Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Seagull Century Ride - A wonderful experience!

Bike packed and ready to go! I only need to throw the wheels on top.

The road to Assateague Island. You can see two of the only four hills on the course in the distance.

The wild horses on Assateague.

Pie and ice cream under the shelter at the last rest stop. :)

Go Team! :)

My adventure started last Wednesday when I spent about an hour trying to fit my bike into the small case I rented to ship the bike on the airplane with me. I started by removing the seat, post and all, and the handlebars from the vertical post. Then, off came the pedals. It's always a little tricky to figure out which way to turn the pedal wrench since it is different for each side. Finally, I removed both wheels. After fiddling for another half hour I figured out the best way to orient the handlebars on the frame to have the best chance of getting everything in the case. But, it was still not good enough. I removed the rear derailleur. Close, but not quite enough. Finally, the skewers came out of both wheels and the case closed easily. I took a picture so I would remember when it came time to pack it up again.

I met my teammates at the airport on Thursday morning for the 1 hour flight to Baltimore. Our coach had driven the day before to Salisbury, MD. taking the tandem bicycle that one couple on our team would ride on Saturday. A two hour shuttle ride from the Baltimore airport brought us to our Holiday Inn in Salisbury and we set about unpacking an assembling our bikes. That evening, we road (by car) to Ocean City, MD. to take a walk on the boardwalk by the sea and to sample the local fare at a very nice restaurant.

The next morning, I was up early for a 10 mile ride with the team to check our bikes and warm up for the ride on Saturday. At the expo that afternoon, I bought a couple of CO2 cartridges for my pump and a pair of bicycle shorts, and picked up my official Seagull Century shirt. Later that evening, we all went to the TNT inspiration dinner and turned in early for the big event on the morrow. I had brought my heart rate monitor and discussed with the coach my plan to start the ride with a slow warmup, making sure that my heart rate generally stayed below about 120 bpm. He was fully supportive and planned to stay back in case anyone on the team needed assistance. I was expecting to do about 12 mph. But, as it turned out, that was a low estimate.

On the morning of the big day, we were all up at 6AM grabbing bananas, orange juice, bagels, or whatever to fuel ourselves for a long day. The start was a rather informal affair. The expectation was that every one of the 8,000 to 9,000 registered cyclists would start some time between 7AM and 9AM. We left the hotel on our bikes at around 7AM and a mile and a half later merged with the riders about 2 blocks from the starting line coming out of the tunnel that we would enter on our way to that same line for the finish of the ride some 9 hours later.

There were nine people on our team. Six took the lead. The coach, myself, and one other rider stayed together a short distance behind the leaders. We met the lead group at each of the 4 rest stops on the course and close to the end of the ride where we all finished together. The day was clear with ideal temperatures from 50 to 70 degrees F (10 - 20 C). The course was mostly flat with only 4 sizeable, but short hills. The real challenge was the wind. It was mostly at our back on the way out. But, for the last 30 - 40 miles we faced up to 30 mph head winds most of the time. The rest stop at about 65 miles was on Assateague Island, where we stopped to admire the wild "animals" with their bicycles and a few wild horses. The real treat was the apple pie and ice cream which was served at the 85 mile rest stop. This has come to be a much anticipated tradition for this particular ride. I ended up in a ditch at the side of the road when I clipped the rear wheel of a teammate while negotiating a narrow shoulder in a fierce head wind. Nothing wounded but my pride, I was quickly back up and on my way. The whole team reassembled a few miles from the finish and ended our ride with our famous cheer - "O" "H" ... "I" "O". It was a gratifying end to a long and enjoyable day!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Seagull in a little over a week!

In another week I will be winging my way to Baltimore in order to participate in the Seagull Century on Saturday, October 15th. The training has been going well. I have finished a number of 25 mile and 50 mile rides. I have also completed two 75 mile rides, the last one in 5 and a half hours. Now I have begun to taper off a little to save my strength for the event.

I actually rode the wheels off my bike with that last 75 miler. Really! After the ride I took my bike to the shop because I could hear the bearings clacking in the rear wheel. When I got my bike back a week later they had replaced both wheels, the bearings in the front tube that holds handle bars, the crank bearings and the chain. It's practically a new bike now. All ready for the big ride.

