Category Archives: spiritual

Your Body is your Temple

You’ve probably heard of the title before, that, “Your Body is your Temple”.

And it is.

People wonder why I’m so adamant about staying healthy with eating the foods that I eat, my Yoga practice and meditation.

It supports my cycling.  And if you really must know, several years back, I had an accident where a car hit me from behind while I was training on a bicycle, knocking me unconscious for 5 to 10 minutes, putting me in a ditch.  As a result, my helmet got smashed and I sustained a concussion.  The months following, I experienced post concussion syndrome, and I had the following symptoms I tried to manage:

  1. Short term memory loss;
  2. Verbal memory loss;
  3. Attention loss;
  4. Slow processing speed;
  5. Irritability;
  6. Anxiety;
  7. Periodic emotional instability/depression;
  8. Word finding difficulties;
  9. Impulsiveness;
  10. Tinnitus;
  11. Obsessive compulsive disorder;
  12. Mental fatigue.

The months following the traumatic brain injury, I’ve had to make adjustments to my daily routine, my working habits and my social life.  I wasn’t together.

I was broken.

Then, one day, about a year later, I had a headache so bad, I couldn’t take it anymore.  I wasn’t able to function.  It was debilitating.  I had reached my limit.

Searching for solutions, I finally took the first step and attended my first Yoga class at a local studio.  From then on, I was hooked.  Not on Yoga per-se, but to taking care of my body – because no once else could.  I started with a mission, a purpose to heal myself because doctors can only do so much.

“I started to participate in my own rescue.”

I took several more classes to find the right teacher.  Eventually, I found one I liked and I’ve stuck with her ever since.

I searched the Internet for forums on advice and found a couple of resources to draw upon, reading about other people’s experiences and what they had done to heal themselves.  Most of them resorted to medications instead of natural solutions.  At some point, I found one website that gave me hope – NaturalNews.com.  They talked about many topics, mostly about eating healthy, foods that heal instead of harm.

With time and education, I transformed myself by transforming my nutritional intake:

  1. No red meat – I’ve read about how eating meat contributes to inflammation and how they include antibiotics and neurotoxins to preserve the meat.  You will also revitalize your tastebuds by not eating red meat ;
  2. Eliminate commercial cow’s milk – I’ve drank this ever since I was a little kid and swore by it.  But the nature of the milk contributed to more mucus and made my bloodstream acidic, not to mention the antibiotics and growth hormones they inject into the cows.  (No wonder I’m so tall!);
  3. Eliminate Dairy altogether – Though I sometimes enjoy a good organic cheese pizza on occasion;
  4. Eat more organic greens – I can’t eat non-organic vegetables – I can actually taste the chemicals sprayed on it and digesting it makes me sick;
  5. Eat more fruits – Berries, avocados, bananas, mangoes, etc.;
  6. Find alternative sources of protein – nuts (i.e. almonds, cashews, pecans), legumes (i.e. pinto beans, chick peas), seeds (i.e. flax, sunflower), greens (i.e. kale, spinach), etc..  Whoever said protein can only be found in carcasses, is misinformed.

These are just a few examples.  I could give you a full breakdown of what I eat down to the cooking oil I use.  If you’re interested, just let me know and I’ll do another blog post.  By eating better, you feel better from the inside.

In being a cyclist, you also look for marginal gains.  And in my case, that also meant doing what it took to rehabilitate myself in every aspect – mental, physical, and spiritual.

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I also found out through reading NaturalNews.com that Ginger and Turmeric are also anti-inflammatory foods.  That increased my healing dramatically in the past couple of years.  I have fewer instances of the post concussion syndrome symptoms coming back – though I still do get the occasional migraine from having my head cracked open.

You must be asking, “Why all of a sudden are you writing about this instead of your races and your team?”

I have a few of reasons:

  1. It’s time people, my social circles, understand where I’m coming from and my motivations in doing all that I do;
  2. More and more, I come across people who have had brain injuries and they still have symptoms.  So it is my purpose to help them where I can;
  3. With Amazon having just bought Whole Foods, people need to be aware that Whole Foods is not all that they promise according to this article;
  4. Rid the myth that NaturalNews.com is a fake news site.  If NaturalNews were fake, then it wouldn’t have helped me and millions of others improve their health naturally.  Would you talk about something bad that influenced so many people in a positive way?

There you have it.  It’s something I’ve wanted to say for a long time and I hope you’ll take my message seriously.

Ride on!

Ben

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Erasing the Past

When Cycling gets Personal

It got personal three years ago when I was lying down on the ground, the chainring having done a number on my leg and blood from a cut to my left eye blurred my vision. It got personal when I repeatedly yelled out,

“I don’t need this!”

as a fellow racer stopped to comfort me when I was angry and in pain. It also got personal when I was in the hospital, and I questioned whether or not I was going to continue cycling for that brief second, because at one point, I hated it so much for what it had done to me.

That was the memory that had lingered.

Cycling has always been personal. It’s given me life, adventure and health.  It’s given me friends and a unique perspective that no other activity (aside from Yoga) can give you.  It’s a part of who I am and what I’m about. There’s a spiritual side as well as a ferocity.  It’s an expression of quiet and Zen as much as power, violent side to side and forward movements at speed, augmented by mechanical advantage, two wheels and a frame.

The clubs rides for the past year had been a dress rehearsal for this race – The Killington Stage Race. It was here where I had to confront the memory that caused me to be immobile for 45 days in the best riding days of the summer of 2012. And I had to do it alone without my teammates physically being there.  It wasn’t easy.

