Friday, February 26, 2010

Friday Romp, Saturday Clomp

 Lisa S - our ride leader for Friday night's romp

The weather broke and we had a great weekend for riding, so when Lisa, a new ride leader we wooed away from the Sacramento Area Bike Hikers posted a pre-night-ride ride, I jumped in. It was a small group that left Bella Bru and headed down Arden to William Pond park, where we picked up the bike trail. I had a nice conversation with Lisa and was impressed with the mileage she was wracking up.

We met up with a few more riders at WBP, and headed upstream for the fish hatchery. When they built the dam that created Lake Folsom, and the views at Beal's Point, they destroyed some of the premier salmon spawning shoals in all of the Pacific Ocean fisheries, so the fish hatchery was created to harvest and spawn the smelt in a controlled environment. 

It works, but there is growing concern now that the same species are always grown, and that might not be such a good bio-diversity move. There is a plan now for a massive fish ladder almost a mile long that was approved at the same time as the new Johnny Cash/Folsom Lake Crossing Bridge. Time will tell if the funds materialize or not, but I, for one, am hoping they do.

With 'red beard' Jeffery B in tow, Lisa set a good, fast pace and must have been working hard to push that handlebar bag through the slight headwind. By the time we hit Hagen Park I was warmed up and wanted to push the pace a little. I got my break when a fast rider passed as I was negotiating traffic. He got ahead of me a few hundred yards before I was able to jump on it and bridge up. We did a couple of fast miles before I stopped at Sunrise to regroup.

We met Carlos at the fish hatchery, where he apologized for running late and meeting us half-way through the ride. We each introduced ourselves as he is also a new HWs rider. As we headed out Carlos, perhaps still revved up from having to make up for lost time, wanted to hammer. Like me, he carries a little extra weight, but is a strong rider, so I let him go ahead and sized him up. 

After a couple of miles we got passed by a rider. I jumped on his wheel and chased him down. Carlos was right behind, and the three of us went down a shallow grade halfway back to Sunrise at 30mph. I didn't include the Garmin trace because it was downhill, but we were flying and having a blast. It's a wonderful thing to find a rider that is well matched with you that you can challenge in a fun way and know they can return the favor.

We waited up and regrouped at Sunrise and I let Lisa set the pace again. We talked for a few minutes until a group of 3-4 riders blew past us. Carlos and I spotted Jeffery's bright yellow leg bands, and instantly recognized that he had jumped on the back of  a peleton. Carlos and I we were gone after them like a shot. The two of us, working together, bridged up in 30-40 seconds. They responded by pushing the pace still higher.

As you can see from the graph, we went from 15mph to 25mph in a few hundred yards. Carlos was behind me trying to get a decent draft off me heading into the wind in my aerobars, hanging back 5-8 ft for safety. There are lots of little dips and hills with hairpin turns thrown in - all of which make for great breakaway opps.

The leader, a kite, dropped back after a pretty short pull, and I found myself behind a very tall rider (6'8" he told me later) who wasn't giving me any draft at all. The air he broke was all over my head, so I stayed down in the aerobars and focused on being liquid smooth for the 3-4 riders behind us. (we were picking up a lot of riders who would blow up in short order) With the flat-ish course, and cool air, it was a day for big, strong riders, and we didn't see the 'kite' again until going over the bridge at WBP.

I got my chance to lead just past Hagen Park, and decided to challenge this strong group. You can see the spike where we blew by a long line of casual riders where turns and trees don't allow much of a view up the trail. Best to make the most of your opportunities to pass.

Carlos had dropped back, and 'Mr Big' was hard on my heels wheels. I was having a blast, pushing hard into Zone 5, and loving the howl of the wind in my ears. There is one nice hill about 3-400 yards long, as you make a sweeping turn to the left, where I decisively dropped the pack. I tucked myself into a tight aero ball, focused on keeping my knees to the bar, slid forward on the seat, and pulled everything I could out of my quads and glutes. I was cranking out 5-600 watts and was really enjoying the speed, so I stayed on it going down the shallow backside, and peaked the graph.

