see I was riding at 55kph on the front, for the first time in my life I actually went crosseyed, like really crosseyed, from pedaling hard.  Hlafway back I went pretty damn low and couldn’t seem to rectify the situation with my drink mix. I sat up at the end of the hard section of the ride and ate a powerbar, I kept up tempo pace ot meet a friend, grabbed a muffin and the other half of my twix and a protein bar and a cocnut water on the two hour ride home. I still felt pretty cracked when I got back, I tried to eat lots but my stomach was less than happy about the amount of crap gurgling around in it. I could barely stomach a small hamburger for dinner (Wednesday id my hamburger/ burrito day) even though I’d put in 170k My sugars were all over the place, I dropped my basal right back to the low dose but clearly by not fully correcting the low the night before and eating insufficiently on Tuesday my glycogen was drained.  With such a low basal and low stores my blood sugar would shoot up and then drop down as soon as I bloused, diabetes was not my friend.
Thursday was a pretty easy day, 90 min spin to work and them meetings and teaching 11-9. I was pretty stressed with some issues pertaining to my pupils’ pastoral care which I won’t go into and again, basically ate carrot sticks and the beer and pizza my supervisor bought for the meeting.  Same as Wednesday night I was super up and down. I got home at 9:45 and didn’t want to worry about the possible implications of a nighttime hypo so I ate some salad and went to sleep.
Friday seemed to be the day when everything evened out, a nice spin ride around the bay and no lows, 3 decent meals and even a sneaky beer. Saturday rolled around, I had been going to race but finances won’t stretch to a  hour solo drive right now. I had planned a group ride but my mojo for riding with 4th cats in aero helmets is so low, I didn’t want to go and say something nasty when really, by going on the ride I should expect people to ride unsafely etc as they do so every week. I elected to ride 5 hours on the mtb with a friend in celebration of his impending 40th.
Setting off on my merry way I carried (for those of you who care about such things) two mini twix bars, two homemade sweet potato cranberry vegan muffins (vegan before 6pm , it’s good for you AND the planet), a bag of almonds, some carb chews, a protein bar and a powerbar. For the first two hours I carried all that stuff about and ate none of it (I was preoccupied with bouncing about off rocks, smiling and saying things like “gnarly doood” so that they wouldn’t be able to tell I was a roadie.  The nest two hours were nothing short of miserable, my glycogen was totally drained again, I was shaky, my reactions were slow, I fell off, I felt like crying, I ate everything and briefly spiked my blod sugar sky high before my muscles soaked it all up and my brain remained shrouded . We made a navigation error and I just couldn’t face a 2 mile 20% climb to get back on course, my buddies kindly agreed to roll the easy way home. We missed some sweet singletrack (dooood) but quite honestly, I had stopped having fun 90 minutes before.
I was riding with guys I’d known for years and guys I had just met and it always upsets me to let my diabetes slow me down in front of either group. It was all I could do to hold bake the tears, not because ei was frustrated but I just get an inexplicable urge to cry when I am that low for that long. Sitting by the car, sweating, shaking, gulping soda and pounding fistfuls of pretzels I didn’t look much like an experienced cyclist or diabetic. But humility is good.
That night I forced down som e ice cream, again I had no appetite but I knew the sugars and fats would keep me alive, I ramped up my basal and made a smoothie to put by my bed for the inevitable “waking up low” moment.  I woke up on Sunday and drove to a race in La, even a couple of pieces of toast and a bowl of cereal before a 3pm race felt awful in my exhausted stomach. I resorted to industrial quantities of caffeine and honey to get into race mode. Even that resulted in some of the most painful stomach aches of my life in the race. I actually may have vomited on some cat 3 bloke who we were lapping (in my defence, if ou dress as Robocop, ride a +35 stem and get dropped like a hot rock, you would make anyone feel sick) Made a couple of half arsed attacks and moved up well at the end, right in prime position for the inevitable mass get down. I made it out ok but seeing my friends Rashaan and Justin bleeding and broken was a pretty pants end to my day.
I managed a 41/2 hour ride today, felt a little better and ate plenty, training on my own on the road is easier, I can stop I can control intensity I can eat when and where and what I want. I didn’t want to share this as a pity party but as a window into what it’s like to ride bikes, have diabetes and try and do the two to the best of your ability.

Oh well, I’m in the airport loung now and the beer and pretzels are flowin’!

Monday, 10 March 2014

on 'betes, back pain and being grateful

 it's only March but I already Feel as if I'm in the groove of racing and training. Albeit for most of the season thus far I've been battling for the ultimate prize with little success and distinguished myself more or less uniquely by being the only bike with a beard in the pro race each weekend. Whilst this seems to have something of a cache with those who like to rehydrate after their races with a barley pop it doesn't really bring the fulfillment I look for in tight clothing on a Sunday afternoon.

