Thursday, May 17, 2012

It's Not All Fun and Games

Actually, my dad would say "It ain't all fun and games", referring to times in life when you had to do things that were, let's say, "unfun". This seems to be a time when I'm feeling this way about a lot of things... work, house/yard work, training. It's an energy low for sure, and it may have to do with listening to too much NPR, or maybe just the weather, which has been unseasonably warm. I did manage a few rides in the last week or so... climbed big mountain on Sunday, about 3300 ft, and felt pretty good. It was Tuesdays ride that about killed me. As the Iron Horse looms closer, I am starting to freak out about my preparation, as I have still not done any substantially long rides. So, on Tuesday, I determined I would go as long as possible in the time that I had (perhaps this is a source of gloominess, because I never seem to have more than 2 hrs in a row to complete anything). The day was hot and windy, and as I started out with my tunes, I soon realized that I had only one song in my low-tech ipod... . I turned back to home and re-sync-ed, and also refilled the fluids. It was hot, and I knew I was starting out a quart (or more) low.

When training time is limited, I find it difficult to spend much time spinning easy and keeping my heart rate down. I figure if I push hard when I'm able to ride, it will pay off more. But riding hard all of the time takes a toll, both mentally and physically. Add heat, and the experience is even more difficult for me. For these reasons, I have developed a training "framework" to not allow quitting or turning around unless some sort of landmark or goal is attained. I decided that I had to make it to the top of a hill that was about 15 miles away from home. As my rides progress, I set new goals along the way, so realizing I would easily attain the first goal, I decided to ride out to 23 miles in order to achieve a round trip of at least 40 miles (the math doesn't seem to make sense, but I had the little ipod loop at the start). The new goal put me into Little Cottonwood Canyon, one of my nemesis(es)/ nemeses? because of its unrelenting grade. Once in the canyon, another goal revision... go 2 miles (to achieve 23) OR until 4:00 pm (because I had to get home in time to fix dinner), whichever came first. Turns out, they occured simultaneously! (Not a big deal really, but it's amazing what you find interesting when you are trying to occupy your mind). Descending, as always, was a blast until I began to feel the awful, extremely painful foot burning.

Perhaps some of you skiers have experienced the terrible foot burning that happens when suddenly your numb feet become engorged with blood and come close to exploding. I get this feeling on my bike quite a bit, perhaps the worst case being when I did my first LOTOJA using my mountain bike pedals and too-small mountain bike shoes. Frequently, I had to stop, jump off the bike and lie down on my back with my feet in the air. Having pedals and shoes that distribute the force on the foot helps quite a bit, but when it is hot and the ride is longer, I still experience this excruciating pain. For me, it is worse than childbirth; at least contractions don't last that long... the foot burn is unrelenting. The best relief is elevating the feet, as the problem is reactive hyperemia or too much blood flow. Hopping off the bike to raise your feet is not an effective racing strategy, so I only use this option in desperate situations. Another partially useful solution is to wiggle and contract the toes and feet in order to push blood out. Last year, during LOTOJA (which was unusually hot) I tried pouring water over my feet, to get some vasoconstriction; cool relief! (for about 10 seconds). Also, shoes full of water probably adds more weight than I would like to think about. Probably the best solution is getting your mind off the pain. I have no idea how to do this, but it has worked for me, as I have had moments of awareness when I thought, "Hey, my feet don't hurt anymore" ... and then the pain returns! So, however I came to stop thinking about the pain worked!

To make a long story short, I completed my 40 miles on Tuesday, with a lot of suffering. I figure if I suffer now, maybe I won't suffer so much later. My weight the next morning was still about 3.5 lbs lower than usual, so I know that dehydration played a major role in the discomfort... working on trying to keep hydrated. It's essential to replenish fluids and calories in the first few hours after a ride, but when you feel awful, it's not always easy. So, as I tell my daughter, "keep moving in the right direction". I'll keep plugging away at work, riding, and all the rest. I know better days are ahead!

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