Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Checking In

May 7th of 2013, to, February 1st of 2015, 635 days. February 1st 2015, to September 6th 2017, 948 days.  Numbers, dates, etc, point being, I suppose, that this blog has slipped into a bit of a defunct entity.  That said, for whatever reason, I am flying from primary home to secondary home, and feeling an urge to get the blog up to speed.

Ok, so getting up to speed, here.  When I last checked in, I was, "shoulders deep in coaching".  Well, call it naive, call it 20/20 hindsight, I'd say I was far shallower than shoulders deep, and maybe now I am getting there?  Seeing as everytime I round a proverbial bend, I realize I'm a bit farther from the top, than I once thought I was, I'll refrain from making allegories on where I stand in the coaching world.  Right, tangent, getting up to speed - primary home is Boulder, CO (still), and secondary home, more or less, is Sittard, Netherlands.  I guess that's been a secondary home before, but the mechanism has changed.  Where in a previous blog, Sittard would have been my launching pad for a World Tour pursuit, a racing campaign, a camp of hard yards of training, etc, etc, me, me, me - now it serves a bit different purpose.  Same base, similar idea, different role.

The coaching has taken me to directing the U23 national team for USA Cycling.  Definitely a gear change, and I would think I'm not the only one that's been scratching my head this year wondering how a 26 year old dirt bag smooth talked his way into this role.  Now, of course, my ego would step up and say it's not all smooth talk, and there's been some hard yards off the bike that have placed me here.  I would agree with my ego to some extent, but also counter that I'm extremely fortunate to be where I am, and there's been an element of right place, right time, that played strongly as well.

Now, mechanism aside, I've enjoyed it a lot.  I'd be lying, if I said, I'd enjoyed every minute.  It's been hard, harder than I imagined.  But, cliche as it may be, seeing the effort the riders put in, and the progress we've made as program - well it makes it pretty easy to work hard.  Well, as I said, flying from primary home to secondary home.  We've just wrapped l'Avenir.  I've been home for a week, and now it's back over to the EU, for a final push towards Worlds.  I don't actually like the word final, as it sounds like a final gasp for breath.  Rather, I think this push is a momentous push. The riders are fit, and Worlds is far from an afterthought.  Obviously, hindsight will tell us the success.  But from where I sit now, it's nothing but excitement, anticipation, and a bit of confidence.  Keen to get stuck in on this one.

Well - there's the every two year check in (I wanted to say biannual, but feared that may mean twice per year?).  Maybe a strong gin and tonic will move this to a higher frequency.  But every two years doesn't sound so bad to me.  Thanks for reading - if there's anyone out there.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

An Exercise in Frustration, or a Lack Thereof

I haven't posted since Gila 2013.  First off, funny that I mark my calendar by races rather than by a month, date, time, hell even a moon phase feels like it would be more relevant to the world around me.  I guess not so much funny as indicative of how influential racing has been in my life.  That said, damn, cycling can be a bitch.  I left off my last post with a lot of cliches and sap, I figured I might as well pick up where I left off.

Cycling is tough, it's given me a lot of good things, and I can't sit here and write that it's taken a lot away from me, when it really hasn't and when there are kids out there that I know would give an arm and a leg to have gotten the opportunities I have.  Some would probably give a lot more, maybe a kidney since you only need one.  That said, I feel like cycling has chewed me up and spit me out, for the time being.  It's not the first time, but my self centered memory is typically just a few months long, it's easy to forget all I've gotten out of it in lieu of a couple moments of frustration.  It just shows how fickle we, or more accurately, I, can be.

Overall cycling is treating me well, very well.  I'm shoulders deep in the coaching pool now, and fighting to establish myself there.  It feels a bit weird being a 23 year old, who 15 months ago considered himself an up and comer, to be sitting with guys in there 30's and 40's that are done and past racing and coaching is their all.  I think a lot of people may look at me and say I shouldn't be there yet, but the reality is that I am, and I'm happy about it.  I am loving the coaching, and looking to get involved with as many projects as I can.  I remember how hungry I was coming up, and I want to be right back there, but on the other side of the equation, feeding that hunger.

