Month: March 2021

Searching for Other Passions – Thanks to My Prostate

I’M one of the lucky (NOT!) men over 50 with BPH. While I won’t go into too many gorey details here, suffice it to say that it has had, and continues to have, a major impact on my life, especially my cycling life.

BPH and Me

ONE of the worst side effects of Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia for me has been somewhat regular bouts of urinary tract infections and prostatitis. Yes, men can get UTIs! BPH makes it difficult for sufferers to completely void their bladders thereby allowing that pool of bacteria to brew nicely (at least as far as the bacteria are concerned), which can lead to UTIs.

FOR those that have had a UTI you know it is not pleasant and can be a bit scary.

AND so it was that I found myself, ironically, suffering yet again (4 in 6 years) with a UTI the day after I had a cystocopy to see what was really going in with the bladder, prostate and urethra. The fun started on March 9th and went on for over a week. On top of the fever, headache and general feeling of shitiness (pardon the lingo but it works here) let’s just say that things aren’t happy in the region of the taint, and so sitting on a bicycle seat, or any seat for that matter, isn’t very comfortable.

NOW it wasn’t my intent to provide so many particulars here; this is after all a blog about cycling, not men’s anatomy.

BUT I wanted to put things into context and hopefully I’ve set that stage without being “too medical.”

Some History

I’VE ridden bikes my entire life, and it has been one of my most fervent passions, and so I found myself having the “could cycling cause or exacerbate the problem” conversation with myself, my family and my friends. Again. Oh yes, I’ve had that convo. with my doctor and done some research too and what I’ve found is that there is a correlation but not necessarily a cause and effect.

NONETHELESS, this most recent challenge forced me to ask myself What if? What if I couldn’t, or shouldn’t, ride any more? I’ve been in denial in that regard for quite some time yet this time things were different. My cycling friends were, and always have been so supportive, whether that meant hanging out while I took one of my many breaks while riding, or providing shoulders to whine on. This time was no different.

Interestingly though, I ended up having a heart-to-heart with my new boss (whom I’ve known for years and coincidentally was my boss at a previous gig) who is also a martial artist (Tai Chi). We have a unique connection in that regard as I am also a martial artist (Kenpo Karate) and have been for over 40 years. He too has been extremely supportive, especially in light of the fact that this latest bout occured during the second week of my new job.

Enjoying Independence Day in Bridgeport during its 2019 4th of July parade. That’s my wife, Pat, my FAVORITE passion.

‘TWAS he that pointed out that I do have other passions. Kenpo being one. Hiking another and fishing yet another. Like you I suspect. Riding bikes has almost always been my go-to. It’s my happy place I told myself. The place where that monkey brain stops yakking at me for awhile. But you know what? It’s not my only happy place and in some strange way I’m now content with that. Okay, maybe content is the wrong word. Accepting, perhaps? Resigned, maybe?

GIVING up cycling? Not yet and hopefully never. Open to that possibility, though? Yes. Finding and reveling in my other passions? Definitely!

Lessons Learned

AND that’s the moral to my story. Since I’ve recovered from this latest adventure I’ve found myself riding less. Not a whole lot less admittedly, but less.

Yours truly at the mouth of Thornburg Canyon. The canyon/meadow and mountains in the background.

MORE significant though is the fact that I’ve realized that cycling has not made me what I am. I’ve discovered that I can do other things that excite me. In the past two (2) weeks or so I’ve done some hiking. Last week I took advantage of the amazing weather we had here in the California Alps (wish we had more snow but…) and practiced my katas (aka forms) in the meadow behind my house. And yesterday, gasp, I went for a run! Well, walk and jog more like it but I did get in one entire mile for one of the intervals and I did it in under ten (10) minutes! Pretty good for a large and in charge non-regular runner if I do say so myself.

MY legs are sore, but in a different way. Cool!

I’VE forgotten some of what I learned at the dojo (I attained the rank of Saisho Kuroi, Juichi-Kyu, Black Belt, in 1999, but haven’t been in a dojo since the early 2000’s) and so ordered a few books on Kenpo in order to re-learn some of the things I have forgotten.

Reading some of Master Ed Parker’s Encyclopedia of Kenpo last night got me passionate about practicing more and during that quick walk/jog yesterday I had an epiphany!

YES there can be other passions in life besides cycling, or mountain biking, or gravel riding. I just have to get out of my own way (thank you, Sensei), re-discover some, and be more cogizant of others. Some of those others include doing good deeds in and for my community, this blog, and my new job, which is awesome! And yes, Mr. Prostate deserves some of the credit for me looking at things in a new light. I thank you for that Mr. P!

