Adventuring. That’s what I’ve been doing for the past few months. Unemployment is always an interesting way to pass the time, and new life opportunities tend to occupy each and every precious second we’re afforded. I walk Chico with a cup of coffee every single morning and still catch myself whispering, “What the hell am I doing?”. I don’t think I will ever know.

I pinch myself daily.

If you know anything about this journey, you know leaving Mammoth literally broke my heart. It was such an overwhelming and intense experience. Transitioning back into the mystery of the West has sparked so much inside my little brain. I miss my family terribly, but knowing where you’re meant to be is a gift you should always give yourself 100% of the time. If I’ve learned anything this year, it’s that our lives are far too precious to waste on hopes and dreams. Before you get all upset about that comment, just think about it for a minute. You owe yourself more than a dream.

Utah is pretty much more than I could have asked for. When I stood on that ridge in Little Cottonwood Canyon back in 2004, I giggled in amazement. I was about to drop into my first pow run EVER, and my boyfriend at the time was generous to share his most prized possession with me. I remember thinking how rad it would be to live there. I continued visiting for the next few winters until I moved to California, and never looked back.

Don’t get me wrong, I miss Asheville and those sweet little green trees. I miss dirt and mud, with torrential downpours and hypothermia. I miss wet roots and The Lucky Otter. I miss Taco Tuesdays and Asheville Cyclocross. I miss my pretentious coffee shop and 100 mile solo rides. I miss Pisgah and all her misfit toys. I miss 12 hour days in the rain forest. Hey Asheville, I miss you. Thanks for keepin’ it rad.

And then that whole racing thing…

I’m still forming an opinion. And I’m sure you’ll be waiting in anticipation, bruh.

 

 

 

Stairway to Hell

Endurance– the fact or power of enduring an unpleasant or difficult process or situation without giving way.

May was hard. She changed me. Hurt me. Helped me. May was also full of smiles and hearty laughter.

Our community lost someone very special recently, and the last few weeks have been foggy at best. I recently came into a large amount of free time, so my head was given permission to stop working, and my heart was allowed to break in half. There was a peaceful silence and awareness of what really matters in this world. My fears and concerns seemed to disappear, but the ache in my chest was obvious and raw.

We gathered on Friday to love, mourn, laugh, and remember. We did just that. We’re all better people because of that man. We are.

And what about the 111k, Megan? Well, I’m so glad you asked. I’ve had a couple weeks to simmer down and forget about the heartbreak and tears, and now I can see that day for what it was. A breakthrough. A lesson. A testament to who I really am and how much I can endure. The 111k, just like PMBAR, changed me (I think for the better), and allowed me to dig deeper than I’ve ever had to dig before. So much digging.

As we lined up, I thought about what kind of day I was about to have. I was all smiles, and really honored to be one of the crazy people getting ready to embark on a long journey in that beautiful bubble we call Pisgah. I knew I wasn’t fast enough to line up in the front, so I bounced around in the back, making jokes and forcing smiles on everyone I made eye contact with. I was nervous as hell, though, and did my best to hide my fear from the world.

Eric said “GO”. We made our way to Clawhammer, and I watched everyone pass me. I got caught up in the heat of the moment, briefly, and quickly realized I needed to slow the fuck down and ride my own pace. I mean, we were 30 minutes into what would become a 12 hour day for me, so I needed to get a grip. I later learned I had my best Clawhammer time that day. Probably not the best way to begin my 111k journey, but I was definitely warm and ready to ride.

We meandered through the woods to Cantrell Creek, a trail I had never experienced, and the reality of the previous day’s rain hit me like a brick. Pisgah was sloppy and it seemed like every single rock on that trail moved. Hell, I would have been better off closing my eyes and feeling my way through that creek bed, but I decided to keep my eyes open and give it my best shot.

SO MANY DOWNED TREES. Everywhere. I hopped over a lot of the smaller ones, but played a conservative game with the bigger ones. I finally decided to ride over a much bigger, scarier (to me) tree, and my back tire slid sideways as I rolled forward. I was heading for a bunch of sharp rocks, so I corrected hard to the right, and made plans to ride through the enormous puddle off to the side of the trail. As my front end hit the puddle, I quickly realized the depth was more than I could handle, and my front wheel disappeared instantly. I flipped over the bars, taking one to the quad and the other to my chest, and landed flat on my face. I immediately felt pain and fear.

“Get up. You have to get up! It’s too soon. You have to go!” I yelled and cried and pleaded with myself to get up and get back on the bike. I was barely two hours into my day, and I feared that I was injured, but I started moving before the pain could reach me. I pedaled and cried and the first notion of doubt filled my head. I hate Cantrell Creek.

Then the last person, a really ripping female, passed me. I was officially last.

When I made it to the first aid station (20 miles in), I saw a bunch of happy faces. The Motion Makers crew was there to greet me with jokes, peanut M&Ms, and a quick look at my bike. I had to pee, so I literally just whipped off my bibs on the side of the parking lot, because I no longer gave a shit what anyone else thought. I ate a snack, grabbed my bike, and quickly said my goodbyes. For every minute I stood still, the hope for finishing the race would melt away. I wasn’t sad at this point, but I was getting there. 111k was going to kill me. I just knew it.

