Saturday, July 30, 2005

 

Takin' it Easy


Well, I made it back onto the bike
Thursday evening after work for first time in a week! Easy mountain bike ride. My leg strength felt OK, but my stamina sucked. Several little short, anaerobic climbs; heart rate popped right up to rooftop! I only rode for 41 minutes, but that was about all I wanted...

...After the ride I had that heavy feeling in my lungs that mountain bikers get when they've pushed a little over their limit, particularly after some time off the bike. Felt good the rest of the evening, but then on Thursday, was tired once again during the day time, so skipped riding Friday night.(Coach said to take it EASY; wife said take it EASY, Acupuncturist said take it EASY. ...so it slowly dawned on me, particularly since I didn't feel that hot, that MAYBE I should take it easy.

DUH.

Today, Saturday, I got up, ate a little oatmeal, then broke out the road bike for a quick easy ride to REI, where my visiting granddaughters wanted to rock climb before heading back to Tahoe tomorrow and later in the month back to Hong Kong where their current real home is. It was heating up pretty early today, but was only in low 80s as I put my 20-mile, 1:04-minute easy ride in. It's pretty level with a few little dips in it; just enough to get up out of the saddle for a few spins to keep up momentum, then sit back down again to keep haulin'. I rode easy, but kept it spinning. Felt really good. Heart rate up above where it would have been a couple of weeks ago, but watts also up good, and perceived exertion down. So maybe the enforced rest hasn't been ALL bad.

I'll see how I'll feel tomorrow a.m.; if I feel good, maybe a short mtb ride.

Bottom line: I'm definitely getting better, though energy reduced and stomach still doing its occasional flip flops, just for my personal entertaining and a REMINDER to Take it EASY.

Don't know yet about Leadville 100 on the 13th; we'll see. (I sure would like to do it, though!)

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Wednesday, July 27, 2005

 

Wierd


Life is pretty weird when you're sick; my heart goes out to those folks who have chronic illnesses and have to learn to cope with them. I've been battling this giardia thing for about four weeks now and I'm DAMNED SICK OF IT. Havn't been on my bike for a week. YIKES!!

One day good, next day not so good... the antibiotics seem about as gruesome as the parasites. Whine, whine...whine.

I think that, overall, I'm gaining on it though; at least I now get short spurts of normal energy, rather than totally dragging all the time.

Leadville is looming...
...and I still don't know whether I will make it or not. By the first part of next week I'll make a go/no-go on it.

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Friday, July 22, 2005

 

Progress


Aha! Some rest and 24 hours back on antibiotics (hate to admit it, but they help) and while I still feel crappy, I can at least visualize Showing UP for the Leadville 100 and actually trying to ride it -- something I could not even remotely consider as a possibility yesterday. Little by little. Tiny, tiny; the good guys must have used the new weapons to kick the heck out of at least a few of the bad guys. Hurray for our side! Thank you, guys; thank you! Keep pressing the offensive!

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Thursday, July 21, 2005

 

Regrouping


OK, I guess the universe is telling me that I need a dose of humility. I woke up this morning feeling like crap; no energy and stomach churning. Now, not to sprial into a downer with all this, but...

...today has been pretty much a loss. I've been pretty well incapacitated most of the day, sleeping, eating a little, spending unmentionable times doing unmentionable personal acts, resting, etc. You get the picture. And, training... forget it, at least for the next 24 hours. Ain't gonna happen.

Good day for introspection though, and realizing that what will be will be; my job is simply to roll with it, keep a positive attitude. Rest and get well, then get ready to hit it again when I can. And if that doesn't happen soon, then the Leadville 100 is going to look kind of iffy. Maybe I can just go do what I can of it; push the limits a little and accept what fate spins out (while giving it a good twist in the tail as much as I can! And, HEY, there's always NEXT YEAR!