We all had the same idea on the steep approach to the WBP bridge. THIS was the point to make a move and get the glory riding into WBP first. I dug hard, as my HR trace shows, and stayed ahead of the pack. That hurt, but I was having a ball.

Right at the apex our kite came from the back of the pack and passed me. A nice kite move, especially since by then 'Mr Big' and I had pulled the plug and were carrying on a broken conversation. I didn't resent that kite move one bit. 

I love it when riders take the time to learn their strengths, and how to use those to best effect. Kites go up hills like a kite in a strong wind, but they go into the wind poorly because they don't have the beef to make a lot of power. They do have great power-to-weight ratios though, so love the hill climbing. I'm a brick, so I go down hills like a rocket, and fly on the flats. Know your game and press your advantages!

We regrouped and debated whether to head back to Bella Bru or wait for the night riders to show up at WBP. I needed fuel, as the lone bottle of Gatorade I used for ride fuel was long gone. By the time I got back to BB and started wolfing down a couple of cookies I knew I had waited too long to effect a good recovery. It was an omen.

I rode home fully refuled and was amped about the ride starting ~ 12 hours later. The racing and poor recovery were about to bite me in the butt though.

  Doing a little racing with Jeffery B, Carlos, Mr Big, and a kite

I woke up at 6:30 the next morning, showered, dressed for a long day of riding, and headed out the door an hour later. My legs were like wood. Totally dead. I instantly knew why too. No time to replenish muscle glycogen. I met the pre-ride group at the Gold Country Plazza Starbucks. This group had grown from 3 to a dozen, so I had a half hour to get some coffee, eat a muffin, and chat with Sharel about her new road bike. I was hoping the coffee and sweets would put some snap in my legs.

Lourdes finally rounded up the 'cats' and led us out around 8:15. She always says leading rides is like herding cats. It certainly would be today. Lisa quickly took up the lead, I joined her, and we set the pace heading up Gold Country to the fish hatchery. (it parallels the bike trail, but is safer for large groups) We went over the Hazel Ave bridge, and down the corkscrew heading for Nimbus Dam - the dam that creates Lake Natoma. I tried to push myself climbing up the Hazel Ave bridge, but my legs were just dead.

Kevin had a flat right at the dam. We were at the back of the pack chatting, and he called out that he had no pump, so I turned around to help, hoping he knew how to get to the start of the ride, because I didn't know the connector road. I owed a lot of favors in the flat department after all the flats I had last summer, so was happy to have a chance to give some back.

We took care of the flat in 10 minutes or so, and I was racing to catch up to Kevin, who was off after the main group like a shot. They were only a half-mile ahead. It turned out another rider had a flat so the whole group had stopped. I was a bit relieved, and happy my good deed was repaid in Karmic dollars so quickly.

We got to Vic's Market, the starting point for the main ride, and the whole parking lot was full of cyclists. It was a zoo. It was also a lot of fun. There was a definite buzz, and Adrienne was getting a ton of B-Day greetings and wishes. We took off 45 minutes later in 3 groups, but not before all joining in and singing Happy Birthday. It was a really special moment.

We headed out of the parking lot in a long train of day-glo nylon and black Spandex, and cars just stopped dead in the street in both directions and let us cross the 5 lanes. With 45 riders it's more like a parade than a ride. It's so rare to feel in control as a cyclist. Having cars willing yield to the weight of 45 riders is a little thrilling.

Adrienne, the B-Day girl - in red with 45 cohorts

Most of the ride from that point on is a blur. I do remember trying to chase Fred up some long hill and just not having the legs for it. I checked my HR monitor and was in the middle of Zone 4. Lots of energy, lots of lungs, just no legs. I also started to notice why club rides can tire me out and frustrate me in rolling hills.

