Using Downhill Racing to Recover from Serious Health Problems


I'm not much of an Instabooker or Face-o-grammer, but when I do happen to scroll through the social vortex I like reading about friends and like-minded individuals doing rad things, making positive changes in their lives and genuinely being healthy and happy. So, I decided to share some rad, positive, happy shit.

The not so rad, not so positive, not so happy start of the story:

In October of 2013, after several REALLY messy days at home in severe debilitating head pain, we (my wife and I) decided that a hospital might be a better place for me. I found myself laying in the Squamish emergency room, waiting for my head to erupt, not responding to any of the pain medication. The emerge doc decided that I needed to be transferred to Lions Gate Hospital for suspicion of meningitis*. Two ambulance attendants dressed in full hazmat suits wheeled me out of Squamish Hospital and delivered me to Lions Gate Hospital in North Vancouver. Upon my arrival, the halls were cleared, and the two attendants wheeled me into a quarantine room where I laid waiting for my head to split open. Only having a vague notion of what meningitis was at the time, I decided to consult Dr. Google. What a f*cking bad idea that was.

----*Meningitis (from Wikipedia)Meningitis is an acute inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord, known collectively as the meninges.[2] The most common symptoms are fever, headache, and neck stiffness.[1] Other symptoms include confusion or altered consciousness, vomiting, and an inability to tolerate light or loud noises.[1] Young children often exhibit only nonspecific symptoms, such as irritability, drowsiness, or poor feeding.[1] If a rash is present, it may indicate a particular cause of meningitis; for instance, meningitis caused by meningococcal bacteria may be accompanied by a characteristic rash.[2][3]The inflammation may be caused by infection with viruses, bacteria, or other microorganisms, and less commonly by certain drugs.[4] Meningitis can be life-threatening because of the inflammation's proximity to the brain and spinal cord; therefore, the condition is classified as a medical emergency.[2][8] A lumbar puncture - in which a needle is inserted into the spinal canal to collect a sample of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), can diagnose or exclude meningitis.[1][8]----
A nurse wearing a full biohazard suit came in to give me a rundown of what was going to take place:

1) I was going to get a CT scan to have a look at my brain.

2) I was going to get a lumbar puncture to collect some spinal fluid. [Spinal tap #1 - if I had known then what I know now, I would have had them install a faucet]

3) I was going to have a shit ton of drugs pumped into my bodyThe next thing I know, my wife, six months pregnant with our son Cedric, walks into the room. Subconsciously I’m very glad to see her, but my common-sense brain is screaming “WHAT THE f*ck ARE YOU DOING IN HERE??” I don’t know who decided it was ok for my pregnant wife to be in there with me, but it must have been reasoned that exposure would have happened in the days leading up to that day if it was going to happen.Fast forward a couple of hours – I’m alone in my room, my head has been scanned, spinal fluid tapped out of me like sap from a maple tree and in comes the attending neurologist with news that they noticed what might be a brain aneurysm on the CT scan. The neurologist tells me they need to do another scan to confirm, but at that moment I might have a brain aneurysm and/or bacterial meningitis. WTF! My body went numb and my mind started racing. “This can’t be how I go out! I haven’t even met my boy!”Fast forward another couple hours - the second CT scan shows no brain aneurysm and the results for bacterial meningitis have come back negative. The most plausible diagnosis is viral meningitis. I am hooked up to an IV cocktail of antivirals and pain control medications for a week and do my time in the hospital bed. What a trip!
One of many cocktail parties. Photo-probably me, brain was skipping gears at the time

Two years, and a lot of headaches later, ‘IT’ happened again. Proceed to spinal tap #2 (maybe you’re now understanding that faucet reference?). I was ‘persuaded’ to try a bunch of different drugs to help with the chronic headaches but only found that daily physical activity really helped which, at the time, was something I had trouble maintaining with full-time work and two minis under the age of three.

In August of 2017 ‘IT’ happened for a third time. Spinal tap #3, f*ck. I had fallen off the fitness wagon, work was full pin and the air quality from the forest fires was horrible. Ten days and a lot of drugs later, I was released from the hospital. With a team of doctors including rheumatologists, neurologists, infectious disease specialists and headache specialists, we still haven't come up with a concrete diagnosis. I was, and kinda still am pissed that nobody has figured out what is going on in my head. In the last 5 years, there have been so many appointments, CT scans, MRIs, x-rays, referrals and drugs that it makes the fragile space between my ears hurt to think about. With the support of my wife, I decided to make fitness a priority in the hopes of making my head healthy. I’ve never been much of a gym rat, so if I was going to get the body healthy and strong, I needed to set goals. I was going to attempt to pick up something I dropped 14+ years ago - I wanted to race downhill again (and build a shuttle truck - kidding/not kidding).
Because suspension. Photo-definitely me this time

