A little more than one year and a few hours ago, I was unconscious on the track surface at the San Diego Velodrome with a nearly completely severed off right thumb, a massive hematoma of the left eye, a double fracture of the right knee, a fractured right rib, three fractured vertebrae, a cracked skull and a very difficult path to recovery... along with another week-long stay in the hospital due to five blood clots in my right leg just less than two weeks after being released from the hospital the first time. My daughter was there at the track with me that night and showed strength and grace that I did not know she possessed and would only hear about from those who were there to witness it while I was either unconscious or too out of it to know what was happening.
What lay ahead for me that night was a long and sometimes frightening path to becoming strong enough to ride again one day. Nearly eight weeks with a cervical collar on, as well as a knee brace and crutches felt like an eternity. The loving support of friends, family and many of you helped make it possible for me to fight on through all the frustrations. There were some difficult times during the recovery process and from time to time I wondered if it really was time to "hang up the cleats".
Tonight, once I got home from a long day at work, I quickly scrambled to take advantage of the last bits of sunlight left and hurriedly got out for a ride. I grabbed my iPod Shuffle and scurried down the stairs in my cycling shoes, carrying my bike, and headed off to enjoy a few miles. I took off quickly, not allowing myself much time to warm up, and began pushing the pedals pretty hard from the beginning. I had to remind myself to slow down a little or risk running out of fuel too quickly, or potentially straining a muscle. I didn't really listen to myself, but at least I was conscious of the fact I was going too hard too soon... but I didn't care at all. I felt a lot like I did when I was a kid in high school, rushing home to get a training ride in before having to concentrate (meekly) on homework and chores. I hardly felt like a 39 year old with kids and bills tonight- I had some of that same passionate excitement to ride as I did when I was 16 and dreaming of Tour de France podiums. I also didn't feel like I was recovering anymore- I felt strong and healthy and attacked the ride with determination. I powered up each climb, not allowing myself to rest before reaching the top. I pushed the pedals hard at every opportunity- and it felt really good.
I've given up on the Tour podiums now, though I still dream of other podiums more in keeping with my age and ability. I still have the passion to ride and I feel blessed that I am now able to ride again with almost no problems. The neck is still very stiff and bothers me sometimes and the right arm still doesn't quite straighten, but I am otherwise able to ride without limitation... other than the relative lack of fitness.
Tonight was a celebration of life and the gift of health. As I have been saying for months now, "I'm well enough to be able to complain about not being able to ride as much or as often as I would like, due to my work schedule."
Thank you for your encouragement and support this past year and before- I consider myself lucky to know you all.
Tomorrow (4/29) marks exactly one year since "the crash" that changed my life- and nearly ended it. Tonight as I rode my rollers in the driveway and flogged myself for an hour, that fact was tucked somewhere deep in my head, but it was far away in the distance. Instead, my thoughts were focused on my pedal stroke and deep breathing. I concentrated on finding the smoothness in my pedaling and feeling the stroke all the way through the circle. My mind was not on recovery, but was fixed on getting stronger and fitter so that I can get back to being competitive.
During the hour, I did three hard 20 minute intervals that each finished with a max effort sprint. FYI- 37+mph and 165+rpm is my official terminal velocity on the rollers with the fixed gear. Each interval was an exercise in maintaining focus, since it is so easy for me to mentally drift away. But I managed to think of it as being similar to riding a Points race or a long Scratch race, or even a crit. I thought of it in terms of competition because I love to race bicycles. Since I was 12 years old, I've spent my life trying to race bicycles. I've had some great successes and far more disappointments, but my love of the sport has always remained.
As I've gone through this process of recovery from the injuries, I've frequently thought of things in terms of how long or how difficult returning to racing was going to be. Of course, it goes without saying, my thoughts have also been on what the recovery would mean to my greater life- the life I have with my friends, family, girlfriend and kids. But, as we're all inherently selfish beings, my thoughts have often fixated on being able to ride and race.