I’ve been mountain biking for a couple years, and riding Pisgah for about 4 months. I’ve ridden in wet conditions before, but nothing prepared me for the mental and physical anguish of trying to navigate these trails under a shit ton of mud and slimy water. Pisgah is a challenge for me when its sunny and dry, so this particular day was extra tough on me. I was also alone, and even though the course was marked, I was a little nervous riding solo. I was extra cautious in technical sections, and chose to walk in places I had cleaned before. I did not want to take any chances!

I made it to aid station #2, and I was officially sad at this point. I had only traveled 8 or so miles from the first aid station, and had yet to descend 1206 (just to climb back up it). I made small talk while I stuffed bananas in my mouth, and watched other racers crest the top of 1206 with blank stares and zombie-like movements. This aid station also served as #3 after you dilly-dallied for 20ish miles, running over to Spencer/Trace, and then climbing back up 1206. At one point I thought about riding up 5000 and down Bent Creek Gap Road. “I could just ride home from here and call it a day. I could quit right now”. It was so fucking tempting, y’all. But I didn’t. How would I get my car back to Asheville?

As I started climbing Spencer, I caught up to the woman who passed me on Cantrell. “You’re killing it, lady!”, she said as I rolled by. I thanked her and told her she was doing well also, but I wasn’t sure what I was killing. My brain cells? My bike? It was destroyed already. I felt like I was being killed. I pulled over and had a quick snack, trying to pull things together in my brain. I was having a rough time and could feel myself falling apart. I felt the tears coming, but I managed to hold them back. This part of the day was extra muddy and slick, but I kept the rubber side down and even had a little fun. I was taking it one trail at a time, and checking things off my mental list as I made my way through North Mills.

Climbing 1206. Ew.

When I made it back to the aid station, I saw my PMBAR partner eating snacks and having a good time with the Liberty folks. Mike was sweeping the 111k, and it made me happy to see that he wasn’t actually going to catch me. I WAS AT THE 3RD AID STATION. I was really happy for the first time all day, and felt a burst of energy because I knew I could finish the race. All I had to do was climb Laurel and descend Pilot. All I had to do, right? Sometimes my optimism blows my own mind. I was blinded by optimism. BLINDED. I high-fived everyone, and made my way down the road towards aid station #4. Little did I know, I was headed straight into the depths of hell. My own personal hell.

I noticed the sun was getting lower and the temperature was dropping. I crushed water all day because it was hot, and the waist-deep creek crossings had soaked everything that had not been touched by my sweat. I had crusted mud from my head to my toes from the endo I experienced on Cantrell, and my chest ached with every deep breath. As I began pushing up Laurel, something happened. My brain began melting and panic filled my body. I had been in Pisgah for 9 hours, alone and injured, and I held back the tears for as long as I could.

I couldn’t do it anymore. The tears streamed down my face as I fell apart.

I tripped over roots and rocks as I trudged up Laurel. This hike isn’t fun when you’re an hour in, so you can imagine my sadness as I tried to push after 9 hours of destroying myself. I thought, “How the fuck do people do this race in 6 hours?” I thought about what kind of food I wanted. I thought about how my friends were drinking beers and eating burritos by this time. I thought about how bad my chest hurt and how hard it was to lose my shit and push my bike with a sharp pain shooting through my body. This made me cry harder and louder, and for the first time all day, I realized just how lonely I was. I was in a dark place, and Laurel got the best of me. I kept pushing.

I was so relieved to make it to Pilot, and felt a small slice of happiness for a few minutes. Exhaustion had taken away my technical riding ability, but I was still able to descend part of the trail. Pilot is a bitch and very technical and tough for me on a good day, so I’m sure I would have been great YouTube entertainment as I attempted to get myself off that mountain. But the shit would eventually hit the fan…hard. I hit a patch of baby heads and it jerked my handlebars to the side. I heard a pop in my chest and immediately felt the fire of a million lightning bolts going through my body. I was 100% fucked. I couldn’t control my bike, couldn’t descend, and the pain was so intense, I could barely breathe.

I lost my mind.

Blair Witch Project

I kept saying “I wanna go home. I wanna go home. I don’t want to do this anymore!” I was crying uncontrollably. The wind had picked up and I was freezing. This was my breaking point. I walked 90% of Pilot, and was finally able to get back on the bike near the bottom. It was getting dark and I started having legitimate fears regarding the hike up and descent back down Black. I rolled up to the final aid station and literally broke down in the middle of the road. I got off the bike and saw my friend Laura standing there. You know when a kid gets hurt and doesn’t cry about it until they see their mama? Yeah, that’s how I felt when I saw Laura. I started crying again. I laid down in the middle of the road and just held my face in disappointment. The pain was too much to keep going, and my brain could no longer function to safely get me to the finish line. I was forced to call it. I had been out there for 12 hours. 60 miles into a 68 mile race…I couldn’t push myself any farther.

I felt sick with disappointment.

 

And that’s about all I can muster up. I’m not so butt hurt about the race anymore, and I learned a lot about myself that day.

And yes, I’ll be back.

 

 

 

 

 

PMBAR- Pretty Mad Because AHHHH RARRRR!