Training for the head:

MY well-being is MY responsibility. I had to let go of the notion or hope that someone was going to figure out the mysteries of my head, give me a magic pill, and fix me. Trying different drugs, physiotherapy and massage weren’t providing a quality of life that was acceptable. If I was going to kick the 'physical activity' into high gear then I might as well train for something I love doing - racing. I remember sitting on my porch on a sunny fall afternoon, still not back at work from round three of hospitalization, my head throbbing. With nothing to lose and a shit ton to gain, I cold called Todd Schumlick from PerformX racing. We talked for an hour, and it turned out to be one of the best phone calls I have ever made. Todd brought me into the PerformX program and training started that fall. It hurt. Spending 4-6 days a week in the gym and on the bike, plus a full-time job, plus two kids, plus two dogs along with the most supportive wife ever equated to feeling the best I've felt in many years. The day to day headaches subsided and I was feeling great. I knew getting ready for the season needed more than just gym time, so I reached out to Cory LeClerc with C4 Racing. I spent some preseason Saturdays with his team riding, doing drills, and getting used to big bikes again.
In the gym with PerfomX and on the bike with C4 Racing

Race Season 2018:

Both Todd and Cory wanted to know which races I was going to attend. I was having a hard time deciding mainly because I feared sucking. I was literally having pre-race shits just thinking about competition again. In retrospect, I’m a little pissed off at myself for that mindset. I should have been thinking “I’ve already attained my goal and getting into the starting gate is my reward”.I picked a couple tracks on the BC Cup circuit that I remembered being fun, but as a pre-season warm up, I wanted to get out of town and give this new found PerformX horsepower a test drive. Again, with the support of my wife (this will be a common theme throughout the summer - she the BEST!), I headed off to Vancouver Island for an Island Cup DH.

Vancouver Island bound

The track was pretty chill (DCDH in Cumberland). I didn’t keep count of how many training runs I hiked for, but it was a lot. Hanging and riding with super rad kids, talking line choice, going fast and taking chances – I was in my happy place. Race day came, and I figured that like all other DH races it would have age categories unless you’re racing pro. This wasn't the case. The only categories were Expert and Intermediate, and since it had been 14 years, I signed up for Intermediate. There were forty-one riders, 1st place was 15 years old, 2nd place was 17, and 3rd place was 42. It might have been a bit of a sandbag, but I was pretty pumped to be standing up on the box with the kids.The BC Cup race season started and so did the good times. I got to hang with Coach Cory and the C4 crew, travel all over BC (something I haven't done in over 14 years), ride bikes, go fast, meet rad new people and reconnect with folks I hadn't seen in years.In July I hit the ground hard while out for a ride on the trail bike and tore my shoulder. Two weeks later I piled into some rocks training on the Silver Star track and messed up a bunch of connective tissue in my chest. Biking is fun! Although the gym workouts had to be ‘modified’, I was able to carry on riding. I'm pretty sure the combination of these two injuries would have been season enders if it hadn't been for the 8 months of training on Todd's program. Thanks again PerformX!Although there aren't many that sign up for the 40-49 category DH scene at the provincial or national level, it was still fun collecting hardware at every race. I only missed one of the BC cups this year and I managed to secure 2nd overall in the series. Everyone of those races are dedicated to my wife.
Medals, Boxes and Mud

Post Season - Keep er' pinned!

There were a couple of months that I refer to as the #yearenderbender, but as I write this and reflect on the season, I'm hungry for more bike. Training season is here and to get it started a crew of PerfomX athletes got together to slide around in the California sand. Chasing Richie Rude and Brian Lopes around the desert can motivate the hell out of you to get back into the gym preparing the body and mind to let off the brakes a little bit more next year.

Brian lopes showing us the goods in Laguna Beach Photo – Todd Schumlick

Biking has been part of my life now for 22 years. I have kicked some ass and have had my ass kicked. As I finish writing this, I’m now seeing some major irony unfolding: Mountain biking was the cause of my biggest health issues prior to 2013 and now mountain biking is what keeps ‘THE’ biggest health issue away.

The Team Photo-Mark Beaton

I will never be able to thank my rock star wife enough for the support while I was out searching for my ‘cure’. Thank you Julie. And if you ask our minis, Cedric and Tessa, what you do when you fall down, they’ll reply, “You get back up!”9:00pm – kids are in bed, wife is asleep. I have to go push some watts at the gym and come up with enough courage to hit the send button. f*ck it, you only live once.-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

PerformX Racing http://performxracing.com/

C4 Rider Training http://www.c4ridertraining.com/