I also got the go-ahead from the cardiologist after passing a stress test on Monday. That was an interesting experience. When I got on the treadmill, the doctor commented, "This may take awhile". My resting heart rate is typically around 60 beats per minute and the stress test goes to 161 which is my nominal maximum heart rate. I'm getting along better with the cardiologist these days. I think he's finally figured out that these endurance events are important to me and is willing to work with me on this. The SPECT scanner they used to take the pictures is an old Picker Prism. I worked on the software for this scanner when I was at Picker. I recognized the blue and gray UI with the old Motif widgets. Brought back memories of my start in Medical Imaging.

We'll be taking our bikes on the plane with us. That will be a new experience. I'm renting a bike case for the trip. I'll let you know how it all turns out.

Thanks a lot for all your support. I hope to continue this worthy effort for a number of years, my cardiac issues notwithstanding. :)

Sunday, August 28, 2011

48 days and $115 to go

I'm back in the saddle. And, feeling pretty good. After 8 weeks of cardiac rehab, which ended early this month, I have steadily increased my mileage on the bicycle to get ready for the Seagull Century in early October.
Sorry I haven't written sooner. But, I'm still trying to make sense of this. I have never had recognizable symptoms, but I'm glad they found and fixed the blockage when they did. Now, instead of no prescription medication, I am taking 5 pills a day, including a regular aspirin and Lipitor. My cholesterol level has dropped from 270 to 135 and my blood pressure is better. Instead of America's Most Beautiful Bike Ride which was held in June, I will be participating in the Seagull Century next month. I figure sea-level and flat is probably better than 1 mile up with lots of hills. Well, maybe next year for Tahoe.
So, back to the training. I've been riding at lease 10 miles most mornings on the weeks I am at home and getting in an occasional 20 miler during the week. Two weekends ago (Saturday), I completed a 50 miler in under 4 hours. Last weekend I was in Ft. Lauderdale but I walked for about 5 hours on the beach with a colleague from Mako. That walk started out very pleasant, but at the turn-around with the sun getting higher in the sky we both knew we were in for a long walk back to the hotel. Yesterday I completed a 62 mile ride in 4 hours and 44 minutes. That's about 13 miles per hour. At that rate, I should be able to finish the 100 mile ride in just under 8 hours. I figure if I can get to 75-80 miles in training I should be all set. We'll see. I'm not looking to beat anyone, just finish.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Seagull Century! Here I come!

Sorry I haven't written for a while. To be honest, I've been feeling a little sorry for myself and trying to make sense of my new situation - two Cardiac stents and a new sense of vulnerability. But, I'm over that for now. :)

All is not lost! Yes, I'm afraid America's Most Beautiful Bike Ride around Lake Tahoe is not in the cards for me this year. Maybe next year. But, Team in Training is allowing me to transfer most of my funds and my event selection to the Seagull Century Ride. The ride is in Maryland on October 15th. This should give me plenty of time to train and to convince the Cardiologist that this is the best thing for me to do. The course is relatively flat and at sea level. A better venue for me right now than mile-high Lake Tahoe with a course that involves a number of very challenging hills. I'm psyched!

Go Team!!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Lake Tahoe

The good news is. I have raised $2,985 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. I am only about $700 short of my fund raising commitment with only about a month and a half to go.

The bad news is. Although I will have raised a significant amount of money for a very worthy cause, I may not be able to go to Tahoe for the event. Friday a week ago, I was in the hospital for a cardiac catheterization. The surgeon placed two stents in my left anterior descending artery, the one they call the "widow-maker". Now I have gone from no medication to 5 meds a day including aspirin. Two blood thinners, two blood pressure meds, and a statin to lower my cholesterol.
The wierd thing is. I have never had symptoms that I could detect and I still feel fine. What prompted this was findings on a chest CT that I had done for a completely different reason, which turned out to be nothing.

Major bummer! But, I plan to be back on my bike as soon as the weather clears and I will see what I am able to handle. God willing, I'll be able to try again next year.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

San Diego Rock 'n Roll Marathon - the day of the race.

3:30AM on the west coast, June 6th, I am up and out of bed, girding myself as if for battle. Sweat band, cycling cap, RFID timer and emergency information tag laced into my shoes, and, yes, compression socks all added to my armament. I remind myself that this is the anniversary of the day the Allies invaded "Fortress Europe" during World War II. My effort pales in comparison, but it is still my effort. And I feel a little, just a little, trepidation because I know I am not adequately trained. But, I am resolved to complete the distance, 26 miles and 385 yards.

