Cycling: Filling a hole, Fueling my ego

Leading the Therapeutic Assoc. boys into the 2010 Elkhorn Classic

Leading the Therapeutic Assoc. boys into the 2010 Elkhorn Classic

battling for the win in a two man break at the Icebreaker Criterium

battling for the win in a two-man break at the Icebreaker Criterium

For Thanksgiving I’m in Bend to get a little R & R before Saturday’s Civil War Football game.  It’ll be nice to get some time away from Corvallis, to get a little thinking, reading, writing, and web-site building, in before I head back over to the valley.  When I arrived I threw on my running shoes and found myself running around Summit High School, on the same roads that I used to race weekly criterium’s back in my cycling heyday.  When thinking about topics to address for my blog I usually come up with the best stuff while running or cycling.  Being on the same course as I used to race my road bike on brought back a lot of memories about how I used to act, speak, and think, as a cyclist.

Please don’t me wrong, I love the sport of road cycling, and I will strive to race from time to time.  These accounts of what I was like back when I was racing having nothing to do with the sport necessarily.  Most of what happened as a cyclist was purely my own doing, given my fragile mental state at the time.

From 2008 to 2011, when I took cycling quite seriously, as an amateur Category 3 racer mind you, I was in the midst of rebuilding myself from my financial and emotional downfall in 06/07.  In many ways sinking myself into the sport was good as it was a healthy activity that I used to help get me back in shape.  I also forged countless friendships that I hold dear to this day, even though I am not around the scene as much anymore.  By being the Team Director for the Therapeutic Associates Cycling Team I was able to learn a little about people management, sponsorship solicitation, and managing ego’s.  I see myself using these positives as I move forward in my current career in work and athletics.  But for every positive, there are negatives.  One moment stands out in particular.

In 2010 I led a competitive TAI Cat 3 team into the Cascade Cycling Classic stage race, a well-known Pacific NW classic.  Being the team leader I rallied my teammates and helped get them believe that we could do some damage in the overall standings.  In those days I had a blast being the guy behind our strategic approach as a team.  Sending guys off in breaks, bridging gaps, setting tempo, attacking other teams, and taking advantage of other riders weaknesses, was our MO.  Team tactics do not always work as planned, but when they do, it is an extremely satisfying feeling, especially from a captain standpoint.

The first stage of that race was a 70+ mile stage with a mean 3 mile drag up hill to the finish in the Mt. Bachelor parking lot.  Our team had been solid all day, working together and looking out for each other.  We did our best to set up our climbers for the last climb up from Sparks Lake.  As we began the final ascent I settled in mid-pack to survive with the group, as I’m not a natural climber, to not lose a ton of time on the first day.  Half way up the hill another rider crossed his front wheel with my back wheel, which caused my rear deraileur to break, leaving my bike un-rideable.  What happened next was a good indicator where my maturity and emotional instability was at the time.  After the “rub” I yelled “FUCK” at the top of my lungs, called the guy that hit me several profanities, and proceeding to throw my multi thousand dollar bike into the woods.  I threw a tantrum that a 5 yr old would be proud of.  It was an incident that often refer back to because of how childish it was.  And my reaction after the race?  Drive down from Mt. Bachelor, go to the Circle K store, purchase 3 Ninkasi Tricerahops Double IPA’s, and proceed to drink all of them in one fell swoop.  Looking back I feel foolish for having reacted the way I did.  But it was a terrific example of the type of behavior that I grew accustomed to displaying.

My reasoning for such a reaction stems from a few things, ego being one.  For me to not finish that race as the “leader” was a hit to my ego.  I deemed myself weak, unworthy, a soft cyclist, which is ridiculous thinking given it was because of an incident that was out of my control.  Back then cycling was the only thing that I identified myself with, I was good at it, and with a shot-to-hell confidence and ego problem I took any negative experience as a major blow to my self-worth.  I prided myself by how fast I was in Time Trials and how aggressive I was in road races.  It was everything to me.  And when things didn’t go right, I lost my identity, and I drank to feel better and more confident again.  It was a vicious cycle and addiction, one I feel proud to say that I have broken.

