Saturday, April 2, 2011

Reincarnated Virgin

The skies kindly cleared here after a solid week of heavy rains, just in time for my 1st week back riding. Aside from a squeaky chain, and badly scuffed seat, I went out the door with the bike in ship shape, and with a lot of anxiety.

It took me forever to get suited up, find my water bottles back, mix my Gatorade, find my jersey, gloves, shorts, socks and do a final fitting on my new helmet. As I was going out the door I realized I didn't have my riding keys or sunglasses, so I had to leave the bike on the stoop and go back for them. 

I just wasn't sure how comfortable I'd be on the bike after 3 months of rehabbing the most painful injury of my life. Beyond that, I have read that many pro riders have problems psychologically recommitting to their sport after a bad crash, so clomping down the stairs in my cleats I was happy it was an epic, gorgeous spring day, with blue skies, puffy clouds, and 80 degree temps.

Hitting the start button on my Garmin I clipped in and rolled down the sidewalk for the driveway and street, shifting into a gear I could actually pedal. The new vibrant red Deda bar tape looked sharp with the new Ghisallo helmet, and red jersey, but more to the point, I hoped it made me visible as a stop sign as I approached the narrow in the road - down to 2 narrow lanes with no shoulder. The 2 SUVs left me 3 ft, but still made me nervous.

The back wheel felt a little greasy, and the bike just a bit twitchy, but at least the legs were working OK, and after a few blocks, my shoulder seemed fine - no pain at all. Unfortunately, the chain, pulled out of storage, was squeaking like I'd left it in the Libyan sun for a year, and generally reinforced my impression that I was c-r-a-w-l-i-n-g along.

About a mile into the ride I noticed my Garmin wasn't giving me a HR reading. It couldn't. I'd forgotten my HR strap! Darned! Still, after so long off the bike, it turned out to be the only thing I'd missed, and that was certainly better than forgetting my helmet or gloves.

The first good downhill is about 3 miles from the house, and I put down some power and dropped into the aerobars. OUCH! The shoulder complained immediately, and with a sharp turn at the bottom of the hill I moved back up to the hoods as quietly as I could. The bike just didn't feel quite right under me.

As I turned through the maze of riverside streets, wending my way towards William Pond Pk I tried the aerobars again, as the headwinds were substantial in places. I stayed down for a few minutes, but my shoulder was complaining, although seemingly a little less with each try.

On the way down to CSUS the wind was generally 5-8 mph in my face, so I kept testing the waters, dropping into the aerobars until my shoulder got angry, and then back to the drops. Slowly things got more comfortable, as muscles and tendons found new ways to support the altered topology of my shoulder.

I was breathing hard by the time I got to CSUS, so I rode up onto Guy West Bridge and took a breather. My glasses were already streaked with sweat, as I had decided against wearing my headband. I spotted a guy with a gorgeous Trek Madone and we had a nice chat until I mentioned I'd given up on low spoke-count wheels in favor of custom built. It was only then I noticed his wheels sported 16 :-O bladed spokes.

He'd gone on about his 'real' bike being a Cervelo' and all the trick carbon bits, and ceramic bearings he'd put on his Madone, and suddenly I was kind of peeved with this RUB - so I decided it would be a badly needed plate of humble pie if I could chase him down.

He took off like a shot, and I encountered some traffic at the bottom of the ramp, so he had a few hundred yards on me by the time I got into the power. Amazing what a good dose of adrenaline will do for performance, and pain suppression. I stayed in the aerobars, and with a few patches of tail-wind, was doing a decent job of redeeming myself.

With each small group of traffic, and each turn into the wind, I closed the gap. I was mentally shaking my head that a guy would ride ridiculously fragile wheels, but not aerobars. Ha! Advantage me! I finally closed the gap, and stayed on his wheel until he looked over his shoulder, and then backed off. I'd made my statement, but more importantly, was red-lining. I averaged 19.1 mph on that leg, almost exactly 2mph slower than my PB.