So those are the nasty thoughts going through my puny little head today, as I work toward a return to health. My body feels is a battleground right now; nasty little critters trying to overwhelm the good guys. Well, guess what... the good guys are gonna win, and I'm gonna help them. Be warned, bad guys... you're _ _cking days are NUMBERED! And, don't worry, legs... I'll have you back on the bike soon enough. Red blood cells, keep multiplying, you'll be back at altitude soon enough. Lung, keep pumping; stay clear. Heart, take a brief spin around the park, you're gonna be hitting FULL VOLUME, FULL THROTTLE, all steam ahead here again realll soon, so rest while you can and get ready. Meanwhile, all of you; get the hell to work and start BLASTING those bad guys, everywhere they are hiding. Chase them from the shadows and clear them from the nooks and crannys; BLAST them; give the white blood cells a boost. Time to SPRINT, boys and girls; screw the bad guys. Reject and eject them; control room standing by.

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Wednesday, July 20, 2005

 

Repair Week


Like it or not, it seems like this is "major repair" week. My mountain bike's in the shop, and my stomach has still not returned to its normal happy self.

Seems like the rear cassette on my bike didn't get changed when I had the front chain rings and chain replaced before the Silver Rush. Mistake at the bike shop, but I should have caught it too; I just didn't inspect the repair job closely enough. Instead, I "ASSUMED" that the rear cassette had been changed because it's pretty common knowledge that a new chain on an old (worn out) cassette just will not shift nor work well. So the bike shop's error...
...and my inattention to detail caused me to fight with a malfunctioning drive chain all during the race -- and, it screwed up the new chain as well.

Then,unrelated they found that the rear suspension pivot bearings are shot and that also one major linkage is totally screwed... Guess that great gonzo ride I had down over the last 10 miles of rocks and potholes caused a wee bit of damage... sigh. (sure was a FUN ride while it lasted, though.)

Meanwhile, my intestinal problems continue (giardia, whatever) and my doc's trying to decide what to do next. And all the while the clock ticks closer to the Leadville 100 on August 13th. Hmmmmmm. should be an interesting three weeks.

YIKES!

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Monday, July 18, 2005

 

Silver Rush Survival



Well, Silver Rush Saturday has come and gone and I have SURVIVED.

There's no getting around it, that is just one brutal course: 50 miles with about 8,000 feet of elevation gain, but the killer is that the average altitude for the course is 11,300 feet. There is almost no level ground; it is either UP or DOWWWNNNNN.

My time was six hours and 21 minutes, which was good enough to put me in in first place in my age group (60-69,)and fifth for everybody over 50. The bad news is that my time was almost identical to last year. Of course my buddies tell me that I should feel awesome because I'm coming off almost three weeks of what appears to be a nasty infection with giardia...I finally went on antibiotics (or more correctly, anti-parisitics, last Tuesday, after beginning to panic that I might not be able to do the race at all.

During the first hour's climb I really felt sick; nauseous, etc.; then I backed off my pace and just kept going, figuring, 'well I can make it this particular climb, then I'll see...' then I'd get some downhill and recover a bit and try the next one. Fortunately, I seemed to reach an equilibrium after the first 90 minutes and although I couldn't take in any nutrient other than four gels and a bottle of gatorade during the ride, that was enough to keep me at least moving. All in all, though, it felt like a longggg day in the saddle.

At the 25-mile turn-around point, it was starting to get pretty hot and at altitude like that, it can fry and dehydrate you pretty quickly, so I was glad that about the time I got back up on top of the 12,000 foot saddle over the pass, it started to spit some rain and a few marble-sized hailstones. They stung a bit, but there weren't too many and it cooled things down... saving my tired butt in the process. Then it was down, down, down, and UP one more long slog before turning back onto rocky double-track.

The last ten miles or so were almost all downhill, though a tad rocky and hairy at times, so that helped me. I decided at that point to just 'go for it.' I love downhill, particularly if it's rocky, rough and fast, so that helped my pick up a few places. Over all I came in 114th (vs 93rd last year)out of about 200 finishers, so pretty much in the middle of the pack.