In the time its taken me to mentally recover from PMBAR, Rich Dillen has already blogged about it twice…maybe three times. People actually read his, though, and he’s definitely funnier than I am. Also better at bikes. Also better at consuming beer. And better than me at everything, really. But he took time out of his ‘better than me’ evening to unwrap my burrito at the finish line, because I couldn’t stop crying long enough to do it myself.

So I guess he’s also a better person than me. Meh.

I was running the Asheville Foam Party the night I agreed to do PMBAR. At the time, I had ridden in Pisgah about as many times as I had been on a date in the last decade, but I’m good at bad decisions. I woke up on Monday regretting my agreement to mentally mutilate myself in the woods, so I did what any rational person would do. I drank mimosas pretty much all day. I mean, ‘cross nats consisted of 6 days in party host mode, so why not make it 7? I am an adult.

The months leading up to Eric Wever’s psychotic event were spent in the woods. I haven’t ridden on the road, other than commuting, since November. Do I regret that? No. Do I hate road riding now? Nah. Will I ever ride up to Mount Mitchell or climb 215 or agree to tag along on one of Tay Little’s hundred milers? Probably. I’m a loose cannon, so anything is possible. And I like pain, so I will most likely agree to do any or all of those before the end of the summer. But man, I tasted that yummy purple drank of Pisgah, and now I’m hooked like Lil Wayne. I wanna sip on that sizzurp for as long as I can.

I bought knee pads. People made fun of me. I saw those same people post pictures of exposed leg muscle and knee holes, so I felt good about my knee pad decision. I’ve super glued mine a couple times in the last year, and I like wearing skirts, so I thought it was time to protect my assets. They make me ride faster (dumber), and now I feel naked (scared) without them. Failure to commit on those trails will end you. If you stick it, you win. If you botch it, you lose. I have shot off the side of a mountain more times than I care to remember in the last month. Did you know it’s hard to get yourself out of a tree when you’re upside down, still attached to your bike, and your hydration pack is wrapped around the branches? I didn’t know I could fly.

tree

The other part of my survival equation was focusing my attention on all the strange and sometimes debilitating imbalances in my body. Cyclists are known for being in shape and super strong. I had both of these things going for me, but I was pretty weak in certain areas. Core strength? Forget about it. Upper body strength? Not since high school volleyball and basketball. The last 4 years of riding forward on a bicycle had caused my neglected body parts to fall apart or stop working all together. The back pain I experienced on long rides was enough to make me not want to go on long rides. And let’s not forget about that leg thing I had dry needled during the entire Summer of 2015. Which reminds me, I need to get those needles back into my legs soon.

mad4

Nick Bragg tried to get me into this place called MADabolic for months. At the time, I was elbow deep in my first semester of grad school, training for cyclocross season, and experiencing general life stuff that made me want to hide in my bathroom until it went away. I had a membership to the YMCA, and the only time I would use it was to attend the high intensity interval classes. Traditional workouts have never appealed to me, and I always found myself going home after just 30 minutes of weight training. Besides, I was a bike racer. WE ARE STRONG! WE ARE FIT! But we are also broken. I use “we” loosely, because I know some of you ACTUALLY work other parts of your body. I didn’t, so I got hurt a lot.

I finally caved and got my ass out of bed at 5am to drink coffee and hit the 6am MADabolic class. Nick got his wish, and I got more than I bargained for.

mad3

As an athlete, I spent my entire life with this little chip on my shoulder, because I thought I was fit and invincible. I had always struggled with my weight, and couldn’t figure out for the life of me why I had a belly in spite of my fitness level. I thought bikes were enough, and they almost are, but not quite. My first MADabolic class was a real eye opener. I wasn’t actually in the shape I thought I was, so I decided to sign up for another class. And another one. And another one.

mad1

And then one day it happened. I DID A REAL PUSH UP.

For those that might not understand the importance of that last sentence, I’ve never been able to do a legit, good form push up. Even when I was playing volleyball, I couldn’t do more than one or two, and they resembled a break dancing sequence more than push ups. It took a couple weeks of gut busting morning classes and buckets of sweat, but I started feeling the changes in my body and on the bike. The weekend Pisgah death rides never got easier, but the extra upper body strength and core definitely improved my hike-a-bike endurance. I finally understood the science behind the MADabolic workouts, and saw first hand how it complimented my lifestyle. Being able to ride for 5 hours without back pain is pretty awesome. Being able to balance in a rock garden because I had actual core muscles is awesome. Being able to descend a 7 mile downhill without stopping from arm pump is awesome. MADabolic changed how I viewed myself as a bike racer and an athlete. Focus on your WHOLE SELF.

mad2

You will not get fit by sitting on your ass and wishing you were fit. You have to put in work. That also means putting in work off the bike. I get it now.

What does that have to do with PMBAR? Well, a lot actually. Let’s start with Bradley Creek. How many water crossings did we have? 20?? It was slippery and swift, and I’ve never been one to balance my way into success. My upper body was stronger, though, so carrying my bike wasn’t a huge deal anymore. My core and lower back were in much better shape, so I didn’t wiggle around like a snake. Let’s face it. Bradley Creek just plain sucks, but I think it would have been more miserable without the off-the-bike training.

Seriously. I really hate Bradley Creek. No wonder you guys never ride it.