I cruised up to the drinking fountain at WBP, and had a nice chat about bike fit with a fellow 'brick'. His seat was back as far as it would go, and with a 73/17 stem, I told him he was probably giving up 2mph's worth of power, and suggested he work with Mad Cat to get a better fit.

I returned home and was anxious about what would happen overnight with my shoulder. It actually felt better than usual, especially since I had dislocated it twice the night before, enduring two intense pain spikes.

One of the women I ride with on occasion was unable to ride due to saddle sores, so I had this devious plan to ride for her -signing in with her name on the sign-in sheet - and thought it would make an entertaining mystery that she could meet her Spring Challenge while surfing her couch.

The rub was, my own seat was killing me. Torn, and scuffed, it badly needed replacing. After a lot of research I had narrowed my search down to a Fi':zi:k Arione CX Team Edition at Performance Bike Shop, and a Specialized Romin Expert (Caesar is rolling in his grave at that spelling, I'm sure) from Bicycles Plus, a LBS in Folsom.

The Romin Expert is the same saddle as the Romin SL from last year, which was priced at $150, so I was thrilled when I called for price and availability, and they had a 155mm black one on sale for $75. If it doesn't fit, I can take it back for a full refund.

The Romin saddle is tailored for riding in drops or aerobars, but the Fi`zi:k is 300mm long - almost an inch longer. The Romin saddle won out, mostly because the rails are anchored at the front about 20mm ahead of the nose of the saddle, so I expected the nose will give a little, and stop sawing me in half like my old saddle - which is basically a shorter version of the Arione CX. Hollow Ti rails, a LBS, and a lower price helped too.

Rushing around, I was able to drive to Folsom and back, buy the seat, mount it, remount the saddle bag, tail light, and aero bottle rack and get out the door in time to join the Sac Bike Hiker's ride - except I went to the wrong shopping mall! Arrrghh.

Once I realized my mistake I decided to focus on getting the saddle dialed in. I got the seat height adjusted, but decided not to fool with moving the seat fully forward until I had more tools, as that potentially would create problems for the saddle bag mounting.

I got things as dialed as I could and then pushed hard from WBP to Sunrise Blvd, averaging 237 watts for the whole ride, and scaled for HR, about 255 watts for that leg. With the seat so far back my power just wasn't there, but I still managed 18.1 mph, and averaged 147 BPM. I was pretty happy with that, and even happier that my shoulder felt good all day yesterday - although sore last night after some rainy weather rolled in.

I'm pretty happy with my conditioning, as I haven't lost nearly as much as I'd feared. I feel a lot more confident now that I can begin some rehab exercises for my shoulder and not have it blown up. Now if I can just get that very thin seat dialed in ....



Anonymous said...

I'm so happy to hear you ride again. And I can see how tough it must have been getting back onto your bike. But we can't be spoked by what happens so rarely and what we love so much, right!? I hope your shoulder will continue improving and that you can fully be your old self again. Great first step, Roy!

Grey Beard said...

Your interest in me is so greatly appreciated Stephanie. You, and my circle of athlete friends, who have taught me so much, and most especially, how to succeed in the face of adversity. Such a great life lesson with so many applications.

Gotta Run..Gotta Ride said...

NOW THIS IS A GREAT POST!!! I think it was meant to be that you forgot you HR strap for your first ride out. Also amazed that there was nothing else. Takes a lot of work getting all of the stuff together :)

Can only imagine thyou had a huge smile on your face. You have been smart and waited out your time. NICE JOB on getting back out there.

Grey Beard said...

Very tired yesterday, and still a little today after a long walk, so I have some work to do, but I am so happy at my conditioning level, I'll take that trade-off.

Yes, it was really hard to wait, and I'm glad the last week of wait was solid rain. Hoping to get back from the dentist today in time to go for a ride, hoping my allergies won't act up too much.

Thanks for all your support. Would have loved to have been in your pace-line to enjoy that 19+ average yesterday. Whoot!