When you let college get in the way of riding

So I’ve known myself to procrastinate a bit; I think I’m pretty good at it at this point and this week was no performance slouch. My Spanish teacher assigned us a movie to watch and a worksheet to go along with it. Going along with the theme, I hadn’t watched it as of 8am this morning. But I wanted to go for a ride since the weather was beautiful and I thought I wouldn’t have time later in the day. So, my solution: watch a movie on the trainer and shut the blinds to block out the sun and ignore the nice weather outside.
I ate my standard breakfast these days of peanut butter on toast. And by standard I mean whatever I happen to have a lot of for snacks this week. Then I pulled the trainer out of the car since I hadn’t taken it out after Foothills this past weekend. As John Oliver explained why pennies suck to me, I finished setting up my bike and got prepped to ignore the outside world for an hour and a half.

The last movie we watched in spanish class was on youtube so I searched for today’s movie, “Juan de los Muertos.” The first listing was 3 hours and had no english subtitles, like what we usually do. “Interesting,” I thought as I prepared to half pay attention while trying to ride and translate rapid spanish in my head. Over the next hour and a half, I got enough of the gist to understand that zombies took over Cuba and many people flee on rafts to escape to the United States. In addition, there is a hilarious segment in which the main character, Juan, offers his service, Juan de los muertos, as a contract zombie killer in a style similar to Ghostbusters. He even answers the phone the same way and the only thing missing is an assistant with glasses.

The title is obviously a nod to “Dawn of the Dead” and “Shawn of the Dead.” However, this one is a metaphor for how th communists took over Cuba, as we discussed in class later that day.  When I got to class a little early, I asked my next door sitter, “Did you think it was weird that the movie was three hours?” “Three hours?” she replied, “I think it was only supposed to be an hour and a half.”

“Where did you watch it?”

“Vimeo, like he put in the syllabus”

Spokes Out.

Training isn’t hard

Maybe this is a revelation I’m coming to because I’m so far removed from the interval sets I’d usually be doing at this point. But after continuing knee issues for the past three months, I’m starting to believe it. Training isn’t the hard part of the sport that we do because the actual riding is the reason we got into it. We all started riding and fell in love with the sport and the way it made us feel. The endorphin highs and exhausted post-ride meals with friends or teammates brought us closer together. Then we started racing and the need for speed and enjoyment of competition pushed us to continue to improve. And while motivation can ebb and flow, we were always happy to get on the bike and get out there and ride because it seems like the thing we were born to do.

So, my hypothesis today: that’s not the hard part. No, the hard part is when you have to stop, look around and evaluate yourself. Sometimes you may find a problem, either mental or physical and you have to decide whether to take a rest or keep going. I’ve made that decision four times over the past year and each time, I’ve decided to take a rest before continuing on. And each time it’s been more difficult as the clock ticks on both my racing goals and the time available to spend riding with friends in College Park. But each time, I have not regretted it. I have been angry, frustrated and disappointed but I’ve never regretted it.

If you’ve been following this site for a while, you’ll know that I’ve had ongoing issues in my left leg related to muscle imbalance. Well, this time it was something even more stupid. See the chunk missing from my right pedal there? I rode like that for two months and apparently, that was enough to give me patellar tendonitis in my right knee as well. The decision to take a rest at this point is one of the hardest that I’ve made, especially since in November I was on track to have probably my best season yet.

The internal curvature of the pedal is not supposed to be jagged like that.

One of the common refrains that is heard when talking about any sport is “no pain, no gain” and while a certain amount of toughness is required to compete, it’s not the be all, end all. This is something that athletes will even repeat in interviews and it might give people an unhealthy perception of how to deal with pain. Obviously, muscle soreness and the burning sensation of a hard effort are necessary but we need to pay attention to pain in unexpected areas. If there is pain outside of what seems normal, it can be indication of dysfunction such as a muscle imbalance like I had or a poor movement pattern. Taking the time to either go to a professional or do some research yourself can yield important information in reducing any impact or even avoiding injury altogether.

Another aspect to consider stopping for is the mental side of the sport. This is an incredibly hard sport and sometimes things can get overbearing depending on your degree of seriousness and external stress. Even if you’re outside the elite ring (like myself), mental issues can crop up. Depression is something that impacts between a tenth and a fifth of adults in our society and it can cripple you if it’s not taken care of. Cycling is something that enables people to mask underlying issues even when those things become critical. And that’s something that can be very hard to admit due to the social stigma regarding mental health issues.

