Personal Sketch

The sounds of mortars exploding filled the warm, dry, July air in northern Iraq, as they did on so many nights. This night was different though; the mortars were exploding only 15 feet from our tent. I had never moved as fast as I had that night. Shrapnel tearing through our tent and explosions landing so close I couldn’t hear the screams of my fellow soldiers. It took me years of healing to recover from my experiences in Iraq.

Only 19 years old and looking for a purpose in life, thinking I didn’t have a shot at college I joined the military. I spent two years on active duty and was deployed to Iraq at the fragile age of 19. Seeing the abhorrent conditions and direction the US military was taking this country in, I became bitter and stuck in a war I didn’t truly believe in.
Returning from Iraq, my life spun out of control.  Receiving inadequate reintegration into normal society, I began drinking to cope with the trauma I had experienced. After several months of living in misery I made a decision to turn my life around. I moved to a small rural town in the Berkshires and reconnected with my family’s Native American heritage. Growing up, I spent every weekend of my childhood attending Powwows all around New England. I participated in sweat lodge, dancing, drumming, and many other ceremonies. It became a part of me. Through reconnecting to my roots and returning to weekly powwows I found a sense of purpose and connection with something greater than myself.
I found a part-time job at a health and wellness center. And another part-time job at a substance abuse rehabilitation center, taking clients on three-day therapeutic nature based camping trips. This opened a whole new world of healing and transformation. While working, I started taking classes at a local community college and eventually earned an associates degree in liberal arts. After a year of working at this health and wellness center I had come to learn a lot about my healing process and myself. I wanted to give back, to make amends for the things I had experienced at war. I knew if I went on a mission to give back in Iraq I would surely be killed or captured. I decided to go on a journey to Southeast Asia and do what I could for a country impacted negatively by the US military. I decided to spend a large part of my journey in Cambodia, getting to know the people, and helping where I could. I chose Cambodia because of the ripple effect of the Vietnam War and the rise of the Khmer Rouge killing millions of innocent Khmer people. I took off with a plane ticket to Bangkok, my bicycle, and a backpack with some gear. This would start a six thousand mile, four countries, six-month, life-changing journey. Before I left, I threw a big party and was able to raise over two-thousand dollars to fund my philanthropic journey. The party was an idea of mine, but I quickly had people and businesses from all over Berkshire County helping me out. Friends helped me approach local business owners who gladly donated gift certificates or goods once they were educated on my story and this quest I was about to embark on. Over 200 people came to the benefit party that night, close friends, family members, local businesses, and people who had read about me in articles written for both local papers, The Berkshire Eagle, and The Berkshire Record. I couldn’t believe the amount of support pouring in all around me. It was one of the most rewarding experiences and greatest parties of my life.
This trip changed my life and the way I saw the world. I learned the true meaning of the word compassion and humility. Traveling by bicycle, I rode through Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia and finally Indonesia. I came in close contact with poverty, sickness, death, disease, hunger and sadness. I also saw the most beautiful acts of compassion, selflessness, love, and kindness. Spending nights with families that would take me in when it was getting dark and I had no place to sleep, also, with groups of monks in Cambodia at pagodas all over rural landscapes. After traveling and getting to know the people of Cambodia I decided to invest directly in them. During my travels I met a young student named Len Laim, a young man who came from one of the poorest provinces in rural Cambodia. He was extremely smart and had taught himself English. He was studying medicine at the countries capital in Phnom Penh. I spent two weeks, living as he did, including sleeping on the floor of a pagoda. I got to know him well. He had great ideas of improving the medical care in rural Cambodia and he inspired me to help where I could. I used the money I had raised to buy him his first laptop, a second pair of school clothes, and other simple amenities such as a fan for his overly cramped Pagoda room and a simple mattress to sleep on. I used the other half of my money to fund his rural school project. I spent time with his family in Siem Reap province and met the school children and visited the school Laim had built with his own hands. I updated a detailed blog of my entire trip and have posted entries regularly for the past three years. While in Siem Reap, recovering from a bicycle accident, I was flown to the countries capital Phnom Penh to be interviewed by BBC. They later wrote an article on my mission and journey in Cambodia.
Last March I was approached by academy award winning producer Pamela Boll. She received my name from Steven Cope, the Director of the Institute of Extraordinary Living at Kripalu. I did a piece a for the IEL a couple years back on how yoga and meditation positively impact soldiers with PTSD returning from Iraq. Pam wanted to feature me in a documentary called “A Small Good Thing”. The documentary will be about connecting to a more meaningful life and following your passions. They have been filming me for the past year and even flew me to Alaska to film me with the family I have up there. The movie will be released next spring.
While working at the treatment center I became fascinated by people and their stories of trauma and how they chose the paths they were on. I enjoyed interacting directly with clients and helping them figure out their problems and giving healthy advice. I decided to pursue a degree in psychology.
I applied and was accepted to Burlington College in Vermont to begin my studies in psychology. Working full time and being in school full time was emotionally and mentally draining. Just as important to me as my schoolwork was my self-care. I started racing bicycles while in school for my associate degree. Inspired by my brother Jeremy, professional bike racer for Optum-Kelly Benefit, I put all my physical practice into training and living as healthy as I possibly could. I excelled at bike racing and it became a lifestyle for me, one that would lead to a lifetime practice. I pedaled through the amateur ranks of road and cyclocross racing, excelling from category 5 to category 2 in just a years time, I now race at a professional level for the JAM fund cycling team out of Easthampton. The amount of passion and dedication I bring to everything I do shows in my racing, academic, personal, and professional life.
A strong belief in self-healing, healthy living, making good decisions, taking responsibility, creating healthy and nurturing support systems, and having a spiritual and physical practice is why I believe Smith to be the best program for me. I believe I bring a lot to the table and will be a great social worker once clinically trained.

