Archive for the 'Miscellaneous musings' Category

The Quest for Breath

You could almost make an entirely separate blog to chronicle the issues and idiocies that I endured trying to find out why I couldn’t breathe normally last summer. The lung fail was intermittent, never seemed to happen when I actually was at the doctors’, and, apparently, was considered to just be “weird.” My first visits weren’t very useful, and with work and training taking up so much time… I kinda got lazy about following up with the docs. After the OLH failure though, I got serious about finding out what the hell was going on with my chest, called the Kaiser urgent care line and gave the dude on the phone the rundown:

Randomly occurring chest tightness that kept me from being able to get “over the top” when trying to pull in a deep breath. Food, allergens, stress, work and exercise do not seem to have a direct correlation. Occurs at any time of the day without warning.

This description quickly spawned a battery of increasingly ridiculous (and ultimately useless) tests with freakishly normal results.

  • Assigned on a whim inhalers: Worthless. Given as a result of basically no testing, and, other than fueling one fairly awesome climb, had no impact on anything (other than a weird feeling on my teeth).
  • Chest xray: clear. No pneumonia or other terribleness.
  • Skin-stab allergy test: I am allergic to nothing.
  • Sub-cutaneous (stick shit UNDER your skin) allergy test: I am still allergic to nothing. Except histamine. But everyone’s allergic to that.
  • Pulmonary function test: I have “a really gorgeous set of lungs.” Yep. Someone actually said that to me, and it was exactly as creepy as it sounds. Lung tech may or may not have asked me to do extra breaths just so he could see results in the 90th-plus percentile again. Must be sad to only ever test old people.
  • Weird stretching exercises to expand my chest muscles: good for me (as I’m terribly inflexy), but offered no measurable result for breathing.

In the end, the doctors never figured anything out, and my issues eventually (weeks later) subsided. Personally, I think I strained my chest wall in a core class and noticed tightness issues whenever I really thought about taking in a deep breath.  My mom swears I was having panic attacks (a theory on which I still call bullshit! Other than the one day with ashes, I never even came close to hyperventilating!). I can say, for sure, that the breathing problems made most of last summer season’s rides challenging. Some were better than others, but none were great — which was a really tough pill to swallow in my first season as team support. I muddled through the best I could though, “taking one for the team” to hang back with anyone having a bad day — and did successfully complete most rides.

Speaking of, is anyone else ready to get back to the ride posts? Me too. On it!


When you can’t do it right, go for quick

Has it really been almost seven months since I posted here?! Well… I don’t have to ask. I can look at the dates. The answer is yes, and that’s frikkin’ SAD! I’d give you a litany of reasons/excuses as to why, but I’ve done those posts before and they’re not nearly as fun as the ride detail posts. (Plus, I’d give away the ability to bomb-drop and buildup if I tell you now!) So, instead, I’m just gonna get to it. Short stories, bullet points, multi-ride posts… whatever it takes — we’re gonna get this puppy up to date this week. Probably. It’s a tall order (and I’m nothing if not long winded), but I promise to try. Starting… NOW!

In case you didn’t know

As a TNT mentor, I’m not technically supposed to give much in the way of advice. I can, of course, answer questions when directly asked, but anything that might fall under the umbrella of “coaching” should be deferred to those best suited (and insured) to cover it… namely the coaches. Yet in chatting with participants, particularly those new to cycling, I can’t help but think of all those little tips, tricks and just general knowledge that I now take for granted (so coaches probably definitely do!). I point things out where I think its appropriate… but I couldn’t help (when distracting myself on the last couple weeks’ rides) making a mental list of  stuff I wish someone had told me early in my riding career. While printing a flier to hand out at our next training session might be a bit presumptuous (and crazy), I figure I can’t get in too much trouble (or ruin too many lives) posting it on here!

A Few Things I Wanted to Mention, Just in Case You Didn’t Know:

  • Gearing up
    • Invest in comfortable gear. Touch the fabrics, try things on and pick stuff that feels good to you and on you. If you’re lucky, it might come cheap… but even $150 investment once is going to pay you back tenfold when you can ride 8 hours without thinking about chafing.
    • For the love of gawd, wear bike shorts. Yeah, they look ridiculous. But you know that… umm… uncomfortable feeling “down there” that you’ve been hoping will go away for the last two weeks? Not gonna happen in cotton workout shorts. I promise. Suck it up and join the “Spandex Adult Diaper Club.” You’ll be in good company!
    • When you get your fancy new bike shorts? Leave the undies at home. Yeah, I’m saying it (in case you missed the shopping clinic). Cycle shorts are meant to work without them, and trust me – you’ll appreciate the friction  minimization.
    • Layer. Layer layer layer. Figure out what works for you, but in this silly state, it will absolutely be cold in the mornings and (at least sometimes) scalding by noon. You’ll be riding all day, in and out of shade, at varying degrees of workout intensity. There is no good reason to make yourself suffer from cold or hot (on top of everything else!).
    • Sunscreen up before you leave the house. Even on cloudy days. Even if you don’t burn. Ever. You arms almost never move while biking, and your thighs are exposed a lot. Four to eight hours, even without searing sunshine and you WILL fry something. Believe me, two weeks of riding with a recovering burn is not the way to go. I actually spray on Neutrogena sunscreen before I even get dressed (less chance of missing any spots). Works wonders!
  • Filling the tank
    • Eat breakfast. I know you never do. Neither do I. Force yourself to get in the habit anyway. Even just a little oatmeal/cereal/clif bar and a banana. You’ll need that stored fuel on long rides.
    • Oh yeah… eat bananas. Or anything else with a good amount of potassium. Balanced meals are one of the keys to avoiding muscle strain, and most of us are terrible at it. Find something you can eat with a good amount of potassium and avoid the terrible muscle spasms/pulled calves that I’ve ended up with on at least two separate hill repeats.
    • If you’re even remotely picky about food, start testing your ride snacks early. Yes, even if you never eat while you exercise. You’re gonna have to get used to it, or you absolutely will end up on the side of the road bonked. My tummy is super sensitive, so I only eat a few things (although I love to test new ones constantly!). Find something that works early, then stock up. 
    • Drink more than you think you need to. Your body is probably always dehydrated anyway. We’ll be in the sun. Lots. Water (and electrolyte drinks) are your friend. 
  • On the road
    • You will fall at least once. Hopefully at slow speed and in front of minimal people… but it’s going to happen (and it’ll hurt less than you think – unless you count wounds to pride). There’s no use being scared about it all the time — the coaches will teach you everything they can to keep you safe. And when it does happen? Use your bruises as sympathy ploys for donations.
    • Clipless pedals are not as hard as you think they’re gonna be, and they really do make a ton of difference in both your power and safety. If you’re thinking of switching, go to a good shop and ask if you can try some out early in the season. Nothing sucks more than being the person learning a new pedal system two weeks before the big ride!
    • Similarly, get familiar on the gears with your bike early. Learn to shift up and down when appropriate. Ask coaches for help. As a good friend of mine can attest: climbing every hill in your biggest ring is not the way to go through an entire season.
    • Downshift as you roll up to a stoplight (I still vaguely suck at this). Having to push off from a standstill in your highest gear will blow your knees faster than anything. Two clicks down makes a world of difference!
    • Go to the hills training. I’ve done a season going to every optional training, and one going to almost none. If you can do only one optional thing, I promise you hills training is the one to pick. You’ll hate it at first. Everyone does. But you’ll get stronger and enjoy your rides a lot more. 
    • Pacelining is not as scary as it looks or sounds. It will take awhile to get used to riding in a line (trust is earned, right?)… but when you’re only having to take the full force of the wind 10-30% of the time, you’ll appreciate it. 
    • You’ll almost always feel good when you start the ride. Learn to reign in your racehorse tendencies and don’t blow it all off just out of the gate. You’re gonna need that energy four hours from now – do yourself a favor and keep a steady pace!

I’m sure I’ll think of more (probably as soon as I push the “publish” button), but this list probably covers off the basics. Cycling is really not that scary, or that hard. Be smart, ask questions often, use a bit of common sense, and (I swear!) you’ll have fun.

Check out the new digs

No ride details data to be found (yet!!), but for those of you who’ve managed to find me – either from a referral on the blogger site or from your feed redirect – I wanted to put up a quick note of welcome! As mentioned in my other post, everything around here should look and feel exactly the same… just with a slightly different URL. Side note: If you are OCD enough to look for differences between the sites and find something missing… a) haha! and b) drop me a line in comment or email and I’ll get it cleaned up soon.

 I’ll be adding all my cycling adventure goodness on this site from now on, so make sure your links are up to date! I just know you all have me bookmarked on every computer you own… so get to it!

Spring Not-So-Rigorous Training

It is that time of year. Birds are singing, flowers are blooming. The weather is warm, but not yet too hot – and all around town people are waking from hibernation, hitting the roads and starting to burn down those insulation layers. The cyclists (and probably all manner of other sports-types) are out en force and, despite lack-of-posting evidence to the contrary, I’ve been one of them. That’s right, for roughly the last 6 weeks running, I’ve been out riding at least once a week!

Now my regular readers (do I still have any of those?) might scoff, “She always posts rides! With charts! Where’s the proof?” My TNT buddies might retain a healthy level of skepticism – “I haven’t seen her on a single Mayhem or TNT ride in months.” And you’d all be right. To the latter point, I’ve been branching out in my riding buddies and tackling shorter rides with smaller groups of friends. It’s not that I don’t love you all anymore… I just couldn’t fathom breaking a five month hiatus with a 140-person, 60+ mile spring team buddy ride! If I’m going to fail miserably, I’d like to keep the audience small. Or nonexistent. So I’ve been rocking 12-25 mile rides solo or in a pair. I have tackled the recovery ride loop a couple times and even went so far as to take my new (and likely soon to be ex) friend on a voluntary hill repeats ride! Well, voluntary on my part… not so much hers! I’ve also been rocking spin class once a week to build up ye ol’ climbing muscles and that cardio fitness, and expect to be in tip-top summer cycling shape in the next month. Well… at least I aim to be.