With too little shoulder to pass or ride doubled up, I have to ride my brakes down every hill, and then burn a lot of energy on the next uphill instead of carrying my speed down each hill and into the next. The shoulders are 6" at best, and one of our riders was run over in the same area 6 weeks ago. (he was largely unhurt, but his bike is toast - no thanks to an angry and malicious driver)

I didn't ride back to Vic's Market, but continued down Auburn/Folsom Rd, back to the bike trail and Starbucks. The original 3 groups had completely fallen apart due to mechanicals, so we ended up riding in small groups strung out all over the place.

The 'heavies'. Kevin, Fred and me. Lisa is looking over KAB's shoulder

I had asked Lourdes if I could borrow Joe Friel's book on the Paleo diet for athletes, so I waited for 30-40 minutes at Starbucks and then headed home. I had some nausea and my legs had been cramping since grinding up the Hazel Ave corkscrew. (30% + grade) My calf tear had been screaming for 3 hours, and I just wanted to be home where I could recovery properly. We'll do the book thing later.

I slept most of the rest of the day, and felt like I'd been hit by a bus the next 2 days. By Wed I felt better, but had a ton of chores to do so didn't make it out the door on time. Reviewing the rides on Garmin Training Center, it turned out to be 95 miles and 6,200 ft within 24 hours.

The B-Day ride alone was harder than my standard Rescue ride, which was a huge surprise. I really underestimated the ride. For the week I logged 137 miles and 9,100ft of climbing. I'm just not toughened up enough for that yet, and will not try two rides like that back to back. If  done 24 hours apart, in reverse order, I would have been fine, but as it was, it was not a fun day.

I bailed on a recovery ride the next day. Out of the question. Even with all my experience, I am still learning where my limits are. I enjoy the discovery process, even if it hurts sometimes, but intend to learn from mistakes too.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Sweet Release

I woke up bright and early today. 7:30 is bright and early for me these days. Stayed up an hour or so, had a piece of bread and glass of milk, checked my emails, and decided to make some coffee. By the time I got through cleaning up the kitchen, and putting the dishes in the dishwasher, I started to feel the fatigue from yesterday's ride. I knew if I had coffee I'd have that crappy 'tired and wired' feeling all day, so I pulled the plug and went back to bed.

I slept till **gasp** 13:00, and was kind of incredulous when I looked at the clock. I looked twice, rubbed the sleep out of my eyes, and looked again. Wow, I WAS tired. At my age tired can't be fought, at least not for more than a few days. Enjoy your 30's when you can burn the candle at both ends for months or even years on end. It's not going to last. Oh, and yes, you will have to pay back that sleep debt, well, unless you have a heart attack and die. Then you can sleep while you're dead!

When I woke up this morning the sun was out and the sky was mostly blue and blazing. By the time 13:00 rolled around, the weather was closing in again. I made coffee, ate some almonds to buffer the tons and tons of sugar I put in my coffee, and started to feel really strong. By 2:30 I wanted to ride. I was amping big time. I had a lot of dirty riding clothes though, and was trying to figure out how to ride and not have to get into dirty clothes. Ick!

As it was I had just enough clean riding clothes to get out the door, even if the debate and prep had taken me until after 4:00 pm. Rushing I forgot one thing after another. HR monitor. Strip off the jersey and roll down the tights. Balaclava. Unzip the wind vest and jersey, and take off the helmet and glasses. It wasn't clean, but at least it was dry. Arm warmers. Well, wasn't sure I'd need them, but stuffed them in the giant pocket in the back of the wind vest.

Wow, was I ever amped. I rode the first 4 miles like a bat out of hell. Energy to burn, and on an empty stomach too. Good recovery protocols last night really did the trick. I was just worried I'd fade into oblivion later in the ride, but wanted to enjoy the power surge anyway. :D  Take it as it comes!