I've been blessed in many ways through this experience. I have had my life enriched beyond all measure by the people I am lucky to have come in contact with. I am also lucky that my helmet did its job and that the people at the track that night did not panic and kept my injuries from being even worse. I am blessed that my daughter was such a brave little girl that night- seeing me in that condition was not easy for a child just about to turn seven years old. I am lucky beyond belief that my friends and family and so many of you showered me with the support and encouragement I needed for my recovery. And I am also very lucky to have a girlfriend who spent a month away from her home in Taiwan to nurse me back to strength to be able to take care of myself. And, best of all, I am blessed to be recovered enough and strong enough to be able to dream about racing at the front of the pack again while I slog away on my trainer in the middle of the night, in my driveway.
Things could've turned out much worse- but they didn't.
This week was a week that left me drained and tired from all of the ups and downs. Most weeks are like that of course, but this one was a true "mixed bag".
Returning to racing on the track this week was an obvious highlight for me. Again, words fail to describe the feeling of being well enough to make a return to the oval that I enjoy so much. With my work and travel schedule, it could be the only race I get to do this year on the track, but I made it back- even if just once. That alone stands as an accomplishment that means more to me than I can tell you.
In the space of this week, we also put in an amazing amount of work in a very, very short period of time to create some very exciting new products that will not be what you expect "from a brand like Masi". I am not going to give any further details until something official is ready to be shared, but it's going to be something very cool and something I am personally very excited about and as a company we are collectively excited about. Something of this size never happens over night... except for this time. There's rarely a time when you get to create something from nothing and bring it to life in a matter of days- especially in this industry. Needless to say, it was fun, exciting and very draining to go through such a process in the span of just a few days.
As most of you know, I am a total Social Media geek. It's my thing- outside of cycling- and is something I get exceptionally passionate about. I have consulted on the topic, written on the topic, speak on the topic, participate in forums/ discussions on the topic and participate in the various forms of Social Media. It's something that I believe in both professionally and personally. SM holds so much power and levels the playing field in a way that truly makes my idealistic Pisces heart very happy. This week was full of SM happiness and excitement for me. We, as a company at Haro/ Masi, had our very first company meeting to map out and begin to fully integrate SM strategies for the various brands in the family. I can not begin to tell you how excited that made me- I have been a non-stop cheerleader for SM at the company since I dove headlong into it on March 4th 2005. Taking these first steps with any company is always exciting, but the fact that it is the company I work for makes it even more exciting.
Another, very exciting bit of news on the SM front and one of my proudest moments is that I confirmed this week that I will be speaking in Denver in September at Learn About Web on my return leg coming back from the Expo Cycle show in Montreal. I am over the moon about this chance to speak to the audience of business owners, PR professionals and marketing people wanting to learn more about SM and what it means and can do for them. My thanks has to be given to Craig Sutton, who is the creator of LAW and to Deb Robison, who is a great friend and is working with Craig to pull the event off. Deb and my friend Mack Collier are the ones who really got the ball rolling by recommending me to Craig for the event. On top of it all, since I am traveling back from Montreal, it means I will have my bike with me and I will be able to ride in Denver as well! I will only be in Denver for a couple days, since it is between Expo Cycle and Interbike, but I am hoping to get a ride or two in as well as hopefully see a Masi dealer or two while there. More details coming soon... I promise.
All of this news and excitement, coupled with stress and not feeling well the last few days has left me pretty wiped out. I haven't touched my bike since Wednesday but hopefully will today. Masidaughter and I are planning to ride around the neighborhood this afternoon and spend a little quality time together before we dive into some chores and cleaning, etc. I may or may not be around on the blog for a few more days as I get through some of these chores and life... but I'll be back soon... you know I will.
Here's to hoping you have an exciting and/ or relaxing weekend.
I'd love to build the drama of this into something that would make a great Movie of the Week and tell you that I came from behind and won every race of the evening, driven by determination and squinting to see through tear-soaked eyes as I crushed the other riders in the races and my daughter danced in circles screaming the famous "GO DADDY GO" she is known for... but I ain't gonna do that. The night was much less dramatic, though still very emotionally charged for me.
I got to the track early enough to not have to stress out getting ready. As I unloaded my gear from my car, I talked to a guy I had only met once who only knew me through the blog and meeting at the Tour of California briefly. As a fellow track racer, he'd kinda followed along with my blogging about the recovery and was really happy to see me at the track again. The only other guy there unloading and getting ready to enter the track chimed in, "so you're the Masiguy... wow, welcome back man". And that kinda sets up the entire night.