AND I thank you for reading, and for letting me cry on your shoulder a bit. I hope I wasn’t too much of a downer.

MOST importantly, I hope my story was helpful to you, or someone you know, in some way.

RIDE on! Or run, or walk, or hike, or do whatever floats your boat; and if you have any suggestions for me, or other readers, we’re all ears.

A More Holistic Approach to Fitness? WHOOP May Be Your Answer

AS you know I’m a bit of a data junky and between Trainingpeaks (TP) and Garmin (Fenix watch) I’m getting some pretty good information. But I’ve found that I just don’t have the time to jump into the TP data and with the Fenix, IMHO, the feedback is lacking.

AND so it was that I found myself getting a WHOOP strap earlier this month. I’d heard of, and seen (on Strava), some of my fellow athletes, including pros, using this unobtrusive little band and so when I got the special-offer email I thought I’d give it a try.

Inspector Gadget

YUP, it does feel a little bit like that with the Fenix on the left wrist and the WHOOP on the right but after thirteen (13) days I’ve gotten used to the set up.

THE WHOOP strap is minimalistic – a strap with a clasp.

What It Does (and Doesn’t)

DO, that is.

  • It doesn’t have a watch face.
  • It doesn’t track your steps.
  • It doesn’t track your pulse ox.
  • It does track your sleep (better than the Fenix does) and gives you specific feedback.
  • It does track your recovery and gives you specific feedback there as well.
  • It focuses on what it calls strain and what level of strain (load) you are under currently, and more importantly what kind of strain you can or should undertake that day.

SAYS WHOOP — “By balancing your daily recovery, strain and sleep, you will train optimally and unlock the secrets to your bodyโ€™s true potential.”

I’M finding that to be true.

The overview panel provides a quick glance at recovery, strain and sleep.

The strain dashboard assesses your current strain and suggests the level of strain needed for optimal training.

The recovery dashboard gives you feedback on your current recovery and readiness for strain.

The sleep dashboard interprets and reports on your sleep performance.

Sleep is Key

AT least I’m learning that it is for me and WHOOP is driving me to focus and prepare for sleep like I do for workouts and training.

MY goal is to be able to sleep like my cat, Ditty. That’s her in the image at the top of this post.

All Together Now

  • The Fenix gives me the ability to capture my workouts and such while at the same time assures me that my resting heart rate and pulse ox are good. I find this especially reassuring when I’m not feeling 100%, especially in light of Covid-19 and the fact that those two data points are often key indicators of something being amiss.
  • Trainingpeaks lets me dive deeply into the specifics of my rides while at the same time mirrors nicely with WHOOP when it comes to things such as Acute Training Load (ATL), Chronic Training Load (CTL) and Form.
  • The WHOOP strap, and associated app fills the what-should-I-do-about-it?-gap and so far this is what I like most about it.

IN the end, what I’m seeing is that the COMBINATION of these three (3) pieces of technology, with their amalgamation of data and interpretations thereof, is giving me that global view, if you will, that I didn’t have before.

WHAT about you? What do you do to keep yourself honest and focused? Please share!

Your Gut and How It Relates to Your Performance – Part One

LET’S face it. We’ve all had gut issues at some point or another while on the bike. I know I certainly have. I’ve also dealt with cramping too, although thankfully not as much as other riders I know.

NOW I’m no expert on the gut, not by any means, but thankfully they’re out there and my recent foray into the world of digestion and nutrition has been via the book “The Athlete’s Gut – The inside science of digestion, nutrition and stomach distress” by Patrick Wilson, PHD, RD.

ADMITTEDLY I just started reading it. I’m about fifty pages in, on chapter two (2), but I’ve already picked up a few nuggets and wanted to share them with you right away because in my mind they are surprising.

What is the Gut?

THE gut (aka the alimentary canal), an approximately 30-foot long system, starts at the nasal cavity, includes the mouth and the salivary glands; and as it heads “south” includes the esophagus, stomach, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, large intestine, small intestine, rectum and finally, the anus.

I won’t go into the nitty-gritty of each piece of anatomy but Dr. Wilson does so if you want those details order the book or do a bit of googling.

On a side note and and speaking of the gut…The photo of me at the top of this post is from 2013. I weighed more than 300 pounds then and as you can see definitely had a nice (er…large) belly.

