Monday, August 11, 2014

Another Month Slips by...

You'd think by my silence here and with my continuing health issues that I'd be doing nothing and falling into a deep deep depression.  But you'd be wrong.  If anything I've been too busy to post and my wrists have been ping-ponging so much every time I think I have some progress worth reporting things relapse and I think I'm screwed once again.

But I'm happy to report that my wrists have trended well for long enough that I feel like updating on that front as well as all the other crap I've been up to.  Last really bad weekend I had was my bach'fest weekend.  I don't know if anyone noticed.  I've gotten pretty good at compartmentalizing the pain.  Not sure what I did but Saturday night into Sunday morning was less than awesome.  Luckily that weekend was 150% full blown awesome so it more than balanced things out.

Luckily I had a PT appointment shortly after that trip and we tried a new treatment called Graston Technique.  It's fairly brutal but I love it.  Basically involves a series of metal tools with different shapes / edges that get 'scraped' along muscles to break up adhesions.  Doc went to town on my right forearm and the next day was a complete 180 from that #shittywrist weekend.

There have been a few mini relapses since then but I've gotten a second Graston treatment and some new stretches to focus on the remaining aspects of my mobility that have improved the least since we started and they really seem to be helping.  Everyday I'm gaining more and more confidence that this isn't something nasty that is insurmountable.  I'm heading back in to see the Ortho in a week or so and I will be pressuring him hard to use his Doctor brain to posit some additional theories other than Rheumatoid.

In and among the ups and downs I've managed to stay pretty active this summer, albeit without any racing.  This ordeal has created a bit of a shake up in what I can and can't do for fun and fitness and some good has actually come from this.  Not only have I managed to stay fit but I think I'm probably climbing as well as I ever have on my road bike.  VAM numbers are consistently over 1,000 and I've even been flirting with road KOMs again.  Ideally I would love to be able to ride off road a bit more but road seems to work a bit better for me right now and being able to do gravel and dirt on the Macho Man has been awesome.  So many new loops and opportunities for really interesting rides.

For instance last week Eric and I rode out of the shop and in the span of 18mi got over 2,000ft of climbing taking in the access road up the back of Belknap Mountain.  Crazy steep dirt switchbacks, actually felt like a true alpine climb although it wasn't really all that long.  Then after the sketchy descent we cut through the woods on an old trial that was just a bit wider than singletrack.

My inability to get on a bike first thing in the morning due to wrist stiffness has also introduced the lunch ride into my arsenal.  I loved commuting but I think I might like consistent lunch rides better.  I think one of the big reasons my fitness is what it is right now has been these faster / harder 10mi loops on lunch.  Target a few segments and before you know it I've been accidentally training for CX for weeks.

Speaking of CX that should be hilarious.  I've got my USA Cycling license and I'm looking forward to showing up to my first Cat 5 race in a full on pink skinsuit.  I think CX could be my savior this year.  I can get my racing fix without a huge time commitment or as much risk for my wrists.

I'm interested to see what this will mean for me long term.  Assuming I get past this whole wrist thing I can't honestly say its likely I return to my full blown MTB race schedule of years past.  If CX works and I like it I see myself targeting 2-4 MTB races with the primary goal being the team and having fun then getting a few additional CX races in the Fall.  I know now I can get my fitness without racing a bike hard all the time.  Without the full race schedule this year I've gotten to spend more time with Gina which has been great.  Trips to the beach, getting up to Littleton.  I was able to snag a 4,000ft'er with Mike.  Racing is great, setting and reaching goals is great but ultimately meaningless when compared to the other stuff.  Don't forget to enjoy the view.

Who knows maybe I had spent too much time leaning in one direction and this whole year has been the Universe helping me to balance things back out.  I would have preferred a less drastic approach but if I'm being honest with myself nothing short of this would have worked.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Linking Franklin Falls, Highland XC & Spaulding Woods

I've had this idea in my head for a bit now, maybe a year or so?  Highland and Spaulding have come a long way in a short time with their XC trails.  They don't have a ton of mileage per se but the quality of what is there now is really good and definitely worth checking out.

I was fairly certain that linking them all up via bike would certainly be possible but I wasn't sure if it would be more of a slog where you could say 'OK I did that but never again'.  I'm happy to report that not only is it not a slog at all but it is down right reasonable if not fully enjoyable.  That is if you like riding your bike for 4-6hrs.

I pitched the idea to Doug P. who certainly likes riding his bike for as long as possible and he signed right up. We started the day at FFD riding everything on offer there.  Its nice to be able to ride the first 10 or so miles there as a warm up without really needing to haul much gear because you can always stop at the car to grab extra gear before hitting the road.  Grabbed a few bottles and my camelbak and we set off down the road.

We took Babbitt Rd. off Rt.127 to Sanborn St.  Eventually Sanborn turns into dirt (at Calef Hill) road name might technically change as well but who knows really. After a short distance that dirt road veers right and probably turns into someones driveway but if you stay straight it turns into a logging / jeep road that Google calls Pest House Rd.