It seems like every body I talked to during the night knew about the crash from last year. Apparently, I made more than just an impact on the actual track itself. Needless to say, it was very moving and I felt blessed to be around so many people so excited to see me on a bike again. It only grew from there too, as more and more of the people I know and who were there last April 29th began to show up. There were hugs and handshakes and more than a few "wow" comments. The previously mangled thumb was quite a hit, with very few people unimpressed by the fact it looks like "a real thumb" now.
I got suited up and got the bike ready to hit... no, wait... ride the track for the very first time since the crash last year. On the drive to the track, I was a mess with the nervous energy and even felt a little nauseous as I got onto the track for the first few laps. As I rode the track very tentatively and tried to get myself to ride close to the boards, I felt nervous and had a few of the "what the hell am I doing here" moments. As I cruised around for the first minutes, I did my best to relax my grip and remember to breathe. After a few minutes another rider pulled up beside me and we began to talk- he's a physician and was at the track the night of the crash and is the one who took care of me until the ambulance arrived. In many ways, I owe the fact that I was not in more trauma to his actions that night. He said he was very happy to see me back on the track and even a bit shocked- "when they put you in the ambulance, I didn't think we'd ever see you out here riding again".
Slowly, I began to feel a little less nervous and a bit more relaxed, so I started to speed up a little bit... looking for the edges of my comfort zone. It didn't take me long to find those edges, but I kept trying to expand them a little at a time. Towards the end of our open warm-up time, as I was high on the banking and talking to another rider going through turn one into turn two, I heard the painfully familiar explosion of a tire blowing... directly in front of me by about 5 bikes. My first thought was, "NO, not tonight!" As the rider with the blown tire slid down the track, at least one other rider went down with him, but I was able to navigate through the confusion without incident- though I doubt I took a breath for a lap. I instantly thought of packing up the bike and simply watching the racing, but the rider I was talking to didn't skip a beat in our conversation and that kept me calm enough to relax again.
Open track time closed and we went into the infield for the rider's meeting prior to the racing. After receiving our instructions from the officials, the juniors were off for their first race of the night. The race was short and then it was time for the racing to begin. At this time, the usual event is the motor-paced burnout, so I planned to sit in the infield and ride my rollers while the other riders contested the motor-paced event... since it was during that event that I had my crash- I figured that was one logical concession to my fear and anxiety. As they described the event to the racers and fans, they stated that there were no longer sprints at the end and that the event was a true warm-up and not a race. With this bit of news, I nervously decided to take to the rail with the other racers and see if I could choke down my anxiety and sit in for a few laps, giving myself the permission to pull out at any time to sit and watch. The first few laps were nervous as I settled in and learned to trust the wheel of the rider in front of me. The usual accordion effect of the undulating pace and surges at the front gave me fits, but I sat in and completed the 25 laps for my group and then happily got off the track!
The juniors were back up for their second short race and then the C group was up for their first race. As I rolled around on the warm up track and talked to a friend, the C's began to ramp up the speed of their race and then that is when the second crash of the night happened... and I saw the whole thing again. As the riders slammed into each other and then slid down the banking into a pile, the other rider I was talking to patted me on the back and laughed saying, "that's gotta make you feel good". I guess my anxiety was showing. Fortunately all of the riders were able to walk away from the crash, though some with a bit of scrapes and busted bikes. Still, they walked away and that's the best kind of crash.
Next, the B's were up... and I was racing the B's. Our first even was a short 12 lap Points Race with sprints on the 6th and 12th laps. As I took to the rail, I admit the nervousness was growing again. When they gave the gun after a neutral lap, the pace immediately jumped pretty sharply and the first race of my return was officially underway. I fought with the bike a little during the first few laps, just feeling uncomfortable at race speed and worrying that I was on the wrong sized gear. After a few more laps and the first sprint was done, I decided to try to get back up to the front part of the large field we had. I got back up to the front half of the group just in time for the final sprint and was far enough back that there was no real reason to sprint, so I didn't contest it as much as I just tried to see if I could accelerate with the group all the way to the line- which I did just fine. My very first race was done! There was one spot about 4 laps in when the group bunched up after a quick deceleration at the front and I got my hear rate up really quickly when people started bumping... but nobody went down and I survived. Race #1 in the done pile!
