Monday, September 29, 2008

On the Mend

What a difference a week makes. I took 2 days off at the start of last week and made a doctor’s appointment as I was still feeling completely smashed. While the 2 days of doing nothing were very enjoyable I didn’t feel any better, so off to my wonderful doctor I trotted (well I actually drove there because I was feeling so rubbish). It would be fair to say that I haven’t really ever liked going to the doctor and have in the past gone out of my way to avoid a visit. I feel quite different now that I’ve finally got a fantastic doctor who I can talk to, listens to what I say and doesn’t just prescribe me drugs. Just to contradict my last sentence this visit was all about the drugs. After explaining how crap I’ve been feeling and how long it’s been since I felt good we agreed that a 5 day course of steroids would probably be the best bet. I was at the point now where I was actually looking forward to taking anything, if it would help. That was Wednesday. Thursday and Friday I biked to work and was feeling a little better. Friday night Pete and I went nightriding at the sandpit and amazingly enough I made it all the way round without feeling too bad.
On Saturday I was feeling quite a lot better and decided to head out to McLean’s for a spot of practise for the 12 hour race in a couple of weeks. I wasn’t really sure how I’d go so I planned on doing a minimum of 2 laps with a max goal of 4. I also wanted to try and keep my lap times to about 30mins for the 10km loop, but I wasn’t sure if that would actually be possible. Off I went, not setting a blistering pace, just easing into it and enjoying the forest and being on my good bike after so long. It was fantastic. After about 15mins I felt nicely warmed up and my chest and legs felt really good. I did the first lap in 30 mins and didn’t really feel like I was pushing so I headed straight back into the forest for another loop. This also felt really good, although by the end of it I was a bit peckish and had run out of water. I made a brief muesli bar and water stop and headed back into the forest. I was amazed how good I still felt. About three quarters of the way round this lap the southerly front hit and it hit hard. The temperature plummeted and it started spitting. I was not prepared for this weather so it put the kye-bosh on my plans for a 4th lap. Feeling very hungry and very happy I headed into town for some lunch. This ride has really perked me up and given me back my confidence for the 12 hour race. I’m in a 4 person team with some guys from work called the NIWA Ninja’s of the Apocalypse. It should be a great laugh.
Sunday was a gorgeous sunny day and Pete and I headed to the sandpit. I was interested to see how I would go after doing 30kms the previous day and was pleasantly surprised that my lovely singlespeed didn’t hurt me at all. In fact I actually managed to do 2 laps in a row and felt I could have done three. Yes!!! Finally.
Admittedly I’m feeling a little flat today. I had a good roadie ride in over the wee hills this morning, no chest pain, but the gym has left me feeling a wee bit drained. I just had a gentle weights workout and did lots of stretching. My trainer was glad I was back and is the only person all week to ask me about my lovely bruise from the race. Hehe, people are funny.
So day light savings has started and my motivation is back. Bring on the sun, bring on the riding and in the not to distant future, bring on the hill training (aargggh, hills).

Monday, September 22, 2008

Learning lessons

It’s been a while between posts and yet again that’s because of my health. I’m really struggling to shake of this virus and its meaning I’m not really able to ride. My lungs are really clogged up and I’ve got an extremely nasty cough. To add to this work has been insanely busy and stressful and my sleep pattern is completely buggered. So I’ve been off the bike and haven’t been back to the gym. I’ve made an appointment to see my doctor later in the week, so hopefully we can come up with a plan.

I have taken some very wise advice and am resting up as much as I can, including having today and tomorrow off work. Such luxury. I’ve also had an extremely relaxing weekend. On Saturday my lovely husband and I went to the art gallery to see and participate in Scape. We spent the morning riding round the city centre on very cool

bikes. I loved it, but then I am a bit of an exhibitionist so really didn’t mind all the staring. Not so good for hubby, but he’s so wonderful that he put up with it. It was a gorgeous sunny day and was just the kind of thing I needed. I spent the rest of the afternoon upstairs in the sun snoozing.

Sunday I was a bit naughty. Pete and I had entered the Cheviot Hills Challenge a month ago and I really didn’t want to pull out because they might not run it again as it was a test run this year. I’d managed to change to the Recreational grade, so I only had 2 laps of the 7kms course to do. I’d also managed to talk a fellow Vorbette, scatter, into pootling along with me. Not that it really took any persuading at all. It was a gorgeous day and it turns out the course was fantastic. I definitely made the right choice being in Rec as there were plenty of technical hill climbs for my lungs to protest at, but it was wonderful. I’ll admit that at the end of the first lap I was feeling pretty bad and if scatter hadn’t been there I might have pulled the pin and finished right there. I didn’t though. Partly because I couldn’t stand the thought of not finishing something I’d started and secondly because the course was so much fun.