How many times did I have to get off and push my bike during PMBAR? I don’t know. I lost count after hour 9 when I began hallucinating and losing control of my legs. I remember pushing up Laurel earlier in the year and literally falling apart because my arms couldn’t take the heat. While pushing still sucks and makes me want to poke my eyes out, it was much more manageable with legitimate arm and shoulder muscles. All those thrusters, burpees, and kettle bells had a purpose. All those mornings I came home shelled from MADabolic seemed to be paying off. I didn’t look like one of those wacky inflatable things you see on the highway in strange places.

wacky

Climbing hurts. There is a lot of it in Pisgah. I’ve always been sort of okay at it, but ran into problems because the only thing I had going for me was QUADS. You can’t survive in Pisgah if all you have are quads. Quadsworth is the ONLY person I know who does this. I don’t think he’s human, though. And he has a mustache. NEVER TRUST ANYONE WITH A MUSTACHE. My point is, after I started developing other parts of my imbalanced, neglected body, climbing became easier and allowed me to try new lines. Instead of feeling back pain at hour 2, I could sometimes get to hour 5 or 6. But at PMBAR? Hour 13 provided me with pain EVERYWHERE. Even my fingernails hurt.

I remember changing my socks after the Bradley Creek out-and-back, and thinking “What have I done?!”. That might have been the first real low moment for me at PMBAR. The realization that we had two more checkpoints to go…the realization I had to ride Squirrel…the realization that I might not make it. All those things were filling my heart with flutters and my head with bad thoughts. I wasn’t sure if I was strong enough to get back to the parking lot in under 14 hours. I was sad.

Squirrel wasn’t actually that bad. I think I’m finally getting more confident on the exposed off-camber. I mean, I sort of ENJOYED it this time. Of course, as soon as we hit the Horse Cove climb, I screamed on the inside. I knew my roommate was working a checkpoint, and I desperately needed him to be working THIS ONE. I needed to see happy faces and maybe find someone with a beer. When I heard someone yell “WOOOOOO!” at the top, I knew I was about to see my friends. It was 5pm. We had been out there for 8 hours and still had one checkpoint to go. I found a casual rider with an extra beer. I drank it, ate two cookies, and hugged everyone. I was happy(ish) and also very unaware of how much time we still had before the finish. I heard my roommate and my partner talking. I later found out that my roommate was attempting to change our route in order to keep me from crying. Or dying. Or not finishing. Whichever came first. But I think we went the correct, and more difficult way.

pmbar

If you’ve ever been on your bike for that long, you know what comes next. Mood fluctuations are insane. You literally go from happy to sad in minutes. You start questioning that thing you said to that guy when you were 19. You think about what you plan on having for breakfast the next day if you make it out alive. You try to compare your current pain to pain you’ve felt in the past, whispering “You’ve felt worse than this before” to yourself, only to find you may not have actually felt worse than this before. It’s a real pain in the ass. Pain in the everything, really. But I kept moving forward. I sometimes had to get off my bike to push up stuff I would normally ride just to switch up my working muscle groups. At this point the race was all mental.

And I was seriously close to losing it.

We turned on our lights once we made it out to Clawhammer. The sun was almost gone and a strange, almost peaceful feeling came over me. I felt like Pisgah was swallowing me. I had never been out there in the dark before, so this was a special treat. The specialness wore off pretty quickly, though, as Maxwell proved to be more work than I could handle at that point. By the time we made it to Pressley Gap, I was holding back tears. The final hike-a-bike made me very angry. I could barely pick my feet up enough to move them forward. I kept tripping on rocks and roots. I started screaming, “Why am I doing this? When am I going to get to the %$&#* top!? THIS IS SO STUPID!”.

And then I heard the most beautiful thing I had ever heard. Mike standing next to his bike where the trail started to flatten out. “We’re here”. By HERE he meant the top of the descent back to Smoker’s Cove. I was going to make it.

I highly overestimated my ability to descend technical trail on 13 hour legs. I bounced from one side of the trail to the other like a ping pong ball. I kept scraping trees and catching pedals on rocks. I held the bars like someone giving a weak ass handshake. I finally had to stop and walk a section I would normally ride with no problem, just because my brain couldn’t function enough to tell my body what to do. Once we got closer to the end, I was able to relax a little, and even found myself popping off rocks and roots for fun. Everything hurt, but I was going to finish. I WAS GOING TO FINISH PMBAR.

We hit gravel and I could feel the tears. My body experienced a crazy rush of adrenaline that almost took my breath away. I could hear music and see lights in the near distance. We rounded the corner and I saw the most overwhelming sight of the day- the finish line. I immediately let the tears fly, crying like someone had punched me in the face. I got a congratulatory hug from Eric Wever and Steve Barker was snapping photos of me crying like I had won a Miss America Pageant. The clock said 13:32. I finished 28 minutes before cutoff, and we were the last team to finish in time. I cried harder. Shanna took my bike from me, gave me a huge bear hug, and asked me if I wanted a beer.

Are you shittin’ me? Of course I do.

Then I see Rich Dillen walking towards me. I expected him to make a joke or say something hilariously profound, but he just hugged me and said “That’s awesome. This is a big deal”. He got me a burrito, unwrapped it, and told me I shouldn’t eat the foil. “Don’t eat the foil. It hurts when you do that”.

Thanks, Dicky.

