Stocking Stuffer – Gift Guide #19

Stocking Stuffer

By Tony Lanza

When I first started to ride, I rode in a T-Shirt and shorts. I very rapidly discovered the need for bicycle shorts, and man, did my sore butt thank me.


But if your loved one is already an avid cyclist, he or she already has bike shorts. Trying to guess which, out of the hundreds of options, would be one that she or he liked would be like picking a needle out of the proverbial hay stack.

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I’m not the expert


“I’m not the expert”by Tony Lanza

My life the last few weeks has been a bit more filled with hospital visits and tests and stuff than normal. You can read about that stuff over on my cancer-focused blog, The short version is that I’m going ahead with a stem cell transplant, and that this procedure is much more dangerous than sticking with just chemo, it gives me a much better chance at long term survival. Especially as someone so young – if left to its own devices, even with all the chemo we were throwing at it, my own bone marrow would most likely develop leukemia again at some point in my life. So, instead, we give me somebody else’s bone marrow, and hope for the best.

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House Arrest by Tony Lanza


One of the (many) unfortunate things about being treated for Acute Myeloid Leukemia is that a few weeks after chemo, your platelet count plummets. Platelets are the things that allow your blood to clot, and basically make it so if you have a minor fall and get cut up, you’re ok. Plus, AML treatment also reduces your immune system, so those little scrapes and bruises that you can get on a normal ride actually have a risk of giving you nasty infections.


So after enjoying the beautiful fall weather we’ve been having in New York, I’m now stuck in my apartment, unable to be on the road.


It gives you a lot of time to think, that’s for sure.


I’ve thought back on my Triathlon training, and how sad it made me to be unable to actually complete any of the goals I set for myself this summer. I try not to get bummed about it, but truthfully, I think this is one of those times where it’s ok to be disappointed. The funny thing, though, is just how many sacrifices I made to get the triathlon training done, and then none of it really mattered. Well, other than setting me up to tolerate the chemo pretty well.


Mostly, though, I find ways to try to get on the bike even without getting on the road.


So what does that entail, exactly? Well, I use an indoor trainer to store my bike in front of my TV, I find a good movie, TV show, or sporting event, and I plop my butt down and get pedalling.


Sometimes I play variations of drinking games, only increasing or decreasing my pace based on rules for the show I’m watching. For example, I use the show “How I Met Your Mother” for this a lot. Any time the main character, Ted, does something that makes me want to hit him, I do 15 second sprints at the fastest pace I can manage. This is often. Any time Neil Patrick Harris’s character, Barney Stinson, uses any variation of the word “Legendary”, it’s a 30 second sprint. There are a few other rules, but you’d be surprised how good of a work out you can pack into a 30 minute show. Generally, I use the commercials to cool down, though you could reverse it if you like.


So as I sit in my apartment, trying not to get a fever (which is inevitable, more or less), I keep trying to find ways to simulate being on the open road.


Unfortunately, this round of chemo has left me a bit more drained than previous rounds, and I feel the impending fever coming on.


So I’ll be cutting this article short. Hopefully I’ll be back on the road again soon, but if not, enjoy the open road in my honor.


If you’d like to keep up with the cancer side of my story, please check out

“So You Wanna Start Biking” by Tony Lanza

After writing these articles, and writing my blog, and talking to people about biking and triathlons, people have definitely asked me a lot of questions about how to get started. If you’re just getting started, or you’d like to get started, this is the article for you. If not…well, too bad. There’s probably something in here for you too. Let’s get started, shall we?


First thing’s first; you have to figure out two things to start your journey. The first, and most important, is probably your starting budget. The second, which influences how you spend your budget, is your unique set of goals. These two will have a bit of interplay, to a certain extent. I’ll give some examples to try to set you down the right path.

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I lost a lot of weight, I got in shape, but still, there was something missing. By Tony Lanza


I think, rightfully so, many people have looked at me funny when I’ve told them I was training for a triathlon. It’s one of those things that in the course of “normal” life, you think to yourself “Why would anyone subject themselves to that?”


Of course, everything is relative. If you went back to April 2011, back before I lost weight, back before my cancer, back before my training, and you told me “You’re gonna run a triathlon in a year”, I’d have laughed in your face. Probably called you a few nasty names. Now, I look at olympic distance triathlons as perfectly reasonable, attainable goals.