A couple of factors have reply been getting in between me and fast pedaling this year. One would be that my pancreas doesn't work and apparently, at times, neither does my insulin. The other would be that my ability to feel anything below the waist on my entire left hand side seems to be something of lottery. Both f these can be somewhat frustrating to put it mildly. Oh and there was also one race when some cowboys managed to integrate themselves into the bunch right as we were sprinting.

The back thing can be fairy simply explained, someone drove a car into me and broke it. Apparently i'd been chasing the dream with a displaced SI joint for several months before someone noticed it at PT and kindly popped my bones back into their happy place. Since then I've been at the core exercises and stretching like a good boy and so far so good, I can even stand on JUST my left leg, which would have left me in a heap on the floor a month ago. I can also race without bathing my lumbar spine in embro and filling my stomach with ibuprofen. So that's nice.

The 'betes thing is harder to explain (and let's face it the cowboy deal is pretty damn impossible). For some reason I'm getting much bigger fluctuations in races and training then I'm used to. I'll start where I want to, say 150 and in the first hour of the race i'll go between 60 and 300, if i don't eat I go hop, I get dizzy, shaky and my legs feel like rubber. If I try to correct that hypo I go flying up and feel twitchy, wired, parched and sore. My legs feel like battery acid is flowing nested of blood. Finding a way to balance nutrition, stress and insulin in between those two places is proving a challenge.

I'm hoping that the to issues aren't unrelated. In an effort to get to the bottom of whats going on I'm trying to isolate variable. The issue is that often these things happen in races, races where nobody crest wait while I check my sugars and where I can't take a mulligan if it turns out that the raisins I ate a hour ago should've been peanuts because I'm 300. Training rides are different, I can try thing and test theories: The spasms in my back could be causing stress, stress causes highs. That said I've had problems even on rides where my legs both work. So there's something else at play. The next in my process of elimination is glycogen, the body's storage carbohydrate reserves in the muscles. I've just spent the weekend at an AYUDA training program in DC restocking the reserves with a healthy supply of carbohydrate thanks to more time in meetings and less time in the mountains.

On ting I've always struggled a bit with is post ride insulin. I know I want to benefit from he glycogen resynthesis which occurs right after training but, given that I'm depleted after a ride, a large bolus is potentially pretty hazardous, especially if I'm doing aching other than just sitting about for the next 2-3 hours. You see with my body's glycogen stores low, if I take too much insulin my body lacks the reserves to "bail me out" of. Low blood sugar but if I don't take enough insulin I tend to go really high, perhaps due to the post ride stress hormone release. That's not good for health or recovery.

Diabetes is a constant moving and changing target, it's interesting, intriguing and sometimes annoying. It is also why I am who I am, it's why I do hat I do, it's why I've met most of the people most dear to me in my life, traveled all over the world and why I get the chance to teach people and the privilege to learn from them. At the end of the day, I wouldn't trade my faulty pancreas for. Good one and a different life, so I have to ale the ups with the downs. I wanted to share bit of that process, in case anyone else goes through the same. It's the "inside baseball"part of the 'betes game and it might not be as glam as some of the other stuff I get to do but hopefully for one or two people this represented window into my world with diabetes and gave them an appreciation which they can ue to better relate to their own diabetes or people they know living with the condition. So until next time, stay sweet!

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

a sub optimal start to the season and a fun start to 2014

it seems like only a few weeks ago that i last stuck a safety pin through a number and a skinsuit into my lower back and rubbed embrocation directly into the shaving cuts in my legs and yet it's time to load up my life into backpack and spend Friday nights making my thumbs bleed into cork brake pads and Saturday mornings kitting up in a fast food joint or portable toilet. Huzzah, Hooray and Hallelujah it's the time of year for lycra stretching handlebar bumping bicycle racing action again.  In the last three weeks I've been to Mexicali, Tucson, Santa Barbra, (snowy) Campo and (sunny San Diego) to pedal in circles.
This time last year I was racing in la with @philgaimon . Phil's now in San Luis doing pro tour type stuff. I'm now in a jack in the box next to the border putting on a skinsuit 
not pro tour tamales 

Given that dull moments are well, dull I've done my best to enjoy them. It's fair to say that my efforts to avoid mundanity haven't enjoyed much in the way of a symbiotic relationship with my efforts to do well in bicycle races. My mechanical curse continues to follow me with, in no particular order a broken hub, flat front tubular (when warming up, another compelling case against warming up), a snapped chain (apparently they are only tested to a measly 4 figure wattage) and , perhaps most spectacularly my venerable Audi literally going up in a plume of smoke by the side of the 101.
the Audi's last Hurrah, maybe my naked butt cheeks as i changed in the passenger seat were an affront too many

the car story was quite entertaining, in a short period of time the oil light came on, we pulled off the 1, the car began belching smoke and we stopped. After filling up the oil tank and soliciting advice we tried again, this itme the smoke was worse, so bad that we could roll through red lights as nobody at the entire intersection could see if the light was red or green. I couldn't help but laugh as we cruised around Ventura in a James Bond style smokescreen of our own creation. In fact i decided to crank the stereo and found an old rock station, the Audi went down rockin' fortunately my friends the Ryan family lived nearby and were willing to put us up for the night and help us get the car to a garage the next day. They lived 6 miles from where we broke down, if they lived 7 miles we'd still have only driven 6! the next day i hopped on a train and, 5 hours later i was back in San Diego. I left with a car, a bike, 5 wheels and two bags, i came back with  a bike and a backpack.  It's good to not be too attached to material things and this was a well placed reminder.