The Bittersweet End

It’s been an amazing season full of soul crushing defeats and a few little triumphs sprinkled in among the smashings.
My big boy legs started coming around at the end of the season. After getting destroyed at the big UCI races and becoming accustomed to racing for 60 minutes instead of 45, my legs feel monumentally stronger. I am very happy to end the season on a very good note.
I just took 2nd place at New England Regional Championships yesterday in the single speed race behind Nick Keough. The weekend before at Das cross I had a great finish as well. I have been consistently moving up the ranks in the big UCI races. My goal for next CX season, after a full elite season on the road is to be racing towards the front of the UCI races and earn some UCI points.

I am happy to announce that I will be racing for the JAM Fund elite squad on the road next season. This is a very good step for me. I will learn to race on a real team and learn the tactics necessary to excel at the elite/pro level.

I started my CX season in August this year and raced a total of 27 CX races. Making my total number of races this year 58. It’s amazing the amount of work needed to become a good bike racer. I’m at a point in my racing career where I feel I know my body very well. The countless hours that go into training have become an integral part of my life. I love it, I enjoy every aspect of being out on my bike and pushing my body to it’s physical limits on a daily basis.
Although the physical practice is a constant reminder that my body is adapting and becoming faster with every passing week, the mental practice of cycling is equally important. The bike has always been there for me, a meditation practice helping me flow through all the happy, sad, depressing, and confusing times in my life. Cycling is a way to see the world that most people never get to see. When I’m stressed out from school work or relationships I can hop on my bike and escape for a few hours, focusing on my body and connecting to nature as the world flows by. For me, cycling has become a lifestyle, a way to see the world that most (unless you ride) wil never understand.

I am very happy to go into an unstructured block of riding for the next couple weeks, catch up with people I haven’t ridden with in a while and tie up some loose ends for school. I have one more semester until I finish my BA in Psychology and I’m also in the process of applying to graduate schools. I am headed to Colorado to see a friend and spend 10 days back-country splitboarding, doing yoga, hiking, and mtnbiking in Moab. I am very excited I’ve never been to CO and have been trying to get out there for years.