But what about the former argument? Where have the blog posts been?? Sadly, my laptop had the technological equivalent of a stroke and, due to a high degree of fail on the part of its should-be support staff saviors, it was completely out of commission for about three weeks. Now… this doesn’t *completely* excuse a lack of posts, but was definitely a large contributing factor. The problem has since been rectified. My laptop has returned (brain replacement surgery was successful) *and* my shiny new desktop is here and set up. I should have the Garmin software installed by the end of the week and all will again be right in the “blogs at length about rides and random details” world. A backlog of links, graphs and maps will all be available soon!

As a side note: blogging from one’s iPhone is an utterly ridiculous undertaking, and I will be placing a link to the “Support this blog – buy Jamie a netbook” fund soon.

Seriously, I DO Still Ride

Well… in the loosest sense of the word. I know what you’re thinking. I made this whole post about getting my bike back six freakin’ months ago and haven’t posted a dang thing since! What gives? Truth be told, I have done a couple rides (yes, a couple is still accurate despite the 6-month long time frame), I’ve just been waaaaaay too lazy/busy to post them. And I don’t even have a super good reason. No accidents, tragedies, relocations or weddings to plan. Well… that’s kind of a lie – I was wedding plan up through August. But for the other 5 months, I’ve got nothing.

Mostly, I blame the new job. On top of actually being busy (which means lengthy rambling posts from the cubicle are out), I commute to San Francisco 5 days a week, making anything other than weekend rides are not feasible. Then during the week I can’t find the time to write about the few times I get out. Technically, the commute time on Caltrain would be an excellent window, but I’ve discovered (the hard way) that blogging from an iPhone sucks. Coincidentally, I’ll be taking donations for the “Jamie Needs a MacBook Air Fund” starting next week. Anyway, this my lengthy way of telling you (all 10 of you) that I’m sorry! I hate it when blogs just seem to go dead… but I promise, I’m still around. Just somewhat sporadically.

To bring you up to speed, I can sum up the two (yes… couple = two… I know, sad…) rides I have done pretty quickly. I did the famous “Recovery Ride Loop” both times, and it was mostly uneventful. It is really freakin’ nice to know that I can pull a 23-miler out of my tail (literally) even after a several month hiatus. Granted, I rode it slower than I’d like to – but just knowing that I could, any given weekend, ride a quarter-century is pretty darn cool. I still remember when 12 miles was impossible.

The only vaguely interesting note for these two rides is probably the ex-title for this post (back when it would have been a day after the ride): Under Pressure. Somewhere around 150 feet into the first, only, and super tiny climb, I realize that I am dying. I’ve ridden this loop a dozen times or so, but for some reason, I am sweating, huffing and puffing like never before! I’m beating myself up over it in my head (which *always* helps you climb better), berating myself for getting so out of shape, when some guy rides up behind me… well – passes me like I’m standing still really …and yells “Hey! You should really put some air in those tires!!”

DOH! I’ve got no frame pump on me and my riding buddies cleared this not-a-hill awhile ago. MAN, how quickly do we forget our training?! I manage to get up the hill and back down without incident (unless you count previously noted huffing and puffing) and borrow Mike’s pump. For the record, road bike tires were not meant to be ridden at thirty freaking pounds of pressure!! We managed to get them back up to a slightly more respectable 80 before finishing the last 5-ish miles. Of course, I was completely wiped by that point… but hey, another lesson (re)learned!

Beyond my failure to remember my bike pump, the rides were good. Great weather (gotta love NorCal for something!) and good friends. If I think of it, I’ll hunt down the Garmin data and throw it up here – I’m sure a couple of you would get a good laugh out of it!

So… what now? Well, that’s a good question. I’m seriously considering another TNT season this year (now that all the moving/job changing/wedding craziness is over), but I’m not sure which season will work for me. In the meantime, I’ve got a couple neighborhood rides planned with the other half (better put that full-carbon frame to work… on the flattest trail known to man), and I’m pretty sure that I’ll hit up Strawberry Fields for the metric century in May. Leave a comment if you have any other suggestions! I’m easing back into this game, but the more ideas you throw out, the more I’ll have to post about!

Sorry for the Silence!

Quick update to let my loyal readers know that I do have blog posts incoming! Between preparing for and then recovering from arm surgery and starting a new job this week, my posts have been severely lacking. Many apologies!! I do have two rides to blog, as well as some odd surgery observations to note. Plus, this Saturday I get back to my team rides, so frequency will pick up soon (weather permitting, of course)! Woohoo! Updates coming soon, I swear.

What do we have here?

An often sarcastic, occasionally humorous journal of my training adventures in preparation for the Livestrong century ride. I took up cycling back in '07 in hopes of meeting new people, and, with the help of Team in Training, making my small positive difference in the world -- and haven't stopped spinning since. Follow along as my Trek road bike and I try and hash out our differences, hopefully with me upright and in the saddle.

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