Saturday, March 17, 2012

Confessions of a two wheel addict

Hello, my name is Alex Gonzalez and I am addict.  No, not a drug addict, well maybe, but I am addicted to bikes.  Doesn't matter what type of bike, but if it has 2 wheels, a seat and handlebars, I probably want to ride it.  Yesterday I took my time trial bike out for the first time since last fall. I only rode the bike 20 minutes because I have a race today so I didn't want to over do it.  I had a blast.  I had to force myself to stop.  All my life the one thing that I have always done is ride a bike. 

I'm blessed to actually remember being in diapers so it goes without saying that I remember when i started riding a bike as a kid.  I had a blue bike that had tassels hanging out of the handlebars.  It had a coaster brake, white grips, and some sort of writing on the chainguard.  Unfortunately I couldn't read so I don't know what it said but I do remember what it looked like.  I would ride that bike for hours around the driveway.  Then eventually I was allowed to ride to the next door neighbors driveway.  Then 2 doors down driveway etc.  Then one day, my uncle came over with a Suzuki 2 stroke dirt bike.  I was hooked.  I thought it was the coolest thing I had ever seen in my life.  He took me for a ride in the backyard and I was amazed at how cool it was to not have to pedal and fast it was.  I told my grandma I want a motorcycle.  She told me that I needed to learn how to ride the bike without training wheels first and we'd see about.  Well didn't me long and before you know it, I was showing off on my bike with no training wheels.  And guess what I got?
Yep, I got a motorcycle.  As you can probably tell we had a big yard so I could ride it all over back there. I would build jumps and go bashing through the grapevines in the back.  I had a blast.  I was allowed to burn 1 tank of gas a day so I had to limit my riding.  So I still spent quite a bit of time on my pedal bike. 

As I got older I got different bikes.  I was really into flatland BMX freestyle as a kid.  We would go across the street to the high school parking lot where they had a pretty steep slope up to another buildings lot.  We would ride up the slope and then try to jump the top of it and do 180's.  Or the front of the school had a lot of stair cases and we would go ride them and try to jump off them.  All in all, I might spend 8 or 9 hours a day on a bike in the summer.  I didn't have any money so I always had to go home for food or something to drink.  No fancy carbon fiber water bottle holders back then.  But I wouldn't be home for long before I was back out on the bike. 

Around 18 years old, I got into mountain biking.  I had a Specialized Rockhopper FS.  I was constantly going to Pontiac Lake riding it.  I was sort of chubby at this point but I was amazed at how much weight I could lose by mountain bike riding.  I loved how I could go into the woods and hit all the obstacles and how much fun it was going down the hills.  It was like mixing freestyle BMX and motocross together. 

The next couple years of my life, well, we won't go there.  But let's jump ahead to 22 years old.  I'm now married and I wanted to get back into motocross.  I started with a old Suzuki that fell apart pretty quick so I bought a YZ400F.  This thing was a beast.  A 4-stroke motocross bike that had torque and power in everything.  I started riding again at my cousins track Baja MX in Birch Run, MI. 

Unfortunately, I wasn't the greatest of riders.  I did ok and raced my age group and the B class but I wasn't a standout rider.  I think mostly because I let my physical fitness go to shit.  I started mountain biking again as a way to get into better shape. On July 4th, 2005, I collided with a little dumbshit rider on an 80 going over the jump I'm going over in the picture above.  He was spooked by a rider coming up on his right side and decided to go left just as I was passing him and we collided in the air.  This is where all my knee problems start.  I tore my ACL that day.  I didn't do much about it because it didn't really hurt that bad.  A few weeks later I was at a race there and I was heading over to the starting line.  I stepped out of my friends trailer and as I was stepping down my knee popped out.  Now, a normal person would have stopped and not raced that day.  Not me, I popped it back into place and went to the line anyway like an idiot.  See, all I wanted to do was race my 2nd moto, I didn't care about my knee.  Well 3 laps in, I landed a bit flat after a 60 foot double jump and my knee just literally went sideways.  I landed fine and didn't crash, but I looked down and my knee was popped out.  It was pretty nasty.  I popped it back and then rolled off the track and laid the bike down and waited for medical to get me.  This picture was taken on the last lap.
After that, things never seemed the same.  I took the rest of the summer off and got the knee repaired and I started riding in the spring but now I was scared.  I didn't want to crash and tear something again.  So now my performance went to shit.  I was horrible at races and I was too afraid to hit the bigger jumps.  I ended up quitting because once you get like that and lose confidence, your asking for trouble if you stay in it.  Your better off finding another hobby.