After the first race, I was much more comfortable and relaxed and even more ready and excited for the next two races. Next up was a 10 lap Scratch race that was blisteringly fast with another break off the front immediately. With about 4 laps to go, I attacked from the rear half of the field along the back stretch of the track and accelerated through the field pretty powerfully and was off on my own for the next 3 laps trying to close the gap to the leading 3 riders... and then my motor failed as I crossed the line to start the last lap with the filed catching me. I got back in and managed to keep from getting dropped or finishing last, but I realized that I have the speed... just no endurance. But I felt good for racing, rather than sitting in. Next up was a 20 lap Point-a-Lap with $2 to the winner of each lap, which always brings out the competitive nature in folks. I sat near the front, but was unsure of my legs still and didn't really want to do anything too soon, knowing I had poor endurance. I sat in for about the first 10 laps, but another group was rolling off the front taking all the money and points. So, I jumped out of the field again and flogged myself solo for about 6 laps with friends screaming for me to keep the hammer down. For a few laps, I thought I would actually catch the break and got close a few times bu they always slipped away when they sprinted each lap. With about 3-4 laps to go, I finally got caught by the field again and settled back in. I sat in for a couple laps near the very end of what remained of the field. On the last lap, I buried myself to get to the line as quickly as possible and finish as strongly as I could. It felt great to have worked so hard and to still find the strength to dig hard one more time.
After that, my racing was done for the night and I packed up my stuff while the last A's race finished up. I got lots of pats on the back from my friends and fellow racers. As I kept saying, it was great to complete the cycle of my recovery and get back on the track and push the pedals as hard as I could. I won nothing, but I proved to myself that my life did not end last April 29th. With time to train and continue to recover and regain my strength, I might even have a chance to win a race again. I know I am driven to try.
Again, I can not say enough thanks to everybody who supported and encouraged me during my recovery. It's not entirely done yet, but I am much closer and I am now able to say with confidence that I can still ride a track bike on the track. It is the camaraderie I have shared with my friends on the track over the years that made my desire to get back so strong. As one of my friends and fellow racers said, "welcome home". It sure felt like it.
(All photos by Pete Demos- our Creative Director and photographer extraordinaire. He and Rick Ortiz, his cohort in the graphic department and the guy behind the Masi ads and graphics, were there at the track. They were joined by Pete's girlfriend Amber and Rick's youngest daughter. Also there was my Product Manager, Wayne Doran, who works with me to create all of the fantastic Masi products. I owe them all a big thanks for being there to help cheer me on as well. )
Today after work, I climbed into a dusty "loft" area where a few of my bikes are stored in the building. My two Coltello track racing bikes are both up there- one set up for time trial events and the other for sprint/ omnium events. The Coltello in Metallic Red, the first production frame we made, sat there with a good inch of dust on it. It hadn't been ridden since about two weeks before my crash last April 29th.
After grabbing the bike and the wheels, I scurried down from the loft in hopes of getting a few minutes to work on the bike and get it cleaned up. I got part of the way done when it was time to leave and the lights were being shut off. The bike and wheels got tossed into the back of the car and I drove home. Once home I replaced the tires on the wheels with some fresh rubber and tubes. I then proceeded to put a cog on the rear wheel, put some pedals on, set up the new saddle and generally polish and shine what is one of my most prized bikes- I worked very closely with our former Senior Product Development Manager to create the Coltello track frames using my years of experience racing on the track and his far superior skills in frame design. Together, the efforts brought about the Coltello... and it has brought me great joy ever since.
After chowing down on a bit of grilled tuna and some rice, I finished dialing in the bike and then put on some Mandex and headed outside with the rollers and my allen wrench set to finish setting the bike up to my preferred position. Thing is, I eyeballed it so well inside that I didn't even need to adjust anything once I got outside! The only difference from my "old" position of last year before the crash is that I moved the nose of the saddle forward a little- my back doesn't have quite the same range of flexibility right now.
After a few minutes rolling around on the street in the dark and on the rollers, I was satisfied with the fit and my position. It feels like a full blown race bike; light, stiff, low in front, high in back and ready to go as fast as I can possibly try to make it go.