I don’t want to self-diagnose myself with depression because it’s a very serious condition but it definitely felt like after I stopped riding due to the ankle issue over the summer, some issues bubbled over. There was a strong unhappiness that would not go away until I actually paid it some mind. These issues can stem from environment, cultural influences and more but the underlying theme is that it does need to take time to heal, like any physical injury. The good news is that you don’t really have to take time off like with a physical injury, just make sure you’re listening to yourself and never be afraid to ask for help. Someone will be there for you.

So, to conclude: if you think you might need to take a rest, listen to your body or mind and should take it. You never know what you may be able to avoid.

Spokes out.

Update: In the middle of writing this blog, I started riding again and did a short set of steady state intervals. They sucked but I was so happy about being able to ride again that I barely felt it.

Una comparación de la nacionalismo en “Nuestra América” y la campaña de Donald Trump

This is a literature analysis that i just wrote for my spanish class comparing the nationalist undertones of Cuban hero Jose Marti and the presidential campaign of Donald Trump.

Nacionalismo ha estado muy importante para la formación del mundo que sabemos hoy. Muchas de las fronteras y rivalidades modernos han creado guerras y colonialismo que viene de nacionalismo (Triandafyllidou 594). Ambos guerras del mundo empiezan de líderes que incitaron nacionalismo en la población: Adolf Hitler, Carol de Rumania y Benito Mussolini. Como en Alemania en los 1930s, Martí y Trump han creado ofertas para fuerza de la desesperación y orgullo que viene de sus épocas respectivas (Dueck, Ainsa 59). Es muy fácil para ver las mismas temas en ambos y este es porque Martí sentido la necesidad a escribir su ensayo “Nuestra América.”

En las días de colonialismo cuando España, Portugal, Holanda y Inglaterra estuvieran luchando por tierra, usaron orgullo nacional para justificación. Nacionalismo permite el gobierno ser capaz de hacer muchas cosas negativas. Nacionalismo es un ideología que inspira confianza en una población en el éxito de la nación y sus líderes (Triandafyllidou 596). Ahora, estamos viendo el efecto de nacionalismo otra vez encima de la fuerza de Donald Trump (Dueck).

En ambos la campaña y este ensayo, hay mucho nacionalismo y orgullo en las palabras.  Hay muchas oportunidades para tener aquellos emociones pero las palabras en “Nuestra América” tienen más esperanza que las palabras de nuestra presidente. Marti habla mucho sobre la posibilidad y potencial de una gobierno de los Cubanos y no los Espanoles, como aqui: “Las repúblicas han purgado en las tiranías su incapacidad para conocer los elementos verdaderos del país, derivar de ellos la forma de gobierno y gobernar con ellos” (Huellas 293) Este es diferente de Donald Trump, quien tiene una visión peor de su nación y esperanza mínimo, como en su expresión de investidura, “But for too many of our citizens, a different reality exists: mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities……This American carnage stops right here and stops right now” (Blake).

Una otra estrategia que hemos visto en el pasado es la usa de términos para separar la población a grupos.  En “Nuestra America,” Marti usa la frase “hombre natural” para describir las personas quien debe tener la fuerza en la país. Ese crear un diálogo de nosotros versus ustedes en lugar de nosotros versus la problema. Específicamente, quiere separar los Españoles y sus partidarios de los Cubanos verdaderos. Usa descripciones romanticas para distinguir aquellos personas: “El hombre natural es bueno, y acata y pre- mia la inteligencia superior, mientras esta no se vale de su sumisión para dañarle, o le ofende prescindiendo de él, que es cosa que no perdona el hombre natural, dispuesto a recobrar por la fuerza el respeto de quien le hiere la susceptibilidad o le perjudica el interés” (Huellas 293) Es muy similar de el diálogo de Donald Trump en su campaña sobre los “Americanos verdaderos” y es una tema de líderes en todo el mundo. Para Trump, los “Americanos verdaderos” son cristianos del medio oeste y el sud quien trabajan trabajos de labor manual (Silver). Un otra contraste aquí es la inclusión de todas las razas de Martí “No hay odio de razas porque no hay razas.”

Las comparaciones a otras países es un aspecto muy importante por la ideología tampoco. Marti usa referencias a la ropa de yanquis y francés para una metáfora a los ideologias diferentes entre las personas. “Las levitas son todavía de Francia, pero el pensamiento empieza a ser de américa” (Huellas 295) Martí piensa que la ideología que se enseña a los estudiantes Cubanos da a ellos una perspectiva diferente de que necesitan para controlar el país. Así, puede atacar los ideologias y cambiar la perspectiva de cubanos con el mismo frase. Trump usa una táctica diferente: hable sobre los acciones para lo mismo metáfora. “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best…..They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.” Habla sobre el terrorismo y los criminales para crear terror en las personas en los estados unidos (Washington Post). El puede definir las personas de sus acciones.

