Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The first all-diabetic pro cycling team

Novo Nordisk, the company that makes one of the insulins I use, have announced that they are sponsoring/creating a pro cycling team that will be composed exclusively of diabetic athletes.

Read their release at the link below

Press Releases - Novo Nordisk A/S

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

A few weeks off..and a training tip

In an effort to make sure I stay mentally sharp and focused, I'm in the middle of a couple week hiatus. I wouldn't consider myself to be physically, mentally, or emotionally drained. I just wanted to take some time off so that I didn't get too far into the 'indoor' season and then suffer such a burnout.

I plan on doing a 4.5 mile road run for a local charity on Thanksgiving morning, and will need to condition myself for that, so I will probably get back to it at the end of this week. Based on some of the benchmarks I noted for myself during this past year, I should be able to start doing longer trainer rides by January, and hopefully hit my peak in August, when I am planning the attempt.

On a related note, I discovered an article over at Bicycling.com about doing running (on foot) intervals to improve performance. Definitely going to see what I can do to work that in, especially to break up the long and monotonous trainer sessions.

Until then, be safe out there...

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Open Letter to Pat McQuaid from Greg LeMond

I didn't want to editorialize on this blog, but this I feel is important, and the message should be spread. In light of the recent developments in the USADA case against Lance Armstrong and his fellow conspirators from the US Postal heyday, many are calling for a change to the whole system. As I build toward the hour ride, it is important that the sport as a whole is in a position where my effort, if successful, will mean something.

Greg LeMond posted this to his Facebook timeline this evening.

Can anyone help me out? I know this sounds kind of lame but I am not well versed in social marketing. I would like to send a message to everyone that really loves cycling. I do not use twitter and do not have an organized way of getting some of my own "rage" out. I want to tell the world of cycling to please join me in telling Pat McQuaid to f##k off and resign. I have never seen such an abuse of power in cycling's history- resign Pat if you love cycling. Resign even if you hate the sport.
Pat McQuaid, you know dam well what has been going on in cycling, and if you want to deny it, then even more reasons why those who love cycling need to demand that you resign.
I have a file with what I believe is well documented proof that will exonerate Paul.
Pat in my opinion you and Hein are the corrupt part of the sport. I do not want to include everyone at the UCI because I believe that there are many, maybe most that work at the UCI that are dedicated to cycling, they do it out of the love of the sport, but you and your buddy Hein have destroyed the sport.
Pat, I thought you loved cycling? At one time you did and if you did love cycling please dig deep inside and remember that part of your life- allow cycling to grow and flourish- please! It is time to walk away. Walk away if you love cycling.
As a reminder I just want to point out that you recently you accused me of being the cause of USADA's investigation against Lance Armstrong. Why would you be inclined to go straight to me as the "cause"? Why shoot the messenger every time?
Every time you do this I get more and more entrenched. I was in your country over the last two weeks and I asked someone that knows you if you were someone that could be rehabilitated. His answer was very quick and it was not good for you. No was the answer, no, no , no!
The problem for sport is not drugs but corruption. You are the epitome of the word corruption.
You can read all about Webster's definition of corruption. If you want I can re-post my attorney's response to your letter where you threaten to sue me for calling the UCI corrupt. FYI I want to officially reiterate to you and Hein that in my opinion the two of your represent the essence of corruption.
I would encourage anyone that loves cycling to donate and support Paul in his fight against the Pat and Hein and the UCI. Skip lunch and donate the amount that you would have spent towards that Sunday buffet towards changing the sport of cycling.
I donated money for Paul's defense, and I am willing to donate a lot more, but I would like to use it to lobby for dramatic change in cycling. The sport does not need Pat McQuaid or Hein Verbruggen- if this sport is going to change it is now. Not next year, not down the road, now! Now or never!
People that really care about cycling have the power to change cycling- change it now by voicing your thought and donating money towards Paul Kimmage's defense, (Paul, I want to encourage you to not spend the money that has been donated to your defense fund on defending yourself in Switzerland. In my case, a USA citizen, I could care less if I lost the UCI's bogus lawsuit. Use the money to lobby for real change).
If people really want to clean the sport of cycling up all you have to do is put your money where your mouth is.
Don't buy a USA Cycling license. Give up racing for a year, just long enough to put the UCI and USA cycling out of business. We can then start from scratch and let the real lovers in cycling direct where and how the sport of cycling will go.
Please make a difference.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Haven't had much to report of late. Just riding when able, and that seems to be in great decline. Which is unfortunate, because I was finally hitting a point where I was noticing some gains. Might be a good time to shut it down for a few weeks though. Possibly focus on running instead. More so to prevent mental burnout than physical. I was able to spend a little time working on the cyclocross dismount/remount equation. Having never done it before nor having had to do it before it seems foreign and intimidating. But after about 20 minutes of riding around in a field and doing it, it became quite comfortable.