Enter triathlon.  In 2007 I started road cycling.  It was something different that I had never tried so I bought a Specialized Roubaix and headed out on the roads.  All the riding I did before this was on the sidewalk so riding on the roads freaked me out at first.  It took a while for me to get used to the cars.  Where I live we don't have a lot of shoulders or the shoulders are dirt and you can't exactly ride on them on a road bike.  In May of 2007, someone I worked with mentioned that they were doing a Team in Training event that was a triathlon.  She told me that I should do a triathlon because I was a cyclist.  I told her I didn't know how to swim and and I hated running.  Well I figured I'd give it a try.  She the swim was real short and if I had to, I could walk the run.   I went out and I learned how swim by watching YouTube videos and swimming in the lake. I also started running and found that I sort of liked it.  I kept going farther and farther with my runs.  Then I found stories on the internet like the story of Jon Blais who died of ALS and I saw that he did an Ironman with ALS. I was very impressed by the story and I wanted to do more than just train for myself.  I signed up for a sprint race in August that year.  I did that race and I was hooked.  All downhill from there.  I ended up doing 4 races in 5 weeks time.  The off week I actually did a crit race.  I got 8th in that bike race but I didn't like it as much as the triathlon.  The riders were all over the place. 

That winter I signed up for the Florida 70.3.  I also signed up to raise money for the Challenged Athletes Foundation.  After that race, I wanted to go farther. I had some good success at half distance that year. I did 2 more including taking the overall victory at the Tawas Half Ironman.  I also set my Half Ironman bike PR of 2:11 that year at Steelhead.  I started to have some really good success in triathlon.  Mostly because of my bike performances.  I am usually the first off the bike unless I had a really bad swim.  This pic is me coming into transition at the Rev3 Cedar Point race.  This was the half distance race.  There was 850 athletes in that race and you can see there is no one else in transition but me.  I was the first on the run course.  They even announced it as I was running out how I was the first person ever on that run course.  I later faded to 7th OA unfortunately.  
 The last couple of years I've had some subpar results at triathlon. I tried a coach, not to blame him, in 2010 and ever since then I started changing things a lot and sort of lost my groove.  So last fall I decided to just put triathlon out of my head for a while and try something that I haven't done in a while.  I took my 2003 Gary Fisher off the wall and headed out to Pontiac Lake.  I had a great time riding and started to ride more.  In October I bought my Specialized Stumpjumper HT.  It's a thing of beauty.  I've spent a lot to get it to where I want it but I love it so it's ok.  I also started having knee problems again last summer so I decided to back off of running and spend more time on the bike.  We were fortunate to have a mild winter so I was able to ride my bike outdoors most of it.  There were some snow days but the mountain bike handles that pretty good. 
 So here I am, 34 years old and all I want to do is ride my bike.  Not much has changed since I was a little kid.  The bikes have changed for sure, but not my love for riding anything with 2 wheels.  This year I plan on racing in long distance endurance mountain bike events as well as some shorter road triathlons.  I don't know if I can do Ironman anymore with my knee.  I've had 4 knee surgeries already, I really don't need anymore but I love triathlon and I am not going to give it up. In fact, I am doing some Xterra races this summer as well.  I want to qualify for Ogden, UT and race the nationals.  I'm a bit torn with where to put my focus now.  I love road triathlon and riding my TT bike 120 miles but I also really enjoy my mountain bike and riding the singletrack or just some endless dirt roads.  Either way, I will still be on a bike and enjoying it until I'm dead. 


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