65666310-PMBAR_98.jpgPHOTO: Icon Media Asheville

I ate two burritos, a taco, and a piece of pizza. I could only drink two beers before I pulled an Irish goodbye and crawled into the back of my Element. I was still in disbelief that I finished PMBAR. Mother’s Day weekend was my 4 year anniversary of getting my first bike, and my 4 month anniversary of riding in Pisgah. I hurt in places that I never hurt before, and I slept for like 2 hours. The worst night of sleep EVER was trumped by the glory and pride I felt from finishing something that a lot of people are afraid to start. You might not think its a big deal, but PMBAR literally changed my life.

Sunday I was worthless. I don’t actually remember a lot of it, and I’m pretty sure I looked like a zombie. Sorry for anyone that had to look at me that day.

Monday was a blur.

Tuesday was better. I even hiked to the top of Looking Glass to retrieve the PRAR checkpoint from Sunday. By the way runners…I WAS THE ONLY ONE TO GET THAT CHECKPOINT, and I didn’t even do PRAR. I win. You lose.

I’m not gonna lie- I still feel shelled today. How long does it take to recover from this thing? And don’t forget, 111k and 55k are next weekend. Do I have time to train for this? Is it possible for me to feel worse than I did at PMBAR? What terrible things will come out of my mouth then? How the hell do you wake up in a good mood, knowing you have to get on your bike for a second day and ride ALL DA SINGLE TRACK?! Can I sell my entry? I should sell my entry. I’m going to retire from endurance racing.

Just kidding. I’m gonna suffer just like everyone else. It’s what we do.

So far, my goal of finishing the Queen of Pisgah Series is lining up. PMBAR was just the tip of the iceberg, though, and its a long road to Double Dare. I hope there’s enough Kleenex to dry up my tears.

Since this was like winning an Oscar, I have a few people to thank:

  • Brian, my brother, for getting me on bikes and getting me off Taco Bell and Papa Johns
  • That guy (who shall remain nameless), for taking me to Pisgah for the first time ever, watching me crash into a tree within the first 10 minutes, and telling me I had no business there and he’d never take me again
  • Eric Wever. For being, well, Eric Wever
  • All the supportive lady gnar shredders of WNC
  • Mike Pierce, for being an awesome partner and big dumb ride leader
  • All the people who told me to bring a fresh pair of socks
  • Steph, Mark, and Jamie from MADabolic- you guys have pushed me in a new way, making me stronger in both mind and body
  • All you crazy mountain bikers patient enough to take me out on REALLY long rides- I hate you, and THANK YOU
  • Randy and Shawn because they alway fix my bike
  • Laura- thanks for riding the last 4 hours with me. Needed that extra push
  • And finally, Pisgah National Forest. Thank you for not eating me this time

 

 

 

She’s Calling

One is constantly reminded of the infinite lavishness and fertility of Nature — inexhaustible abundance amid what seems enormous waste. And yet when we look into any of her operations that lie within reach of our minds, we learn that no particle of her material is wasted or worn out. It is eternally flowing from use to use, beauty to yet higher beauty; and we soon cease to lament waste and death, and rather rejoice and exult in the imperishable, unspendable wealth of the universe, and faithfully watch and wait the reappearance of everything that melts and fades and dies about us, feeling sure that its next appearance will be better and more beautiful than the last.” — John Muir

I feel like every month of every year is some kind of milestone. I remember the first time I rode Bent Creek like it was yesterday. It was in the heat of the summer- me, my brother, Stephen Janes, and Tom Van Devender. Brian and I drove up from Blountville one Saturday morning in 2012 (at least I think it was 2012). I remember walking up some pretty legit climbs. I mean, I had been riding for a couple months, so everything met ‘legit standards’. I can remember getting mad because it was so hard.

I wasn’t used to being mediocre at a sport. I’m not sorry for that, either.

One day I reached a point where I needed to take it to the next level. I had built a skill level that enabled me to do things I never thought I would see in my lifetime. Mountain biking has a way of bringing every single thing in your life into a perspective you never dreamed of. It doesn’t compare to any other discipline. It has a different skill set than road riding, and it approaches your senses in a different way than cyclocross. There’s just something that draws you in. Even if you leave it for a while, it ALWAYS welcomes you back.

The last couple months have shown me what I’m capable of, both mentally and physically. I just never saw myself in Pisgah. I was always too scared and intimidated, and worried that no one would put up with someone who got off her bike more than she rode it. So, I jumped in head first on New Years Day. My first REAL Pisgah ride and the world’s biggest reality check. Damn. This was no joke.

I managed to survive 4 months of long days in the saddle, in the most beautiful place I’ve ever had the pleasure of suffering to. I have never been more in awe of the places a bicycle can take you. I have never been more scared on a bike. I’ve never felt a sense of accomplishment like I have in Pisgah. Always rewarding to come home and lay on the couch because I simply can’t be bothered with moving my legs.

6 days until PMBAR. Until then my friends.

My life is a case study.

case study
PHOTO BY KEVIN HESSLER OF
ASHEVILLE CYCLOCROSS

 

I wanted to blog after Nationals. I really did. It’s all still smooshed into my brain, but I don’t have adequate time to construct my words about the bike race that smashed the podium.

So, you get to read my grad papers. Ha. You’re a sucker if you keep reading.

