Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Progress report

The NIH asks that recipients of research grants (which is basically what I live on) write a progress report 1x per year communicating what has been accomplished and where things are going. For some reason, it's like pulling teeth to get myself to sit down and write this thing. Even though I'm supposed to only write about science and all, I can't help but think about the last year a bit more holistically and I guess I'm pretty happy right now in general.

It's easy for all of us to say that our family is number one and that we sacrifice a lot for our families, but in the end it's amazing too me how much of our time we spend thinking about being someplace else or doing something else even when we're with our families. My cell phone usage is a perfect example. I think I'd probably puke if someone recorded how many times I do something on my cell phone like check who's winning the Giro, what's happening on facebook, or whether I've received an email I'm hoping for, while I'm sitting hanging out with Cassidy. I'm supposed to have made all this time available in my life by focusing more on research and basically taking a hiatus from conventional medical school...certainly I spend more time doing domestic things. I definitely am able to get outside and ride my bike sufficiently. But lately, I've been realizing how much of the time technology and a lack of mindfulness pulls me away from what is most important.

The pool at our apartment opened this past weekend and I think we made a total of 8 trips to the pool in 3 days. Cassidy loves swimming and with this weather, it's been awesome going up there and hanging out with her. It's a really cool process watching a kid grow and become more comfortable doing something like swimming. She can't swim without floaties yet, but I bet by the end of July she'll be swimming on her own.

Anyway, I guess I'm supposed to be writing about cancer or bikes on this blog. Even though those two things fill a lot of my time and I wouldn't be myself without them, I think I can honestly say that more time is devoted this past year to thinking about and being with the family then anything else.

In terms of bike activities at the moment, I'm really glad to be following a plan to get ready for cross this year. I guess there are a bunch of things to my own 'plan', but two things that come to mind when thinking about priorities are:
1. This year I really wanted to do was build a big aerobic engine with lots of base miles. Done. Not sure if it is going to do anything, as I actually feel pretty slow and am a bit heavier than I've been in awhile. But the past 2 weeks I've been doing more sustained tempo riding...basically 87-92% of my 'threshold HR' for 40-60min in a 2-3hr ride. After this, it's on to subLT intervals. In theory, the base miles raise my chronic training load which correlates with increased aerobic enzymes, mitochondrial efficiency, capillary density, general efficiency on the bike, and a bunch of other stuff.

2. Not race every weekend. Mostly because in cross season there seems to be races almost every weekend from September to December...which seriously eats into family time. So up until cross season, I decided to do only the racing which I think is most fun....XC mountain bike racing. The best thing about it this year is that none of the races have been cancelled and most of them are separated by at least 2 weeks. This helps keep the motivation high, adds some V02 efforts, and most importantly-doesn't take up every weekend.

Anyway, I guess that's it for now. I've got to run to Walt's bike shop before picking Cassidy up this afternoon- I seem to have worn out both sets of my XTR pedals in the last year. It's funny, because I actually take good care of my bike gear, but for some reason I manage to break the unbreakable (these two sets of pedals follow me breaking Time ATACs, which are also supposed to be pretty burly). At least shimano agrees and is warranting both sets of pedals (the pedal bodies are loose on the spindles...basically the little rubber O-ring come loose too easily and it feels like my cleats are never fully secure). People always talk about how good SRAM is with their warranty, but in my experience Shimano is just as good or even better- I mean how crazy is it that they replaced broken Ultegra Di2 with Dura Ace Di2?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Broemmelsiek Race report

After learning that my cancer situation is stable as a rock (literally, we track a blood marker and measure how big things are with CT/MRI/Ultrasound and nothing has changed), May is flying by.

Despite signing up for Syllamo's, the trip wasn't in the cards this year. Friday was the last day of Maggie's 3rd year of med school, so we went out to dinner and hung around Columbia Saturday. The team I'm with this year works in cahoots with Pednet here in Columbia and saturday night was an awesome trivia night fund raiser for pednet. With that in mind, we had a rigorous cram session of crossword puzzles, trivia pursuit, and popculture gossip review during the day saturday. We were a team of 8 and given an average age of probably 33 at the table, I think we did pretty well...maybe 5th place out of 10-15 teams. I was quite proud of myself for knowing the name of Rubert Murdochs media company, the national sport of Canada, and the country to which Easter Island belongs.