I've gone on a bit of a tangent here, but it's good, well that's good.  As to my own frustrations, it's just injury.  Just, injury.  It sounds so simple, so clean.  Just rest, you idiot, why don't you go see a physical therapist, maybe you just need to foam roll more.  Do you stretch regularly?  Shit, if I haven't heard all that a thousand times before.  I'm not going to lie, I'm not past it, for all intents and purposes.  I'm happy with coaching being my focus.  But, I'm not happy with my body.  It's nothing but frustration, dealing with this, and I'd be lying if I said that I was totally happy with cycling right now.  As much as I try to put it behind me, it's hard to.  I don't care if I never pin a number on again, but I just want to ride a bike.  I haven't ridden over an hour since Thanksgiving at this point, and I've only scraped the one hour mark at all a few times.  Mostly it's been a routine of forty-five minutes spent stretching, doing some exercises, kitting up, getting excited because I've convinced myself that this ride will be the breakthrough one.  Then I'm pulled over on the side of the road five minutes after having rolled out the door, trying to decide whether I want to throw my bike off the left side of the road or the right.  I hate to sit here and complain about my own problems, but misery loves company right, and this blog will have to do.

I hit those feelings for moments, but then I've been lucky enough to get a bit of perspective.  I'll go into the office tomorrow and get to look at everybody's files from the weekend.  That may sound like a circle of hell to some, but to anybody who really knows me they know it pretty much can't get better for me.  But for a moment here, in lieu of sleep, it feels good to let out my frustrations.  I've been trying to keep my injuries a secret for months now, and finally I don't have to.  I've come clean with my team, and the pressure is off.  To be honest it feels amazing.  There's always something bigger on the horizon.  And as much as I want to give sage advice to up and coming young riders to focus on the big picture, and not the (many) little bumps along the way, I need the advice just as much myself.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

On the Hunt

It is a special moment when you realize in a race that the form is getting to a good place.  If there is one thing I have learned over the last few years it is that I can draw almost nothing from what I do in training.  I have gone into races thinking I was invincible and been dropped before the real racing even began, and I have gone into races hoping just to finish and been one of the best riders in the race.  I never really know what is going to happen until the race really starts going and then I know whether I have it or not.

When I get to the race there is always a moment where I really know, it sounds cliché but there is a certain feeling I get and when I have it I just know.  This past week at Gila I finally felt the sensations I have been looking for all spring, and in the moment all I could feel was overwhelming relief.  All week I was solid, acceptable, but at one point in the beginning of the last day I felt what I was really looking for.

The last stage at Gila is the hardest on paper, and often the most decisive for the GC.  Last year a break of 22 riders went clear on the first small climb out of town.  A large portion of the break stayed clear and shaped a large part of the GC.  This year three teams went into the final day with four or more riders in the top 15 on GC and it seemed like, with last year fresh in their memories, each of those teams was intent on stacking a big break with a rider high on GC to put pressure on the leader and try to win the race.

Basically the motivation of the big teams to stack the break led to a very aggressive and hard start where a break never really went.  As everyone’s legs started to tire from the aggression the race began to split and come back together.  At one point I was too far back and the race was shattering, on the crosswind climb.  Without thinking I pulled out of line and went straight across the gaps to the front group.  For just that one moment, maybe three minutes total, I totally felt what I had been looking for, for five months.  I did not feel it all week, or even all day.  But just for that one moment I had found what I was looking for, and for an instant all I could feel was relief.  I thought to myself, “you’ve still got it Nate, it’s going to be okay”, and for that I thank you Gila.

