March 31, 2011

Everybody got problems

Obsessive. Addict. Junkie.

It's not about the bike, or the ride, or the challenge so much as it's about the feelings I get after the ride is done. What scares me, if it's not evident in the last few posts, is losing that high. I don't know what else I could possibly do that would release endorphins quite as effectively as that long, long ride I crave.

Base miles are coming: long, slow, base miles this weekend. I start early. "Dude-early".

I'm happy to report that the oddness in the legs is beginning to leave me - and at the risk of jinxing it, that's good.

I'm going to take things easier - mentally. I have health, I have family. I may never heft that Tejas finishers trophy, and - honestly, not trying to trick myself - that's OK. I have what's important under one roof already, and I have clear sight of the powers watching over us under that roof.

Pain is temporary, and temporary is relative.
I'll get through this.

If I'm supposed to stop, I'm not good at taking hints.

I've been making things too complicated: at its core, bicycling is beautiful. I am not shrinking away from trying to succeed at something (at least not anymore)... just sending myself a reminder to not take it too seriously. There are plenty of professionals that do remarkable things out there that can take things seriously.

Of all the rides I've done, all the amazing memories I've created with lifelong friends out there - well, I can specifically remember the Tinbutt 12-hour race a few years back: It really doesn't matter what I wrote or what kind of observations I made - I didn't hydrate enough the day before, and I ran myself dry at the ride, spent a lot of time sitting in the shade - finally going out for one more lap, because that's all I had time for. I showed up on a lugged steel bike with bar-end shifters, among serious racers with carbon and aerobars. I had a great time. Somehow, by pure luck, I ended up being the only one in my age group... So, I won. Ort and I got a good laugh outta that one.

Though it wasn't said, I have to wonder if those other racers thought I wasn't taking things seriously enough.

I hope so.

I know how to ride a bike.
I know how to have a good time.
What else you want?

March 28, 2011

Older and... wiser?

The 200km brevet weekend came and went - and I stayed home.

Against the strong calls of my passion for the sport and the internal egging-on of "go for it" and "you got this", I elected finally to err on the side of - well - ok, I wimped out. In truth, especially after re-reading last year's March tale of "no training, let's ride a 137 mile permanent", I probably could have just gutted it out. I don't know how I'd be feeling today, or next week - but I could have done it.

After the trials of --- good lord --- the last seven months of just pure madness with regards to the bike and how I feel ON it, I'm just not ready to take any more chances. I'm to the point now where it's really hard to even see where the pain stopped and the mental games began. I really, REALLY, need to learn to leave well-enough alone. The nearly continuous cycle of "oo, that hurts a little", make a change, ride it, "oo, now that hurts over there", change it, ride it, repeat: it never gave my body any time to ease into the changes I'd made the time before. Was it pain, or was it soreness? It was neither: it was impatience.

I think I'm finally at grips with this, but at the time I was so obsessed (and that IS the right word) with getting things "back where they were" that I never stopped to give anything enough time to soak. Despite it all, I have managed to get in a lot of 100km rides and haven't had anything really BAD happen. That should be a success - but at the end of every one, a new tweak. Stupid. I've never been floored, never just collapsed while climbing the stairs - nothing like that: (knock knock) ...which tells me, I've been going about this ALL wrong. Perhaps I'm so paranoid about pain, I've forgotten what real pain *is*. What I've decided to do is stop, pause, and give things time.

I've got the new shoes - whether or not I REALLY needed them, it's done. Just like it would be desperately foolish to start a brevet series on a brand new saddle, or a brand new bike that isn't quite dialed-in, I simply have to accept that these shoes are different. I've made changes to compensate and I need to ease into things slowly. I've gotten away with it in the past - but that was lucky. No more dice-rolls. It's dialed, and I'm leavin' it be until I'm sure it's right. I have locked and hidden all of my allen wrenches and have given the wife the key.