Now that I’ve achieved  a bit more balance as a professional, an athlete, and a friend, I find myself having fewer of these emotionally immature thoughts, especially when it comes to endurance sports.  I’m relieved in many ways.  I’m glad that I didn’t offend anyone in the cycling world by saying something emotionally charged and stupid, I would’ve hated to alienate anyone because of the fact that I was acting like a child. Cycling will always have an important place in my heart as it did help me get back on track when life was at its hardest.  Because I’m not cycling as much I’m on a mission to convert my riding buddies into trail runners, because I do miss the long hours of training and bonding with them.  So if you’re a cyclist and you get a text from me to go for a run, I won’t be offended if you don’t answer.

 

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Progress Check: This time last year, leading up to the The North Face 50 Mile Championships

Moments after crossing the finish line at last years North Face 50 Mile Championships.  I was working on a solid 3 month hangover.

Moments after crossing the finish line at last years North Face 50 Mile Championships. I was working on a solid 3 month hangover.

For the second year in a row I am using the fall season in Corvallis to prepare for The North Face 50 Mile Championships.  I’m two weeks out from toeing the line with the best 50 mile runners in the country, north of San Francisco, in the Marin Headlands. Now that I’m in taper mode for this years race I’m looking back at the last 5 months of training to get a feel of what I have accomplished in training, a self-assessments of sorts, to see where I stand in comparison to last year.  While doing this assessment I also felt compelled to take a look back at not only the physical progress that I’ve made, but the mental progress as well.

November 24th, 2013 (1 year ago):
This Sunday, last  year, I woke up with a massive hangover wondering how I got home the night before.  I had been at the UW-Beavs game, on the sidelines, but could not quite recall what had happened throughout the evening.  I remember seeing Rob and Mary for a bit, perhaps Cole was there too, in a gravel parking lot, passing around a bottle of shitty red wine.  I vaguely remember standing on the sidelines during the first quarter but I cannot recall if I talked to anyone or made a complete fool out of myself.  I was told that I crawled out of the stadium on my hands and knees through one of the field entrances in the student section.  Next, I remember waking up in my car, with an empty 5th of Crown Royal in my back seat, in Avery Park at 2AM, then, nothing.  Sunday morning rolls around and I have a Vertebrata Ultra Running Team photo shoot at Peavy Arboretum that I have to scramble to get to, while dealing with the agony of not knowing what I did the day before or if I had said anything stupid to piss anyone off.  After the shoot I somehow did a 2 hour race/tempo workout which was followed by a trip to Tommy’s Diner for IPA’s, greasy food, and a buzz to get my confidence back.

Two weeks later I would tackle my first 50 miler at TNF.  Going into the race I weighed in at 174lbs, had topped off an epic football season of  excessive drinking, and rolled in with a 3 month hangover.  I ended up running an 8:31hr 50 mile time and pulled down a 50th place among a very stacked field.  When I returned from San Francisco the last push to my final downfall of drinking and partying had begun.  I remember saying to myself, “look at me, look at me, I just crushed my first 50 miler, let’s party!”  Completing that race not only fed my ego, but justified all of the bad behavior that I was to partake in until my sober date, 2/11/14.

November 23rd, 2014 (today):

I woke up this morning at 5:30, without a hangover, having fallen asleep by the 3rd quarter of the UW-Beavs game last night, which I calmly listened to on the radio in my quiet and cozy apartment.  I got in a 2+ hour run, with a solid 20 min race pace to finish, and I felt great, things are really clicking in my legs.  I’m weighing in at 157lbs, a full 17 pounds lighter than I was last year heading into TNF 50.  I just hit up a Vitamix recovery smoothie made of Cholera, Spirulina, Banana, Chia seeds, Goji Berries, Hemp seeds, Coconut Water, and Cashew Milk.  I’m settling in for a recovery nap as I write this entry.  When I wake up I’m going to get a cup of coffee, get some more writing in, and complete training plans for the athletes that I coach.  I’d say things have changed over the course of the year and I feel lucky as hell to be alive to enjoy all of these minor pleasantries that make up a quiet and serene Sunday.  Let’s be honest, do you really think last year I knew what the hell of Goji Berry was? The answer is no. If nothing else, I’ll take that as progress.

As for the upcoming race I’m really excited to see how The North Face 50 goes this year.  Looking at the start list, as I’m prone to do, it’s another who’s who of the ultra running world.  With my time last year I am able to start in the first wave with the big boys and girls of trail running.  In talking with Steph, my coach, this past week, my only worry is that I don’t want to screw it up.  I know that I’ve put in a solid 5 month training block (including TransRockies) of smart, dedicated, and disciplined training.  For the first time in my life, since I was competing in high school as a XC skier, I’ve trained for an “A” race without the distraction of alcohol and drugs.  Last year I would have been obsessed with what place and time I was able to achieve, but this year if different, because regardless of my overall placing and time I know I did it right.  And that is an accomplishment that I am proud of.

