Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Plans and Mods

The battle continues...

Lately I feel like I'm making a bit of ground. Emphasis on bit.  I'm laying off the MTB for now and lately I've really been trying to avoid pronation and supination (rotational wrist movements) as much as possible.  Lately it seems like that is causing me 80-90% of my pain and avoiding it and making modifications to my day to day dealings at work and at home seems to be working.

I met with my ortho this morning and he is still pretty hell bent on me having inflammatory arthritis and RA specifically.  He was ready to refer me to a rheumatologist and put me on steroids but I told him to chill out and that I wanted to try PT and continue with pain management and activity modification first to see how far I could get.  So I've got a referral to an upper extremity specialist and I start in just under two weeks.  I'm hoping they are so booked because they are really good.

As part of this process I also made a few purchases this week to change up my riding position a bit on some of my bikes.  Shorter stems for my road/cx and MTB to bring the bars in and put a bit more weight back and off my hands.  Gel pads for under the bar tape and some road gloves full of gel as well (SO MUCH GEL).  Also got some riser bars for the MTB to bring the hands up and back even more.  I'm also going to try double wrapping my MTB bars in padded gel bar tape instead of grips to see how that works.

I have high hopes for the PT.  I'm trying to be optimistic but I really do think that I could get to a much better place if I was doing the right stretches and strengthening exercises regularly.  I'm hoping that between a stronger joint and some ride position modifications I can at least ride pain free if not quite as intensely as I'm used to.  I think I can eventually let go of the drive to become a faster racer/rider.  What I really need at this point is to be able to ride (on and off road) and not be completely wrecked in the following days.

But seriously, who wants to ride some Gran Fondos? June 14th. VT. Be there.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Rollercoaster of PAIN

Peaks and troughs. Loopty-loops. Zero gravity. This ride has it all.

Here's your monthly? weekly? I forget how often I've posted about my well being already. Dementia must be setting in.  We'll go with 'periodic' health update.

By now you all know that TVR went pretty bad.  Even taped and braced TVR was just too much.  Set me back a bit but I got back on top of things in time for a little road ride Wed.  That ride felt pretty good.  Fitness is maybe a bit behind but still within my normal range for this time of year.  Wrists held up fine and I even noticed on one of the climbs that rocking the bike back and forth and using my wrist flexor muscles actually alleviated some pressure in my wrists.  I continued with some very light exercises later that night and the next morning that really seemed to help.

Further confirming a theory I've had of late that not all of the acute pain I'm dealing with now is arthritis.  I think there is also a muscular / tendon issue in there as well.  A while back I randomly realized that putting some pressure at certain spots on my flexors or extensors actually provided a bit of relief.  As funny as it sounds a tennis elbow strap actually seems to provide me a small amount of pressure release as well as a small increase in range of motion.

I think I may have developed some kind of muscle imbalance that might be snowballing on me a bit.  Riding off road seems to be getting a bit harder/worse for me lately than it was even a few weeks ago.  I rode Franklin last night which is in no way anywhere near TVR and by many accounts is probably one of the buffest places you can ride in New England and it was still way more painful than I would have liked.  I was able to get around at a decent pace but it hurt and I've definitely got some swelling and even during riding I was starting to feel some fatigue and pain in my forearm muscles further confirming my thought about some sort of developing muscle issue.  It seems like the issue I'm having now is more with grip strength and pain created by compression in the joint while griping/holding the bars and my EVS braces can't really guard against any of that.

I go back to the orthopedist next Wednesday and the plan is to try and get setup with a PT hopefully who specializes in upper extremities.  My gut is telling me there is a good chance that if I can figure out the puzzle of which muscle(s)/tendon(s) is tight/loose/aggravated I can get to a much better place.  In the meantime I think I need to steer clear of the MTB.  Its not working right now and I feel like every time I ride it its setting me back.  Road still seems to be fine so I will be racking up the miles in the meantime.  Maybe this year I'll just do Gran Fondo's and Dirt Road Randonee's.

But to be honest, who the hell knows.  I think at this point I've changed my outlook and plans 300 times in the last 6 weeks.  So this weekend I'll head to Willowdale for the team and to volunteer but I'll be chalking up a DNS unfortunately.

Who wants to ride some road?