Starting away from the Sunrise 'Y' I took a short breather and two long pulls off the Gatorade bottle. As I turned right to parallel the river, the wind started to kick up a bit. It was building quickly and within a few minutes I was bucking a 10mph wind. Have I mentioned how wonderful aerobars are? :D  Down and hammering, pushing tall-ish gears too. Where did all this energy come from? The caramel ice-cream I had last night? Is that the ultimate recovery food? Ben and Jerry's? Ummm, doubt it, but wherever it came from, I was really enjoying the ride.

It started raining for real right before Hagen Park, and in my short-sleeve jersey and vest I was a little worried, but figured if I kept the pace up I'd make plenty of heat to stay warm. It worked. I never did stop to put on the arm warmers, and when I got home my jersey, balaclava, and vest were once again sweat soaked. Wow, I must make a lot of heat. Maybe I should try riding bare-chested! OK, nobody needs to see that!

Back to back rides are something I rarely do. I have needed a recovery day in-between hard workouts for at least 15 yrs, so I was pretty impressed with the level of the ride today. Unfortunately, I pushed the wrong button on the Garmin, and turned it off instead of hitting the LAP button. Sigh.

While trying to figure out what happened to the last lap of my ride's telemetry I got to looking at yesterday's trace, and confirmed the numbers I thought I saw with stolen glances at the top of Beal's yesterday. I might have set a new PB climbing the last 10% pitch at 12+ mph. That's 600+ watts torquing it in the saddle - until I coughed up a lung and collapsed while rolling downhill into the parking lot. If not a PB, it's close. Here's the trace.

Ooooh, this just in. I calced my power on that short little kicker of a hill just before Boyer Dr, and at 10mph on a 16% grade it works out to 771 watts standing and hammering. Not a PB, but pretty decent.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Chasing the Sun

4 mi from home, and my face is so cold it's numb

Well, my new ex-riding partner didn't show up at 10:00, or 11:00, so I went out the door a little later than expected, but the sunshine never did materialize (it just now broke through at ~ 2:30).

Carbo loading the night before in expectation of a hard ride the next day is putting some pounds on my spare tire, because the weather-guessers pull a 'gottcha' the next day and with no ride to burn the glycogen, everything I eat the next day gets stored as fat. I HATE it when that happens, so I went  out the door hungry this morning, determined to burn some extra fat. I did lose 5lbs on the ride, but that was because they are doing construction at the park where I stopped for water (in vain) and found a volunteer photographer instead.

In spite of no sunshine, the sky at least had some light blue streaks, and the temps were in the mid-50s, so a good day to ride. It actually made for some breathtaking scenery up at Beal's Point, and WOW, is the grass ever green along the American River Parkway Trail!

My BP was a little high this morning when I woke up, so I reluctantly took a half dose of my BP med. It hyper-dilates my capillaries when I ride, and makes me cough, but in the cold air it doesn't seem to add much load to my heart as I don't need to flow blood to the surface of the skin to say cool. In fact, there was a 30 minute stretch where the day took a very chilly turn. Part of the reason I stopped at the drinking fountain - to dig a Powerbar out from under my tights. Having said that, my wind vest, balaclava and jersey were soaked when I got home from pushing so hard.

I turned the 'flat', 'straight' sections into TTs, and that right calf I tore 6 months ago was very sore when I got home. I did manage a 5 mi stretch at 19.4 in spite of a short 7% climb. I'm getting better at positioning myself forward on the seat, especially on climbs, to make better power. I definitely need to get a seat with a long nose, and soon. It feels like I sat on a dull screwdriver at the end of the ride, as I am sitting on so little of the seat's nose.

I've noticed, especially after the calf tear, that I make a lot of power with my quads (leg extensions @ 360+). I might have to try some squats again in the gym to see if I can add some glutes, but I suspect the hamstrings are the weakest link. At any rate, sliding forward on the seat when pushing really hard punches up the power about 25% for a few minutes.

Nice ride, and a nice day for it. I took 4 minutes off my previous time, so I'll be tired tomorrow, but smiling.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Managing Diverticulitus

Diverticulosis  is a physical abnormality that usual affects the colon. Once its small pockets form, it will be your unwelcome companion for the rest of your life. About 10 percent of Americans older than 40 have diverticulosis. The condition becomes more common as people age, and about half of all people older than 60 have diverticulosis. I am one of those people. It is possible to have diverticulosis and never have a bout of diverticulitis, but I was not so lucky.