We board the bus, which will take us to the start, at 4:30AM. Balboa Park is a surreal collection of klieg lights, UPS trucks, tables, tents, port-a-potties, and, of course, runners. There are 30,000 of us at the start. We fill the street for about a quarter of a mile behind the starting line. We are in groups, called corrals, based on our anticipated finish time.

The first group starts at 6:15. My group starts sometime between 6:30 and 6:45. We spend a long time "inching" toward the start before beginning our race. We start in what the locals call "June Gloom", what I would call "morning fog". The fog lasts until about 10AM and spares the slower runners, like me, much of the heat from the morning sun. I run with one of my team-mates for about 6.5 miles until her "trick knee" sidelines her for a short while. She ends up beating me to the finish, probably passing me at around mile 16, but I don't see her again until after the race. It's a long race.

Through much of the first 10 miles we run through Balboa Park (twice), downtown San Diego, and along the harbor. It is a lovely course with live bands every 2 miles or so. Very inspiring. After that is a 4-5 mile stretch of freeway which they have shut off to traffic for the race. I busy myself watching for the many Elvis impersonators who are running and enjoying the many people who have turned out to cheer us on.

About half-way through the race, I felt like I might need something other than the aide drinks to fuel my run. The easiest thing to take at a time like this is this stuff called Gu. Sure enough, that's what they are offering at the aide station just before mile 14 on the course. So, I grab a raspberry and a vanilla flavor packet. Now, for me, injesting this concoction is a real challenge. It is very thick and extremely sweet. Every time I try to swallow this substance, it immediately triggers my gag reflex. So, determined to get it down in order to fuel the rest of my run, I squeeze the entire contents into my mouth and ignore the impulse to immediately expell it long enough to down a full cup of water. It works and I am on my way again.

At 16 miles, I know I am finished. After that point in the race, I am only able to manage maybe a 100 yard trot at rare intervals, but I know I am walking most of the rest of the race. The bottoms of my feet are each covered with giant blisters. I have made the rookie mistake of dumping one cup of water over my head at each water stop early in the race in an effort to keep cool. The water has soaked my socks and is causing me to rub blisters into the bottom of both of my feet.

Mile 18 brought us to Mission Bay. The run around Mission Bay and Fiesta Island took forever. The discouraging thing is that you can look across the bay to the island and see a long line of "ants", runners who are a full 4 miles ahead of you on the course. I have the strongest urge to turn this into an aqua run (partial triathlon?) and swim across the bay to cut 4 miles out of the run. But, I just continue on dry land, putting one foot in front of the other. It is a long slog in what is now a full sun. Occasional cool breezes across the bay serve to slightly reduce my misery. The greater the misery, the sweeter the finish. I am determined to persevere! Live bands along this stretch of the course still inspire if only for a short while and the hundreds of volunteers and supporters are very much appreciated.

We finish at Sea World. I manage a half-hearted trot/shuffle and a heart-felt smile while crossing the finish line. My official time is 6 hours and 6 minutes. Not pretty, but I'll take the finish. I will do this again, but I hope to be better trained next time.

The race is billed as the San Diego Rock 'n Roll Marathon to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and the purple shirted runners from Team in Training were everywhere you looked. 4,000 runners from chapters all over the country competed and together raised over $12,000,000 to find a cure for blood cancers. That is, afterall, what this is really all about.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

19 days and $1809 to go.

Thanks to everyone who contributed my place on the San Diego team is assured! That's the good news. Also, my calf cramps seem to be totally cured with my use of the compression stockings. But...

Now, for the "not so good" news. After my 18 mile run about 3 weeks ago, I planned an easier week with a maximum run of about 12 miles on the following weekend. I ended up walking the last two miles of that run with a muscle cramp or pain in my right hip. I haven't been able to run more than about 3 miles since that day without the pain returning. It doesn't seem to be the joint, thank goodness, but it has definitely knocked me "off my game" with the training. I may be walking a good bit of the marathon in San Diego, but I am determined to finish. The Dr. has diagnosed iliotibial band syndrome, so I am working hard to stretch and strengthen the muscles - hip abductor (tensor fascia lata), gluteus minimus, and gluteus medius - and tendons running down the right side of my right leg. I'm learning about muscles I didn't even know I had!

As I read the material on iliotibial band syndrome, I came across a discussion of greater trochanteric bursitis. This actually matches the symptoms I am having very closely. The cause (building mileage too quickly) also matches. The treatment is anti-inflammatories, moderate rest, and strenghthening and stretching of the muscles I mentioned above. So, that's my plan for the next 3 weeks until race day.