This is where my energy goes right now. Odd.

***

CASE STUDY #1
THE SPORT OF CYCLING

PRT 507 STRATEGIC MARKETING IN PRTS
Historical Data
Since 2005, cycling has decreased in popularity among recreationalists, but its attractiveness as a spectator sport has grown (Edmondson, 2011). The Tour de France and the new appeal of road racing, especially within the last decade, has drawn in spectators unfamiliar with cycling. According to the National Bicycle Dealers Association, 18 million bicycles were sold in the US in 2014; a drop from 18.3 million a decade earlier. The sport has remained relatively stable since 2003, with a net worth of $5.3 billion dollars, increasing to $6.1 billion in 2014 (Industry Overview, 2015). It is unclear if this is a result of inflation and/or quality of product. In the same year, The Sports Business Research Network noted 44.6% of bicycling participants made $75,000 or more (SBRnet, n.d.).

User Groups and Market Segmentation
Why do people ride bikes? The pulse of the industry, Bicycle Retailer, found that 73% of users participated in cycling for recreational enjoyment. Fitness was a close second at 53%, with commuting, racing, and sport following in that order (McClellan, 2014). Bicycling participation has slowly decreased in nearly all age groups since 1999, with slight increases noted in those age 44 and above (SBRnet, n.d.). Again, this could be a result of a shift in the economy, cost of production, and competing forms of recreation.

Southern States statistically have the lowest cycling participation rates, and men represent 51% of cyclists in the US (Gaille, 2013). While there have been minor fluctuations in youth participation rates over the last decade, trends have shown a decrease of nearly 4 million children between the ages of 6 and 17 since 1999 (Statistics Library, 2014). The Community Cycling Center found the cost of purchasing a bicycle was the number one reason people chose not to ride in the city of Portland (McClellan, 2014), however, bicycling increased in the city by 8% between 2009 and 2010.

Benefits
Aside from the physical and mental benefits of cycling, bicycles have proven to have many other viable qualities. Commuting to work cuts down on household emissions by at least 6%, and it takes fewer natural resources to build a bike. The production of vehicles is responsible for 1.2 billion cubic yards of pollution every year (McClellan, 2014), adding to the global carbon footprint. If every American living within five miles of work commuted by bike just one day a week, it would resemble the removal of a million cars off the road (Bicycle Buying Guide, 2015).

Barriers
There are many barriers prohibiting the use of bicycles for both recreation and transportation. Due to socioeconomic disparities, a percentage of Americans cannot afford to purchase a bike. The availability of proper infrastructure can also prevent participation rates, as safety is a major issue with both adults and children. While Title IX has increased the likelihood of female inclusion in sports, gender discrepancies still exist. The Women’s Sports Foundation reports 1.3 million fewer athletic participation opportunities for females when compared to males (Title IX, 2015).

Target Markets
Based on participation statistics, it is obvious the more affluent, adult male user groups should receive significant marketing focus. Those with disposable income are most likely to spend more on bicycles and equipment, which has a major financial impact on the sustainability of cycling. With this being said, increased focus should be placed on the declining rates of females and youth participation. The baby boomer generation represents a very large portion of the world’s population, therefore, promoting the use of bicycles within younger user groups will invest in the longevity of the sport.
As priorities shift from older, financially stable adults, to women and children, we must also remember the socioeconomically disadvantaged. Programs like Bikes-Not-Bombs, Trips for Kids, and Safe Routes to School, provide opportunities for youth who may not have opportunities for cycling. Since its inception in 1988, Trips for Kids has introduced more than 140,500 at-risk youth to the bicycle. A sport cannot “ride on the coattails” of affluent users forever. In order to market to those user groups with lowest participation numbers, we must find ways to make the sport attainable and affordable for all.

REFERENCES
B. E. (2011). THE U.S. BICYCLE MARKET A Trend Overview. Retrieved January 20, 2016, from http://www.gluskintownleygroup.com/downloads/The US Bicycle Market – A Trend Overview Report.pdf

B. G. (2013, October 22). 49 Bicycle Industry Statistics and Trends – BrandonGaille.com. Retrieved January 22, 2016, from http://brandongaille.com/49-bicycle-industry-statistics-and-trends/

Bicycle Buying Guide. (2015). Retrieved January 20, 2016, from http://environment.nationalgeographic.com/environment/green-guide/buying- guides/bikes/environmental-impact/

D. M. (2014, August 1). Big Dollars, Big Influence? Retrieved January 22, 2016, from http://www.bicycleretailer.com/sites/default/files/downloads/resource/2014stats.pdf

Industry Overview 2014. (2015). Retrieved January 19, 2016, from http://nbda.com/articles/industry- overview-2014-pg34.htm

SBRnet. (n.d.). Retrieved January 21, 2016, from http://www.sbrnet.com.prox.lib.ncsu.edu/research.aspx?subRID=66

STATISTICS LIBRARY / PARTICIPATION STATISTICS. (2014). Retrieved January 22, 2016, from http://www.peopleforbikes.org/statistics/category/participation-statistics

Title IX Myths and Facts. (2015). Retrieved January 22, 2016, from https://www.womenssportsfoundation.org/en/home/advocate/title-ix-and-issues/what-is-title- ix/title-ix-myths-and-facts

Performance Enhancing Drugs and the Sustainability of Professional Sports

If you’re my friend, you’re probably wondering what happened to me.  I go to work, ride my bike, manage my team, race my bike, and do a SHITLOAD of research for my graduate program.  Sorry I’m a terrible friend.  But I finished my final paper for my first class, and I think it’s okay.  It’s not as cool as drinking tequila at DeSoto, or throwin’ down beers at The Wedge, but it might get me a real job some day.  Or maybe it won’t.  At least I’ll have another degree to add to my collection.

