Addressing the Demon Foot

I’m about to leave on a drizzley 4 hour drive over to Mountain View to meet up with the other organizers and get the final details worked out on a big IMBA work weekend/trailbuilding school at the end of this month. I would have left already, but, I had a doctor’s appointment. Along with the excitement that comes with entering the DK200 comes the revelation that I’m going to have to address the nagging foot/leg pain that I’ve been getting on long rides. “Long” in this case used to mean 4 or more hours, but, even after taking a month off, the problem is creeping into the 2-3 hour range.

That’s not gonna fly.

Last summer, I visited a local orthopedic doctor’s office. The foot specialist there was incredibly rude- he told me that my shoes were probably too tight and that it wasn’t worth my time or money to diagnose any further. I told him that’s not the case (I wear my shoes large and barely buckled), and he grudgingly ordered an EMG/Nerve Conduction Study that turned up normal. I didn’t want to go back to him, so I gritted my teeth and did what I could to avoid the issue.

I also visited a structural integration therapist (partially because of the car accident, partially because of the foot/leg pain). I definitely felt amazing as a result of her course of treatment (if you’re an athlete, I’d highly recommend it), but it still didn’t do much for the fact that my left outer two toes felt like they were about to explode off of the end of my foot on long bike rides.

With my impending hours of saddle time, I decided to go to Campbell Clinic (the same place I went for treatment after being hit by a car). I saw a sports medicine doctor last night, and he had several ideas of what if could be, and referred me to a different doctor (I get the vibe that they work with each other a lot like how two great mechanics will pass a troublesome bike back and fourth to bounce ideas off of each other). He found through ultrasound that the bursa under my left sitbone looked inflamed. However, he wanted to totally rule out other issues in my back and pelvis before calling that the solution. So, I’m scheduled for an MRI this Tuesday.

I still feel like there’s something wrong in my hamstring (which seemed to be what the first doctor was thinking), but, I trust doc #2, and I actually get the feeling that, while neither of them has an exact diagnosis at this point, they’re actually interested in starting the process of eliminating the things that it’s not. I should know more when I go back for the MRI results next Thursday.

A good weekend and a new plan

Now that I wrote a post saying that my legs are total junk, I had a couple of rides over the weekend that proved that maybe they’re only about 75% junk. Saturday, I headed out for some base miles- a relatively short ride of just under 3 hours, but I was successful in maintaining a steady wattage throughout the miles. My route started by tracking north with a sweet 15-20mph tailwind from the south, then looped back to face it down most of the way back. Some people might consider that torture, but I can’t help but get excited as I make the turn from north to east and pick up a nice “lean into it” crosswind for a few miles before turning straight south. Matt went with me and wasn’t quite as enthusiastic.

Sunday, we’d originally planned on trainer rides since a steady, all-day, rain-turning-to-ice was predicted to arrive somewhere around 4am. However, I awoke to find that the first batch of rain had missed us. So, I woke up Ryan and Matt and we hustled out to the trail to get in as much time as possible before the rain set in for the day. It was barely starting to sprinkle when we left the house, and we made it almost an hour into our ride before the bottom fell out. Luckily, at that point, we were able to bail off of the trail and hit the Memphis Greenline to get home. Matt was feeling frisky and went to plaid on the unfinished gravel section, which I think might have been a slight punishment for the previous day’s wind shenanigans.

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Changing gears a little… in “2014 Race Season” news, I’ve shifted my focus for race choices in May. My original intention was to go back to Trans-Sylvania to improve upon my finish from last year…a lofty goal, because last year, it was an outright perfect combination of both my best fitness and several strokes of luck that resulted in one stage win, the Overall Enduro win, and a 5th place spot in the Overall General Classification. Looking back, that was, both physically and mentally, the hardest race I’ve ever done.

This year, as I mentioned a few posts ago, Gu Energy is, once again, being a kickass sponsor. They’re supporting the 2014 edition of the  Dirty Kanzaa 200 race, and, rather than going back to TSE, I’ll take on DK200 as my next big challenge. It’s not only going to be a huge undertaking on its own, but it will also serve as a springboard to training for what stands to be another “hardest race ever,” the Vapor Trail 125. I know in the past I’ve sworn off 100 mile races, but these are more of the “epic” variety with a healthier dose of attrition mixed in to make them more exciting.

Admittedly, I’m becoming somewhat of a junkie for seeking out the next most “impossible” thing.