For now the one instant will have to suffice, but I can only hope the feeling will become more common over the coming months.  With a big block of European stage racing coming up I may be getting there just in the nick of time.  I can’t say I am totally where I want to be, but I am a lot closer than I was a month ago.  To me that sounds like progress, and as long as there is progression there is reason to continue, so for now I continue on the hunt.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

You know it's a good crack when you find yourself sitting alone in the corner of DQ with one Blizzard in each hand.  Don't worry I'll be back.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A 2012 Racing Review in Photos

I was recently perusing the web in an indulgence of my own vanity, looking through all the pictures I could find of myself from this past year.  It was a truly enjoyable time, as I can't deny loving the look of  my lean self giving it a little bit of stick.

I figured I can't just save all the pleasurable viewing for myself, so I've assembled a small homage to my own personal ego below, for my 2.78 readers' enjoyment.

There is nothing I specialize in more than going solo in early season, office park, training crits.
But if there is one thing I specialize in almost as much, it is flat, windy season opener road races.  Staz and I started the season off right in this one, and it was too much fun not to commemorate.
In what would prove to be a theme for the year, Huffman did this in the TT at Merco.  The selfish bastard cost me a hundred bucks with his win.
And then to add insult to injury he wanted us to ride the front in the crit.
This one is from the first stage of Gila, super easy and then super hard, never in between.
I would be lying if I said I wasn't proud of this one.  Not necessarily the result I was hoping for, but at least I was in the right spot at one point in the race.
GK and I were on a bit of a day at the Iron Horse crit, can't say the same for the TT though.
Hood could've been worse.
Hood could've been worse for sure.
This might be my favorite picture of the whole season actually.  The kid that won, while he looks all of 10, is a stout 19.  He's a major hitter, and is gonna win everything with a hill or without in due time.  He'll never admit but he's my protege.
It's a major treat to come race at home, especially a Joe Jefferson race.  I don't think I've met another announcer that compares.  Ryan, Josh, Keck thanks for making it a race.
Like I said, in what would prove to be a theme for the year.  Hats off to you Huffman.
Aosta was the coolest and most beautiful race I've ever done.  It also has some climbs.

 It was a privilege to be part of the l'Avenir team.  Four of the guys from the team are going pro and it was clear at this race why.  I was lucky enough to make into the break one day, and I'm not gonna lie it was horrible.  Everyone in that race is a little bit motivated, and I left my main motivation back in the Folsom office park in the first picture.

All in all this year was a blast.  The teammates were great, most fun group of guys I could ever imagine to hang out with, at a race or not.  The races weren't so bad themselves, from time to time.  But yeah, here's to closing the door on the 2012 season and almost ready to open the door on 2013.  But first a few more 40's and bowls of ice cream.  In case you were still undecided GQ is saying a 40 of Mickey's is the 2012 "class on class" drink of choice.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

I’m on the flight home from my second ever racing trip to Europe.  It’s funny the past two months I’ve had more free time than I knew what to do with and never managed to write an update.  Now I’m a week into the semester and everything is flying and yet I’ve decided now is the time to update the all important blog.

Aosta was a mixed bag for me.  The courses were incredible, so hilly and so beautiful.  It was the best race I’ve ever done for sure.  Well at least looking back on it now it seems like it was the best races.  However, during the race there were a couple mornings that I woke up and looked at the profile for the day and questioned how I ever thought I liked climbing.  I came in with some good form, but maybe didn’t put it too full use.  On the second day I got in the move that went early and went clear over the first KOM.  I got second in the sprint at the top and me and a French kid had a small gap on the descent.  He was nailing it even though there were 15 guys right behind use and 120k still to go.  Instead of just sitting up I was following him a little too hot and came into one corner comically fast.  It wasn’t even close.  But yeah so that day ended up being a wash, there were two more hard climbs the break stayed away and would’ve been a good opportunity to set up a good GC, but instead I suffered through the day.  I felt pretty wrecked the next two days, didn’t get too cut up but my hip and back were giving me some problems.  The 4th stage I had my main good day.  It was the queen stage, the hardest day on paper, so it was a good day to have a good day.  There was a big break that had some guys staying away to the finale.  Over the second cat 1 I made the first major selection though and in was in a front group of about 15 guys.  Over the next cat 1 it pretty much exploded.  I rode solo pretty much to the line, but went through a few groups on the last climb.  I ended up 10th but was only beat by a few people out of the field.  It wasn’t huge, but for me it was.  A big thing for me was that the stage was about 5:15, and I’ve had a history of cracking in long hard races, but that day I just kept getting better and better as it was going on.  So it gave me some hope for the future that I can do it even in a big race.  The main downside of Aosta for me came the next day.  It was another hard climbing day and whatever I felt the day before today I felt the opposite.  I ended up getting shelled and dropping out.  I could barely eat and looking back I was starting to get sick as I spent the next few days praying to the porcelain gods.