I just want to thank everyone who has been there for me this past year and really helped me excel in this sport and lifestyle. Al Donahue for being an awesome coach and helping me understand training, equipment, racing, and recovery. My brother Jeremy who has been an enormous influence. He just signed a legit pro contract and will be racing all over the world this season and next. The entire New England cyclocross community, we have the best racing scene in the country and some of the most amazing and talented riders in the world. Team NYCROSS for helping me out with race support and being the overall best CX team out there! We throw an amazing party at every NYCROSS event, if you didn’t make it to the NYCROSS series this year, make sure you’re there next year! Berkshire Bike and Board for always helping me out on the drop of a dime and being an awesome crew of guys (and gal).

New bike and Amazing results

It’s Sunday night, and I’m laying here in a food coma. I just destroyed an entire order of mango chicken korma and 2 giant things of naan bread. My body feels like it got hit by a truck. But I have a smile on my face. I took 6th place yesterday at Paradise cx frenzy and then 3rd today at the Bethlehem cup. These are the first two Elite races that I’ve actually gotten results at. I’ve been getting my face smashed at every UCI race I do, so it feels good to actually win some money and stand on a podium.

The course yesterday was awesome, the guys out at Paradise cx put on a really great event. The race takes place on a brewery, so theres a bunch of random people that have no idea what CX is, watching the shenanigans. The KMS kids were out in full force controlling the front of the race. They’re so young and so fast.

The course today was even better! A huge thank you to Chuck Quackenbush (the greatest last name ever) for setting up the venue. Fast flowy corners, steep descents, corners you can drift both tires through, log crossings, a brutal run up, and a super grindingly steep ride up.

The race started super fast and Wayne Bray and Cory Burns took off like bats out of hell and ripped the first lap like lightning. I stayed with them and turned myself inside out to stay up front and focused. After 2 laps I looked back and saw no one. Wayne, Corey, and I had opened up a huge gap and were taking turns at the front going berserk. After 4 laps Cory broke off and Wayne eventually dropped me on the steep ride up. I held off 4th place and finished for my first podium in an elite race!!!! This is a big milestone for me. I have been getting stronger and faster and have been racing smarter every week. There’s an incredible amount to learn about this sport and it’s a long process.

Another big thank you to my team NYCROSS Presented by: VOmax! We have an amazing family of funny, ridiculously awesome people.

I just started riding a new cx bike. Thanks to Nate Lachance! The Felt FX3. What an amazing ride! Since I started pedaling this thing my ability to drive a bike has increased 10 fold. Super lightweight carbon frame equipped with Sram components. I built up an extra set of Major Tom wheels to XT disc break hubs and BAM you got yourself a super supple tubular ride. Now, on to the disc brakes. In my opinion, they are the single best improvement you can put on your bike. Through the whole race I’m breaking with one finger, even on steep descents. I can fly into corners and modulate my speed much better.

Overall, this has been an amazing season for me. My goal for next year is to snag some UCI points and be racing toward the front groups at bigger UCI events. A full season in the elite fieldf on the road will help me get there.

2 Crazy Months and CYCLOCROSS!!!

This is my first blog post since the end of July. I have been insane busy. I will recap Aug and Sep and get to what’s really on my mind, CYCLOCROSS!!!!
I spent the first few weeks of August in Alaska. I had a film crew following me around for the first 5 days geting tons of footage. It was so amazing to spend time with all of my family up there. Ceremonies with uncle and grandfather, fishing and 4 wheeling with my cousin Randy, smoked salmon with Tabitha, County fair with Jocelyn, Jenn, and Terrance, Tanning hides traditionally with my uncle.

