Thursday, August 14, 2014

Plumbing "fix"tures

I was holding off to be fairly certain of my status and not going off some fluke or hunch about how things are doing. However, at this point it is really quite safe to say that my surgery this spring was a success! I wasn't sure for quite a while as I dug myself out of a pit of inactivity, but now that I am out, I have surpassed anything I have been able to do at any point in the last 2 years with regards to pushing pedals.....by a safe margin. It may be a bit before I can say that I am back to normal, but the fact that in fairly short order, I am beyond my one-legged self leads me to believe that I have an adequately repaired artery that should allow me to progress to par again and hopefully beyond.

Things are looking good for 2014 and beyond....

Drawing a line in the sand

Can someone please tell me why blood doping or EPO is somehow different than using an altitude chamber. To blood dope you extract your blood and this triggers your body to produce more red blood cells. EPO is a pill filled with a substance that triggers your body to produce red blood cells. An altitude chamber artificially alters the air you breath which triggers your body to make more red blood cells.

Yeah, one is legal. The others are not. However, in practice, what is the difference? All three are bought fitness. It's not hard work or physical talent. It's a technology you paid for to make you faster than your competition. This is otherwise known as "cheating".

I see this all over the place in cycling. "Take this supplement and it will make you faster!". "Pop this pill and you will crush your competition!" C'mon people. OK, these supplements may be full of legal substances (maybe not) but just stand back and take a look at what you are doing. It's really no wonder that there is so much cheating in cycling. It's a clear path to crossing that line and the line, legally speaking, is far beyond the real cheating line. To me, if someone is popping supplements and using chambers and the like, they are already cheating. If you want to argue that it's legal so it isn't cheating then we have to bring up the point that these legal options ARE the gateway to illegal doping. If somebody is doing these things to try to get an edge, it ain't gonna take a whole lot to see that taking some EPO is a whole lot easier. The mentality is EXACTLY the same and the incentive is right there.

 I honestly have more of a problem with these practices than I do with the high profile world-tour doping cases. I mean I have a problem with it all. I can't imagine doing any of it under any circumstances and somehow feeling good about myself. However, these guys are trying to hold on to big contracts against a bunch of other people who are being all "doctored up" to go fast. The local, regional, domestic cheating is a matter of trying to get an fake edge over others for pride, and/or very little income. It is appalling to me that we all fail to recognize and we often even embrace cheating methods just because a governing body calls it legal. While at the same time we disgrace others who did/do the same thing, only on a higher level.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Clean slate

I always thought I was pretty good at riding slow......that is until the last 3wks of my surgery recovery in which I was told to limit my efforts on the bike to below 100bpm. Maybe when I am fit that might be a somewhat reasonable number to stay below, but completely unfit, this is an output that will hardly get me up the hill I live on.

I spent the first week following this restriction pretty close by using a triple chain ring with a MTB cassette and doing some walking. Believe it or not those first few rides where I would ride for an hour and only go 10mi (I'm no mathematician but that's like 10mi per hour), actually made me quite tired after doing literally nothing for 2 months. I soon began to employ a new strategy for keeping under that number. Staying home and not riding my bike. On week 2 through semantics in my Garmin HR zones settings I ended up putting the number at 111bpm and riding a bit more. Then by wk 3 I switched onto my normal road bike and sorta stopped responding when my heart rate would venture up to 120-130bpm. I think this was all fine.

Monday was the end of my restriction. The smart thing to do would be to ease into it and start building a base up before hitting it hard. I smashed it as hard as I could on the first 3 days of training. By smash it I mean like a whole 250 watts. But lemme explain....I feel I have circumstances that warrant such ignorance toward such proven methods. I wanted to get a sense of whether my blood flow had been repaired or not. As of this point I feel like I have had some really good signs. For most of my life a lot of my venous blood flow has been clearly visibly coursing through my vessels just under thin skin. Since '08, I had not seen much of that definition in my left leg. Now I am seeing them once again. Also there used to be pinching sensations in my hip at rest that are gone. However, to get a definitive idea of the repair job I needed to get blood demand up and see if the supply was there.