It was a late night though and the free beer probably didn't help my race performance the following day. But I was determined to get in my 3rd mountain bike race of the year and was looking forward to the practical cyclocross course that is Broemmelsiek mountain biking. Similar to cross, we'd be doing a bunch of laps. 6 to be precise, on a 4ish mile course with very few full on switch backs but lots of sweeping turns, open prairie, and a couple of little rock gardens. Elevation change was fairly mild. Probably one of the flatter parkson the UFD schedule. And the significant lack of rainfall recently meant it was going to be dry, dusty, and a little loose...all adding up to conditions that seem to really challenge me; the theoretical ability to go really fast but the reality of many loose corners hampering the speed so as too avoid face plants or pretending I'm a baseball player sliding into home.

The day was hot, which me no likey. But it's Missouri and I love racing my bike, so it's what we deal with. The start of the race saw Dan McCarthy tear by myself, Bob Arnold, and TK. TK latched on Dan's wheel with Bob in tow and me following up the rear. I was riding really carefully so as not to slide out and basically just held on for what felt like short-track speed for the first 40minutes or 2 laps. After the 2nd lap, I tested my legs a bit and attacked on the hill beginning each lap. I stung things out a little and I think had the fastest lap that lap, but couldn't manage to get myself free. So I rode 2nd wheel for the next lap and then attacked again on the hill (I'm quite predictable with 2 to go). This time I stayed on the gas and big ring'd it through the corners.

Despite almost getting caught by Bob at the end of lap 5, most of the last 2 felt like a solid CX effort, i.e. sprinting a bit out of the corners, trying to hold my speed, and keeping the foot down on the gas pedal. All-in-all it was a solid 2 hrs of racing so I was happy to come across the line and cool down under a water faucet. There are 2 races each in June, July, and August on the UFD east schedule so I guess I better get used to the heat! Then cross starts.

Due to extensive cost-benefit analysis I don't think traveling is going to be in the cards for cross this year and I'm having a ton of fun on the mountain bike, so I'm hoping to keep it going until the Berryman epic. I might still try and go to nationals for one last shot at the master's 30-34 race, but the idea of riding hard and trying not to get too fat during the holidays and New Years seems pretty stupid right now.