 

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2006/07: Money was my drug of choice

Z-Free and I at his wedding in 2006.  Drinking, eating, and not training got me to 230lbs, my heaviest

Z-Free and I at his wedding in 2006. Drinking, eating, and not training got me to 230lbs, my heaviest

What if someone told you in a job interview that if you got the job you would make $500,000 in your first year.  Would you take it if it were offered to you?  Well, I did.

In 2005 I was living in Bend, OR, working happily as the Director of Group Sales for one of the biggest resorts in the area at the time.  I was a single, unattached, healthy, 26-year-old with a solid job working on developing my cycling skills and kicking ass in life.  At that time I was very much in the midst of developing an identity as an adult, making sound financial moves that would set me up for long-term success. Sure, there were hard times, but my “problems” at the time were relatively normal given my age. Then, in the late fall of 05 I got the call.  “Spence, we’re looking at bringing on another real estate broker for our 2006 launch of new inventory.  The brokers there each cleared over a half-million in one year in 2005.  We want you to interview for the position.”

Back in those years the Central Oregon real estate market was booming, averaging up to 20% growth, year over year, since 2002, or so I was told and led to believe. I witnessed friends of mine who owned homes make $100k in one year due to appreciation in the market.  Broker friends of mine were killing it, bringing home commission checks in one month that put my yearly salary to shame.  It was a time of “funny money” in Bend and I wanted in for the fear of missing out.  Everything fell into place when I got that call and in January of 2006, after I was offered the position to come on board with the property I interviewed with, I got in the game.  I was hooked on the idea of earning a half-million a year before the age of 27.  In order to make what had been promised my lifestyle was about to change, for the worse.  I quit cycling, became sedentary except when showing property, and I drank. A lot.

Once I acquired my real estate license in February of 2007 I began to work, 6 days a week, from 8AM to 7PM.  I was the youngest on the sales team at that point and I had developed a severe ego and chip on my shoulder.  I transferred my competitive ambitions as a cyclist into being the guy who made the most phone calls, worked the most hours, did everything my bosses told me, I wanted to stand out among the rest.  During those first few months, with the promise of big paychecks later that year, I started a reckless spending habit.  I bought a new house, a brand new $30k Toyota 4Runner, big screens TV’s, an $800 dog for my then-fiancee, and loads of liquor, among other things,  all under the assumption that I’d be able to pay it off once I made my big payday later that summer. Simply put, I lived beyond my means and then some.  Hell, I even had the idea to buy a condo in Oakland so that I could stay there when I travelled to watch by beloved A’s play. Looking back it was utterly ridiculous, very much addictive, alcoholic thinking at work.

For motivation during those days my sales team members and I would sit around a TV, sipping Grey Goose, watching movies like Boileroom, Wall Street, and Glenn Gary Glen Ross.  I still watch Boileroom on occasion just to be reminded about how silly and self-destructive I was back then.  My alcoholism kicked into high gear as well.  My daily routine consisted of: working til 6:45 PM, driving to the Alfalfa market store before they closed at 7, purchase 2 tall boys of CAMO XXX 10.5 malt, drink on the way home, hit Bend and pull over at Texaco, buy another tall boy of CAMO XXX, pound it in 5 minutes on the final leg home, throw the beer cans out the window around a curve on Brosterhous Road to hide the evidence, arrive home, convince my fiancee that we should get dinner and cocktails, go to bed, wake up, and repeat process.  By the time I arrived home I had 60 oz’s of shitty malt liquor in my system, and it got to a point that even with that amount of alcohol in me, I could hide it.  My partner didn’t have a clue.  I had perfected closet drinking.  That was my sport for 2 years.