Instead of the brevet, I did a fair amount of miles out and around near the house. The back-of-knee issues are gone: verdict? The saddle was too high. The symptoms matched perfectly (doy), and all this time I may have indeed been looking in the wrong place (ya think?). Back in September when the calf hyper-extension started, it never crossed my mind that it was connected to me retiring my old Shimano sandals - which were thicker at the cleat than what replaced them. Once the thinner shoes were on daily duty, it was only a matter of time. The new shoes are even thinner there.

After dropping the seatpost 3mm, the pain is completely gone. In fact - almost everything feels better. Now, I'm letting it settle in. If the front of the knees starts to hurt, I went too far -- but 3mm is a small move, so we'll see. After that small movement, the cleat position seems to be the last thing on my mind, FINALLY. Maybe that was all it took - but, I'm giving it time. At this writing, a little soreness in places where you'd expect it. Yeah, it's only 3mm, but it's still movement that translates across joints and hits slightly different parts of different muscles. I've been wound up so tight since September, so small wonder I'd be a little sore. But, the difference this time is that it's a GOOD sore, not a hyper-extended sore.

Apparently, whatever stubbornness I lacked with regards to cleat positioning, I made up for it with the seatpost. "That'll never need to change, right?" Jackwagon award, center podium, the Dude. Even one of the above paragraphs is too exhausting when it comes to my fit issues. If it hurts, don't do it. If it's a little sore, but you can still do it, then you're probably close and need to give it time. If I had REALLY torn something, I wouldn't have been able to ride at all. Ask, always, of yourself - is it SORE, or is it PAIN? It's physical work - soreness is normal. Above all - if you have questions, visit your LBS and find a fit-certified person. Not convinced? Get a 2nd or third opinion. If it won't get better, STOP. See a doctor. Not WebMD, not BikeForums, not your cyclocross buddy whose nickname is "The Doctor".... a medical doctor. If you're not giving someone a co-pay, it's not medical advice.

Or, you could pull a 'Dude, and waste 7 months wondering.

I just got scared. Then I got paranoid. "I dialed myself in back in '98, I can do it myself." Fine. I'm over it. The shoes feel great, the new position feels great - and I feel like I got a good ride in, even though it was flipping bone-chilling cold riding back home into the headwind. Brevet? Shoulda, coulda, woulda ... moving on.

My 2011-2012 plan has been appropriately altered, so we'll see you after the first permanent. If that goes well, I'll do another one in May. If that goes well, June. If THAT goes well, July... but I'm not calling it another R-12 run until #6 is in the bag. If THAT goes well, that puts me right here, in 12 months, looking at the KCUC series, and the 300, 400 and 600km brevets - which will ramp me up for Tejas. Yes - it's still a goal.

Enough putzing about - the only thing I can do is fold this up, put it away, and move forward. I will ride long again. I will be strong again. This epoc of pain and ridiculousness is now history. Time to get back to business.

Thanks for reading!

March 25, 2011

To fight another day?

Just checking in, really... Maybe a little lessons-learned post. I had promised a couple posts ago that I wouldn't yammer on about my injury or "the leg" or any such waste of bytes, so I won't really get too much into that - as much as I can promise. It's been an issue, though, and its taught me to pay proper attention to what might have been either variables, direct causes, or things that needed replacing anyways. I have, through the course of diagnosis, winter's layoff and healing time, replaced my pedals - which were ten years old, and had graced as many bikes. ...And my shoes most recently were replaced, which were new at the beginning of 2006. Technology seems to have moved on a little. Knuckle-dragger.

Despite feeling knackered, I've medically confirmed that there are no major issues, injuries, or tears anywhere. That's good - all healed. Getting back to where I was before is the trick nowadays.

The myriad of problems the original injury may have started I made worse by trying to dial things out, yes; but along with learning how to turn off my knee-jerk response to cleat tweaking, I came to the realization after close inspection that those deep gouges in the pedal bodies and the wobbly feeling the soles of my old shoes were giving, might have been part of the issue. Now, lets be clear: new parts do not heal aches and pains. I rested, finally listening to my body. Then, and only then, I decided to basically start over and get everything neutral again - and part of that was refreshing key contact points that I'd successfully gotten every last dime out of. It's money well spent on a lifestyle and hobby that I'm still very much engaged in, even if it takes the rest of spring to pay them off.

