Archive for October, 2011

Not The Ride I Expected

ZomBee and Siberian Husky

Just getting started with one of the riders I respect the most: Siberian Husky. The 508 this year was a bitter pill to swallow, but it still had some memorable moments. This picture caught one of them.

Welcome to The Furnace Creek 508. The one thing I know for sure about this race is that it is never what I expect it to be. This year, the unexpected came in the form of pneumonia. I didn’t know it at the start, though. I only know I had started feeling sick earlier in the week. By the time we were driving toward Santa Clarita, I was having difficulty breathing. After racer check-in, I went back to the hotel and slept until pre-race meeting. Then I went back after dinner, medicated myself into oblivion, then slept through until 5:00 a.m.

I rolled to the start. The downhill from the Holiday Inn elevated my heartrate to 140 bpm. That was just sitting and coasting. Then we rolled out for the neutral start, which pegged my heart rate in the high 160s. Each time the road tilted up, my heart rate rocketed into the 180s. I ran out of gears on every climb. I couldn’t recover when I needed to, and I didn’t have the strength to get up and over the climbs.

I pushed on as best I could, but my body was just shutting down. I wasn’t tired. I wasn’t fatigued. I was alert and cognizant of what was happening. I just didn’t have any strength. Then I couldn’t catch my breath. Then I was vomiting and heaving. I was sweating, then freezing, then overheating again. When we (the crew and I) decided it was time to pull the plug, I was unable even to walk unassisted around the van. There really wasn’t a question of taking a DNF. Maybe I could have pushed harder, but the crew was already looking for the path to the nearest hospital, and I think pushing up and over Towne Pass, let alone all the way to the finish, would have done permanent damage.

The time station crew at Furnace Creek were less than supportive, letting me know I didn’t look sick; that nothing looked broken. I told them I was sick, and that it was more than the “tummy ache” mentioned at the pre-race meeting. It was tough. I already was feeling run down and defeated, and I didn’t need the piling on of the race officials. I don’t understand that logic.

That was the race in a nutshell. I’ll write some more later, I’m sure. Here’s the rest of the story (nod to Paul Harvey):

When I got back to the Bay Area, I knew things were worse than I had originally thought. I called and set up a doctor’s appointment, and I went there as soon as possible. I spent the day getting x-rays and lab work, and explaining to my doctor why I still rode 200 miles feeling as crappy as I did. I don’t think she got it. The long and short of it is that I have pneumonia. I’m not going to die. But, in the words of my doctor, “most people wouldn’t walk up a flight of stairs in your condition, and you rode 200+ miles. You’re both fit and insane. Go rest.”

After the fact, I’ve had some riders send me some messages and wishes for a speedy recovery. I’m not hanging my head about the DNF. I hate that I had to bow out. It’s embarrassing, regardless the circumstances surrounding it. I hope I managed to do the race right. The 508 is important to me. It means something. I appreciate that some people respect me for still giving it my best effort, but I’m struggling right now to put it all into perspective.

In hindsight, I now know I rode 200 miles of “the toughest 48 hours in sport” with pneumonia. It’s going to take a few weeks to recover completely, not just physically, but also emotionally. Once I gain some perspective, I’ll address 2012 and my plans for riding.

Thanks for reading, and for all the support.

Special thanks and greetings to some of my friends out there on the road. I hope I get to hear from some of you (I have emails for the others I rode with) if you happen to stumble across this post:

Asiatic Wildcat
Brooklyn Beast
Velvet Ant
Black Sheep

and especially Gyrfalcon 2.

San Francisquito Canyon

I only knew I was feeling like crud. I did my best to put on a good face, but I was laboring even here at the start.


Taper! Anticipate! Stress!

I’ve been negligent on my blog, but there’s a pretty good reason for it. 😉

Let’s start catching up by mentioning the “taper.” This past week/weekend started my tapering for the big race. The last weekend in September was my last for some long rides. I had a great ride with some 508-veteran friends of mine, followed by a long solo ride the next day. Then it was just slowing down and taking it easy. I did 5 hours yesterday, which was great, followed by a (very) deep-tissue massage. And today, an even shorter ride to help settle everything down.

So, it’s all down to the final logistics at this point. I got both my bikes (the Cervelo R3 and the Jamis Xenith SL) into the bike shop for a final clean and tune by my awesome mechanic/bike shop owner/friend/crew member Rob Mardell of La Dolce Velo bikes in San Jose. I’ll get new tubes and tires on both, as well as a new battery for the Polar Heartrate Monitor/Computer. And I’ll pick them up Tuesday evening/Wednesday morning when it’s time to start planning for the big getaway.

I wish I was calmer. I’m stressing over the finances and logistics. There are so many small details; so many little expenses that siphon off a few dollars here, a few more dollars there.

Next up are the final preps and plans. Tuesday/Wednesday night will be the grocery shopping. I have to buy a cooler for the crew van still, which I’ll be renting Wednesday morning. Wednesday afternoon/evening, I’ll be prepping the van with my signage, as well as packing up. Then Thursday it (finally) will be time to pack up the van and head South. Having been through this process a few times, I am well aware of the sense of “inertia” that takes place this week. I know each day is packed with a lot of planning and details. Saturday morning will get here way too fast.

I’m trying to keep the stress to a minimum. I’m trying to just stay cool and zen about the whole process. I escaped last night for a very long drive up the coast. There’s been an unmistakable pull to just go be isolated and shut off the thoughts, so it was good for me.

Santa Clarita is right there. The start line is waiting. I’m nervous. I’m as prepared as I can be. I won’t say I’m “ready.” But I will say I’m ready to start.