“Checking In and Catching Up” by Chad Haga

 

I can’t believe I busted my hands up over 7 months ago. A lot has happened since then….

Hands busted on July 18. Crazy expensive surgery on July 20…thank you, insurance + parents!

In the following weeks, I watched way too much Olympic coverage. But the Olympics weren’t on all day, so I watched way too much TV…including all of Breaking Bad, Parks and Rec, Arrested Development, etc. I was in a low place and couldn’t do much besides lay there. I had permission to ride the TT bike on the trainer (not putting weight on my hands). I had multiple days of preparing for a trainer session, climbing on, then climbing down after 2 pedals strokes because, well, what’s the point?

To beat me down further, I watched my team race the Tour of Utah online–a race I was supposed to be in–while learning that my efforts in 2012 helped the team secure a start in the TTT World Championships.

…and that concludes the depressing part of this post.

Just a week after the surgery, they removed the big casts and fitted me with more functional splints. I definitely got light-headed when I saw the pins in my thumb…

The day after getting my new splints, I was flying with my parents to Colorado to get my truck out of airport parking and help with the already-planned move to Colorado Springs. We were probably the least useful moving crew ever. I had two busted hands, my dad’s back is delicate, and my mom is a tiny woman. Nonetheless, my dad and I did much more than we should have (while being as smart as possible about it–for instance, I had been off painkillers entirely for days, so I knew instantly if I did something my thumb didn’t like).

We got the move completed, with most of the thanks due to Ian’s overworked back, then drove back to Texas.

Just before my 24th birthday, the doc told me I could stop wearing my wrist brace, resume driving, and pulled the pins from my thumb along with trimming down the splint. The icing on the cake was the permission to ride outside again with my splint.

With that news, I concluded my month of couch potatoing and returned to Colorado. I was riding my TT bike almost exclusively because it was the most comfortable, and helped Creed train for the TTT championships with what little form I had remaining.

As my thumb became stronger again, I started doing epic road rides and just enjoying the fall weather. Of course, my injury had happened right as I was coming into form again, so I picked up where I left off and started getting really fast again just chasing Strava segments around the Springs. Because I had nothing else to focus on, I worked hard at eating really well….and lost 5 lbs. I got down to 158lbs, the lowest I’ve been in years. It’s tough to lose the weight during race season with all the traveling and eating out, but now I know how to do it. As a result, I was in the climbing form of my life.

I was finally cleared to race in mid-October, and I kicked things off with two weekends of cross racing. I did both days of the USGP in Fort Collins, actually doing pretty well even though my skills weren’t too sharp and I had a lot of hair getting in my way.

Then I spent a weekend with my Grandma, racing in Oklahoma, where my extended family got to watch me race for the first time (and they saw me win!). My parents even came up to see me race, which they haven’t been able to do for a long time. I had my own personal photographer that weekend–I was glad to see my Dad out playing with his camera again!

Then I got an awesome new mountain bike and hung up the road bike entirely for a month while I played around. I jumped on the hardtail 29 train and never looked back.

Then I rested up even more leading into Thanksgiving, when I kicked off base training for the new season. I piled on the miles, rested a week over Christmas when snow covered North Texas, and then piled the miles on again. Between Thanksgiving and Feb 1st, I rode 3500 miles (and dropped a little more weight), a personal best by a long shot.

After another week of rest, I headed off to California for team camp, where I saw just how much faster I can go uphill without carrying around a little extra weight. The big test for me, though, was the time trial day, when I would see whether I’d actually lost any power while slimming down. Survey says…nope.

To make camp even better, I got to spend the last day at the San Diego wind tunnel with HED aerodynamics guru Dino, fine-tuning my time-trial position. It was a rare opportunity for the bike racer and engineer in me to both come out and play. Anemometers, strain gauges, CdA, yaw angles, testing protocols…I was right at home.

Dino adjusted my TT position significantly last year to an already-fast position, so our time in the tunnel went very quickly as we made small adjustments to find the perfect position. They sent me home with discs of data, photos, and video, including this cool one with all the different angles… Keep in mind, this was only the 6th test, the position just got faster from here.

On a related note, I stumbled upon an old photo of me time-trialing in 2010. I was pushing so much wind back then!

After a week back in Colorado after camp, in which I had to ride my cross bike in the snow on multiple occasions, I was off again to the Merco Classic. The TXBRA racer in me couldn’t believe I didn’t start my season until March, but that’s life now. I definitely was fighting some demons at the start of the first stage (and throughout the race for that matter). My last race had ended, ah, poorly, and I was finally getting back on the horse 7 months later. I had to yell at myself to get out of my own head and race my bike. Then I jumped into the race-winning break.

The time trial there was my first in my new position, and I loved it. Zirbel and I both went significantly faster this year than last, and again were separated by only tenths of a second. Nobody could beat Ben Jacques Maynes that day, though, but I was happy with my performance all weekend considering it was my first race of the year! I ended up finishing the race in 3rd overall, a good start to the year.

And now, I look forward to an awesome year of racing. There has been a lot of hype around me, including cyclingnews and velonews articles, but I’m just too excited and thankful to be healthy and on good form to think much about those.

In just two more days, I’m leaving the country for a 10-day trip to Portugal, my long-awaited European debut! Stay tuned….

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