Fast forward to August of 2007.  At that time one of my best friends Brian Hetzel came to live with me in Bend as my fiancee had left for the east coast to pave the way for me to join her later in the fall.  Brian was going to live and work for a few months and drive back east with me when I decided it was time.  Looking back a year and half to when I started in real estate i began to take inventory about what I gained:  In 2006 I cleared just a bit over $100k, nothing close to $500k.   I refinanced my home (originally bought in early 2006 for 196k) for $280K and took the money to spend on, well nothing really, I pissed it all away.  I gained 60lbs from all of the excessive drinking and eating, topped out at 230lbs.  I became heavy, miserable, sedentary, hopeless, and just plain awful.  This period in my life culminated with a scary evening in late August.  That night I had once again done my normal intake of CAMO XXX on the way home.  With Brian downstairs in my house I had got in a huge fight with my fiancee on the phone about when I was to return back east.  It was an awful conversation.  I was so angry and drunk that once the conversation ended I threw my phone against the wall, went to my bathroom to grab a bottle of Percoset, went to my night stand to grab a bottle of wine, kicked the wall, and sat in the stairwell ready to down the bottle of meds and the bottle of wine, to end my life.  If Brian had not been there that evening there is no telling what would have happened.  Before I had the chance to complete my mission he found me, screamed at me to get in the car, and drove me to the emergency room to have me checked in to the local psychiatric unit.  That night, Brian Hetzel saved my life.

I realize that there are many holes and lapses of time in this particular story and I plan to address all of them when I put these words onto paper for my book about the process of recovery.  The takeaway from these 2 years in my life is quite profound, and to this day when it comes to the ideas of money, wealth, luxury, I am very fortunate for having gone through this downfall early in life.  Who knows what can happen down the road but with this experience in my back pocket I plan on not reliving the pain and anguish of leveraging all of my UNpaid assets into an idea of false hope, promises, and fortune.  It was too painful and it took several years of hardly making enough to pay rent for me to finally end up in the black.  As of this year I am able to save money again, just as I had done before I had got into the real estate market in 2006.  Life is good and money is no longer my drug of choice.  Today my drug of choice is living each minute, hour, day, week, month, to the fullest, whatever that may mean.

Thanks for listening!

 

 

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EDM…it begins and ends with Gareth Emery

#10 and I killin it at Kyau and Albert...a few months before I called it a day with alcohol

#10 and I killin it at Kyau and Albert…a few months before I called it a day with alcohol

A video from Gareth’s Portland show in 2013:

 

Check out Gareth Emery’s Podcast #268.  About halfway through the episode he does his shout outs.  Kieran had sent in an email to the show, before I raced The North Face 50 Miler last December, wishing me good luck at the race and that every time I trained I had a Gareth set blaring in ear-buds.  Gareth ended up reading the email on #268, pretty damn cool in my opinion.

As I mentioned in an earlier post my introduction to the EDM/Trance world was when Gush lent me a copy of the Trainspotting soundtrack.  Underworld’s Born Slippy caught my ear and quickly became a fixture in my playlists.  When I got to St. Lawrence Kieran upped the ante and introduced me to more of the trance scene.  Given my addictive personality/need for adrenaline, along with the intensity of the music, I got hooked immediately and began listening to everything Kieran sent my way.

I’m sure that everyone has a type of music that brings them back to a certain time in their lives.  Motley Crue is a perfect example, as I relate it to all of the adventures I had with Matt and Matt when we were kids.  However, if I think of the EDM scene, and going to shows in particular, I don’t have many memories because whenever I went I took getting hammered to a new level.  The first big show I went to, at NYC’s Pacha, was to see Armin Van Buuren.  This is what I recall after taking a bottle of vodka that our table had purchased and drinking half of it in the span of twenty minutes, unbeknownst to the rest of our crew that night.  I remember Armin coming on and opening up with “Big Sky,” and after that, nothing else.  Somehow in the middle of NYC I got home that night, in one piece, alive, without a clue as to how I got back to the apartment I was staying at.  The next day I was supposed to go to a hockey game with my then-fiancee, but instead I rolled around sick in a Philadelphia hotel room, trying to explain why I couldn’t function.  Needless to say we got in a huge fight that day.

Years later, after I moved to Corvallis, I started to hear about a bar in Portland that played host to several smaller acts that came through the Pacific NW.  Not sure why it took so long for me to uncover this gem, but once I discovered the Whiskey Bar it was game on…all of the way on.  I got hooked in after meeting a couple of the local DJ’s then making the trip to Portland for every show I could afford to get to.  It was a drug, and I treated it as such.  My nights of the show would go down like this:  Drive to Portland, crank a Gareth set on my radio, starting drinking Ninkasi’s around Wilsonville, get to #10’s (Jeff Costello’s nickname) apartment before he got home, make myself at home and blast Gareth through his speakers, start taking rips out of every liquor bottle that he had (evenly of course, so he wouldn’t notice what I was doing), meet up with #10, get more cocktails, go to the Whiskey Bar, double fist Double Crown Royal’s, listen to half of the set, black out, then somehow get back to #10’s in one piece.  Considering the location of the Whiskey and the neighborhoods I walked through at odd hours of the night to get home, I’m very surprised and very lucky that I didn’t end up in a ditch somewhere.  Then the next morning I’d wake up and go throw down a 20 mile run in Forest Park to justify all of the bad things I did the night before, which fed my perceived invincibility and ego, which ultimately led to my bottom.  It was a vicious cycle to say the least.

