Category: health

Coming Back to Life in Markleeville – It’s Been a Wild Ride

THE trip back to Chalet Schwartz, aka California Alps Cycling headquarters, was a sobering and somber experience. So much of our forest was now blackened.

AFTER almost ten (10) days of being evacuated (from Friday, July 16th, through Sunday, July 26th) it was great to get back home. It was a surreal experience for sure; Markleeville and Marklee Village were oases in the middle of a charred forest.

WE were lucky…Our generator system did its job and kept my beer and other libations cold, our food fresh and our frozen grub, frozen. The Alpine Co. Sheriff’s Office, as well as other law enforcement, kept our home, and town, secure from both two-legged and four-legged creatures.

Firefighters

THOSE firefighters, though…What a group of individuals! They fought for our town, for our people, for our businesses and for our homes. When the fire blew up, almost overnight, they didn’t give up. They battled and battled. For days. What they did can really never be repaid. As I’ve told those that I have seen since – whatever you need, whenever you need it, we’re your huckleberries.

DOUGLAS County, Nevada, also came through in a big, big way. They opened their facility (the Senior Center in Gardnerville) and most importantly, they opened their hearts. Donations poured in, offers of places to stay for people and animals were proffered, and the kindness and compassion were palpable. To them we also owe a huge debt of gratitude.

WHILE we had power (thanks to Liberty Utilities hooking up a big-ass generator) we did not have internet. Too bad Frontier isn’t like Liberty, whose crews were on sight almost immediately, and even today they were at it. This time, dropping poles by helicopter. Frontier, on the other hand. Haven’t seen ONE truck. Not one. Not to be too cynical but I’m betting we’ll see a bill.

OKAY, enough negativity. Karma…

My Mental State

ADMITTEDLY, I’ve had a very hard time this past week. I tried to work on Monday but it was almost impossible without decent internet; my cell phone just didn’t have enough of a signal to act as a hotspot.

TO the rescue came our friends Mike and Eileen. They offered us their home in South Lake Tahoe for the week. And we are also oh so grateful for our dear friends Chris and Shyanne, who offered us their home in Spanish Springs last weekend as a little getaway. My wife and I, and our two (2) cats, took advantage and headed north for a couple days, leaving Mom and her cat, Baxter, in the hotel in Minden.

BUT last Tuesday morning I found myself packing up. Again. My wife and I made the trek to South Lake. I thought it was the right thing to do (it was work-wise) but my psyche said otherwise. I found myself in tears Tuesday night, asking myself what the hell I was doing. I came to the realization that I needed to be home and so Wednesday, after a decent workday, I did go home.

BACK to South Lake I went Thursday but I couldn’t focus. I didn’t care. I had no spark; I was just flat. Was this PTSD?

IT wasn’t just the fire I now knew. It was the loss of the Deathride, the possible prostate cancer diagnosis (thankfully I found out the Saturday after we evacuated that it WASN’T cancer), the pandemic (and so no 2020 Deathride) and the almost constant fear of another fire. All of that combined with almost ten (10) days of worrying about our home took a serious toll on my mental health. I understood that I needed some help and I’ve since begun that process.

HERE I am a few days later and I’m certainly feeling more like myself. The anxiety is still there although it’s not as pervasive as it was. Getting back to a somewhat normal routine, including a ride yesterday and another today, has truly helped. Being home, getting some things put away, doing some household chores and putting it in some sort perspective has made a difference.

OUR local businesses, including the Cutthroat, have been closed, but today the Cutthroat was open. There’s a sign of recovery!

An Animal Oasis and a New Beginning

OTHER signs abound, too. Black-eyed Susan’s and their cheery blooms. A flock of mergansers on the East Carson. Two velvet-antlered bucks just across the road yesterday morning. Allen’s hummingbirds putting on a daily show just off the deck. And the bears. While they can be a bit of a nuisance (ask my neighbor whose freezer and garbage can they overturned yesterday), in a strange way their renewed presence is reassuring.

AND Tuesday is the first of many meetings that we Markleevillians will have as we begin the healing and rebuilding process. As a community.

THAT will be an oh so awesome start…

Rest – What a Concept!

ADMITTEDLY it’s been recently forced upon me – rest that is, but nonetheless it appears to be what I needed.

FOR various reasons, since last Saturday’s hike with fellow members of the Alpine Trail’s Association (ATA), I haven’t done any riding, or any strenuous activities for that matter.

SPEAKING of the ATA…Saturday, June 12th is the ATA’s Curtz Lake Trail Day event.

We’d love to see you there!

That Was My Quick Plug. Now Let’s Get Back To Rest

AS I was saying…er, writing, I’ve gotten three (3) full-on rest days since that walkabout (we were doing some fascinating recon – finding missing sections of an old YCC trail) near the Markleeville Airport, and that itself was somewhat restful. We did three (3) miles in the same amount of hours. A nice pace indeed and a nice break from “the usze.” Youze? Yooz?