Also, if you read this, be nice or constructive.  Don’t be a dick.
Performance Enhancing Drugs and the Sustainability of Professional Sports
Contemporary Issues Assignment
Megan K. Archer
North Carolina State University
October 12, 2015

*********
What is sport? Many have defined sport as a pastime, or an escape from the drudgery of one’s work life. Sport, by definition, is “an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment” (Sport, n.d.). Philosophers credit sport with engaging society’s emotions, arousing senses, and intriguing challenges of uncertainty within its participants (Kretchmar, 2010). It can be viewed as the merriment of the human spirit, and contributes to a community of veneration and trust between competitors and in society.

Humans have been testing their physical prowess for years. It is believed that Hercules, the son of Zeus and the mortal woman Alcmene, founded the Olympics, which eventually became the most popular Greek festival of 6th Century B.C (Hercules, n.d.). Since then, the influence of sport and competition in our society has flourished. Professional sports, in particular, have developed a grandiose culture of fame and admiration, with increasing emphasis placed on commercial profits and personal wealth. Society views winning as a measurement of success in sports, and it has become more important than the essence of the game itself. College football coach, Red Saunders, was once quoted as saying, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing” (Austin, 2010), and some would say we’ve taken his mantra too far.

The integrity of sport has been infiltrated by a small population of athletes and promoters, who’ve taken Saunder’s mindset to heart. The use of performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) have given athletes the impression their best efforts are no longer good enough. These frailties are not a new phenomenon; history suggests the Ancient Greeks used combinations of various potions in an attempt to strengthen themselves, and the first reported case of PED use dates back to 1904 (Charlish, 2012). PEDs were banned in the 1920s and 1930s, but it was difficult to address the issue properly without the ability to test for these substances. This issue was brought to light during the 1960 Olympics when Danish cyclist, Knud Jensen, crashed and died during competition. An autopsy showed amphetamines in his system (2010).

1966 was a pivotal moment in the progress of testing protocols, as the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) and Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) used drug testing in their national championships that year (World Anti-Doping Agency [WADA] 2013). The loss of world championship cyclist, Tommy Simpson, in 1967 resulted in a massive push for the advancement of new testing strategies, as athletes were finding ways to cheat the system. The 1988 Canadian gold medalist, Ben Johnson, was stripped of his title after testing positive for anabolic steroids. Johnson’s incident, along with the expelling of the 1998 Festina team in the Tour de France for drug use, were catalysts in the creation of the World Anti-Doping Agency in 1999 (WADA, 2013).

The 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney revealed new technology, as blood samples were collected from athletes for the first time (Ashenden, 2004), and the results were astounding. PEDs once undetectable, had become the new target of the war on drugs in sport. These testing programs were developed in order to preserve “what is intrinsically valuable about sport” or “the essence of Olympism”, better known as “the spirit of sport” (Charlish, 2012). WADA defines the characteristics of the spirit of sport as: “ethics, fair play and honesty; health; excellence in performance; character and education; fun and joy; teamwork; dedication and commitment; respect for rules and laws; respect for self and other participants’ courage; community and solidarity” (2013).

Ethical practices in sport have become less about moral relativity and more about the perception of virtuosity. Professional sporting events have become major contributors to their surrounding economies, as well living, breathing billboards for financial gain. Marquee athletes increase ticket sales and draw attention to events, and the lure of triumph is abundant. Sport on an elite level has always been appreciated for its competitiveness, but also for its performance value.Jim Murray, a Pulitzer Prize winner and former LA Times Columnist, described what it was like watching Michael Jordan play basketball in 1996:

You go to see Michael Jordan play for the same reason you went to see Astaire dance, Olivier act or the sun set over Canada. It’s art. It should be painted, or photographed. It’s not a game, it’s a recital. He’s not just a player, he’s a virtuoso. Heifetz with a violin. Horowitz at the piano. (Loumena, 2013)

Despite the negative implications that cheating in sports is immoral, it has been argued allowing PEDs in sports would “level the playing field” and “remove the effects of genetic inequality” (Clayton, Foddy, Savulescu, 2004). Should we give up and accept this as the norm? Is everyone really doing it? Clean athletes want their success to be recognized as a result of dedication and hard work, but rampant drug use has produced skepticism among spectators. The virtues of competition have been lost, and the reputation of professional sports has been tainted. What was once a display of physical and mental strength, is now a vehicle for personal wealth and corruption.

One of the most notable cases of PEDs in professional sports is that of seven-time Tour de France winner, Lance Armstrong. He was stripped of his titles and received a lifetime ban from cycling in October 2012 (Karlinsky, 2012). This was the pinnacle of skepticism and venality within the industry, and illegal performance enhancing finally held a value similar to other economic crimes. Armstrong’s trial brought national recognition to the underground reality of black market drugs, which enabled professional athletes to cheat the system, and obtain greater physical gains. This also highlighted the lack of enforcement within the system, further contaminating the true spirit of competition, and overall integrity of professional cycling.