To date I’ve seen Paul Oakenfold, Armin, Ronski Speed, Tritonal, Kohma, Kyau and Albert, Super 8 and Tab, BT, and Arty, among others.  Then there was the Gareth Emery show.  In a bit of a last minute announcement he put a stop at the Whiskey Bar on his schedule.  I texted a friend of mine that Gareth was coming to Portland and to see if she wanted to go, which she did. I grabbed two tickets and we made a plan to get up to the show.  Unfortunately, due to me acting like a 15yr old asshole the week leading up to the show, she didn’t join me, which I still beat myself up over because I know we would have had a blast.  You know who you are and I will make it up to ya ;).  Instead of bringing her I recruited #10 to join me once again for a night of mischief.  Needless to say, I only remember maybe the first 25% of the show, and once again I luckily found myself waking up the next day, not having a clue as to how I got home.  This combination of EDM shows and excessive alcohol was a big part and realization of my need for sobriety, I used these shows as an excuse to get out of my mind, meanwhile inflicting a lot of pain to my body and head.  It would all catch up with me very soon.

Now that I’m sober I still find myself partly using EDM as a drug to put me into a trance during long workouts, which I suppose isn’t such a bad thing.  I still love the music and religiously listen to every Gareth, Markus Schulz, Above and Beyond, Ben Gold, and Tritonal podcast that comes out on a weekly basis.  The first sober show I went to was Arty this past summer, with #10 and Brisa.  Was a little nervous at first but once I got settled at Whiskey, with two close and trusted friends nearby, it was a great time.  And I remember the whole show.  Arty closed with “London Grammar” and instead of incoherently stumbling back to #10’s I gave a big yawn as we left Whiskey.

EDM is on my mind tonight as I write this because I am currently working on a project to develop and enhance the scene here, for the college kids, in Corvallis.  I suppose selfishly I just want a show to go to where I can drive 5 minutes afterwards and be in bed, exhausted.  With the help of a couple of friends here in town, along with my Portland DJ connections, I want to pull it off just so I can give something back, to the music for the music.  For better or worse EDM has been an integral part of my life.  Now that I can actually remember shows and not listen to the music for the pure sake of addiction, maybe it can become an even bigger part of my life.

For those of you that have no idea what I’m talking about check out Gareth Emery’s podcast #246 (Live from Global Gathering UK 2013).  For the last two years this has been my go-to set.

 

 

 

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If I don’t drink the first Ninkasi then….

Catching up with #10 at the Wazzu game...my first game with him while being sober...we had a blast

Catching up with #10 at the Wazzu game…my first game with him while being sober…we had a blast

Journal entry from July 28th, 2012

“It was two weeks ago tonight that I had 7 Ninkasi IPA’s and 3 shots of Crown Royal after the Siskiyou Out and Back 50k in Ashland.  Haven’t had a drink since.  If I was going to this is how tonight would go.  Drive to Tri-Mart, buy a Ninkasi Double IPA, drive to 53rd st, sit in my car on the gravel turn-off and drink, send attention seeking texts to girls in the “pile”, drive to Philomath get another Double IPA, stress about the fact that I’m not getting any response text messages from girls in the “pile,” drive to Western Ave market, get two more 22oz Double IPA’s, get on Facebook and romanticize about what everyone else is doing, watch shitty TV, go to bed, wake up with a hangover, feeling shitty about myself,  and be 4lbs over what I’m supposed to be.  Here’s what happens when I don’t drive to Tri-Mart for the first IPA:  I avoid consuming 1000+ empty calories, wake up fresh and pound out a 20 mile run without a hangover, and I avoid feeling guilty and stupid for sending dumb texts to girls just for the sake of attention, and then write all of this down to remind myself that if I have that first Ninkasi it’s just a waste of time.  Avoiding that first Ninkasi and the 20 minute beer-buzz saves you all of those headaches.  So, the question is, are all of those headaches worth a 20 min beer-buzz?”  This entry was followed by:  “the goal of writing in Renovatio Part 2, among other things, is to limit the amount of time you spend writing and stressing about emotionally unavailable girls.  The focus here has to be you, the “pile” does nothing good for you, they get attention from you and give nothing back in return.  The girls in the “pile” took something from you, attention, and gave nothing back and this hurts you.”