Now, try to get some strength back... and get ready for the 100 on August 13th! Bike's back in the shop today getting some well desrved nurturing, so it's the road bike for me today after work.

Bottom line: I feel VERY ALIVE and happy today; this stuff is hard but it absolutely awesome for the body and the spirit. I'm a very lucky guy to get to mountain bike race in the Rocky Mountains!

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Monday, July 11, 2005

 

Into the Zone


Monday, July 11: It's that time; time when the last ten months of training will come into play and I'll learn how much it has helped me. In short, it's five days until the shotgun blast into the air that signals the start of the infamous Leadville Silver Rush, a 50-mile mountain bike race at an average elevation of just over 11,000 feet...

...and already my mind is drifting off to altitude; it's becoming my reality. I came to work today, am doing the "stuff" I need to be doing, but my brain keeps flicking to chain lube, checking tire casings and suspension joints, remembering the good sun screen. And my body, not to be kept out of the loop, keeps saying, "OK, time for some more carbs; let's get that glycogen up, muscles need more, let's PACK them!"

My nighttime dreams and daytime reveries are of twists in the trail, the repeated grunts up to 12,000 feet followed by hair-raising 1,500 foot plunges back down the the rocky jeep tracks, only to climb back up again. The sweet brutality of the twenty-five mile turn around point, quickly chased by a mile or so hike-a-bike up the singletrack to the top of the pass. Ground so steep it's hard to push a bike up it while keeping your footing.

Reality: this is my reality. Will I do well? Will I even finish as well as last year? Can I pick up 20 minutes to drop to a sub-six-hour ride? Leg cramps; what about them? Remember to pack in the electrolytes... and for God's Sake, discipline myself enough to stop now and then and actually wolf the things down BEFORE I need them, instead of after, when it's already too late.

On and on... the thoughts flick and rattle through my brain pan and my very deepest being, while folks around me look and me and wonder whether I'm really here with them.

No. No, not really.

And then in August comes the Leadville Trail 100, the REALLY big challenge of the summer; the one my training has all really been about.

And, OH MY GOD, I've also actually sent my $330 in for a solo attempt as the 24 Hours of Moab in mid-October. But I can't even think about that right now, scary as it might be. Now, now there is only the Silver Rush. Pack the rain coat; it poured last year. Make sure the tool kit is really ready...

It's going to be a grand summer and fall.

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Friday, July 08, 2005

 

A Little More Training



Weekend: time for a little more training before July 16th's Silver Rush 50 Mountain Bike Race in the mountains above Leadville.
Leadville, CO, panarama
LEADVILLE: STORMY, BROODING, WAITING

For today, I'll do a mid-effort, two-hour mountain bike ride up near Evergreen at Three Sisters. It's a fun place to ride; some good three mile singletrack climb, some technical, some rollers, and a set of good tight twisties down to the valley below...

...Tomorrow it will back to the road bike. Mateo, Steve and I will do an endurance pace road ride with a good long climb; put some sustained pressure on the legs.

Steve's just back from a four-month detail in D.C. and Mateo and I just want to keep the legs and lungs working while we rest up for the Silver Rush. Our conditioning, at this point, is pretty well set; now we want to just arrive at the race sharp and rested. It should be fun, some sweat but nothing too lung-bustin'.

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Wednesday, July 06, 2005

 

Ride the Rockies, Day 5



Go to Days three and Four's Ride
Go to Day Two's Ride
Go to Day One's Ride
Go to Pre-Ride