A lap consisted of a short ride up a gentle gravel road, slaloming between huge puddles, then right into the first climb up some slightly overgrown double track. This popped us out onto a fence-line single track with a blast down a paddock, a sharp right and a further blast across the front of hill on off-camber double track. Down the road for a short bit, up a very wet grassed field and back into the single track, climbing up through the trees. A very fast downhill down the other side, then back up through the trees up the steepest climb (I really struggled with my lungs on this one, even walking it was difficult to breath). Then a very cool narrow rooty technical descent into a really tight right hander, up a wee bit more and then a blast down out the trees and onto the access road. Out on the bridge on SH1 and then down a cool wee drop-off and out on to paddocks. Wet paddocks covered in long grass. These were the worst part of the race, it felt like climbing it was so hard to ride in and seemed to suck all the energy out of my legs. After surviving the death paddocks we whipped round the edge of the road, over another bridge and onto a lovely windy gravelled path with a great downish incline. Blasted down the path, a wee bit more single track through forest, up the other access road and that was a lap.

I did a bit of walking on the first lap. I had a wee voice in the back of my head reminding me not to break myself, to take it easy and look after my lungs. I probably rode 50-60% of the climbing though and I know I could have ridden it all if I was healthy. The descending was fantastic on the first lap. The course hadn’t be ripped up much by the Expert and Sport riders ahead of us, so there was plenty of grip and I loved the challenge of the narrow, rooty stuff. The second lap was a bit of a different story. I’m well aware my tires are not good in the mud (read: deadly), however I haven’t sorted myself out some good wet tyres and I really didn’t expect the course to be as wet as it was. So by the second lap the course and particularly the really tech rooty narrow downhill was getting quite slippy. Unfortunately I didn’t realise this until it was too late.

I was about halfway down the descent and remember briefly thinking “I wonder if that fence is electric?” when my front wheel let go on a root and I slid into the fence. I quickly discovered a large number of things in a very short space of time.

1. The fence was not electric (phew)

2. There were 2 guys right behind me that I didn’t know about. I discovered them when one of them fell into me.

3. Some how I’d managed to catch the top knuckle of my ring finger between my grip and the top wire of the fence and then fall onto the fence and get the wire caught underneath my brake lever.

4. I couldn’t get off the fence.

5. I couldn’t get my finger out from under the wire

6. Slowing having No. 8 wire working its way deeper and deeper into your finger hurts like hell and is quite scary.

The two guys behind me continued on and I struggle to save my finger. Luckily a marshall came to my rescue and untangled me. I had a black line across my knuckle and it hurt like hell, but I was ok. The marshall suggested I walk the rest of the descent and although I really didn’t want to, it was fun, I saw sense (and mud) and stumbled the rest of the way down. At the bottom I got back on and decided that if I did a bit of climbing up the next bit it would make my circulation work and take my mind of my throbbing finger. It worked a treat and by the next downhill I was flying along and actually feeling better than I had the whole race. scatter was long gone, I had been married to the fence for a few minutes after all, so I decided that I would actually try and ride the rest of the lap with some semblance of speed. I struggled through the death paddock, but the rest of the ride was good and I even managed to catch the other Rec women who I’d be duelling with up and down the hills till my tumble. My lovely husband passed me on his last sport lap with 200ms to go so that was cool. And having the loud cheering of scatter at the end was brilliant. All in all, a fantastic race.

Lessons I’ve learnt from it. Technical climbing is way more fun than slogging up a 4wd track. Having someone you know to race with is brilliant and makes an already enjoyable experience even more fun. Racing is still fun, even when you can’t go hard out. Having tyres that work in the wet is a good idea. And finally falling into a 6 line wire fences hurts more than falling into bushes, tussock, trees, gorse, dirt, mud and only slightly less than falling on pointy rocks. Once the race was over I discovered the array of fence marks on the left side of my body. The one halfway up my upper arm is doing a good impression of an armband tattoo, but in red and green, so at least I now know how I’d look with one of those!

It’s a lovely sunny day today and all I want to do is ride my bike. I’m really missing riding, but in the interests of my health I’m going to clean my bikes in the sun and read books instead. Most importantly lesson: listen to your body.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Legs of damp string

My training is taking a bit of a hammering with this darn cold. Saturday we headed out to the sandpit. I got Betty's bars cut down last week and so keen to try out her handling skillz now. It was so exciting to be back on a bike. We got to the sandpit and I ripped off into the forest at top speed. It felt so good flying between the trees. The narrower bars felt heaps better and I was hitting the corners hard and fast. Sweet. For the first 10 minutes. Then my body realised what I was doing to it. By the end of the first shot section I was ready to vomit or pass out or both. Man my lungs hurt. Silly girl. I shouldn't have gone out so hard. Needless to say the rest of the ride was more of a cruise than a blast. But crikey it was still fun. Especially when we stopped in the middle so I could practise jumping on a wee jump. Weeeeee.