One might ask the logical question, "hey, Masiguy, why you dialin' in a race bike?" Well, unless something springs up tomorrow, I'm hopping back on the track to race in the local Tuesday Night Race Series here on our velodrome... the one that nearly killed me. This will be my very first time back on the track since the crash and I am both nervous and excited. I love to race on the track and the friends I have there are amazing- their support since the crash and through my recovery has been more than I could have ever expected. I sincerely feel that I owe it to all of them to get back on the track and complete the cycle of my recovery- even if it means sitting at the back and suffering like a dog. At least I'll be suffering with a smile on my face and with friends.
I'll do my best to get pictures and possibly even video while I am there... so stay tuned.
Thanks again to every single person who has been so supportive during my recovery from the crash. Your support is what is making this return to racing possible and when I finally do stand on the podium to receive a medal- whether this year or several years from now- it will be with all of you at heart.
After some feedback in the comments here and on the company blog- as well as all the emails I have gotten- we have come up with some "tweaks" of the original designs. They're not written into the poll (yet), so leave a comment if you have one!
A2- Removed the collegiate "M".
A3- Removed the collegiate "M" and the rectangle from the front artwork and moved off center.
B2- Removed collegiate "M" from the back.
C2- Removed the collegiate "M" and the rectangle from the front artwork and moved off center.
C3- Removed the collegiate "M".
The tweaks are subtle, but feel free to share your thoughts as always- they have lead to what you see here now.
It's polling time again! But this time, unlike the election process- this doesn't completely suck!
Bear witness to these beauties;
These are all in the preliminary phase and none are final. The plan is still to offer two designs- one as a stand-alone with a looser "club cut" and one with matching bib shorts in the more traditional "racer cut". The design ideas above could end up being either. I have a favorite, but I'm not gonna say anything because I don't want my opinion to influence anything (or find out that you hate the one I like best).
Please wander over to that poll you see in the upper left corner here and place your vote. Any additional thoughts can be left in the comments of this post. Alright... have fun.
Tonight, I rushed out the door of Masi Global Domination HQ so that I could make it to the Fiesta Island training crit series. I raced the first one of the year about 3 weeks ago, at the start of Daylight Savings and managed to cling to the back of the front group for the entire 45 minutes. I left for Taiwan the following morning, so tonight was my first chance to get to another of the races. This is after 2 weeks of no riding and bad diet while in Taiwan and only a little riding since returning. So while I was gone getting fat, most of the riders tonight were here getting fit and fast!
The first lap was at a slightly "gentleman's pace"... but then things got fast, in a hurry. The weather tonight was cool, cloudy and pretty windy along the western, bay side of the course. I'm glad I was riding the prototype low profile Ritchey WCS Zeta wheels (a full review later) instead of my Spinergy Stealth PBO wheels with 50mm tall rims! My legs felt tired, but not terrible. I rode for an hour, almost, at lunch today to test the new wheels and get the shifting dialed back in since the new wheels changed the chainline a little bit- as did using a Shimano cassette with the SRAM Rival group.
For the first few laps, I was able to sit in and spin reasonably comfortably... reasonably. Then the pace began to pick up and the group got strung out more single file- which really just meant I was farther from the front and had fewer places in the group to hide from the wind. My legs never felt all that bad, really, but I felt tired- again, I think I might've gone a little too hard on my lunch ride.
As we rounded the wind-side of the course and back toward the front of the course, a big acceleration came at the front and the group strung way out again and I momentarily lost contact with the group when the rider in front of me decided to call it a night. I dug deep and ploughed into the wind to try to reach the tail of the moving group, but I got a massive cramp in my right side as I was making a little bit of progress. I tried to sit up a little and stretch it out, but it was not going away... but the group sure was. So, after 30 of the 45 minutes of the race, I threw in the towel and rode one last long lap to stretch the cramp out. The funny thing is that I rode around until the cramp was gone and finished the lap moving pretty quickly, solo, in the wind... go figure.
All in all, even though I was pretty disappointed to not finish this time, I was happy that my only issue was the cramp and that the legs felt strong enough to be in the race. Once the cramp was gone, the legs still felt strong enough to ride that last lap with good speed. So I am still making progress, or at least gaining it back after my trip to Taiwan. Hopefully this means I can keep the progress up as I get ready for a week in Minneapolis (5/18-5/22) shooting pictures for the next catalog. Would be nice to not be in total crap shape when I go there with my bike/s. Would be fun to try and hop into a track race while I am there.