Day Five looked to be a hard day; a 30-mile slightly up-hill warmup, followed by a steady, unrelenting 10-mile grunt up the mountain to 11,300 foot Monarch Pass and the Contentintal Divide. The early morning proved chilly, so the uphill part of the ride felt good, an excellent way to stay warm until the sun could do its work. I stopped at the foot of the climb up to Monarch, fueled up with Gatorade and a PBJ, met Art and briefly talked with a young French guy he had been riding with, then we took off. As usual, Art pulled slowly but steadily away from me. I didn't mind though as I had already reconciled myself to the fact that he is stronger than I am (the BUM!)I got in my rhythm, set my pace at a steady six to seven miles an hour and just climbed away. A few guys passed me and I passed plenty of others. A steady diet of seated climbing punctuated by some spells standing. Up and up we went. It felt good; not really that hard, just steady. I guess the last five days on the road had done me some good. My heart rate while climbing settled to a steady 126-128 beats a minute. I smiled; that's about twelve to fifteen beats slower than a year ago. Guess there's something to this steady regimen of training and road-riding. Tough for a mountain-biker to admit :)

Finally, at last, up around one more cut and THERE IT IS, a sign that says, "Summit, 1/2 mile. Being of sound mind (well, reasonably sound) I waited for a couple of hundred meters past that sign then stood up and started to sprint. Once I got it wound up, I sat back down and went for it. Right as I pulled even with the summit parking lot, I was hitting 470 watts, a lot for me at the end of a long climb.
Monarch Pass, Colorado, summit
Swinging in the lot, I tried not to step on my tongue as I got off the bike, a little wobbly. Once I got my lungs stuffed back down into my chest, my ego couldn't resist: I posed for a summit photo.

Monarch Pass Summit, Continental Divide
From there it was grab a couple of green, very cold bananas, wolf down four or five orange quarters, throw on arm warmers and a jacket, and get ready to descend before the chill seeped into my bones.

I hit the road, which turned out to be straight and fast. I tried to keep things under 45 mph because my bike gets a little squirrely above that. It may be the wheels, I don't know, but I sure get tired of the high speed head-shake it often gets if the road surface is less than perfect... scares the hell out of me.

By the bottom of the grade, the road turned into a slightly downhill ten or twelve mile cruise into Salida. I kept clipping along at about 32 - 34 miles per hour, so it went be pretty quickly. Art had arrived just ahead of me, so we joined up and went looking for what would be our last motel of the trip. And it was a TRIP in itself; a bunch of sleezy, seedy cabins that had seen better days probably by about 1960. Fortunately for Art, his company has an office in Salida where he had dropped off his pickup before the ride started; he was bailing at this point. We ate lunch, sat around the river bank and watched some kayakers practicing their rolls and stunts, then in early evening he made his escape, leaving me to the NO-TELL Motel, mosquitos and stray dogs. A particularly nice chocolate lab wandered into my room (I had left the door open to capture some cool evening air,) sniffed around, ate some sort of God-Knows, Invisible-to-Humans goodies off the ratty carpet, then gave me a look of sympathy and left presumably for nicer digs.

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Tuesday, July 05, 2005

 

2005 Ride the Rockies, Days 3 & 4



Go to Day Two's Ride
Go to Day One's Ride
Go to Pre-Ride

One of the cool things about the end of day two was that the motel had screwed up our reservations in Delta, Colorado.

Wait; this is cool?

Yep, because the manager said, "Well, you don't have a room for tonight and we are filled, BUT we have a house next door and you can rent it for only $25 more.

Now it's hot, 98 degrees, we're tired and I'm envisioning a sleazy old house with more dirt than substance, but, hey, there's little choice. I say, "OK," we gather our stuff and trudge to the little house next the motel, open the door... and it's all been redone inside, light wood, full kitchen, living room, two bedrooms; neat, clean, cooled with central air, bright new bathroom, tub and shower, pleasant deor. YEAH!

So I get a great night's sleep and get up early the next morning ready to ride. It's a short day through the countryside, through farms and ranches.
early morning fields
The day's ride was a short one: about 35 miles, sort of a quasi-rest day, but to me it turned out to be one of great beauty. I spent my youth in the Snake River country, on a wheat and cattle ranch in eastern Washington state, so have a soft spot for farms and nature. This ride put us right through irrigated alfalfa fields, wheat, sweet corn, pastures, cows, grass and pastures -- and all the smells, sights and sounds that go along with it. The fragrance of fresh cut alfalfa permeated me with memories of long, LONG, hot, HOT summer days baling hay, hauling and stacking it. Good memories, but better from a bike, I think, 35 years later and riding by somebody else's fields without all the worries and financial pressures that go hand in hand with trying to make a living farming.
irrigated farmland
At one point along the road, a bunch of bikers were standing, watching some horses; I blew by them wondering what they were looking at, then later learned that a mare had just delivered a foal who was up and struggling to get his first meal. Cool; wish I had stopped, but sometimes you just gotta make some miles, and I missed this one.

