Sunday, July 05, 2009

Lance Armstrong - Spenco 500

Spenco 500 Home Movie

In case y’all thought the story about my video project keeping Maddog from going stir crazy during his injury/recovery was a lie or fairy tale I thought I should provide some proof. I have uploaded one home video to ‘You Tube’ for your enjoyment. It was a strange coincidence that when I decided to start the video project the first home movie or videotape I grabbed from my collection was the “Spenco 500”. I had even forgotten that I had filmed this event. I used this home movie to learn and practice how to use the video software I purchased to convert and edit tapes/film to DVD.

This home movie is very relevant now that the Tour de France has started and has an interesting story behind it that I will try to relate/share as briefly as possible.

Our son Chris attended high school in Dallas, TX at the same time as Lance Armstrong. Chris and Lance competed throughout high school in track and cross-country and in 5 and 10K road races in the Dallas area. They were both gifted athletes and became good friends and usually biked 50 to 75 miles every weekend with a group of friends. One day in 1986 Lance and Chris approached us with a group of 5 friends (all 15 years old) and asked if they could compete in the Spenco 500 – a grueling 24-hour/500 mile bike race through the Texas Hill country. The race started and ended in Waco, TX.

Since most of the parents were super jocks (in their own minds) who raced 10Ks and marathons and considered their kids to be even ‘better’ athletes we consented and agreed to support the team. My wife/sports manager and I drove the kids in our custom Ford van (shown in the video) so that they could relax and rest when not racing and other parents drove a van with the bikes.

When we showed up at the pre-race meeting in Waco there was a big surprise! The race officials took one look at the ‘kids’ and declared that they could not compete because they were too young! We reminded them that they had cashed the check/entry fee and had accepted and confirmed the kids’ registration that truly stated their age as 15 years old! After much heated negotiations where we informed race officials that one parent was a lawyer and would sue the race organization and request an immediate injunction to halt or delay the race they reluctantly conceded that the ‘children’ could participate. However they stated that they would accept no responsibility for their health or safety since the race was too challenging and grueling for such young ‘children’!

There were several ‘elite’ teams entered in the race including the US National Cycling Teams (men & women). A few members of the Women’s National team made the mistake of teasing the kids saying “you should not be in this race – you are not even old enough to shave”! This pissed the kids off and provided motivation to not only compete and finish – but they made it their goal to beat the Women’s US National Team!

The race started out well in the warm light of early evening. The kids were full of energy and motivated by all the negative comments and reaction to their participation. They averaged better than 30 miles/50 Km per hour during the initial daylight hours of the race. However as the race entered the hill country and light turned to dark and it became cold, rainy and miserable the enthusiasm started to fade. By midnight the riding shifts had shortened to 20 to 30 minutes and two team members wanted to quit and could/would not take their shifts. At that point Lance became the foundation and cheerleader for the remaining teammates and urged them on through the cold, miserable night. Often he would take every second shift to give his mates a longer rest. I watched in amazement each time he would bolt from the van in the miserable weather and bike furiously to catch up to the Women’s National team. All through the race – even through the miserable, cold night – the kids and the Women’s National team had played tic-tac-toe. Usually the women were in the lead but always within sight!

I was amazed with Lance’s athletic ability and stamina for a 15-year old kid. But what impressed me most was his drive and competitive spirit. He refused to give up or lose! I remember commenting to the Sports Manager “ this kid is truly unique – he has the ability to become an elite athlete”! (He didn’t let me down). Fortunately as the sun began to rise and the temps warmed up all five team members revived and became rejuvenated and motivated again. They were determined to finish – and beat the women!

As we approached the final 100 miles of the race Lance gathered the team together in our van and told them that if they could keep the women in sight until we were 25 miles from the finish he would take the final leg and guaranteed that they would beat the women!!!
Upon hearing their strategy I ordered Lance to skip his next few turns/legs and to rest for a few hours.

The team rallied and did their part. When we were 25 miles from the finish line the Women’s National Team was about 2 miles ahead. We let Lance loose. It was like letting a pit bull loose on a postman! He attacked like a possessed demon and averaged better than 30 miles/50Km per hour and passed the women 10 miles before the finish line- and never looked back as we beat the US Women’s National Team and placed 11th overall!!!

