Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Feeling better about Sundays Race

I did another race on Sunday.  My first Cyclocross race.   From what I could tell I started and finished in the middle of the pack.   I executed some of my newfound cross skills well, and some not so well.  I passed a few people, and a few definitely passed me.  It felt like a mediocre performance (which is about what I expected) and I think I could have hydrated better before the race.  Last couple laps I felt I was getting dehydrated, and I felt like I faded over the last lap and a half.

It may be too late to work on the anaerobic fitness to compete in these short contests.  That was never a planned focus this year anyway.  The goal was to get my riding legs back without overcooking my recovery.  I thought I'd be doing a handfull of these, but recent events may put racing back on the back burner again.

I am glad I went, even though my focus and performance wasn't what I wanted it to be.  It was a valuable learning experience, and that's the most important take away.

This coming Sunday is a different kind of cycling commitment.  I'm a ride marshal for the Lymphoma Research Ride.  I've been a volunteer for this since it's inception four years ago - excepting last year when I was actually in treatment for Hodgkins Lymphoma.   I think that ride was 2 days after a chemo session.   Talk about your irony ...

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Not Much Change

They've taken dad off the sedative but he's still not responding to any stimulous.  He is calmer now than he was last night when it was reduced.   That probably just means a reduced level of conciousness.  As long as he's not agitated it'll probably stay off to see if he gets more responsive.  We'd like to get him off the ventilator if we can. 

The temperature is normal for the moment.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Dad's in the Hospital with West Nile

I had to help my mom get my dad to the hospital on Sunday.  He had had a fever over the weekend and was very shaky to the point where she needed my help just to get him down the stairs to the car.   They wound up admitting him on Sunday.  He had a fever, he was very shaky and unsteady and a little bit dissoriented.  Late Monday/Early Tuesday he had deteriorated to the point that they needed a rapid response team to quickly address the fever.  At that point they also moved him to the ICU.  When I saw him on Tuesday he was mostly delerious and they were still struggling to control the fever.  They brought in an Infectious Disease doc to aid with the diagnosis.  Based on the blood results they settled on West Nile Virus.   Tuesday night he dropped his oxygen saturation and they had to make the decision to intubate him to control his breathing with a ventilator. 

Right now hes still on the ventilator, and they're controlling the fever ( somewhat) with drugs and cooling blankets.  All they can do is address the symptoms and support him while he fights this off.  One significant complication is that he has a low grade lymphoma that compromises his immune system.  One of the associated conditions with West Nile is encephalitis (sp?) or swelling in the brain.   We presume that's happening, given the widespread muscular tremors and extreme dissorientation/delerium. 

He's very sick right now.   With my Hodgkins I've had a potential life threatening disease, but never been close to being sick enough to need round the clock supportive care.   There was no news last night, which I'll presume is a good thing.   Going back to see him this morning and expecting more of the same.   Docs say the recovery from this acute phase could take 2 weeks, with full recovery being several weeks or a few months after that.  

Headed back to the hospital this moring.   We'll talk to the docs and get the latest.

Monday, August 23, 2010

A Very Savage Weekend

There is a triathlon that's held in western Maryland annually called the Savage Man .   It's a half iron man distance and includes a brutally tough ("savage") bike portion.  What makes it hard is the climbing in and around Savage River State Forest.

I rode the bike portion of that course on Sunday.  I rode it two years ago, but due to some wrong turns, rain, and fatigue I cut off some of the shorter later climbs, which I assumed were not significant.  They are.

 The climbing starts with a section called the "Westernport Wall" which includes a 31% grade on a fractured concrete slab of a road in the town of Westernport, MD.  This leads into a 7 mile/ 1950 ft. climb up Big Savage Mountain.  From there there are numerous shorter but brutally steep climbs that keep coming for the next 30 miles.   Here are some quotes from their website describing the ride.

