Saturday, April 23, 2011

A Gamer

Down But Not Out
Not the video kind.

No, this is the true gamer. An original.

The kind who is "all in" for the June Durango to Moab epic and subsequently bangs up his knee while skiing in Utah (or at Villa Fund Raiser Dinner Dance, we're not sure).  At any rate he gets MRI films on and promptly limps over to his MD neighbor for a quick interpretation.

MCL tear.

And then he texts me "Grade 1 or 2 tear and NP for Moab."  And I believe him.

I think that's the definition of a gamer.


Sunday, April 17, 2011

Bike Bike EAT Bike

I really need to start taking the picture
before I eat it.  This big ol'
clay pot of love was awesome!

That's a solid 6.5 hours for the week.  Over half of them were today when four of us made the rounds:

  1. Bike from Sugars Bridge to Harmony Hill, ride HH
  2. Bike to Marsh Creek, ride MCSP*
  3. Bike to Ricon Tarasco in Downingtown, eat some amazing mexican food**
  4. Bike to Harmony Hill, bike HH again (a little)
  5. Bike to Sugars Bridge (uphill)

...or more precisely Bike Bike EAT Bike

That about sums it up.


Near catastrophe at the stream crossing on the bonus loop. Soft stream bed and big rock conspired to eject a rider over the handlebars.  Disaster narrowly averted.  3 inches to the right would have been a different story.  

** Oh my God is was a big clay pot filled with simmering stew of chicken, steak, chirizo sausage, onions, and hot peppers. It was literally bubbling when the waitress set the pot on the table. 

Sunday, April 10, 2011


Kirk wrestling his bike
in the Muck Pit
 The sound of an aluminum Klein frame clattering through a rock garden reverberated across the lake.  It was loud enough to turn the heads of two fishermen in a boat 30 yards offshore.  We were 10 minutes into the ride...

Dangly Limp Derailleur
...luckily the crash was followed by a hearty (albeit nervous) laugh from Kirk, and we took his bicycle wrestling act to a muckpit out by the Bonus Loop.

The fun was just beginning. On the backside of the bonus loop I picked up a stick which twisted the cage into my rear spokes and ripped my rear derailleur clean off.

We got right to work by removing six links from the chain and rigging the bike as a singlespeed in less time than it took Kirk to play U2's "Walk On" and Springsteen's "Long Walk Home" on his iPhone. The result was a very tight chain and I fully expected it to rip apart  after a few crank turns, but to everyone's surprise it held together.
Modification still holding
strong after an hour of riding

It was a bigger gear than I would have preferred, but it was nice to be singlespeeding again (I haven't been on my Rig since we started training for Durango).  In fact after we finished the ride on the east side we took it over to the west side for about 20 more minutes of riding.

In the end today's abbreviated ride left me behind on training for the week, but feeling pretty good about on-trail mechanical improvisation.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Hot Tub Concoction

Antonio sessioning the log on
the Bonus Loop
Here's what happens when you ride hard for 2 hours and 45 minutes then plunge into a 104º hot tub to continue planning for the June 2011 Durango to Moab trip...

...your blood vessels dilate, the blood pressure in your brain drops to about 60/40, and you concoct a brilliant revision to your training program:

  • Since our rides in June will be 5-6 hours of pedaling in 6-7 hours duration, we will increase duration of Sunday rides to max out in early June at 5+ hours.  "Practice like you play" as they say...
  • Schedule the rides now. Move them around to ensure variety. Locate them to accommodate increasing durations and intensities We are all busy people, pre-scheduling just makes sense.

Kirk sessioning the same log
So after our 3 hour ride and hot-tub soak I did the only thing that made sense. I went out in the sun and drank beer and played kickball with the kids (and dads) for 6 hours, then came home to tap out this blog post. And here is what I came up with:

Harmony Hill
8:45 AM
9:00 AM
12:00 PM
12:15 PM
Marsh Creek
9:00 AM
9:00 AM
12:14 PM
12:14 PM
White Clay
8:00 AM
9:00 AM
12:29 PM
1:29 PM
8:30 AM
9:00 AM
12:46 PM
1:16 PM
Fair Hill
8:00 AM
9:00 AM
1:04 PM
2:04 PM
8:15 AM
9:00 AM
1:24 PM
2:09 PM
Blue Marsh
8:00 AM
9:00 AM
1:45 PM
2:45 PM
French Creek
8:30 AM
9:00 AM
2:08 PM
2:38 PM

I've fixated on a 9:00 am "clipped in and pedals spinning" schedule, increased Sunday ride times by 8% each week, cranked in the drive times (from Lyndenwood), and calculated estimated time of return to facilitate scheduling and family planning. I think that's pretty damn impressive.