A year after my first crisis episode I took up cycling again after a 25yr hiatus. I had to up my management game to stay healthy, as cycling puts a lot of stress on the body, requiring some special attention. It is helpful to think of managing diverticulitis in three stages. Crisis, Remedial, and Recovery.

Crisis stage can be as minor as a partial or missed bowel movement, or it can be so bad you're curled up on the floor in the fetal position, running a high fever after days or weeks of crippling fatigue.

The crisis phase can also be broken down into threes. Onset, Moderate, and Severe. Making the distinction is important in deciding what remedial action to take, because with diverticulitius, a proportional response dramatically improves the outcome.

Onset conditions are mental red flags that your normal routine is not being observed, or is not working. The key to good management here is monitoring your body to detect trouble before it starts. Did you miss a BM? Did you eat something like beef, pizza, or pasta with very little fiber? Has your stool been dry? Have you felt sluggish and dull the last 18-24 hours? Are you cramping? Do you have gas and burping at the same time?

This checklist, with your own modifications and punctuations, should become an old friend. Keeping track of what you've eaten for the last three days is a bit like counting cards. It's a skill you acquire, and it pays big dividends.

Remedial actions for onset conditions are simple. Drink 30-60 oz of water, eat some oatmeal (raw or cooked), have a bowl of raisin bran, eat a few handfuls of strawberries, eat an apple, drink 8-24 oz of prune juice, go for a walk, do 100 jumping jacks, stay out of the heat. Onset lasts until you have a BM that completely clears your bowels. You aren't sick yet, and you won't be if you can get things flowing along nicely again.

If managed well, recovery can be avoided completely. This is a speed-bump, not a detour. Continue to eat your normal high-fiber diet, and carry on as usual.

Moderate conditions usually occur because peer pressure, personal goals, or unknown factors temp us to cheat on our tried and true routine. Getting up unusually early, anxiety about an event, eating an unusual diet, or getting dehydrated in the heat are typical causes. Eating at a restaurant to celebrate a special occasion, or when traveling, exposes you to unfamiliar foods, and that often causes problems.

With moderate conditions you can be further along in the episode's timeline, have more serious symptoms, or both. You need to act faster, more aggressively, and monitor your progress more closely. Your choice of remedies is more restricted, and somewhat different. Take immediate action, and if in doubt, err slightly on the side of too much, rather than too little.

If you have adequate fiber in your GI tract, large quantities of water, up to a gallon or two, can be very helpful, and may prove remedy enough. More likely this will have to be augmented with something that can "tunnel" through the log-jam and get things moving again. Prune juice has this marvelous property. Fruit, berries, commercial fiber supplements, nuts, and grain fibers generally don't. It is usually prudent to take at least a low dose of laxative as part of this response. Having to take a laxative is a sign your prevention protocols aren't up to snuff, but worry about that later. Right now you need to flush stagnant food, bad bacteria, and budding infections out of your system.

Severe conditions occur because of neglect, unusual, or traumatic conditions. Doing a double century ride a long drive's distance from home in 100+ degree heat, and eating pizza as your recovery food, will certainly get you there. So will a long flight in a bone-dry airline cabin, fiber-free airline food, and collapsing into bed when you finally get home. Strange foods with unpredictable consequences, like a big beef steak, baked potato, beer and no salad, or lots of beefy food in hot weather, will all do you in. Favorite family recipes during holidays can also be mine fields. (Happily, 2-3 tablespoons of dry oatmeal eaten as "dessert" will make almost any food acceptable)

Remedial action should be immediate. Get off the freeway at the first off-ramp, buy a case of bottled water, a good laxative, and maybe some Prune juice. Don't eat ANYTHING solid, and whatever you do, DON'T STRAIN to force a BM. In crisis mode the bacteria in your colon is already growing, and weakening your gut. If you strain, and your gut leaks, you risk a long hospitalization or even death. This was the condition that nearly killed Fidel Castro.

