Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Bring on 2017!

Southern Inyo Double Century


After a very tough and painful 2016, its time to start a new year.

I never really felt quite right in the second half of 2016. Not sure if it was due to the two crashes on the tandem or not.  Although I did finish three very tough ultra-marathon races during the last few months of the year, I definitely did not feel myself on any of them. For one, I had a hard time breathing on all of them, which really caused a struggle.

 I was really off my game.

I especially noticed it on the two-man race at Hoodoo 500 where I really had to push myself when it was my turn during the race. I just was not getting oxygen because I could not catch a full breath. Same thing on The 508 and the 24 hour time trials which I think contributed to other issues which came up on those races.

In January of this year, I figured it was time for a complete physical and other tests to rule out everything.

I was feeling down-right off my game not only while training but at work and home. Tired all the time, dizzy spells, and slight vertigo. I was riding a lot early in the year but it was really a struggle. I even had an incident at my friend Ellen's going away ride where my heart rate wouldn't come down. I checked myself into the ER just in case and everything was fine.

I made an appointment with my doctor and mentioned all my issues with the crashes and how I was feeling.

I went through all the regular complete tests for someone in their 60's. All the blood tests came out great. Normal cholesterol, EKG excellent, prostate enlarged but no problem with it. I got an MRI of my brain to check on the area where my tumor was removed in 1994 to make sure there was not a re-occurrence which could be what was causing my intermittent vertigo issue. The MRI showed no difference between my scan 10 years ago which was my last one. That was a big load off my mind.

About 4 years ago my daughter noticed a lump on my neck. It did not hurt so, like a lot of people, I didn’t do anything about it until it got big enough that it was really bothering me. Well....one of my appointments was with the head and neck surgeon who ordered a CAT scan of my neck plus my brain to make sure nothing was spreading. The needle biopsy was inconclusive so there was no way of telling for sure if it was benign until it was removed.
I scheduled the surgery for the beginning of April right after a barrage of 4 double centuries early on, capping it off with The Southern Inyo Double Century. I did this double just 3 days before my surgery.
 All this was based of course on how all the other tests came out!

I wanted to rule out everything since I never had any tests done after my two crashes in 2016. 
I also told my doc about the crashes and the breathing issue. She figured after the other tests that it was not my heart and could be something to do with the crash. My daughter Cherisse who is in sports medicine, told me not long after the crash that she thought I had some damage to deep muscles in my back which could take a year to heal at my age and could very well cause the issues with my breathing. 
Well she was part right!
 I got my tests back and guess what. I had broken my back in the crash on Santa Rosa Creek road at the Central Coast Double. I had a compression fracture of my spine. The doctor said it was healing and there was nothing to do with it. Now I knew what my breathing issues were.

I still can’t believe I finished 165 miles of that event after the crash and did those three big races plus all the training and double century events feeling like that.

All this was a great load off my mind but I was still not feeling quite right as far as being tired all the time.
I think I may have found the answer.
 My youngest daughter, Nicole who is also in sports medicine, told me many times that I may have a vitamin deficiency. One of my sisters told me that my issues sounded like a friend of hers who was diagnosed with a serious vitamin D deficiency.
Well.....I believe that was it. I never was tested but since I have started supplementing my diet with a D vitamin, I have got my mojo back. I am feeling my old self again.

While all these tests were going on, I kept up my training but was really taking it easy. That issue with my heart rate and the ER visit kind of scared me and I didn't want to push it until I knew there was not something abnormal causing it.
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Camino Real Double Century                                                                                                 Dana Point Harbor

My first event of the year was the Camino Real Double Century. I did the staff ride with some friends and we all just took it easy. A bunch of our friends came out to meet us part way through the ride. Some did about 100 miles with us.
It was a chilly day but I got it done and I had no issues other than being very tired. (I was still having issues at this point and was in the middle of all the testing.)
All in all though, I did not feel too bad.
What a hoot that ride was. It felt so good just taking it easy!!

Rick, Tony, Ellen, Dee, Margaret and Daniel with us at the rest area along San Onofre Beach.

Tony on his Fixie as usual

Daniel and I in Bonsall

Margaret ordered this special snack. I think she ate the whole thing. 