I came home from Alaska and went straight to a 7 day intensive high ropes course training in Vermont. Camped for a week Brattleboro and self-belayed from 60 feet to perform cut away rescues.

The tail end of August and all of September brought about my last year of school. I’m taking a full course load, 5 classes. While still training and racing every weekend and trying to work enough to eat food and pay rent on a regular basis I’ve had 0 time to blog. So I’m cranking this out right now while I feel motivated to. Sorry about all the typos and horrible sentence structure but I don’t have the time!

CYCLOCROSS!!!! Ahhhhhh I’m so stoked its cx time. I was so excited that I started racing in mid August. The first few races were a good test of my legs. I felt great on the bike. My fitness level is still way above my technical riding skills but I am hopeful they will come around. I’ve already raced Monson, Blunt Park, BOB cross, Quad cross, Blandford cross, White park, Suckerbrook, Midnight ride, and both days of Gloucester. I won Blandford cross and took podium at 2 others. Gloucester was my first shot at a UCI Elite race and it was by far the hardest bike race I have ever experienced, especially day 2. I have never ridden in mud like that before, the entire course was a mixture of peanut-butter textured and sloppy wet mud. I beat the predictor both days and didn’t finish last. I think with a bit more technical skills I will (somewhat) competitive in this field.

Check out this video from day 1, You can see me at 1:10, I’m the guy in the black kit with the bright green helmet. Then, if you look very closely you can actually see Colin Reuter’s hand fly back and karate chop me in the throat and send me into the fence, almost making me crash at 1:40

I hope to do more race and life reports over this CX season. I’m stoked to see everyone at the races and around !!!!

Alaska-Part 1-Body

This is part one in a 3 part blog about Alaska. I have no idea when I’m going to have time to write the other two blogs. I am leaving first thing tomorrow morning for a 7 day intensive high ropes/adventure/leadership training in Brattleboro Vt. I’m taking a full week off the bike!!  I haven’t had a week off in a LOONNNGGG time.

ALASKA!!!!!! Was absolutely amazing, there are so many things I want to write about, which is why I am turning this into a 3 part blog. Body, mind, and soul, Today I will focus on body. While in Alaska we got a ton of awesome footage for the documentary. We shot at the base of Mt. Denali, the 3rd most prominent mountain in the world. Standing at over 23,000 feet it was incredible just being in the presence of this mountain range. Spending some quality time with the film crew was really special as well, in the past while filming they would just show up for a few hours and get a ton of footage, we never really had time to hang out and for me to get to know them. On this trip we had plenty of time on road trips to talk a lot.

Waking up in the morning to the crisp non-humid Alaskan air to a team of hungry sled dogs was amazing. My aunt taught me how to feed and take care of them, so every morning I would wake up and feed all 9 of them. I really created a connection to them

Cat 2

I thought to myself it’s getting late in the road racing season and I only have a couple months left to really up my game and reach my goal of getting my category 2 upgrade. I knew what I had to do and I only had 3 races left before I took off to Alaska. I had to kill it at all three and get points to ensure I wouldn’t be fighting for the few races left in the season when I returned from the frontier. I geared up and headed to Naugatuck Ct. this weekend. I opted out of the the Tour of the Hilltowns race on Saturday because last year my legs cramped up real bad and I ended up laying in the river about 4 miles from the finish. Hahahah ahhhhh that’s a race I will never forget. I knew arriving at Naugatuck I had a good chance at doing well because there was only 25 people pre registered and I wasn’t too worried about any of them. After getting to the race I started seeing some really fast dudes that hadn’t pre registered online that were registering day of. I started sweating a little bit and knew I would have my work cut out for me in the race. 