So, my lesson? Check your stuff....all your stuff. I run my tires until I can almost see cords and I buy 'em cheap and solid. I buy white handlebar tape and run it until it's dark grey and edge haggard - I think someone called that "beausage"...Rivendell's founder, maybe... Beauty created by usage, something that black bar tape can't provide. In other areas, like the chain, I go the other way and replace probably before I need to: I buy chains cheap, basic, and run them for barely over 1,200 miles before retirement...but, that's because I know I'm sparing the rest of the drivetrain, which is a lot more expensive to replace. Jerseys, shorts, socks, I tend to wear holes into things before I consider retiring them - which is why I seldom buy anything with logos or sponsors on them (ok, that's one reason).
For some reason I'd put shoes and pedals into the same category as stems and seatposts: "you just don't have to replace them". I was wrong here - and the way my new foot/shoe/pedal interface feels confirms it: its not quite "like a whole new bike" the way a wheelset can transform a bicycle, but its WAY more stable and connected. I can, finally, once again feel my larger muscles engaging, and the pains and tweaks that plagued late 2010 are becoming a memory. Of course, setting the cleats where they should be, and adjusting the saddle height to compensate for the new shorter stack height ... and leaving it there while my body gets used to it, and not panicking about aches (as opposed to pain); stretching, and finally adding miles back on slowly. It's sorta like starting over - though I can feel those base miles still hiding in there.
Course, it will help a LOT if I just stop over-thinking stuff.
Written on post-it.  Taped to head.

Brings me to this coming weekend, and the first 200km brevet of the year. I'm forgetting completely about the issues - respectfully - and asking myself, with all this messing about, am I ready?  I've ridden two metric centuries in March, one flatish, one very hilly. Issues? A couple, but since dialed out. Usually, for me, that'd be enough. There is 'rising above' and there is cautious restraint - resting, waiting, living to fight another day. Where am I?

The forecast is borderline epic-bad. Rain. Snow. Sleet. Wind. Temperatures likely hovering a few degrees above freezing for the entire ride, and then dipping near sundown. No sunshine, and seemingly no tailwind. Basically, just the way we like it.
At this writing, as if a second-chance pass has been handed down, it's been rescheduled to Sunday - which removes the precipitation factor, at least.  Hmmmm.
I'm considering it... But I'm also considering that with all I've been through just to get to relatively pain-free riding again, perhaps I should wait. Would it be smarter of me to get back into the game on my own schedule, start with a 200k of my own in a month or so? Should I trust the adjustments I've made and jump in, willing to accept the risk? How far back am I set if I'm wrong? The big tipper: it's a PBP year - and that makes for a more active randonneuring season, but: I'm not going to Paris, don't need to qualify and I've already done this route a dozen times.
So....easy decision, right?

I hate this part.

Everything happens for a reason, also - and even though distance didn't do it to me, perhaps this is something telling me that I should start to consider trying a different kind of riding? Bah, who knows. Thinking too much again.
Couple days, I'll report back.
Thanks for reading!

March 2, 2011

March is upon us

Thank goodness!
Although surely a few reminders of the ending season will still come here and there, it's March and the time for riding ... okay, at least riding without gritting your teeth quite so hard ... is here! Time to watch the trees wake up, hear the robin's song, and watch the sun slowly march back north in the sky.

Also, time to visit to get up to date on the 2011 randonneuring season, if you're into that sort of thing!
I am... duh... and so, as they say, "here we go again."
At this writing, 25 days or so left until the first brevet on the KC calendar is here, and that's my personal goal: to be ready for it.
So far, so good -- February's indoor training has kept me in enough shape to take to the streets and get back into a good routine with commuting to work and starting to ramp up the mileage. There is just enough time to get in a good program of 10-15% increases towards that 125-mile Saturday event - so, with fingers crossed, I've been getting out there and enjoying the warmer afternoons.

I hope you're all doing the same in the KC area.... finally, some nice, NICE days for spinning along!
Enjoy, and talk to you all again soon ---