Rouge Roubaix XV, the rest of it

If you haven’t been around long enough to know that I was hit by a car during the Rouge Roubaix road race back in March, then go read this post now: Rouge Roubaix XV

The insurance case with the driver is settled and closed now. So, I feel that I can tell the rest of the story without some skeezy insurance lawyer questioning my actions following some dumb b**** plowing into me from behind.

In the post about the accident, I left off at a girl hitting me, us gathering her information, and me going to the hospital. All of that happened. However, between getting her information and the trip to the hospital, there was a brief moment where I was laying on the ground, then on my feet, and being incredibly verbally abusive to the woman who’d hit me. I’m one of the least mean-spirited people you’ll ever meet, but I called her all sorts of names, and I don’t feel bad about it at all.

Then, I decided I wanted to try and finish the race. There were 40 something miles and two hard gravel sections left. Louise had passed Amy and I just before I decided to try and continue. I got back on my bike and got on Amy’s wheel, but realized in a couple of minutes that I needed to straighten my handlebars out. Amy stopped with me, but when I realized that I needed to use my multi tool in order to fix them, I told her to go on after Louise (I didn’t know if I could finish, anyway, and I didn’t want to jeopardize Amy’s race).

I rode alone, into the wind, for what seemed like an hour. I could see Amy in the distance until the turn into the next gravel section. It’d been 8 miles since the car had hit me, and, it was then when I hit the potholes and bumps of the gravel that I couldn’t bear the pain in my pelvis any longer and had to withdraw from the race. At that point, I thought that it was broken at my right sacroiliac joint, because the pain was not only radiating from there, it also felt as if my pubic symphysis was unstable.

You know the remainder of the story from there.

My recovery is still not 100%. Physically, my right SI joint still hurts, and the scarring of the muscle seems to be permanent… so my right butt cheek has a flat spot. When I sit wrong or go on long car rides, it takes a few steps to not limp because of it. Psychologically, I still have rare but persistent breakdowns when I’m frightened by drivers. I’m still angry at drivers who have no care for another human’s life. The insurance company took those things into account when paying “pain and injury” money to me, but that doesn’t make it go away.

The CAAD10 that I was riding at the time of the wreck has been revitalized as a weird bastard of spare parts I had around the house. The rear triangle was knocked out of alignment, so it’s off of “work” duty and now is a testament to riding bikes long enough to have a hodgepodge of parts in storage. I honestly don’t know if I’ll ever ride it, but it goes a little like this…

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So, now you know the entire story. Here’s to not getting hit by a car again in 2014…

Getting back to “Normal”

Getting pretty sick over the holidays seriously upset my “normal routine” applecart. Hell, the “holidays” themselves do that without my being sick. The fact that a large portion of the general public shoves their way around around like asshole chickens with their heads cut off at an ever-increasing rate from Thanksgiving until December 25th is incredibly disruptive to anyone who chooses not to participate in such foolishness. By not participating, I have to plan simple things like “my daily trip to the grocery store” and “driving past the mall” in a way that won’t coincide with throngs of panicking, stressed-out consumers.

Luckily, it’s over, and I survived, mostly unscathed. The guys both went back to work this morning (both Ryan and Matt had vacation from the 25th through the 1st), and I went back into the gym for some weight training this morning (and go back to MMA class tonight). I’m kinda sad that we never got to go to Syllamo, but between Ryan having a backache and Matt and I suffering from the desk-jockey blacklung, we ended up running out of vacation by the time everyone was recovered. I’m looking forward to the weekend of the 10th, because I’ll be heading over solo to meet with other Syllamo Trail advocates to work out all of the details for the ginormous work weekend coming up at the end of the month. If everything goes as planned, I’ll stay an extra couple of days, and the trip will function as both a mini training camp as well as a momma-bear vacation.

Not that I dislike taking care of the guys and whatever domestic duties arise… it’s just that every now and then, I need a break- just like any other job. Even if I don’t do days of epic rides, I can lay in the recliner with a glass of wine and a frozen pizza and not worry about what’s for dinner tonight and tomorrow.

Riding-wise, the journey back into fitness is shaping up to be a difficult one. The past two days, I’ve thrown in some harder efforts on my rides, and they were pretty weaksauce. I feel like my FTP is 200 right now. Three weeks, a little riding, then an extra week off the bike tends to do that to a person. Hopefully my legs will remember their job with a quickness.

 

Adventures in Sickness

Yeah, so the desk-jockey chest cold ended with me getting bronchitis. After spending two days basically on the couch, miserable with a fever, chills, and deepening cough, yesterday morning, I woke up feeling worse and coughing up nearly solid chunks of phlegm (mmmm, hopefully you’re eating breakfast right now). Already physically exhausted from the two previous days of germ-fighting and poor sleep, I had the feeling that my immune system was struggling with a secondary infection. So, after a little internet searching, I found a minor medical clinic that was open on Christmas day.