“Nuestra América” usa dos metáforas para hablar de las problemas: el pulpo y el tigre. El pulpo es una metáfora para la influencia de otros países (específicamente los estados unidos) en los asuntos de nuestro mismo país. Ahora, imperialismo era una fuerza menos de fuerza y más de mercado. Trump usa la amenaza de défecites comerciales en la misma manera para su versión de nacionalismo (Blake). Martí también usa el tigre para representar la agresión de España y su imperio y fuerza naval. La versión contemporáneo para Trump es la amenaza de nuestros adversarios políticos en Rusia y China (Blake).

En el fin, los objetivos de ambos Marti y Trump parecen muy maquiavélico en sus escritos a pesar de la distancia entre sus diálogos. Gonzalez-Ocaña dije que “Urge, según Martí, romper bruscamente con un pasado que nada bueno ha aportado al sueño panamericano” (Gonzalez-Ocaña 55). Marti usa los palabras de “Nuestra América” a llamar para unidad en latino- y sud-américa y como dije, su vida era “una de las más intensas, puras y nobles que se han vivido sobre la tierra” (Ureña 81). Sus intenciones eran para crear poder de la unidad de los países panamericanos, pero se murió antes de podía ver su sueño. Tenemos tanta evidencia que Trump está haciendo el opuesto: muchos de sus órdenes executivos para alzar personal (Venook). Trump no está tratando a usar unidad para su alzar, que represente su distancia de Martí y Machiavelli. Sin embargo, no cometa un error; Él está todo en para el poder.

 

Referencias Citadas

  1. Ainsa, Fernando. “Creencias del aldeano vanidoso: La utopia de Nuestra America de Jose Marti.” Cuadernos Americanos 98 (2003): 56-71. Print.
  2. Blake, Aaron. “Donald Trump’s full inauguration speech transcript, annotated.” The Washington Post. WP Company, n.d. Web. 06 Feb. 2017.
  3. Dueck, Colin, Daniel McCarthy, Daniel L. Davis, and Leon Hadar. “Donald Trump, American Nationalist.” The National Interest. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Feb. 2017.
  4. Garganigo, John F. Huellas de las literaturas hispanoamericanas. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1997. Print.
  5. Gonzalez-Ocana, Jaime. “Diálogo entre Martí y Maquiavelo: lectura de Nuestra América bajo el prisma de El Príncipe.” Cuadernos Americanos 154 (2015): 53-65. Print.
  6. Silver, Nate. “Only 20 Percent Of Voters Are ‘Real Americans'” FiveThirtyEight. FiveThirtyEight, 21 July 2016. Web. 06 Feb. 2017.
  7. Staff, Washington Post. “Full text: Donald Trump announces a presidential bid.” The Washington Post. WP Company, n.d. Web. 06 Feb. 2017.
  8. Triandafyllidou, Anna. “National identity and the other.” Racial and Ethnic Studies 21 (1998): 593-612. Web.
  9. Urena, Pedro Henrique. “Prologo a “Nuestra America”.” Ventana Abierta 1.4 (1998): 81-82. Print.
  10. Venook, Jeremy. “Donald Trump’s Conflicts of Interest: A Crib Sheet.” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, n.d. Web. 07 Feb. 2017.

The next step

In a little under 4 months, on May 21st, I’m going to walk across the stage and officially graduate from the University of Maryland with my BS in Materials Science and Engineering. You know how people say they wouldn’t have changed a thing about their college experience? I definitely would. There are so many pitfalls I want myself to avoid (aka not get injured). But, I’m also glad that I can’t because those pitfalls shaped my character and personality to what they are now, which is something that I would not change. I like me.

And part of what has made me, me are all the people who helped to get me to this point: parents, aunts and uncles, brothers, friends and teammates. No one in the modern world is “self-made.” Everyone has been helped or mentored and stands on the shoulders of those who stuck with them in difficult times. So, to all of of my helpers, I say thank you. I never would have made it without you.

Now, onto the question that literally – not figuratively (see definition 2) -literally, everyone asks me when they hear that I’m a senior in college:

What are you going to do after you graduate?

literally

First of all, screw you for asking this question that I obviously don’t want to answer.