The Small Intestine

THE small intestine is really where the magic happens! It is the longest portion of the gut and as you likely know, in order to fit all of it into your stomach cavity, it does a bit of coiling. Typically that sucker is about four (4) to eight (8) yards long and “that’s about the same length as a female green anaconda snake!” Not sure why Dr. Wilson goes with that particular reptile but it’s his book so I guess he’s entitled.

A bit more anatomy here…The small intestine is made up of three (3) segments and they are the duodenum, the jejunum and the ileum. Okay, I’ve heard some of those terms over the years on various medical TV shows but didn’t really have a clue they were part of the small bowel.

“In addition to serving as a location for digestion, your small intestine is the alimentary canal’s most important site of absorption.”

What? It’s not the stomach? I always thought it was the place where that takes place.

Nope, it’s that little bowel!

Osmosis

REMEMBER that word, and those experiments from science class? Here’s a quick refresher:

“OSMOSIS is movement of a solvent (such as water) through a semipermeable membrane (as of a living cell) into a solution of higher solute concentration that tends to equalize the concentrations of solute on the two sides of the membrane.” – Merriam-Webster

PER Dr. Wilson: “The bulk of water absorption–perhaps up to 80%–takes place in our small intestine and occurs via osmosis. Ah, there it is!

WHY should we care? What’s the practical application for cyclists (really all athletes for that matter)?

WHEN you down a beverage full of carbs or electrolytes osmosis will move water from your blood into your small intestine lumen, which is exactly WHAT WE DON’T WANT when we’re working out!

SO, on days when you want to optimize the SPEED at which fluids are absorbed, don’t go hypertonic (where osmolality is higher than your blood plasma – apple juice and pickle juice are two examples) as these beverage types delay water absorption.

That’s All…For Now

THIS is only part one after all.

I’M definitely no scientist but for those of you who’ve been following my blog for some time now you know that I am into science. Especially this kind of science!

A better understanding of how things work internally leads to a better athlete and a more healthy individual over all.

STAY tuned for more on this fascinating and oh so important aspect of just how that gut affects our performance. Like I wrote earlier, I’m just getting started so I know there’s much more to learn, and therefore share with you.

RIDE on, stay safe and healthy and instead of kicking our own asses (due to a lack of alimentary knowledge) “let’s kick some passes’ asses!”

Take Aways from the Training Plan

LAST Sunday I finished up the Trainingpeaks 4-week FTP-Focus 2021 plan. On one hand I’m happy it’s over but on the other I’m going to miss the structure of just doing what the coach (Paul Ozier – Peaks Coaching Group) tells me to do.

AND so the challenge: how to keep the vibe going! I’ve been pondering that for awhile now; this after I just rode (on Zwift) Tuesday. Per the coach’s recommendation this is to be a week of just riding the bike. It was nice and I felt strong.

LUCKY me…I am finally employed (I started March 1st)!

However, that puts a serious damper on this former professional cyclist (dripping sarcasm here), so named by my brother from another mother, Scott Keno. I’m likely not going to be able to keep up the pace but maybe, just maybe, I can come close. The plan was designed for weekend warriors. I’ll just have to re-think how, when and where I’m going to execute it, right?

AND perhaps most importantly, I don’t want to lose the gains that the workouts brought my way.

What Improved

I hit one power PR on the last day, the FTP test, and some twos and threes, too.

  • I can produce more power at a higher cadence. The plan focused a bit on this since in a sprint it’s necessary to keep up the power while that cadence goes up – especially if you’re smoking and on your lowest gear.
  • I can breathe more efficiently (fewer breaths) at threshold (and everywhere else, really).
  • I can keep a high cadence (90-100 rpm) for longer and much more easily. A lot less rocking.
  • MY overall fitness improved. I was productive more consistently.

What Didn’t

  • MY FTP (290 or 287 – 2.87 or 2.90 w/kg depending whether I listen to Zwift or Garmin) went nowhere. I was surpised by this but am going to hold out on final judgment until I get the WKO files to the coach. My last test was in November (should have done a more current one, doh!) and I followed that test to the letter. I should mention that I am rather large for a cyclist (220 lbs – 100 kg exactly) so certainly dropping some lbs would help and I’ve been working on that: at the start of 2014 I weighed 307 pounds!
  • FOR this test, the coach had me go ALL OUT on the five (5) minute Vo2 max interval that was just before that ten (10) minute rest which was just before the twenty minute test. ๐Ÿ™‚ That had to have made a difference (fingers crossed), right?

What Was The Most Challenging?