Luckily, we seemed to get there before the waiting room filled up. My fever was 101.2 and resting pulse was a crazy 85 bpm (for comparison, usually when I walk outside with a bike and turn my Garmin on, my walking/standing around pulse is somewhere in the 60s). The doctor did the usual look/listen and said that my symptoms were indicative of bronchitis and gave me a prescription for antibiotics.

Once we were home, I had some tomato soup and took my first dose. Within hours, I could feel my fever fade and everything start to swing in the right direction. By evening, I felt well enough to move around the house a little, ride in the car with Ryan to my parents’ house to pick up Christmas gifts from Granny & other relatives, and carry on conversations with more than one-word sentences. I was hoping for a good night’s sleep, but alas, some of the antibiotic side effects (restlessness, terrible bitter taste in my mouth) kept me awake much of the night. I’ve gotta call this morning and see if I can’t get something else.

Despite another night of poor sleep (that’s 4 now), I’m not drawn to laying on the couch and moaning today, which is promising. We’ve postponed the trip over to Syllamo until tomorrow. Right now, I’m feeling as tired physically as if I were on day 4 of a stage race, so I’m taking it slow and steady. I may not ride as much as I’d planned, but the getaway from the confines of my house will be a welcome one. I also sleep like crazy any time I’m at the cabin, so, epic rides or no, I’m looking forward to it.

Aaaaaand Setbacks…

Leave it to people being jerks to put a screeching halt to my re-start into the training schedule.

When I was teaching at U of M, I had a very strict “NO COMING TO CLASS IF YOU’RE SICK” policy. When a student walked through the door coughing up a lung or toting around a roll of TP/box of tissues, I’d send them out of the classroom, no questions asked. Unfortunately, the desire to keep other people from contracting various infectious illnesses is lost in the world of cubicles and desk jockeys where Poolboy Matt works. One of his co-workers missed a day of work because of “a little bronchitis,” and came back while she was still really sick. Through the magic of COUGHING ALL OVER EVERYTHING, Matt and half of the people in his office caught the bug… which means, he brought it to the house, and myself, being unable to see someone sick and not care for them at least a little, have now caught the cough/mild fever whatever-the-hell-it-is sickness.
Now, I’m faced with the pressure to go to Grandma’s house on X-mas day, though I’m of the mind to keep myself quarantined from others (especially the elderly) until I’m feeling 100% better. No one wants to be the carrier of the germs that put granny in the hospital with pneumonia.

On a more positive note, the Cysco road bike is more and more fun each time I ride it. I christened it (along with my I9 carbon wheels) by riding on a wet gravel road yesterday before I started to feel extra run-down. Even for as stiff as it is, the ride is steel-frame smooth. (For video, check out my Instagram account)

Also filed under “fun as hell”- Thursday evening, we did some sparring during MMA class… very basic, legs only, and (as John put it), “keeping the volume turned down.” So, we donned shin/instep guards and proceeded to kick each other for three 3 min rounds. Take home message? 1) I’d get my ass kicked if we were actually fighting, but that’s OK, because it’s only my 3rd week or so of classes, and 2) the best way to get someone to stop hitting you is for you to start hitting them.

Right now, with my desk-jockey funk, the future of my holiday travel plans is unknown. We were thinking about leaving Thursday for Syllamo for a few days… a couple with the guys, and a couple solo. I need a little bit of a vacation, and I was hoping to get some hard rides in, wellness permitting.

Break = Success!

This week marks the end of my 3 week hiatus from training and being “serious.” The hallmark of a successful break from rigorous training is the gradual transition from “I’m doing nothing right now, and it’s awesome!” to “I CAN’T WAIT TO START TRAINING REALLY HARD AGAIN!!!!” I definitely started getting that itch last week when Coach started talking about the buildup for Trans-Sylvania Epic. After that, I haven’t quite made up my mind on the season, but it’ll fall into place as everything else plays out.

A new fixture in my training is, for at least the foreseeable future, the Tuesday/Thursday weights & Mixed Martial Arts classes. I enjoy having an interesting side hobby for cross-training, and this is fun enough to fill the time I was spending on yoga classes. What happened to yoga? Well, I really enjoy it, and I think it’s an excellent way of cross training, but I just find that I’m more drawn to the new challenge of fighting. I still plan on keeping up with some easy at-home yoga and at least a weekend class or two whenever possible. Aside from mountain biking, I have the attention span of a cracked out squirrel.