Now we can quibble about start times and whether it is possible to ride 3 hours at Harmony Hill. I suspect we will shuffle locations and maybe repeat a couple to make this work, and we do have a rest week 5/1 to consider, but that sort of discussion is  A-OK because that's a productive conversation that gets us closer to Durango.

Note also that 21-May is a Saturday ride. A ride is organically organizing via the Pennsylvania forum on MTBR for that date, and that's just about the time we need to bang out a long ride. Where better than Blue Marsh (remember our first time)?

Oh and the hot tub produced one other minor breakthrough. Our recruiting efforts have moved yet another rider from unrated to "47-50%" probability for the June trip. That is a ways from 100% but is real progress and would make it 8 riders total and that my friends is exciting news!

We'll see how this "hot tub concoction" looks in the morning after a good night's rest...


"Chasing records doesn't keep me on my bike. Happiness does."
     -- Lance Armstrong after his third Tour de France victory

Saturday, April 2, 2011

How can I optimize my health at altitude?

Post shamelessly excerpted from the Institute of Altitude Medicine website. Thank you IAM.
An overnight stay at an intermediate altitude such as Denver (5280 ft) or preferably a bit higher prior to further ascent into the mountains is very helpful.

Staying hydrated is important as it aids your body in acclimatizing.

Avoid use of alcohol or sleeping agents of the benzodiazepine family, since they both suppress breathing and result in lower blood oxygen. Other sleeping pills like Ambien or Lunesta do not affect breathing at high altitude and are safe. Avoid over-exertion for 1-2 days after arrival to altitude.
[MO7S commentary: I prefer the word "moderation" to "avoidance." I use avoidance with influenza and mean people. In all other matters I think moderation is a better alternative]
Acetazolamide (Diamox®) taken 24 hours prior to arrival to altitude and the first 2 days at altitude is 75% effective in preventing AMS. It speeds up the acclimatization process in the body, stimulates breathing, raises blood oxygen and increases urination.
[MO7S commentary: ...and possibly improves tolerance for alcohol.]
Gingko biloba, according to some studies was effective in preventing AMS when started 5 days prior to ascending to altitude, at a dose of 100 mg twice a day.

Avoiding exposure to viral illness such as coughs and colds will improve your chances of staying healthy.
[MO7S commentary: See! I told you!]
When traveling consider wearing a mask if exposed to someone with a severe cough. Use proper hand washing and good hygiene to avoid transferring germs.

Altitude Myths

Myth # 1 - Don't drink caffeine at altitude.
We don't know where this false assumption came from, but likely from the fact that caffeine is a mild diuretic (makes you pee). The concern is that it could dehydrate you and contribute to altitude sickness. This concern is unfounded unless you drink pots of black sludge coffee a day and little else. In reality, caffeine stimulates your brain, kidneys and breathing, all of which are helpful at altitude. And for those people who drink several caffeinated beverages a day, stopping abruptly can cause a profound headache. See Dr. Hackett's article on caffeine and altitude.
[MO7S commentary: Thank you, thank you, thank you!]
Myth #2 - Diamox masks symptoms of altitude sickness.
Taking Diamox to prevent AMS will not mask symptoms. It works on the same pathway that your own body uses to help you acclimatize. It is a carbonic anhydrase inhibitor which makes you urinate a base chemical called bicarbonate. This makes your blood more acidic and therefore stimulates breathing thereby taking in more oxygen. It speeds up your natural process of acclimatization and if you stop taking it you will not have rebound symptoms. It is one of the main medicines doctors use to prevent and treat acute mountain sickness (AMS).

Myth #3 - Physical fitness protects against altitude sickness.
Physical fitness offers no protection from altitude illness. In fact, many young fit athletes drive themselves too hard at altitude prior to acclimatizing thinking they can push through the discomfort. They ignore signs of altitude illness thinking it can't affect them because they are fit and healthy. Everyone, regardless of fitness, is susceptible to AMS.

Myth #4 - Drinking extra water will protect you from altitude illness.
Staying hydrated is important at altitude. Symptoms of dehydration are similar to AMS. In reality you only need an additional liter to a liter and a half of water at altitude. Too much water is harmful and can dilute your body's sodium levels (hyponatremia) causing weakness, confusion, seizures, and coma. A good rule of thumb to assess for hydration is to check your urine. Clear urine indicates adequate hydration, dark urine suggest dehydration and the need to drink more water.

Myth # 5 - Children are more susceptible to altitude illness.
Several studies have shown that children have similar rates of altitude illness as adults. No evidence exist that children are more susceptible to the altitude. If your child is otherwise healthy and the basic rules of acclimatization are followed they will likely do well at altitude. Children do get altitude illness and the main challenge in those very young is that they can't communicate their headache and other symptoms. Excessive crying in a baby the first 1-2 days at altitude could be altitude illness. Children with AMS bounce back quickly with treatment as do most adults.