  • "If, after finishing the SavageMan 70.0 Triathlon, you feel you have previously completed a similar distance race that is more scenic and more savage, race management will refund your entry fee complete with a profound apology."
  • "It is of utmost importance that riders ensure their bikes are in good working condition as this bike course includes some steep, technical descents. There is a mandatory pre-race bike check and athletes whose bikes do not pass inspection will not be permitted to start the SavageMan 70.0 Triathlon."
  • "the hardest 30 miles in all of triathlon"
  • Killer Miller: The first 0.6 miles of the climb shoot seemingly straight up at an unfair pitch, forgoing switchbacks to head straight up the hillside at an average of 13% with stretches over 20% before leveling out to a more gradual summit
I rode this with my wife and brother in law on Saturday.  Before we had gone a mile we came across two other cyclists (triathletes) who were also riding the course that day.  An older lady, Ellie, and her friend Joe.  Ellie was local and had ridden the course a dozen times, and completed the triathlon several times as well.  Joe was visiting from Columbus OH, and this was his first time.  Joe had one of those IM tattoos, so I presume he was an Iron Man finisher.  But Joe was a big man.   Looked about 5'8", 225#.  I don't think he quite appreciated what he was in for.  We stayed close to Ellie and Joe for the first 18 miles, which is mostly descending from Deep Creek Lake down to Westernport.  The first climbing challenge was the Westernport Wall.  This is the section that got me excited to do this ride two years ago.  I watched videos of triathletes falling over while attempting to ride this section as raucous fans cheered them on.  The first time I rode this course I made it all the way up, with just a little wheel spin near the top.  This time I also made it up.  We spoke to Ellie at the top as she was walking back down to encourage Joe on a second try.  I thought that if Joe knew what was ahead of him there's no way he would making multiple attempts at this hill.  This is not a ride where you can afford to burn your matches indiscriminately.  We continued on leaving Joe to his attempt to master the wall.   With his body type and time trial bike I knew it wasn't going to happen. 

From there we continued up the climb of Big Savage Mountain.   This would start a trend for the day where I'd be a little bit off the back of my brother in law, John, for most of the climbs.   He's lost about 50 or 60 pounds in the past year and has some very fine form now.   To be honest I'm a bit stunned that he's now able to out ride me on these tough climbs.  And not a little bit dismayed.  This one was by far the longest climb of the day.  The descent after the top is 3 miles of twisty, technical riding.  This is one of the parts that necessitates the aforementioned bike inspection.  It's also where I was able to put HIM off the back for a little bit.  At the bottom we then climbed out of New Germany State Park to take a rest stop at a local store. 

The store is a gas station/convenience store that's right on the route, and the owner has gone out of his way to accommodate cyclists.  He's got any thing you'd need to refuel, and is more than happy to talk your ear off about ANYTHING (be warned!).  We found out later that this store was the end point for Joe that day.  His companion was going to drive back to pick him up there, but the store owner very kindly gave him a ride back to Deep Creek Lake State Park. 

Leaving the store we went immediately (and I mean immediately - as in right across the road) to the final series of climbs.   All of them at grades that frequently past 10%.  Otto Ridge (avg 8%, max 17%), "Killer Miller" (avg 8%, max 22%), and Maynardier Ridge (avg 12%, max 23%).  We took another brief rest after these three, along MD 495 to regroup.  At this point any extended downhill was cause for concern since it had to be followed by an equivalent climb.  As it turned out, the worst was behind us.  There was one more dip into the Savage River State Forest, but the climb out wasn't as long as I feared and it was the last real climbing of the day.  

Leaving the Forest, we headed back to familiar roads.  Waiting to make a turn for our final leg we saw a cyclist approach and turn onto the road we were leaving.   She was going a little bit fast which normally wouldn't have been a problem, but she ran directly across a patch of gravel in the intersection.   I had seen the gravel and watched her start to turn, so I knew what was going to happen next.  Her front wheel hit the gravel, and down she went.  Full body contact on the pavement, then rolling over the curb onto the grass.  It was a dramatic crash, but there were no injuries worse than some moderate road rash on both arms and legs.  We went over and she said she was OK, but still took a minute before she got up.   We helped her up and made sure she was OK then took a look at her bike.  Her name was Cindy (I think?) I was surprised at how  unfazed she was by the crash, but then she told us she was a nurse, and it made sense that she'd realize her road rash was just scrapes and bruises.   She called her son to pick her up and we stayed with her until he did so. 

As we all waited, along came Ellie riding by.   She stopped briefly and filled us in about Joe bailing out at the store.  She had spent enough time waiting for him that she had to cut off her ride, missing the final significant hills.   Cindy's son drove up (did I mention he's only 14 but she has been letting him drive around out there?) and we got her bike loaded into her car, then we went on our way.  The rest of the ride was gentle rollers around the lake.  Or, should I say, normally gentle rollers.   No elevation gain felt "gentle" after the length and grades we had done that day, but we were happy to know there were no more real climbs.

I'd recommend this ride to anyone in the area of Deep Creek Lake who's looking for a real climbing challenge.  It will test your all kinds of climbing skills, descending and handling.  It will make you suffer in the midst of some truely spectacular mountain scenery.   It's 56 miles that feel like 86, and if you underestimate it, well, don't say you weren't warned.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Race Report - Michaux Curse of Dark Hollow

This is not a race I expected to do even two weeks ago.   I had resigned my self to a slow recovery from treatment, then I tweaked my wrist a couple weeks ago (maybe fractured, maybe not?) and I really thought nothing would happen until the fall.  I could tell my climbing was not up to par and I wasn't sure I had the energy to place myself in a race situation and put forth the effort necessary to at least have a respectable run.  