On the operational side of things, I've not had much luck finding sponsors as yet, and have refined the target list as a result. My original plan was to go for the big fish, hoping I could convince them to come on board through the novelty of the project and the 'charity' aspect of my being a diabetic. I'm starting to come around to targeting a lot of smaller sponsors as opposed to a few big ones.

More importantly, for now at least, I've also reached out to a few additional velodromes in an attempt to open ma dialogue with them. While my preferred first choice is still to make the ride at the Major Taylor Velodrome, I've realized that it would not hurt to have options in this regard as well. This way, theoretically, I will have options with scheduling and the scale of the event. I am hoping to be able to build an entire day of events around the ride to draw a crowd of more than just friends and family, thus allowing increased exposure and engagement for my sponsors. But I recognize that my first choice may be unable or unwilling to endorse such an approach. Additionally, I feel this make give me a bargaining chip in terms of my total costs, as I will have to buy track time. Being able to play two or three different venues against each other should not only benefit me in my attempt, but should also ensure that I get the full backing and support that I will need from that velodrome.

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Ever-Evolving Plan

In the last two months, since starting this blog, The Merckx Project has become more and more my primary focus. It has developed from nothing more than a thought about something that might be cool to try, to now being a fully concerted effort at doing something big. But to achieve my goal of experiencing an attempt at the hour record, I need to develop and execute a plan.

A few weeks ago when I took the Intro course at the Major Taylor Velodrome, it marked an official step that showed an intent to see through my attempt and experience of the hour record. Last week, I began another step when created the first draft of a template for a sponsorship proposal letter. I'll eventually use this template to write the proposals I will make to the companies I hope will sponsor myself and the project. As I currently am not contributing to the family income, this is obviously a pretty important step if I want to be able to see this to its completion. I will need the sponsors, most of those that I am targeting are either involved in cycling or are a part of the diabetes community, to not only support myself for the next year, but to help cover the expenses that this project necessitates. Expenses like the cost of the bike I will use for the attempt, spare equipment for the bike, a set of custom jerseys for the project, and velodrome usage, officiant, sanctioning, & licensing fees.

In order to make a compelling case to my potential sponsors, I will need to have a plan of action. The plan right now is still in development, but what I have so far has already had to change a few times. When I initially started this project, I had wanted to use it to generate data for diabetes research. Unfortunately, after discussing it with my doctor, the realization was made that there really isn't much use for what would be uncontrolled data from a single subject. That led me to adapt and find a way to keep the diabetes angle within the project by sharing those experiences in the blog.

Now I am at the point of taking stock in where I am at in terms of my ability on the bike (no where near where I want to be) and working to establish a timeline to follow to get me to the point where I want to be to make a legitimate ride for the hour attempt. I am beginning to make important and necessary contacts. I am developing a list of various types of sponsors to target. I am researching other "amateurs" such as myself who have made an attempt at the hour. In addition to, of course, my normal responsibilities as a stay at home dad. And training on the bike.