Art and I rode together this day and needless to say, we got into our destination, Montrose, pretty early in the day. Hung around the finish area, shot the breeze with some folks, laid on the grass and watched the riders come in. Then we went and found our motel for the day, a nice place with a little hidden courtyard and pool behind it. But the "hungers" were building we went in search of fuel at the nearby Quarter Circle Diner, one of those great little cafes found in every small town in rural America. The locals: workers for the country road crew, farmers, a local agricultural banker, the hardware store guy and couple of others, sat at their usual tables at the back of the cafe. Really nice folks, so we shared lies and tall tales with them as they marveled at all the lycra-clad strangeness pedaling up Main Street.

By one o'clock we had pedaled back to the finish area and caught one of two un-air-conditioned school buses to go out to see The Black Canyon of the Gunnison, a spectacular, extremely narrow, extremely DEEP gouge cut out of the high plains over the eons by the Gunnison River.
Black Canyon of the Gunnison River
This will be a side trip emblazoned into my memory by a lightning encounter a wee bit too close. While standing, listening to a Ranger talk about the canyon view from Pulpit Point, thunder storms were building five or six miles away, a little lightning far away, nothing too dramatic, when "BAM!" What sounded like being in the middle of a dynamite blasted all around us just as I was holding my camera out to take a pic of the canyon. The electrical flash, the explosion, hit absolutely at the SAME TIME. YIKES! And, my camera seemed to spark, giving my hand, particularly on the back side a sharp, painful shock. Art and several others who were wearing baseball caps said they felt small shocks of the lightning through the metal grommets in their caps.

Too Close, Dude!

Needless to say, we all quickly scurried back to the buses without anybody having to tell us to do so. Glad I hadn't been sitting on a metal bike when it happened.

After that excitement, the rest of the day went quietly, and the next morning, Day 4, saw us out on the road again by seven a.m.
cattle grazing in pasture
We headed up the road directly into a 15-mmph head wind, on a morning that saw two long climbs, gaining about 3,500 feet of altitude in about 70-some miles. It was a tough day, but my legs had strengthened over the past four days, so it was simply a matter of maintaining patience and good spirit. The wind sort of grinds at you on a road bike; you feel like you should be making better time for the effort involved and the mileposts go by very slowly. On a climb, at least, you can look back and see the grade below you and know you are gaining on it. Wind, on the other hand, just beats you.

One cool thing was that one of the downhill grades was under construction. The asphalt had been torn up and we went zooming down it on rough dirt and graveled, well oiled to keep the dust down for about four or five miles. I whipped through it at a good clip, 20 to 30 mph. It was easy to tell who was really a mountain biker; we were grinning from ear to ear and letting the tar fly where it might; others were slightly more tentative. I passed one guy on a hand cycle (they sit right down on the ground,) and he was also boogying; his head, back and shoulders (massive) were splattered with so much tar and oil he looked tattooed. I'll bet they had to dip him and his machine in solvent for 12 hours to clean him off. Awesome.

We rolled into Gunnison in about five hours total time. My last 20 miles I hooked up with another old dude and we pulled together to make the miles go by more quickly and easily. The wind had died down, but thunder clouds were building behind us in the mountains, so we were glad to have arrived early. Later that evening and night nature presented us with an overwelming fury of lightning storms in the surrounding mountains. Made me very glad to be snug and safe in town. Another great day of riding. Tomorrow would be tough: Monarch Pass at 11,300 feet.

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