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Treasure Valley Rally EFTA 2014 NECS #2

Well. I still love the course (and it was in great shape this year) but this course doesn't love me.  Unfortunately I doubt any XC course at race pace is going to do me any favors from here on out.  My wrists and hands are utterly worthless this morning to the point of this blog post even being a bit difficult to pull off. But enough about my impending arthritic doom there was indeed a bit of bike racing.

I woke up to pouring rain at home and had a solid WHY THE HELL DO I DO THIS AGAIN?? moments but at this point I am very good at powering past those.  Weather improved as I drove south and by race time things were just fine and the sun even came out mid first lap.  But the damage was done and we were looking at a nice and greasy course which at TVR is a bit less than ideal.  To be honest though I thought the course held up great.

Got lined up with about 10-11 SSer's.  We got going just after the Elites and I got shuffled to the back pretty fast.  I was running a lighter 32:20 for a few reasons, one my early season fitness is well below average (or maybe not more on that later) and this course is a bit climby and very technical so there really aren't any spots to really spin out and let it rip.  One of the few spots to do that a bit is the start so I got a bit blown out the back.  BUT as some of the guys wheeled away I noticed that 2-3 of the guys cadence was REALLY low.  They had geared pretty massively and one of them had a Road Club jersey on.  A roadie way over geared at TVR? Ouch.

I swept the big gear club up right after the stream crossing when things really start tilting up so I knew I wasn't last at least.  Unfortunately for me thats when my Summer of Discontent started.  I hadn't ridden in technical terrain like this since my issues progressed to where they are now and there is just something about race pace when you aren't exactly dictating your own pace that changes the way you ride and the lines you can consistently take.  I found out pretty early that I was going to have a really rough day.

I was taking a beating through certain sections and coming close to crashing often just because the pain would build up as I would bounce off stuff and eventually I'd have to dab and just take a break to let it subside. I was quickly swept up by the entirety of the Expert field and found myself where I so often was used to being years ago...Expert/SS DFL.  Except not quite.  Somehow no one in the big gear club had caught back up yet even with all my bumbling.  I actually felt pretty strong in the few sections that allowed a bit of non technical riding.

I knew going in to this that this was a bit of an experiment and a test to see if I could truly modify my expectations a bit and just ride around and try to have fun.  I'll be honest, I'm not sure if I can do that.  I was getting incredibly frustrated not being able to ride things that I know I can shred.  As a whole this course suits me pretty well and I've had some 'milestone' moments earlier in my 'career' on this course.  If I'm on a race course I'm not sure I can turn off that drive to want to be going harder, its just too ingrained at this point.

I battled on and in the final cross fall line section coming into the start finish area things get a bit less tech and a bit faster.  Its by no means buff but terrain I wouldn't think twice about going full speed through.  I don't know specifically what I hit or exactly how but I took a shot on a bit of a diagonal trajectory that my braces apparently don't guard well against and for a brief moment I thought it had broken my wrist the pain was so intense.  My hand went instantly numb, I couldn't grab the bars, grip strength was completely gone.  In the span of a second or two it felt like someone put my wrist in a vice and then lit it on fire.  No idea how I didn't crash spectacularly.  Somehow managed to ride out the next few feet one handed as the shock subsided.  Lapped through shortly after to find that I was sitting in 6th in the SS field.  No idea how I managed that with how I was riding, fitness must be ok I guess or TVR claimed some lives.

But I knew in that vice-of-fire moment that not only my day was over but possibly my XC racing days in general.  If I'm on a race course I'm going to want to ride hard and its apparent that I am going to pay dearly for riding hard on certain courses.  I need to do a bit more soul searching and maybe make a few more tweaks to the bike to try and alleviate some of the specific things I think I might be able to make a bit better.  But racing is probably going to become something I do just a few times a season.  Endurance stuff might still be in play, 'race pace' at those events is a bit more 2/3 to 3/4 and is less frenetic and probably easier to manage and do safely.  And many of those courses aren't anywhere near a TVR in difficulty.

Strangely I'm not as bummed about that realization as I thought I'd be.  I can still be active with and run the team.  I'm pretty invested in that program's success at this point and I think I have it on a really good trajectory I'm just going to have to find more lieutenants on the ground if I'm not going to be attending as many races personally.  There is still a lot of riding that I've proven I can do and get a lot of enjoyment from.  So I'll run the team as best I can and do the riding I can do that I enjoy and thats that I guess. #shittywrists