It all boils down to me still building the foundation for it all. It also makes me realize that there will be a lot of work involved off of the bike to be successful.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Different, Yet Familiar...

A week ago Saturday marked my first time ever riding on a velodrome. Having never done so, I was required to take a 101-style introductory course at what I consider to be my home track, The Major Taylor Velodrome. The course included a classroom segment and an on the track segment. Together they combined to share a little history of the track, educate us about the technical aspects of MTV, explain the differences between road and track racing, explain the differences between road and track bikes, and then to get us familiar with riding the bikes, being on the track, and riding & interacting with those around us.

The velodrome, named for Marshall "Major" Taylor, was built in 1982 and is an open air concrete oval track measuring 333.34 meters in length. Major Taylor was an Indianapolis native and turn of the twentieth century track sprint champion. The velodrome had it's heyday throughout the 1980's as it played host to many national and international level events as track cycling hit it's second peak in America. Interest declined in the 1990's, and coupled with rules from the International Cycling Union that limited international events to indoor, wooden 250 meter velodromes led to a general falling-off of the facility and it's usage over the past few years. While the track itself never fell into disrepair, it did become much of an afterthought. Early last year the city entered into an agreement with the nearby Marian University, who uses MTV as it's home track, where the school will manage and operate the facility for 30 years. In the last year and a half, they seem to be making strides to bring it back into the public's consciousness.

My personal take is that those who did use the velodrome during this time created an elitist and unwelcoming air about them that was not very off-putting. While MTV was still the host to local and regional Friday night races, it never seemed to do much to promote itself or attract new interest. And, like any other hipster hangout, if you didn't already know about it or weren't a part of it, you weren't likely to. While my view may or may not be accurate, it is the impression that I had held for many years about track cycling in general and what likely turned me off to it. As I was writing this post, I realized that that view may also have played an influence on my decision to ride the hour. We've had this facility in the city for 30 years, yet no one in that 'holier-than-thou' crowd ever made an attempt at the sport's crowning achievement. Even if I don't break any record, I will at least have the attempt over most all of those who have ridden this track before me.

The track itself is far less intimidating than one would first think. The steep banking, 29 degrees at MTV, can look like a challenge to master. Once you realize, however, that the banking in the turns is used to help you get around the track, the mystique disappears. I learned pretty quickly that while riding a track bike on a velodrome is different,  it is also familiar. Like all things within bicycle racing, once you achieve a certain level of comfort there isn't much to fear. Obviously, you can't take it for granted, become careless, and bust your ass or others' asses. But it is still just as simple as pushing down on the pedals.

We started the on the track portion by doing various drills to familiarize ourselves with the bikes and the way they operated, as well as to make ourselves more comfortable in the various situations we might encounter while racing. We also worked on on the track communication and being able to turn your head to look around without shifting your whole bike up or down the track. It all built up to us putting in laps in a pace line and pulling off into the turns and rejoining at the back. Essentially, reinforcing all of the prior drills and familiarizing that we had done, in a real time, real speed scenario.

I found the track to be a little bumpier than I expected, but the facility is going to be resurfaced in October. Everything else pretty well sorted out as I expected it too, and I'm not intimidated or in a place where I would want to give up this whole endeavor. As MTV is only open for one more month in the season, there are just a few opportunities left for me to get out and turn laps. Hopefully I can make it to one of those. If not, I'll just have to dedicate to doing a lot of base riding and 'trainer miles' during the winter months before I can get out there again next April and start grinding out laps in my buildup to my attempt, sometime late next summer.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Why the Hour?

For someone who hasn't raced in years, never raced above a cat 5 level, doesn't much care for time trialing, and has never ridden in a velodrome, describing the decision to make an attempt at the Hour Record as "a stretch" would be an understatement.