Pest House was actually a pleasant surprise.  It was interesting riding terrain, a bit like some of the stuff in NH100.  Rutted out double track with some boulders here and there  There was a small logging operation going and there was a sign that said 'Motion Cameras in Use' but I think that is probably more to deter the jeeps tearing everything up.  It was a nice little climb heading out and a really fun/fast descent coming back.

The rest of the way was pavement over to Highland.  A nice cruise into Tilton and then a bit of a climb up to Highland.  Highlands XC network was interesting.  Really well built trails but geared a bit more towards the dualie crowd if you ask me.  Don't get me wrong they are some sweet trails but if you are on a hardtail you had better stay attentive.  Lots of up and down (ski hill go figure).  Up the fireroad climb and pick a trail down...repeat.

Getting over to Spaulding Woods is incredibly easy.  Basically a straight shot on Keasor Rd. which turns into Reservoir and then you cross Bay Hill and get onto Spaulding Rd.  The School cut a nice access trail called Pat's Outback so that you can get to the trail system without cutting across the school trails/property.  After getting everything  at Spaulding its a nice easy cruise down into Tilton and a stop at a gas station for a refuel.

After that its a gentle climb back up to Pest House a fun rip down and back to FFD.  Around 40 miles with half of that being single track.  Not too shabby.  AND its some of the best flowy / fast single track in NH along with some great technical / enduro-ish stuff at Highland and a bit of a mix of everything at Spaulding.  Something for everyone.  Dare a say a perfect little endurance ride?  Good ratio of trail to connector. Places to stop for calories at good intervals not sure what else you would really need?

I'm looking forward to doing this one again as well as linking FFD and Page Hill and maybe one day linking them all.  I'm also trying to figure out linking Ahern to Ramblin Vewe on the other side of the lakes.  That should be another easy one and if I new Laconia a bit better that would be mostly singletrack but I don't know the sandpits well enough yet.  Maybe I can talk Eric into that one soon....BIKES!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Spot Rocker Wuss Mode Complete

As most of you know I've been slowly working my way to a modified ride that my new frail body can handle and actually ride consistently without crumbling under the stress.  And even though #kevinsfakingit I'm convinced now that I have made the right call and that I'll actually be able to ride this thing consistently in a way that will make me happy and allow me to keep riding it even on consecutive days.

Will I ever really be able to race it again? Maybe yes maybe no.  Thats where things get a bit weird and my answer to that changes constantly.  In the days leading up to today it would have been a certain yes but this morning I had a somewhat random bad day where riding (at least this morning) would have been totally out of the question.  If today had been lets say July 19th there is no way I could have started Carrabassett.  Never knowing when those days are going to happen makes it hard to drop $115 on race reg.

So in the mean time I'll just try to ride my bike a bunch.  #wussmode Engage!


This transformation happened somewhat piecemeal but here is the full change log:

Wuss cockpit: 10mm shorter stem to bring the bars back and shift more weight off my hands as well as some riser bars to bring my stance up.  Finished it off by going back to the GX-1 Ergon grips.  I think they do a great job of relieving pressure on the ulna side of the wrist which is my biggest trouble spot.  The pair I had before had stripped clamps but it feels like they've made some design tweaks since then and I don't think spinning or stripping will be an issue with these. I went with PRO white, which is always a mistake because they get gross looking eventually but for now they look SWEET.

Wuss drivetrain: 1 x 10! Its the new single speed! Literally everyone is doing it.  If I was healthy I would still be SS without a doubt but I actually really like this setup.  I actually surprisingly took right back to riding gears at NEMBAfest.  I really like the ability they give me to ride lots of miles and not get tired.  This setup makes the riding I like to do that much easier for me to pull off reasonably AND allows me to do those rides much more frequently without being utterly exhausted.  True, I'm not getting as strong as I would be doing that all single speed but I've become ok with that.  Like Jake said I've put in enough pain, its time to cash in.

Plus gears work so much better now than they did the last time I used them 8 years ago! Who would have thought that was even possible??? These new fangled wide-narrow rings are pretty simple and amazing.  Completely changes the game with these '1 by' setups.  And these clutch derailleurs are spot on, quiet, they come with a lockout for easier wheel changes and maintenance.  Just about everything I hated about gears has been addressed.  Nice work bike industry!

My Strava feed is going to be polluted with all kinds of rides like this one.  Look for me to be linking everything, all the time, worldwide.

Monday, June 23, 2014

NEMBAfest 2014

Sweet Jesus.  There is no way I'm going to be able to adequately put into words how awesome this event is.  If you ride a bike in New England (or beyond) and you somehow come up with some reason to not attend you are probably a bit mental.  Sure there are some legit excuses but all attempts should be made to experience the awesome of a full weekend of killer everything bike related.