Right from the start of the race people were attacking. Two guys broke off the front on the first lap and stayed away for 4 laps. I knew not to follow them cause they couldn’t hold it. After they returned into the pack a couple guys launched another brutal attack off the front. This happened time and time again and always got pulled back. It was a super fast and hard course to make a break on. With 20 laps to go I saw a break happen that I knew I had to be in, so I stood up, gritted my teeth and bridged up to the group pulling one other guy with me, all of a sudden we had a 100 foot gap on the field and 5 dudes in our break all working together. We held the break the entire race and with 5 laps to go another 3 guys bridged up to us and it was a brutal sprint for the finish. One guy started sprinting with about 400 meters to go so I knew I had to act now or I wouldn’t make it, so I hit it hard and started sprinting and there it was, a long drawn out sprint. I had a strong finish and only 2 dudes just barely made it past me and I took 3rd, scoring me enough points in one race to get my upgrade!!!! 

So, I’m really happy and I have a great sense of accomplishment. I have been training my ass off all year to make it to this level of racing. I went from cat 4 to cat 2 in less than a year so I know I have potential at this sport even at the old man age of 27. Hahahah, so I am heading to Alaska on Monday with a renewed sense of self worth and happiness. I can relax and ride bikes in the beautiful mountains of Alaska and not worry about getting enough points to get my upgrade when I get home. I have my first races this weekend in the pro field at New London criterium on Saturday and then I’m doing the bike leg of the Pedal and Plod duathalon which is a 25 mile Time Trial on Sunday morning and then I’m racing the pro 1/2 crit at Limerock at 5 in the evening. So my legs are basically going to be destroyed for a long couple days of travel to Alaska. Then they will heal up and I’ll start hanging out with my amazing family up north!!!!!!! I will write another blog after this weekend when I’m waiting at the airport! 
I know I have my eyes closed in both of these pictures. I planned it that way, I swear. 

PTSD sucks

Yesterday was a day of fireworks and barbecues all over the country. While out on a bike ride I could smell a BBQ on every corner. It was not only a day of eating, watching people get drunk and light stuff on fire for me. I was eating dinner at Kripalu when my friend Carly asked me if I was going to hang out and watch the fireworks tonight. My reply has been the same for the last 8 years, since I came home from Iraq. I can’t watch the fireworks because if I do, I usually end up freaking out. Theres few things that trigger my PTSD and bring me back to that vivid reality of mortars landing all around us, whether on a convoy through the Urban chaos or simply laying in bed trying to fall asleep. For years I would go to fireworks shows on the 4th of July and end up feeling isolated from everyone I was hanging out with. So now, when asked if I’m going to watch the fireworks show I simply tell people why I don’t partake in the festivities. I’m self aware enough to know what what my triggers are around my experiences in Iraq. Also the 4th of July for me is a time of reflection on my time at war. A day of remembrance for the friends I lost to suicide and I.E.D. explosions. While the majority of people are having a good time, getting wasted and listening to James Taylor there are veterans all over the country in pain and remembering their experiences at war.

I am torn between many lives. Yes I did join the military when I was very young and I do not regret any of my time on active duty while stationed at Ft. Campbell and deployed to Kuwait and Iraq. Today I am very much against war and any type of violence. Then there’s Independence day from a Native American view point. I could go on and on all day long about politics, government and Native rights but when I start getting in my head about all this stuff it just makes for so much negativity. Sooooo that’s when I go for a bike ride!!!!

I spent last weekend out in Northhampton with the J.A.M. team riding bikes!! It was a ton of fun. Saturday we were out on the bikes for over 8 hours!!! We didn’t plan it that way but people flatted and had mechanicals. We rode over 5.5 hours, 100 miles, climbed 7,500 ft., burned over 4,000 cal. and had an amazing time. Then on Sunday we rode 5 hours again, climbed 5,500, burned over 3,000 cal and did the fundo loop. It was a hard weekend of training with an amazing group of bike racers. I learned a lot about my mental ability to ride really hard when my legs hurt really bad and just keep going. A lot of the pain in cycling is a mental thing and if you can push through that mental barrier your legs will open up and you will be attacking off the front!!!!