Stage 1 – 37 miles total, 2 laps, total ascent 1,847ft

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I was nervous that day because the weather conditions weren’t ideal. I don’t race well in the cold as it takes a long time for my muscles to warm up. And the wind didn’t do anyone any favors. It was at the freezing point when I woke up and it went to 40F just as the race started. I distinguished myself with DeFeet’s yellow fluorescent arm warmers and sported knee warmers just like everyone else. Full-fingered gloves were worn by everyone. Talking about the weather conditions only meant that this stage wasn’t my best. It was actually a near repeat of my last race in 2011. Just as the peloton hit the first KOM (King of the Mountains sprint line), the pace went higher and I was spat out the back. It caught me off guard and I could have caught up, if I only found my legs. Shifting to a higher gear was too late. I was done even before it started. A bit deflated, but the silver lining was that I wouldn’t be racing with everyone else increasing the chance of crashing. But that’s the price you pay for being out of contention. That’s the price you pay for being slow and fatigued from being “on” for the past month in my professional life.

But I was there.

I lost almost 10 minutes in the first stage. But I didn’t crash, so it was a personal victory.  I survived and that was all I cared about.

Stage 2 – 61 miles, total ascent: 5,115ft

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I was looking forward to this stage because it had more climbing. The last 11 miles were all about that.  The first half was all about descending about 30 to 40 mph and surviving the dirt roads. They were nothing compared to the Tour of the Battenkill.  Many of the riders slowed in those sections.  Those having done the Battenkill plowed on.  After the first KOM, a somewhat long climb, I was losing contact with the lead group, as did the race leader.  Mike and I hung together and he dragged me across the flats and descents as much as I paced him up some of the hardest climbs of the day.  We met up with a couple of other riders, obviously suffering from the day’s efforts.  But somewhere along the way, I lost him.  He either went ahead of me or fell back.  I couldn’t remember.

The headwind picked up en route to Skyeship Base, the bottom of the climb.  Four of us worked well together to motor on, taking turns at the front.  I poured on some power to bridge a gap to some other riders only to be called back to tempo to save our energies.  Then we hit East Mountain Road and it started.

These DeFeet socks are now my favorite!
These DeFeet socks are now my favorite!

Within a few hundred metres, I dropped my fellow riders and found myself riding alone.  There it is again – am I a mountain goat or a rouleur in the grupetto?  I’m in no-man’s land again.  The only company I had was my breathing, so I plodded along and kept just below anaerobic (or mid threshold) up the 10%+ grades.  I passed a few people who were breathing as heavy as I was.  There’s actual fun in suffering and suffering together.  I passed another KOM flag and I wondered who won it.  I knew if I forced it more, I’d be in oxygen debt.  There was some respite on a short downhill section but that only led up to the finish which was just as difficult as the access road.  K1, they called it.

Key to success is to be prepared.
Key to success is to be prepared.

The only time I felt my lungs were going to burst was in the last 500 metres where I gave it my all.  Cadence went up as did my breathing.  When I crossed the finish line, I had achieved another personal victory.  On top of that, I finished in the middle of the field, moving up several places on the General Classification.  I was proud.  I was relieved.

Jim greeted me at the finish line.
Jim greeted me at the finish line.

Stage 3 – 10.1 miles, Individual Time Trial, total ascent: 440ft

I had brought my aerodynamic equipment – helmet and clip-on bars, but I decided not to use them since I wasn’t in contention to begin with, and I wanted to test out how I’d do by Merckxing it.  Well, it didn’t go so well even though I finished.  I took a look at the starting roster, those before me and those after me.  I predicted I’d get passed by one person but also that I’d catch up to another.

The great thing about this race was that they provided trainers to warm up before the time trial.  I did so 25 minutes before my start time to calm the nerves.  Then the girl staged me.

“You got me?” I asked.

“I sure do,” she replied, with her two hands grasping my saddle.

I went an instant 24mph off the line then slowed my pace, breathing already heavy.  I kept just below anaerobic – a sustainable effort.

I did as predicted.  On the uphill, I passed my 30 second man, only to get passed by him about a minute later once the road became more flat.  He had the aero advantage.  And I got passed by another racer behind me who was clearly stronger, aero gear and bike and all.

Before I knew it the race was done and I had crossed the finish line.  I felt like I could have given more.  It was as if I treated this as a longer time trial.  I hadn’t done one since 2011 in the Maine Time Trial Series.  So I didn’t leave it all on the road.  I was out of practice.

And that was it.  I successfully completed the Killington Stage Race.

Creating a new future

In retrospect, the racing was just the motions I had to go through.  What was more important this time, were the friends I made during the race and the moments of being present.  I made a good friend in Tristan, a guy from Brooklyn, NY who’s down to earth and works at a bike shop in the marketing department.  He parked next to me on the first day with his blue VW R32 having noticed my car.  We met each day before the start of the race, claiming our spots, only he didn’t continue on the third day because he crashed out on the second day.  I’m sure he worried his girlfriend to no end.  And I’m certain our paths will cross again.

I also made new friends in Juan and Mike.  Fellow competitors who needed help and I was there to offer it to them.

The other moments I saw that were important was being present at any point I felt a bit of anxiety or uneasiness.  Studying Eckhart Tolle and Thich Nhat Hanh helped immensely.  I didn’t have that three years ago.  And it was also making it to The Inn I stayed at each day.  I promised myself I would do just that, at minimum, to fully enjoy the breakfasts Mary had prepared for me.  The last meal was sublime – blueberry waffles with zucchini bread and chocolate chip muffins.  I ate everything she served.

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My greatest accomplishment out of all this was that I no longer have to talk about my demise three years ago. I’ve created new memories to draw upon, and with it, a new future. The negative has run through its course and it’s out of my system.  Travis asked if I were immune to crashing.  Only if I can help it.