Monday, April 28, 2014

NEMBA Racing Kick-Off

Well I can't say it went off without a hitch but it was pretty close.  We did have one rider fall off the pace a bit and we didn't manage regroups well enough early and he ended up calling it a day within the first few miles.  I feel bad about it and I learned some lessons in how to try and manage that better, I guess that's all you can hope for.

I'm very excited about this year though.  We've got a good group of people that all look pretty motivated and ready to go.  I've even finally got two riders who are committed to riding/racing a bunch of Enduro this year and are willing to help me lay the groundwork for a full Enduro team as part of the program next year.

Meet and Greet was part of the agenda and the other part for me was additional testing of body and gear under trail riding conditions.  Believe it or not this was my first time back on dirt and I had no idea how wrists would behave under actual off road riding conditions.  My EVS WB01 wrists braces and my new X-Fusion Slide29 fork were getting their first go-round of paceline decently paced riding.  Make or break time.

I've already had a pretty good idea that the braces were going to work pretty well based on my initial commuting and road experiments.  And they are geared more towards an MTB riding hand position so I was fairly certain they were going to work great as far as support.  What I wasn't sure about was comfort deeper into a longer/bumpier ride.  Happy to report I didn't have any issues with hotspots or circulation getting cut off.  They stayed put and support on the axis they were designed for was great.

One thing I did notice was I'm still a bit vulnerable side to side with those little wiggle moves you have to do sometimes in fast twisty stuff.  I had a bit of pain and weakness at times that bumped me from my line or had me adjusting speed to make sure I didn't lose control.  Not sure there is going to be much I can do about that, just one of the concessions I'm going to need to make.  Good thing is tight and twisty is one of my fortes so even at 3/4 I'm just as fast/good as a lot of other riders.  And interestingly enough about 6-7mi into the ride things started to loosen up a bit (probably just due to adrenaline and endorphins) and that pain/weakness went away and I was shredding at just about full speed without issue.

Going along hand in hand with my ability to shred is my new fork. WHICH I LOVE.  In all aspects.  I was probably most surprised with the steering accuracy.  Absolutely no issues holding true lines.  The action was incredibly smooth, forgot it was there for a majority of the ride.  Their suggested 70psi seems to be ideal for my weight and with the rebound set at about halfway I couldn't be happier with its trail qualities.  The lockout behaved great, although I didn't need it much.  Pretty amazed I could get a fork this good for just north of $300.

So long story short my body and gear held up surprisingly well and I would say 6-7mi into the ride I was riding just as fast as a 'pre all these issues' me would have been riding this time of year.  Lots of enjoyment was had.  BUT...

I woke up this morning to some pretty thrashed wrists.  I think I could have avoided this a bit with a better more aggressive post ride ice routine instead I went straight to beer and burgers.  I'm going to have to experiment with just how far and diligent I need to be about that but I think I'm going to have to do what it takes to always have access to copious amounts of ice post ride no matter what.  I need to develop a full post ride anti-inflammation attack plan and implement it with extreme prejudice.

Monday, April 21, 2014

What Have I Learned This Week

Bunch of stuff.

1. Cortisone shots can hurt pretty good but that is one hell of a drug.
2. On One Midge bars aren't great if you have #shittywrists (at least that is my experience)
3. EVS makes some sweet wrist braces
4. My new 'road' bike is seriously kick ass
5. I won't be able to shred singletrack with complete abandon but I will be able to shred

Saw the foot Doc this past Wed.  He was a bit confused as to the amount of swelling I still had around the joints in question.  I told him about some of my other diagnoses I had received and he explained that it could be arthritis and that rheumatoid can very frequently present in the small toe joints.  He wanted me to get tested for the full slew of auto-immune stuff again that I already got and tested negative for.  So its still a guessing game.  Symptoms say one thing, tests say the other.  Somebody get me Dr. House.

I did end up getting a cortisone shot in the foot to deal with the symptoms and man do those things hurt.  It wasn't all that bad in the grand scheme but for some reason I was expecting no worse than a tetanus shot so it snuck up on me a bit.  But once that stuff kicked in...Magic.  We'll see how long it holds.

Tried commuting on Friday.  Ended up being a bit colder in the morning than forecast and I didn't layer all that well so that was awesome.  I also realized fairly quickly that my wrists didn't really like any of my available hand positions with the Midge bars.  Something about the flare and the brake levers being slightly off axis just doesn't work.  The reach to the levers was always a bit far and now with reduced grip strength my braking power isn't awesome.  Throw in numb fingers and you've got yourself an exciting ride.

I think I'm going to need to make some changes, first to the bars and possible even to a set of brifters.  The bar end shifters were a bit hard to work with at the angle they are at and they aren't indexed which also makes them a bit harder to work with when you don't have the best dexterity.  Gonna swap the bars to a pair of standard road drops I have in the parts bin to see what I get and go from there.

Got my first experience with the EVS wrist braces this weekend both with my road bike and on a quick MTB shakedown ride down the road.  I'm going to save the official review for a bit more ride time but so far I am very pleased and its looking like my ability to continue riding is all but assured.

Speaking of my 'road' bike I love it a real lot.  Did a nice little mixed 70/30 pavement/dirt ride around the neighborhood and while my fitness is god awful right now I really enjoyed being able to just go wherever I want and have a bike that is more than capable.  I am sticking by the Macho Man being one of my best build decisions ever.

Also had a few minutes to kill Sunday and I really wanted to see how my fork rides and the braces feel on the MTB before the team meet and greet ride this coming Sunday so I threw on my shoes, helmet and braces and took off down the road.  Granted it was a half mile down the road but Sanbornton roads are not buff by any means so I got to see the fork in action and I'm liking what I see.  Action was smooth, didn't even know it was there in most cases and the lockout worked great on the climb back up.

Braces held strong and the pain was minimal.  I was particularly pleased with the lack of pain while pulling up on the bars.  I was worried that was going to be my downfall but I think its going to work out ok.  That said I took a few more jarring jolts and I definitely feel it up through my wrists so I'm going to have to ride clean.  Luckily years of riding rigid has cleaned up my line selection pretty well.

I'm far less concerned about the season (and the rest of my riding career) than I was a few weeks ago.  But if there is one thing I've learned about arthritis, things can change hour to hour so I've got to stay diligent and be smart.