Special! I had a wee play on the skinnies before we left and all in all it was a pretty good ride. Considering my body obviously isn't recovered from the virus of doom.
Later that day I went out Kaiapoi to visit my lovely friend Nici and her beautiful wee daughter. I've been painting them a painting for the nursery for about 8 months and I finished it a couple of weeks ago, finally. Biking seems to get in the way of my artistic endeavours. I'm pretty happy with it and I'm now starting a new one for other friends. Hopefully it won't take so long!I rode to work in the cold today. Man, my legs are gone. Horrid head wind on the way to work, but I still decided that I should go for a ride at lunchtime. Painful, slow, weak, string legs. Not good. I'm hoping my legs come back soon as Pete and I are racing in a fortnight and I'll need to be a lot fitter feeling than I am now.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Return of the Living Dead

Gah!!!! My smugness at my lack of winter illnesses has finally caught up with me and I’ve been well and truly kicked in the bum with the nasty virus that’s been doing the rounds. I’m feeling really frustrated by just how sick I’ve been because I really want to be out on my bike and building up to some decent long rides this month.

The week before last was a good riding week, although I think the signs of my impending illness might have been there now that I look back on it. I did some really nice long-way-to-work rides and even got to the gym three times (I love my new weights programme, but I might have said that already). On Wednesday Pete and I headed out to McLeans for another blast and it was bloody awful. Wednesday was very very cold in the evening, I think it must have been close to 0 and I just couldn’t warm up. I felt flat and cold and exhausted for the whole lap, not good, and maybe I should have listened to my body and taken it easy from then. I felt fine on Thursday and Friday, and felt fantastic on Saturday so we headed to the sandpit for a blast. I love Bottlelake on my singlespeed. I managed to get round the whole inner loop much faster than last time and although knackered at the end I felt that my fitness had really improved. Sunday was a different kettle of fish altogether.

I woke up in the morning and it felt like someone had been pumping phlegm into my lungs overnight. They felt awful. I didn’t feel sick or anything though so I just went and had a bit of a cough to get rid of some of the phlegm. I suspect that might have been my biggest mistake. My throat really hurt after this, but I was still planning on heading out on the roadie for a couple of hours later in the morning. I lazed around in bed for a while and my throat got progressively sorer. Eventually I managed to haul myself into my riding gear and make some breakfast, but I started to feel pretty rough and decided that a couple of hours on the bike in the rain might not be the best thing for me. Probably the best decision I’ve made in a while. Pete was out at his mum’s and by the time he got home I’d pretty much lost my voice and it was completely gone by 3 in the afternoon. And it all went down hill from there. I woke up on Monday still with no voice, but now also weak as a baby, with a headache, hacking cough, and wheezy chest. I couldn’t get a doctor’s appointment because apparently everyone was sick (I spoke to a nurse and she said they’d done 20 strep tests that morning and it was only 10am). I spent the day in bed on Monday, barely able to get the kitchen to heat soup up. I went to the docs on Tuesday morning and my throat had stopped hurting so badly, but I had a fever now and my cough was worse. The bloody thing had started to move to my head also. Vaguely reassured that I didn’t have the flu or strep I went home and collapsed back into bed, again pretty much unable to move. Wednesday I was able to make it to the couch, but unable to do much else. Thursday I was starting to feel better and seemed to be able to walk to the kitchen and back without feeling faint. On Friday I woke up feeling further improved so decided that I’d better go to work as there’s so much to do. I pretty much realised this was a mistake about half way to work when I was feeling light headed just driving. By the time I got into my office my fever had cranked up again and I was feeling pretty bad. I managed to get through all my emails and voicemails by 11 and went back home to lie on the couch for the rest of the day. Saturday was similar. Yesterday I managed to walk around town for an hour without my fever going up, but still felt quite wasted by the time I got home. Today I’m feeling better, still really tired and run down, but not so congested and sick feeling. Plus I seem to be surviving being at work, so that’s a good sign.

Luckily for me it’s blood orange season. I love blood oranges, they taste so much better than normal oranges and have lots of good anti-oxidants and vitamin C and stuff. Being sick meant I could justify the expense of getting these instead of their cheaper, more boring kin. So I’ve been ploughing my way through 3 or 4 of these a day. Yum. Unluckily for me the weather over the weekend and today has been fantastic and I’m feeling very grumpy on all the missed riding opportunities. I’m going to ride to work tomorrow so that will be interesting. Hopefully by the weekend I’ll be ready to hit the forest again. I’ve found a race in Cheviot on the 21st of September that looks really fun so I need to get some riding in before that!