To be clear, I don't harbor any illusions that I can go out and automatically put my name next to the likes of Eddy Merckx (the namesake for this project). But I still want to try. Unfortunately, in the words of Yoda, "Do or do not, there is no try." So then why even bother?

Really, the answer is a two-parter. The first part of the answer is "to why do it at all?" Quite simply, everyone needs a challenge. Many of you probably know someone who has challenged themselves to become better at something, to go on a diet, to learn a new skill or take up a new hobby. A few years ago my wife challenged herself to run a half marathon. After completing it, she challenged herself to do it again and took over thirty minutes off of her finishing time. But thirty-five thousand people challenge themselves to run that particular half-marathon and hundreds of thousands more run in other half-marathons, or even full marathons every year. Many others, including some of my college friends, have gone beyond that to compete in triathlons. Triathlons that ranged from sprint distance to full Ironman.

It is probably a little self-centered, but for me the challenge is to experience something that so few other have. I wanted to do something relatively unique, that few in the world have attempted, and that certainly even fewer in my social networks could claim.

Which brings me to the second part of the why answer: "Why the Hour?" After accepting that I wanted to seek out a way to challenge myself, the bicycle seemed like a natural avenue. Most of the things I could do with or on a bicycle either weren't that unique or didn't, to me at least, seem that spectacular. It was then that I happened to catch "The Flying Scotsman" on television, and was reminded of the hour. I became intrigued by Graeme Obree's story, the story surrounding the hour, and had my general interest in the history of cycling reignited. I followed this up by watching documentaries like "A Sunday in Hell," a mid-1970's documentary about the Paris-Roubaix bicycle race. All of this piqued and further fueled my interest in committing to do something as bold as taking on the hour and possibly writing myself into the history books.

I know it won't be easy to manage my life around doing something ambitious like this project. That is part of the challenge that is motivating me to do the hour record. I have a tendency to give up or lose interest in something. Even more so if the outcome looks futile. I don't want to start this process and give up over the winter before my attempt. I don't want to get on the velodrome when I finally make my attempt and quit riding after only 30 minutes.

So in response to that, I want to get myself so deeply involved into this project that my only acceptable outcomes are to "do" or "do not." There will be no "try."

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Explaining the Hour Record

While it should seem natural that most people who read this blog already have some understanding of what the 'hour record' is, it did occur to me that not everyone will know of it. This may include even fellow cyclists. Wikipedia pretty much covers the basic definition as 'the farthest distance ridden on a bicycle in one hour.' At the end of the day that is pretty much it. How far can a person ride a bicycle in 60 minutes time? For the purist among the cycling crowd it is the true test of one's ability to ride said bicycle.

No other sport has anything quite like it. For them it is all about how fast can a specified distance be covered. The Indianapolis and Daytona 500's, the runner's mile, a marathon, the mile and a quarter of the Kentucky Derby. Even within cycling everything from time trials to the Tour De France is about how fast a rider can get from point A to point B. Those competitions are also based on how fast others can complete the same course against you.

But with the hour record it is you, the bicycle, a track, and a stopwatch.

Part of what separates this event from others, even within the context of cycling, is the use of the velodrome and the type of bike. The use of the velodrome is critical for side by side comparison's of one rider's ability to another. Throughout all other sports, especially ball sports, there is always a debate about the greatest ever. And no true conclusion can ever be made because with those competitions, you are not only comparing competitor versus competitor, but also the eras in which they competed. The use of a velodrome and a track specific bicycle* both bring the playing field to level. (*More on the bicycle debate below.) The purpose of the velodrome is to take out all of the factors that can affect a rider's performance, as well as their shortcomings.

If you take three relatively equally matched professional riders and run a time trial on three different types of courses, you are likely to get three different winners. This is a result of the three riders each having different talents and deficits that can be hidden or exposed by the type of course ridden. But with the velodrome, there are no hills, no descents, no rough pavement, no rain; all things that can adversely affect a result. While there are different types and sizes of velodrome tracks, all are a flat track with two turns.