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You know shit’s getting serious when you feel the need for one of these.

Now, it’s time to start logging the base miles. The new road bike has added additional motivation, as it rides like everything I’ve ever wanted (imagine that!) The short wheelbase would probably freak most people out, but I like the feeling of being able to steer with little input other than a shift in body weight. Talk about a dream bike…

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New Bike Adventure Weekend!

I’d mentioned on Mountain Bike Radio and elsewhere that my custom road frame was going to be finished up this weekend. Being a weekend of crappy weather as well as the final weekend of my post-season break (3 weeks mostly off the bike), I decided that, rather than waiting to get it mid week on a truck, I’d just drive to Chattanooga (about 5.25 hours) and pick it up so I could build it Sunday afternoon. I was able to morph the trip into a small impromtu adventure. Saturday morning, I got up, packed, and set off towards Nashville to run a few errands there before finishing the drive over to Chattanooga.

First, I stopped by Affinity Acupuncture. Why drive all the way to Nashville for acupuncture? Well, if you click that link and go to the “Our Team” page, you’ll see Harding Zills… one of my former students from U of M. I’ve kept up with him through Facebook, and watched how hard he worked to learn what he’s doing, so I felt comfortable going to see him to try acupuncture for the 2nd time (the first time was several years ago at Metro team camp, and, while it was a pleasant experience, the practitioner wasn’t nearly as thorough in her initial consultation. Also, I’ve had enough wear and tear since then to be able to point out several specific aches and pains that need help).
After talking about said aches and pains, he decided he’d focus on my low back and leg pain then follow up with therapeutic massage for my shoulder girdle issues. Most of the needles were more of a thump and dull ache for a few seconds, followed by a sensation of something just “being there.” They stayed in about 20 minutes with a little e-stim on the left side (where I’ve been having numbness/pain issues), then he took them out and finished with massage… real massage. NOT a “spa day” massage. The IT band work brought a tear to my eye.
The result of all that? I felt amazing. The nagging low back pain I’d had was gone, and my arms aren’t falling asleep constantly while I’m laying in bed. Acupuncture and massage from a good therapist is legitimate medical treatment. I need to find someone as good as Harding to see on a regular basis in town (or just make monthly trips to Nashvegas to see him).

Next, I headed over the the GranFondo trail shop to visit Chris from Cysco (who I’ve been communicating with constantly about my frame). I dropped off some beer, rode around on his wife’s mountain bike, and he took some measurements of my Air9 CYA frame. Afterward, I made one more beer drop to the Rainbow Unicorn‘s house before getting on the road to Chattanooga. It was nearly 8 when I rolled in to town, and, with Richie, the framebuilder, out doing Christmas stuff, I found a hotel room in the mega-mall area, got dinner, and settled in for the night.

Sunday morning, after breakfast and coffee, I checked out and drove up to Ooltewah. Success!!!

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I hurried home and built it up (with a small break in the middle for Ryan’s birthday get-together at Flying Saucer). Measure 11 thousand times, cut once…

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(follow up with a fair amount of filing to make it flat & pretty)

The result? The most gorgeous ti frame build I think I’ve ever seen…

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16 pounds, 7oz as it sits. Details:
-Cysco custom frame, “TWSS Stiff,” based off of geo from 2008 BH Connect and Cannondale EVO Women’s frames
-ENVE Road 2.0 fork
-SRAM Red drivetrain & brakes (mechanical)
-Industry 9 C41 Carbon Clincher wheels (OMG, I’m totally breaking my own rules now)
-Maxxis ReFuse 700×25 tires (never tried these, but they look like a good combination of tough/comfortable winter training tire)
-Cannondale Hollowgram crank w/Quarq powermeter and FSA 52/38 chainrings
-Jagwire Elite Link housing (experimental- it’s light and looks great, but if it gets the “nokon squeak,” it’s going in the trash)
-KCNC Seatmast topper
-Thomson road steam
-Cane Creek headset
-FSA Carbon handlebars
-Selle Italia Lady SLR saddle (original version)
-Cinelli Caleido Tape
-Arundel Mandible cages (there’s a mount on the downtube for a 3rd cage that I’ll use as needed in the summer)

Rolling up & down the street, my initial impression is that it’s just as stiff as my favorite carbon frames. As soon as I eat breakfast, I’m gonna take it out for a shakedown, and I can get a real feeling for the handling & whatnot. Can’t wait!!!