Looking back and reflecting on that entry brings up several items that, today, almost 9 months sober, I am actually able to process, and catch myself when I feel that I’m in need of attention.  There is some pretty interesting behavior that was uncovered in that entry;  the dependence on alcohol to feel confident to reach out to girls, the obsession with my body weight, and the emotional immaturity that I was experiencing as a grown man.  If feel like I was an 18yr old trapped in a 33yr old body.  Through the help of my trustworthy therapist, as well of my close team of friends, I am finding out that I had basically skipped 14 years of emotional development from the time when I first started partying hard at SLU until my sober date, 2/11/14.  Now, 9 months later it is beginning to hit home how true this is.  I tell the girls I work with, whom I trust, that I feel like I’m learning what it’s like to develop, emotionally.  In many ways I can’t believe I got through my 20’s relatively unscathed, apart from the financial destruction I experienced in my late 20’s…I’ll save that story for another day.

Moving forward I am excited to see how this emotional development will progress.  That being said I am aware of the fact that if I cave and have another Ninkasi then the chances of me reverting back to my old behavior are highly likely.  It’s just not worth it.  With that, I’m just going to try to focus on being sober today and getting to tomorrow, and avoid future-tripping.

The Beavs kick-off at 1PM today again Wazzu, and I have a bunch of friends in the stadium with me.  Most importantly though, #10 (Jeff Costello) will be with me.  This is the first game I am going to with him that I’ll be sober.  I cannot wait.  Ten, get your ass down here dude, we’ve got a game to go to!

 

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The Power of Mentors, Part 2: Davis Smith

Our trip to tahoe in 2004, one of those trips that I'll always remember

Our trip to Reno/Tahoe in 2004, one of those trips that I’ll always remember

As I mentioned before, I graduated SLU in 2002 and proceeded to head back out west for another summer in Bend, OR, not to ski, but to “find myself” as a clueless and naive 22yr old.  Like always, I was joined by a few great adventure companions, #10, Erin Kay, and Beck Bennett.  Later that summer we would be joined by Bill and Brenna, Lilith, Mr. Hix, Pepper, Molyneux, Dan, Courtney, and several others.  In those days we traveled and moved as a crew.  We were all good friends, and I suppose we all wanted to share the transition out of college together.  Many close SLU friends went to NYC, Boston, and DC, to test their finance skills and begin their careers.  But we went out west to go play and savor whatever we had left as adolescents without bills, commitments, and responsibilities.  We were a pack, a gang, and we were going to make the most of our time in Bend.

My plan after that summer was to travel to Costa Rica on my own and immerse myself in a Spanish-speaking country to learn the language, I also wanted to learn how to surf.  I was working banquets at the Inn of the Seventh Mountain to save cash so a trip abroad would be more feasible.  It was then that I met Davis.  At that time he was the Director of Sales and Marketing, in charge of revamping the image of the rundown resort, which hadn’t been renovated since before I was born, in 1979.  From a department standpoint he was forming his own sales team to help push the vision of what was to come of the impending $12 million dollar renovation.  Not an easy task, especially with the Inn and its ragged history.

Because my friends and I all traveled as a close-knit crew we very rarely went outside of the group for socializing and meeting other people.  Maybe we were afraid to branch out for some reason?  Maybe we were afraid to grow up? Towards the end of that summer, as my friends began to talk about what was next I was attempting to plan my exit strategy to Costa Rica.  But that went for naught, as Davis quickly inserted himself into the equation.  During one of the last banquets that I was working that summer, he approached me, not knowing my intentions to leave Bend, and asked if I ever had any interest in sales.  Huh?  I had never really thought of that possibility, I wasn’t ready to actually have a “real” job yet.  After that banquet I went up to his office to chat a bit more with him, mistakenly wearing an Oregon Ducks hat that I had bought to feel connected to the state somehow.  His comment was, “if you ever want a job with me then you had better throw that hat away.”  I had no idea of the Ducks/Beavs rivalry, and how deep it ran, at the time. One thing eventually led to another and after going through the interview process I began my career after college working for Davis.  He was one of those guys that I was immediately drawn to, charismatic, funny, professional, smart, and caring.  Costa Rica was going to have to wait, I had just found my first professional mentor, and the opportunity to work for him far outweighed the need to travel.  Needless to say, I was also thrust into Beaver Nation, which today, 12 years later, is a major part of my life.  The Oregon Ducks were now known as the Oregon Sucks, that played in a toilet bowl shaped stadium (according to Davis).