My weekend went about as well as I could have hoped for.  I had some reservations as to how my body was going to hold up.  This was my first time back on dirt in weeks and I was going to be testing out all of my bike modifications for the first time.  All of which it turns out were good decisions for me, at least for right now.

Cockpit changes are definitely a lot more comfortable and the gears allow me to sit and grind heading up so I don't have to rip the front end back and forth.  I was certain I was going to ride a geared bike all wrong but surprisingly I remembered to actually use the gears in most cases and even remembered to shift before the drivetrain was under a lot of load.  Hard to say if I was truly any faster over all.  I wasn't exactly hammering and I was certainly climbing certain sections slower but I can tell you without doubt I was riding similarly fast MUCH more efficiently.  Riding gears is so easy.  I kept waiting to get really tired and it never really happened.  All told I got 50+ miles on dirt this weekend.

It felt really good to be riding a bit like myself again.  I still get some pain when the speeds get high and the terrain gets a bit chattery or chunky but for the most part I was riding about how I would have.  I was even accused by Mick of faking this entire time.

I was still waking up with quite a bit of stiffness and soreness but some painkillers and stretching got me back on terms by mid morning to the point that I felt ok to ride again with help from my braces.  Didn't really seem to get any worse day to day so there was no real cumulative effect.  So I guess the order is keep working at the PT and feel free to mix dirt back into the mix.

The only thing I'm worried about is that now that I'm close enough to "full health" I'll just go back in full bore and I'll never make it past this point so I'll need to be careful / smart.  I'm already itching to do bigger rides on the MTB now and I was even starting to think about Carrabassett being a reality for me.  I'm going to try and be good though and go at this in a very calculated way.

Weekend didn't go ALL good though.  The biggest tragedy was snapping the rail on my beloved SDG Bel-Air that I have been riding probably for at least the last 10 years.  It finally gave up on my night ride Friday but like a true gladiator it somehow remained solid even with one completely sheared rail and got me home just fine.  Luckily I was able to get a saddle at the expo the next day.  My best option was a WTB Silverado Slimline that I actually kinda like now after riding it 30+miles Saturday and Sunday.  If you are going to break something do it at a giant festival, you'll be covered no problem.

I was also really pleased with the team presence at the event.  It really seems like at least a subset of the team is really 'gel'ing' well.  I have high hopes for the future.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Check 1, 2

Oh man has it really been a month since my last post?

So many things movin' and shakin'.  PT has begun and progress is being made.  I still can't really rule out there isn't some nasty underlying issue causing all this but it definitely seems like I'm going to be able to get myself to a better place doing these various stretches and exercises regularly.  I've got all kinds of cool PT toys now and I'm doing things like the 'reverse waiter' and 'the chipmunk game'.

I'm also crashing my cross bike and getting covered in road rash.  Does that count as therapy?  I didn't put my hands out to break my fall so no setbacks in that department.  Just a bunch of annoying scabs on my elbow and knee.  This was the first time I've crashed on a 'road' ride since I got pinched out of a B2B ride peloton into a parked car.  It was a pretty classic dirt road goof on my part.  Too much speed into a 90 degree turn and choose the wrong rut to commit to.

I was probably only 2 miles from home at the end of a 55+ mile ride.  I was pretty gas'd and just trying to limp back in.  I had a few options on how to get home and I choose the one with a bigger early descent instead of finishing off a bigger climb.  Whoops.  That steep descent led to the turn in question.  Dove into the turn and the dirt just disintegrated and my wheel dug in.  Luckily it sloughed a bit and I didn't endo and explode.  I tried quickly to muscle through but I was just too tired and flopped into the ditch.  It was relatively "controlled" but it doesn't take much for that gravely dirt to shred all your skin off.

I am thoroughly digging these mixed dirt/road rides I've been focusing on lately.  Getting in some new routes and locations that I've been missing out on all these years.  Dirt roads around here seem to be guaranteed hilly and many of these rides have been chock full of vert.

On the MTB front the mods continue.  Finally got around to installing my new cockpit setup.  Shorter stem, riser bars and (although not in this pic) I re-found my Ergon grips that I ran a year or two ago.  I had totally forgot I had them and remembered that the only reason I stopped running them was because I couldn't get them to grip my carbon bars and they would spin under higher SS torque.  Bar is aluminum now and there will also be less torque due to my second mod decision which is GEARS.

I know. Blasphemy.  It was a hard decision to make.  But I think it was the right one.  At least for awhile.  Sitting and spinning at times will be much easier for my wrists and gears will actually allow me to do some of the longer format rides I like to do a bit easier and more time efficient by being able to actually pedal the flats etc.

Bike is at Chainline now, parts are ordered for the 1x10 conversion.  Just waiting on a new dropout with a hanger from Spot and hopefully I'll have it converted and ready to ride for NEMBAfest.  That will be my first time back on dirt in weeks.  Cautiously optimistic.