The Data-Driven Cyclist
Likes: AI, Data, Cycling, Swimming, Coffee, BlockChain
Dislikes: Traffic, Asparagus, Donald Trump
"If we have data, let's look at data. If all we have are opinions, let's go with mine." -- J. Barksdale
more that I just as soon forget) and taking full advantage of the 24-hour omelette bar that my university provided. As a life-long runner (XC), I came into college a dapper, in-shape 143 lbs. 'frosh'; I returned home that summer with the typical freshman 15 but with a bonus of 10 lbs
(that's 168 lbs. for those counting. Trust me, this gets A LOT worse).
After receiving my undergraduate degree @ Brown, I went on to pursue finance and get a master's @ Vanderbilt where I was quickly introduced to the outstanding food of the South. Having quit running at this point (I was north of 175 at that time), eating grits with butter became a daily staple. Somewhere, Julia Child is smiling with approval! Usually when I tell this story my wife says:
"I'm so glad I didn't know you then."
At graduation, I had ballooned to 189 lbs. with even more weight to
go. My first job as a tax-payer was as a data analyst working for a
large bank in Honolulu. Until that point in time, I had zero coding
experience, had never done a group ride on a bike, swam more than 1
lap in a pool, or - for that matter - had a healthy meal in over 6 years. During this time in Honolulu, I had reached my max weight of 198 lbs. I was too embarrassed to take pictures with anyone: I was fat, often sick, and had acne all over the place. Not a good look.
Having tried numerous diets to try and lose weight (South Beach, Atkins, Low-Carb, Low-Fat, Paleo, etc), I realized that the only way to do this properly was to go cold-turkey and cut out the junk. To that end, in one afternoon, I became a raw vegan and tossed out every damn item in my fridge. Taking such massive action has been a common theme in my life in both good and bad situations. For me, life is a 0 or 1 game. You either got it or you don't. There is no middle ground. And while I know there are many who would disagree with that style of thinking - so be it. I digress :-) Fast forward 3 months and BOOM! I went from ~ 200 lbs back to 139 lbs. I had more energy than I knew what to do with so I decided to give running a try, which led to cycling which led to swimming. All of this occurred in 2010.
Fast forward a few years later and here we are: I am a cyclist, swimmer, husband, and father (<-- definitely in reverse order of priority!). My favorite discipline is the time trial for which I have a particularity affinity towards because it's such a mental challenge. Road racing was never particularly my thing: required too much thought and tactics :-) TT-ing however, just like swimming, is an individual effort that is 90% mental and 10% physical. Things were going swell on the bike, I had just gotten win(d) tunnel tested and clocked an average CdA of 0.19 in a full TT suit, and a 0.22 in a tri-suit. I was also running as well and was clocking 5 minutes/mile interval efforts. Suffice it to say, I was getting ready to whoop ass and take names in 2017.
And then...it all came crashing down.
It started off as a dull ache in my lower back; little did I realize that this would soon be referred pain as a result of something more malicious: pudendal neuralgia AKA "cyclist's syndrome". Yes, this is so prevalent amongst cyclists it got named after them. I have devoted an entire section on this for those curious (or perhaps you are experiencing some symptoms as well I describe in that section too). The back pain was just the beginning: I began feeling a dull ache in my stomach and testicular area and realized things were not functioning as they should. Consequently, this led me down an incredibly expensive and time-consuming path of doctor visits and hospital bills. Incredibly smart people were giving me expensive tests and coming back with snake-eyes on the craps table: idiopathic orchialgia. This means pelvic pain in the testicle area with no diagnosis for why. I was even told by as many as FOUR doctors that I should give up cycling with one PA actually suggesting I take up competitive speed walking. From December 2016 until Fall 2017, I had an idiopathic diagnosis with no possible end in sight because no one even knew what the f*ck was wrong with me. I could only stay on the bike for 45 minutes before the pain I had in my pelvic area was so severe riding was nearly impossible - let alone wearing boxer briefs. Anything - be it bib shorts, speedo's, underwear - that put the slightest of pressure on my groin region caused me grief. "What the hell is wrong with me?" - I often wondered.
As an athlete and A-type personality, I realized that it was impossible for me to not have this unknown problem cause strain on my marriage; when someone tells you that you cannot do the very thing you love to do, and the reason is UNKNOWN, you have this frustrated, helpless feeling which often manifested itself as not being patient with my wife, having a short temper with my new-born daughter, and overall, not being a very considerate person of other people's feelings because I was so obsessed with my own issues. To summarize: I was asshole. As difficult as it is for me to write that previous sentence, I am telling you - the world - all of this because transparency is one of the three goals for this blog:
1. I want to draw attention to an extremely prevalent and damaging issue called Pudendal Neuralgia that affects both men and women.
2. I want to show people that in spite of having Pudendal Neuralgia, you can, in fact, continue to ride a bike and compete
3. As an example to point 2, I am using myself - with no commercial sponsorship whatsoever (I WILL NEVER pimp anything or endorse anything on this blog just because I got paid to) - and documenting my journey back to being an athlete in a complete and transparent way using data and thoughtful interviews with coaches and medical practitioners.
This means that you get to see all my testing, all my inner-fat-boy issues (trying very hard not to over-eat), know when I am feeling pain, accompany me to the many doctor visits I have to undergo, and generally be my shadow on a weekly vlog that I maintain in the Blog section.
Pudendal Neuralgia sucks ass. And though I have it and am dealing with it constantly, that doesn't mean you hang up the curtains and close up shop. Be your own patient advocate and get out there and fight for it. NO WAY NO HOW I AM QUITTING CYCLING OR SWIMMING. Whatever issues you are going through in your life, don't let someone or something come between you and what you TRULY BELIEVE IN YOUR HEART IS POSSIBLE.
"Be Phenomenal or Be Forgotten" - E.Thomas