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Why do we fall? By Tony Lanza

A lot of people have expressed disbelief that I’ve continued to bike, despite my leukemia. While I understand their concern, most of them aren’t bikers. The two guys that I usually ride with haven’t been confused. They’ve both simply offered to accompany me, which was pretty much the perfect response (Thanks Dylan and Dennis).


However, a funny thing happened. Well, less funny, and more painful. I was riding along one of my normal paths. It’s about a 12 or so mile loop that I usually do when I don’t feel like having to dodge a whole lot of traffic. There’s only a few intersections to avoid, and then you hit a trail that runs for about 7.5 miles or so (round trip). So a good portion of the trip is actually spent on a trail, as opposed to biking just about anywhere else in lower New York, where you spend a majority dodging traffic and cars.


The problem was, I was feeling really, really good. I was absolutely motoring along. It was the first day I was able to get outside without a substantial risk. That morning, the doctors told me my platelets were at an appropriate level (roughly 113,000, and you can read more about the medical things on my blog, that I could do things that might end up with some bruises. Not that I’ve ever been bruised from biking, but there’s always a chance. I hit a personal best time on the halfway point (averaging about 15 mph, despite the way there being filled with lots of hills), and was well on my way back.


I rounded one of the final turns on the path. I was in the zone. Focused, fast, comfortable cadence. I look up. Suddenly, two people, riding side to side in a 2 lane bike path, are right in front of me.


I gripped my brakes. Probably grabbed them too hard. My rear tire slid to my right, and I tried to correct myself. The front tire slipped off the trail, and when I tried to bring it back onto the road, my whole body collapsed to the left. Somewhere in here, I’m pretty sure that if I hadn’t been clipped in, I probably could have still recovered. Unfortunately, I wasn’t fully back into the swing of clipped riding, and I slammed into the pavement. Double unfortunately, the part of my head that hit pavement was my face, which isn’t really covered by my helmet.


Using my GPS watch, I figured out that I crashed right around the 46 minute mark. My first memories restart right around the hour and eleven minute mark. So, roughly, a 25 minute black out. Definition of a concussion. Had cuts on my shoulder and knee, bruises along my left side. Luckily, no internal bleeding (which is a risk with platelets that low).


The thing is, though, that I would still go on that ride again. 5 days later, mostly recovered, I went on a short 10 mile ride with a friend’s father. And I went again yesterday, doing a well-paced 13 mile ride with my sister.


It’s like in Batman Begins, when Alfred is comforting a young Bruce Wayne. Why do we fall? To pick ourselves back up.


That was my first bike crash in a very long time. It came at an incredibly unfortunate time. However, the thing about biking that I love the most is that when I’m on my bike, leading a pack of friends down a street or a trail, for that hour or more, I don’t feel like I have cancer. I don’t feel worried about my next round of treatment. I feel so grateful that I signed up for that triathlon, because I’ve rediscovered a love that I had as a kid, but never really continued as an adult.


For those of you that read my background story on my blog, you’ll know that a few years ago, I was kind of just going through the motions in life. I wouldn’t say that I was really depressed, but I would say that I just lacked focus or direction. Then, I discovered snowboarding. Finally, I had a physical focus for the winters. That made winter (a pretty depressing season if all you do is sit inside or alternatively shovel snow) into something I looked forward to all year.


Now, winter is great. But even better are the ¾ of the year where I get to ride my bike

In the hospital

One day after

What would YOU do? Meet Tony Lanza, our new columnist, your new inspiration!


Picture yourself training for a triathlon. You’re coming off an awesome snowboarding filled winter, getting a lot of confidence in your abilities. Swimming is going as well as swimming can go for you (being a bad swimmer, and all), the running is so so, but the biking…the biking is great. Every other day, or so, you get to hit the road, put some miles on the tires, and be free and clear for an hour or two.


Then, something changes. Suddenly you start to struggle. First in the pool, but you shake that off, because you’re not a good swimmer. Then the running becomes increasingly difficult. Again, you shake it off. You’ve always had issues with your knees. Finally, the bike.

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