Despite the notorious history of PEDs and convictions of well-known athletes, Lance Armstrong’s case single-handedly intensified the negative public image and respect of professional sports. These indignities also translated into financial loss, not only for the athletes, but the industry as a whole, with testing expenditures surpassing $228,000 in 2013 (Maennig, 2014). According to Plunkett’s market research, the national sports industry is currently worth 498.4 billion dollars, and 1.5 trillion dollars globally (“Sports, Teams & Leisure”, 2015). Many cities are dependent on tourism dollars generated by sporting events, and are impacted by the ebb and flow of the industry. Doping scandals affect more than just the athlete; they influence economical and societal growth.

These historic events have shifted the real focus of athleticism and sportsmanship on a global level. Ethical behavior in sport is no longer taught as an absolute value; it is now viewed as a practical means of avoiding the appearance of cheating (Charnofsky, 2003). We no longer teach our children to honor fairness and respect in athletics; we teach them to measure success by winning and financial gain. What was once considered an honorable, almost magical profession, is now riddled with corruption and cynicism. The use of PEDs have tarnished the credibility of elite sports, affecting future endeavors of young athletes and local economies of tourist-driven cities.

As professionals, should we be concerned with the trajectory of our industry? Some argue performance enhancement is not against the spirit of sport; “it is the spirit of sport”, and allowing it promotes equality among athletes (Clayton, Foddy, & Savulescu, 2004). I believe in a more ethical approach; one that transcends competition and encourages personal development. Sports cultivate honor and integrity, and build a sense of trust among athletes and their respective communities. In order to preserve the integrity and growth of this industry, we must continue the dynamic pursuit and regulation of the use of performance enhancing drugs in sport. Government agencies and athletic officials must be held responsible when they fail to reprimand athletes accordingly, and communities must be diligent in promoting their need for fair and ethical sportsmanship. Derek Bouchard-Hall, the newly titled chief executive of USA Cycling, stated, “Doping will always be part of sports. It’s like alcoholism. You don’t just kick it; you just keep fighting it and fighting it” (Macur, 2015)

*******
References
A Brief History of Anti-Doping. (2013, November 14). Retrieved October 2, 2015, from https://www.wada-ama.org/en/who-we-are/a-brief-history-of-anti-doping
Ashenden, M. (2004, August 1). Contemporary Issues in the fight against blood doping in sport. Retrieved October 9, 2015, from http://www.haematologica.org/content/89/8/901.full- text.pdf html
Austin, M. (2010, July 12). Winning Isn’t Everything. Retrieved October 3, 2015, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/ethics-everyone/201007/winning-isnt- everything
Charlish, P. (2012). Drugs in sport. Legal Information Management, 12(2), 109-120. doi:http://dx.doi.org.prox.lib.ncsu.edu/10.1017/S1472669612000321
Charnofsky, H. (2003). Sport and Moral Relativity. Retrieved October 10, 2015, from https://philosophynow.org/issues/41/Sport_and_Moral_Relativity
Clayton, M., Foddy, B., & Savulescu, J. (2004). Why we should allow performance enhancing drugs in sport. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 38(6), 666–670. http://doi.org/10.1136/bjsm.2003.005249
Hercules. (n.d.). Retrieved October 6, 2015, from http://www.history.com/topics/ancient- history/hercules
Karlinsky, N. (2012, October 22). Lance Armstrong Stripped of 7 Tour de France Titles, Banned for Life After Doping Scandal. Retrieved October 10, 2015, from http://abcnews.go.com/US/lance-armstrong-stripped-tour-de-france-titles- banned/story?id=17535635
Kretchmar, R. (2010). Should philosophy of sport matter more? Physical Culture and Sport, 49, 5. doi:http://dx.doi.org.prox.lib.ncsu.edu/10.2478/v10141-010-0013-1
Loumena, D. (2013, February 17). The greatest on the greatest: Jim Murray on Michael Jordan. Retrieved October 12, 2015, from http://articles.latimes.com/2013/feb/17/sports/la-sp-sn- michael-jordan-at-50-jim-murray-20130216
Macur, J. (2015, October 4). Cycling Leader Vows to Press the Fight Against Doping. Retrieved October 4, 2015, from http://nyti.s/1oe4edxhttp://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/05/sports/cycling/derek- bouchard-hall-vows-to-press-the-fight-against-doping.html?_r=0
Maennig, W. (2014, May 15). Inefficiency of the Anti-Doping System: Cost Reduction Proposals. Retrieved October 9, 2015, from http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.3109/10826084.2014.912065?journalCode=isum
Sport. (n.d.). Retrieved October 12, 2015, from http://www.merriam- webster.com/dictionary/sport
Sports, Teams & Leisure Industry Statistics, Metrics, Finances, Revenues, Global Data Market Research-Access Revenues, Forecasts, Statistics, Business Trends, Products, Leagues, Sporting Goods, Mailing Lists. (2015). Retrieved October 12, 2015, from https://www.plunkettresearch.com/statistics/sports-industry/