Off-Season Challenges

Since the weather was terrible over the weekend, and just yesterday I finally ventured out to ride a tiny bit while the sun was out and the temp was >40, I don’t have a bunch to post about. I’ve been running a bit, but I’ve also been going to the Urban Fitness Kickboxing gym two times a week to do a class they call “Body Focus” as well as an MMA class.

The Body Focus class is a resistance training circuit class. It’s generally broken down into a warmup, an upper body circuit, and a lower body (abs/legs) circuit. I like that it’s mostly compound exercises, and that it includes some plyometrics and explosive exercises. I knew my upper body was scrawny, but I feel like a T-rex during the first half of class.

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The MMA class is intense. It started with Jujitsu last week and we’re adding in some punching and kicking this week. The harder parts of class are similar in intensity to a 3-minute bike interval, except that it’s full-contact and involves both brute strength and a lot of skill. As an added bonus, I generally leave class with about as many incidental bruises as you would expect from a moderate mountain bike crash.

IT’S FREAKING AWESOME, AND I LOVE EVERY SECOND OF IT.

I can’t help but gravitate towards things that are incredibly challenging.

My challenge now is to take my saw and hack my way down the trail near my house. The baby ice storm that came through resulted in a lot of hanging privet and a couple of downed trees.

 

The art of being self-supported

Every December, running shops all over Memphis sell out of tights and every other piece of warm clothing as runners freak out at the prospect of the weather possibly being cold for the December race that they signed up for back in the summer. It’s all for a great cause, though- the St. Jude Marathon and Half Marathon.

Unfortunately, this year, the weather wasn’t just “cold.” It was cold and intermittently icy. Volunteers cancelled on the promoters, police and fire officials were busy, and select parts of the course (like the finish line), as well as most of the state of Arkansas were seriously dangerous with ice. So, the race was cancelled.

Immediately, social media was alive with people who “couldn’t” race… as in, “it’s cancelled, so I can’t run my marathon/half marathon today.” Fortunately, a lot of people figured it out:

Some people ran the course anyway: “Unofficial” St. Jude Marathon

Some people rolled their own:

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In the meantime, the food that had been allotted for runners was re-distributed to the homeless by a local group:

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All in all, the cause was still helped, a lot of people were inspired, and others didn’t go hungry.

However, there were still a handful of people who, at the first mention of cancellation, threw their hands up and resolved themselves to not running. I’m not 100% sure what everyone’s reasons where, but I’d imagine a lot of people couldn’t work out the logistics of how to get what they needed while they were running without the planned aid stations and whatnot. I can’t imagine training hard enough to do a marathon on a given day and then not actually doing it, so, I figured, I’d list a few tips on being self-supported. These are not only for running, but for cycling as well (even more so considering a 3-5 hour bike ride will generally take you further from your starting point than a run of similar duration… half to all-day efforts, not overnight. That’s a whole ‘nother ball-o-wax). It’s all about planning…

-Carry extra: use a pack of some sort to carry larger quantities of water & food. You’ve likely trained enough to know how much you need for a given time/distance/effort, so extrapolate that out to what you should carry to go longer between refills.
– Loops to the car/house/personal aid station of choice: like my Facebook friend above, plan a route that returns you to a place where you can refill, refuel, use the restroom, etc. every now and again. The loops don’t all have to be exactly the same, but that does simplify things.
-Link “aid” spots together: this is my personal favorite for long road rides. I normally use churches (though there’s a volunteer fire dept. on one of my routes as well). They usually have a water hose outside and don’t mind if you use it for bottle refills (sometimes they might even invite you in!) Some people stop at gas stations or convenience stores. I’m not a fan of those, because, as I ride primarily solo, it means I have to both leave my bike unattended and get ogled by men who think that because I’m in spandex, I am asking to be ogled. Additionally, there’s the inconvenience of  keeping up with money,  tromping around on linoleum in cycling shoes, and the limitation of riding in areas populated enough to have convenience stores (the best riding areas are far too remote to support business other than farming). I can carry plenty of food, it’s usually just a question of refilling water.
-Make a drop: Drive to a spot and leave a jug of water (and whatever else you need). Then, drive back to your starting point. I like this one for riding at Syllamo. I’ll hide a jug of water at one of the trailheads that’s about halfway around the loop, then drive to a different trailhead to start.
– Phone a friend: Ok, so this isn’t totally “self” supported, but it IS a way that you could run (or ride) a long way without “official” support. Just plan with someone ahead of time to meet you at a certain time/place with whatever it is you need. Sometimes it’s not the food/water they’ve got that’s what you need… it’s more the friendly face and words of encouragement that keep you moving.

So, there you go. Venture out, get your base miles, run your marathon, and explore some new places.