But the wrist didn't keep me from riding, and almost by accident I pre-rode this course last weekend on a short trip up to PA.   Driving back that weekend we discussed the quality of the course compared to the local race.   By Monday I was hard pressed to come up with a reason NOT to go back and do the race, since I had a good look at almost the whole course and thought with a little more preparation (food and drink) I could make a good run of it.

So here's the official report.

Drove up with Ilana on Sunday to race the course we pre-rode last weekend (by luck). It was hot, but the elevation, slight dip in temps and slightly dryer air made it, if not comfortable, certainly noticably better than Saturday around D.C. We got there around 9:00 am and as we were registering we saw Mike T. headed out for the 40 mile race - I think he finished 10th (overall?) in around 4 hours.

Our 20 miler started at 10. They did a LeMans style start, so we ran away from the bikes, through the short finishing chute and back out towards the bikes. First couple miles was technical downhill single track. It was narrow but there were a few places to pass. Then rolling rocky single track for the first 7 miles or so until we got to the first checkpoint/water station. I slowly gained positions but also tried to keep my HR rate down since I knew blowing up on this course would make for an unbearably long day. Just like the pre-ride I flatted on that rocky single track. As I was fixing it, Ilana passed by and told me she was chasing the 1st place woman. Got my flat sorted out (thank God I had TWO CO2 cartriges) and passed Ilana back on one of the uphill gravel road climbs. (There were a few of these, and I was able to make good time on them w/o taxing the legs too much) After another long rocky downhill I passed the leading woman on another gravel road climb and let her know that my teammate was chasing her. It was a good distance between passing Ilana and passing her, so Ilana made up a sizable distance to finaly take the lead.
At the second chekpoint (14 miles?) I had them refil my bottle with Cytomax and borrowed an allen wrench to snug down the linkage bolt on my suspension - it had been rattling and was loosening up. From there it was into the woods again for double/single track climbs into the (almost) finishing singletrack. This was a meandering, sometimes rocky section in a pine forest. It's lots of fun when you're fresh, not so much when you're flagging. Throughout the second half of the course I'd see occasional riders just sitting by the side of the trail - apparently cooked for the moment. One more fireroad climb, and on this one I started to run out of gas. There was a rider ahead I assumed I should catch, but I just didn't have the energy left to try and run him down. From there we turned onto a powerline trail - downhill leading to a short, steep sun exposed climb (think Wakefield in July), then turned back into the pine forest for more meandering rocky single track. I think my Camelbak emptied out here, but it didn't matter as I still had the Cytomax bottle from the last aid station. I was definitely close to done and just looking for the finishing chute. Lots of almost cramping going on.

I think they said I was 19th overall for 20 mile racers and I wound up 4th for the Vets.  I was slightly in shock that my first race back I had a legitimate placing.  My expectations were definitely middle of the pack. 

After WE were done and cleaning up a bit the T-storms came through with many riders still out on course. That had to be interesting. Glad I finished before that. It would have made those last sections of tight rocky singletrack much more difficult, especially if you were worn out at the end of a 3+ hour hard ride.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

His stomach must have been full of anger

Started my ride home from the metro station as ususal last night.   Sometimes I get lucky with the left turn arrows and I can piggy back on that signal, which is what I did (start in the crosswalk from the sidewalk, and blend in to the left turn flowing traffic.   A guy in a car who was sitting at the red light, waiting to go straight ahead leans on his horn and flips me off.   I was not impeding him in any way.   Me being there or not would have had no bearing on how fast he got anywhere.  He seemed to simply be upset that I "severely bent" the traffic signals on my bike.  

I think I have a better time understanding the driver behind me who gets beligerent because he has to slow down for me and my bike, even though in that situation I'm completely within the bounds of the traffic laws. 

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Appreciation for the cancer docs

Really for all the medical professionals who take care of cancer patients.  I recently dealt with my PCP for an unrelated issue and I have to say the whole experience was far less than satisfying.  I made arrangements to get into the office early enough (Friday) to have any necessary tests performed, only to be delayed IN the office to the point where I had to wait until Monday for the tests.

Monday the results either didn't get to my PCP, or his office didn't acknowledge them.

Tuesday (today) I had to follow up on both ends (dr. and radiology lab) to finally get my result.

Which was apparently wrong, according to my doctor/cousin in the field, not to mention the ARROW ON THE FILM POINTING TO THE DEFECT.

So now I'm having to continue working my case into tomorrow, when it should have been resolved (diagnostically) yesterday.