Tony climbing on his fixie in the hills near Fallbrook, Ca.

Or group riding west bound on the San Luis Rey river bike path heading into Oceanside, Ca.



Next up.....The Solvang Double Century and back on the tandem with super-stoker, Teresa. 

We were both not really in shape to do a double century on the tandem. I had just been pretty much taking it easy with no intensity and Teresa had not been training much at all since she moved to San Diego. We got one weekend of tandem training in before the event. 
We both knew that we would have no problem finishing but knew that it would be painful. Been there...done that!!
We chalked it up as a good training ride and had a great time.
We started just after 5:30 am and finished just as it got dark. 
 Still could tell I was not myself. All the little climbs were a struggle and I just did not have the strength on the tandem that I had in years past.

Sunrise at the top of Foxen Canyon above Solvang, Ca.



Cruising in the hills above Morro Bay, Ca.
Our shadow climbing Aliso Canyon on the way back to Solvang.


Heading back to Solvang on Foxen Canyon.


After Solvang I had a really tough one, The Mulholland Challenge Double Century.

I did it with my good friend and 2016 sponsor Quynh. Also along for the ride were friends Joe and Grace.
This was a really tough ride with over 18,000 feet of elevation gain. Since we were all staffing the event, this was a staff ride where we were pre-riding the course.

One thing that was great is this.
I did the Solvang Double the week before on my tandem bike. Whenever I do an event with a lot of climbing after an event on the tandem, it just seems way too easy. On my light single bike all the climbs were hard but I felt like I was in much better shape. Somehow riding on a tandem on a long ride is much like training carrying extra weights.
I felt very light on the Mulholland Double. Not easy by any means but much easier than if I had not trained with the tandem.

It was a great ride. Perfect temperature as far as the heat was concerned. It was very cold in the morning though and got pretty chilly in the evening. We did have a really strong head wind heading up the coast on the second half of the ride. That headwind turned into a nice tail wind when we turned back toward the finish. We were all so tired though. It really helped us recover a bit from the climbing and the wind but we just did not have a lot of energy to really push with the tail wind.

Once we got back to the Thousand Oaks area we had some final climbing to get back to the finish. It was chilly but we got it done by around 10 pm.

Quynh and I at the start in Calabasas

Sunrise from the top of Mulholland on the Rock Store climb.

Grace climbing the beast. Cotharin Road

Joe climbing Cotharin

Quynh looking way too happy on Cotharin

The specatacular view from Cotharin Road

Quynh descending Latigo Canyon on the second half of the Double.

Looking down toward Malibu from above on Latigo Canyon.

Rolling past the naval air station into the headwind before our turn North-east.

Next up the following week was Southern Inyo, my third double in 3 weeks.



The Southern Inyo Double Century is one of my favorites.

Beautiful Mountain and desert scenery, absolutely beautiful and smooth roads on just about the whole course and great desert weather conditions.
It is not an easy ride by any means. On paper the course looks rather easy as far as elevation gain is concerned but the high desert can offer up some of the most challenging conditions and that is just how this guy likes it.

The desert is almost always windy. I don’t know how many times I have done the Death Valley Double in years past but there was rarely an event that didn't have some sort of wind in one direction or the other. Some years it was downright scary!!

This would be the fourth year for me on this event. The year of the test ride we had some pretty good wind but I just loved it and I was hooked on this one. The second year was nice but still a little windy. The third year was gorgeous for the first two thirds of the ride before a major storm blew in causing a horrendous sand storm over Owens Lake in the final miles which made it quite challenging. (This would also be my first crash on the tandem bike but we still finished, broken ribs and all)

This year it was forecast to be a little windy again. The weather service said it was going to die down by 9 pm the night before but guess what......it didn’t.
The wind was blowing pretty hard when we started the ride early in the morning before sunrise. There was a pretty good cross wind coming from our right out of the Sierra.

I started out with my friend and Hoodoo team-mate, Victor and some other friends including Margaret who was our navigator of the 2014 Race across the West.