WELL since then, and as I alluded to earlier, due to work, life, and such, I haven’t been able to put in any serious athletically-oriented time. The benefit? Real rest. And, real recovery.

NOW I realize that this isn’t the best way to gain fitness. On the contrary, my fitness, and the corresponding “scores” are declining. Not for long. But that’s not my point. My point is that I’m REALLY seeing the impact long-term rest is having on my performance. In my mind it’s validating that focus on rest and sleep is as important as focus on HIIT, TTs, endurance and tempo. See this earlier post for more on that if you’re so inclined.

HRV up.

RHR down.

THAT’S the long and short of this little missive.

I don’t share this data out of hubris, no; it’s just that since I’ve been in denial for most of the weekend-warrior part of my life I figured that you too might not be as steeped in those sleep and rest habits as you could be either.

KNOWING these little details has helped me better understand how my body reacts to stress, both chronic and acute, and so I can more easily know when things are off and more importantly, when things are on.

MY genuine desire is that what I’ve learned, and am continuing to learn, will help you in some way.

I’d love to know either way so do comment on this post, will ya?

IN the meantime let’s all relax, have a cerveza, and get ready for the Deathride!

FINGERS-CROSSED, my new, more restful outlook will help come July.

REST ON!

Honey I’ve Sold the Car – And Bought You an eBike

THE look on my wife’s face as she yelled “TURBO” must have been pretty sweet. I can only imagine it, though, since I was her sweep.

SHE has since named her bike “Bessie.” The sister of “Beast,” my eBike. They are both Treks. I’m a loyal “Trek-for-life” fan. There are reasons for that but that’s a story for another time. Or not.

ANYWAY, Bessie and Beast are Class 1 eBikes (thanks REI for the webinar a couple weeks back – I now understand those classes) BUT they are much more than that. A bit of context: I had originally purchased these beefy full-suspension Rail 5 29ers back in November when the bike shop was still a gleam and I had planned on renting them out – alas no more. This too perhaps another story for another time…

BACK to the bikes…Having decided not to rent them but instead keep them for ourselves, we have discovered that

They are MIRTH MACHINES!

I’VE heard what some people say: eBikes are not pure. They’re not “real” bikes. They’re cheating. Okay, on the cheating part. If you’re racing and not telling other racers. Roger that. Oh and there’s the “they tear up the trails” argument. They can, but that’s the rider not the bike doing the tearing. Right?

WHEN I posted that piece last year about the bike shop, I boosted it (i.e. placed an ad) on Facebook and got mostly positive responses. All but one. The detractor wrote something like “any shop that rents eBikes won’t get my business.”

I just don’t understand that.

THE laughter and shrieks of joy that I’ve heard from my spouse has made me laugh and giggle and has been enlightening. I’ve seen other riders, and talked to them too. Riders who either wouldn’t be riding, or if they were riding, they wouldn’t be riding THAT TRAIL, or climb, or…well you get the idea. It would be too hard or too far. But riding eBikes with my wife has really resonated, and it’s what gave me the idea for this post.

WITH eBikes, it’s not too hard or too far, and for older bike riders, or riders who can’t keep up with their riding partners, eBikes are a GAME CHANGER.

BEAST allows me to cast my mind back, too. It’s so very reminiscent of those feelings from the days of my youth, jumping dirt berms and homemade ramps on my yellow, sissy-bar equipped, Schwinn 5-speed.

IT’S impossible not to smile when riding an eBike. I’m talking bugs-on-your-teeth smiling. I just love zipping around on Beast. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a Moped. There is some work involved. I’ve yet to really run Beast through his paces but that will come. Right now it’s a way for me to enjoy a rest day and ride with “the wifey.” And since she’s a novice, or more appropriately put, out of practice, I can do the sweep thing and be her wingman.

That’s me and Beast on one of our first rides together. Mud splatter on glasses, bugs on teeth and just a whole bunch of fun!

Hey! Just thought of this: as she gets more comfy I’m thinking I’ll grab the road bike every once in awhile and have her motopace me. Yet another plus!

Then There’s That Environmental STUFF

AS I alluded too earlier in this post, REI held a great webinar a couple weeks back. My wingwoman and I attended. We learned a lot. It also got me thinking…I don’t drive that much anymore. Sometimes Clara, my Outback — hey, what can I say, I like to name shit, okay? — sits in the garage for days. In this case she’s named after our realtor. Clara, our realtor, not the car, had our backs – you can read more about her here if you’re so inclined but suffice it to say “Clara” was an obvious name for the car.

MOVING on. My Mom needs a new car. I don’t need a car. I have an eBike that I can use to go to town for the mail and such and I can also ride it on trails. And my wife has a 4WD Colorado so really, we’re good. Oh, and Mom lives on the property so I’ll still be able to visit Clara. She’s a cool car. I’m going to miss those paddle shifters let me tell you. But Mom says she’ll let me drive her if I get to jonesin’ for those paddles.

WHAT we’re doing, though, is reducing our three-car family to a two-car family. And that’s pretty sweet. I know that means they’ll be days when one of us could be left alone at home without a car. Not a big deal necessarily but in the mountains, especially during fire season, something we’ll have to plan for/consider.