We were very proud of our kids and more importantly they were very proud of themselves and their accomplishment – as evident at the finish line in the video!

So now I share this ‘home movie’ with y’all. And you are lucky that y’all also get to share the story and memory that regular viewers on You Tube will never know about.



P.S. Pls feel free to pass this story and link on to friends.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Injury Update

Injury update: No improvement!

I ran a total of 3 times in June – and each time was a calamity! Let me explain.

At the end of my 2nd week in the High Country my leg was hurting badly. I decided to rest, cross train (2 hrs on an exercise bike, weight machines and pool at the Rec Center) and let it heal. A few weeks later the leg felt OK so I tried an easy 5-mile test run. After the run the leg hurt badly again and throbbed 24 X 7. I decided to go for some/more PT (physical therapy) with an old friend/masseuse Peggi de Sade who specializes in massage and PT for injuries. She started a treatment of stretching and applying pressure to trigger points. For those not familiar with this ‘torture’ technique she probes ‘trigger’ points along the legs and back to find the ones causing the pain and then applies pressure to each point to a level where I cry/scream in agony and beg for mercy (what a wuss – I am surprised you didn’t hear my screams in Africa?). After what seems like an eternity the pain eases and she begins again. Eventually the trigger points release and the pain goes away! It works and after each session the leg would feel much better and I would wait a few days and try another test run. Same result – the leg would hurt after the run and I was back to Square Zero and more ‘trigger’ torture. After the third test and a short rest the leg started to hurt even after 30 minutes on the exercise bike? Peggi thinks that one of the major muscles – probably the hip flexor- is so screwed up that it is not able to function properly and believes it is causing the other muscles and tendons such as the ITL Band and the piriformis tendon to compensate and overwork until they are also messed up. It is a never-ending vicious/painful circle that starts again every time I try to run? And now my back has started to hurt again? So Peggi and I have agreed on a new strategy/direction: NO running – NO biking – NO anything that causes stress/pain in the leg. Cross training will now be restricted to weight machines for the upper body and the pool/swimming. Have you ever tried to swim 1 mile in a lap pool? Boring!!!!! It is impossible to keep track/count of your laps after 10 minutes!

Maddog would probably have gone off the deep end by now – except for two things:
1) After I cancelled the marathons in Guatemala and Boston I wisely refused to make any more ‘goals’ or commitments for running. This has alleviated any stress or motivation to run through the injury. I will wait until I am 100% healthy and injury-free before I make any more commitments!
2) I started a project that I had been delaying for years. I have always wanted to convert and edit more than 30 years of family home movies to DVD. It is a tedious and time-consuming task – even more so when you are handicapped with an ancient computer (in Colorado) that is agonizingly slow and inefficient and only has a 75GByte hard drive! (I didn’t remember that computers actually had such small memories?) A typical video file runs 10 to 20 GB so I would have to finish one file, copy it to a portable hard drive and then delete the file from the main hard drive to free up space for the next file/project. On one particularly frustrating/bad computer day after 8 hrs of editing several hrs of home movies down to a 90-min video file my computer locked up and I lost the whole file and had to start over! I am surprised y’all didn’t hear the screams and foul language all the way to NZ that day? Fortunately that project kept me busy for almost 6 weeks but alas I finished this past week.

So now I am bored! Really bored! Hopefully in a few weeks Peggi can straighten out the tangled mess in my leg to make both it and my back pain free and I can continue training? I am trying valiantly to accept this couch-potato life but a day seems very long when you can’t exercise for 2 to 3 hrs!! Perhaps I can get some clues/suggestions from all you couch potatoes out there?

If this strategy/treatment doesn’t work I am not sure what the next step is? Probably I will look for a Sports Clinic/doctor that specializes in runners and biomechanics to see if he can figure out what the Hell the problem is and how to fix it?

Footnote: While waiting for the Sports Manager to have surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff on Jun 29 I visited the Steadman Hawkins Clinic in Vail, CO. After meeting with a team of medical experts for about one hour I scheduled an appointment the 2nd week of July to begin diagnosis and treatment of whatever ails me. I am optimistic that this team can fix my problems?

Stay tuned ( and keep your fingers crossed).