In my rational thought I new the first efforts were going to be slow and feel like poo, but I couldn't help but have an irrational part of my brain take off on this tangent thought process that pointed out that my blood flow would be opened up and despite complete lack of activity I was going to feel like superman, crushing my previous one-legged abilities. That is definitely not what happened.

Trying to hone in on the sensations in my left leg was difficult because my right leg, lungs, heart, head, back, etc were screaming as loudly. I take this as a good sign. Everything is equally as slow. After the good part of a week, this is still my feeling. I have turned down the speed and began some base building, but when the burn comes to my legs, it feels like both feel it equally, which is fantastic. Time will tell whether things are truly back to normal, but for now I am thrilled to be able to get out for some epic summer rides with the good signs that have already become obvious.

Pretty flowers 2

What a lovely bouquet I have received......


Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Pretty flowers

It's late but around here the first round of flowers are popping out, which inspires me to write a little bit. After dispersing their seeds last fall the flowering plants of the region went into a long dormant period to wait out the bitter winter, which was especially bitter this year. Finally the temperatures climbed and day night cycle progressed to a point that triggers the complex mechanisms in plants to start a reproduction frenzy. This frenzy relies on a symbiotic relationship between many species, all dependent on each other in a balance achieved over thousands, millions of years, depending on the species. The birds arrive from their long journey, to eat the insects that just hatched out to feed on the nectar of the spring flowers, who in turn use the insects to achieve their own reproduction in the form of transported pollen from one flower to another, or in some cases from one part of the flower to another......that is, the ones that are not cut and placed in a pot of water on the table in someone's house. Let's take a look at this practice for a moment. Our view of other life forms is not consistent and tends to be hypocritical. Put this practice into another scenario, with a different species......

We are taking a lovely hike along a marsh and we come across, let's say, a family of beavers. The young are just getting old enough to strike out on their own and reproduce. We get excited and comment on their beauty. We are very interested in their testicles. Particuarly the largest, most fragrant balls. After we have selected the biggest ones, we chop them off. We also take some other notably large, smelly balls off a few other beavers. We bundle a bunch together in a hand and tuck a few in behind our ears so we look pretty and then we take them home with us. When we get home we put them in a vase on the table and smell them occasionally for maybe a week, at which point they shrivel up and we just throw them out. Meanwhile that beaver never reproduces.

Well that isn't so harmless anymore is it? Is it wrong? I don't know. I'm just a human, but I'm going to tend to say it is. I mean, what is the point? So back to my point.....our view of life. A person will not think twice about ripping off a plants reproductive organs for no real gain but that same person might practice a vegan diet because they don't want to harm cute, furry animals. They would harm one for nothing more than aesthetics but refuse to cause harm to the other, even to feed themselves. Why is it that the life of an animal is worth so much more than a plant to us? Again, I'm just a human, but my thought is that life is dependent on death and harm to others. Without it, life does not happen. However, like with most things, I think the real answer exists in the happy medium. A reckless ignorance toward life and uninhibited exploitation of it is an obviously bad path but sheltering oneself from a basic function of life on earth is also not healthy. The happy medium, or mediocrity that exists in the natural world is one where death is apart of life, but only for the purpose of sustaining another life. Not for a pretty dinner arrangement.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Butchered

Fueled by frustration, I was persistent enough to finally find a reasonable path forward with regards to a health care solution to my Left Iliac Artery Endofibrosis. The in-network was the only one the insurance company was going to ever allow me. Fortunately, I had the help of the west coast IAE specialist Dr. Jason Lee. Without him I don't know what I would have done. Chance would have it that the recommended local surgeon in Rochester is close with Dr. Lee, who gave praise and offered to advise him through the process. If I can't go to the specialist, this was the next best option, so I said yes. That was a while ago and there have been some delays and seemingly catastrophic question marks since then but, long story short, the imaging found significant irregularity in the artery and surgery was scheduled.