I’m going to wake up the next morning, get on my bike and go for a ride knowing that I never have to step into a classroom again if I don’t want to. That doesn’t mean I’ll ever stop learning because why bother waking up in the morning if you’re not going to learn something? When I get home from that ride, I’m going to sit on the porch of the house I’m living in and drink a beer and appreciate that I have had a place to sleep and food to eat over the course of four years of study. Many people don’t have that opportunity.

In the medium term, I’ve decided to forgo a high-paying engineering job and check off 1.5 of the items on my five year goal list: living in a foreign country for longer than 3 months and becoming fluent in spanish and dutch. While doing some soul-searching last October, I stumbled onto a program called the Auxiliares de conversacion, which is run by the Spanish Ministry of Education. By participating, I’ll be placed in a school somewhere in Spain and be a teaching assistant for 8 months with the opportunity to renew up to two school years. In living there, I’ll hopefully be able to improve my spanish markedly by immersion.

spanglish

I’ll be receiving a small stipend (aka there’s no point in trying to steal money from me because there won’t be much; try Donald Trump instead) and health insurance so I will be able to support myself while living abroad. I’m also planning to take on some coaching clients and teach private english lessons to supplement my income. I hope that this will allow me to not only save for my future but travel while in Spain and potentially, travel to Belgium for a racing trip (and start working on the second part of that above goal), something I’ve wanted to do since I started racing.

Changing my course

When I was a kid, I wanted to be an inventor. I drew things that I wanted to make real and I believed that making everyday life easier was all about stuffing technology into a backpack. I drew backpacks with devices for DJs, firemen and many more.  I loved math and science and in high school, frequently grappled with solar energy and the problems therein. I followed that aspiration to where I am now even as I’ve grown older and the things that make me happy have changed.

My favorite website right now is called the minimalists. It’s all about reducing the amount of things in your life to make way for what’s really important: experiences and people. My favorite piece from them is on a concept called course correction, which they have appropriated from aviation. Where you want to be may change and at that point, you have the option of staying on the course you were on or changing it to suit where you want to be. Over time, if you don’t make those small corrections, you end up a huge distance from where you want to be because it will keep changing.

image

So, I’m taking a risk and doing a 180. I feel like I haven’t taken many risks over the course of the past few years and provided I get into the program, my life is going to be a lot different in two years than it would be if I had chosen to work for Unnamed Defense Contractor. And if I get to that point and don’t like where I am, I’ll work hard, make another course correction, and try to volunteer so I can help those less fortunate than I live the independent, healthy lives that every human being deserves. Because while you can’t get very far without hard work, getting a little help can go a long way.

Spokes out.

Reflection on 2016, Part 2

Alright, after the negativity in Part 1, this part of the post is going to be positive, I promise. I have my internal dialogue switched to puppies and rainbows so this should be good. Nearing the end of last semester, going into my finals, I was having the knee issues I mentioned in the first part. There were some moments where I wanted to just give in to everything. There were moments that I broke down and started crying and in one of those moments, I had an idea. I made myself write out a list good things that happened to me in 2016, so here are some of them (along with some commentary).

I started to believe in myself and my ability to achieve my goals

This is something that was brewing in my system for a while. In middle and high school, I was never anything special in terms of grades and I accepted the fact that I was an average student. When I started applying to colleges, my swim coach asked me if I was an A student who got Bs or a B student who got As. I responded that I was the latter and went from there in my college process by applying to a couple safety schools, a couple match schools and three reach schools – none of which I got into. That kind of reinforced the “I’m average” thought.

Getting to college, we’re encouraged to set our goals high and work hard so that we can make a lot of money upon leaving. As a fresh-faced bike racer entering my freshman year of college, I set the goal of qualifying the Richmond 2015 U23 time trial. I still have the piece of paper it’s written on at home. I’m not really sure how confident I was of that goal then because I did not really take it seriously. Improving at that rate would have required a lot of genetic luck and ridiculous amounts of hard work (which I did not stick to). When I didn’t reach that level, I reset my goal to just racing at the UCI Continental. Again, it was hard to keep myself on track.

Up until this past year, when I finally started seeing myself as an individual who had a unique life ahead of me. It’s kind of difficult to see when you’ve been following the same school path as everyone else for 16 years. But over the past year, I’ve been watching my strengths and weaknesses change and started seeing what I’m capable of when I apply myself. It’s something really powerful to discover that you can literally do anything with your life and it’s a sensation that I hope most people are able to realize in their lives.

I gained work experience at a major corporation

At times, this felt kind of like a negative thing but in the end, I found it to be a positive experience. Over this past summer, I worked as an intern at an unnamed defense contractor (UDC) in Baltimore. I was working with both new employees and people who had been there for 15 years and even met some people who had been there for 40+ years. Employment of that length is incredibly rare these days to the point that long-term employment is now defined as about two years.