It was a little scary riding that fast in the dark with that crossing tail wind. I didn’t want to get too close to any riders in front of me in case someone hit something in the road in the dark or got hit by a big gust. ( I was also feeling a little bit of vertigo in the dark with the wind so I was really careful) 
Victor and I were just talking about taking it easy due to this scenario and low and behold right in front of us......our good friend Margaret got hit by a gust that threw her into the rumble strips. She lost control of her bike and went down in a nasty crash. We both had to do some pretty quick maneuvering to avoid hitting her. She went down hard but was very lucky she didn't hit her head and just bruised her elbow. We all thought that she broke her arm. We waited with her until help came to pick her up and take her to the hospital. We were glad to hear later that she was ok.

We made it to the first check point very quickly in that wind.

We made the stop quick so we could make up the 1/2 hour that we lost early on. Now we had a very strong head wind heading back up Hwy 395 to the Hwy 190 junction. It took us a while but it was totally good and not too bad. We slowly reeled in many of the early riders who were really struggling in the wind. We slowed down for some so they could get a break behind us for a while.
 We were hoping that it would be a little easier when we made the turn toward Death Valley National Park on 190.

Well….that didn’t happen!! We had a nasty crossing headwind coming off Owens Lake with gusts blowing sand across the road.

 It was really affecting my eye since I didn’t have my good glasses. Just when I was thinking about calling it a day after seeing some other riders turning around…..the wind just stopped!!

It was absolutely beautiful now as we pulled into the checkpoint.

We had a beautiful ride out to the Death Valley sign for the turn-around with a mild tail wind and some cross wind.
Heading toward Death Valley through Gun-sight Pass with Vic Cooper
We had some good head winds again heading back to Lone Pine and I was off the back of the pack for much of that part. I really felt like my legs were dead from Mulholland the week before at that point. We took a long lunch break in Lone Pine.


Victor heading back toward Lone Pine with Owens Lake and the Sierra in the distance.
Heading back to Lone Pine from Death Valley area. I was really starting to feel my tired legs from the past week at this point

The next section had most of the hard climbing. We had a beautiful climb up a canyon called Tuttle Creek which I had not done before. I just took it easy and hung back taking pictures of my friends up ahead. 
Starting the steep part of Tuttle Creek Road

Tuttle Creek Road. Mount Whitney in the background. Whitney is the peak in the far distance behind all the others.

Tuttle Creek and all the snow in the Sierra was the highlight of this years event

Tony climbing the lower section of Horseshoe Meadows road on his fixie.


After my friend Tony and I got to the summit, I really started feeling great. The lunch had kicked in and I got my Mojo back.


Descending Horseshoe Meadows with Owens Lake in the distance


I flew back down to Lone Pine and really didn’t want to stop. I was feeling so good but then remembered I was not using a Camel-Back so I would not have enough water to get me to Hwy 190 for the water stop.
I decided to stop, pick up water and food plus wait until my friends wanted to go so we could all do the final 50 miles together.
We rolled out of Lone Pine with a great tail wind. We just flew to the Hwy 190 turn and then had a crossing tail wind all the way to Hwy 395 and the final check point. The wind completely stopped at that point as the sun was going down.
Our group rolling away from Lone Pine for a large 50 mile loop around Owens Lake then back to Lone Pine

Rolling back to Hwy 395. A little over 20 to go.

We fueled up and were on our way.

The final 20 or so miles seemed effortless to me!  I just kept a nice easy pace but could have gone much faster if I wanted.

We finished while it was still slightly light out but getting dark.

What a great day on the bike.

Below is a little video I made of the event.




Final words


I had my surgery the following Monday and all went well. My entire salivary gland needed to be removed but I found out that the tumor was benign in nature. My surgeon said that it was the most common of tumors in the gland caused by a clogging of a duct.

Now……Back to work getting back in shape. I was able to get back on the bike training within a few days but I really felt the effects of just having a surgery that required anesthesia.

Next double century event will be The Grand Tour at the end of June. This ride will be my 150th double century event and some friends are making it a party ride. This will be great fun and I can hardly wait.


1 comment:

  1. It seems that you all had a lot of fun, as for your co riders they all seem to be well prepared because of the Cycling Apparel they are wearing.

    ReplyDelete