AND, we’ll save on various expenses, including fuel, insurance and maintenance. As it turns out, CalBike agrees.

IN a recent post about its E-Bike Affordability Bill, AB117, there’s a good quote: “E-bikes are one of the best ways to replace car trips with clean, green transportation.” I guess I knew that but I’ve been focused on eCars not bikes. Tesla and BMW and Toyota and others have been getting all the press. Especially Tesla.

BUT eBikes…That’s an apple I like. And so I’m all in. Well, mostly in. It’s not like I have a cargo eBike.

Wait…Honey!?

Riding Less but Getting Stronger – How’s That?

THE short answer is that I’m getting more rest and better sleep. I’m listening – to my body and to my gadgets.

GADGET may not be the best descriptor I initially thought but upon looking up the definition (a small mechanical or electronic device or tool, especially an ingenious or novel one) I realize it is apropos.

THOSE gadgets to which I refer, and about which I recently blogged, include my Garmin Fenix 6x and my Whoop strap.

LISTENING

THIS morning I had planned on getting in a fairly hard training session before work. However, my tech was suggesting otherwise. And after a month of wearing said strap and “comparing notes” with the Fenix, as hard as it was, I decided to listen.

I need more rest and frankly I find that part of training to be the most difficult. It’s easier to just ride.

OUR cat Ditty (nothing knows how to rest and relax better than a feline, right?) consistently shows us how to get it done so I figured I’d follow her example, and actually pay attention to what my devices, and more importantly my body, were telling me.

THE Fenix’s display indicated that I need 31 additional hours of recovery and that my recovery was delayed by poor sleep. Indeed, I was up late, celebrating my wife’s birthday and so was not able to get my usual Zs.

WHOOP’s recovery screen advised that I was only 18% recovered – my resting heart rate (RHR) was up and my heart rate variability (HRV) was “33.1% below its typical range, indicating that your body is not fully recovered.”

IT seems counterintuitive, at least to me, but since I’ve been focusing more on rest and sleep and mixing up my harder workouts with walks, runs, Kenpo workouts, easy e-MTB rides, and long endurance rides, I’ve been getting stronger.

GO figure! Putting in fewer hours (and miles) on the bike yet getting stronger…And, having more fun in the process.

ON April 1st I was following my new guidelines and I jumped on Zwift for an easy 45 minute spin. It took me a minute to realize what was going on (that’s my avatar with the yellow wheels) but rather than stress about not having my “real bike” (one rider chatted “this isn’t funny anymore Zwift, give me my bike back”) I just enjoyed the ride and the memories that came flooding back. I had one of those Big Wheels when I was a kid, you know?

I was smiling and giggling almost the entire session; in the past I would have whined about it.

PERFORMING

THE reason I’m still in need of more recovery is three-fold.

  • An intense HIIT workout last Friday
  • An endurance ride on Saturday
  • A virtual climb (focused on a new personal best – which I attained) on the Ebbetts Pass North Ascent on FulGaz on Monday.

FOR the HIIT workout I went with rocket drills. My workout consisted of six (6) sprints, two (2) minutes each at full throttle, from a standing start, up a small hill on Hot Springs Road. The rest interval was five (5) minutes, by the way, and I did that by doing a bit of easy spinning farther up the hill as well as back down to the starting point.

ON sprint #5 I hit almost 900 watts – the highest I’ve ever done on the road and it was the penultimate interval!

SPRINT #6, however, was almost a hurl-fest. Thankfully, though, no technicolor yawn.

SUNDAY, after Saturday’s approximately 90-minute endurance ride, I joined the wife for a short and easy ride on our e-MTBs.

THAT set me up for Monday, where I was able to set a personal best on the entire climb, as well as one of the segments, and hold a heart rate of 159 bpm for 60 minutes (per Trainingpeaks), a 2021 best.

RESTING and SLEEPING

AND so it was that I scheduled yesterday as a rest day and joined the wife again on our e-MTBs, this time for an easy ride up to Grover Hot Springs State Park, where my wife got her first taste of gravel on her new Rail.

AS for sleep, that’s where WHOOP is really helping. Now that I’ve been religiously wearing the strap for over a month I’m finding that what I like most is the focus it provides regarding sleep. From the after-action report in the morning, to the alerts the night before, it is teaching me (and it’s validated in my performance results) that sleep is just as important to training as the actual workouts.

WHEN I pay attention to the feedback it provides, as well as the input from the Fenix and Trainingpeaks, I perform better.

WHEN I don’t, I don’t.

AND so while I find myself champing at the bit to ride, or do something else hardcore today, I’m not going to do that.

I’M going to heed the warnings and try to be more like my cat. And in the process I know I’m going to get even sturdier on my steed.

THE Deathride is just over three (3) months away after all and it’s going to be a doozy.

HAPPY hump day! I hope you too are conquering some of those training humps and as always your comments are most welcome.

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.