Anyway, my experience was not all that different from working in a lab at a university. You do experiments, get results and send them to the people who want the data. At a university, the projects are usually much longer and you can get funding for new equipment much more easily. However, at UMD, I didn’t have to sit around and look busy for 8 hours every day like at UDC, I simply went in, did what needed to be done and left.

In addition to the shock of working a 40 hour week for the first time, I was dealing with injury that killed the vibe of my summer overall. It was really hard to continue going into 8 hours of looking busy without being able to reconcile it with a ride at the end of the day or a race to look forward to over the weekend. The experience was great and I appreciate that they gave me the opportunity to work, learn and earn but it’s not something I saw myself doing after school. So, when the full time offer came in October, I said no. I have a plan for the future but that’ll come in a later post.

UMD Cycling experienced huge growth and hosted its first race

This is probably the part of my UMD legacy that I’m most proud of. At an officers’ meeting last night, one of them told me that he couldn’t believe I would be graduating in May and practically begged me to stay for an MBA. I certainly want to be around for the team but I know that more school isn’t the way to do it, at least for the moment. The team has gone from 6 to 35 active members in the past three years and will potentially eclipse Virginia Tech as the team with most active USAC licenses in the ACCC this year. It’s so amazing to leave an active and powerful team behind and I can’t wait to see how the team does in ensuing years.

Rebuilding an organization is a serious labor of love and I really only recommend doing it if you really believe in the mission of the organization. Leading a group that you’re only in because it’ll look good on a resume is the path straight to burning out. But if you do find that you believe in the organization, there’s nothing like seeing it grow as you walk out the door. Satisfaction at a difficult job well done is one of the best feelings you’ll ever get and I look forward to doing it more as my journey in cycling continues.

I was able to pass off leadership of the UMD Cycling Team

On the coattails of the last point, I was a little bit worried I would have to continue leading the team this year. I made it clear that I wanted to step back starting in the spring semester and thankfully, I was succeeded and the team continues to thrive. And with strong leaders lined up for the next couple of years, it will continue to be that way for years to come.

I became a vegetarian

This is of controversial positivity to my family and friends but I honestly believe this is one of the better decisions I made this year. After seeing TED talks by Brendan Brazier and Rip Esselstyn midway through 2015, I started investigating the idea of being a vegetarian. There seemed to be a lot of potential benefits including improved athletic performance. With my lofty cycling goals, it seemed like a no-brainer to try it so I did a short-lived experiment that fall and fully made the transition in February 2016. It wasn’t a huge deal to me since I was really only eating a little chicken and fish at school anyway due to the limited dining hall options (and questionable quality of their red meat).

Before this, I was having a lot of trouble controlling my weight and was finding that I had plateaued at about 193 pounds and couldn’t get any lower. With the change, I quickly dropped to 187 pounds and actually improved my power numbers. My mom is constantly worried that I don’t get enough protein but I know that’s just because she loves me. For those concerned: I do eat a lot of protein, it’s just not meat. I drink almonds like water.

The benefits that I have noticed since changing my diet includes better recovery after workouts because I’m getting more vitamins and reducing inflammation more readily. In addition, I rarely get the bloated feeling of complete fullness and lethargy that comes after a large meal with a lot of meat in it. I’m not going to lie and say that I never miss cheeseburgers when other people are eating them in front of me but I think the benefits outweigh my occasional jealousy.

I competed in my first national championship event

This was kind of a biggie for me because my main goal for the season was going to nationals and getting into the final crit selection. Of course USAC decided to design a crit for climbers with an incredibly fast, technical, downhill, off camber corner in it and my fitness was where you would expect it to be after losing a month of training and racing to knee issues. The race was blindingly fast from the start and I literally got dropped from the front on the first lap. After a crash and a couple laps way behind the lead, I got pulled.

Either way, it was an incredibly fun experience because I got to be there for the last collegiate races of two teammates. The road race was one of the most gruelling things I’ve ever done because while I can ride 72 miles easily, I can’t do it at the pace the leaders could. Same with the time trial, where I finished 3 minutes down on the winner and less than a second behind the fastest female rider (which is insane). It was really inspiring to see how far I need to improve in order to achieve my goals

Conclusion

There was a lot of bad last year stemming from the injury but also a lot of good. When I’m not riding, it can feel like the balance in my life is completely off and I may never recover. But, the work I do when not riding is just as important and has resulted in a lot of great friends that I would never have had otherwise. So, now I’m looking forward to what I can accomplish in 2017.