Taking the course out of the debate leaves us with just the rider and the bike. In the last 30 years; however, the bicycle had become a larger part of the discussion than the riders themselves. Advances in technology, materials, frame designs, and aerodynamics started to push the Hour Record into a competition over who could innovate best. And while yes, the first Hour Record was set using a penny-farthing, the debate was still about the man and his ability.

Controversially, in response to all of the innovation taking place within the sport, it's governing body the Union Cycliste Internationale, or UCI, set to eliminate the equipment advantage out of the equation. It mandated that attempts made on the "Athlete's Hour" follow a strict set of rules regarding frame materials and sizing, tube shapes, wheel design, handle bar shape, and rider positioning. The common terminology for the record attempt and equipment specifications used is know as the "Merckx Hour," or "Merckx Rules." This is drawn from the rules being created to match all future attempts at the hour on using essentially the same specifications used by Eddy Merckx for his successful attempt in 1972. Innovated attempts are still recognized, but they fall into different classifications outside of the Athlete's Hour.

These rules are part of the reasoning behind my naming this The Merckx Project. I don't doubt that I could achieve better results with a lightweight, aerodynamic frame, wheels & helmet, and optimized body position. But I want to find out what I can achieve using essentially the same set of tools as Eddy Merckx. A steel framed, non-aerodynamically enhanced bike, using standard spoked wheels, a single gear, and drop bars with no brakes. And minus the juiced bloodstream, of course.

Monday, July 16, 2012

A Little About Myself

My name is Stephen Schilling and I am a married, stay-at-home dad to a 1 year old, a diabetic, a college graduate, a fan of cycling and bicycle racing, a LEGO fan, and a graphic designer.

I graduated from college in 2001 with a degree in graphic design and worked as a designer in freelance, newspaper publications, the travel industry, and commercial real estate industries. After leaving my last position as a graphic designer, I transitioned into a role of a stay-at-home dad and developed this project to test myself and make a contribution to the study of type 1 diabetes.

I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 1983 as a child. For all of my knowing life it has been a condition that I have had to treat and learn to live alongside. While realizing the challenges it presents, I have never really treated it as a handicap or a disability. To the contrary; as a cyclist, being diabetic has taught me the importance of proper nutrition and diet to the goal of bettering myself and living a healthy and active lifestyle.

My affinity for the sport of cycling may be able to be traced back to the late 1980's, when Greg LeMond was winning the Tour De France and World Championships. Growing up in Indianapolis, I knew of 'racing' through the Indy 500. Being a kid, the bicycle was my only mode of transportation. And so it became a natural fit to put LeMond's success, racing, and bicycles together. Throughout the 1990's, as a bicycle continued to be my only means of self sufficient transport, my love affair with it continued to grow. By the end of the decade, I began to see the bicycle for more than just independence and transportation, and by 2000, while in college, I competed in my first race. I believe I finished 7th out of 13, completely blown out the back in the field sprint. But a new version of my love for the bicycle took off. I raced in a couple dozen events over the next 5 years until burnout set in, and after a wreck caused by a low blood suger at the end of 2005 I walked away from the sport altogether. I tried other activities like running, soccer, and ice skating to entertain myself and keep a healthy lifestyle.

In 2010, the bug finally bit me again, and I was back on the bicycle. Which brings us to today. While I don't have the competitive spirit to be successful in racing, I did want to set a goal for myself that one, would motivate me to become better than I am today, and two, would be an experience that would stand above anything I could "buy" or that just anyone could do. And so was born the idea of experiencing an attempt at the hour record.

In the coming weeks, I'll share how the full plan has developed, and update you on the progress and steps achieved to realizing my gial so far...

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

In the Benginning

Welcome to the Merckx Project. In the coming weeks, I will introduce you to my attempt to ride what is known as The Hour Record. Stay tuned.....