Tonight, after the race and before my dinner (grilled salmon and a big salad), I weighed in at 206.6lbs. Not my goal of 205... but much closer than the 211lbs I weighed when I got back from Taiwan.
It's good to be back on the bike and not feeling too much like a fish with gloves on.
Tonight is something of a bittersweet night for me; tonight is the opening night of our Tuesday night racing series here at our velodrome... and I'm not there racing.
I was kinda hoping to be there to race, even if I only finished one race in the B's or even the C's- just to complete the recovery since the crash. See, this month- the 29th- marks one year since the crash at the velodrome that changed my life. I am SO blessed to even be alive, let alone well enough to ride again and complain about not being able to ride as much as I would like. On 4/29 of 2008, I came close to never doing anything again and a lot closer to dieing than I hope I ever get again.
Instead of racing, I'm at home doing laundry and working on some of the projects that are behind and need to be worked on... which is a lot. I did not know that opening night was tonight until this past weekend, since the velodrome website had not been updated with the racing schedule until last week- a friend of mine told me that racing was starting tonight and totally caught me off guard. I was drifting around in my own world of belief that racing would not start for another week or so and that I still had time to get in a few training sessions on the track before the start of the season... but I was wrong.
Track racing, even though it nearly killed me, is still something that I love very deeply. It is my hope that I will get back on the track this year and finish what I started last year and retake my place among "the fast guys". I would like that a lot. What I fear, like many people who suffer a traumatic experience, is that I will get back on the track and be consumed by the fear of a repeat incident. I am reasonably confident that I can get back on the track and work through that initial jitteriness. I've crashed many times in the past and I've always managed to get back up and get back into my slot in the paceline... and I plan for this time to be no different... but only time will tell.
So, even though I am healthy again and riding as much as my schedule and life allows, I have not yet completed the cycle of my recovery... but it will hopefully be soon.
Had an awesome time at the San Diego Custom Bicycle Show and a few parties associated with it. I talked to builders I've never met and builders I have admired for many years- decades even.
I have twogalleries of images up on my Facebook page- beautiful stuff to slobber over and cool people.
Also, big news; we got the band back together! Yes, the Spokesmen have recorded episode #37. It's a bit over an hour (and I ramble again) but it was an awesome show. I really loved getting back together with the group and having a good talk.
If you're in the area this weekend and like bicycles, I really recommend that you check the show out. I'll be the tall bike nerd walking around with camera in hand and a big goofy smile. Say hi if you see me... once I snap out of my bike lust trance, I might even say hi back!
Tim (PS- I have it on good authority that their will be a mini reunion of former employees of Masi California from the 70's/80's era around 1:00PM on Sunday... just in case you can make it.)
Tonight, after taking last night off the bike (because I was finishing a work project), I hopped back onto the rollers. I wasn't out to light things on fire- though I did toss in one hard sprint effort- so I rode at a medium pace. I didn't get started until after 10:00PM anyway, so I was already a bit tired and unmotivated to ride. Still, I pulled myself away from another spreadsheet and drug myself down the stairs with my Speciale Fixed and my rollers. As usual, I set up behind my car in the parking space of my apartment while the Masidaughter was asleep in her bed snoring, grunting, grinding her teeth and twitching like a sleeping puppy. I set up the rollers and pressed "play" on the Shuffle and let the music take me away from the things I needed/ wanted to escape... it was just what I needed. I struggled through the first 30 minutes and thought for sure I'd give up before finishing the second 30 minutes... but the music kept me focused on my legs spinning in circles and my feet remaining light on the pedals. After 1:03:41, I hopped back off the rollers and then rolled around on my corner for a few minutes to cool down. Then I rolled back over to my car and my sweaty rollers and carried everything back inside for the night. Sweat was dripping off of me, the bike and the rollers as I clomped back up the stairs in my carbon soles and spandex. It felt good to "get away" and sink into my leg speed and pedal stroke and trying to match cadence to musical time.
Most nights, my mind and my legs are happy for the high-tempo tunes crammed into my Shuffle, but tonight was a mellower groove to match a mellower mood... and it soothed the savage heart.