Monday, May 7, 2012

The course (or at least most of it, my garmin was off for ~30min so i missed 6-7 miles total, including the Pine Ridge singletrack)
Gravel roads are to Columbians (as in Columbia, MO) as heroin is to a 1980’s New York Punk rocker; we just can’t seem to get enough. So the idea of a long gravel race with interspersed sections of singletrack, especially an event that doesn't require our obligatory 2hrs of I-70 driving, had many of us giddy with excitement. I’ll do my best to describe the event’s of the day here in this blog post, but for those of you who just want to skip to any hard data associated with the ride, there is a bike-computer file at the bottom. Preparation for this event began was essentially dialing in the cross bike; and for this event I busted out the wheels I’ve been riding on the road this winter/spring, some sweet Stan’s alpha 340 rims laced with cycleops (G3 rear) hubs and some cushy 34 width tubeless file-tread cross tires inflated to ~40psi.
Otherwise, I did some recon of the northwestern portion of the course and essentially had this race falling on the last week of a 12-week 'base building' period.
I knew that with the right group, average speeds would be 16-18mph and that it’d be a long day. However I did not know how many fellow BoCoMo folks would be doing the race and how collegial the racing would be. It turned out that without planning anything or any explicit alliances, that BoCoMo folks would be watching out for eachother. Bob Jenkins and crew poured their hearts, souls, and muscle power into this race. The amount of work involved in putting on a fun, non-sanctioned 100+ miler with some portions riding on singletrack that they groomed and/or essentially built, is pretty mind boggling. These guys really did a great job. The cue sheets were accurate and with the exception of the last section of river-bottom gravel roads, which to no fault of the promoters, everything was well marked. Speaking of that last section of gravel in the river bottoms, I know I should probably write this little narrative chronologically, but if there was any part of the race where myself and my BoCoMo compatriots all essentially wanted to tear our eyeballs out and curse anything, it was for sure Tebbetts to Jeff City or around mile 90-115. Imagine the gravel that forms the bed of a railroad track, i.e. loose, large pieces, maybe half-golfball sized. Now imagine a perfectly flat 20ish miles with essentially no smooth path through said gravel, 90-95degree temps, no shade, and 90-100miles in the legs at an average power of ~210w. Let's just say that we were happy to finish and if it weren't for Josh Johnson's superman endurance and willingness to pull me and our other two riding partners through all of this, we would have gone a lot slower (or maybe just limped back to the shade of the KT and gone off course, which we didn't). During this part, I kept reminding myself that I had spent just over 2 hours in an MRI tube on Tuesday (no room, lots of hard surfaces, and loud as a railroad train), that this last section was just different suffering and despite the heat, that I was still riding a bike and even, at least overall, having fun. Ok, now re-wind. Back to the beginning...somewhere between 150-200 people setout on this somewhat quixotic adventure at 9am from Jefferson City. We would brave 90+ degree temperatures and unknown amounts of pretty gnarly singletrack (at the end of the day, I think maybe an 45-60min of the course total was spent on singletrack). Almost all of the day's riding would be on gravel. Almost immediately, Josh and myself would be at the front doing some pacemaking. You can see from this map that the section of the course in red, ~10miles was the peak 30min power section (265w for the 30min):
At this point, the pace was solid but not full-on race pace and there were no intentions of deliberately shelling anyone. But, the front group was slowly whittled down to 15-20 by mile 20. Miles 20-30 were more gravel roads at a bit slower pace. This is where, for me, the serious effort to eat/drink enough began. I stared downing some kind of solid-energy-bar + some shot blocks and electrolyte drink basically every hour from then on out, however I'm convinced that the Coca-cola graciously provided by Josh's parents at around mile 70 (Ham's Prairie) was probably the major tipping point in actually finishing the ride. Anyway, we hit the second singletrack at around mile 30 and it was long. Fun, but long. There were sections we rode, but generally opted to walk so as not to risk flatting. By around mile 35 our group was down to 10-15 and we had open gravel roads ahead. Once again, Josh, me, and Steve MacIntyre were riding the front and at some point around mile 40 realized that our group was now 5, with Steve MacIntyre, Josh, Jason Wulff, myself, and the simply-amazing Peat Henry (who was riding a single speed with 38x16 gearing). From there, our group was set and steady until mile 65-75 when Peat came off the back and we were then 4 for the rest of the day.
Except for a rough spot for Jason early on, we were all having a good time until around the KT Trail, which was around mile 80. The balls of my feet started to sear in pain with almost every pedal stroke and we all limped in to Mokane very happy to see Jason's parents with cold drinks. I guess my feet were just getting ischemic because I took my shoes off in Mokane, put some ice on them for about a minute, then walked around in the grass and got back into my shoes and on the bike and the problem was gone. The last section of the KT before we turned and headed out to the dreadful, scorching-hot farm roads was actually quite pleasant. We were not hauling, but we weren't crawling either. But once we headed out onto CtRd 4000, I was at the point where I guess many endurance experiences can take you: on the edge of wondering if you're actually going to make it. The reasonable voice in my head was thinking about how hot it was and the sun. And at that point, we didn't know how rough the gravel was going to be. I don't think I was ever hating life and really on the edge of quitting, but man was it good to be with friends. Like I said earlier, Josh did most of the work on this last section. There was no question that I started to consider myself in survival mode, but at the same time, I was OK with that. If the event were an official race, with money or glory or something like that on the line and one of us really wanted to win, I have little doubt that Josh deserved it the most. He was the strongest out there. But the 4 of us decided that we had all significantly contributed on the day and that when we finally approached the finish, that we'd ride across together...tying for first. Which is to say, that if BoCoMo won, Peat Henry got second place (again, on a single speed, riding the last 1/3 of the race alone!). Summary for the ride (again, add about 30-35min and 6-7miles since I forgot to re-start the garmin):
On the health front and with respect to my trip to MD Anderson: -The cancer cells in my neck, lungs, and vertebrae are all just hanging out; probably wishing they had some more thyroid-stimulating-hormone, that my immune system wasn't in good shape, and that I didn't ride my bike so much thus ensuring excellent insulin sensitivity, aerobic fitness, and mental clarity.