  • That’s an easy one to answer: the endurance rides. They were hard to endure!
  • As I read in the spring issue of VeloNews this a.m.: “Many riders underestimate the value of long endurance days, which in my opinion are the MVP of training.” – Coach Julie Young, former U.S. national team member and founder of JulieYoungTraining.com.
  • Those long days in the saddle at fairly low watts (205-ish for me) are interesting, especially the four (4) hour versions. It takes some focus to not let loose the hounds.

What Was My Biggest Takeway?

I can see why having a coach makes athletes better. Paul was responsive and helpful when I had questions, and as I wrote earlier, it’s pretty groovy when all you need do is what the coach, and the plan, “tell you” to do.

THANKS coach!

I can’t wait to see what he has to say about my FTP test. In the meantime, now that I have a job, I’m thinking some more coaching is in my future.

Most importantly, I hope some of my take aways resonate with you, fellow rider.

Let me know, will ya?

Deathride News – Virtual and Actual

AS I mentioned in last week’s missive…COMING to a theatre near you: a virtual version of the Tour of the California Alps – Deathride. It begins on April 2nd!

I’VE also got some news about the real version, which takes place on July 17th.

Read on McRider…

Virtual Version

MEMBERS of California Alps Cycling, including yours truly, will be taking part in this epic event and we hope to see you as well. Be on the lookout for an invite to our Strava club so you can earn some bragging rights, and CLICK HERE to register. And if by chance you can spare a few more ducats (there is a donation option) we’d sure appreciate it. Ruptured vinyl here…Our little community, like many others, perhaps even yours, has taken a big hit event-wise due to the pandemic and the Deathride, which was canceled last year, is our biggest revenue source at the Chamber. Thank you in advance for your support.

LET me give you just a bit more background…

LAST year I filmed all of the climbs of the Deathride. GoPro mounted on the stem, top tube pack with an extra battery and a bit of trial and error. I rode them on my Emonda so had to pay the piper if you will, and if you listen closely you can hear my cycling gesticulations as I grind. I promise though, nothing X-rated. I recorded them so that riders, including me, could tour the area anytime, from anywhere – the beauty of FulGaz. For a complete list of all of “my rides” take a look at last week’s post.

I’VE participated in a couple FulGaz Fondos and they are fun! Leaderboards and a course map on your display, while you ride through the scenery, make it an immersive experience. If you haven’t tried FulGaz, whether it be as a subscriber or a “Fondo-er”, you really should check it out.

BY the way, you will not need to be a FulGaz subscriber to particpate. The Chamber will send you a code once you sign up for the Virtual Tour.

Again, starting the 2nd day of April. And again, you can get more details AND register here.

Actual Version

ALPINE County’s Planning Commission recently approved the permit for the Deathride to be CLOSED on both Highway 89 (Monitor Pass – like it has been) and Highway 4 (Ebbetts Pass – like it has been).

WITH one exception…

THE ride will NOT INCLUDE CARSON PASS this year but instead will go farther down Highway 4 to just before Lake Alpine and then back up and over, to eventually finish at Turtle Rock Park. Yup, Pacific Grade x 2. Ouch! The route will be shorter (just about 103 miles) but will still have ample climbing (~14000 feet) and therefore lots-of-weakness-leaving-the-body opportunities. ๐Ÿ˜‰

IT’S going to be so sweet to only have to worry about cars between Turtle Rock Park and Monitor Junction. Alpine County Public Health has been a partner throughout this process and continues to be. It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway, that the ride is dependent on our progess with the pandemic. Fingers crossed we’ll all be climbing on July 17th.

WE’RE currently working on an extra event or two around the Deathride as well. Part of our mission it to bring back that fondo-like experience and while we don’t want to over-promise right now we’re looking to host a kids/family type event the day before, or even the day of the event, to give rider’s families something to so while we’re out there enjoying the beauty of the California Alps.

A kid’s MTB race (maybe even one for the big kids), a safety clinic/fix-it clinic, a yoga class, and a course on Native American art, culture and influence are all being discussed. We’re hoping to have this event at the Hung A Lel Ti reservation here in Alpine County.

Some cool giveaways are also in the mix!

IDEALLY your appetite is now whetted!

HERE’S hoping we’ll all have some images of our own to add from this year’s Tour of the California Alps. I’ve never ridden Pacific Grade so am really looking forward to that. And, to signing the poster!

Remind me I said that when you see me on the course in July, k?

IN the meantime, we’re looking forward to seeing you in April. So please be safe, stay healthy and get those climbing legs ready!