I came home from the hospital yesterday after Monday's operation. They found a good bit of fibrosis built up on the artery and removed it. Then the patch was sutured on. Because of excessive tightness in the area, a second incision was made to do a partial release on my inguinal ligament. This will loosen up the ligament, reducing the chances of this happening again. This was an area where Dr. Lee's consulting proved highly valuable. I was sewed back up and heavily drugged. Everything went perfectly, but that's where the smooth sailing ended. I did not have a good time with the drugs. I was nauseous and constipated for most of the week. I quit one drug and they would put me on another which bound me up the same. After stopping all the drugs yesterday, I finally feel like I am sorta normalizing today. I can tell because I am starting to feel the pain in the incisions. Prior to this I hardly noticed it cause the room was spinning and I had multiple days worth of food piled in my gut.

At this point I can hardly think about riding, but in 2-3wks from Monday I can get back on the bike and start building back up. It's likely to be a long process as I have been inactive for 3wks now due to the relatively invasive imaging and like I said, I have 2-3 more to go. I'm sure that will put more than a dent in my ability to do any activity, let alone racing a bicycle. Also it can be several months before I can actually ride hard. So I will be noodling along for a while. But even if I am severely set back, at least I know that, if I work hard, I should have the potential to do what I used to be able to do, and that alone will make riding slowly a whole different thing than before.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

.....I want a left leg in my stocking this year

Here I am with the last race of 2013 in the books. This proves that you don't necessarily have to be having fun for time to fly. On the bike, this really was a difficult season for me. I have a real unfulfilled feeling after two seasons of racing well below my expectations and abilities. Now, even though that is a pretty long down spell, that feeling is something that all of us experience at some point. High high's and low low's. The biggest difference here for me is this.....I know that unless I have a surgical operation, that I will never return to form and in fact will probably continue to decline. This is the new reality. There is no forging ahead hoping that if you train smart and work hard, things will turn around. I can expect small gains here and there, but what does that really matter when you've had like 20% permanently chopped right off the top?

It is interesting to note how this has changed me as a rider over the years that I have dealt with this condition. It has created a complete 360 in the characteristics of my racing. When I was racing mountain bikes as a junior my strong talent was on the technical side of racing. I wasn't super fit but could make up a lot when the trail got rough and twisty. These characteristics continued right into my transition to road racing. My lower category racing was fairly pathetic. I could sprint fast but my sustained effort was way off the back.

At some point things changed. In the matter of a few years I had flipped around 180. I was racing road full time and signing my first pro contract. I was a legitimate domestic pro level all-rounder, but I was strong in the TT and uphill. Two things I couldn't do well enough to hang with cat 3's a few years back. When I dabbled in CX those days I found that most of my skills had been forgotten and I made do by just smashing the pedals.

By the end of my two short years with a road contract, unknown to me, things were trending back the other way again. Signs of this circulation problem were beginning to show up but I was still able to ride decent. Then 2009 is when an alarm bells really went off for me. I was set to race my first full season of CX with Richie and was doing some road events to prepare. I did my training as usual but I just couldn't do what I used to be able to do. It happened that way all summer long and was completely unexplained. This was before my days with health insurance (a lot of good it's doing me now!) so I wouldn't have done anything about it, but I may have thought about looking into it if it weren't for a successful CX season that fall. I found myself dredging those old skills back to the surface to add to what was left of my ability to push the pedals and I ended up with a good racing season.

There is that break from racing in there but since then I've lost more and more on the pedals and have been pulling out all the old skills I can find to make up for it. It is to the point now where I go backward on any given straight and have to get back with skill alone.

There is some positive light here. I have had to get those skills back. Because of them I have been able to notch a UCI win and a bunch of UCi top 5's in the last two seasons. If I ever am able to have this operation and can recover even a modest amount of my previous abilities I am going to bring those skills with me and end up better than I would have without this whole ordeal. Also, if a racing season isn't going well on the bike I still get to hang out with my friends who are also teammates and fellow racers. These are really great people and the weekends through the fall isn't ever enough time spent with them.

Looking forward from here, the fight on the bike may almost be over but the fight with beaurocrats for access to health care is far from it. As I pointed out above, the "what doesn't kill me makes me stronger" saying looks accurate for the bike, but unfortunately with regards to this fight I don't see how that could be so. I just need to put my head down and keep fighting this one.