On the bright side, I have got all my bad luck for the season out of the way, i'm living the green lifestyle without a car, i got to reconnect with some old friends when i turned up at their house covered in acrid smoke and 5w-40 motor oil AND i now have a legit excuse to just sit in the car drinking coffee until RIGHT before the start of races, tubulars aren't cheap!  I also managed to distinguish myself by taking the "first dude in the pro race with a beard" category in each and every race I entered, earned a Tamale in Mexico (which may or may not be beard related given my "vagabond chic" look).
In order not to die , medicinal pie

I've also been dogsitting for a friend, and nothing bad can make me feel sad when i have a four legged companion to come back to every night. oh and i had a wonderful chunk of cherry pie today. AND my spidey skills (read cx experience) got me out of a stack at Wednesday world's today.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Chess is completely dead. It is all just memorization and prearrangement. It's a terrible game now. Very uncreative

Bobby Fischer  ( 

I was riding my bike the other day, past some little children in a park and thinking about when i was little. At the tender age of 11 not only did i reach my tennis playing peak, i also followed my calling as a Churchillian leader of men to a brief captaincy of my school chess team. Chess is an interesting game, what was once a way of developing the tactical nouse of military commanders has become an exercise in memorization. Today whole games can occur without ever leaving "the book" . Previous catalogued grand master games are studied by amateur enthusiasts and, if both players are well enough read and don't fail in their recollection, whole games can occur without either player ever making one unique move. What was once a substitute for war becomes nothing more than a spectacular undramatic form of theater. Both players adopt a role and simply go through their lines.

It seems to me that bike racing is headed in the same direction, too many people spend too long studying, analyzing, reading not riding and staring at screens instead of stems. Go on a group ride today and  everyone has read in bicycling magazine that they need to be at the front on a hill so they can drift back. Everyone wants to conserve their efforts and win the sprint. it makes for boring racing and even more boring spectating. Races follow a repetitive pattern with an early break of sacrificial pawns, straight out of the book with each team sending one rider to cover each move until one sticks.  These pieces move idly in the open space while the more powerful pieces are arrayed. Later the pawns are swept away, cannon-fodder, the knights and rooks set up the stage for the endgame, which again rolls directly from the well worn chapters of the book with a few possible variations: the late break, the bunch gallop, the mountaintop finish or the hill sprint. Just like in chess the whole battle can be a reenactment of previous conflicts .

 in his last game against the Deep Blue super computer in 1997 (which i can recall eagerly awaiting the results of on the BBC news) grandmaster Gary Kasparov played an extremely unorthodox Caro-Kann defence, his theory being that an opening move so rarely seen would confuse the machine with its extensive memory of previous grandmaster games which seldom used this opening. later in the game Kasparov would make other moves charachterized as foolish by commentators, notably in his 11th move which finally forced the game out of the book and challenged the super computer to think.  Kasparov would ultimately be defeated in just 19 moves. He went hard, early and got dropped hard and early. after the three previous games had resulted in a draw Kasparov went on the offensive, and it cost him his reputation and a large prize fund.

recently i was riding with a less experienced rider who, at the top of a climb proceeded to ride in circles in order to complete a 20 minute interval. This strikes me as not dissimilar to the chess player who, rather than playing more chess in order to improve his tactical ingenuity, takes to the annals of matches past in order to memorize previous chess games. Great cyclists are not those who can ride at an exact wattage for an exact time, they're those who can do enough whats for long enough to get to the finish line first. What i love about cycling isn't the science it's the art. I love riding up a hill for as long as it takes and being exhausted at the top. the cyclist who approaches a hill as a chance to do a 20 minute interval rather than a 20 minute interval as a chance to climb a hill is missing the joy of cycling. He may as well stay at home and ride the trainer reading his books and articles about bike racing. I'll be out riding my bike.
these sunglasses are not out of the book either 
I've always tried to be a Kasparov and not a deep blue in my bike racing, I've always tried to make unorthodox moves. Most of the time the book turns out right, we fall back into the script with my efforts little more than those of a heckler in a crowded theater or a pawn, slowly crossing the black and white squares, one by one,  between his starting point and the other side of the board.  Sometimes, rarely, the pawn can make it to the other side of the board and then that pawn can turn into a queen and change the game completely. This will never be a chapter in the book, never a tactic for those book learners to read about because the science, the numbers and the logic say it's not worth it. Rather it'll be an anachronous footnote. That's fine with me, i'd rather be a pawn who sometimes gets to be a queen than a queen moving in well worn tracks.