The rest of the trip was a mixed bag as a lot of trips are.  Some highs and some lows.  The guys were great and it was an inspirational crew to be around.  It’s pretty motivating when you’re sitting around the table talking and you realize almost all the guys are going pro tour next year.  l’Avenir was great to do, wish I had been riding better, but Boswell and Larry made it easy to want to give all the little bit of form I had.  So at least I know I didn’t let any go to waste.  But I think it’s official I used up all the reserves to squeeze the last bit of form out of the tube so to speak.  It was motivating to be at l’Avenir but mentally draining at the same time.  It’s the biggest race I’ve ever done that late in the year and I think for me I was running a little bit too much on fumes to be fully effective.  But it was a great opportunity and hopefully I learned something so next year I can come back and ride for the GC.  Boz ended up 5th on GC and Brown would’ve won if he wasn’t the worlds greatest work horse.  Better than that were the nonstop laughs and the nearly nonstop ice cream since the race ended. 

Now it’s time to break out the MTB for some collegiate racing and see what kind of fast times I can put down riding from one bar to the next.  Hopefully I pass some classes in the interim as well.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


There are a lot of important races and chances for results throughout the season, but the national championships for whatever reason always seem more important to me than other races.  Not everyone feels this way, in fact it seems that recently most u23 riders place less and less emphasis on nationals.  For me I always feel a little more pressure at nationals than I do at other big races.  Maybe it is because I still have not quite let go of a couple years ago when I got second at nationals when I had the fitness but not the head to win it.  So either way, for whatever it is nationals always feels like a magical event to me.  One day you can be no one and the next your national champion, and everyone has that chance.  To me that makes it very special.  For whatever reason the past few years when I have lined up I have always had this feeling that I had a chance to win no matter what the course or who was there, that for some reason I do not always have at other events.

At the same time I have a lot of a love hate relationship with the national championships.  It almost does not seem to matter who is racing or what the course is, I am always in the mix but never seem to be able to finish it off.  In 2009 I rode away in the junior race only to be joined by Max Durtschi and outclassed at the end.  In 2010 in my first year u23, I was probably in way over my head but for whatever reason I just did not care.  Anytime Howes, Talansky, or Ben King would attack I would turn myself inside out to follow them, as if I was a contender for the win.  To be honest looking back on it, it seems comical.  But if anyone had asked me what I was doing covering so much more than I knew I could handle, I would have told them I was going to win.  Eventually Ben King went when everyone else couldn't and him and I rode away.  Again I could not handle it, and eventually he rode away from me as well, but this time the pack rode up to me.  Last year in 2011, I missed the winning move but took an opportunity to go across the three minute gap with some of the strong boys.  When we got there I was totally done and was barely able to get one bottle from the car to give to Evan and claim a stake in his excellent ride for 3rd.  This year I was again in the mix and was in the move without too much trouble. I rode it out for most of the day but just wasn't on the day I needed.  We got put behind the 8 ball and I had to ride to try and salvage something but like I said I wasn't on the day I needed.  Rob Bush was the quickest in a three up sprint between maybe the three quickest guys in the race.

So that is the end to another nationals for me.  It has been four years of being in the position to win, but being unable to finish it off.  It's an interesting feeling I have for the national championships, but it is a good one that keeps me wanting to come back, at least for one more year I think.