That fall Davis took me under his wing in many ways.  By being around him I learned to socialize with people I didn’t know.  To break me in he introduced to several of his older friends around Bend, guys that I also immediately began to look up to and hold on pedestals.  It was a weird feeling meeting people who were outside of my college comfort zone.  It felt very awkward at first, but then, on my own doing, I fell in love with Crown Royal, and my inhibitions quickly went away when I was around these older, impressionable guys.  Professionally, Davis taught me how to sell, how to talk on the phone, how to schmooze, how to play the game.  He made it look so easy, and when I was around him, his presence alone gave me confidence to try to emulate his style, for, he too, was very much on a pedestal in my mind.  I wanted what he had, a beautiful wife (Lisa is like a big sister to me), a great house, gorgeous kids (who coined my nickname “noodle”), and a charm that was unbeatable.  He taught me to grow up, to be responsible, and to believe in myself, he was, and still is a role model in many ways.

When it comes to the Beavs he made damn sure that I would be a convert.  In 2003 he got us seats in the press box, the stands, and on the field.  After that season, especially with the game on the sidelines, I became a Beaver fan for life.  Sure there were some really fun times that were not work related where we let loose and had fun (our trips to Banff and Reno come to mind), but when I think of the impact Davis made in my life I would be remiss to say that during those 3 years I worked for him, and got to know him as a friend, he became another big brother, just like Matt and Matt had before.

To this day, 12 years later, I still go to Davis when I need advice in life, then I hop on over to Lisa’s side of the couch and get girl advice.  Even though my home is Worthington, MA, when I visit their house in Bend I feel like I’m at home on the west coast, I feel comfortable,  at ease, like a part of their family.  This is so very important to me and I cannot thank them enough for bringing me into their life, their family.   Even though he is in Bend, and I’m in Corvallis (a town which I have now fallen in love with), I know that he’s only a phone call away.  I saw D at the Cal/Beavs game this past weekend, which was among the first times I was around him while in recovery.  The first thing he did was give me a great big bear hug and tell me how proud he was of me for attempting such a feat.  Coming from him it meant absolutely everything. As he would say, “see you soon bud.”  Love ya bro.

 

 

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The Power of Mentors, Part 1: Michael Larsen

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Mike and I after my first Marathon, Cal International (CIM). I beat Mike by 16 seconds and qualified for Boston…He would never let that happen again.

Capping off a 45 mile solo break for my first win on a road bike, at Bend Don't Brake. I was on the top of my cycling game...Mike was a big reason for this, both physically, and more important, mentally

Capping off a 45 mile solo break for my first win on a road bike, at Bend Don’t Brake. I was on the top of my cycling game…Mike was a big reason for this, both physically, and more important, mentally

 

In 2002, right after I graduated from St. Lawrence, my dad offered to get me a road bike, per my request.  I had just come off of one and half years of hard partying at SLU and I had gained a pretty significant amount of weight, was probably tipping the scale at around 200lbs (currently 158).  The road bike was an attempt to get back to my roots as an endurance athlete.  During that last push to graduation at SLU I had completely lost touch with athletics, but now I was living in Bend, OR, and was determined to once again integrate sports into my life on a daily basis. Fast forward to 2011 and road biking/racing had become my life.

In 2003 a friend of mine, Bill Warburton, moved out to Bend to join me and brought his road bike.  It was that year he and I, with the help of #10, founded the Therapeutic Associates Cycling Team.  At first we were just a bunch of rag-tag cyclists living in Bend, riding around like idiots in spandex, not really caring about looking fast, or anything really.  Our vision for the cycling team was to ride as a team to compete in category 3 and 4 road bike races around the state of Oregon.  As of today, the roots of the Therapeutic Cycling team still exist in Bend, although I have bowed out, living in Corvallis.  However, this story isn’t about cycling, it’s about confidence, mental strength, and the process of developing something that I had not had, in-between my ears.