If you haven't had a complete BM within 6-8 hours of your initial response, it's time to nuke yourself with the strongest of chemical laxatives. Kaiser Permanente, and many other health organizations, recommend Fleet phospho-soda and 4-6 liters of 7-Up before rectal exams, and having experienced it first hand, I can tell you it will utterly and completely clean you out! Gatorade type drinks can be helpful in preventing dehydration here. You need to be home for this treatment, as you and your bathroom will become best of friends for the next 4-6 hours. Not the most pleasant experience, but much, much better than a long stay in the hospital, or risky colon surgery.

Severe conditions, because of the attendant GI tract purge, and the devastation this causes to the complex environment that supports proper digestion, require a little more care in the recovery stage. First, go easy. Less is more. You'll feel like you've been kicked by a horse, so eat something soothing, like yogurt or ice cream, but nothing solid. Except for creamy oatmeal, keep the level of fiber in your diet very low. This just isn't the time. Water is good, perhaps with some salty crackers to help restore your electrolyte balance. This is especially helpful if part of the root cause was dehydration.

The Crisis and Remedial phases were covered together because the two must be paired for best results. A weak response allows the condition to worsen quickly, and one that is too strong rocks the boat so hard it makes recovery long and difficult - not to mention, downright unpleasant.

Recovery, once past a severe condition, is generally the same for all levels of severity. Initially, favor foods that are fairly low in fiber, and are easy to digest. How much fiber is a judgment call, and requires some finesse. Let experience be your guide.

Steer clear of any food that might contain pathogens, such as raw meats, fresh fruits, and vegetables. You're not in a position to weather e-coli or salmonella. Stick to well-cooked, long-dead food that's been sitting in a can or a jar for a long time. Yes, I know, this is horrible nutrition, but you've likely been losing 2-3 lbs a day, are dehydrated and hypoglycemic, so job 1 is to get some energy back and then worry about good nutrition. Try some premium blueberry or strawberry preserves on crackers. Think of this as an opportunity to enjoy favorite foods otherwise off-limits!

After 2-3 days go back to your normal high-fiber diet in a gradual way, and keep quantities in check. Monitor for Onset conditions, and adjust accordingly. Over time your GI tract will probably become stronger and more robust, and much less sensitive to the occasional transgression. As your management skills improve you may find months go by without incident.

The high fiber diet needed to manage diverticulosis will lower your cholesterol, help prevent diabetes, and probably lower your triglycerides as well. Throw in a commitment to regular exercise, and your overall health will improve substantially. With good diet, everything moves in a good direction, allowing you to live a normal, active life for years to come.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Thirty Five with Friends

I had to beg off on a nice 60 mile ride on Saturday. Still too wrecked from the mtb ride on Friday. Yesterday I got in a beautiful 35 miler led by Mica at HWs. A new route that took in a lot of familiar ground, and some new additions that kept it interesting.

The pace was slow, as Mica was recovering from leading the ride I bailed on, so he kept to the advertised pace, but was cool with letting me get out front and hammer a bit in spots. I like routes where you can see ahead far enough to see the group ahead and not have to be checking the route sheet all the time.

We stopped at the Mirabelle Cafe, a new venue for us, and they have great food. Their service response was pretty confused and I had to wait for 30+ minutes to get a fruit tart, so we will have to work with them to help them understand that riders like good food, but it is also ride and recovery fuel, so it needs to appear quickly. I'm very hopeful this will be a great new resource for ride endings that is only 4 miles from my front door.

Here's an experimental shot of the group where I used the diagonal to get more peeps in the pic. It works really well if you don't use too much angle. I used about 32 degrees, so had to use MS Office Picture Manager to twist it back horizontal. I'm the one holding the camera, so no proof of life here, but everyone else is in the pic.