Around 2008 I had been competing in the Oregon Category 3 field at a fairly mediocre level.  I trained a ton, always eager to work on my tan lines so that I could “fit in” with the emerging cycling community in Bend. Literally, I used to judge my fitness on the strength of my tan lines, looking back it was ridiculous, but was the truth nonetheless.  Always eager to race, to feel a part of something, I would join the team in competing in big Oregon stage races like Elkhorn Cycling Classic and the Cascade Cycling Classic.  However, even with all of the training and racing, I still wasn’t too competitive, both physically and mentally.

The cycling scene in Bend around that time was getting very intense.  Local riders would all meet every Tuesday at Sunnyside Sports for the Tuesday Hammerfest.  This became known as the weekly Bend Cycling Championships of the World, who cared about sanctioned races, it was all about Tuesday evenings, for bragging rights.  I was hooked.  One night a dude rolled up next to me with ultra-tan legs, veins sticking out, sweat bands on, super intense.  Something about him made an immediate impression on me, he was confident, fit, aggressive, with testosterone coming out of his ears.  I wanted what he had. His name was Michael, the brother of the legendary Steve Larsen, another elite Bend athlete.

Word had it that Mike was coaching a couple of athletes in town.  Not that I could afford it at the time, I reached out to him to try to tap into some of his demeanor.  His approach to athletics was something that I wanted to latch on to, because, clearly if I was going to be a part of the uber-competitive Bend bike scene,  I had to step up my game.  I became addicted to getting faster.

Now, as I look back at this time in my life, I am coming to find out how important Mike was, and still is, in my life.  He not only taught me how to train again, he taught me to believe in myself.  See, I had the physical talent, but I lacked the confidence.  I was a mental shit-show, always questioning how good at cycling I was, if I fit in, how fast I appeared, how worthy I felt.  Mike’s approach to training was to get out of your head, give it everything you have and then some, and keep the big picture in mind.  Sure, wattage was fine, hills were hard, time trialing was tough, but unless you have the ability to believe in yourself and rise to the occasion, what’s the point?

Mike pushed me, and showed me how to achieve new levels of pain, survive, then thrive.  We would do weekly hill climb sessions on Awbrey Butte, to the Towers, he’d ride with me, yelling in my ear “don’t *$&%ing slow down, don’t let up you pu^$y, quit being a pu*#.”  To some in town this might come off as offensive, but I soaked it up and responded.  If I was averaging 320 watts up a long climb he’d yell and  motivate me to push it to 330W, there is always more in the tank, sack up, get it!  I had the fitness, I just needed to find the confidence to put it all together, and his methodology worked for me.  There was something about his infectious, outlandish, aggressive personality that I bought in to 100%.  With that I became a better, more confident, athlete.

This past March I joined a Bend contingent in Sedona, AZ for a week-long bike camp, Mike was included in the bunch.  It was the first time that I had left Corvallis since deciding to be sober the month before.  Going into that trip I had a ton on anxiety, and was still in the midst of sorting out all the bullshit in my head.  A few days beforehand he sent me a text that reminding me that Strava didn’t matter, wattage didn’t matter, elevation gain didn’t matter…what mattered was the camaraderie of good friends and having fun.  It’s exactly what I needed to hear at the time.  That week helped me to push past the pink cloud of getting sober and refocus to become the athlete I had dedicated myself to being back when I was on the top of my cycling game in 2011.  Having him there helped motivate me to get quit being a pu*$ and get back to my roots once again, to rededicate myself to kicking ass.  When sobriety gets hard I try to pull a chapter from my book of Larsenism’s, sack up, and get back on track.  He doesn’t necessarily know it, but he helps me stay sober in his own unique way.

Today I have paired down the bike racing and focused more on ultra-running.  I have another coach, Steph Howe, who is helping me to achieve great things on the trails in her own infectious way, I love working with her.  However, I will always have Mike’s voice in my head, especially when races and training runs get hard.  Years ago he gave me a set of tweezers to carry on me, for when I was getting soft and I needed some motivation to pull my head out of my ass.  Those tweezers come with me everywhere I go, and that will continue.  Mike will always be an important person in my life, not just as a mentor, but as a friend and a training partner.  If I ever get the itch to get fast on a bike again he’ll be the first person I call.  Thank you Mike, for everything.  Let’s run soon.

 

 

 

 

 

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